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SoundGround >> My Lesson with Jazz Guitarist Dale Bruning


9/19/12 4:44 PM
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hugomma
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Edited: 09/20/12 12:50 PM
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 MAJOR FRAT WARNING:

As some of you know, I started taking jazz guitar lessons with Denver underground legend Dale Bruning on Tues 9/11/12.  I will be doing a 1 hour lesson with him once a month.  FYI, Mr. Bruning’s best known as Bill Frisell’s guitar teacher.  Here’s what Frisell said about studying with Mr. Bruning:

http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/2012/03/bill_frisell_on_studying_with.php

I had this chord melody version of “Autumn Leaves” ready to play for Mr. Bruning:

http://www.jazzguitarlessons.net/autumn-leaves.html

I can pretty much thank Ali for this.  There’s a thread titled “Guitar god Nels Cline” that documents our discussion and my indoctrination into the cult of Bill Frisell.  And Ali was the one who poured the Kool Aid.  After seeing Frisell this summer and being moved beyond words, I knew I had to do this.

The lesson was at Dale Bruning's house in Longmont, CO.  It’s been 18 years since I had a lesson, & I was nervous, to say the least.   Mr. Bruning put me at ease right away, reminding me he “was here to help” and was “on my side”.  His room had drums, a double bass, a piano, and pics of all greats like Miles, Trane, Bird, Diz, Monk, Frisell, and others I didn’t recognize.    

Before I played, he asked me where I was from, what my background was, & why I decided to take lessons with him.  I told him I was rock player who studied classical guitar and wanted to learn jazz.  My goal is to eventually be able to walk into an open jazz jam and blow over standards, as well as learning the art & science of chord melody.  I have about 5-10 hours a week to practice.  Ultimately, I want to be able to play electric jazz/rock/fusion with distortion a la Frisell, Scott Henderson, etc.  Within reason, of courseJ

Mr. Bruning told me about his background, growing up in upstate NY, joining the Navy, being a Navy musician, moving to Philly, and playing in the tri-state area.  His dad was a drummer, which explained the drum kit.  He talked about studying with guitarist/educator/composer Dennis Sandole, who also taught Pat Martino and the great John Coltrane.  He spoke about Mr. Sandole with a sense of reverence.  Then he asked me to play…

My hands were literally shaking, but I managed to make it through “Autumn Leaves” without any major mistakes or timing issues (other than not fetting a few notes perfectly).  Mr. Bruning seemed pleased, & I finally stopped shaking.  Then the lesson really began.

 
9/19/12 4:52 PM
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hugomma
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Edited: 09/20/12 1:10 PM
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 (CONT’D)

He asked me to just play the melody.  I tried to sight read it, but I had never practiced the melody before, and my sight reading SUCKS.  I confessed that I did not learn the melody, and had just learned “Autumn Leaves” as a chord melody piece.   Then Mr. Bruning went into dissecting the tune, or what I like to think of as “how to eat an elephant”.  

Mr. Bruning stressed that most important thing was to learn the melody, and the figure out how the intervals matched up with the chords.  He told me to learn it in 2 octaves, to make sure it doesn’t get lost behind the other instruments.  Then he went on to play the living hell out of the melody.  We’re talking phrasing along the lines of Jim Hall or Miles.  Pick up notes, trills, slides, picking dynamics, vibrato, etc.  You name it, he did it.  It was friggin’ beautiful.  Just listening to him breathe life into that warhorse of a standard was a clinic on phrasing, & how to PLAY a melody.

The next step is playing each interval of the chords in whole or ½ notes, keeping time with the harmonic rhythm.  I play just the roots, and then just the 3’s, 5’s and 7’s.  Then I play the 3’s & 7’s as single notes, in either ½ or ¼ notes, staying with the harmonic rhythm.  Next, I add a single note 1 to the 3’s and 7’s.  And then add the 5 to the 3 and 7.   After that, add other extensions (9, 11, 13), to create different harmonic “cells” to work off of.

