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Ticket To Improv DVD Series Review

Volumes One & Two $24.95 Each
For Entry Level Jazz Guitarists
888 – JAZZ DVD

In 2004 I had become aware of Robert Conti and his education products via an ad in JJG magazine.  I was originally intrigued by the rave reviews and also wondered how and why this guy had “flown under my radar” of awareness. So, I checked out the website, was very impressed with his playing (especially the chord melody things) and saw listed a series of “Source Code” books that were available. I was particularly interested in the “Precision Technique” book because it seemed to hold the promise of fundamentally developing solid (and reliable) right hand technique for pick-style players.

So, because of the ad, the reviews, the website, and his very helpful demeanor, I took a chance and purchased the “Precision Technique.” The explanation and fundamental material in the introduction of the book was crucial because Conti addressed the “real issue” of pick type/material, pick movement, etc. and why he developed this.  It was “spot-on.” I followed the material and instruction just as it was laid out. I practiced the material about 20 minutes per day, 4 days per week, and at the end of a month, I was amazed at the technical improvement I had made (and I had already been playing, teaching, and gigging for 35 years!). To this day “Precision Technique” emains a daily part of my routine!

I then purchased, and started to apply the same dedication to the remainder of the Source Code books and found them to be equally effective. Wow, I thought – there’s an entire jazz guitar curriculum here. So, I started to hip all my jazz students to Conti’s materials and they were having the same reaction, especially because they could now BEGIN by playing beautiful jazz lines and chord melodies RIGHT AWAY. As they pursued the material further, they then learned all of the NECESSARY theory and analysis as to why all of this worked. But, the thing that really captured their ears and imagination.  FIRST was the sheer joy of playing music!

By nature, I am a skeptic. So, unless I can prove to myself that educational materials work and are valuable to developing my students (and myself) musically, I am not going to be swayed by either slick marketing or “tradition”, for that matter. My only judgemental guideline is – does it work? My conclusion (based on experience) is that Conti’s materials work. They do what he says that they will.

The other thing that has impressed me about Robert Conti is that he has been a “serious” (not a fad) teacher for almost as long as he has been a professional performer. This is not a guy who has just gotten into “teaching” to make a few extra bucks when gigs are lean. He has shown dedication to the craft of teaching and the development of viable educational materials.  That is what a true teacher does.  Enough said.


One thing that I did notice about Conti’s “Improv” materials (Jazz Lines and the “solos” DVDs) were that they took an intermediate to more advanced level of skill and understanding to perform. Some of my more elementary students hadn’t developed the chops or understanding to quite grasp those materials.

In the last nine months, Conti has released Volumes 1 and 2 of the “Ticket To Improv” series that was specifically developed and produced for the entry-level jazz player. Yet, he has not compromised his approach to learning one iota.  It is still “play music first, understand it second”. So now the beginning jazz guitarist can dive right in and learn some great-sounding solos to essential jazz standards without having to have sophisticated chops. I like these two volumes so much that I have transcribed them (with permission) and teach them to my young jazz trumpeters, trombonists, saxophonists, bass players, piano players, and scat vocalists. So, now ALL of my young jazz students can PLAY and dig these well-conceived solos. What a treat!

For individual practice, MIDI rhythm section practice tracks are provided for each tune. The solos are in standard notation and TAB. There are also MIDI versions of the actual solos. From my perspective, he’s done everything that he can to produce great materials and practice aids. All that the students have to do is take these materials to the “shed,” get them in their ears and under their fingers.  At $24. 95 in these economic times, 4 solid hours of first class instruction from a pro like Robert Conti clearly defines high value.

In each volume, Conti presents solos for 3 must know standards. He then takes the lines used in those solos and “constructs” a 4th bonus solo using the previously learned lines. In other words, he shows how to use these jazz lines in a VARIETY of CONTEXTS.  The material learned in these lines truly becomes part of one’s “Jazz Vocabulary.”

During my last conversation with Robert Conti, he mentioned that a DVD devoted entirely to Comping would be the newest addition to his Source Code DVD Series in 2009. It is the only subject he has not yet addressed in the vast catalogue (27 DVDs? I lost count) that comprises the “Conti Curriculum” for Jazz Guitar.

As a result of personal usage and my close observation of many student’s intense interest level and immersion into his DVDs, I believe Robert Conti is a leader in jazz guitar education because of the results his materials consistently deliver. He certainly has plenty of satisfied customers all over the world to support that belief.

Mike Irish, Director Of Jazz Studies, Michigan Tech University
for Just Jazz Guitar Magazine

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