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Joe Pass Guitar Lesson

by Wolf Marshall

Joe Pass breathed new life into John Lewis’ West Coast classic "Django" on his landmark For Django album of 1964. Pass’ solo is definitive on this exceptional track and stands as a virtual textbook of jazz guitar playing. According to John Pisano, who was the rhythm guitarist on the recording, Joe used his early 1960s ES-175D and a small Fender combo amp. In this lesson you’ll learn....

Lesson Highlights swing 8th-note rhythm
star1.gif (994 bytes) arpeggios
star1.gif (994 bytes) bebop sequence lines


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Lesson Highlights The bulk of Joe’s opening line is in continuous 8th notes. These are played throughout the solo as swing 8th notes. That is, in units of one quarter and one 8th per beat. Imagine an 8th-note triplet for each beat. Then simply tie the first two two 8ths together to produce a quarter note. This leaves the the third 8th note to be played as the second note of each pattern. The result creates a triplet feel for each beat when playing 8th note lines. This is also called shuffle feel or swing feel. Pass plays the entire phrase with this feel.

star1.gif (994 bytes) Joe’s solo approach is chord-based. His lines reflect definite chord sounds and chord changes. In fact even without the backing track it is easy to hear the chord movement in his melodies. In the opening phrase Pass weaves his line around the challenging and active progression of Fm-Gm7b5-C7-F7-Bb7-Eb7-Ab7-Db7. The first two bars make use of two familiar Pass melodic signatures. These are arpeggios: the descending Fm9 arpeggio in bar 1 (Ab-G-F-C-Ab) and the descending C augmented arpeggio in bar 2 (C-Ab-E-C). The F minor arpeggio is played over the I chord of the key and the C augmented arpeggio over the V chord. Incidentally that’s how Joe thinks. He reduces all the complicated harmonic twists and turns of jazz into simple tonic and dominant functions. 

star1.gif (994 bytes) Pass plays a sequential line through the modulating progression in bars 3-5. This is organized into tight four-note figures which define each chord change. For F7, Bb7 and Eb7 Joe employs the four-note ascending figure that John Coltrane exploited in "Giant Steps." This is the pattern of root-2nd-3rd-5th, a derivation of the major pentatonic scale. It can also be seen as an arpeggio with an added 2nd or 9th. Each chord receives this figure based on a different root note. Pass concludes the opening phrase with a descending scale line over Ab7 (Ab Mixolydian mode) and a characteristic Charlie Parker-inspired bebop lick over Db7. This also implies a dominant seventh sound in Db and includes a very specific downward leap followed by a rising scale line to the seventh of the chord Cb.

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DJANGO (part 1)

DJANGO (part 2)




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copyright 1998 Marshall Arts Music

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