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Volume 3 – Ticket To Improv Review in JJG

Robert Conti may well be the most successful jazz guitar teacher on the planet, and deservedly so. With over 31 instructional DVD’s ranging from absolute beginner to pro, Mr. Conti seems to barely finish one before his fans and students ask for more. While most other guitarists, including some of the finest players, are finding it difficult to maintain a student base, Mr. Conti has continued to attract more students with each release.

His highly successful Ticket To Improv series is Robert Conti’s introduction to jazz improvisation. The first two volumes set the tone for the series with high quality jazz lines that were well within the technical capabilities of most beginning jazz players. However, Mr. Conti’s success is a combination of his know-how and teaching skill combined with his intense interest in the needs and requests of his students. So when he was deluged with requests for material that was easier to play, and also for an introduction to jazz-blues improvisation, he combined the two into his latest DVD: Ticket To Improv Volume 3.

With Volume 3 Robert Conti continues to improve this outstanding series. If your approach to blues soloing is noodling with the pentatonic scale,then you need this DVD! As in the first two volumes, Mr. Conti presents several projects by playing a solo and then teaching it bar-by-bar. For Volume 3 this means three blues solos over different chord changes, from very basic to more complex. The chord progressions range from basic blues changes, to Miles Davis’ All Blues, and finally Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. But although they are well worth the price of admission alone, these very cool lines and their explanations are only the beginning.

From the very first solo, Robert Conti emphasizes the usefulness of each line over different chord changes. He illustrates this by playing individual phrases over more and more complex chord progressions, showing that the inner motion that directs the lines over the basic chords functions equally well over a more elaborate progression. This should be both a revelation and a relief to those many players who feel intimidated by “jazz changes” for the blues. This alone should open up the possibilities for almost any beginning to intermediate improviser. Best of all, you can try these for yourself as the DVD includes the backing tracks as MIDI files so you can set the tempo that is comfortable for you. If MIDI is not your thing, the backing tracks are also included in MP3 format. All of the solos are included in PDF form with both notation and tablature, and the PDF also contains the different sets of changes for each solo.

If you have worked through one of Robert Conti’s other DVD’s, you know that he will often spontaneously come up with a brilliant tip that adds a new dimension to a line, a fingering, or a chord progression. In the past couple of DVD’s he has added a light bulb to the screen to make these insights easier to find again. For Ticket To Improv Volume 3 he goes even further by adding several sections after he has finished teaching the solo. These demonstrate the use of phrases over different chord progressions as well as ways to beef up your own comping. Another section gathers up tips and hints on varying the lines and creating your own style. After you have learned the solos, you will be coming back to these sections to learn fresh ways of varying them and creating your own style.

Those who have worked through one or both of the first two volumes of Ticket To Improv will find that some of the phrases from the earlier solos are given new shape to fit into these blues lines. This makes learning the new lines easier, and has the added advantage that your own modifications to the other lines will also work with the new blues material. Don’t be surprised by seeing light bulbs go off around the world as legions of students suddenly ‘get’ how to form their own blues lines over any chord progression. This is a powerful technique for accelerating learning.

Emblematic of Robert Conti’s love of teaching is his addition of a Bonus Jam to the DVD. After recording over 4 hours of video for the DVD, he let himself be gently coerced into adding one of his own blues songs, which he teaches in detail as well.

In short, this is a great learning resource for anyone who wants to improve their improvising with the blues. You get top-flight instruction on great lines over classic changes, all geared to make you play better. At over 4 hours of instruction, this DVD is a great value for a little money.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Dr. Dave Walker for Just Jazz Guitar Magazine

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