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Known as the workhorse of jazz guitar, the Gibson ES-175 is an iconic hollow body electric guitar loved by many legendary guitarists in the worlds of jazz, blues, rock, and fusion. The Gibson ES-175 has a recognizable sound that has been imitated by many guitar makers but seldom duplicated.

In its nearly 70-year history, the ES-175 has become synonymous with the greats of jazz guitar.

Though the Gibson ES-175 is associated with jazz greats like Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, and Joe Pass, its versatile tone and ability to take distortion has made it a favorite of fusion and rock guitarists like Steve Howe (Yes) and Buck Dharma who played an ES-175 on Blue Oyster Cult’s classic Don’t Fear the Reaper.

Its tone is warm and round but also clear and articulate, chiming with a quality that is spacious and airy while also being distinct and bell-like.

It can be said that the Gibson ES-175 anticipated a new era in jazz history, constantly stretching the boundaries of music into new territories.

To achieve its characteristic clarity of tone, the ES-175 is generally played with the volume and tone dialed down a bit to allow it to ring through with its usual warmth.

The ES-175 is unique among hollow body archtops for its ability to deal with higher volume levels without excessive feedback.

The guitar is also liked because of its size. Compared to other Gibson archtops such as the L-5, the ES-175 is very comfortable to play.

If you’re looking for a good all-round guitar, the ES-175 might be a good choice for you.

Gibson ES-175 – Specifications Woods

Laminated maple top, reinforced with two parallel braces

Laminated maple back and sides

Mahogany back and sides (1983-1990)

16 ¼“ wide and 3 ½” deep

Triple binding on top

Single binding on back

Unbound f-holes

Florentine cutaway


One-piece mahogany

Three-piece maple neck (1976-1981)

Scale length – 24 3/4″


Solid Brazilian rosewood

20 frets (the models before 1956 had 19 frets)

Double parallelogram inlays


Compensated rosewood bridge

Tune-o-Matic bridge on rosewood base


One single-coil P-90 (1949-1953)

Alnico V pickups (rare)

Two single-coils P-90 (1953-1957)

Two humbuckers – from the original PAF humbuckers to ’57 Classic humbuckers (1957-present)

P-94 pickups – single coil pickups in a humbucker casing (rare).


Nickel trapeze tailpiece

Zig-zag tailpiece (more prevalent from 1957 to 1967)

Gibson ES-175 Pickups P-90 Pickups (1949-1956)

The Gibson P-90 is a single coil pickup that has been in production since 1946 and is still being produced today, by Gibson and other companies.

P-90s were initially meant to replace Charlie Christian pickups, which were the standard pickups for Gibson hollow bodies.

Gibson ES-175s were equipped with “dog ear” P-90 pickups between 1949 and 1956.

A P-90 ES-175 has a bigger sound compared to a humbucker ES-175.

P-90 pickups have a raw sound with a broad spectrum but don’t sound as warm as humbuckers and are noisier.

Humbuckers (1957-2017)

Starting in 1957, the standard pickup of ES-175s became humbuckers, designed by Gibson engineer Seth Lover.

A humbucker has double coils that cancel out (or buck) mains hum (60-cycle hum).

Humbuckers are also known as PAF pickups because until 1962 they had a sticker at the back that said: “Patent Applied For”.

Later in 1962, the standard hollow body pickups became Patent No. humbuckers.

The humbuckers in the ’80s were designed by Gibson engineer Tim Shaw and were the forerunners of the ’57 Classic pickups that are still used today. These ’57 Classic humbuckers are made to the same specifications as the original PAFs.

Other Pickups

Some early models had Alnico V pickups, but these are very rare.

Between 1978 and 1979 Gibson produced an ES-175 model with a Charlie Christian pickup (see further below).

Some more recent models came with P-94 pickups, which are P-90s in a humbucker casing, but these are rare as well.

Gibson ES-175 Necks

The standard Gibson neck used on ES-175s and other Gibson guitars went through a few changes in size and shape over the years.

A lot of people are a fan of the chunkier necks of the early years, compared to the thinner necks that emerged in the 60s.

  • 1949-1959 – the necks of this time period, also known as “baseball bats”,  are considered the best by many because they are large and comfortable.  Neck width is 1 11/16″, measured at the nut.
  • 1960-1962 – these necks feel very thin, which makes playing them harder on the hands.
  • 1963-1964 – back to a larger neck, but not as large as the 50s-era necks.
  • 1965-1967 – these necks, also known as “pencil necks”, are very small because the nut width is reduced (1 9/16″).
  • 1968-present – nut width is changed back to 1 11/16″ and the back of the neck has the same size as those from the 1963-1964 period.
History of the Gibson ES-175

Gibson produced the ES-175 from 1949 to 2017, the longest production run of an electric guitar.

The ES-175 was designed to be a cheaper laminate alternative to the L-5 and an electric alternative to the L-4.

Because of the rise of electric guitars, acoustic volume was not a priority anymore. This allowed guitar builders to use laminated (thin pieces of wood glued together) maple instead of solid spruce for the tops.

The laminate construction resulted in a lighter guitar (2,52 kg / 5.55 lbs) with less feedback compared to solid wood guitars.

The first Gibson ES-175 models cost $175 and that’s where these guitars get their name from. ES stands for Electric Spanish.

Here’s a list of acronyms used in relation to the ES-175:

  • ES – Electric Spanish
  • D – Double pickup
  • N – Natural finish
  • DN – Double pickup and Natural finish.
  • T – Thinline
  • CC – Charlie Christian (pickup)
  • PAF – Patent Applied For (humbucker pickup)
  • TOM – Tune-o-Matic bridge
  • VOS – Vintage Original Specifications

Here’s a list of how many ES-175 models were shipped by Gibson the first 20 years of production:

  • 1949 – 142 guitars
  • 1950 – 533 guitars
  • 1951 – 664 guitars
  • 1952 – 1,010 guitars
  • 1953 – 1,278 guitars
  • 1954 – 1,144 guitars
  • 1955 – 1,051 guitars
  • 1956 – 1,273 guitars
  • 1957 – 891 guitars
  • 1958 – 676 guitars
  • 1959 – 754 guitars
  • 1960 – 687 guitars
  • 1961 – 647 guitars
  • 1962 – 574 guitars
  • 1963 – 713 guitars
  • 1964 – 631 guitars
  • 1965 – 744 guitars
  • 1966 – 600 guitars
  • 1967 – 1,060 guitars
  • 1968 – 1,121 guitars
  • 1969 – 753 guitars
The First Gibson ES-175 Models (1949-1956) – P-90 Pickup

Price Range: $2,500 – $4,200

The Gibson ES-175 first came out in 1949 (June 15), when Gibson was under the leadership of Ted McCarty.

Gibson’s aim was to produce a mid-priced electric guitar with a cutaway. This Florentine (sharp point) cutaway allows guitar players to play all 19 frets (later 20 frets) with ease.

The Gibson ES-175 has a maple all-laminate construction. This kept production costs low and feedback at a minimum.

Until 1953, the Gibson ES-175 came with a single P-90 pickup in neck position. A two-pickup model was available as a custom order. A few models came with Alnico V pickups, but these are very rare.

This Gibson ES-175 model was available in a natural or sunburst finish (nitrocellulose lacquer).

Gibson ES-175D (1953-1956) – P-90 Pickups

Price Range: $2,500 – $8,400

In 1953, the ES-175D was formally introduced, which was a double P-90 pickup version with the same body and hardware specs as previously mentioned. Though there were double pickup models available in 1951 and 1952, they did not receive the ES-175D designation until 1953.

These guitars were equipped with two volume controls, two tone controls, and a 3-position selector switch. ES-175 models with double pickups from before 1953 had two volume controls, only one tone control, and no selector switch.

The ES-175D Gibson came at a price of $250 in sunburst and $265 in natural. There were also some instruments released with a black finish.

Gibson ES-175D (1957-1976) – PAF Humbucker Pickups

Price Range: $2,100 – $12,400

The next major change came about in February 1957 when the ES-175D was outfitted with two PAF humbucker pickups instead of P-90s.

