The Speedway League School/Fingerstyle Improvisation - John Mayer Style
Favorite John Mayer Fingerstyle Moments
Bridge Solo - Neon Live in LA - Jon Michael Swift
Intro - Neon Live in LA - Jordan Lee
Queen of California Live Outro - James Bailey
Stop This Train Intro - Charles Dennis
Blues Jam from the Live @ Berklee Lecture - Andrew Ka
Summary (by JMS)
We introduced ourselves and did a little playing and show-and-tell of favorite John Mayer riffs just to get our bearings. I gave a quick lecture on some ideas I'd developed about John Mayer's fingerstyle improv, though truthfully I'm going to try to avoid lectures in the future and keep it to rapid-fire playing. We each picked a song or concept we wanted to focus on and planned to play the basic groove next week, where we'll focus on creating 'jams' that help us get closer to the ideal techniques and phrase sets we need to open them up to free improvisation.0:10 what's this class all about
4:00 Everybody plays their section
13:40 What we would do to get better together
20:47 Fingerstyle improvisation lecture
30:47 Project Goals
38:30 Homework for this week: Pick a riff
46:17 James pushes Jon beyond his comfort level
49:50 Scheduling the next session
Summary by JMS
We realized the challenging of getting the basic riffs down was a substantial one, and so I embarked on a quest to try to find better ways to do so. We talked a lot about time tested strategies of practice, but also about some group strategies that I wanted to employ like doing web jams to develop a particular idea.
0:30 Talk about your struggle
6:25 Beating the John Mayer G Stretch
15:00 Stewie's Mnemonics in Improvisation
17:42 G Major and other hybrid positions
24:23 The essence of the fingerstyle improv process
29:38 NINJAM and using jams as a practice tool
37:54 Using non-John Mayer songs in the John Mayer style
45:04 Developing ideas on your own riff
50:16 Developing unconventional improvisations
56:04 Why are we doing collaborative learning projects?
59:20 What's coming next week?
Summary by JMS
I was really looking to make this session "Less sayin' and more playin'" and I thought we made some major headway. We focused on playing with the riffs in Stop This Train, and we talked about the ergonomics of that difficult stretch over the G chord in the verses of Stop This Train. We also talked a lot of strategy about how to get to productive improvisations at any level, and we worked a lot of the strategies in-session. We stopped to talk about a couple of issues like chord tones and essential fingerstyle exercises, but all of it was pretty focused on getting to fingerstyle jamming on "Stop This Train" and it looks like within a week or two everyone in the current group should have at least a decent grasp on the skill.
0:00 getting to the sweet spot
3:30 How are the riffs goin'
7:00 The Ergonomics of the G Stretch
10:25 The D-G Jam
13:48 Matt's Melodic Improvisation
14:58 The "Way Down South" Blues Lick
17:00 Other licks Jon liked
18:00 James' Challenge: The Displacement Scale
19:54 The Worried Blues - James goes out in a blaze of glory
24:05 An Epiphany on JM Fingerstyle
27:05 Developing a fingsertyle jam in a nutshell
28:30 Chaz's 'Stop This Train' Hook
30:43 Jamming on the chorus of stop this train
32:52 Mapping the Gm(maj7) chord
36:06 A lab on the color notes in chords
44:28 Mapping the "Stop This Train" chorus
48:52 You have 4 bars to find a nice melody with weird notes
54:30 Jon's summary of the fingerstyle improv process
55:50 It's a Trap - The Displacement Scale
57:30 Breaking the monotony of exercise jams
1:00:50 Matt claims he can't improvise...then improvises
1:02:40 The challenge to tackle if you're lost
1:04:55 How improvising flows between instruments
1:07:04 How to make maps when the land is too big
There was a session but it was not recorded.
Summary by JMS
We started by talking about approaches to working in small groups to motivate practice, and we ended with working through a few exercises to expand improvisation abilities. The rhythmic displacement scale is a critical exercise to free up the fingers, and we combined it with left hand scales to free the hands up and stimulate creative ideas in improvising.
2:30 problems we've had with fingerstyle improv so far'
5:30 Easier or harder to practice with others
8:34 Metronome practice techniques
10:00 metronome issues
11:45 Latency issues?
19:50 Mapping techniques
26:57 Thumb Groove Warm-Up
30:47 Working out a bass line
31:54 Displacement Scale Warm-Up
38:55 Playing displacement rhythm jams
45:00 Second phase jams
54:15 Third phase - Chuck James
1:06:00 Suggestions for duo work
1:13:17 Weird stuff that Jon is doing
November 13th - Duo Session w/ Chaz
Summary by JMS
I proposed doing duo practice sessions over the course of the last week to see if it would help with motivation and depth. What I learned from the responses was that most folks feel sufficiently motivated already or that such an exercise would take too much time. It remains to be seen if this means folks are in fact in the balance they want to be with their guitar or if they simply don't see the approach as a valuable on. Chaz and JMS did a duo session, where the result involved a little of the intended activity and a lot more time spent getting on the same page about both the theoretical approach to practice and motivational interest in the subject matter.
Looking to the future, here's how I'd focus the process. Finding processes to include people at different levels is important. That being said, the wider the spread of abilities, the harder it is to integrate. Matching people who are at closer levels might be helpful, especially in duo sessions. That being said, teaching others is actually a really good way to learn, especially the skills needed to organize one's own practice. Another critical issue are the basic set of technical skills required to do the improvisation. They are usually hard to acquire and folks avoid practicing them out of internal resistance. Setting up a group exercise where everyone works at their own pace with the problem at hand may help this, and over time get everyone where they need to be.
- Everybody teaches
- Group exercises where everyone can go at their own pace
Let's start there and see how it goes.
November 27th - Taking Train Solos
Helpful Prerequisite Knowledge
Know some John Mayer songs
Have some experience with melodic improvisation/soloing and/or accompaniment patterns
Understanding musical time concepts like Meter, Time Signature, Beat, Pulse, Rhythmic Values, etc.
Scales and melodic improvisation
Rhythmic scales and pattern improvisation
Hybrid scales and 2 or 3 part improvisation
Scales in 1, 2 and 3 notes over open hybrid positions
Setting a challenge appropriate to your ability level
Hybrid scale positions
Comping patterns vs. Melodic improvisation
2 and 3 part improvisation
The 1/4 note and 8th note pluck and chuck grooves:
1/4 note songs:
Dear Marie (Sometimes)
8th note songs:
Free Fallin' Cover Why Georgia Neon (Sort of) Your Body is a Wonderland Clarity
13th chord bridge
In the intro of Neon Live in LA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DfQC5qHhbo
In the bridge of this live version of Your Body is a Wonderland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT3ufTZJE2A
Part of the aforementioned riff
also in this version of clarity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLgKNjI4f_I
Used in early versions of Neon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzsEzD2fVwE
Jon Michael Swift's Songs
"Subway Trains" was composed by Niall Carmichael, but the solo at the end was written by J.M. Swift for the purpose of developing 2 part improvisation technique
"Planes, Trains and Taxicabs" was written by J.M. Swift to explore a number of ideas involving Mayer style 1/4 note grooves