lessons moving to www.benmcdonnell.co.uk

Hi, thanks for checking out my lessons blog! im integrating it into my website http://www.benmcdonnell.co.uk so check it out, this blog will be closed soon! all content on my website though.. so please check it out, comment etc etc.


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Ten essential jazz blues tunes

So one of my (many) Christmas missions is learning ten blues heads and at least a chorus or two of solo from each of the tunes. I’m going to compile a spotify playlist and post it incase you would like to learn it too! Also I’d like your suggestions as to what tunes..

Here’s my temporary list:-

Blue Monk – monk
Freddie freeloader – Davis
Blues for Alice
Billies bounce
Nows the time – Parker
Bessies blues – Coltrane
Tenor madness – rollins
Trio blues – scofield
Blues for pat – redman/metheny

I’m sure I’m missing some really obvious ones! Any recommendations? Comment below….



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Buy one get 6 free

I have neglected you all and I feel bad. My blog updating uas been awful. I plan to get a bit more
Serious with it over the autumn. So in the meantime here’s a quick idea that will take you no time at all and will give a few new voicings to (pleasantly) surprise your bass/piano player with.

Take any chord voicing you like, I will use the m7#5 voicing i like (works nicely as a maj7) From E. It goes..
E(r) C(#5) D(b7) G(m3)

The ‘trick’ is to then move this chord through the scale. Move every note one scale step higher, producing either a new voicing or an inversion. Sometimes it will produce the same chord but it will be functioning differently.

So let’s move my voicing up u am in the key of C so if I move every note up it will produce:-
F(r) D(6) E(7) A(3)
A rather nice major 13 chord if you keep going you get…
G(r) E(6) F(b7) B(3)
A(r) F(b6) G(b7) C(b3)
B(r) G(b6) A(b7) D(b3)
C(r) A(6) B(7) E(3)
D(r) B(6) C(b7) F(b3)

Hopefully this will give you a few new comping ideas and refresh some of your favourite chord voicings!

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B. B. King – Let The Good Times Roll

This time we are going to take a look at the first chorus of ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ by BB King.

The tune is in G and its a pretty standard 12 bar blues theres a nice ‘jazzy’ 2-5 leading to chord four at the fourth bar. BB mainly uses G Mixolydian (G A B C D E F) and adds the odd note from the G blues/minor pentatonic scales. Another way to think about this would be the G blues scale plus two notes, the sixth and second (E and A) this gives a more major ‘classy’ blues sound. youll hear it all over bb kings and Robben Fords playing.

Heres the TRANSCRIPTION its in TAB and music

and heres my youtube clip

remember pulling a pained expression is very important, especially during bar  6 🙂

good luck and have fun



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Chord a day week!

Happy new year! I hope your hangovers are abating and you are feeling desperatly excited about this upcoming decade. One of my (many) resolutions is to learn more chords and so I came up with a plan..

International learn a chord a day week…

I will learn a new chord every day and post it here, and hopefully this will inspire you to do the same. You can join me in the challenge of learning new voicings or post your favourite ones. At the end of the week I will make a lovely chord sheet with all our favourite chords on it. If only one other person does this we will still learn 14 chords so hopefully well have loads.
You can submit your voicings like this
Which would be cmaj7
Or if you are not a guitarist just write the notes in order like this
Which is obviously the same chord…
You may post them by comenting on this blog:-)
My first chord is not a new one but will get the ball rolling….


Nabbed from a jaga jazzist tune:-)

If you are really dextorous try the minor version


And of course try moving the shapes through the key:-)

Good luck!


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Swing Feel and Ari Hoenig Rhythm Ideas

On Tuesday I went to a masterclass with drummer Ari Hoenig. If you are unfamilier with him check out his music, he’s great.
I had the oppertunity to bore him with my relativly simplistic questions on swing feel, this lesson is based on his answers.

Swung quavers are essentially a triplet with the middle beat missing, hopefully most of you are familier with that. However like me you might be concerned with how to develop a good swing feel what excersizes to do etc..

1) how swung should I swing??
According to ari, very.. litteraly a triplet with the middle beat missing. I always thought it would be ‘hipper’ to have a more straight feel, again Aris opinion was “save the straight stuff for the straight tunes”

2) what about faster tempos? Ari keeps it swung, he thinks the quavers will naturally even out when you play faster, don’t try to even them out.

3) what excersizes can I do to work on a good swing feel?

Excersizes one:-

Put the metronome clicking on the 2nd beat of a triplet (one TRIP let, two TRIP let etc) and try singing a melody you know against it ( Ari picked Anthropology) NONE of the notes should fall where the metronome clicks. On beats land before the click and off beats land after. Next try playing rather than singing the same tune.

Excersize 1.2

Repeat excersize one but make the metronome click on the last triplet (one trip LET two trip LET etc) this time only your off beats will sync with the metronome.

Excersize Two:-

At faster tempos make the metronome click on beat two every other bar.

Excersize Three:-
This is to help you triplet feel.. Again sing a melody you know but try to clap crotchet and minim triplets along with yourself.

I think that’s enough to be getting on with!!

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The metronome is your friend

What more could you want from a friend? Dependable, reliable, descreet and most importantly the ability to remind you when you are going wayward. And just like any relationship times will sometimes be hard, you will have arguments, you will scream ‘but I’m right!’ and the metronome will be ackward, unyeilding and unwilling to see your point of view. After the arguement you will slow down and think rationally about what you are trying to say, phrase it in such a way that the metronome understands. Ultimately you will find your relationship with your metronome very fulfilling!
I am on a bus so can’t post any vids or specific examples but I urge you to check out these links…


A few things I like to do:
Play very slowly with the metronome, this is hard as there are more gaps between the beats that you can fall into.

I rarely play with the metronome playing on all the beats, try making it click on beats 2&4 or just 4 or 4and etc etc

Try playing over your favourite standard with the metronome on 2 & 4 and see how good you phrasing and harmonic accuracy is.

I’ve gotta go prepare for my gig, good luck with your new best friend!


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