My friend Alan Greene, who plays with me in the Asheville Jazz Orchestra, told me about a great YouTube channel by “bobilleg74.” Bob has has 29 uploads of jazz trombone solos and his transcriptions of them. There are a handful of solos I’ve already done and several I’ve not heard before. There are also a few he’s done that were solos I’ve been thinking about transcribing myself.
While it’s tempting to just learn the solos from Bob’s transcriptions (and I’m sure I’ll end up just stealing a lick or three this way), I’m still planning on working on some of those transcriptions myself at a later date. The benefit from transcribing isn’t just learning what notes and rhythms a great soloist improvised, but training your ear and learning the style through focused and repeated listening. It’s neat to then compare what you came up with to someone else’s transcription.
Jazz musicians are expected to have a large number of standard tunes committed to memory, and often to be able to transpose these tunes into different keys. Improvisers often find that memorizing the chord changes frees them up to explore different directions in their solos more than reading the progression from the sheet music allows. At “fake gigs” and jam sessions it’s very helpful to have standard tunes memorized as it will save you a lot of time hunting for the right page in the right book.
Admittedly, I started memorizing tunes late. I had been told by many teachers and mentors that it was essential to have standards memorized, but I was usually able to grab a fake book on a gig or jam session and procrastinated committing those tunes to memory. Since making a stronger effort to really learn these tunes, I’ve found that not only has it been beneficial for the reasons I listed above, but it also has made me a better overall improvisor and composer. I wish now that I had started memorizing tunes more seriously back when I was a student. Still, it’s a lot of work memorizing a hundred or more tunes. With so much other things to practice, sometimes memorizing tunes takes a back seat to working on other things. Here are some tricks I’ve picked up that can help you memorize tunes faster. Continue reading Memorizing Tunes
Practicing with drones offers a nice way to work on a number of different things at once. Valdez lists three different exercises that you can do: practicing long tones, pitch bending, and improvising. While his pitch bending exercises are more specific for saxophonists or other woodwinds, the long tone exercises will be good for any brass or woodwind instrument and improvisation good for any musician. Continue reading Practicing With Drones
Trumpet player Woody Shaw (1944-1989) was one of the most influential jazz trumpet players of his time. His solos still sound fresh and innovative to me today. Which is why I decided to transcribe his solo on the blues in F, The Blues Walk (from Dexter Gordon’s album “Gotham City”) and try to get into some of the harmonic and melodic innovations he was known for.
One thing Shaw was known for doing was employing larger intervals, such as perfect 4ths and 5ths in his melodic lines. Here’s one example from this solo.
I’ve been poking around I Was Doing All Right for a couple of weeks or so. Rick posts about jazz trumpet, ear training, and the jazz scene in Atlanta. Somehow I’ve been completely overlooking an excellent resource he put together, an Online Ear Trainer.
Here’s a screen shot of it, to tempt you to go check it out for real. Notice that it is highly customizable. You can restrict it to certain intervals, have it display in different transpositions, play the intervals in different ranges, select ascending, descending, or random, play both pitches simultaneously, play melodies, set up a rhythm section accompaniment with call and response patterns, etc.
An outstanding resource, Rick. Thanks for making that available!
Be sure to check out some of Rick’s other resources on his web site.
Yesterday I wrote about the modern modes and explained how to work out the pitches for any given mode by finding the parent major scale. For example, a D dorian is the same thing as a C major scale beginning on D, but it’s also like a D major scale with a lowered 3rd and 7th. If this stuff is new to you you’ll want to go back and read through that article before you read this one.
Today I’m going to show the relationship between the modes and certain chords. For this post I’ll use the modes in the key of B flat major. Continue reading The Modes Part 2
In preparing for any business, trade or science, we generally need a great deal of preparation and study. In painting, literature and music, we also need to learn the tools of our trade. The artist needs paints to express himself, while the jazz musician uses tonal resources.
The above quote is how George Russell starts his book, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization for Improvisation. I’m currently rereading it and plan to post on a few of the concepts he describes. Before one can follow Russell’s book, though, you need to have a good grasp of the modes. Many jazz musicians are familiar with modes and use them to derive note choices for particular chords. They are useful tools for not just coming up with good note choices, but they also can help demonstrate harmonic concepts as well. Continue reading The Modes Part 1
Matt Otto is a saxophonist currently based in Kansas City, but who has spent time in Japan, New York, and Los Angeles. He also has a blog with some really nice online lessons dealing with different aspects of playing jazz. Here is his latest, where he discusses a phrase from J.S. Bach’s Two-Part Invention #15 and learning to play it in all 12 keys.
Matt talks about not just learning the keys and intervalic relationships, but also emphasizes singing and ear training. Be sure to go to his page on this lesson to download the pdf file of the Bach melody he’s working with.
Now to get my metronome out and start practicing in all 12 keys…
I’ve blogged about using perfect fourths as an technical exercise and as a method for motivic development in improvisation before. The above YouTube video (click read more if you don’t see it) is the late pianist and music educator Walter Bishop, Jr. explaining how he discovered and explored the use of perfect forth patterns to derive both harmonic and melodic material in jazz improvisation. He plays examples as he describes the application of using the perfect fourth interval on some of his original composition as well as on standards like On Green Dolphin Street and I Got Rhythm as well as standard progressions like the ii-V-I.
Good stuff for improvisors on all instruments and composers looking to expand their vocabulary and explore some new ideas. The way he starts off by showing how to squeeze the range of a pattern based entirely on perfect fourths into a single octave range will help us non-pianists find a comfortable range in which to start off applying some of his ideas.
Benoît Sauvé is one bad recorder player! Watch that video to see and hear him play along with Michael Brecker’s solo improvisation on Some Skunk Funk note for note. I’m sure that was an extremely challenging solo to transcribe and to learn to play on recorder.
Here’s what that Sauvé has to say about transcribing:
“Although studying the various scales and chords,and the relations between them,is essential in learning to improve, putting these theoretical notions into practise can be very laborious.
This is why making transcriptions of actual solos can be so useful for training aural perception and instrumental technique, as well as allowing us to analyse the styles of great jazzmen, enrich our musical vocabulary, and thus help develop our own musical ideas.”
I see he has several other videos up, so I’m going to go check out his YouTube channel.