The Humble Guitar Master: Ted Greene

Ted Greene

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Ted Greene
Ted Greene

Some guitarists begin playing because they want to be rock stars—then, when they finally get a little taste of success, they stop learning. They become more concerned with guitar hero posturing than they are with actually practicing and growing.

Then you have a guitarist like Ted Greene. Ted didn’t want to be a rock star. He didn’t measure himself in that way—in fact, “concertizing” often made him feel uncomfortable.

Ted was simply a man who discovered that he loved music, loved melodies, and loved chords—once he was pointed in that direction, he studied and practiced full bore, nonstop, for decades. He read everything he could find about music theory and composition, writing red notes everywhere in the margins of his books.

He analyzed the fretboard. He learned hundreds upon hundreds of chords and experimented with different ways of using them. He listened and fell in love with the work of jazz greats and classical composers. He learned to improvise contrapuntal lines in the style of Bach, playing up to three or four different melodies all at once. He wrote a guitar column, taught students, and published several guitar manuals that remain legendary to this day, with Chord Chemistry perhaps being his best-known.

His only recorded album, Solo Guitar, displayed amazing technique and knowledge. Ted was able to play a song’s melody while also accompanying himself with a walking bass line. He could take a melody and completely change its feel by incorporating it into new and inventive chord progressions. He could play shimmering harmonic lines.

Despite his technical proficiency, Ted was not a luridly flashy player—he harnessed his virtuosity to play thoughtful, lyrical melodies. He continued to listen and learn and develop his ear right up until his very sudden death by heart attack in the Summer of 2009. Check out Ted jamming on “Eleanor Rigby”:

Ted’s partner Barbara Franklin has been kind enough to sift through Ted’s life’s work of notes, diagrams, student handouts and make them available to Ted’s present self-taught followers and students at the Ted Greene website: http://www.tedgreene.com/

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Nicholas Tozier

Nicholas Tozier is a book hoarder and songbird from the woods of Maine. In 2012 he made a small cameo in Songwriting Without Boundaries by Berklee professor Pat Pattison, and was named one of CDBaby’s top 10 Songwriting Resources to follow on Twitter.

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