Mickey Baker's Complete Course In Jazz Guitar : why so reknowned ?

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344
Many people, including well known rock star guitarists of the 1960s and 1970s, point to Mickey Baker's two late 1950s jazz books as their reference source for learning guitar.

On a rock star's recommendation I bought the books years ago when I was already an advanced guitarist but even after several re-readings have always found the material poorly communicated and written with a very condescending attitude by the author, both very difficult for players of any level to learn from ---- especially beginners and intermediate players.

Major emphasis is placed on memorizing jazz chord shapes and playing rhythm and lead guitar during a V7 - I chord progression. These are noble goals but the information is presented so incoherently a student would have to already have an understanding of music theory to translate what the author was trying to communicate. Some occasional gems of insight , as on page 33 of book 2 , but overall those books probably discouraged many more aspiring guitarists away from music than they inspired to play music.

Did these books become famous because no other guitar books were available yet in 1955 and 1959 when published ?
Tablature for rock guitar was not even available until Andy Aledort invented it in the mid-1980s.

Teenage guitarists in the 21st Century have no idea how easily they are able to learn music compared to earlier generations.
 
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Rob 62

Member
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177
I've got both of these books, too, and this is a fair question.

I suppose I got mine because people like Charlie Baty extolled their virtues, and I did learn a lot of great chords from the first book. I didn't get as much of the condescension, as much as I did rigor - which I can appreciate: Baker seems to be saying "Making music on the guitar is not easy, and if you hope to accomplish anything, be prepared to work at it."

Did these books become famous because no other guitar books were available yet in 1955 and 1959 when published ?
I think that is a fair assessment.

A book that I have found more useful, and more organized is below:

 

JonR

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15,007
Did these books become famous because no other guitar books were available yet in 1955 and 1959 when published ?
That's probably it.
When I began learning guitar (UK, 1965), I never saw the Mickey Baker books - and would have regarded them as too advanced anyway, probably (and I wasn't into jazz then). As far as I could see, in London UK, there was only ONE book available: Bert Weedon's famous/notorious "Play In A Day", which every Brit rock guitarist learned from - because there simply wasn't anything else. Of course, by the mid-60s, thanks to the Beatles etc, guitar was becoming increasingly popular, and another book or two was brought out around 65/66. There was even a TV series here in 1967, called "Hold Down a Chord", presented by John Pearse (I think there was an LP record from it too, the nearest one could get to a video or DVD in those days).

A lot of Weedon's records were a lot cooler than his book - check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kptTAeAcbo

Unfortunately, he looked like this:

:bow
- which was as uncool in 1965 as it looks today!

Despite the cover blurb, I don't remember learning anything about "rock & roll" from it (let alone "jazz"). It had tunes like "There is a Tavern in the Town".
It was the kind of thing you grew out of after 6 months or so. I learned much better from playing with friends, reading songbooks, and transcribing records.

However, the title of the book inspired a standard joke: "Play in a Day?? It's been 20 years [or whatever] now. I'm going to sue the bastard."
:D
Teenage guitarists in the 21st Century have no idea how easily they are able to learn music compared to earlier generations.
Right!
A common phenomenon today is kids who look for short cuts all the time, or magic methods or systems. In the 1960s (and earlier) we took it for granted that you had to be obsessive about it and just stick with it. You really did have to do it all yourself.
There were no teachers either, except (I guess) a few classical ones. But then I was too arrogant to look for lessons anyhow. For me, guitar was the opposite of school (which I hated), and I couldn't imagine wanting to be taught it by a teacher - ugh! - guitar was about escaping from all that! :rolleyes: (I think that was probably a common attitude. There was no "rock" then, but even the blandest pop music was regarded by the older generation - anyone over 25 - much as punk or death metal is regarded by your granny today. Just deciding to learn acoustic guitar was a rebel act. Whatever next! You might decide to stop wearing a tie! End of civilisation as we know it! :eek:)
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,860
Many people, including well known rock star guitarists of the 1960s and 1970s, point to Mickey Baker's two late 1950s jazz books as their reference source for learning guitar.

On a rock star's recommendation I bought the books years ago when I was already an advanced guitarist but even after several re-readings have always found the material poorly communicated and written with a very condescending attitude by the author, both very difficult for players of any level to learn from ---- especially beginners and intermediate players.

Major emphasis is placed on memorizing jazz chord shapes and playing rhythm and lead guitar during a V7 - I chord progression. These are noble goals but the information is presented so incoherently a student would have to already have an understanding of music theory to translate what the author was trying to communicate. Some occasional gems of insight , as on page 33 of book 2 , but overall those books probably discouraged many more aspiring guitarists away from music than they inspired to play music.