In 1958, another version of the ES-175D came out with a T-shaped tailpiece and zig-zag patterns on the sides.

While the single pickup version of the ES-175 was discontinued in 1971, the double pickup version was in production until 2017.

In 1956, Gibson added an extra fret to the fingerboard, making the ES-175 a 20-fret guitar.  The highest note is now a C instead of a B.

In 1959, Gibson officially stopped manufacturing ES-175s with a natural finish, although 5 natural models were shipped in 1960. This lasted until 1963.

Some instruments were released with a cherry red finish.

Gibson ES-175D (1976-1983)

Price Range: $2,200 – $3,100

In 1974, Norlin Music Instruments acquired Gibson and changes were made to their entire product line. Not a lot of people are fans of guitars from the Norlin-era, which lasted from 1974 to 1986.

In 1976, Gibson made some changes to the ES-175:

  • The one-piece mahogany neck was replaced with a three-piece maple neck. The maple neck is considered inferior quality compared to the mahogany neck.
  • A volute was added to the neck (behind the nut) to strengthen the headstock.
  • The wooden bridge was replaced by a Nashville Tune-o-Matic bridge.
Gibson ES-175T (1976-1979)

Price Range: $3,000 – $3,500

The Gibson ES-175T, a thin-body version of the ES-175, was introduced in 1976. It was available in sunburst, natural, and wine red.

The ES-175T was not very successful though and was discontinued in 1979.

Gibson ES-175 CC (1978-1979)

Price Range: $2,200 – $3,100

From 1978 to 1979 Gibson produced the ES-175 CC model, which is a standard ES-175 with a single Charlie Christian blade pickup in neck position.

Note that these pickups are not the same pickups Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel used.

Gibson ES-175D (1983-1990)

Price Range: $2,100 – $2,300

In 1983, the back and sides of the Gibson ES-175 changed from maple to laminated mahogany, while the top remained laminated maple.

Gibson ES-175 Reissue (1991-2015)

Price Range: $1,900 – $2,600

In 1990, the back and sides of the ES-175 changed back to laminated maple.

In 1991, the ES-175 was branded as the Gibson ES-175 Reissue and was part of the Historic Collection.

In the ’90s, the Tim Shaw humbucker plugins of the 80s were replaced with the new ’57 Classic pickup.

Gibson ES-175 Steve How Signature Model (2001-2007)

Price Range: $2,700 – $3,300

The Steve Howe Signature ES-175 is based on Steve Howe’s 1964 ES-175.

It comes with a single-cut maple body in a vintage sunburst gloss finish with a creme binding, a Mahogany neck topped with a 21-fret rosewood fingerboard with distinctive double-parallelogram inlays.  The bridge has abalone inlays.

The hardware is plated in chrome and includes a Tune-o-Matic bridge and features a pair of ’57 Classic Gibson humbucker pickups.

Gibson reintroduced the zigzag tailpiece on the Steve Howe model. The zigzag tailpiece had not been used since it was discontinued in the 60s.

Gibson ES-175 1959 VOS Reissues (2010-2017)

Price Range: $2,900 – $3,500

In 2010 Gibson released a number of 1959 ES-175 reissues, including a single-pickup model. These guitars come from the Gibson Memphis shop.

VOS = Vintage Original Specifications

Gibson replicated the construction of the ES-175 as it was done in the 50s, including solid sides, internal rims, thinner nitro finish, and the wooden bridge.

These ’59 reissues are excellent guitars, as good as the vintage models from the late 50s, early 60s and superior to ES-175 models from the mid-1960s to now.

The current models of the Gibson ES-175 are equipped with two Gibson 57 classic pickups, which are replicas of the PAF pickups of the 1950s.

Gibson ES-175 Variations Gibson ES-175 Special Wurlitzer (1955)

The ES-175 Special Wurlitzer was a custom-ordered ES-175 that was thinner than the standard ES-175 and trimmed out like a Les Paul.

The guitar was custom made for guitarist Andy Nelson who worked as a clinician and in sales for Gibson in the 1950s.

Nelson pitched this streamlined ES-175 model to Wurlitzer stores and even ran a spot on WBBN radio that Wurlitzer sponsored. Though we know them today for jukeboxes and pianos, in the mid 20th century the Rudolph Wurlitzer company was a musical instrument distributor and dealer.

Gibson ES-295 (1952-1959)

Price Range: $2,600 – $18,600

The ES-295 Archtop is essentially an ES-175 with decorative gold paint and a variety of decorative details. A sunburst version exists as well.

The ES-295 is made famous by Scotty Moore, the guitar player of Elvis Presley.

Featuring the same body specs as the ES-175, the ES-295 featured:

    • Two P-90 pickups with white covers. In 1957 the P-90s were replaced by Humbuckers. The humbucker version of the ES-295 is more valuable for collectors, that’s why you can expect to pay a minimum of $13,400 for a 58 ES-295.
    • A clear pickguard which was back-painted with a decorative design.
    • The floating bridge of the ES-175 was replaced with a trapeze tailpiece with the strings looping over the bridge.

Unfortunately, the decorative gold paint did not stand up well to wear.

Gibson ES-165 Herb Ellis Signature Model (1991-2013)

Price Range: $1,600 – $2,200

The Gibson ES-165 Herb Ellis signature was actually a re-release of the 1953 ES-175 that Ellis played for years.

Originally, the ES-165 came out with a single Gibson 490R humbucker, and single volume and tone controls.

In 2004, the ES-165 was re-released, but this time with the Gibson 490R humbucker being replaced by a BJB floating humbucker. The volume control was moved to the surface of the pickguard.

Noteworthy Players
  • Wes Montgomery – The great Wes Montgomery played several Gibson hollow bodied guitars in his career, including the L5 CES and the ES-175. Wes Montgomery’s ES-175 is featured on the cover of Movin’ Wes.
  • Herb Ellis – As mentioned above, Herb Ellis loved his 1953 ES-175 so much that it was re-released as the ES-165 Herb Ellis signature model.
  • Joe Pass – Joe Pass used a sunburst ES-175 until 1970. The guitar was given to him as a present in 1963. Epiphone currently produces a Joe Pass signature Emperor model based largely on the ES-175.
  • Jim Hall – Jim Hall played the ES-175 throughout his long and legendary career. He bought his Gibson ES-175 in 1956 from guitarist Howard Roberts. Jim replaced the original single P-90 pickup with a humbucker.
  • Pat Metheny – For much of his career, Pat Metheny used a 1960 ES-175N. The guitar was bought at a garage sale and he has been playing it since he was 13.
  • Pat Martino – Pat played a Gibson ES-175 in the early years of his career.
  • Babik Rheinhardt – Django Reinhardt’s son
  • Toots Thielemans – Belgian jazz musician who is famous for his harmonica playing, but is also a great guitarist.
  • Philip Catherine – Another great..
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In this lesson, you will learn how to play the classic jazz standard Stella By Starlight, written by Viktor Young. Stella is one of the most popular jazz standards played today and one every jazz guitarist should have under his fingers.

The harmony and melody of Stella By Starlight are derived from the soundtrack of the movie The Uninvited (1944).

The song has been recorded by numerous jazz musicians, including Charlie Parker (with strings), Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Joe Pass, Larry Coryell, Ella Fitzgerald, and many more.

Stella is a harmonically complex, but also a versatile standard because it can be played as a ballad, at medium tempos, as well as fast tempos.

This chord melody arrangement of Stella by Starlight is meant to be played in a typical jazz guitar trio (guitar, drum, and bass).

In a jazz trio without piano, there is no one to play the chords but you. Since you are also the one to play the melody, you have to combine playing chords and melody notes.

Stella By Starlight – Chord Melody Arrangement

Something to look out for in a chord melody arrangement like this is that the chords don’t get in the way of the melody.

When playing a chord melody arrangement, the melody notes are what’s important, and the chords are there to support the theme rhythmically and harmonically, but they may not overshadow the notes of the theme.

