Lenny Breau Guitar



 Jazz Guitar Curriculum for Intermediate & Advanced

 *My jazz guitar lesson topics are endless and always evolving.*


The jazz guitar techniques that I am teaching are respectfully geared from Lenny Breau’s style. He was known for blending many styles of music together. Of course he was the Master and I’m the Journey Man, but I do my best to teach the jazz guitar overall from various ways in keeping with many other jazz guitar greats.


An outline of the highlights of the curriculum is written below:



I teach voice leading at an early stage of learning by leading first on the 6,4 and 3 strings in the well respected style of the great jazz guitar giant Freddy Green.


I have found, from over 38 years of teaching, that 99% of my jazz students really take well to understanding this approach on the lower string first because it is so chordal from the rich tonality of the low strings and all the chords have to be voiced always on the 6th, 4th, and 3rdstrings. I think that is the reason why Freddy Greens’ method is so valid to learn before learning Lenny Breau’s voice leading techniques.


A lot of the lesson time is spent on voice leading and I have some interesting ways of developing voice leading. In a nutshell they are…with this principle in mind… what can you do by doing less? I make games that have limitations and this helps to bring out the true genius of the player. One of my biggest contributions is constantly inventing these games and I can share them with you



I can start right from basics and then push more of the intuitive approach on comping chords with the two note essential tones that Lenny made so popular. By simply using the correct 3rd and 7th of a chord he formed the major, dominant, minor, major 7th and diminished sounds.


Based on the student’s  level of musical experience, I will provide the theoretical explanations of these two comping notes (used) on the lower strings (6&5 strings), (5&4 strings), (4&3 strings). I assure you that this method works well.



I use very unique exercises just working on the physical muscle memory of playing these two note patterns weaving to form a proper well prepared voice lead progression. Many of the exercises are fun and musical. I like to treat my students to this famous technique that Lenny used like a masterful gymnast.


*What comes next is the most magical excitement to experience as a guitarist and that is to play an independent melody on top of these two note chords with the remaining left hand fingers. There is nothing quite like feeling the high when hearing the guitar when it sounds like two guitars.*



I use simple blues progressions and one chord vamps. My methods are the result of working on Lenny’s style since I was 15 years old. The result is a real jazz labor of love from my life’s journey since then. I guarantee you, I can show you the way to get those independent melodies syncopated and flowing smoothly on the top string which playing the comping tones.



The Tetrachord studies I explain how to use four note per string. Identifying each four note Tetrachord is valuable. I also teach using the Trichord three notes per string to build up speed.  I show lots of interesting exercises to show how to play the scales against the two note comping tones while one would start on different scale degrees and then move in a cycle of 5ths ect.



I then move into triads, for most students, and teach all three inversions of the chords and systematically exercise all inversions on all possible three string groupings on the guitar. I do naturally expand to four and five note voicing’s in all inversions.



Depending on your request or whether your playing is intermediate or advanced, I introduce my fascinating method for altering notes that one may not have thought of using in a jazz standard, by using the 4th interval. I show the voicings on three and four string groups, or more. I teach the variety of substitutions the 4th voicings create to color up the song because they have upper partials.


When using 4th comping chords there is a whole range and variety of substitutions and these 4th intervals are interchangeable for a chord. This is similar to how we have synonyms for other words in our English language.


Interval studies can free up the other fingers to play the melody or at most (practice?) I find them extremely helpful in the improvisation parts over the standard progressions. (you wrote standards progression) which is correct?



A lot of students enjoy learning how Lenny discovered and made it his trade mark to play harmonics on the guitar. Lenny used them with chords to get interesting close voicings with minor 2nd intervals ringing through, like hearing the path of enchanting chords from the likes of Bill Evans, jazz piano player.


I love to share this topic, but so many great players like Ted Green can teach you this as well. I suggest you search out all the players that use Lenny’s discovery of his unique manner for which so many guitar players now thank Lenny for giving and leaving us his legacy behind to share with us and help us evolve.



I work with re-harmonization techniques like many jazz players do. I feel I give a typical strong background first and insist one knows the original chords of the standard before altering them while keeping the melody in mind all the time.



I love to teach contrary motion of lines and lines that would be played on the 3rd or 4th string like an independent melody you would hear in an Orchestral arrangement. The guitar will become your own small orchestra or sound like your own personal piano.


Just think of playing simply two notes to establish the chord type and a counterpoint melody on the 3rd or 4th string and the melody or improvisation of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings. Man that is surfing a big wave. That’s what I call “Bitchen.”



I put together another method from an experience Lenny had and referred to with the expression, “Down the Line,” after icon Jazz Piano player, Bob Erlendson, taught him the 1, 1V, V1, 111, 11, V, 1  progression. They were both on the bandstand at the time and Lenny was at the very young age of 16. It was like a big light bulb went on in Lenny’s mind when Bob showed him how he can take those chords and make them minor or major by taking them out of the key center at hand for one moment, if the melody permits.


Bob Erlendson had many more lessons that he taught Lenny for a four year period when Lenny was between the ages of 15 to 18, while they played in vocal groups and jazz gigs together. I have interviews explaining some of Lenny’s experiences in his youth on YouTube.


I love to share in the spirit of Lenny Breau as he is my favorite guitarist of all time. I am always mystified by the musicians who influenced Lenny; Joe Pass, Tall Farlow, Chet Atkins, Bill Evans, Bob Erlendson, Don Thompson and many more.