Did these books become famous because no other guitar books were available yet in 1955 and 1959 when published ?
Tablature for rock guitar was not even available until Andy Aledort invented it in the mid-1980s.

Teenage guitarists in the 21st Century have no idea how easily they are able to learn music compared to earlier generations.
There have been jazz guitar books around since Eddie Lang's books. You still hear of people like Robben Ford who were influenced by the Baker book. There was recently an article about Mickey Baker in the Fretboard Journal. He had only been playing for a couple of years when he wrote that book and he's made enough dough from it to retire in France!
I know most people, myself included, don't(didn 't) have enough knowledge of the standard progressions he keeps referring to in the book, when they first get into it. It is laid out well in lesson format so it's one step at a time. I love the instructions in the first lesson,"The old way of strumming chords will never do for". It is by no means comprehensive but has some enduring appeal.
BTW Rock TAB has been around at least since Happy Traum's Rock Guitar was published (1969?). I had a Led Zep tab book in 1970 with cool pictures of Page playing through Rickenbacker amps.
 

AQ808

Member
Messages
560
I had a look at the few pages available to preview through amazon, and one thing that jumped out was a few sections that showed standard notation with the string number and finger number below.

Not being one of this advanced generation I have to ask, was this common at the time? Maybe he was getting cred from guitar players by giving them an avenue for getting around on the guitar?
 

guitarjazz

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21,860
That's a pretty common way to specify exact fingerings using standard notation.The Barry Galbraith books use that notation as well.
 

AQ808

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Messages
560
That's a pretty common way to specify exact fingerings using standard notation.
No doubt, it's actually something I prefer to use. A few years ago when I was really trying to develop technical skill, I came across a book by Andrew Green called "Jazz Guitar Technique" that used the same notation. Of course I know the Berklee Method uses it, but that's an older book.

I don't really think we can say that it is "common" in today's literature at all, which is mostly standard with tab beneath.

Was it common back then, for guitar?
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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21,860
No doubt, it's actually something I prefer to use. A few years ago when I was really trying to develop technical skill, I came across a book by Andrew Green called "Jazz Guitar Technique" that used the same notation. Of course I know the Berklee Method uses it, but that's an older book.

I don't really think we can say that it is "common" in today's literature at all, which is mostly standard with tab beneath.

Was it common back then, for guitar?
I think the Howard Roberts Guitar Book uses that as well. TAB has dumbed things down a little bit. I don't have a problem with it for 18 string lutes and open string arrangements but when I get called to do a recording session nobody ever hands me TAB.
How did you like the Andrew Green book?
 

AQ808

Member
Messages
560
I think the Howard Roberts Guitar Book uses that as well. TAB has dumbed things down a little bit. I don't have a problem with it for 18 string lutes and open string arrangements but when I get called to do a recording session nobody ever hands me TAB.
How did you like the Andrew Green book?
The point behind the andrew green book is that he drives you toward fingering each note with a different finger, even if it is on the same fret... close to chord shape fingering, but more dynamic. I was stuck using finger per fret before that.

Totally changed the way I play guitar and the amount of tonal variation I can pull out... so life changing for me.

It is basic yet jazz oriented, and no use at all if a person can't read standard.

His Jazz Structures and Jazz Comping books take it up a notch, but I'd recommend them all.


Also, I kind of got the impression that the Howard Roberts book wasn't widespread, or was local to the school he was teaching at?

His Superchops would be like an advanced version of the Andrew Green book.
 
Messages
344
I had a look at the few pages available to preview through amazon, and one thing that jumped out was a few sections that showed standard notation with the string number and finger number below.

Not being one of this advanced generation I have to ask, was this common at the time? Maybe he was getting cred from guitar players by giving them an avenue for getting around on the guitar?
The pages referred to are only about half of the exercises in the book. The other half are all only in standard notation.

Regarding rock guitar tablature , perhaps the reply which mentions the 1970 Zeppelin book is referring to the fractional system rather than tablature ?

An article about Andy Aledort in July 1991 Guitar For The Practicing Musician magazine "in 1984 Andy Aledort discovered that there were no standardized symbols for many of the guitar techniques used by contemporary guitarists , so he developed them." The article also gives credit to Steve Vai's "The Frank Zappa Guitar Book" as an important step in rock guitar tablature. The article also mentions Guitar Player magazine rarely had rock music and if it did it wasn't in tablature. It also mentions "there was a Led Zeppelin book that had what was called the fractional system" which was written like the string and note references in the Mickey Baker book. Perhaps this is the Zeppelin book referred to in one of the replies to this thread.