Backing Track

Listen & Play Along

Some clarification about what I’m playing (I omitted the obvious):

  • Bar 1: I really like the sound of an 11 over and m7b5 chord. You can obtain this sound in your solos by playing a Bbmaj7 or Am7 arpeggio (over Em7b5).
  • Bar 9 and 13: the first note of the melody in these two bars is the 4 of the major chord, the so-called avoid note. Here it functions as a harmonic delay.
  • Bar 17: the two-note in-and-out slide here is something Jaco Pastorius frequently used.
  • Bar 21: the Ab7(#11) is a Lydian dominant chord.
  • Bar 24: I play the #11 of Bbmaj7 here.
  • Bar 31: sorry for the end guys, just following Band in a Box.
  • Bar 34: the C triad over Bb is a Bb6/9(#11) chord.
Stella By Starlight – Harmonic Analysis

The harmony of Stella By Starlight is not very straight-forward because there are a lot of non-diatonic chords and ii V progressions that don’t resolve to the I.

Stella is in the key of Bb major and has 32 bars. The standard has a “vague” AABA structure, but not in the traditional sense such as in a rhythm changes. A better way to describe Stella’s form is ABCA’.

Stella By Starlight – “Modern” Chord Changes

Here is a scale analysis of Stella’s “modern” chord changes, as played by Miles Davis on his album My Funny Vallentine: Miles in Concert.

Bar 1 and 2

Stella by Starlight starts with a minor ii V progression (Em7b5-A7b9) without a resolution to the I (Dm7). There are a lot of these unresolved ii V progressions in Stella.

The scale of choice here is D harmonic minor.

Bar 3 and 4

In bar 3, we would expect a Dm7 chord, but instead, the harmony goes to a Cm7 chord that is part of another ii V that doesn’t resolve, this time in the key of Bb major.

Bar 12

This is a backdoor ii-V to Fmaj7 in the next bar.

The scale of choice here is the Bb melodic minor scale.

Stella By Starlight – Original Viktor Young Chord Changes

Here are Stella’s original chord changes, composed by Viktor Young for the movie The Uninvited.

The most important difference between Viktor Young’s changes and the chords played by Bill Evans lies in the first 2 bars.

The Bb diminished chord in the first two bars is replaced by Em7b5-A7b9. Replacing a diminished chord with a ii V progression was standard practice in the bebop era.

Bbdim7 is a common substitute for A7b9 because they share four chord tones, as you can see below:

Bbdim7 Bb Db Fb Abb
A7b9 A Bb C# E G

Stella By Starlight – Voice Leading

As you can see in the scale analysis above, Stella by Starlight is not simple to improvise over.

Changing scales every bar is not easy and doesn’t sound very musical, so it’s better to rely on arpeggios or focus on voice leading.

A good voice leading makes your improvised solos sound natural and gives you a framework to base your solo on.

Here is a voice leading example to get you started. The numbers in blue indicate which chord tones (or tensions) are played.

The post Stella By Starlight appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

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In this lesson, we will look at turnarounds (aka turnbacks) and their various variations as applied to major keys, minor keys, suspended resolutions and other progressions.

A turnaround is a series of chords that helps bring a chord progression back to the tonic key and is usually found at the end of a tune.

In the case of the examples in this lesson, our turnarounds are being used to bring us back to the tonic keys of C major or C minor.

The practice of turning around a tune started when jazz players became bored with chords that lasted for two bars or more, most of which were found in the last two bars of the tunes they were playing.

These players thought up new ways to take a long tonic chord and play other chords on top of it to take the harmony to a different place before bringing it back to the tonic chord.

Turnarounds are most commonly used during the last two bars of a piece, but they can be used in many situations. The first three bars of the blues and rhythm changes, for example, are turnarounds.

In the audio files below you will hear common comping patterns over each of these chord progressions. To keep things practical, the chord voicings on the chart are written as you would see them on a lead sheet: G7, Dm7, Cmaj7, etc.

But, as in any practical situation, those chords can be embellished with 9ths, 13ths, 6ths, and other color tones.

Chapter 1 – Basic Chord Substitutions Basic Substitutions – Example 1

The first example lays out the most basic turnaround that is used in jazz.

Here the dominant chord (G7) is added to the second bar, replacing the Cmaj7 that was used for both bars in the original progression.

This additional chord produces tension that is now resolved at the top of the tune when we return to the Imaj7 chord.

Basic Substitutions – Example 2

In the next example, we will add the iim7 chord (Dm7) to the second bar along with the G7 chord.

In jazz theory, one can always add a iim7 chord to a bar that has a V7 in it or vice versa and one can choose to solo over either or both of those chords in the measure that they occur.

So in this instance, you can play:

  • a Dm7 arpeggio for the whole second bar
  • a G7 arpeggio for the whole second bar
  • a D Dorian scale
  • a G Mixolydian scale

or all of the above and it would all sound great…

Basic Substitutions – Example 3

Now that we have filled up the second bar we can add a second chord to the first bar.

The Am7 chord is the vim7 chord in the key of C major and is the most common chord found between a Imaj7 and iim7 chord in the jazz idiom.

Listen to how the bass movement is much more interesting now that we have four chords within a two-bar phrase. Even though we are still only technically playing C major for two bars, the added bass notes really create energy and movement within those bars.

Basic Substitutions – Example 4

The next example contains what is commonly referred to as the VI dominant chord. We are adding it in place of the Am7 chord (the vim7) which leads into the Dm7 chord.

The reason this works is that A7b13 is the V chord of Dm7.

So we are using “secondary dominant” chords (like Bach would do).

The secondary dominant is the dominant of the dominant of the tonic.

Basic Substitutions – Example 5

Now we will add another secondary dominant, this time the Dm7 (iim7) will become D7 which is the V of G7.

This produces what is referred to as a chain of dominants as we now have the progression Imaj7 followed by a cycle of fifths movement for three chords producing a V of V of V7 progression.

This progression is quite common in jazz. The B section of rhythm changes uses this concept.

Chapter 2 – Tritone Substitutions

The following examples will cover turnarounds that use tritone substitutions.

For those of us who are new to this concept of tritone substitution, here is a definition:

Any dominant 7th chord can be substituted by a dominant 7th chord a tritone away.

A tritone is an interval of 3 whole tones = #4 = b5

The reason that tritone substitution works is that both chords share the same 3rd and 7th notes.

For example:

  • The tritone substitution of G7 is Db7.
  • G7 shares the tones B (3rd) and F (7th) with Db7: B (7th) and F (3rd).

Aurally speaking, the 3rd and 7th are the two most important notes of any chord in jazz because they tell us whether the chord is major or minor (the 3rd) and whether or not it is a maj7, min7 or dominant 7th (the 7th).

Tritone Substitutions – Example 1

In this first example, we will substitute the last chord in the I/vi/ii/V progression (G7) with its tritone chord (Db7).

Notice how the Db7 moves by a half step back to the tonic chord, Cmaj7.

It is because of this movement that this sub is often referred to as the “flat 2” chord because it is the bII7 chord in the key of C major.

Tritone Substitutions – Example 2

Now we will substitute the D7 chord (this is the secondary dominant discussed earlier), with its tritone chord (Ab7).

Here the Ab7 acts as a bII7 chord resolving to the G7 chord. Because of this, the tritone of II is often referred to as the “flat 6” chord (bVI).

Tritone Substitutions – Example 3

Here we are substituting the VI7 chord (A7b13) with its tritone chord (Eb7).

Because of its relationship to the tonic, bIII7, this sub is often called a “flat 3” chord.

Tritone Substitutions – Example 4

Now we can use multiple tritone substitutions in our turnarounds.

In this example we use the bIII and bII subs:

  • Eb7 for A7
  • Db7 for G7

Tritone Substitutions – Example 5

In the next example, we use all three tritone substitutions: bII, bIII, and bVI.

  • Eb7 for A7b13
  • Ab7 for D7
  • Db7 for G7

Notice how even though we are “stepping out” of the key of C major, the progression flows smoothly and resolves nicely when it comes back to the tonic Cmaj7 chord at the top of the form.

Chapter 3 – Substituting the Imaj7 Chord

So far we have looked at adding subs for the vi, ii and V chords in our turnarounds.

