Japan, Donuts and Plucking Like a Jazz Guitar Great – Ed Bickert Interviews Part 1

Canadian jazz guitarist Ed Bickert is a living legend. A series of fourteen short clips (from closed-doors interviews with Jeff Bickert) were published on Vimeo in 2014. Yours truly, the author of the post and the webmaster on JazzGuitarLessons.net, recently stumbled upon them and decided to make them available (embedded) on this blog.

I hope you’ll enjoy these Ed Bickert footages as much as I did. The interviews gives us a completely new (and quasi-private) insight into the legend’s musical mind. Since this is a blog post, keep in mind that I will discuss some of the topics Mr. Bickert brought up during the interviews along the way. Enjoy!

The Interviews: Donuts!

Jokes aside (a bag of donuts!), it is interesting to see what Ed Bickert says about attitude. He mentions at the beginning that he put himself “in a good mood” before the tour, and wound up being satisfied and enjoying many aspects of touring. This is something which might not have happened if he had maintained, like most of us, an attitude of anxiety and worry towards what is coming up next.

“Super deluxe accommodations” helped, that for sure. But it all starts with a positive outlook. 🙂


Avant-Garde Jazz: Plucking instead of Strumming

What is interesting here is to note that Ed Bickert started out with a flat pick, like the rest of us. His hybrid plucking (pick, plus the “fingers claw”) technique really gave Ed his distinctive, now legendary sound.

So, how did it all begin?

As Mr. Bickert discusses in the interview, some composers in an avant-garde group of the era instructed him to not strum chords. So he started to pluck. The composers specifically said  “but don’t play the chords with a pick, we don’t want the strumming” since all notes had to sound at the same time, together. So plucking was the only way out, and Ed Bickert had to get used to that then.

Mr. Bickert also discussed Billy Bauer, a great jazz guitarist who played lots of “all fingers” stuff at the time. Although Ed was aware of Billy Bauer’s style in those days, it was really through this avant-garde band (and the composers’ requests) that Ed developed the sound. A musical project “forcing” a way of playing unto you. How great is that? Then eventually, Ed Bickert went for a hybrid style of pick and fingers for the rest of his career. That’s the “Ed Bickert comping sound” we hear and love on all latter recordings.

Also worth mentioning about this way of plucking and picking with both pick and fingers: in the first few years of playing, Ed was trying to finger all the six strings at once for every chord in a song. Sometimes, notes within the chords wound up getting doubled, giving a different flavor. Then, there came times where all strings simply couldn’t be fingered all at once (obviously!). So Ed Bickert started to look at chords differently and play harmony with a different “grip”. The hybrid picking allows for strings to be selectively sounded (or not). So Ed says “When the “barring the six strings” did not work, it was really useful to have the plucking technique”.

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