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Jody Fisher: News

Twitter Tip #51-- - June 2, 2011

Learning in a rush will always lead to mistakes and bad habits that will only have to be corrected later. Slow down...

Guitar Tip #50-- - June 1, 2011

Pentatonic Ideas: Alt Dom chords-major pentatonic starting from the b5 of the chord. 7sus4-major Pentatonic from root or b7.

Video with George Benson..... - May 31, 2011

Here's a sample of a video I did with George Benson. In all we completed 19 instructional videos together.....Way too much fun....

Guitar Tip #49-- - May 31, 2011

Changing the key of a song may help you discover beautiful effects like open string chords not available in the original key

Guitar Tip #48-- - May 29, 2011

Practice tremolo picking daily for two minutes on each open string. Apply both gradual, and sudden dynamic changes.

Free Lesson!! - May 27, 2011

Here's a longish lesson about applying whole tone ideas in a solo guitar context--from my book "The Art of Solo Guitar"--

Guitar Tip #47-- - May 27, 2011

One way to find new chord voicings is to switch any note on the low E string to the high E string, and vice versa.

Guitar Tip #46-- - May 26, 2011

A single mistake is the "universe" telling you that you're practicing too fast. Slowing down will fix all guitar problems.

Guitar Tip #45-- - May 25, 2011

Books/vids are fine, but won't make you a great player. What makes a great player is experience in playing and listening.

Guitar Tip #44-- - May 24, 2011

Experiment with dynamics. This is a lost art in much of today's music. Add more expression to YOUR music......

Guitar Tip #43-- - May 23, 2011

Try applying slides, bends, vibrato, tremolo, hammer-ons, pull-offs, sweeps, and harmonics to your existing vocabulary of ideas.

Guitar Tip #42-- - May 23, 2011

Learn to stress notes at various times in any phrase. We stress certain words when we speak, so why not when we play?

Trio Gig This Saturday - May 20, 2011

Playing at Benjarong in Redlands, CA this Saturday nite-6-10. Baba Elefante-bass, Steve Dixon-drums--see you there...!
Benjarong Thai Cuisine
1001 West Park Avenue
Redlands, CA 92373
(909) 792-3235

Guitar Tip #41-- - May 20, 2011

Try to "relax into" physically difficult right and left hand techniques. Don't forget to BREATHE......

Guitar Tip #40-- - May 19, 2011

Build modern alt chords. Combine a tritone and an altered tone-(E-Bb-D#=C7#9). Find 10 places on the fretboard to do this.

Guitar Tip #39-- - May 18, 2011

Need new improv ideas? Try changing keys every chorus. It's amazing how new solo ideas appear just by moving to a new key.

Workshop Live Interview - May 17, 2011

In addition to writing and composing music regularly, Jody does lots of playing in the mountains of Southern California. He spends his summers as a favorite faculty member, conducting seminars at several National Guitar Workshop campuses around the country. He has published over 20 instructional books. Some of Jody's original solo guitar music is available through download at his website.

WorkshopLive interview with Jody Fisher

Started: Age 11 in 1963
Instrument: Guitar
Music styles: Jazz and original compositions

When did you start to play?

I started on ukulele. I was about 8 or 9 years old. I was immediately hooked. The thing never left my arms. I was really, really serious about it.
I started guitar lessons when I was 11.

The funny thing is, I had a moment when I was really, really young, maybe 4 or 5 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. I saw a picture of a guitar – I think it was in sort of like in a toy catalog or something - and I got my marching orders that day. I just always knew that that's what I would do.

When did you find your voice as a player?
I was probably 12 or 13 at that point, and like everybody in that era, I was playing folk music, and then the Beatles came along, and I was playing Beatles music. But my uncle, who was a pro (retired at that point) … came over one day and started teaching me things, and all of a sudden the things he was showing me put me on a different level than all of my friends… so I knew my influences were going to be way different, even when I was 12 or 13.

I was still listening to rock and Beatles, and everything else, but the things I was playing on guitar - I was learning jazz and standards and things like that starting at age about 12. My approach was a lot different from all my friends at that point.

I'm still finding my voice as a player. I think other people recognized my voice long, long before I did. I'm not sure why that is. But I think if you talked to people who have listened to me over the decades, they would say I had a sound long before I would say I had a sound.

