Pat Metheny is one of todays most succesful jazz artists, with many Grammy Awards and best-selling records to his name. His compositions with the Pat Metheny Band are in the Pop/Jazz-Fusion style and often feature elements of Latin American rhythms.
His beautiful song “James” – dedicated to James Taylor – is a great example of Metheny’s melodic style. Many chord inversions and syncopated rhythms make this a challening song to learn for the intermediate to advanced guitar player.
Learn the Solo Guitar Arrangement
Here you can see me playing a solo guitar arrangement of the song for nylon string guitar. It is in the original key of D-Major and features a lot of typical Jazz-Chord-Voicings.
Most of the chords I use in this arrangement are known as Drop2- and Drop3-Chords. These chords are usual seventh chords consisting of the chord tones root, third. fifth and seventh. They are called Drop-Voicings because their structure is changed in a certain way. In this example you can see how a basic CMaj7 chord is transformed to a Drop2-Voicing.
There is a few things you can do to prepare for some of the more difficult chord passages in this arrangement. First of all, I recommend to familiarize yourself with the basic Jazz-Guitar Voicings as well as some more advanced chord inversions. There is a PDF about Jazz-Harmony available in the shop.
To practice these chord shapes in a certain key, like D-Major, it is a useful exercise to play all of the seventh chords of the key up and down the neck. In the key of C this exercise would look like this:
This exercise will make your chord connections more fluid and is especially helpful for a song like “James”, with a lot of step-wise chord movement. You can find the PDF with some exemplary exercises here.
In the end, the success in playing this arrangement will depend on fitting all these chord shapes and melodies in the tight rhythmic scheme that the song demands. Look at the rhythmic schematic to the first four bars of the song:
As you can see, three of four rhythms are off the beat. These kind of accents are typical for Jazz and Latin music. It is very important to practice the rhythms without the chord shapes at first. You will find some general exercises for Off-Beat rhythms in the two-part article about Syncopation.
In the shop, you will find the arrangement for solo guitar along with the basic Leadsheet with chords, rhythms and melody to use for preparation.