Updated: Jan 4, 2022
There are many things that I love about playing smooth jazz guitar, and just as many reasons why I hate calling it smooth jazz guitar.
I love playing smooth jazz guitar when I remove the label smooth jazz guitar. To me, it is music that is free flowing, yet musically sensical with some structure and a mindful appeal to the ear. When I play to a tune, I think in terms of telling a short story. That’s what I was trained to listen for as a young student.
My experience has taught me to tell the story in forms of motifs (which I create from scales), intervals, arpeggios, pentatonic lines, single string runs, double string runs and open string harmonics – all of which display and illustrate the magic of guitar.
The attitude of playing smooth jazz guitar is what works for me. It is relaxed and free style. You can experiment and improvise. It never has to be the same way twice. All of the above makes it fun, and it makes you a better player more quickly. That's how it worked for me. It was the attitude of smooth jazz that helped me turn every hard won skill on the guitar into a style I can connect with and call my own.
What I continue to learn as I play to these tracks and extend into blues, is how simple open and two string intervals and arpeggios, in short motif style, just opened me up to some of the most beautiful Celtic sound ever produced by my guitar.
That’s a win in my book any day. And also why I hate calling it Smooth Jazz Guitar. Because of the limited perspective the label imposes and what the mass market bought in to. That is not Smooth Jazz.
Smooth Jazz is so much more expansive than that. You get to play your own unique version of it. You get to put your individuality and artistry into it. You get to put your own jazz into it. Don't chase somebody else's. At least from this guitar players perspective.