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Entrada Archtop Guitar
James K. - North Dakota, USA
I’d buy another down the road...

August 2017 - After Receiving First Guitar (Blonde)

Robert, I just wanted you to know I have been enjoying your guitar. I had a particularly nice time when I took it to get adjusted today. Thank you so very much for the guitar, and for all the inspiration you’ve given me along the way!!! You’re a class act, and I appreciate everything you’ve shared with me along the way. Be well, and I hope this finds you in good health.

Two Weeks Later

I didn’t want to give blind comments, so after spending plenty of time getting to know my Conti, here are the best comments I can give. Great looking guitar, neck and fretboard feel really good. Took a couple tries to learn how to string, but now that I’m used to it, I love that. A lot actually. Pickup and electronics have a lot of snap, very much so. Easy to dial tone in. Great choice on those. Tuners are nice and responsive. Love the ebony accoutrements. Very classy. I also love the gold hardware. Only one thing I could suggest for improvement: hard to get a strap on the bottom with the tailpiece. Probably supposed to be that way. I just play it sitting, so I don’t use a strap anyway. Great guitar!!! Thanks so much Robert!!!

2.5 Years Later

Robert, I wanted to give you some honest feedback now that I’ve spent plenty of time with my guitar. Tone is fantastic through both solid state and tube amps. Hardware is holding up very well. Took me a few tries to get used to stringing with that style tailpiece. Grown to love it. Stays in tune very, very well. I was a little worried with the temp and humidity changes here. No type of wear or cracking to the wood after this amount of time. Very solid. I use an Oasis case humidifier. Fretboard is terrific, very smooth, no signs of wear. Very, very infrequent adjusting is necessary. Case is one of the nicest gig bags I’ve ever used or seen. Holding up well. I really like the shape of the neck. Fits well in my hand. Many thanks, and know it’s being played and properly loved. I’d buy another down the road.

November 2022 - Second Entrada (Port Wine)

Letting you know the package arrived with no damage over the weekend. Plays beautifully. Looks great. Sounds terrific.

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Entrada Archtop Guitar
Ralph Bowe - Columbia, MD USA
You’d Be Smiling Too…

…if you were holding this beautiful instrument. My Entrada is exactly what I was looking for in a new guitar. Great tone, easy to play, gorgeous, and affordable. Pictures don’t do it justice – the combination of the Port Wine finish, gold hardware and inlays is stunning. I selected the dual pickup version, where I can dial the Entrada to either a smooth jazz sound or a more bluesy and even country style. It’s also much lighter than my previous semi-hollow archtop, which helps in how easy and fun it is to handle. Mr. Conti’s video showed that my Entrada performs beyond anything I’ll be able to pull from it. I want to thank him, Mike and Steve for all of the great customer support they provide, both in the purchase of the guitar and for the courses available from the Robert Conti website. If you’re looking for a great jazz guitar that’s both elegant looking and a joy to play, get an Entrada – and then you’ll be smiling too!

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Entrada Archtop Guitar
Eugene Albrecht - Rotonda West, FL
Struck gold with this guitar...

Received my Entrada yesterday! Wow! What a great guitar! I love it! The look the action and sound without an amp is incredible. I’d say I’ve struck gold with this guitar. From the personalization, the video to receiving this excellent looking and sounding guitar. I’ve never received a guitar I can play without a setup. You are one special man helping me achieve my last goal in life, to be a jazz musician. Your luthiers have done a fantastic job creating this valuable instrument for me. I feel very special having this incredible instrument. I look forward in the lessons you have provided for me.

I finally found an instructor and not just a scale

It's nice to find an instructor who understands that practice doesn't have to be boring!

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Entrada Archtop Guitar
Randy Allred - Bellingham, WA
Best I've ever played...

"I've been playing my gorgeous new Conti Entrada for a couple of weeks now, and I'm convinced it's the best-playing guitar I've ever owned, maybe the best I've ever played. The combination of the Ebony fingerboard, perfect fret size, and the amazing attention paid to the fretwork, all lend a sure feel to the fingers, instantly evident in difficult passages. The setup was terrific, including the perfectly slotted nut. On top of it all, the guitar is so beautiful. Buying was a remarkable experience—the commitment to excellence and personal attention this company provides is unmatched in the business world. Kudos to everyone!"

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Entrada Archtop Guitar
Charles Perry - Findlay, Ohio
Better than the most expensive guitars…

Totally Responsive Sellers and Excellent Guitars!!! These guitars are just as good if not better than the most expensive guitars you could buy!!!

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Vol. 2 Rhythm Changes
Everton Armstrong
Very grateful.

This very informative to me. I been playing for many years and have always have hinderances in some areas of my playing, but I am thinking this is gonna free me up. Your videos have already open up mine eyes to great possibilities. Thanks for your instructional videos.

