Help for Downloading Truefire Courses (Sierra)

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Ariane Cap‘s course “Pentatonic Playground for Bass” for too long. Literally. It would not download for me and it took Truefire’s tech support three days to get an email to me although the solution is dated the same day I submitted the problem, which tells me that it’s probably a known one. In any case I am presenting the solution for those of you who might have the same problem, and also to explain my tardiness with the review.

We don’t know the cause, but no Truefire courses would download for me, new or even ones I’ve already downloaded. I’m using OS X 10.12.5, the current version of Sierra. Truefire tech WonderWoman suggested I try their BETA desktop version and so far it seems to be working. It’s over 1/4 of the way through the download, while the other version would not even start, so I’m hopeful.

If you are having download problems with Truefire courses, don’t hesitate to report them and maybe even request the Beta version. You will be helping yourself AND helping Truefire if you find any bugs in the new version (which is Beta, which means it has not been completely tested yet).

And don’t forget that a new update to Dorico is due before the end of the month! Interesting days approach.

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Jaco Pastorius Books

Hal Leonard has brought out some great books for bassists lately including two on one of the most influential bassists of all time: Jaco Pastorius. While often considered a jazz bassist, Jaco’s eclectic style has influenced players in all genres, and there are few better workouts than playing through and learning even one of his songs.

Jaco Play-Along

Jaco Pastorius BASS Play-Along is Volume 50 in Hal Leonard’s Play-Along series, and it contains 8 meticulous transcriptions of some of Jaco’s most beloved (and envied) songs. You can get more information including the song list by clicking here.

For a deeper look into Jaco’s style, and how to incorporate some of his most important innovations into your own playing, check out Play Like Jaco Pastorius, which is somewhat modestly sub-titled “The Ultimate Bass Lesson”. In fact it is a series of lessons that illustrate his approach to technique with examples from his actual playing on several of his most famous songs.

Play Like Jaco

The Gear section tells you the Primary basses that Jaco used (along with ones used more rarely) as well as his favored amps and pedals. These help those who want to get a particular tone, or to emulate his rig in general. The example songs come from both his work with Weather Report and his solo career, covering both fretted and fretless bass.

If you feel you want a challenge, or have the need to take your playing to a much higher level, be sure to check out this great master class by clicking here.

Both books contain online audio that you can listen to and work with on the internet or download in mp3 format. The playing is worthy of this great master himself. Working with this book is time well spent, and could even change your life.

Robert Conti’s “Ticket To Improv”

Jim Lill’s short tips will help a guitarist to survive an unexpected jazz tune being called, or a much-needed gig that turns out to be jazz, but what if you are suddenly hooked by jazz and want to learn it? Where do you start, given that there are hundreds of “beginner” jazz books and DVD’s.

Ideally, you would learn as all of the jazz greats did, by figuring out the solos of your favourite guitarists and playing along with them, then finding a group of like-minded players and play with them long enough to get the sound and feel of jazz into your ears and fingers.

Right. And now the real world intrudes: work, family obligations, and the rest of life that seems to take up 110% of your time. On top of that, if you are new to jazz you might not even have a favourite guitarist to start with. Then where do you happen to find these “like-minded” individuals who happen to play other instruments that you need? At this point most people either choose a teacher, or more often now, look for a good DVD or online course, something they can do at their own pace. But again, where do you start with the seemingly infinite variety available to you on, say, YouTube, where everybody is an “expert” or a “teacher” or “just knows how to play.” Usually you get what you pay for with these free lessons.

Now for the good news.

TTI vol 1

One of my first blog reviews years ago was Robert Conti’s Ticket To Improv (Volume 1). I had played with a jazz band on and off, and my comping was fine but my soloing was less than inspiring and I needed good help fast. I have great credentials in theory and composition, but jazz requires split-second decisions and follow-up on their ramifications that classical music just doesn’t. I had bought some of Mr. Conti’s early books and found them to be both sound and entertaining so I looked forward to seeing what  his DVD’s were like. Excellent!

In addition to being a stellar performer, Robert Conti was an early advocate of learning to play without learning scales and modes, decades before it became such a popular approach. Instead he teaches complete solos that you truly  can “take to the gig” and they will amaze your friends as much as they impress your audience. The Ticket To Improv (TTI) series are meant for beginning improvisers, although there is nothing about them that says ‘beginner’ except perhaps the tempo (as he demonstrates, at speed they would grace any serious jazz album). There are four volumes, three of which consist of four of the most popular jazz standards, while volume 3 is dedicated to the blues jazz-style. They are all well worth getting, and each is a terrific bargain. Mr. Conti teaches more in one DVD than most teachers cover in months, perhaps more than a year. Everything is geared toward playing music, and you get pro tips that only someone who has worked the bandstand for decades can tell you. Even with all of this experience, Robert Conti obviously remembers what it was like to start out wondering where to begin, and he spares no effort to get you playing while having fun doing it. He works with you, bar-by-bar, showing you fingering tips that make the solos easier while increasing your own playing speed.

Robert Conti’s series of “Ticket To Improv” instructional DVD’s continue to be at the top of the list for beginners’ jazz guitar instruction. Like all great teachers, Mr. Conti demonstrates that you learn to play jazz guitar by playing jazz guitar. Theory is good when it helps you to play better, but unfortunately few teachers present it that way. One reason I recommend the whole series of TTI videos is that as you learn the different solos you will find recurring patterns (such as series of chromatic passing tones or arpeggios over the extensions of chords) that work their way into your hands and ears, so that your own solos have more variety and sophistication.

Supporting the great content is Mr. Conti’s personal presence. He is down-to-earth and easy-going with constant assurance that you can and will succeed in learning the solos, and he has a site full of student testimonials showing that they have done exactly that. While most teachers boast of the success of their students, RobertConti.com has a huge library of students playing Mr. Conti’s solos, ranging from the beginner’s series Ticket To Improv through intermediate arrangements, right up to professional level solos appropriate for the most demanding gig. Mr. Conti is acclaimed as a brilliant player by other players as well as jazz lovers in general, and fortunately he is as generous in sharing his knowledge. He also encourages you to send in your videos playing these solos, so that your success can be shared with the world, hosted free on his site.

Full disclosure: I wrote two articles on his teaching philosophy and practice for Mr. Conti’s web site for remuneration, and he is the only artist that I have done so for. I fully believe in his products and use them myself, and I began as a satisfied customer before I began reviewing his teaching DVD’s (for which I was not paid, as is my policy for all of my reviews including this blog.) When Robert Conti asked that I formalize my statements on his teaching philosophy for his web site he insisted on paying me, which I must say I really appreciated. However, the reviews of his products, which are reproduced on his site with the permission of Just Jazz Guitar, were done for the magazine.