Carl Ver­heyen mas­ter­class

Milton Mermikides in­tro­duces the last of our ex­cel­lent video mas­ter­classes with Amer­i­can vir­tu­oso, Carl Ver­heyen, who this month digs deeper into im­pro­vi­sa­tional con­cepts.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON: VIDEO -

over back­ing tracks, we had high ex­pec­ta­tions. He man­aged to be hugely im­pres­sive and in­spir­ing in terms of his flu­ent mu­si­cal­ity and im­pro­vi­sa­tional flair, and in a cou­ple of hours had pro­duced enough ma­te­rial for no less than seven GT ar­ti­cles, and at least as many years of gui­taris­tic in­spi­ra­tion. How­ever, in this last in­stall­ment, rather than tran­scribe and an­a­lyse another one of his im­pro­vised so­los, we dug deeper into his ap­proach to shed some light on how he achieved, and con­tin­ues to his de­velop, his im­pro­vi­sa­tional skill.

Rather than tak­ing an un­or­gan­ised ap­proach to im­pro­vi­sa­tion, Carl has for the last 37 years been cat­a­logu­ing all his im­pro­vi­sa­tional ideas - tran­scrib­ing his licks on pa­per in or­der to help em­bed them into his play­ing (to “get lines un­der my hands”). He says that from his per­spec­tive (which in fact aligns with what many other im­pro­vis­ers have said), we only come up with truly orig­i­nal ma­te­rial for a frac­tion of the time that we're im­pro­vis­ing (Carl es­ti­mates it as about 30%). The sig­nif­i­cant re­main­der of the time most of us – whether we ad­mit it or not – are re­ly­ing on a pre-ex­ist­ing stock­pile of licks. Ex­am­ples 1-3 demon­strate just three out of hun­dreds of licks that Carl has tran­scribed and ab­sorbed for play­ing over an F mi­nor chord. Carl’s ap­proach is to con­tin­u­ally work at strength­en­ing, im­prov­ing and ex­pand­ing that ‘70%’ base­line vo­cab­u­lary. He achieves this by tran­scrib­ing any new ideas he comes up with while jamming, and adding it to the stock­pile. Most im­por­tantly, he works at in­te­grat­ing any new idea within his pre-ex­ist­ing ma­te­rial, so that his op­tions widen even fur­ther dur­ing im­pro­vi­sa­tion. Carl shows this with a newly ac­quired lick (Ex­am­ple 4 – a

wide in­ter­val­lic pat­tern us­ing the root, b3, 5th and b7 of an F mi­nor chord) and shows how this short mu­si­cal idea might be in­te­grated in F mi­nor ma­te­rial (Ex­am­ples 5 and 6).

Rather than leave it at that, Carl shows how a one-note ad­just­ment to the melodic idea in Ex­am­ple 4 re­sults in a phrase that works beau­ti­fully over Bb7 (Ex­am­ple 7), and con­tin­ues by de­mon­strat­ing how it can be in­te­grated with Bb7 ma­te­rial in his pre­ex­ist­ing vo­cab­u­lary (Ex­am­ple 8). Fur­ther­more, although Ex­am­ple 4 was born of an F mi­nor con­text, Carl shows how the ex­act same lick can work for D-flat ma­jor (Ex­am­ple 9) im­ply­ing a Dbadd9 chord (what Carl calls “a Db2 chord”). He shows how this idea works beau­ti­fully over Db ma­jor in a long free phrase which uses the idea twice.

The fi­nal piece of the puz­zle is placed, when Carl shows how – through trans­po­si­tion – we can now adapt the mu­si­cal idea for any mi­nor or ma­jor chord (and with the note ad­just­ment, any dom­i­nant chord). Carl’s fi­nal ex­am­ple uses Ex­am­ple 4 trans­posed down a semi­tone in or­der to work over a C ma­jor con­text.

All of these phrases are very mu­si­cal and worth learn­ing, but the big­gest les­son here is the ex­cel­lent tem­plate Carl of­fers in how one can build a large (and per­son­alised) im­pro­vi­sa­tional vo­cab­u­lary for use in spon­ta­neous mu­si­cal ex­pres­sion!

We only come up with truly orig­i­nal ma­te­rial for a frac­tion of the time that we’re im­pro­vis­ing. Carl Ver­heyen

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