I’ve always had an affinity for guitarists who were doing things I couldn’t figure out. From the first time I heard John Stowell play at a guitar clinic at Berklee to a private guitar lesson I took with Ben Monder in his apartment in New York. I realised over the years that some of the most interesting guitarists I’ve heard often took influences from different instrumentalists. When John Stowell told me years ago to listen to pianists (closely), a whole world started to open up. It was obvious to me that the best jazz pianists often had a much more developed sense of harmony and play cooler sounding things than some of the most interesting jazz guitarists I heard.
When I started watching Juampy Juarez’s video, I was filled with curiousity. What did he have to say that was different from other videos I’ve watched? I already seen great musicians cover a lot of cool pianistic ideas, Lenny Breau concepts and more. What was special about Juampy’s master class?
Well, right off the bat – the video looks lovely! This was well shot and edited with at least two camera angles cutting at good moments in a musical way. It was almost TV show like. The other thing was Juampy’s personality – he is very giving and open with his musical discoveries. It’s almost like hanging out with a friend who know these secrets that you’ve only heard but didn’t REALLY KNOW. And there he was, sharing these nuggets of wisdom!
Content wise, it’s well organised. Juampy begins with a beautiful performance of Have You Met Miss Jones using the very ideas that he teaches. At that point, I didn’t get most of what he was using but AFTER watching the video, it was very interesting to see what I could catch and understand.
Juampy shares his personal choices of cluster voicings for various chord qualities. Then, he relates the voicings to more standard voicings like a Drop-3 root position Gmaj7 or a Drop-2 Cmajor7. So much of the material connects fretboard visualisation with our ears. This stuff is meant to tickle our ears. Some of it is dissonant but mostly dissonant in that pretty and modern kind of way.
You know how when you watch some videos and you go like, “Where do I even start with all this?” Well, with Juampy’s video – it’s clear enough for someone who’s new to this to be able to grab a few voicings at a time and then start plugging them into songs. That’s one thing that Juampy recommends throughout the video – to USE these ideas. The more you use these ideas, the more contemporary your sound becomes. I know I started using them immediately after watching the video and I was surprised how my whole mindset kind of opened up. It was so much fun!
Some of my favorite ideas in the videos are amazingly simple to play. A lot of the seemingly modern, out of reach voicings fall nicely in position and under my fingers. I know some of you may be afraid of those stretchy cluster voicings but trust me Juampy gives A LOT of very practical ones especially when it comes to the Bb Blues portion of the video. That being said, if you’re a Ben Monder/Tal Farlow kind of guitarist with super reach – you will get loads of cool voicings to use. There are some cool ones in the new Soundslice examples that have been included in the updated version of this master class.
In addition to all the voicings, there’s a lot of performance examples in the video for transcribing types to dig into. My favorite thing to do is just listen to a few seconds, steal a voicing or phrase and then mess around with it. It’s fun and it makes learning complex harmonic vocabulary more like a game than a torturous practice routine.
In short, if you want a systematic, musical sounding take on learning those Bill Evans/Herbie Hancock type sounds – this is a great master class to invest in. I really feel that there’s not that many classes (if any) quite like this. Strongly recommended!
PROS: Lots of modern beautiful voicings, tons of examples, ready to be applied immediately.
CONS: Only the voicing examples are transcribed, the performance examples are not transcribed, but then again we all should be able to figure out those when we have gotten the voicing fingerings under our fingers.
TLDR: Enjoy pianistic cluster voicings? Bored of your Drop-2 and Drop-3 voicings (or even your Drop-2 and 4 voicings?), get this master class now and start getting these sounds into your playing today.