Acoustic Medley by Pat Metheny

This month I transcribed a part of Metheny's acoustic medley as played at Lugano Jazz Festival in Switzerland. It's an example of great solo playing by not specifically a solo guitar player. I was never a big Metheny fan so I thought it might be a fun challenge. Also an opportunity to learn something new and get an insight into the mind of a jazz guitar legend. My transcription includes the first three songs of the medley: Phase Dance which acts as an intro in this case, Minuano 6/8 and September 15th. The songs are played originally on a nylon string guitar.

Feel of the song

First thing to notice about the general feel of the tune is that the tempo is not steady. Pat starts the song a little bit rubato, occasionally staying on some notes just a tiny bit longer. This let him set the stage for developing the drive later on. With time, the song speeds up and is kind of revealing its full energy that at the end is backed also by changing key centers. My advice to capture that feeling would be: don't try to make it “metronome perfect”. Read the notation and just let it flow and build up gradually!

Thumb Usage

Let's just say Metheny's left hand technique is not very classical ;) In general he positions his thumb over the neck and uses it to hold bass notes all the time. I think you shouldn't try to copy Pats fingerings exactly, especially where there are other ways to grab what is needed. However I wanted to point out a few particular places in the score.

1. Bars 3 - 6 where you need to hold B on 7th fret from the previous bar and play the same phrase as in the first three bars. It is impossible to play it in any other way than this. It wasn't super convenient from me in the beginning but with a bit of practice I think I got it right. If you're not familiar with using to grab notes over the neck, remember, the most important thing is to not over do it, practice this in very short intervals. And listen to your body, you can feel stretching but not pain!

2. Bar 27 easier quite convenient example that doesn't require any serious stretch. I use thumb for both F (actually all F major 7 chords in the song) and G chord. With G major you also have open G an B string ringing so it is easier to avoid muting them by accident while holding base with your thumb and playing melody on top.

3. Bar 58 an extreme example, at least for me. Metheny holds B note with his thumb while moving the major triad on violin strings down two frets. It is impossible for me but fortunately there is a way to play exactly the same notes by placing a bar on the 10th fret. This fingering is what I noted in the transcription but you can try original Pat's fingering, good luck!

Eighth notes

I wanted to point out your attention to what role difference between straight and shuffled eighths play in the song. It is very interesting how Metheny changes between two divisions to evoke more profound or intense feeling once he switches from shuffled to straight eights. Example from Minuano part could be F and G going to A like in bars 21 and 22:
Great and very characteristic example from September 15th part of the medley are bars 59 to 61:
This kind of changing eighth notes feel between bars is a pattern that plays quite an important role in the whole composition. So have it in mind and pay attention while learning the transcription.

Repeating notes in melodies

At the end a general thought about Pat's composing style. Something that we can take from this Medley, or Metheny in general and use in our own playing. I'm talking about repeating notes in melodies. Look how the melodies are written for example in Minuano bars 21 to 24:
or in September 15th bars 74 to 75:
That is very characteristic for Pat. It is also a very simple yet powerful technique quite often overlooked by musicians - including myself :) I am kind of used to going either arpeggios or scales up and down without repeating any notes in the lines. I hope to practice that and implement it more in my own playing both composing and improvising.

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