Ev­ery month, Justin San­der­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: con­cep­tual ex­plo­rations.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www.justin­gui­­mag

Justin San­der­coe, Mitch Dal­ton, 60 Sec­onds, Jam Tracks, One-Minute Lick and more.

In this ar­ti­cle I’d like to dig into prac­tice ‘con­cepts’ and why they are so im­por­tant. The tran­si­tion from prac­tic­ing things to prac­tic­ing con­cepts seems to be a mile­stone for many mu­si­cians and one that I think can be very re­ward­ing.

Many mu­si­cians I ad­mired seemed to talk about con­cepts they were work­ing on and I of­ten won­dered where they got these con­cepts and how they prac­tised them – were these the magic in­gre­di­ents that I had been search­ing for?

So what is a con­cept? Well a dic­tionary might de­fine it as an ab­stract idea rep­re­sent­ing the fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics of what it rep­re­sents, but how does one ap­ply that to the gui­tar?

Con­cepts can take many forms: tech­ni­cal, melodic, vis­ual, rhyth­mic, har­monic; in fact, you can break down al­most any mu­si­cal idea and find a con­cept at its root. I’ve found the most ef­fec­tive and fun con­cepts have come from try­ing to find the ‘essence’ of a mu­si­cal idea that I re­ally liked and try­ing to ex­plore it fur­ther.

Look­ing at a few con­cepts might help you find more of your own and give you some food for thought, which is what this col­umn is all about and I’m sure it’s some­thing we’ll re­visit more in the fu­ture.

Tech­ni­cal con­cepts can take many forms but the most spe­cific ones are usu­ally most ef­fec­tive, so try to make your ab­stract idea more con­crete to get the most out of it. Some­thing as sim­ple as play­ing a solo with one fin­ger can be fun, ef­fec­tive and pro­duc­tive be­cause it is so spe­cific, while ‘work­ing on tap­ping’ is less a con­cept and more of an idea. To bring it into con­cept land you might try ‘ex­plor­ing fin­ger tap­ping pat­terns us­ing the mid­dle note for string cross­ing’.

Most melodic con­cepts I have en­joyed ex­plor­ing have come from tran­scrib­ing a solo or lick that I re­ally liked and try­ing to ex­per­i­ment with the essence of it. Coltrane’s ‘1235’ note pat­tern con­cept from his Gi­ant Steps solo is a fun one (play­ing the scale de­grees of each chord change in the or­der root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th). But it doesn’t have to be com­plex; I’ve had as much fun ‘ex­plor­ing bends in the BB blues box’ or ‘ex­plor­ing the Robben Ford b7 Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic’ (re­plac­ing the de­gree with the ma­jor 6th – it’s su­per cool!).

Vis­ual con­cepts can be fun, but I found them of lim­ited in­ter­est. One I use from time to time came from a friend who played an out­ra­geous ‘out­side’ line in a jam once and, when I asked what he’d done he told me he’d been ‘play­ing the tri­an­gles’ – he’d imag­ined tri­an­gle shapes on the fret­board and was play­ing them with­out fear.

Rhyth­mic con­cepts are some­thing you will hear from drum­mers a lot but, of course, we can steal and ex­plore them too. Could be any­thing from ‘ex­plor­ing so­los and never play­ing on beat 1’ or ‘ex­plor­ing mov­ing be­tween triplets and 16th notes’. There are in­fi­nite ideas you can ex­plore here. If you have a chat with a drum­mer friend and see what ideas you can steal.

Har­monic ideas (re­lat­ing to har­mony or chords) that I have en­joyed ex­plor­ing are again usu­ally things I have heard on a record and wanted to un­der­stand, then in­cor­po­rated in other ways into my own play­ing. A cou­ple of ideas that I re­ally en­joyed have been ‘ex­plor­ing in­side move­ments in chord voic­ings’ that I heard in jazz gui­tarist Martin Tay­lor’s play­ing and wanted to work into my own chord melody fum­blings; and ‘ex­plor­ing gospel slide chord shapes in a blues’ be­cause I saw Larry Carl­ton us­ing them all over the neck and I had no idea how he was do­ing it. Now I do!

You will pick up con­cepts all over the place if you keep your mind open. I’ve copped a lot of con­cep­tual ideas from this mag­a­zine my­self over the years; many I’ve got from chat­ting with mu­si­cians I ad­mired and ask­ing what stuff they work on. The most valu­able ones al­ways seem to come from look­ing for the essence of a mu­si­cal idea I liked when tran­scrib­ing and then at­tempt­ing to use that essence as a con­cept to ex­plore and learn from.

Wish­ing you happy trav­els on your gui­tar jour­ney!

I’ve copped a lot of con­cep­tual Ideas from thIs mag­a­zIne my­self over the years

Just says ex­plor­ing ‘con­cepts’ rather than ‘ideas’ is the way for­ward

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