How do you keep your playing fresh?

That's easy – I've been doing this for a long time, and I can honestly tell you that it feels fresh every time I pick this thing up. I'm not going to live long enough to even make a scratch in what I want to do. I've always been a fanatic about it- I can tell you I'm more intrigued now by the instrument than I've ever been, and I've never not been intrigued.

What do you do when you get stuck?

I don't get stuck very often, but when that does occur, I just stop playing. Usually it's done for me... There've been times when I've said OK, I'm a little saturated right now, I'll just not play for a while. And when I way ‘a while', it could be anywhere from three days to a week. For instance if my wife and I go away for a quick vacation or something like that, I usually don't bring my guitar. Those times are good for knocking down the cobwebs. But getting stuck is not a problem; mostly I feel like I'll never get it all done.

What do you still find hard to do?

Everything is hard. It's a very difficult instrument. Sometimes I feel like I'm starting over every single day. It's hard to keep your technique up, it's hard to keep composing, it's hard to keep always updating your music, learning material of other people's, it's hard to stay booked, it's hard to be self-employed. The whole thing is hard. but the return is so good, I can't fathom doing anything else.

There are some days I pick the guitar up and think, 'Wow, have I ever touched one of these things before?” Usually in 10 or 20 minutes of warming up I'm in pretty good shape again. I don't know this for a fact, but I would bet artists and actors would say the same thing – it's just a tough thing to reach into yourself and do this.

How often are you surprised by your playing, or what you're listening to, or music in general?

Every night. My whole approach is improvised. Even if I'm playing solo, and I'm playing a full chord melody arrangement, I don't really have any arrangements of anything. I know the song intellectually – I know what's made of, I know the chord changes and I know the melody, and I know the instrument. And I try to literally play it differently every night and sometimes I'm surprised in a very good way, and sometimes in a not so good way! So the element of surprise is ever-present.

I don't walk around in fear of being bitten by a dog, but if I see a dog coming at me I trust myself to do what's appropriate at the time. Musically, I kind of do the same thing. I don't think about it on the way to work; I don't think about it until I'm actually playing, and I just trust myself to do the right thing.

I listen to literally everything. You probably can't name a style I don't listen to. I'm primarily a jazz guy, but I listen to everything. One thing that all the free lance work over the years has taught me is that there really is great music, and great musicians, in every style of music. Every style of music has its weak spots and its strong spots as well. So I have a pretty healthy respect for all the great players no matter what they're playing.

As far as music in general, I'm not real happy with the jazz scene at the moment. I'm not hearing much originality these days. I'm sort of a short term pessimist, long term optimist. Over the last several months or even a couple of years 'Id say, I've kind of gone back to my roots, listening to the same people that really made me want to do this.

Do you have a regular practice regimen? Do you have a practice 'tool-kit' - metronome, tuner, recorder, etc.?

My mornings are about practice. I get up, and the first thing is practice; that's what I do. Once I start answering the phone, and turning on the computer, and everything else, practice just slips away. I get up fairly early every morning, no matter what time I get in the night before, and practice.

And I've come a full circle in the practice routine. When I was a kid starting, there wasn't a lot to practice, because there weren't a lot of books, there weren't a lot of videos – there weren't VCRs yet. There wasn't anything like that. So whatever you did learn. You got from the guy down the street, or the guy at the music store, or something. And you worked it to death, and made it part of your soul, and you just grew with it. In the 70s is when all the guitar schools started. – GIT, Berklee. And everyone would take an hour of sight-reading, an hour of chord melody, an hour of improvisation, or whatever, and they were expected to put in the same amount of time at home as homework.

In my opinion, that doesn't work. I used to think it did, and so I used to structure my time – an hour of this, and hour of that - I think it's a good way to learn math or engineering, but I don't think it's a good way to learn art. I think art is more squiggly. It goes off on tangents as the muse dictates. And so I practice one thing at a time until it's perfect, instead of all kinds of unrelated things. And I think for me, and for most pros that I know, it seems to work best.

Is there a piece of gear you just can't live without?

