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Lenny’s Guide Tones

Lenny Breau is without any doubt one of the most original jazz guitarist. A lot can be said on his unique playing style but what stand out the most for many people is how he is using guide tones to emulate piano comping. In this lesson series I will break down how he achieve this unique technique. In the first part of this lesson we will look at the voicings he is using.

Basic Shapes

So let’s start with the dominant voicings, all of these shapes can be viewed from two point of view, Bb7 or E7. Try visualize every voicings according to these two roots. I have written four shapes for every string sets, beginning with the basic shape (3rd & 7th) than those with the color tones. Those shapes will constitute the major part of the voicings used in this playing style.

5th & 4th strings:

4th & 3rd strings:

6th & 5th strings:

Here’s the major shapes;

  • 1st bar show the basic voicings (3rd & 7th)
  • 2nd bar show the quartal (69) voicings
  • 3rd bar show alternative shapes Lenny Breau is using sometime

Same for the minor shapes;

  • 1st bar show the basic voicings (3rd & 7th)
  • 2nd bar show the quartal (m11) voicings
  • 3rd bar show alternative shapes Lenny Breau is using sometime

Half diminished shapes are very similar to minor shapes except when adding the 5th as you can see in second bar. Those particular voicings aren’t very finger friendly. Note that, most of the time Lenny is using normal minor 7 shapes or substituting for an altered dominant shape instead of playing half diminished chords.

 

Inside voice leading

The shapes I am about to show are very personal to Lenny Breau. Lenny is using them to create inside voice movement. These voicings can be used very efficiently in a more standard comping situation. You can check how I am using them in my ‘Blues Comping’ lesson.

Bb7:

E7:

Pentatonic

Lenny Breau is sometime deriving shapes from pentatonic scale. Here’s the shapes for the three string sets:

Miscellaneous

Here’s some other shapes Lenny is also using when doing his particular piano comping style.

In the next part of this lesson we will look at many examples in various context; II-V, minor II-V & turns.

 

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Bb Blues Comping

Hey there! Why not talk about comping… the way too often forgotten of our practice sessions. The coolest thing about comping is that it might get you a job if you are good at it! Although I have no idea what I am talking about since I never got any jobs for my comping abilities, but that’s what everyone say so it might have some truth into it.

So for this lesson I decided to go upside down and to show you the result first… I am tired of writing text… I WANT TO PLAY! Just kidding, but in fact there is so much to say on this subject that I thought it would be great to have an example to refer to and avoid that all the ideas and concept become too abstract.

That is why; I will not explain any substitution or re-harmonization concepts here. What I would like is that you pay attention to the voice leading between chord changes, the melody  and the rhythm. You will notice that:

  • The voice leading is more accentuated in chord changes than when moving shapes of the same chord.
  • The melody come from a variety of melodic material; chord tones, minor blues pentatonic, passing tones…
  • the rhythm is varying between syncopated chords and ‘on beat’ chords. Long sustain, long rest…. etc

Those three points are the foundation of a good comping, the rest is ‘gravy’. In the next lesson(s) I will go through all the concepts I have used in this little comping etude. Enjoy!

 

 

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