Now we will look at adding substitutions to the Imaj7 chord at the start of our progression.

Imaj7 Substitutions – Example 1

In this first example, we will play an iiim7 (Em7) in place of the Imaj7 (Cmaj7).

Notice how this produces a iii/VI7/ii/V7 chord progression, or a chain of ii/V7s.

Imaj7 Substitutions – Example 2

Now we will make the iiim7 chord a dominant 7 chord which will produce a chain of secondary dominants: V7 of V7 of V7 of V7 to Imaj7 at the top of the form.

Sometimes the E7 chord will have a b13 (C) in the voicing to help keep it connected to the original Cmaj7 chord that it is substituting for.

Imaj7 Substitutions – Example 3

In this next example, we will use a tritone substitution (Bb7) for the E7 chord which acts as a bII7 chord leading to A7b13.

Because of this movement and its relationship to the original key of C major this sub is often referred to as the “flat 7” chord (bVII).

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Improvising on the guitar requires you to have a good understanding of note relationships on the fretboard. The moment you need to start thinking about a particular note you want to play, it’s already too late. That’s why we study and practice scales, arpeggios, and chords. Another useful tool to visualize the relationship between notes on the fretboard are intervals.

In this lesson, you will learn about all the different musical intervals, how they look on the guitar, and how you can practice intervals so you can use them in your solos.

What Are Intervals?

An interval is the distance between two notes.

You can make a distinction between melodic intervals and harmonic intervals.

A melodic interval is when two notes sound successive.

A harmonic interval is when two notes sound simultaneous.

There are two families of intervals:

  1. Major intervals: 2nds (9ths), 3rds, 6ths (13ths), and 7ths.
  2. Perfect intervals: unisons, 4ths (11ths), 5ths, and octaves.

These two families can be adapted:

  • When a major interval is lowered a half step, it becomes minor.
  • When a perfect interval is lowered a half step, it becomes diminished.
  • When a perfect interval is raised a half step, it becomes augmented.
Intervals on the Guitar Fretboard 1. Unison

Half steps between notes: 0

Melodic use: the repetition of a note. This is not purely theoretic though, it can be used as an effect, such as in the following example.

2. Minor Second (minor 2nd)

Half Tones: 1 (half tone = half step = 1 fret on the guitar)
Ear Mnemonic: the Jaws theme begins with a minor second
Melodic use: used all the time, in scales etc.
Harmonic use: sometimes used as an effect, as in the following example.

The minor second works well in some chords, usually with open strings:

3. Major Second (major 2nd)

Half Tones: 2 (or 1 whole tone)
Ear Mnemonic: the two first notes of Happy Birthday
Melodic use: used all the time, in scales etc.
Harmonic use: sometimes used in chords or as an effect, such as in the following example.

4. Minor Third (minor 3rd)

Half Tones: 3
Ear Mnemonic: the guitar riff from Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)
Melodic use: used all the time, in arpeggios, chords, …
Harmonic use: minor and major thirds are used to harmonize melodic lines (for an example see major thirds)

5. Major Third (major 3rd)

Half Tones: 4 (or 2 whole tones)
Ear Mnemonic: Oh When the Saints
Melodic use: used all the time, in arpeggios and chords.

You can also play a scale in major and minor thirds (instead of major and minor seconds).

Here’s the C major scale played in thirds:

Harmonic use: minor and major thirds can be used to harmonize melodies or as a scale for improvisation.

Here’s the C major scale harmonized in thirds:

6. Perfect Fourth (perfect 4th)

Half Tones: 5
Ear Mnemonic: Here Comes The Bride
Melodic use: just like you can play a scale in thirds, you can also play a scale in fourths (perfect and augmented fourths), such as in the following example over the C major scale:

Harmonic use: fourths are used in quartal chords, such as in So What, a popular jazz standard written by Miles Davis.

The 4th interval is also used in sus4 chords, such as in this C9sus4 chord:

7. Augmented Fourth (aka Tritone or Diminished Fifth)

The tritone is an important interval.

It is the weakest interval, meaning that it has the tendency to go somewhere, it wants to move to other notes.

The tritone is the main interval of dissonance in our harmony and they are the reason that dominant chords and diminished chords want to move to a tonic chord.

Half tones: 6 (3 whole tones, hence the name tritone)
Ear Mnemonic: The Simpsons theme, Maria (West Side Story)
Melodic use: The tritone is an important aspect of the Locrian mode.
Harmonic use: the tritone is an important element of dominant chords, half-diminished chords and diminished 7 chords (which has 2 tritones). The tritone is also used in tritone substitution.

In the chord C7 for example, there’s a tritone between e and b flat:

8. Perfect Fifth (perfect 5th)

Half Tones: 7
Ear Mnemonic: Star Wars theme
Melodic use: you can play a scale in fifths, such as in the following example.

Pat Metheny’s song Bright Size Life starts in fifths:

Harmonic use: the 5th is generally something you want to avoid in your jazz voicings, it does not add much to the sound. It is often used in rock though (power chords).

9. Minor Sixth (minor 6th)

Half Tones: 8 (or 4 whole tones)
Ear Mnemonic: Black Orpheus
Melodic Use: very nice interval, a bit melancholic. A scale can be played in minor and major 6ths (see major 6th)
Harmonic Use: A scale can be harmonized using minor and major 6ths (see major 6th)

There’s a minor 6th in this nice chord from the Aeolian mode (one of the guitar modes):

Dm7b6 (or Bbmaj9/D)

10. Major Sixth (major 6th)

Half Tones: 9
Ear Mnemonic: All Blues (Miles Davis)
Melodic Use: playing scales in major an minor 6ths sounds bluesy.

Here’s the C major scale in 6ths (grab these like little chords, let the low note ring while you play the 6th):

Harmonic Use: in the same fashion as the example above, you can harmonize a scale in 6ths:

The 6th is also an important interval in chords:

C6 (C major 6)

Cm6 (C minor 6)

11. Minor Seventh (minor 7th)

Minor and major 7ths are important intervals in jazz. “Jazzyfying” a chord usually means adding the 7th to a triad.

Half Tones: 10 (or 5 whole tones)
Ear Mnemonic: Somewhere (West Side Story), Star Trek Theme
Harmonic use: the minor 7th is in minor 7th chords, half-diminished and dominant 7th chords.


12. Major Seventh (major 7th)

Half Tones: 11
Ear Mnemonic: chorus of Take On Me (A-ha)
Harmonic use: the major 7th is a part of major 7th chords.


13. Perfect Octave

The circle is round, we are back at the starting note c, but 12 half tones higher.

Half Tones: 12 (or 6 whole tones)
Ear Mnemonic: Over The Rainbow
Melodic and Harmonic Use: octaves are often used à la Wes Montgomery, in solos and themes, such as in the following example from Wes Montgomery’s standard Four on Six.

Compound Intervals

The intervals we’ve seen so far are what we call “simple intervals”.

There are a couple more intervals, called “compound intervals” because they go beyond the octave.

We’re not going to talk about all of them, only the important ones.

1. Minor Ninth (minor 9th)

Interval distance: octave + minor 2nd
Use: in dominant b9 chords.


2. Major Ninth (major 9th)

Interval distance: octave + major 2nd (or 7 whole tones)
Use: in major 9, minor 9, dominant 9 chords

C9 (C dominant 9)

3. Augmented Ninth (augmented 9th)

Interval distance: octave + augmented 2nd
Use: in dominant #9 chords


4. Perfect Eleventh (perfect 11th)

Interval distance: octave + perfect 4th
Use: in minor 11 chords


5. Augmented Eleventh (augmented 11th)

Interval distance: octave + augmented 4th
Use: in major #11 chords and dominant #11 chords


6. Minor Thirteenth (minor 13th)

Interval distance: octave + minor 6th
Use: in dominant b13 chords


7. Major Thirteenth (major 13th)

Interval distance: octave + major 6th
Use: in dominant 13 chords


The post Guitar Intervals appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

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Unit 7 is a great jazz standard composed by bass player Sam Jones during the time he was working with Cannonball Adderley. The most famous version of Unit 7 is on Wes Montgomery’s album “Smokin’ at the Half Note”. This album, which is essential listening for any jazz guitarist, was recorded live in 1965 with the rhythm section of Miles Davis (the Wynton Kelly Trio).