In conclusion as I stated at the beginning, I do recognize other great jazz guitar players and I do my best to bring to you the joy of playing jazz finger style guitar.


These guitar lessons will also help you not only with jazz playing, but how to harmonize a Christmas carol melody or a popular song from a favorite film you love, folk songs or the current popular hit parade tune.



There is so much more to mention. I will be working with guitar players on Skype Lessons. This is only a small overview. The lessons will all depend on the guitarist I am working with.


I guarantee that I will give you my all when sharing the lessons from the journey of my musical life.


Lenny Breau Dedication

This is a tribute to the great virtuoso guitarist, Lenny Breau. Lenny has been an inspiration to me since my early teens, still is and always will be. It’s hard to catch Lenny. In my opinion Lenny was a man with an open mind and a big heart. He was definitely an innovator, and, through his creative approach, he developed his own techniques and concepts that intrigue many musicians around the world.


His musical vision will go on forever. I have tried my best to capture his essence in these recordings. I never had the honor of meeting Lenny but his spirit is truly in my heart. Working on this project was, for me, a constant connection to Lenny; there was always a voice speaking to me along the way.


I hope to reach other people and bring an awareness of Lenny’s musical genius to their lives. The Gypsy Bed sessions occurred from June 1999 to March 2001. It’s my sharing of the music and its energy – a gypsy spirit with its wisdom of insecurity, always on a roll, and lost in the music.

Lenny Breau Quotes


“When I listen to Rick Washbrook play it makes me feel very close to my
brother and it makes me realize that Lenny will always live on. Thank you Rick
for keeping Lenny’s music so vital and alive.” -Denny Breau


“It’s heartwarming to hear Washbrook holding the flame in regards to the
great guitarist Lenny Breau. Washbrook obviously finds inspiration from Lenny
while developing his own inner voice and vision. You can hear his passion, heart
and sould on his CD ‘A Gypsy’s Bed’.” -Bob Erlendson


“I enjoy seeing Washbrook’s enthusiasm as he shares his love of playing the
guitar. When he swings with that walking bass, comping chords and melody
simutaneiously, it is so musical while sounding effortless.” -Ed Bickert

Meet Rick Washbrook

Each time I listen to Lenny Breau’s music, after 40 years of professional experience, I am still in awe of his musical genius. Lenny Breau was such an outstanding guitarist. He merged jazz with so many other styles, and he had such a unique and soulful sound.

There was only one Lenny Breau. He left so much for musicians all around the world. I have a story to tell, as well. Lenny captures the very breath of my feelings about Lenny Breau.

“He is one of the true geniuses of the guitar. I suppose he is a musician’s musician. His knowledge of the instrument and the music is so vast, and I think that’s what knocks people out about him. But he’s such a tasty player too. I think if Chopin had played guitar, he would have sounded like Lenny Breau.” -Chet Atkins,

“What really got me was the soul behind all the playing.” -Mike Stern

“Lenny Breau played more great stuff at one time than anybody on the planet… with feeling and tone. He was the best that ever lived, bar none.” -Danny Gatton

I have been listening to Lenny Breau since 1972 when I was just 14-years old. I was immediately spellbound when I first heard him. Even with my young age, I felt the depth of his music… so deep it could fill the ocean. His music led me and I followed like a servant, learning his style from his recordings… lifting the needle of the record player up and down as I hung onto Lenny’s every cord and tried to play along.

In 2001, I released my Lenny Breau tribute CD called “A Gypsy’s Bed.” Just after its release, ironically, I had the opportunity of meeting Toronto’s jazz piano icon, Bob Erlendson. Bob taught Lenny Breau when Lenny was just 16 to 19-years old. Bob was 10-years older than Lenny and had the experience and expertise to teach Lenny a lot of music through his understanding viewpoint on the piano.

Lenny couldn’t read music at the time. Bob could and pointed out everything to Lenny from a pianist’s point of view. This is important because guitar players are locked into the mechanic of frets and a hundred little challenges one has on the guitar; like notes with the same pitch on many areas of the fret board, whereas the piano, it is just one way. Bob taught Lenny to look at the guitar as a musical instrument, versus just a guitar.

Lenny was a sponge for knowledge and lived in Calvary at the time. Bob was with Lenny, rehearsing, gigging, and helping him with all his many questions. Lenny would ask Bob inspiring questions. It was a challenging relationship for them both and within those four years; the two men became close friends.

They played together at the Stage Door in Winnipeg for a year and a half, some radio shows, and some pickup gigs for singers that came to town. Soon after, Lenny was getting bored. His guitar playing was extremely hot at that time, and Lenny wanted to move to Toronto, but Bob felt Lenny wasn’t mentality ready to move to Toronto, ‘Stay in Calgary until you are 20-years old,’ said Bob, but Lenny took his family, got on a bus and split to Toronto.

Bob explains the relationship that he had with Lenny as a musical self-discovery, unending in time, which is still in his heart and soul today.

I began studying with Bob Erlendson right after I met him in 2001, and have been associated and studying with him for the past ten years. Bob is now 80-years old. I have been blessed to study under Bob Erlendson and thank him for his inspiration and his gift of music.

If you are interested in the music and style of Lenny Breau and want to obtain more information, please contact me http://www.washbrookmusic.com

Contact Rick Washbrook (416) 824-3377 I offer jazz guitar lessons and can show and point you the techniques Lenny used to express himself.

Contact Rick Washbrook

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