Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Week 4 of the Guitar 30 Challenge

The final week of the challenge was an interesting experience. I played the Whole Tone scale, which is something that jazz musicians use frequently but which I had never learned and really did not “get” from a sound perspective for the first days of practicing. I eventually started to hear it in context and that felt really positive, but I am still so uncertain as to how I’ll actually use it in my ordinary playing.

Day 1- C & G: Welcome to the whole tone scale, a strange scale that features the b5th and #5th and feels like a finger stretching exercise. I cannot get my ears around this one or begin to comprehend how to use it in any practical setting. It’s fun to play and because most forms of it progress down the neck it does feel like the perfect thing to be working on to finish this challenge and lock in my fretboard awareness. With no idea how to improvise with this scale, I tried playing some lines from a jazz book (Doug Munro’s 21st Century Jazz Guitar from Swing to Be-Bop) and didn’t fair much better.

Day 2: D & A &E: The fingering patterns for the whole tone scale are fun to play and are definitely helpful in pushing my fretboard awareness forward, but I still can’t rap my head around  the sounds. Playing with the sounds just leaves me baffled.

Day 3: B & F#: A breakthrough! From time to time, I have been stepping away from the electric guitar and playing on my classical guitar. Today I tried to use the F# whole tone scale between the  F# Augmented and B minor chords. Obviously F# Augmented is the best match but there was some interesting tones that went with B minor as well and the scale served to bridge the two sounds. I still don’t see myself going to this scale often, but at least there is something I can see using it for now.

Day 4: Ab & Eb: So I accidentally skipped C#, oops.

Day 5: Eb & Bb:  Another solid practice. I do feel like I understand the sound better now. I still don’t think it will be something I actually go to too often, but I after five days of playing it, I think I get it. A little. Maybe.

Day 6: F & C: For improv time, I went back to the Classical guitar and worked on playing F Aug and C7#5 by starting with the chord and improvising in the Whole Tone scale out of that hand position. I was really instructive and fun and I have way more confidence in adding this sound to my arsenal. I don’t play with Augmented chords a ton, but if I do, I think I can make this work in context, or I will be able to with more practice.

Day 7: The final day of the challenge was unremarkable. I had a good practice, working my way through the whole tone scale and then improvising with it over more augmented and 7#5 chords. If anything, today felt anti-climactic. I think I have got a lot of what I wanted out to get out of this challenge but I have not suddenly morphed into Kenny Burrell or Jimi Hendrix.

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