Guitar Instructor Lick of the Week 12-21-2010
Posted by Michael Mueller on December 21, 2010 at 4:04 PM
One of the books that has spent a lot of time on the music stand this past year is Mike Stern, from Hal Leonard's Signature Licks series and written by my colleague Joe Charupakorn. The book features step-by-step breakdowns of 14 tracks from the jazz fusion pioneer, as well as an in-depth intro and interview with Stern plus a special "Bop 'n' Roll" lesson.
The second song featured in the book is "Jigsaw," the title track from his 1989 album. The head and solos feature several key modulations and motivic devices as well as plenty of 16th-note syncopation, which make for one funky playing experience. I selected an F Dorian-blues (F-G-Ab-Bb-B-C-D-Eb) passage over Fm7 that features the syncopation in conjunction with a touch of rhythmic displacement. For example, while each bar starts with an Ab-G move, each begins on a different part of the beat. In bar 1, the Ab is struck on the downbeat; in bar 2, it's on the upbeat; and in bar 3, it comes in on the second 16th note. This sort of rhythmic displacement is an easy yet ear-catching improvisational tool, regardless of musical style.
With the intermingling of 16ths, 8ths, and dotted 8ths throughout, you'll need to keep a tight rein on the rhythm, so start slowly and work your way up to tempo. The third bar contains some of Stern's signature intervallic contours (3rds and 4ths) on adjacent strings that will require quick picking. Personally, I use the economy approach endorsed by Frank Gambale in these situations, but other super-pickers like Stern or Paul Gilbert opt for strict alternate picking. Use whichever feels more comfortable to you.