Ed Bickert:
Canadian musician
unique jazz guitarist

By Sandy Freeze (a.k.a.: strumdabiz)

Part II: Ed Bickert, Pluck If Not Adventure


Part I: Ed Bickert
Guitar Workshop
Part II: Ed Bickert,
Pluck, If Not Adventure
Part III: Ed Bickert,
Tune, Tone, And Tempo

____________Strumdabiz_____G Major
~E_A_D_G_B_E~       ______E|r3+++|E
{- - 0 0 0 -}Nut   / _____B|a0+++|B
[- -       -]     / / ____G|m0+++|G
[- 2        ]    / / / ___D|Z0+++|D
[3         4]   / / / / __A|Z2+++|A
[ grips     ]  / / / / / _E|Z3+++|E
#\ \ \ \ \ \__/ / / / / /##########
g-\ \ \ \ \____/ / / / /-Tablature-
r;;\ \ \ \______/ / / /;;;;;;;;;;;;
i---\ \ \________/ / /--Tablature--
p::::\ \__________/ /::::::::::::::

~  Ed Bickert picked & plucked at "Georgia On My Mind",
at a guitar Workshop 1978.
Transcribed by David Kindred.
     (strumdabiz's K\/k_r)a)m)__Z\/z ?)
~FM7F6/9    e11     A7       d7c9   B13BbM!7/9/13
~                                           ~
..........See Technically..........r

 Canada's unparalleled electric guitar master, Edward Issac 
Bickert was born November 29,1932 in the Mennonite-strong 
prairie town, of Hochfield Manitoba, Canada. The youngest 
sibling in a brood of 2 sons and 3 daughters, the infant Eddie's 
parents moved the family to the Okanagan Valley of British 
Columbia, soon afterward. The Bickert family ended up farming 
outside Vernon B.C., in the Valley's rich orchard region.

(I believe the foundation of Bickert's "plucking" came from his boyhood years working in the trees!) Ed's fiddler father ,and pianist mother raised their children with plenty of music. His sisters all sang the pop hits of the day. The older brother played chord style guitar and it was on a Dobro model tuned standard, without the raised bridge, and slide, it seems, that Ed was to pick up along the way and learn to play at age 8. (see PLAYING IT SAFE by Jack Batten, The Canadian magazine Dec 31, 1978) Ed Bickert refers to the chord fingerings that his brother showed him, as grips.

In the Thirties and Forties, far from the "media frenzy" of musical styles, the Bickert parents played a mixture of social country music at local weekend dances which the youngest child joined them in, playing "polkas, Viennese waltz-type things foxtrots, one-steps,two-steps and schottisches" (to Mark Miller Guitar Player magazine Sept 1978). If the precocious Eddie ventured a variation on the harmonies , his father might gently reprove him. It was a "real Dogpatch scene" according to an older Ed Bickert. The people were dancing and wanted nothing more than a good beat to the changes, nothing fancy. Playing these tunes was formative though, as the young musician learned the importance of a steady tempo.

The Bickert family loved radio ,and several current American perfomers were a respite from the indigenous Okanagan musical recipe. Ellington, Armstrong, Basie and others were favourites of Ed Bickert's father. The singing cowboy movies of the time all added to the influence on the teenaged Ed. Equally, Nat King Cole's classic Trio (with guitarist Oscar Moore and later Irving Ashby), and the inimitable Les Paul, gave Ed Bickert a wider view of music and guitar playing. He had missed the direct influence of Charley Christian, who affected so many American jazz guitarists of his generation. Local bands passing through the Western provinces had some impressive guitarists. Ed would benefit from hearing these men play, as in the case of Gordie Brandt, they might be a more adventurous soloist, contrasted to Ed's "laidback" nature.

Other playing experiences introduced Bickert to rugged pickup /amplification. On acoustic guitar precarious feedback devils would frequently give a "start" to a solo.

Listening to a long-range broadcast of a San Francisco area jazz show also contributed to his modern jazz ears, out there in the middle of British Columbia, east of the Pacific coast. After high school, Ed worked long enough to get a itch to go east to Toronto, Ontario, and see how the city would welcome a talented musician. With a writer friend, and a 3/4 size bass , Bickert drove an old '30's car eastward across Canada, turning south to go through Chicago and Detroit, since the Trans-Canada Highway was still under construction, in 1952.

He took a job at a radio station, briefly, as an engineer, while he checked out Toronto's live music scene, which was intimidating at first, the guitar players in particular. He bided his time, studied formally with Tony Braden a respected teacher to many generations of Toronto area guitarists, who guided Bickert through some fundamental approaches to scales, shifting, and went on to Stan Wilson for re-direction in his flatpicking.