In this lesson, you will learn how to play the melody of Unit 7, how to comp the chords, and how to improvise over its form.

Unit 7 – The Melody

Backing Track

Listen & Play Along

Unit 7 – Analysis & Improvisation

Unit 7 is a 12-bar blues in C with a bridge, played in the AABA format.

During solos, the chord progression is a bit different compared to the chord progression of the theme.

Here are the chord changes that are used during the solo.

Bar 1 to 4

On the C7, you can play the C Mixolydian mode or the C minor or major blues scale.

Wes plays two counts of Gm7 and 2 counts of C7 in his comping here, adding the iim7 before the dominant chord.

Bar 5 and 6

Over the F7, you can play the F Mixolydian mode or the C minor blues scale.

Bar 8 and 9

A 2-5-1 chord progression in Ab major.

Bar 10

Db7 is the tritone substitute of G7, the dominant of Cmaj7.

Abm7 is the ii of that tritone substitute.

Here you can play the Ab melodic minor scale (=Db Lydian dominant scale).

Bar 24

An A7 chord to go to the Dm7 chord at the start of the bridge.

Here you can play the D harmonic minor scale or the A altered scale.

Unit 7 – Comping

After the theme, the piano solo begins while Wes does some light comping.

Because the piano plays chords as well, Wes has to comp very sparingly to not get in the way of the piano.

He does this by playing guide tone chords, also known as shell chords.

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How Insensitive (Insensatez in Portuguese) is a bossa nova classic written by Antonio Carlos Jobim. In this lesson, you will learn how to play the melody of How Insensitive, how to solo over its chord changes, and you will have a look at some typical bossa nova intros.

How insensitive has been recorded by a lot of musicians, including Joao Gilberto, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Byrd, Chet Atkins, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Emily Remler, Bireli Lagrene, Sting, Iggy Pop, and many more.

The most notable jazz guitar versions are those of Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, and Pat Metheny, especially his live version of 1993, which you can see below.

Pat Metheny - Secret Story Live (1993) - (4) How Insensitive. - YouTube

How Insensitive was Jobim’s homage to Frédéric Chopin.

The song resembles Chopin’s Prelude, Op. 28 (No. 4), in harmony as well as melody, as you can hear below.

How Insensitive – Chord Melody Arrangement

Here is the melody of How Insensitive, arranged in a way you would play it in a jazz trio with drum and bass.

I harmonized the melody sparingly in order to get a clear distinction between the melody and the accompaniment.

Backing Track

Listen & Play Along

Some remarks:

  • Bar 3: diminished chord with a b13. This voicing is like a (C) 13th chord with a raised root or an (F#) 7#9 chord with the 5th in the bass.
  • Bar 7: the first chord is a Dm6 shape, a substitute for Bm7b5.
  • Bar 9-10: the accompaniment goes from Bbmaj7 to Bb6/9.
  • Bar 11-12: the same thing as above, the chords go from Ebmaj7 to Eb6/9.
  • Bar 16-20: some octaves and chords à la Wes Montgomery.
  • Bar 23: I play the vanilla Dm here without the 7.
How Insensitive – Harmonic Analysis

How Insensitive is in the key of D minor and has 32 bars which you can see as 4 blocks of 8 bars.

The harmony of How Insensitive is not very straight-forward and not everybody agrees on which chord to use where. Especially the first 8 bars can be daunting to improvise over in the beginning.

Here’s a scale analysis of the chord changes.

Bars 1 and 2 – D Aeolian Mode

How Insensitive starts on the tonic minor chord, Dm7.

The obvious scale to play here is D Aeolian (=D natural minor scale), but you can also use the D minor pentatonic scale or the D minor blues scale.

Here’s a fingering for the D Aeolian scale:

Bars 3 and 4 – D Harmonic Minor Scale

The next chord is a C#dim7, which can also be seen as an A7b9/C#, the first inversion of A7.

This is a chord a lot of people have troubles improvising over.

The scale of choice here is the D harmonic minor scale, but you can also use the D minor pentatonic or blues scale.

Here’s a fingering for the D harmonic minor scale:

Bars 5 and 6 – C Dorian Mode

On the Cm6, you play the C Dorian scale (the second of the guitar modes).

Bars 7 and 8 – C Melodic Minor Mode

The Bm7b5 in bars 8 and 9 can also be seen as a G7/B.

The scale of choice here is the C melodic minor scale.

Bossa Nova Intros

Here are some intros in the bossa nova style you can use for How Insensitive.

Most of these intros end on A7 (the dominant chord of Dm7) to make a smooth transition to the first chord of How Insensitive.

Bossa Nova Intro 1

Bossa Nova Intro 2

This intro is in D major. The major tonality of the intro emphasizes the minor tonality of How Insensitive and makes a nice contrast.

Bossa Nova Intro 3

Bossa Nova Intro 4

Bossa Nova Intro 5

The post How Insensitive appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

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Jazz Guitar | Belgium Guitar Blog by Matt Warnock & Dirk Laukens - 3M ago

Known for his enormous contribution to jazz and electric guitar, Pat Metheny has become a household name over his long and illustrious career. Pat Metheny manages to combine virtuosity with accessibility, resulting in music that is pleasing for two kinds of audiences, hence his popularity.

5 Licks From Two For The Road

While Pat Metheny has elevated the electric guitar in jazz, he has also brought attention to the acoustic guitar and its role in jazz improvisation. One of his most memorable acoustic releases is the duo album he recorded with Charlie Haden, Beyond the Missouri Sky.

On that record, Pat brings his slippery lines and unique articulation to the acoustic guitar on many of the album’s tracks, including the song Two For the Road. In this lesson, you learn and break down 5 licks from Pat’s solo on that tune.

You don’t have to play them on acoustic guitar for them to work in your playing. Taking licks from the acoustic guitar and playing them on electric is a great way to expand your soloing vocabulary and bring a fresh approach to those lines.

Have fun with these licks, learn them in several keys and positions on the guitar, and add them to your next guitar solo. They’ll expand your soloing chops and bring a Metheny vibe to your lines at the same time.

5 Pat Metheny Licks - Two For The Road - YouTube
Two for the Road Lick 1

This first lick uses the A natural minor scale (aka the Aeolian mode):

A Natural Minor Scale A B C D E F G
1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

Listen & Play Along

Backing Track

Two for the Road Lick 2

This second lick uses the A natural minor scale as well, combined with an E major triad in the second half of bar 2 and the first half of bar 3.

Listen & Play Along

Backing Track

Two for the Road Lick 3

The third lick starts with an E7 arpeggio, combined with chromatic and approach notes.

The second bar starts with the A natural minor scale and goes to the A minor blues scale in the second part.

Listen & Play Along

Backing Track

Two for the Road Lick 4

In this outside sounding lick, Pat uses a technique called sidestepping.

He starts with the B major scale (B-C#-D#-E-F#) and moves on to the C Mixolydian scale (G-A-Bb-C-D-E). He then plays a chromatic line and finishes with the C major scale.

Listen & Play Along

Backing Track

Two for the Road Lick 5

In this last lick from Two For The Road, Pat Metheny uses the A minor blues scale.

Listen & Play Along

Backing Track

5 Pat Metheny Licks.pdf

Pat Metheny – Minor Licks Minor Lick 1

This typical Pat Metheny lick contains a number of 3rd intervals, both diatonic and chromatic.

Pat is a fan of playing chromatic thirds, both ascending and descending, which you can see at the end of the lick in this example.

If you are looking to get a Metheny vibe into your solos, try taking those last few chromatic 3rds out of this lick and apply them to other musical situations.

Minor Lick 2

One of the elements of Pat’s playing that stands out is his fluid, legato playing, which you can hear in the next example.

