Interview with Jazz Guitar Master, Tim Bedner, Part 2 – triads, arpeggios, and chord voicings

In this second part of our interview series with Tim Bedner, Tim talks to us about his experience and role as a teacher. He tells us how gratifying it is for him to get an in-depth knowledge of students current level of playing, aspirations, and guitar playing peculiarities. I get the sense he loves the nurturing aspect of teaching, as he watches his students grow and develop.

“What’s great about a teacher is that it forces me to know what it is I need to convey to a student…In order to communicate effectively, I really have to know the language and how the guitar works. I have to be aware of each individual (student’s) strengths and motor control isms.”

I’ve often heard that being a teacher is a great learning experience and I can say from my own personal experience, that teaching the guitar to someone else forces you to learn more than you normally one on your own. Being a good teacher truly does make you a better student. Our discussion about students’ strengths and weaknesses lead us to a fairly in-depth discussion about guitar-playing ergonomics.

Tim repeated a favourite quote of his, “musicians are small muscle group athletes.”

The topic of ergonomics is one that should be discussed more amongst guitarists and one that should be taught to guitar students. It’s something that needs to be reiterated repeatedly because it’s so easy to injure yourself through repetitive stress while playing guitar. If you are not maintaining proper posture and proper playing practices with regards to the placement of your hands and the rest of your body, the risk of injury is real.

It is important to maintain the “mid-range position” of playing in order to project your sound better (especially when playing acoustic) and to prevent injury to your back, hips, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. If you’re not careful, these injuries can creep on you pretty quickly. I’m glad that we spent a few minutes discussing this important topic.

He then gives us a resume of his time at Carleton university, which spanned over ten years, where he taught jazz guitar and lead the guitar ensemble department. A lot of his teaching was and currently is, helping students prepare for recitals in front of juries and coaching and preparing them to get to their next level of playing. As Tim describes it, “helping them to become more proficient, helping them to better understand the guitar, and how music relates to it.”

He likes to relate to each individual student and to their musical tastes and genre of playing. He says, “I’m a big fan of good music. I like all types of music…Good music’s good music…I use the (student’s) interests as a vehicle to get their guitar skills happening.”

“It’s all music,” he says. “I’m not a musical snob. I respect, honour, and love (all forms) of good music.” Such a refreshing attitude from so accomplished a musician.

His philosophy of teaching involves “encouraging them to do as much as they can in a short amount of time.”

Our video was shot in Gig Space, a performance venue that is a non-profit registered charity that brings performers from around North America and the rest of the world for intimate and low cost performances. Gig Space is a forty seat venue located with Alcorn Music Studios. One of the owners of Alcorn Music, Marilee Townsend-Alcorn, is the Artistic Director of Gig Space. She is also a fantastic drummer. Gig Space also hosts recitals and “coffee houses” as Tim calls adult student recitals, just to make them a little less stressful.

We then talked about the future of guitar and the future of people playing musical instruments, as a hobby or as a profession. He says, “I don’t think playing a musical instrument is ever going to go away,” regardless of the ebbs and flows of current popular music.

We talked at length about the importance of learning the entire guitar and how guitarists should learn all of the notes along the fretboard. The best way to learn to this, according to Tim, is through the CAGED system, which we touched on in Part 1 of our video series. He also recommends that guitarists should “say and play the note names, in five forms” along the guitar “to get more familiar” with the entire neck of the guitar.

He also recommends to “find a teacher that is organized and passionate about learning.” That and the CAGED system are two great places to start to become more proficient and knowledgeable in playing the guitar. He references two of his musical heroes, Jim Hall and Mick Godrick as influences in his learning of all the notes along each string, all the way down the fretboard. There’s “sonority” in each string and each string has its own “diameter.”

We discuss in greater detail, Tim’s association with Joe Negri and the book they published together, A Common Sense Approach to Improvisation for Guitar, a Mel Bay Publications release. Tim tells us that his greatest take-away from that partnership is learning Mr. Negri’s triad approach to improvisation and how to incorporate arpeggios as well. These were hallmarks of the great George Van Eps. Mr. Negri’s teacher, Vick Lawrence, was also a huge influence in his development of this style of playing.

We finish this section of the interview with an overview of Tim’s experience with producing an CD of his own original compositions called Of Light and Shadow. It was Tim’s intention to explore sound as expressions of light, colour, and “shades of light.” We also touch on his involvement with Jazz Vespers, a spiritual form of jazz performance, which allows listeners the opportunity to reflect, meditate, and worship in setting of inspirational music. The music is central to the religious service.

To read Part 1 of this series, please click on the link below:

To read Part 3 of this interview series, please click on the following link:

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