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We all know how important fundamentals are. But are they mastered to the point that they can be called upon at any instant during performance? For instance when a guitarist comps, he/she must be able to put any note of their choosing on the top of their voicing quickly and accurately. Without knowing at least the common chord voicings in all of their inversions one’s comping may fall short of the mark. When soloing, having complete command of chord scales and arpeggios in a variety of positions is crucial. Getting serious about really knowing one’s fundamentals allows the musician to focus on the business at hand: music making.

I often ask students how well they know triads. The answer I typically receive is “sure I know those.” But can they be played quickly and accurately in all inversions on all adjacent string sets? Very seldom in my teaching experience. It’s an easy enough gap to fill along with possible other deficits in a player’s mastery of the fingerboard. Next we’ll review all of the inversions of the “Freddie Greene” voicings of all chord qualities and there will be examples of how to apply them to tunes. Seventh chords on all adjacent string sets will be reviewed and plugged into tunes such as Wes Montgomery’s “Cariba”. Other exercises will include minor 6th diminished chord and arpeggio studies a la Barry Harris and will conclude with a chord inversion system  featuring many non-adjacent string chords, a more advanced system that show all voicing possibilities of seventh chords. Grand arpeggios (R,3,5,7,9,11,13) studies will also be addressed.

All common scales in five positions (Berklee method) including interval exercises and arpeggio studies will be covered. To really know a scale is to be able to play it in any sequence of intervals, for example a C real melodic minor scale in diatonic 5ths. Having one’s fundamentals in check will provide a solid foundation needed for improvisation. This class should be helpful for players on all levels, filling in any gaps allowing the player to better play what they hear.

This class includes 24 pages of material prepared by Steve!

More info on this topic can be viewed by going to my March ’08 Modern Guitars column entitled Jazz Scope http://www.modernguitars.com/herberman/

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Class Content

Fundamentals Checkpoint
Fundamentals Checkpoint 01:33:00

Course Reviews


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  1. Profile photo of Sandro Norton


    What a great lesson. Steve covers the fundamentals in a very organised way. Drop3 Drop 2, Scales, triads and fretboard organization are all in this video. This video is not about making music. It´s aboit the tools in order to make it. Great great.
    thanks Steve

    ~ Sandro Norton (October 30, 2009)

  2. Profile photo of Erik Schlosser


    This class is highly recommended!

    If you’ve been playing for a while don’t be turned off by the word "fundamentals". This is not a class for those just getting into playing (although it could be useful for them as well). Steve lays out all of those basic details about the instrument that are quite easy to overlook when one is more concerned about getting a repertoire down or working on improvisational concepts. This class will help with both of these things as it will open up the neck of the guitar, and force you to explore the nooks and crannies of the axe that you have been neglecting.

    The 12 pages of content are very comprehensive. Steve’s teaching style is detailed and methodical, but also gives the student a lot of freedom from personal exploration.

    ~ Erik Schlosser (December 10, 2008)

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