Finding The Method

Comprehensive comprehension.

The lessons here are designed to be comprehensive. They are easy if you do the lessons.  And if you actually DO the lessons you will be able to improvise jazz.  You may not be a GREAT musician.  Talent does come into play.  But you will be able to play through difficult chords changes and master the instrument.


Musicians Practice!

Coltrane pic blue

I learned a couple of valuable lessons early on. I was fortunate enough to have lived with and studied with the great jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus. One day, about 4 in the afternoon, I was watching TV with him. He asked me what I was doing. “I’m watching television with you!” I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing in life than to hang out with Mingus. He paused and said, "Musicians practice.”  Immediately I said, “I practiced 6 hours today!”  He paused again and repeated, “Musicians practice.”

Fast forward 5 years, about 4 in the afternoon, I’m bored.  This was a long time ago.  This was before PCs and Macs and xBoxes, and iPads. Sharing an apartment with friends, we didn’t even have a TV. For entertainment we read, or went to the movies or listened to music, live or on record. So here I am, bored.  In my ears I hear Mingus’ voice telling me, “Musicians practice!”  I heard him say this to me over and over. Of course I wasn't crazy.  I knew he wasn't actually there whispering in my ear!

So now I knew.  Musicians practice. My life’s work would be practicing and everything I did from the guitar or in music would be a result of my daily routine of practicing. So now.  What to practice?

marvin martian


My favorite Martian


This same afternoon I imagined I was visited by a Martian or some alien, who wanted to play the guitar and he wanted to be the best in the world, so he could take this back to his home planet in a hundred years or so. It didn’t matter to him how long it took, or how hard it was.  He just wanted the most comprehensive method, from the beginning to the end. OK, once again, I'm not crazy!  I knew there wasn't really an alien.  This is imagination! 


Like most musicians I knew what I needed to know.  I had stacks of lessons from previous teachers, including Mingus, and had a ton of material I’d only half learned. Paraphrasing that great Charlie Parker tune: Now’s the time. 


The Method to the Madness

There's a method in my madness


I designed a program for this imaginary friend - me. I started with the most basic of scales and techniques and did them comprehensively.  I didn’t move on until I had mastered each section, or I rotated until the exercises were completed. I spent the rest of the week writing down this program, going well into the advanced stages of what someone would have to study and know if he were going to be the greatest guitar player in the world. Not that he would be. But just what he’d have to know and be able to do.


This program covers technique, application of theory, reading, chords, rhythm, advanced harmony, and ear training. And I haven’t completed it yet myself! But I have been teaching it ever since. Honestly I do a shortened version because the real method would likely drive any sane man crazy. But sometimes I call this The Program.  Or I call it The Method. There are various successful methods. This one connects everything together.  All the scale and arpeggios and chords and exercises go hand in glove with everything else, so the guitar parts are coordinated and logical.  Care is given to explain basic concepts.  I believe if you can't explain it in simple terms you don't understand it. If you can't define it, you don't know it. 


So the method goes back and clears up any misunderstandings or misapplication the student may have. But you can also decide on your own track: jazz, rock, funk, pop, studio and I will adjust and plug in the more technical aspects as we go.© Henry Robinett 2020