Rock music transcriptions were virtually unknown until the mid-1980s when rock guitar magazines (Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Guitar World ) became more widely circulated although GFTPM was first published in 1983. Until then , going into a music store and reaching for a music book of favorite rock song or band was met with a folio or book written for piano players ---- left hand , right hand , vocal melody, and box diagrams for guitar chords on the first three frets which were not even the proper voicings. Improper rhythm guitar and no lead guitar solos whatsoever. In the 1970s Mel Bay published some books of folk type music which might have had tablature but wasn't rock music.

I'm not an old guy but by the mid-1980s had already learned by ear by placing the phonograph needle over and over again on the same section of vinyl album record --- progressing to recording a section repeatedly into a cassette tape player after earning the money to buy one ----- and also in basement jam sessions with friends. I learned music theory from rocker friends who were taught jazz and classical guitar in formal lessons because that was the only guitar instruction available to them as guitarists.
 

guitarjazz

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The Zep book was TAB for sure. I also had a TAB book back in the early-70's of Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing At Baxter's album which lead, rhythm, and bass in TAB. I'll grant you that there were no symbols for shakes, dive-bombs, and other assorted electric guitar sounds.
I played a concert with composer George Crumb, me playing bottleneck banjo. His music was full of crazy expressive notational symbols.
BTW After I had played with records long enough I figured out that the Led Zep TAB book sucked. I can't believe someone beyond a beginner would spend too much time with TAB.
 

looper309

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457
I worked through both Mickey Baker books when I was 17-18 ('75-76).


I found them to be very helpful, and fun--at least to a teenager obsessed with Jimmy Page. A lot more enjoyable than the 3 Berklee Leavitt books I also worked through later--Yuck!! With the Baker books I liked especially how the author showed samples of a lot of different devices which held my young interest. He gave you the idea then moved on. I really improved a lot with MB's books.
But the very first method book that I encountered was more pop/jazzish oriented, Complete Guitar Instructor by Roy Smeck, published 1934 in NY. My Dad passed it down to me when I was 12.
Very challenging and well organized, learned a ton but it was HARD. Judging by the cover price I'd estimate it was purchased in the mid-fifties.
 

steve355

Member
Messages
6
I had the Mickey Baker book years ago, when I was first trying to understand Jazz. IIRC it was heavily arpeggio based, which didn't seem to work for me at the time. I didn't get it. I couldnt see how it would take me to my goal (which was to play like George Benson or Joe Pass)

In fairness though, if you listen to Jazz horn players (take Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis for example) their soloing was strongly based on arpeggios, and I guess this is where Baker was coming from. Traditionally, blues, rock & "pop" guitar soloing has been derived from scales more than arpeggios.

I lost the book/threw it out - shame , it might have been an interesting thing to read now I am a more advanced player.
 

guitarjazz

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21,860
There is a DVD of Mickey Baker playing with Coleman Hawkins. Mickey wasn't that hot of a jazz player! He was an ok R&B player...Love is Strange and all that.
That same DVD has Barry Galbraith and Hawkins..quite a different story.
 

mojazzmo

Member
Messages
850
I was at Robben Ford clinic last month and he talked about the Mickey Baker book. He didn't use it to learn how to play jazz guitar but that's where he learned all of his chord voicings from. BTW, his favorite jazz guitar player is Jim Hall and his other fav jazz musician is Paul Desmond. It was from those guys that he fell in love with "melody".
 
Messages
344
An article about Andy Aledort in July 1991 Guitar For The Practicing Musician magazine "in 1984 Andy Aledort discovered that there were no standardized symbols for many of the guitar techniques used by contemporary guitarists , so he developed them." The article also gives credit to Steve Vai's "The Frank Zappa Guitar Book" as an important step in rock guitar tablature.
To clarify , my statement above was not meant to say the Zappa book was in tab but the book was an important step in the evolution of rock guitar transcribing and therefore by association tablature. Even though not tab Steve Vai's Frank Zappa book was an important step in the transcribing of rock guitar because even standard notation transcripts of rock music were virtually non-existent in the public domain. Soon thereafter rock songs began being transcribed not only standard notation but in tab because of all the rock guitarists who do not read standard notation.

Mandoboy who first mentioned the Zappa book is not tablature is an excellent professional transcriber himself , John McGann. Thanks for replying to the thread !
 




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