No. I know that's not what people what to hear, but it's absolutely true. I'm not much of a gear guy, although I have owned every thing electronic at one point or another in my life. But I've come to the conclusion, at least for myself, that it's the player, not the instrument. And I can pick up almost any guitar, and I pretty much sound like me no matter what I play. So what I buy, it's almost always for reasons of comfort – if it's comfortable to play, I'm pretty much going to like it.

Are there one or two core ideas that are central to your teaching that you make sure every student learns?

There are two things about that; the first is I try to focus on the student's natural strengths and build from there, rather than trying to turn them into something they're not. I'd much rather see what they have to offer as a unique individual and use that as a base of operations. The second thing, as far as one-on-one teaching, I really try and teach each student like they're the only student I have. I try to take care of them. It also cultivates your teaching business better that way as well. If you get a reputation of someone who treats his students that way, you can't beat that. That's the best service you can get.

The one thing I thing that all my students would all say, and they would probably put it on my tombstone, is 'Practice slower.' That's the panacea for all guitar ills – slow down. I use the term 'agonizingly slow.'

Do you find yourself returning to listen to the artists who inspired you when you first started to play? Who are they?

Guitaristicly, I'd say my strongest influences were Wes Montgomery, of course; Howard Roberts, who just doesn't get his due for some reason. A lot of his recordings were pretty commercial, and a lot of jazz people overlook them, but as a guitarist … I think he was one of the most important voices on the instrument ever… I used to listen to Johnny Smith a lot, and Ted Greene especially. I knew Ted (not closely, but our paths crossed quite often actually over the years – I first met him about 25 years ago) and he had a profound influence on me as a player and as a teacher, too, quite honestly.

When I met Ted I was in a music store in Hollywood looking for a Telecaster - I heard what I thought were two guitar players in the next room, and I turned the corner and it was Ted. We struck up our acquaintance at that point. I can't remember anything out here on the west coast that has brought guitar players together more than Ted's passing. It's just unbelievable.

The first book 'Chord Chemistry' is what put him on the map the second book is actually my favorite of the four that he wrote, 'Modern Chord Progressions.' I thought that was a real, real genius work. But Ted was more than just ‘where to put your fingers.' I didn't know him personally that well, but there was a presence about him that rubbed off, and you can't buy that. He was a very special human being, and the guitar just happened to be his vehicle.

And other instrumentalists that are just as important as the guitar players – Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis. Those would be the top list for me.

Does your playing change when you switch instruments?

You know, I've got to tell you, I've sold 9 guitars this last year. I'm happiest when I play one guitar. I've lived both ways. I've had all kinds of instruments, all kinds of guitars and equipment. And early on, when I was getting started, I could never afford more than one. That changed through the years. And now I find that more than one guitar really is sort of a distraction for me, and I'd rather just concentrate on only one. These days I'm playing a Klein electric. People call it a kidney on a stick. It really is the most comfortable guitar I've ever had. The shape of the body is not for aesthetics; it's cut that way so that there are never bends in either of your wrists, and the network of muscles up and down your arms remains straight the whole time. That's the primary reason it looks the way it does. And the fingerboard is about as comfortable as anybody could wish for.

How often, when you're playing, do you find those moments of pure music, when your head is clear, your fingers are working, there are no distractions, and it's just you and the music? When the external conditions are right, then I have those moments every night. But there are external conditions that can really mess that up, though. Out here we do a lot of outdoor gigs – maybe 50 or 60 per cent, year round… Sometimes I'll be sitting out there, and it's way too cold, or, I've also done 5-hour gigs and it's 115 degrees in the summer. I did that for 3 years at a Ritz-Carlton poolside years ago, and it's those kinds of external conditions that can really mess you up. But if the conditions are good, I have those sort of magic moments several times every night.

What music would you suggest to your students?

Howard Roberts – for the real jazz guys, he has two recordings. One is called the 'Magic Band' and the other is 'Live at Dante's.' And they're live recordings, and show a little more what he can do. The still don't quite do him justice, but people should still be aware of those. And even if they do listen to the commercial stuff, which I still do all the time, the guitar playing is so outstanding, you just can't ignore it. People should pay more attention to him.

Obviously Ted Greene is under-listened-to.