🦃 Save 30% Thru December 1, 2022 With Coupon Code: TURKEY22

The Turning Point by Dave Ruggiero
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I prepared this narrative in an effort to apprise other aspiring jazz guitarists about my experience with the Ticket To Improv DVD series and The Jazz Lines by Robert Conti. I own all five products (the Ticket To Improv series has four current volumes for those unaware) and have spent several months working through the material and watching the DVDs. I am comfortable enough to share my experiences in a way that can benefit aspiring jazz guitarists. It is also my hope that this narrative will resonate with other aspiring jazz guitarists who are frustrated after struggling with the academic modes/scales approach.

I’m writing from the perspective of a hobbyist that doesn’t have time for lessons and wants to make every second of practice time count. I have had my fill of theory-intensive method books, and my experience with all of them goes a little something like this:

  1. Practice scales and modes/read about theory
  2. Occasionally find a tidbit of jazz theory that would allegedly “crack the code” for me
  3. Get excited and believe that I was finally getting it
  4. Play the exercises and eventually get bored because I was playing exercises
  5. Fail miserably at every attempt to improvise over changes, without playing something other than a menial exercise
  6. Get frustrated, lose confidence and put down the instrument only to eventually
  7. Buy a different method book and repeat steps 1-6 all over again.

My Turning Point

In 2010, in lieu of yet another method book, my usual step 7 took a very different turn during my first visit to the Robert Conti website, as his No Modes No Scales® approach quickly caught my attention. After working through the Take the A Train lesson on his website, and getting those lines under my fingers, I immediately realized that my prior lack of progress and frequent loss of interest was not the result of any inadequacies on my part. That lesson convinced me that my prior lack of progress, was the result of mistakenly approaching jazz guitar from a predominantly academic/theory-based perspective, which  was non-productive and did not  translate into any meaningful playing skills.

I proceeded to purchase Volume 1 of the Ticket To Improv DVD Series.  The lines are hip and they are very easy to learn.  It was also a tremendous confidence booster that renewed my interest in improvising over standards. Robert’s DVDs give the viewer the feel of being in a private lesson with him. Ticket to Improv is no different. Robert takes each solo and breaks them down measure-by-measure, note-by-note and teaches students exactly how to play them. Robert does this in two-to-four measure increments, which is very useful as it allows students to easily navigate through the DVD’s main menu.

Robert’s introductory narrative alone is worth the $19.95 price of the 4 Hour DVD.  This is not a short introductory piece.  It runs approximately 30 minutes and proved to be an extremely valuable and substantive educational experience for me.  By imparting over 40 years of playing and teaching wisdom into a plainly-spoken and accessible narrative, I was convinced that all I needed to do to learn to play was to play my instrument and let the rest of it (i.e. the theory) take care of itself.

Robert’s approach is modest and matter of fact.  He speaks from experience when he says:

“Play your instrument and get the music under your hands and the light bulbs will come on.”

There are no false promises here.  What he said will happen, and it has happened for me. He is the real deal and my videos as a student further reinforce his credibility as an instructor.

The improvised solos contain the real jazz language, professional-quality jazz lines made very accessible to entry level players. Once again, going against everything I thought I knew from the theory/scales approach, I was immediately immersed in the jazz language without having to waste time with boring scales, modes, meaningless blocks of safe notes. I was employing chromatics without having to learn about them separately. I was adding dissonance over dominant chords without having to learn an “advanced” scale to do so. Robert’s fingering protocol, a system based on building lines from the major chords shape most guitarists will already know, puts these concepts right under the player’s hands. There is not a single entry-level jazz guitar textbook that comes remotely close to teaching these concepts in as comprehensive a fashion as Robert does, nor as efficiently.

Learn Jazz By Playing Jazz

Robert’s solos got me into changing positions on the fretboard very easily, and at no point does it feel overwhelming. In time, it became second nature. The line construction breaks from the convention of “box-scale” type thinking. I was moving all over the fretboard with ease and confidence, in a more effective way than any standalone fretboard method book could do.  Again, to quote Robert, I’m “learning jazz by playing jazz.”  A lot of thought was put into these lessons from the choices of standards to the solos becoming progressively more difficult from one project to the next.  Furthermore, even to the players that can learn the lines quickly, in each of the projects, Conti presents additional impromptu thoughts, ideas and “off-the-sheet tips.”

When it comes to the learning process, it did not end when I mastered the three main project solos.  The more obvious aspect of this experience is that each DVD has a Project 4, which is yet another improvised solo on a different standard.  However, learning the Project 4 solo note-for-note, while helpful, is not the key takeaway from these lessons.  Robert constructed the Project 4 solo simply by re-employing lines that I already learned in the first three projects on the DVD. A light bulb went on, and it then became apparent to me, if someone else can take lines that I now know, and create new lines and solos with them, why can’t I?  The point is, I can, and I will.  I have to work for it, but I now have a viable and readily employable foundation of jazz vocabulary that I’ve learned from the improvised solos, and other harmonic devices in those DVDs.

