Truefire.com contacted me recently and asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products. They sent me 50 Jazz Licks You Must Know by guitarist Frank Vignola. I have seen some of Truefire’s earlier material and thought they were cool, so I agreed to check the new stuff out.
The whole idea behind the “50 Licks” series (which also comes in blues, rock, acoustic and country) is to give you some solid vocabulary that you are able to inject into your own playing very quickly. Frank Vignola is an excellent player and is able to dissect and explain each lick and give context to the phrases. Each lick is grouped by tonality (Major 7th or Minor 7th licks etc..), application (such as Jazz-Blues), and even some more complete ii-V7 licks that would be great not only for developing your vocabulary, but also becoming more comfortable with the fretboard by moving the licks to different keys.
Vignola demonstrates each lick at a moderate tempo. Along with the video, both PDF and Powertab files are provided. Once you have the fingerings down, a jam track is provided for you to practice along with. It is good to hear that Truefire didn’t use canned MIDI backing tracks for these.
Overall I think the 50 licks series is a solid product. This is a great product to jump start your playing or to broaden your knowledge of a certain genre. However, there are a few thing I think TrueFire could improve. The first one is PLEASE ditch the PowerTab. Every lick is tabbed out in PDF and demonstrated. I didn’t find any need for the PT files.
The other issue I had was with how the licks were grouped. It would be more helpful if they were grouped by key in addition to context. Both of these issues are really minor and don’t really take anything away from the product.
As I was working with this DVD, I thought about some ways a student could get more out of this. Here are some ideas:
- Write out a composed solo or etude with the ideas presented in the DVD. This will give you practice not only with the compositional process, but it will allow you to internalize the licks easier. It would be great if TrueFire included a couple of these with each course.
- Take one phrase and write as many variations as you can. Change the rhythm, key and context and pretty soon you have an entirely new phrase that is your own.
If you have any ideas on how to make instructional products more helpful, I would love to hear them in the comments below. Take a minute and check out all the other instructional DVD’s and guitar lessons at TrueFire.com
Here is a video of Frank Vignola and Bucky Pizzarelli playing Limehouse Blues: