Dan Wilson has been releasing his own courses on right hand picking, technique, comping, blues, rhythm changes on his website for awhile. This particular course is one he did in collaboration with Jazz Memes (founded by Chase Maddox & his brother Kevin Maddox).
This is the first course that I’ve invested in from Jazz Memes. Previously, I’ve only gotten two of their three eBooks. I reviewed The Master Arpeggios Book Vol. 1 For Guitar by Chase Maddox here.
Firstly this is a massive course. The main material is divided into four modules. Here is the video & material outline as per the website:
Module 1: Descending Scales (1hr 4min + 21 PDF pages)
- Relative Pitch
- Harmonizing in Thirds
- Economy of Motion
- Descending Scale Practice – Major Scale
- Descending Scale Practice – Natural Minor
- Descending Scale Practice – Harmonic Minor
- Descending Scale Practice – Melodic Minor
- Descending Scale Practice – Dorian
- Descending Scale Practice – Phrygian
- Descending Scale Practice – Lydian
- Descending Scale Practice – Mixolydian
- Descending Scale Practice – Locrian
- Descending Scale Practice – Lydian Dominant
- Descending Scale Practice – Diminished
Module 2: Thinking Vertically (46min + 16 PDF Pages)
- Introduction and 1-3-7 Exercise
- 1-5-10, 5-3-7, and a Mixolydian Phrase – “There Will Never Be Another You”
- Thinking Vertically – Natural Minor
- Thinking Vertically – Harmonic Minor
- Thinking Vertically – Melodic Minor
- Thinking Vertically – Dorian – “So What”
- Thinking Vertically – Phrygian – “If I Were a Bell”
- Thinking Vertically – Lydian “Witchcraft”
- Thinking Vertically – Mixolydian – Bb Blues
- Thinking Vertically – Locrian – “Idle Moments”
- Thinking Vertically – Lydian Dominant – “Tenor Madness”
- Thinking Vertically – Whole-Half Diminished – “Misty”
- Thinking Vertically – Half-Whole Diminished – “Spring Is Here”
Module 3: Line Construction (17min + 4 PDF Pages)
- Introduction to Line Construction
- Diatonic Triads for Melodic Minor
- Diatonic 7th Chords
- More 7th Chord Lines – Recycling Ideas Concept
Module 4: Solo Studies (41min + 28 PDF Pages)
- Rhythm Section Blues
- Rhythm Section Blues – Uptempo Loop – Backing Track
- Rhythm Section Blues – Midtempo Loop – Backing Track
- Rhythm Section Blues – Bridge
- Rhythm Changes Explanation
- Rhythm Changes Playing Example – Angle 1
- Rhythm Changes Playing Example – Angle 2
- Rhythm Changes Comping – Backing Track
- To Whom It May Concern – Explanation
- To Whom It May Concern – Backing Track
In addition to these modules, you also get a bonus recorded Q&A session and also bonuses on the blues and minor blues. I believe however the blues solo study is only for the early sign-ups for the course. However, even without that, there is A LOT of material here.
For me, one the most interesting part was Module 1 and just seeing how Dan approached scale fingerings on the guitar. His approach emphasized connecting the whole fretboard smoothly with position shifts led by the first finger. This reminded me of doing the Andres Segovia scales and the Extended Scale Playing for Guitar book by Joe Puma (previously reviewed here). That being said it was difficult for me to figure out the logic of when the position shifts were supposed to happen. I am grateful that he plays though all the different scale options in the videos and the notated examples certainly helped.
Unlike some players, Dan doesn’t use CAGED fingering or think in terms of the standard five position or three note per string fingerings. I found this quite interesting!
Since I’ve included his “Descending Scales” approach into my practice routine, I noticed my scale technique improve. The challenge for me were the ear training & playing exercises that he introduced in Module 1.
Moving into Module 2: Thinking Vertically, Dan shares different ways to outline harmony in a linear way. He uses different intervallic shapes including 1-3-7 and 1-5-10 shapes. For each of the modes and scales, Dan demonstrates how he incorporates the shapes into his playing. Probably the best part of these sections are how he uses it in ACTUAL songs. This gives musical context to the harmonic material.
Moving into the the third module, Dan shows how he constructs lines over a II-V-I in the key of Fmajor. Looking at this section, I can see how Chase Maddox’s previous eBooks such as The 60 Master II-V-I Lines & Master Dominant Bebop Patterns and Scales can be useful material in addition to working with Dan’s course. Those books can provide more structure who might need even more guidance.
Module 4: Solo Studies provides a treasure trove of context for the previous modules. There’s some seriously difficult stuff for shedding and study here. At the moment not all the solos transcriptions in this module include tablature. However, I believe Chase is currently working on including versions of the transcription with tablature.
Going into the bonus material, the Recorded Q&A video has more tips on technique, practice and shares more of Dan’s thoughts on using the course within the context of learning standards. The questions were good!
All in all, this is a serious course for the serious jazz guitarist.
Is it the most organized course ever?
There’s a lot of moving parts… and it will require dedication from anyone who wants to embark on a study of this level. But, if you’re into Dan’s guitar style, this is probably an investment that will provides months and years of study.
Personally, the more I look into the material, the more I got out of it. For instance, today I used the exercises in here in combination with some of Randy Johnston’s Mike Masterclasses material and also some exercises from Kenny Werner’s Jazz Piano 1 course from My Music Masterclass. All of these work well together. I am thinking of writing a post just covering courses that would work well together… but we’ll see whether that happens.
In conclusion, if you like Dan’s style and want to understand more of how he plays and practice, get this course. The only caveat (and it’s mainly because of the price & how much material is in this), is to make sure you’re ready to work on the material. This is hard work! But if you’re up for that, it might be worth it.
After all this, I really want to get Dan’s other courses… probably with the picking one first and then the technique one. That being said, my birthday was just a few days ago so if anyone wants to get me something, any of Dan’s courses would be pretty nice haha.
Pros: Lots of material to work on, interesting way of looking at scales & the fretboard
Cons: Although this is a course, it does require you to think about what to practice & how long to work on each sections of the material. Some assembly required for sure.
TLDR: An interesting jazz guitar course that shares Dan Wilson’s perspective of how to learn the guitar fretboard for improvisation within a jazz context.
You can get the course here: https://www.jazzmemes.org/fretboard-freedom
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