Though many of us associate three-note-per-string scales with rock and metal, Pat translates these scale shapes to the jazz idiom as he uses to hammer-ons per string to build a fluid line over a Dm7 chord.

Minor Lick 3

This lick is a minor ii-V-I in C that uses a G triad over G7alt, as well as the melodic minor scale over Cm7.

Sometimes something as simple as a root-triad is the best way to go in your soloing.

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Are you wondering how to get a good jazz guitar tone? On this page, you will learn how your favorite jazz guitar player gets his unique sound, besides using his ears and fingers. Discover what kind of guitars, guitar amps, strings, picks and effects the jazz greats use.

Jazz Guitar Players
  1. Joe Pass
  2. Pat Metheny
  3. Wes Montgomery

Joe Pass’ Guitar Gear Joe Pass – Guitars Fender Jazzmaster

Joe Pass used to play a Fender Jazzmaster during his stay at the Synanon Center in California, where he tried to kick drugs.

After 15 months in Synanon Joe Pass recorded Sounds of Synanon in 1961 together with Arnold Ross, another Synanon resident. During his stay Joe Pass didn’t have a guitar of his own, he used this Fender guitar that was owned by the Synanon Rehab Facility.

The Fender Jazzmaster was first introduced in 1958 and was originally marketed at jazz guitarists. However, The Jazzmaster wasn’t embraced by the jazz musicians, but it became popular amongst surf rock guitarists.

Gibson ES-175

This Gibson guitar, the ES-175, was the main guitar of Joe Pass. He got one for his birthday from a guy named Mike Peak in 1963, who saw Joe Pass playing jazz on a solid body (the Fender Jazzmaster).

Other jazz guitarist who played the Gibson ES-175 include Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery (in the early days), and Kenny Burrell.

D’Aquisto Guitars

In 1970 Joe Pass started playing a D’Aquisto guitar. The guitar had one pickup and was built specifically for Joe.

A good example of the D’Aquisto at work is Two For The Road, a duo album with Herb Ellis.

Ibanez JP20

From 1980-90 Joe Pass was under contract with Ibanez and they made him a signature model based on his D’Aquisto.

It is said that Joe didn’t really like his Ibanez signature guitar and he didn’t perform on it that much.

Most accounts from people in the United States from this time period have Joe playing the D’Aquisto, but many reports from other countries say Joe played the Ibanez. The speculation is that Joe played the Ibanez rather than travel internationally with his D’Aquisto.

The Ibanez JP20 was discontinued in 1991 and suffers a reputation for a thin tone due to its pickup placement (too much in the middle, not close enough to the neck).

Other Guitars
  • 1901 Martin 00-42 – Joe played this guitar when he was young.
  • Gibson L5
  • Gibson Super 400
Joe Pass – Amps Polytone Mini-Brute

Joe Pass used a Polytone Mini-Brute amp, a compact solid state amp with 110 watts going through a 12″ speaker.

Other jazz guitarists using this amp include Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, and George Benson.

Joe Pass – Strings

Joe Pass used D’Aquisto Flatwound Strings with a 013 to 056 gauge.

Joe Pass – Picks

Joe Pass used a medium thin gauge pick, not soft, but firm. In an interview, he says he always uses the same kind of pick, broken in two.

Pat Metheny’s Guitar Gear

Pat Metheny was one of the pioneers of using electronic equipment in his music and until now he’s always been looking for innovative instruments.

The first ten years of his musical career he wouldn’t play anywhere without his guitar rig. He would not play unless he could use his own gear.

That changed when he went on tour in the USSR and had to play on a Polish guitar. When he heard the tape the next day, he was surprised that his sound was there, no matter what guitar he played.

Pat Metheny – Guitars Gibson ES-175N (1960)

Pat Metheny used his Gibson ES-175 for almost 20 years. He bought the guitar at a garage sale in Lee’s Summit and he has been playing it since he was 13 years old.

Pat made some modifications to the guitar, such as removing the bridge pickup and installing a Roland midi pickup. He uses a toothbrush in the guitar’s tailpiece to guide his guitar cable.

Pat says he never had any repair work done to the guitar, although it was falling apart.

To get the dark tone that he likes, he turns the tone control almost completely off.

The Gibson ES-175 was and is very popular amongst jazz musicians. Some other guitarists that used an ES-175 include Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino in their early years, Joe Diorio, Jimmy Raney, Toots Thielemans, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Jim Hall, Steve Howe, B.B. King, Mark Knopfler, Keith Richards, Howard Roberts, and many more.

Ibanez PM100 NT – Ibanez PM100 BK – Ibanez PM120 – Ibanez PM200 NT

The Ibanez PM100 is one of Pat Metheny’s signature guitar models and is his current main guitar. He started playing Ibanez somewhere in the mid-90s when his Gibson became too fragile to travel with.

Pat Metheny owns a couple of PM100s, modified to his special needs. Besides the PM100 model with a natural finish, he also plays a black version (Ibanez PM100 BK).

On the album Live -> Trio, he plays the prototype of the Ibanez PM120, which has only one pickup (the production model has two).

Pat likes the fact that the tone control is more responsive compared to the Gibson ES-175. He doesn’t have to turn it all the way down to get the sound he likes.

Roland G-303 Guitar Synthesizer Controller + Roland GR-300

Pat Metheny uses the Roland G-303 guitar synthesizer controller 6-string in conjunction with the Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer.

The Roland G-303 was made from 1980 to 1984 and was Roland’s most popular guitar synth controller. It is a high-quality guitar and doesn’t require guitarists to modify their playing style.

Linda Manzer Guitars

Luthier Linda Manzer made most of Pat Metheny’s acoustic guitars in recent years.

Linda is a Canadian luthier who met Pat over 20 years ago and has been building instruments for him ever since.

According to Pat one of the reasons he began playing acoustic guitar is because of a 6 string made by Linda (called the “Linda 6” by Pat). The “Linda 6” is equipped with a Takamine pickup and was the guitar used to record Lonely Woman on the Rejoicing album.

Pat also plays on a Linda Manzer nylon string, the Manzer Pikasso guitar (42-string), the Manzer Sitar, the Manzer Baritone, the Manzer flattop 12-string, the “Little Manzer”, Manzer “The Studio”, the Manzer Mini Archtop, and more. He owns 13 Manzer guitars in total.

Other Guitars

Here are some of the other guitars used by Pat Metheny throughout the years:

  • Gibson ES-140 (Pat’s first guitar, bought for $60 when he was 11 years old).
  • Gibson ES-150
  • Fender Mustang (Pat’s second guitar).
  • 1956 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins
  • Höfner Zoller AZ Standard (the guitar of his friend and Hungarian jazz guitar player Atilla Zoller).
  • 1961 Gibson L-5 CES (this guitar was previously owned by Wes Montgomery, and later George Benson. It’s the guitar on the cover of Wes Montgomery’s album Movin’ Wes).
  • Guild dreadnaught cutaway (permanently in Nashville tuning).
  • 1985 Ovation 1163 Classic Cutaway
  • Sadowsky solid body nylon stringed guitar
  • Daniel Slaman DS-150/250
  • Guild D-40C
  • Paul Kinny acoustic stereo guitar
  • Coral electric sitar
Pat Metheny – Amps Acoustic 134

Pat Metheny used this amplifier for 20 years, from 1974 to 1994.

He describes the sound as flat, kind of midrangy-bright, but mellow and loud without any distortion. The problem was that this amp was really noisy and tended to break a lot.

Digitech GSP-2101 Guitar Preamp

During his Joshua Redman tour, Pat realized he finally would have to modernize. He started trying everything and finally settled for the Digitech GSP-2101 preamp.

With this preamp, he could get his sound, reliability and some bells and whistles (mainly programmability).

Kemper Profiler

Lately, Pat Metheny has been using a Kemper Profiler in combination with Bose L1 Compact System speakers.

In his own words:

I’ve been using the Kemper for this last year and it’s been an incredible new development for me and my life as a musician. This has offered me a completely new way of getting my sound that I would not have believed possible and I’ve been having such a great time learning it as a new instrument.

