Some Of The Best Online Blues Guitar Lessons Available
Many of the best online blues guitar lessons today will also teach you jazz styles which are related to many blues styles anyway. The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed “jazz”. The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.
Conceived in the early 1930s, the electric guitar became a necessity as jazz musicians sought to amplify their sound to be heard over loud big bands. When guitarists in big bands only had acoustic guitars, all they could do was play chords; they could not play solos because the acoustic guitar is not a loud instrument. Once guitarists switched from acoustic guitar to semi-acoustic guitar and began using guitar amplifiers, it made the guitar much easier to hear, which enabled guitarists to play guitar solos. Arguably, no other musical instrument had greater influence on how jazz evolved since the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the earliest guitars used in jazz were acoustic and acoustic guitars are still sometimes used in jazz, most jazz guitarists since the 1940s have performed on an electrically amplified guitar or electric guitar.
Traditionally, jazz electric guitarists use an archtop with a relatively broad hollow sound-box, violin-style f-holes, a “floating bridge”, and a magnetic pickup. Solid body guitars, mass-produced since the early 1950s, are also used.
Jazz guitar playing styles include “comping” with jazz chord voicings (and in some cases walking bass lines) and “blowing” (improvising) over jazz chord progressions with jazz-style phrasing and ornaments. Comping refers to playing chords underneath a song’s melody or another musician’s solo improvisations. These techniques are generally learnt in blues guitar lessons. When jazz guitar players improvise, they may use the scales, modes, and arpeggios associated with the chords in a tune’s chord progression and elements of the tune’s melody.
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The stringed, chord-playing rhythm can be heard in groups which included military band-style instruments such as brass, saxes, clarinets, and drums, such as early jazz groups. As the acoustic guitar became a more popular instrument in the early 20th century, guitar-makers began building louder guitars which would be useful in a wider range of settings.
The Gibson L5, an acoustic archtop guitar which was first produced in 1923, was an early “jazz”-style guitar which was used by early jazz guitarists such as Eddie Lang. By the 1930s, the guitar began to displace the banjo as the primary chordal rhythm instrument in jazz music, because the guitar could be used to voice chords of greater harmonic complexity, and it had a somewhat more muted tone that blended well with the upright bass, which, by this time, had almost completely replaced the tuba as the dominant bass instrument in jazz music.
During the late 1930s and through the 1940s—the heyday of big band jazz and swing music—the guitar was an important rhythm section instrument. Some guitarists, such as Freddie Green of Count Basie’s band, developed a guitar-specific style of accompaniment. Few of the big bands, however, featured amplified guitar solos, which were done instead in the small combo context. The most important jazz guitar soloists of this period included the Manouche virtuoso Django Reinhardt, Oscar Moore who was featured with Nat “King” Cole’s trio, and Charlie Christian of Benny Goodman’s band and sextet, who was a major influence despite his early death at 25.
Duke Ellington’s big band had a rhythm section that included a jazz guitarist, a double bass player, and a drummer (not visible).
It was not until the large-scale emergence of small combo jazz in the post-WWII period that the guitar took off as a versatile instrument, which was used both in the rhythm section and as a featured melodic instrument and solo improviser. In the hands of George Barnes, Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, and Tal Farlow, who had absorbed the language of bebop, the guitar began to be seen as a “serious” jazz instrument. Improved electric guitars such as Gibson’s ES-175 (released in 1949), gave players a larger variety of tonal options. In the 1940s through the 1960s, players such as Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and Jim Hall laid the foundation of what is now known as “jazz guitar” playing.
As jazz-rock fusion emerged in the early 1970s, many players switched to the more rock-oriented solid body guitars. Other jazz guitarists, like Grant Green and Wes Montgomery, turned to applying their skills to pop-oriented styles that fused jazz with soul and R&B, such as soul jazz-styled organ trios. Younger jazz musicians rode the surge of electric popular genres such as blues, rock, and funk to reach new audiences. Guitarists in the fusion realm fused the post-bop harmonic and melodic language of musicians such as John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and Miles Davis with a hard-edged (and usually very loud) rock tone created by guitarists such as Cream’s Eric Clapton who had redefined the sound of the guitar for those unfamiliar with the black blues players of Chicago and, before that, the Delta region of the Mississippi upon whom his style was based. With John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Clapton turned up the volume on a sound already pioneered by Buddy Guy, Freddie King, B.B. King and others that was fluid, with heavy finger vibratos, string bending, and speed through powerful Marshall amplifiers.
Fusion players such as John McLaughlin adopted the fluid, powerful sound of rock guitarists such as Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. McLaughlin was a master innovator, incorporating hard jazz with the new sounds of Clapton, Hendrix, Beck and others. McLaughlin later formed the Mahavisnhu Orchestra, an historically important fusion band that played to sold out venues in the early 1970s and as a result, produced an endless progeny of fusion guitarist. Guitarists such as Pat Martino, Al Di Meola, Larry Coryell, John Abercrombie, John Scofield and Mike Stern (the latter two both alumni of the Miles Davis band) fashioned a new language for the guitar which introduced jazz to a new generation of fans. Like the rock-blues icons that preceded them, fusion guitarists usually played their solid body instruments through stadium rock-style amplification, and signal processing “effects” such as simulated distortion, wah-wah, octave splitters, compression, and flange pedals. They also simply turned up to full volume in order to create natural overdrive such as the blues rock players.
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By the early 1980s, the radical experiments of early 1970s-era fusion gave way to a more radio-friendly sounds of smooth jazz. Guitarist Pat Metheny mixed the sounds of blues, country, and “world” music, along with rock and jazz, playing both a flat-top acoustic guitar and an electric guitar with a softer, more mellow tone which was sweetened with a shimmering effect known as “chorusing”. During the 1980s, a neo-traditional school of jazz sought to reconnect with the past. In keeping with such an aesthetic, young guitarists of this era sought a clean and round tone, and they often played traditional hollow-body arch-top guitars without electronic effects, frequently through vacuum tube amplifiers.
As players such as Bobby Broom, Peter Bernstein, Howard Alden, Russell Malone, and Mark Whitfield revived the sounds of traditional jazz guitar, there was also a resurgence of archtop luthierie (guitar-making). By the early 1990s many small independent luthiers began making archtop guitars. In the 2000s, jazz guitar playing continues to change. Some guitarists incorporate a Latin jazz influence, acid jazz-style dance club music uses samples from Wes Montgomery, and guitarists such as Bill Frisell continue to defy categorization.
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