Helping the Student Guitarist Excel in Jazz Band

Mike Lawson • Archives • October 22, 2006

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By Chris DeRose

As a jazz ensemble director, have you ever wondered how on earth to communicate with your guitar player, who usually comes into the band completely unprepared for the ensemble experience?

Many young guitarists are self-taught, or if they have taken lessons, it is usually from someone at a local music store, where they may learn how to play licks, favorite tunes, and manipulate hot guitar effects rather than becoming familiar with basic skills that will be needed to function in an ensemble setting. Nothing in their pedagogical background has really prepared them to function in a school jazz ensemble, where so often the lack of basic skills such as sight-reading, scales, and even ensemble etiquette, can prove to be a challenge for even the most patient of band directors.

Ensemble experiences are practically non-existent for most young guitarists, and electric guitar pedagogy is by no means an established thing. There are good classical guitar teachers out there, and although I strongly recommend that every guitarist study classical at some point, the approach to the instrument is quite different and usually won’t provide the electric guitarist with the necessary ensemble skills.

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