Sheets of Sound for Guitar is a very exciting technique for the guitarist. Traditionally, guitarists have been taught to play melodies across the neck of the instrument while staying in a single left hand position and alternating between upstrokes and downstrokes with the plectrum. This traditional approach to the instrument creates a percussive effect which allows the instrument to generate a very strong pulse or swing and is part of its unique flavor. However, the traditional technique is not necessarily conducive to playing the instrument with the explosive bursts of notes that are possible on the wind instruments such as saxophone or trumpet.
I've spent many years trying to emulate horn players such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Mike Brecker. However, It seemed that no matter how much I practiced, I could not attain the smooth flowing legato feel that I was after.
As I explored the issue in greater depth, I realized that it had to do with momentum. A horn player creates momentum by blowing a single stream of air and fingering multiple notes. This momentum was never more prominent than in the ‘60s when John Coltrane rose to prominence. Coltrane pioneered a technique of playing a considerable amount of notes in a small amount of time (Fig. 1). This flurry of notes washed over the listener in such a way as to be described as Sheets of Sound.
This technique is difficult for guitarists to emulate because of the physical limitations of the instrument as well as the way we were taught to play positionally with strict alternate picking.
I realized that I had made the mistake of allowing the guitar to govern the music instead of allowing the music to govern the guitar.
This realization led me to explore a different way of playing and learning the instrument. The key to unlocking this technique lies in the broadening of our horizons. This involves two core elements:
• A more versatile right hand, combining sweep, alternate and finger picking.
• A more vertical approach to playing the instrument.
The exploration of these elements is what this book is about. I hope you have as much fun learning this material as I’ve had writing it.
Keep on pickin’,
Jack A. Zucker