But I ran into something this summer that I found pretty interesting that I had not heard of before He's sort of an avant garde guitarist from New York. His name is Marco Opedisano. Very avant garde. Lots of electronics, with a male opera singer. Some of the most unusual things I've ever heard. And he's got one CD that I'm aware of, called 'Guitars in Brooklyn.' It's sort of a compilation of different concerts he's done around New York since 2001. I listened to this on a plane over the summer. It was so fresh and so unique. It's not fore everybody, that's for sure. It's not stuff you're going to sing to in the shower. But I think it's exciting, because the guitar needs some new breath. And I think this guy is exploring in a real valid way.

I think people should listen to Joe Diorio more. I think he's under played. Joe's kind of a mentor for me for a lot of years. He had a stroke recently, but he seems like he's coming back; he's should be alright. He's got an album with him and Mick Goodrick called 'Birds of a Feather.' It's not a highly produced record, but there's some real outstanding playing.

And I think people should listen to Ravi Shankar. I think jazz players should listen to him. I think the real masters in most Indian music are the ultimate improvisers. If you want to hear free jazz, there's a lot of material in there. You're basically interpreting – there's a theme, and there's solos. And rhythmically, we have a lot to learn. …. They've been playing this instrument for centuries and centuries, and the guitar is still in its infancy. I think we're still finding our legs on this thing. There's a whole rich tradition of sitar and other string instruments that we should look into a little deeper. I'm not going to pretend I'm real knowledgeable about it. I know a little something, and I've listened to a lot of it, and I just find it real inspirational. I think the phrasing and the sense of nuance is impeccable in the hands of a master, and I think a guitar player could learn a lot that way. About dynamics – a lot of things that are missing in music.

What are you listening to these days? Do you search out music that's new and unfamiliar to you? It changes all the time. This week? I like Pat Martino. I ran into him in Seattle this summer, and we had dinner together. I've been listening to his Think Tank album quite a bit this week. Also there's an older record of Ralph Towner's that I like to listen to fairly often, Solo Concerts. I believe it's from the late 70s. I've been going back a lot lately; not a lot of the new stuff right now is doing it for me. I've been listening to the complete Riverside recordings of Wes Montgomery. I always listen to Billie Holiday for some reason. She's always being played around here some day of the week. And I've been listening to Howard Roberts again.

Do you have a musical wish list - other instruments to learn, people to play with, artists or styles to explore? Yeah. It's not about music per se – I want more time to spend composing and recording. That's the only thing on the wish list. I've had a really nice career so far. I've gotten to play with practically all of my childhood idols. If I haven't played with them, I've at least had dinner with them, and gotten to know them a little bit. I've just been in a real unique situation. I can't wish for much more except, I'm so busy, I would like some free time, and some more time to record and compose.

What make a great teacher? One is a skill and one is more heartfelt. A great teacher has great diagnostic skills. I think they can look at a player and see exactly what they need. I think that's the #1 important skill for a guitar teacher. And the second thing, I think you really have to care.

How do you learn best?

Alone in my studio, with no distractions or time constraints.

visit Jody at

Free Lesson!! - May 17, 2011

Here's a brief lesson on Quartal Harmony--voicings, inversions, usage...

Guitar Tip #38-- - May 17, 2011

No time to transcribe a whole solo? Simply learn the phrases you like. Memorize them, and transpose them to all 12 keys.

Guitar Tip #37-- - May 16, 2011

To avoid "improvisational habits", practice soloing at half-speed for a specified period of time--maybe 20 minutes or so.

Found this....from the mid-ninties... - May 13, 2011

Guitar Tip #36-- - May 13, 2011

Understanding chord synonyms can expand your melodic sense. Lines that work over Cm6 could also work over F9 or Am7b5.

Guitar Tip #35-- - May 12, 2011

Try superimposing various arps over different chords.
Ex. Playing an E triad over a G7 chord will produce G13b9 sounds.

Guitar Tip #34-- - May 11, 2011

If you like to play with octaves, try adding additional intervals in between like 4ths, 5ths, and 6ths: C-F-C/C-G-C/C-A-C.

Guitar tip #33-- - May 10, 2011

To practice playing with a swing feel, set your metronome to click on 2 & 4, instead of clicking on every quarter note.
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