The M3 guitar - about this site

About this site

This is an attempt to present some of the elements of jazz music in an interesting and entertaining way, and for free. The core content is made up of my recordings of almost 40 tunes, and the detailed transcriptions of about half of those. The sound samples add up to well over half an hour of music in total, mainly solo guitar (a few musical examples have midi backing). This is a substantial amount when you consider that my recording of a tune such as Giant Steps by John Coltrane weighs in at only 19 seconds. The M3 short hand and the jazz-traffic analogy are my ideas, and the content is created, written, and maintained by me. The graphics design, the road signs showing guitar shapes, is conceived entirely by Andy Ward.

You might wonder whether there is a catch somewhere. Would I want to give away something that has taken over a thousand hours of my time without trying to achieve something in the process? What's in it for me? Well, here is my naked ambition: if I can in any way contribute to making you appreciate music at a more profound level than you are already, then, to quote Ted Greene's parting comment in Single Note Soloing Vol. 2, you have sent some light my way, and I thank you.

Yours Truly

My name is Ole Kirkeby, and I am a Danish amateur guitarist originally from the Copenhagen area.

Ole with a bowtie (33KB)
Ole with a silly hat (42KB)
The File Under Jazz Trio (53KB)
Ole and Schecter (41KB)
Ole and Ludwig (94KB)
Ole and Strat (47KB)
Ole and Nigel (95KB)
Ole and Carvin (75KB)

    Professionally

    I am an engineer by trade, and after having been in academia for ten years I am now a Principal Scientist in the MultiMedia Technologies Laboratory at Nokia Research Center. For the last six years I have had my base in Helsinki, Finland. I have an M.Sc. from the Technical University of Denmark, and a Ph.D. from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, UK. In addition, I have had brief spells at Aalborg University, Denmark, and Tokyo Denki University, Japan. My claim to fame is the stereo dipole, a sort of minimalistic surround sound system that uses only two closely spaced loudspeakers. My first job out of university back in 1989 was as a technical writer for Bruel&Kjr, a Danish manufacturer of measurement equipment for acoustics and vibration. After I left that company in 1991 to do my Ph.D. in the UK, I haven't lived in the city of Copenhagen.

    Musically

    When I was in my early twenties, and doing my undergraduate degree in engineering, I was into drums in a big way. I practiced several hours daily, and I studied Steve Gadd in great detail (this was before Dave Weckl surfaced). I also had a serious go at Gary Schaffee's books, Stickings and Polyrythms in particular. It was all funk and pop, though, no jazz. I quit the drumming for practical reasons more than anything else, and the guitar took over completely after I moved abroad. In Southampton I had some luck when I somehow managed to get regular gigs with pianist Anthony Briscoe and bassist Nigel Slee at a point when I couldn't really play at all. We formed the File Under Jazz trio as I was finishing Ted Greene's Single Note Soloing Vol.1 book. It was fairly scary to be thrown in at the deep end but I quickly realised that jazz is much more forgiving, when it comes to making mistakes, than funk drumming. I learned to fake my way through solos, and comp behind soloists, even when I was playing the tune for the first time. I got lost constantly, and I had to miss out half the chords but I understood the importance of 'the graceful recovery'. A couple of years later I formed Bill & Ted's Excellent Jazz Band (the name is based on the Bill & Ted movies) with guitarist Bill Pritchard. I was Ted since I had learned to play from the books of Ted Greene (in fact, so had Bill but since he was Bill already he couldn't be Ted). By that time I had got a lot better, and we had a most bodacious band with a nice sound (both Bill and I played Telecasters).

    Although both F.U. Jazz and Bill & Ted had a set of arranged tunes, by far most of the gigs I did while I lived in Southampton were unrehearsed. The local jazz scene consisted of about 30 people who played around 50 different tunes, and on a given night I would play a subset of those 50 tunes with a subset of those 30 people. This was great fun for a while but as time went on I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of musical ambition displayed at gigs, and my own lack of ability to do something interesting with the material I was asked to play. The whole thing was becoming very repetitive and I didn't feel I was making much progress even though I kept up the practicing at home. The switch to the M3 has definitely helped. The instrument makes sense to me in a way the 6-string in conventional tuning never has, and at the moment I am improving at a very satisfying rate.

    Over the years the guitar playing has become more than a hobby to me; it also serves as a kind of mental therapy that takes my mind off work and the other worries that build up during the day. I have moved around quite a lot, and in a way the guitar has become the main constant in my life, the one thing that has been with me everywhere. More than ten years on, I still practice almost every day, and I still enjoy it.

The Tunes

The repetoire is representative of the jazz standards that are commonly called on gigs (they are not all among my personal favourites I hasten to point out). The tunes are mainly from the bebop era, and composed by the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, and Thelonius Monk. These tunes are readily available in fakebooks, the Real Book being the bible in the field, of course. In case somebody is considering to have a go at me for including published music, I would like to point out that I am familiar with copyright law. I claim fair use for educational purposes.

The Sound Samples

All the music examples are encoded in the MP3 format at a low bitrate, typically at 16Kbs mono (equivalent to 2K bytes per second) and they should play fine in any standard MP3 application. Most tunes, but not all, are recorded with a click track, and spliced together from several takes. Hey Jude, for example, is made up of three segments and recorded with a 72bpm click track whereas Donna Lee is recorded in one take without a click track.

The Transcriptions

You can view detailed tablatures of selected recordings in pdf format or you can download the source files (the 'tef' link, very compact, typically less than 5KB). A free tef file viewer is available from www.tabledit.com, the makers of the Tablature Editor software. The file viewer allows you to play back midi along with an animation of the notes bouncing around on the fretboard. If you have more than a passing interest in the M3, I highly recommend it as a practicing tool. You can then slow things down, repeat sections, and put any passage you like under the microscope.

The transcriptions are very detailed, and they correspond almost exactly to what I play on the recordings (or rather, what I intended to play on the recordings). In particular, ringing notes, which I use a lot, are accurately indicated with ties. Slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs are also listed. I have left out the right hand picking since it varies so much between guitarists, and even if it didn't I find that my own picking varies as a function of the speed of the piece I am playing. However, you should know that even though I always play with a pick I also use my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th finger for plucking the strings. This is useful not only for chords but also for speed and convenience when you need to reach across several strings for the next note. In the tablatures, the Brush symbol (a B next to a vertical arrow) indicates that several notes are sounded at the same time by a sweep of the pick. No B, and you are supposed to pluck the strings with your fingers. Make sure you understand this unless you are happy to practice something totally unplayable.

With a few exceptions, the transcriptions are fairly advanced and not particularly easy to play. If you are just about to change the tuning of your guitar, they will probably be very difficult. If you have never practiced solo guitar before, they will definitely be difficult. Nevertheless, since I got into solo guitar by painfully working my way through Pat Martino's Road Song (which was way beyond me at the time), it is my hope that by making these transcriptions available for free it will perhaps make it a little easier for you eventually to learn the M3.

Web Design

The design is simple and uncluttered, without hierachies, frames or Java. It contains no adverts or banners of any kind.

Credits & Acknowledgements

The Fab Four:

    The very talented, and very patient, ANDY WARD who did the graphics for this site

    The smooth-talking double bass player NIGEL SLEE, now based in Leeds, who got me my first gigs in Southampton

    The genius of TED GREENE whose book "Jazz Guitar, Single Note Soloing Vol. 1" was the first that made any sense to me, and finally

    The incredible ALLAN HOLDSWORTH, the most imaginative guitarist of our time