 Shifting positions on the guitar offers different ranges of 
scales in the same key, and harmonic modulations for altered
chords taken outside that scale selection. 
 Example of one key, from many positons C Major:
 Regarding chords (e.g Re:)
 A]Chords on the other hand, or the same hand as it happens, can
be practically voiced with different string sets for 2-3-4(or 
5) voicings, triads and advanced harmonies alike often having 2- 
to 4-string combinations and the last, practicly, in at least 
two octaves of range.
 B] Omitting principle chord tones like roots and/or fifths gains
much more possiblity, when there is a bassist playing those 
fundamentals, guitar actually raising those pitches up a whole 
step (2 frets, or a third (4 frets, to start,  adds colour. 
 C] The Major(M) .. or .. Flat (b) 7ths change the colours, for the 
partials 9ths* (b, Major, or #) and an additional6ths, 
or 13ths, as below **,
 dump the triad's staidness,  entirely. 
 Observe = (o7o)
~` Re : A]        'Re: B] M   $   '**              `~
G|Z0=(G)  \_Z5++++|Z4++-----Z3++--|Z4..Z3+-Z3+-Z3+-|G
D|Z2=(E)  \_Z5++++|Z2++-----Z2++--|Z2+-Z2+-Z2+-Z2+-|D
~`                ' (o7o)   (o7o)  '               `~
 Three different fingering (grips) of C Major 7th with same 
pitchs C_G_B_E from root in bass.
E|r0++++++|,-,-,-,-|-------|E B|a0++++++|r5++++++|=======|B G|m0++++++|a+++++++|r9+++++|G D|========|m5++++++|a9+++++|D A|K3++++++|K3++++++|m10++++|A E|,-,-,-,-|========|K10++++|E
 Some gigs in small groups, playing "shmaltzy" type music for
older people in restaurants, weren't as creative as Bickert may 
have wished, but paid the bills and got him in the "biz".
 Eventually, Bickert was to say hello to the inventive Tal Farlow
 who stepped into an after-hours club where Ed was playing. Imagine!
 They played guitar until sunrise, the next morning.
Jamming with this other, more fleet-fingered, American country 
boy earned Ed hyperbolic praise, from one local scribe. From 
there, Bickert found his own distinct talent had a place 
amongst the likes of a new generation of Toronto's professional

The House Of Hambourg, where Bickert made a mark in the town's music community was for these musicians a common ground in the 1950's. From the better known American guitarists, Johnny Smith and George Van Eps impressed him for their deft approaches and he's studied from books by both. Bickert listened to recordings by the likes of Farlow, Burrell, Kessel, Hall, and others during these years, but made an effort to be his own man on the jobs he played, and eventually drew his chordal inspirations from pianists as much as anybody. The late Moe Koffman, and others came to appreciate the quiet natured Bickert's ear, and musical sense of balance. Various playing situations such as the late Ron Collier's, Norm Symonds' arrangements would challenge Bickert's skills on two levels:

1)Sightreading music notation, or alpha-numbero charts, to begin with. There's no time for session players to "hear it first". The page is boss. 2) Learning something other than alternate strumming strokes was a departure from the way he generally "attacked" chords.

Technically ? (by Sandy Freeze) A] Classical guitarists have designated p i m a for attack.
p)___i)______m)______a)____ ______________|thumb, index, medio, annul |________________- fingers of the Right hand for various combinations.
B] A guitarist who flatpicks, usually holds the pick K\ with (p) and (i) finger.
...... ...... ...... That leaves 1, 2...Wait!. 3 fingers! (look careful)
C]I've added K\/k to indicate alternate \/picking strokes here. Then naming the little (4th) finger , pinky=red= r)... /roll ,right...Ralph?\ D] Hence: K\/k__r)a)m_ Pick and roll : The word hybrid is often linked to this method , which various styles and stylists in music employ to equally unique ends.
 Ed Bickert needed 3 and 4  voices. So he adapted naturally.
He learned to play the unique "arranger" voicings with his 
own "half-baked"  combination of flatpicking and plucking with 
the remaining three fingers K\/k_r)a)m).
This is a way of bringing out the few notes of the guitar chord fluidly, but simultaneously. In solely pick strummed (Z) chords, voices are minutely separate however acute the attack is. PicK and "roll" K_r)a)m)is a way of articulate (tutti) attack. Accurate, and fluid arpeggios can "thaw" out of these same voicings, or grips, to any rythymnic and musical effect.
___________example: C Major 7th ____________
~ Z  = \\\\:  VERSUS tutti  OR  Arpeggio`~
E|;---=:   :|_______|::::|^^^^^|1/8ths..|E
~`C Major7th'       '    '     '        `~

....... Remember those chord variations, though, that a younger Eddie would try? Chances are, the more imaginative voicings found a place in this world of piano and horns. Bickert was listening to recordings by the likes of Ellington (and could claim a recording with the Duke in later years under Collier's baton), and people like Gil Evans whose work was revolutionary . A hit tune "Swinging Sheperd's Blues" by fluteist Moe Koffman, may be the most obvious early example of the 25-year old Bickert's smooth guitar style, before smooth was a dirty word, at least? The pick and pluck attack, that would give Bickert his characteristic sound, was born out of the need to bring these chords out with a kind of pianistic block voicing. This made Ed Bickert a distinct musician and guitarist.