Other Guitar Amps
  • Ashly Mosfet 200 power amp routed to JBL speakers.
  • Crest 6001 stereo power amp.
Pat Metheny – Guitar Effects Lexicon Prime Time II Digital Delay

The output of his Digitech preamp, just like the Acoustic 134, is connected to 2 Lexicon digital delays, one on his left at 14 ms and one on his right at 26 ms. Each delay has a slight pitch bend controlled by a VCO (sine wave), which makes his guitar sound chorused.

It’s this ‘natural’ chorus that Pat is after since he doesn’t like chorus coming out of a box.

Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer

The GR-300 is one of the first guitar synths (1979) and Pat Metheny was one of the first jazz guitarists who used it, in combination with the Roland G-303 guitar synthesizer controller.

According to Pat, this guitar synthesizer was the first one that had a musical quality to it, it picks up every detail in terms of attack and dynamics.

Roland VG-8

The Roland VG-8 is a guitar modeling processor that emulates the sound of popular guitars, amps, and microphones. It’s a combination of a pick-up installed on the guitar and a floorboard.

Pat uses it to create synth-type sounds, on Imaginary Day for example.

Other Guitar Effects
  • Roland FC-300 Midi Footswitch
Pat Metheny – Guitar Strings

Pat Metheny uses light-gauge D’Addario strings exclusively.

  • D’Addario EXL115 Nickel Wound, Medium/Blues-Jazz Rock 11-49
  • D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light, 12-53
  • D’Addario EJ21 Nickel Wound, Jazz Light, 12-52
Pat Metheny – Guitar Picks
  • D’Addario Duralin Standard – Super Light Duralin (.50mm)

Wes Montgomery’s Guitar Gear

Wes Montgomery was not interested at all in guitar equipment, he saw his guitar as a tool to do the job.

In his own words:

I got a standard box. I don’t never want nothing special. Then if I drop my box, I can borrow somebody else’s.

Keep in mind that Wes Montgomery played with his thumb rather than with a guitar pick and this is a major characteristic of his guitar sound.

There are some misconceptions about Wes Montgomery’s playing and gear:

  • It is commonly thought that Wes played with his tone knob rolled off. This is not true, he was always trying to get more treble from his pickup to compensate for the mellowness of using his thumb.
  • Some sources say that his guitar amps were modified so they had a better response time. This is also not true.
  • It is said that Wes never played unplugged. This is also not the case, he practiced unplugged a lot.
Wes Montgomery – Guitars Gibson L-5 CES EB

During his entire career, Wes Montgomery played almost exclusively on a 1963 Gibson L-5 CES (cutaway electric Spanish).

Gibson produced this guitar since 1922 and is still in production today. It was the favorite rhythm guitar in big bands.

The L5 was the first Gibson guitar with f-holes.

Gibson made 3 custom guitars for Wes Montgomery, but they only had 2 differences compared to standard L-5: 1 pickup instead of 2, which was placed upside down.

Other guitarists that use the Gibson L-5 are Tuck Andress and Pat Martino.

Other Guitars
  • Wes Montgomery played a Gibson L-7 on the recordings of The Wes Montgomery Trio (1959). The L-7 was loaned to him by Kenny Burrell, together with a Fender Deluxe amp.
  • Gibson L-4 with a Charlie Christian bar pickup.
  • Gibson ES-175: this is the guitar he is holding on the cover of Movin’ Wes.
  • Gibson ES-125D
Wes Montgomery – Amps

Wes Montgomery never really found the amp that sounded the way he wanted it to.

Fender Super Reverb

Wes Montgomery used a Fender Super Reverb in his early years. This tube amp has 4 10-inch speakers.

1965 Standel Super Custom XV

In his later years, Wes Montgomery played this Standel amp. The Super Custom XV has 2 channels, a normal one and a reverb/vibrato one. The amplifier has 70 watts RMS and a JBL speaker.

Fender ’65 Twin Reverb

After the Standel, Wes played on a Fender Twin Reverb.

Wes Montgomery – Strings

Wes Montgomery used Gibson HiFi Flatwound strings on his guitars going from 014 to 058.

Wes Montgomery – The Thumb

Wes Montgomery didn’t use picks, he used his thumb for picking. He once tried using a pick for some weeks, but it never produced the sound he liked, although it enabled him to play faster compared to using his thumb.

He used the fleshy part of his thumb, not his nail, and played only down strokes for single note lines and up- and down strokes for chords.

Wes had a corn on his thumb. One sound he got from the soft parts of his thumb, another more edgy one from that corn.

His thumb was double jointed, he could bend it all the way back to his wrist.

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Lawsuit guitars are high-quality copies of popular American brand name guitars (like Fender and Gibson) produced by Japanese companies in the 1970s. These Japanese lawsuit guitars are of legendary quality and are highly sought after. There are still gems to be found, on eBay or Reverb for example, and a lot of these auctions are genuine, but some of these lawsuit guitars for sale are not lawsuit guitars at all. If you are interested in buying a lawsuit guitar, make sure you read through this article first and then do more research before you buy or start bidding on a guitar.

Anyone who’s looking for vintage guitars on eBay or Reverb comes across the word “lawsuit”.

The word is abused a lot though because it drives the price of a guitar up. What exactly is a lawsuit guitar and why are they so popular?

The popularity of lawsuit guitars is easy to explain:

  • They look identical to the originals.
  • They are equal in quality and sometimes even better than the originals.
  • They are cheaper than the originals.
  • They are vintage.

So it sounds like a good idea to search for these lawsuit guitars in order to get a great sounding vintage guitar at a good price.

Be mindful of scams though, some sellers claim to be selling a Japanese lawsuit guitar, while they are not. Inform yourself, starting here…

The History and Background of Japanese Lawsuit Guitars

In the late 1970s, there was a general dip in the quality of the production ethic of most mainstream American guitar companies.

Household names, such as Fender and Gibson Guitars, were not cranking out the quality workmanship which they were known for in the past. This lead to the emergence of copy guitars from Asia which used arguably better parts and craftsmanship.

The company that started importing these quality copy guitars was Elger Guitars.

The founder of Elger Guitars, Harry Rosenbloom, was the first American to import Japanese-made guitars.

He imported guitars from the Hoshino Gakki company, who made guitars under the brand name Ibanez. In 1971 Hoshino bought Elger Guitars, which became Hoshino USA.

Their logos and production styles were similar enough to where American guitar companies felt that the consumer was being confused into buying guitars which they believed were from them.

A lawsuit between the parent corporation behind Gibson Guitars and Ibanez Japan/Elger Guitars lead to a precedent that stunted the production of these low-cost, high-quality guitars.

The Lawsuit

The actual lawsuit had place in 1977 and was between the Norlin Corporation (Gibson’s parent company) and Hoshino USA.

Gibson accused Ibanez of copying their headstock design.

The issue was settled out of court. In 1978 Ibanez abandoned the idea of copying popular American guitar models and started manufacturing guitars from their own designs.

Here’s a detail of the Gibson headstock that Ibanez copied:

Here’s a post-lawsuit Ibanez headstock, without the “moustache”:

Later on, a lot of these copy guitar companies were shut down. Gibson and Fender went on to take advantage of the production capacities by purchasing Japanese factories to make their own lower cost copies.

Gibson bought Epiphone, Fender opened Squier.

There were other lawsuits as well. Greco and Tokai, for example, were sued because their logos looked like those of Gibson or Fender.

This might trick buyers in thinking they were buying the real deal.

Lawsuit Guitar Companies

Although there were many guitar companies making these copy guitars, Ibanez was the only company that actually got sued by Gibson.

Here’s an overview of the best known “lawsuit guitar companies”:


Tokai is known for their Gibson Les Paul replicas called “Les Paul REBORN” and the “Love Rock”, which are perfect copies of 1958 vintage Les Pauls.

They also made Martin Acoustic replicas.

Tokai still makes guitars today.


Greco made Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, and other replicas.

Their logo looks a lot like Gibson’s logo.


Fernandes is known for its Fender replicas. They are still making guitars today.


Burny is the same company as Fernandes, but instead of Fenders, Burny made Gibson replicas.

