Last month we expanded our guitaristic bandwidth with Stan Samole, inspired by his master class at the Whistler Jazz Fest. Samole walked us through a line that used the entire range of the guitar over the first eight bars of the classic “All the Things You Are.” This month we’ll tackle the next eight bars using the same concept.
“Up and down exercises are just that: Start at the bottom of the instrument and work your way up to the top, then back down and repeat,” says Samole. “The benefits are clear: We’re forced to learn all the notes everywhere on the guitar. There’s no hiding in comfortable positions. Sound theory is required to find both the ‘correct’ and the interesting notes to play. On the dominant sevenths, for example, seek out the flat 9 or 13, or other intriguing intervals— avoid playing just basic triad notes. Arriving at the top or bottom of the neck can happen on any chord, and anywhere in any measure or phrase. Just reverse when you run out of frets!”
The line presented here is melodically simple, but the tricky part is the fingering. The slides and position shifts—if you get comfortable with them—will pay dividends in all your improvising, whether it be over jazz changes, a I-IV-V, or a pedal tone. The provided fingerings are logical enough, but don’t hesitate to mix them up—or to shift strings to hit the next note—if that feels more natural.
“There’s another even greater hidden benefit to this exercise,” Samole continues. “Playing in one direction is unnatural, melodically limited and restrictive. The only way to make it sound good is to use other less obvious tools like creative phrasing, grace notes, dynamics, and articulation. The deeper lesson here is it’s not which notes are played, but how they’re played that makes a creative performance.”