John Stowell's Jazz guitar mastery book is here!

Master guitarist and teacher John Stowell has just released his instructional book/DVD (Mel Bay publishing). Stowell's unique and highly advanced harmonic concept is fully explained by this book and DVD. The DVD allows you to watch and hear exactly what he's doing and the book has transcriptions in guitar tab and music notation. John is all about modes of the melodic minor scale, he uses them over just about everything. Over dominant seventh chords he teaches students that there are several melodic minor options depending on how many tensions you want to use.

For example over a C7 chord you can play:
  • G melodic minor- one tension (#11)
  • F melodic minor- one tension (b13)
  • Bb melodic minor- two tensions (b9, #9)
  • Eb melodic minor- three tensions (#9, #11, b13)
  • C# melodic minor- four tensions (b9, #9, #11, b13)
He arpegiates these scales to obtain his signature open, modern and often vertical sound. John also explains in his book/DVD how to use the melodic minor scale (a third down) over Major chords. This gives us the Augmented Major scale, which has a #11 and a #5. John also uses the Melodic Minor scale a whole step up to obtain a Major scale with a b9. These are obviously very spicy scale choices over a Major 7th chord but John really makes them work in a way that isn't jarring to the ears.

You can order John's book/DVD from Mel Bay.

I'm definately going to sit down with this and learn how John plays those sweeping modern lines of his. There is no one that sounds like John does, YET. Look out John, we're all going to cop your shit now! :-)

Look out soon for the Portland Jazz Jams TV episode on John that I directed and Darren produced. John demonstrates his improvisation techniques. It will be streaming on the PJJ site shortly.


Darren said...

The way John explains it really describes his sound. He actually doesn't really play the melodic subs exclusively as much as he uses components of them mixed in with the inside tones. That's the real magic.

This stuff is clearly explained in the podshows at http://podshow.portlandjazzjams.com, and all spelled out in the DVD/Book set. I have another podshow lesson of John's to put up that gets more into this as well.

over any minor chord:
*1b3b5b7 arp
*melodic minor a m3 up (up same scale with major 9)
D-7b5 = Fmm
if ii/V/I

Major - play it's relative MM (c=A)
mix the #4 and #5 with the nat. 4,5
on C major = Amm mixed with Cmaj

(inC)mm over Minor (any function) Whole tone below
Bb MM (2nd mode MM - Phry b2,maj6)

(any can be used to go to I)
use enough chord tones

Brian Berge said...

Hey, are you guys forced to refer to the modes of the Melodic Minor the way you do because not all of them have standardized names? or is that the way you guys actually prefer it (always referring to what would be the root of the 1st mode)?

David Valdez said...

For practical application in improvisation it's an easy way to calculate the correct chord scale quickly. The modes of the Melodic Minor scale also do not have the same type of key relationship as the modes of the Major Scale do. For example a B7 altered dominant scale is more related to the key of E Major than C Melodic Minor. If we relate everything we can back to the Melodic Minor then we can use take advantage of our familiarity with this simple scale. At Berklee they don't even bother to tell you that the altered dominant scale is a mode of the melodic minor. This is because they don't want you thinking in terms of another key. They would rather have you learn alt dom scales as: root,b9,#9,3,#11,b13,b7. It is much easier to think in terms of melodic minor but the downside is that sometimes you lose track of how each note is actually functioning in relation to the chord.