It’s now a matter of making them work the way I want them to work (all of this being accomplished without wasting a single second with abstract concepts and theory).  As strange is it may look on paper, I not only learned real jazz vocabulary but I learned how to learn. This has prepared me to move on to more advanced material (Note: since the time of this writing, Dave has recorded advanced material as seen above, and in the Players Gallery). On that note, I think the Ticket To Improv DVD series delivers on its ability to teach entry-level jazz to students and to prepare them for what is to come.

Peeking Under The Hood

That said, there are other benefits to the Ticket To Improv series that I began to appreciate more as my skill level has progressed.  As I like to peek under the hood and get to the “nuts and bolts,” shortly after getting through the first Ticket To Improv DVD, I purchased The Jazz Lines in the Source Code DVD Series.  I have viewed that material as a critically important supplement to my learning.  The Jazz Lines goes into greater detail about the harmonic devices that Robert uses to construct his lines.  For a lack of a better term, I will call it “applied theory.”  There are discussions of theory but they are only there to illustrate why the lines work the way they do.  Perhaps other players would reach the same conclusions I did a different way, but after spending considerable time working through the first five or six lessons in that book along with the After The Gig section (a section worth at least twice the price of the DVD/Book), I started to internalize those concepts (still a work in progress).

The more I continued to work with the Ticket To Improv series, the more the light bulbs went on for me,  as I was able to discover how Robert employed the same harmonic devices that he uses in his solos on the bandstand at 300 bpm.  However, he has made those harmonic devices accessible to entry-level players. As I see it, by design, Robert has successfully created a platform for entry level students that gives them his absolute best at that level of ability, through his selections of lines and harmonic devices.  I later discovered that the entry level lines and harmonic devices from the Ticket To Improv series appeared again in The Jazz Lines, and in the Advanced DVD Series.  However, Robert presented those lines and harmonic devices at the far more complex pro level.  I was already prepared to move on to more challenging material simply because I had already played the easier versions of those lines and other devices. In essence, I was able to understand the harmonic devices and  “applied theory”  after the fact, because I had played these very same things so many times before. Only now, instead of seeing a series of notes on the page, I started seeing them in blocks because of my growing familiarity with them.

Conclusion

By no means is learning a short process. However, my experience with both The Jazz Lines and Ticket To Improv has been continuously productive, and they have unquestionably made the journey easier and far more enjoyable. No hobbyist should have to worry about learning the theory before learning to play. I have no aspirations of becoming a music instructor or joining the academy. I play jazz guitar for fun so if my lack of knowledge does not sit well amongst certain people, that’s not my problem.  The old school approach has been working for me, so I see no reason to approach improvisation through any other means than the effective way Robert Conti has taught me.

Through that education, I have learned that I have no use for abstract concepts without the meat and potatoes behind them. Jazz was an art form learned in the streets, and there is no concept out there that can not be communicated through playing. No entry level student needs to sit through a course of theory, scales and modes before being ready to play (especially players new to jazz coming from other areas). Robert’s Ticket To Improv DVD Series completely blows the concept of modes and scales out of the water.

I was one of those aspiring bedroom players that knew more theory than I cared to, yet I was still discouraged about improvising.  Today, while I am pleased about the progress that I have made, what excites me more is that I feel that I am finally on the right path. No longer do I practice my instrument every night. I play my instrument.  No longer do I sit and hope that learning some scale is going to help my jazz vocabulary, I take lines that I have learned, play them enjoyably, almost until my fingers bleed, and I am now neck deep in making those lines my own. Most importantly, The Ticket To Improv series and The Jazz Lines have made learning and playing jazz guitar fun, and if it’s not fun, then what’s the point?

-Dave Ruggiero
Summit, NJ USA

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3 thoughts on “The Turning Point”

  1. This great post almost entirely describes my own experience with the same materials mentioned. Life is short. Start working and making real music with these materials now!

    Reply
  2. I’ve been itching to pull thr trigger in joining you in this journey. I was hesitant about the no scales no modes approach, but I found myself buying book after book and not getting very far.

    So, I just picked up one the Chord melody books. I was amazed at how far I’ve gotten learning my first chord melody tune in just one sitting. Of course, it’s gonna take more work, but I am encouraged. I will say that the theory, scales, and modes that I do know make embellishing the tune easier, so I’d say I’ll still study those things, but getting tunes under my fingers makes playing a lot more rewarding. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Reply

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For any order whose subtotal (total after coupon is applied and before any shipping is added) is $100 or more, you will receive a One Hour Complimentary live lesson with Robert via Zoom!