Play Guitar Like Charlie Christian By Using Worry Notes
Who better to start off this new instalment of the ‘Play Like The Greats’ series than studying how to play guitar like Charlie Christian.
Along with Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhart, Christian is often considered one of the three biggest names of the jazz guitar world.
Christian has influenced musicians from a wide array of genres; everyone from BB King to Jim Hall has cited him as an inspiration. In this lesson I will be teaching you a technique that will enable you to get more of Charlie Christian in your guitar playing.
Getting the Sound
When learning how to play guitar like Charlie Christian or any other jazz guitar we must study how they got their signature sounds be it with their picking technique or gear. Charlie Christian has become an icon for the Gibson ES-150 guitar and is frequently often associated with the single coil pick up that comes on the guitar now commonly dubbed the ‘Charlie Christian pick up’.
Charlie used big triangle plectrums and played through a small cranked up tube amp to archieve his signature sound.
While an ES-150 and a small vintage tube amp are the perfect catalysts for getting the Christian sound, realistically not all of us are privileged enough to have such equipment!
On a more practical note I’ve found that a single coil neck pick up with the tone control rolled back played through a ‘slightly over driven when dug into’ tube amp achieves a convincing Christian-esc sound.
How to Play Guitar Like Charlie Christian Using Worry Notes
In this lesson we will be looking at a Charlie Christian technique taught to me by the excellent jazz guitarist Adrian Ingram called ‘Worry Notes’.
Charlie Christian told jazz guitarist Barney Kessel that he used to pick a colour note such as the 9th or 13th and ‘worry’ it which means he would pick one note and repeatedly play it to try and avoid the obvious note choices such as the 3rd and the root
The following example shows this technique being applied to the colour tone ‘A’, the 13th of a C7 chord.
This example shows how the technique can applied to D, the 9th of the C7 chord. The lick then finishes with a typical Christian swing style phrase.
Try this exercise yourself with different colour tones and experiment with different rhythms and see what you can come up with. This is also a great way to develop your jazz rhythmic awareness and harmony and more or less gives you an instant feel of Charlie Christian.
Did you find this lesson on how to play guitar like Charlie Christian useful? Has Charlie Christian’s playing influenced you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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About Play Like The Greats Series
Play like the greats is a series designed to help you sound like your favourite jazz guitarists. Instead of just handing you countless pages of daunting transcriptions the series explains key ingredients to each guitarists style to help you use their concepts in your own playing.
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