Inner Jazz: An allegorical tale



inner jazz

One of the things I miss the most in my life is helping people to play guitar. I did that a lot. A Lot. And I loved it. But well, sometimes you have to stop doing something you love to make room for something you might get to love even more. As Miles Davis once said: ‘Do you know why I don’t play ballads no more? Because I love playing ballads so much.’ 

And suddenly, last week, a good friend (she’s a jazz singer) sent me a note. ‘Hey, Rik, just heard about someone who’s looking for a guitar teacher, for a few lessons during summer, to get her started. Something for you? Here’s her number.’ 

I called the number. 

‘OH WOW!  This is fast… no, it’s not for me. It’s for my daughter. She’s fourteen. She plays the piano. But she always longed to learn some guitar basics. And learning from Youtube doesn’t work for her… … Yeah, to accompany her singing.. … and improvise a bit….  Great! She could start in a few weeks. I’ll get back to you after I shared the good news with her.’ 

Haven’t heard back yet. We’ll see. One never knows. But this phone call made me remember the times I was helping beginners to get going on this amazing thing called guitar. And I remembered that simple jazz technique, in my own version, that always did the magic: Taking turns. (I never use methods, scales, fully written scores etc. That ruins creativity and fun if you start with it. You can always play with these things when the passion burns in a certain direction. Then it connects, it’s welcomed by the urge to create your music). 

Taking turns: create a simple, safe mood and feel to play on. Two very simple chords. Am – D. In a loop. In the most simple rhythm. Then show your new jam friend a few notes as a starting point. Then I play the chords again. ‘Just play with these notes, if you like. You can’t go wrong. That’s why they call it playing the guitar. There’s only good notes. It’s your music.’

After having a shaky and lovely kind of fun, we take turns. I invite her to play these most simple chords, in the most simple form, in the most simple rhythm. She gets it going. The train leaves the station. No destination. That’s the best one. We take all the time. Then I play a little solo on her accompaniment. Very simple, nothing fancy. Building on what she played. Trying to notice what might be happening inside of her. Inner jazz. I add a note. A blue one. She smiles. While working hard to keep her groove going. 

We take turns. And again. We are not making any mistakes. There are none.

A simple, playful exercise. In a few weeks we’ll play a few notes more. Create some stories. New ones. Shared ones. Fresh ones. And we keep on learning together. Turn by turn. And we learn a lot more than playing that guitar. With a smile.

Haven’t heard back yet. We’ll see. One never knows. 

Rik Spann

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