Burny guitars are considered to be the best Gibson copies. Burny lawsuit guitars are extremely difficult to find and very expensive.

They are hard to distinguish from Korean Burny models as well. Burny is still active today.

Their Les Paul model is called “Super Grade”, and the words were modeled to look like “Les Paul” (it actually looks like “Luper Grade”).

Other “lawsuit guitar companies” include Ibanez, Takamine, Matumoku, Aria, Westone, and Electra.

Buying Lawsuit Guitars

In the past, these original copy guitars from Asia were much more difficult to find.

You would have to keep a close eye on the different collectors in order to find Japanese lawsuit guitars for sale.

This included days spent scouring pawn shops or traveling to different cities. The online world has made securing sophisticated collector’s items like these a lot easier and it can be fun an addictive looking for vintage guitars on eBay.

When shopping for lawsuit guitars on eBay or other marketplaces, it is important that you carefully examine all of the information presented in the auction.

Here are some tips and things to look out for when buying lawsuit guitars:

●  Take a close look at the logos and headstock configuration. Lawsuit guitars have a headstock that is known as an “open book” headstock, copied from Gibson. After the lawsuit, copy guitar manufacturers had to change their headstock design. Does the headstock resemble that of a Gibson Les Paul?

●  A true lawsuit guitar should have the design and logo style of a more expensive brand from the same era. For example, a Takamine lawsuit guitar might have a logo which is easily confusable for a Martin acoustic. Does the logo look the same like the Gibson or Fender logo?

Here’s the Greco logo as an example (looks a lot like the Gibson logo):

●  Where was the guitar made? Lawsuit guitars are made in Japan, not in Korea or anywhere else. Of course, not all Japanese vintage guitars are lawsuit guitars.

●  Most Lotus guitars are not lawsuit guitars.

●  Most Lyle guitars are lawsuit guitars.

●  Most Ibanez lawsuit guitars don’t have a serial number (some of the most recent do though).

●  The more actual photographs and specs the eBay seller is willing to demonstrate, the better.

●  It might be a good idea to buy a vintage guitar price guide, there’s a good one published by vintage guitar magazine. Knowing the market value of vintage guitars can help you a lot.

It is important to investigate the specific guitar in question to make sure that it is truly authentic.

Lawsuit guitars for sale on eBay or Reverb will be easily verifiable through research on various guitar forums.

You don’t want to buy a guitar without doing your homework; an authentic Japanese lawsuit guitar will have a lot of verifiable feedback on the web.

Lawsuit Guitars on eBay

Here’s a list of current eBay auctions that claim to sell lawsuit guitars. There are still gems to be found, but be warned and do your research!

The post Lawsuit Guitars appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

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There are few players that have had a longer and more influential career than the great jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. Burrell has inspired countless guitarists to make the switch from blues and rock to jazz with his own unique style of blues and bebop inspired playing.

Kenny Burrell has been a high-in-demand guitarist during his entire career. He was Duke Ellington’s favorite guitar player and played with some of the biggest names in jazz music, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, John Coltrane, Jimmy Smith, Stan Getz, Billie Holiday, and many more.

Kenny Burrell’s most popular record is Midnight Blue with the Latin-flavored hit Chitlins Con Carne, later covered by blues giant Stevie Ray Vaughan.

When studying Burrell’s soloing concepts there are a number of important areas that you can explore, and two of the most characteristic of his playing will be covered in this lesson, blues lines and major key ii V Is.

By studying these licks and applying them to your own jazz guitar solos, you will be able to insert a bit of the blues and bebop vocabulary that has made Burrell a favorite among jazz guitarists.

Kenny Burrell – Dominant Licks Dominant Lick 1 (Eb7)

Here is a fun and classic-sounding Kenny Burrell lick that is based on the Eb major pentatonic scale, used over an Eb7 chord.

Dominant Lick 2 (Eb7)

Here you are using the Eb minor blues scale to solo over an Eb7 chord in a style very reminiscent of Kenny’s ‘60s recordings.

Dominant Lick 3 (F7)

This classic sounding Burrell blues line over an F7 chord uses the F minor pentatonic scale for the whole line.

Lines like this, simple yet great sounding phrases, are what launched Kenny Burrell to worldwide success back at the start of his career. While they are easy to play, they are deceptively tricky to nail in a solo at the same level as Burrell.

When working on this line, and other “plain” blues lines built from the pentatonic or blues scale, make sure to go and listen to Kenny’s playing and try to imitate his tone, attack, and feel in order to get the same level of intensity as Burrell does in his solos.

Dominant Lick 4 (F7)

The next phrase is based on the F minor blues scale over an F7 chord. The difference between the minor pentatonic scale of lick 3 and the minor blues scale is the blue note (a b5).

In this lick, you will see a favorite rhythm of Kenny’s that you can study and bring into your own playing.

Playing a 16th note followed by a dotted 8th note, rather than two 8th notes as most players will do, is something that Kenny used a lot in his soloing ideas.

Dominant Lick 5 (F7)

Another characteristic of Kenny Burrell’s playing are his slippery, legato lines when playing in a bluesy style.

You can see and hear that legato style in the lick below, which uses a slide on the way up and on the way down the lick which is played over an F7 chord and uses an F minor pentatonic scale in its construction.

Dominant Lick 6 (F7)

In this blues lick, you can see three 8th-note triplets being used to outline a blues scale lick over an F7 chord.

Again, you can see that the lick is simply a descending blues scale with a resolution to the root, but under Kenny’s fingers, it can sound amazing.

Learning that often less is more is one of the biggest lessons you can learn when studying Kenny Burrell’s solos, and so keep that in mind going forward.

Kenny Burrell – II V I Licks II V I Lick 1

This lick over a II V I chord progression uses a common bebop technique that is found in many of Burrell’s classic solos, the enclosure.

This is a great line to study as it uses two variations of the enclosure technique:

  • The first using a half-step above and below the target note.
  • The second using a step above and half-step below.

As you take this idea further in your playing, try applying both enclosure variations to various notes of any arpeggio or scale that you are using in your solos in order to hear how this concept can spice up any melodic line you are playing.

II V I Lick 2

In this ii V I line, you can see Kenny Burrell using a b13 interval to create tension over the C7 chord during the V7 section of the lick.

This scale is called the Mixolydian b6 scale (aka Mixolydian b13) and is the 5th mode of the melodic minor scale, so it is like using F melodic minor over C7.

C Mixolydian b6 Scale C D E F G Ab Bb
1 2 3 4 5 b6 (=b13) b7

To take this idea further:

Play the tonic melodic minor over the V7 chord in any ii V I progression.

Example: play C melodic minor over G7 in a ii V I in C major.

II V I Lick 3

Here is an example of the triplet rhythm being applied to a ii V I progression, blending the Burrell blues rhythm approach to a ii V I progression. In a commonly used bebop sound, Burrell likes to place the triplet between the 2nd and 3rd notes (a half-step interval) of the iim7 chord.

Adding a triplet in this fashion is a great way to bring a bebop rhythm and melodic sound to your playing.

II V I Lick 4

In the next lick, we will look at a Kenny Burrell chord phrase over a short ii V I progression in the key of F major.

Here, you will see a common substitution that Kenny and other jazz guitarists use, the II7alt chord over the iim7 chord.

When you play II7 to V7 you are creating a V7/V7 to V7 progression, or a very short dominant cycle substitution.

As you take this idea into your practice routine, try playing II7 chord over iim7 chords in a ii V I progression to get an idea of how a V7/V to V7 sub sounds in your own phrases.

II V I Lick 5

The next lick is a convenient way to change position on the fretboard.

II V I Lick 6

This last II V I lick starts with a G pentatonic scale, advances to a Dm9 arpeggio and resolves in the 3 of Cmaj7.

Kenny Burrell Solos

When learning how to play in the style of Kenny Burrell, one of the key elements to explore is mixing chords and single-lines during each phrase of an improvised chorus.

To help you get that cool-sounding Kenny Burrell chord/single-note sound in your jazz guitar soloing ideas, this section will explore 2..

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