Much thanks to Jazz Guitar Life Contributor Shan Arsenault on taking the time to review this book – Lyle Robinson Jazz Guitar Life.
The Guitar Etudes are made up of 14 exercises designed to give guitarists the ultimate fret board work out.
Each one is sub-titled by location of composition while on tour of Italy in 2010. i.e. Pescara, Perugia ,Venice, etc. He says “These pieces are all improvised…Basically, I placed a small recording device in front of me and just did what I always do.” As such, these Etudes are a glimpse into the musical mind of a great improviser and guitar master.
Having said that, this is not an instruction manual, nor will you get any “Pat Metheny secret licks” from this book.
When I initially got the book I played through it all to see what it was about. It took me about an hour to do so. This is not to say there are easy things in here. Far from it! It’s just that as an avid practicer, I have encountered these types of things in various other books: Exercises for Clarinet, Bach Partitas, a bit of Bebop and even a little Paganini. Pat however, puts it all together in his own unique way and for once I am glad that there is guitar tab below the musical notation, as the fingering for these Etudes are very important.
He avoids the temptation to stay in any one key or position for too long and changes keys many times in each Etude while traversing the entirety of the guitar neck.
Etude 14 is the only one which could be called a traditional exercise in that it uses a intervallic pattern in the key of F and moves from the first position, 6th string to the 20th fret first string and back down again. Great fun!
Etude 10 is a tour de force of arpeggiated triplets that would be a challenge for even the most seasoned pros. To get the most from this book one should really listen to what is being played, because as a true jazz musician Metheny is concerned with negotiating unexpected key changes and moving through harmonic centers smoothly.
All in all, I would say these Etudes are the result of a guitarist who has total command of the instrument and wants to keep it that way. And there is a huge amount of information here for anyone who wants to try to generate these types of exercises for oneself.
Would I use this book even if I had never heard of Pat Metheny? Absolutely!
Shan Arsenault is a jazz guitarist performer and teacher living in Halifax, NS. He is married to the prominent Music Therapist Erin Montgomery. He has two CD’s to date. The JazzBeat Sessions and Below Sea Level.