One particular aspect which Bickert came to, is the combination 
of voicings which, like many vocal groups are re-knowned for, 
is the ghost note arising from harmonic resonances between 
sounded stops. I am reminded of The Mamas and Papas calling such
a note "Harvey", a` la the rabbit in the eponymously titled
 Jimmy Stewart movie.
 Ironically it's just what you leave out that leaves room for
such magic to happen.
 One contemporary of Bickert's, the 9-years-younger guitarist 
Lenny Breau, made an impression on Ed, with his own advanced 
harmonic chordal approach, and Bickert has acknowledged this. 
 Born in Auburn Maine, to country and Western entertainers 
Hal "Lone" Pine and his wife Betty Cody, the phenomenal Breau's 
investigation of many styles, from imitating Les Paul's  and 
Chet Atkins', to traditional jazz, in  Bickert's birth-province, 
Manitoba, in its country music circuit, where they moved to in 
the fifties.
 [A second common point, between Bickert and Breau is B.C.-born 
musician Don Thompson, bassist, pianist , vibist, and drummer. 
He had played with each of these guitarists.] 
 Using a thumb pick, and all four right hand fingers to attack
the strings he employed a variety of American styles, and even 
flamenco, to play whole self-accompanied passages. Breau's near 
savant-like daily obsession, with the guitar, led to a nearly 
un-paralleled mastery of a classical technique of bringing 
out distinct overtones, from what amounts to:
 ...right-hand fingers lightly touching the strings  at 
distinct points (x) between string-stops (#) and the bridge of 
the guitar, in bell-like tones, 'o': "harmonics" giving octave 
5ths , 10ths or other partials.
           * right finger...

  Bickert does not, for the most part, employ this extended
right hand technique, except for the odd finish. But, Breau's 
thorough ability to voice Bill Evans-type chords, themselves, 
in grips from different inversions, and superpositions of notes 
or triads, was right up Bickert's "alley" of grips. (Breau may 
have even studied with Evans, a bit.)
 Breau used a 7-string guitar with the additional string tuned
to A=440hz, not unlike a tenor banjo's top string.
 [George Van Eps pioneered 7-string, but with a low 'A' string.]
 Having heard, and seen Lenny Breau, myself, one Valentines's 
Day in the 70's, I'd add to my original comment on Part I, i.e.
Part I: Ed Bickert Guitar Workshop 
regarding Breau's right hand technique, that I've been very 
fortunate to hear such talent.

Ed Bickert
Photograph Courtesy of Fernando Gelbard
Part I: Ed Bickert Guitar Workshop
The Gripper Part II: Ed Bickert, Pluck, If Not Adventure
Part III: Ed Bickert, Tune,Tone, And Tempo

Written By Sandy Freeze (a.k.a.: strumdabiz)

2 Other Canadian sites
Ed Bickert Profile
A Curmudgeon's tribute to Ed Bickert
 Recommended  Bibliography:
  • "The Toronto Land Band" by Jack Batten,
    Weekend Magazine,(Globe and Mail) ,March 6, 1976
    (on Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert ,& Paul Desmond, in Toronto)
  • "Playing It Safe" by Jack Batten,
    The Canadian (supplement) Dec. 31, 1977
Jack Litchfield The Canadian Jazz Discography 1916-1980
Jack Litchfield
University Of Toronto Press MARK MILLER
  • "Ed Bickert" :
    Toronto's Premiere Session Guitarist And Jazz Performer,
    by Mark Miller: Guitar Player Sept., 1978
  • "Bickert takes record deal in stride", by Mark Miller,
    The Globe And Mail,February 18,1984
  • "Ed Bickert: In a Mellow Tone" by Mark Miller,
    Down Beat, November 1984
  • "Boogie, Pete, and the Senator" by Mark Miller
    Nightwing editions
  • "ED Bickert" Interviewed By Ted O'Reilly,
    CODA Magazine,#184, June 1982

____________Strumdabiz_____G Major
~E_A_D_G_B_E~       ______E|r3+++|E
{- - 0 0 0 -}Nut   / _____B|a0+++|B
[- -       -]     / / ____G|m0+++|G
[- 2        ]    / / / ___D|Z0+++|D
[3         4]   / / / / __A|Z2+++|A
[ grips     ]  / / / / / _E|Z3+++|E
#\ \ \ \ \ \__/ / / / / /##########
g-\ \ \ \ \____/ / / / /-Tablature-
r;;\ \ \ \______/ / / /;;;;;;;;;;;;
i---\ \ \________/ / /--Tablature--
p::::\ \__________/ /::::::::::::::

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