Mr. Bruning then went on to show how he starts & ends lines off of each interval.  Then he worked his way towards pure, ridiculous, line playing, with some chords thrown in to boot.  Being 2 feet away to hear this was worth the price of the lesson alone.

The one hour lesson lasted about an hour and a ½.   Mr. Bruning mentioned that in the future, we’ll be covering scales, chords, tech, etc.  But for now, this is what I’m working on.

 It may not sound like much, but it’s been a pretty tough assignment.  I wrote out all the arpeggios for the chords, which reinforced how bad my reading abilities are, & how weak my knowledge of the neck is.  After hearing what Mr. Bruning did with the melody, I’m working on my phrasing, trying to make it sing the way he did (bwahaha at that).  One thing that he said was to practice what you don’t know.  Well, I feel like I know next to nothing, but I did spend a lot of time on petatonics and major modes. 

Now I’m working on the melody/interval assignment, as well as 7th chord inversions, the melodic minor modes, and CAGED triads and arpeggios.  But playing through the melody & intervals correctly is pretty time consuming.  My lesson was over a week ago, & I’m still only on the 5’s & 7ths.  But there is a method to this madness, & I have faith that someday, I’ll be able to pull this stuff off.   

  
9/20/12 12:28 AM
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jman
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Great update!

Please continue to let us know not only what he teaches you, but also what you discover and learn about your own playing along the way thanks. Maybe a weekly update on your progress with a monthly update with each leasson.

Now you HAVE to do this stuff, :p

VTFU
9/20/12 10:35 AM
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hugomma
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Edited: 09/20/12 12:48 PM
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jman - Great update!

Please continue to let us know not only what he teaches you, but also what you discover and learn about your own playing along the way thanks. Maybe a weekly update on your progress with a monthly update with each leasson.

Now you HAVE to do this stuff, :p

VTFU

First off, thank you jman.  2nd of all, you're right.  Not only is this holding me accountable, explaining what I'm doing helps me understand it a little more.

Last night I got the 5th's & the 7ths down in 2 octaves, & it came much easier thatn the 1's & 3's. My reading & fretboard knowledge are starting to improve.  

The other thing I'm doing is humming the chord tones as I play them.  Dale stressed that as well.  He has a record with Frisell coming up, & he said on of the problems he had was the mics picking up his voice singing the melodies he was improving.

I'll post next week as well.  If you (or anyone) have any comments or suggestions, please let me know.  I'm all ears.  
  
9/22/12 2:12 PM
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Ali
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In. Thanks for this thread.
9/23/12 11:26 PM
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Ali
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I love this account. And now I know of Bruning from Frisell and Hugo ! I still haven't heard him -- the duet record he did with Frisell I never found at a moment that I had the bucks burning a hole in my pocket, and it was always a bit pricey on Amazon. (Hey, can you get a copy of that for me for $20 or so??? Side point). (And glad to hear they're doing another one).

I love that focus on melody notes, different octaves. I would have guessed that just from what I know about Frisell and his study habits. You'll have your work cut out for you, here. But yeah, how do you eat an elephant? We all know, actually. Just takes some encouragement or accountability to do it.
9/24/12 1:33 PM
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hugomma
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Edited: 09/24/12 2:42 PM
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Ali - I love this account. And now I know of Bruning from Frisell and Hugo ! I still haven't heard him -- the duet record he did with Frisell I never found at a moment that I had the bucks burning a hole in my pocket, and it was always a bit pricey on Amazon. (Hey, can you get a copy of that for me for $20 or so??? Side point). (And glad to hear they're doing another one).

I love that focus on melody notes, different octaves. I would have guessed that just from what I know about Frisell and his study habits. You'll have your work cut out for you, here. But yeah, how do you eat an elephant? We all know, actually. Just takes some encouragement or accountability to do it.

I can't tell you how invaluable you & Jimmy have been.  A working pro with a killer compostion/theory background.  And a guy who can explain music better than anyone I've ever known.

