PHOTO: Cindy Moorhead
Feeling a bit out of shape on the guitar? Here’s a training program designed to whip your picking technique and improvisational skills into tip-top condition in just 20 weeks. Conceived by the late, great G.I.T. co-founder, Wrecking Crew studio stalwart, and guitar sensei Howard Roberts, “the chop builder” (as we then called it), was informally introduced into the G.I.T. curriculum around 1978 and later published first as Jazz Guitar Technique in 20 Weeks and eventually as Superchops! Within its pages, Roberts formulated a way to permanently imprint super picking chops and stamina as an indelible motor skill, while simultaneously advancing your improvisational skills. It’s a rigorously disciplined, military-like program that must be followed to the tee in order to achieve its ultimate objectives.
The basic concept is quite simple: You play nothing but uninterrupted alternate-picked eighth notes, and, eventually, eighth-note triplets, over a backing chord progression of your choice, beginning at a slow metronome setting of 50 beats per minute. No ornamentations or variations in articulation, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides or bends, are allowed until Week 18. You adhere to a strict 60-minute practice session, six days a week, increasing the tempo by just 2 bpm per day. Over the course of 20 weeks you’ll experience a dramatic improvement in your playing. The bear is the determination required to faithfully stick to the program for 20 weeks! Keep in mind that this lesson is a synopsis of an 88-page book that contains invaluable advice, tips, musical examples, and even psychological support from H.R. himself. I highly recommend getting an original copy.
A working vocabulary of major, minor, pentatonic, and blues scales, as well as an understanding of major- and minor-scale harmony, will facilitate