I will make sure you get a copy of Mr. Bruning's album with Frisell, as well as the one coming out.

So I was wondering why the assignment's been so friggin hard for me, & finally realized what the problem was.

I wrote out each note of the 4 tones of the 7th chords in quarter notes.  What I was doing was reading each chord tone from the initial 4 quarter notes I wrote out for each chord.  So, I would try to pick out each root, or 5th, etc...from one of four notes per measure.  

I know my reading & fretboard knowledge are pretty weak, but it was incredibly rough.  It took me this long to figure out why.  Duh.  How I could I be such a maroon?  No wonder I was struggling.

So I went back, and re-wrote each individual 1's, 5's, & 7's.  I also re-wrote all the chord tones, but this time from the root to the 13th.  Now I have to write out the 3rds, then single note 3's & 7's, & finally single note 3's & 7's with the 1, 5, 9, 11, 13's. 

The assignment's been much easier now that I'm reading just the intervals that I'm supposed to be playing, rather than picking out 1 correct note out of a 4 note measure.  I'm also doing a better job of phrasing the melody.  Right now, I'm focusing on timing, dynamics, & vibrato.  No pick-up notes or slurs just yet.




  
2/13/13 1:57 PM
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hugomma
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Edited: 02/13/13 2:29 PM
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I've done a poor job of keeping this thread updated. jman asked how the lessons were going, & I was supposed to respond on Fri. Better late than never, right?

We took a step back from chord tones & focused on neck and playing vertically. Most of my practicing consisted of 1 string & tetrachord (4 note per string) scales over 1-3 octaves while naming the notes. Dale's (he told me to stop calling him Mr. Brunning, LOL) really trying to get me over my neck-tardation. We've done ii-V-I progressions with 2-3 octave scales (Dorian, Mixolydian, & Ionian modes). I play them forward & backwards, just forward, just backwards (starting at the highest note),

We just started doing minor ii-V-i (minor 7 flat 5, dominant flat 9, & min/maj 7) with the Locrian, Phrygian #3, & Melodic Minor modes.  Been struggling with those.  The intervals are harder to hear than the other modes I'm used to working with.  I keep wanting to turn Phrygina #3 into a Harmonic Minor mode, etc...

Dale's also changed the way I hold my pick. He wants me to my wrist bent more in a classical style, with my fingers on the body of the guitar, rather than resting my palm across the strings, which is what I'm used to.  Trying to adjust has been very tough, but it's getting better.

That's it for now.  I'll do a better job of updating this thread in the near future.  Thanks for the kind kick in the ass, jman.

Gotta go for now, but will post again soon.

2/28/13 8:49 PM
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paradigmer
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Wow, what a great story and great thread.  Voted up.  I'm so jelly of your ability!

*Goes back to plucking out "Sweet Home Alabama"*

 

3/1/13 12:18 AM
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hugomma
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paradigmer - 

Wow, what a great story and great thread.  Voted up.  I'm so jelly of your ability!

*Goes back to plucking out "Sweet Home Alabama"*

 


Thanks paradigmer, glad you appreciate it. Trust me, my (dis)abilities are nothing special. Truth is, I love jazz/improvised music, & wanna learn how to play it as best I can. IMHO, it all starts with bop. Frisell, Fuze, Sco, Scott Henderson, Jef Lee Johnson (RIP) - as modern & radical as they sound, all of them have solid bop backgrounds.

Had another lesson a week & a 1/2 ago. We started doing sweep picking (or what Dale calls "consecutive picking") arpeggios: maj, min, dim, & aug, in 2 octaves, starting on the 6th & 5th string. We're also taking a step back & working out details on the tetrachord scales & refining my right hand.

I was having trouble muting open strings with the right hand, but went over some adjustments with Dale & am getting a better handle on it.

Other than the arpeggios, it was more about refining what we've already gone over.

In our next lesson, we're gonna start with chords. I can't wait to see Dale's approach to THAT.

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