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Tenor: Eastman 52nd St, Alto: P. Mauriat 67RDK, Soprano: Eastern Music Curvy
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alright guys, I need a little more guidance on this.

I've been playing the TotM for a bit now, and trying to figure out the improvisation.

There was a lot of help for people like me over in that area, talking about the Half Diminished scale. I fiddled around with it and got some good ideas for what to play over those scales.

Then I start running into trouble. I have trouble putting any ideas into a coherent form. I can play the scale ideas, but I can't make say a G half diminished scale, blend to an F half diminished scale.

So I opened up a bit of my theory book, and all I have are things on ii-V-I's, and just how to learn chord changes. I also have read to learn and transcribe licks from other players. I have yet to ever see an example of a diminished in playing... That doesn't help me (or does it?). I was hoping to get all of these questions and more answered during my jazz theory and improvisation class, but due to my lack of focus on my engineering degree, I am currently suspended from campus.

When I solo now, all I can do is play over the chord, and try and make it sound good. Change up the rhythms, move around some notes, and do the occasional run over non-chord tones, but always end up holding a note. For example, say I have a G7 chord, G B D F. I'll play G B or D, and then occasionally do a quick movement looking something like G A B C D C B.

I know I'm biting a lot off with playing Barbara, but I feel that I can get through it with a little bit of a push, and I definitely need to make myself practice more. So, my main problem is being unable to play anything that isn't in the chord i'm playing over, and therefore timidly playing 4 notes when I know there is a plethora of other things I can do. I can picture a shape, but my fingers can't tell me where to go!

Do I just transcribe solos on the song, and then try and apply some of their ideas to my solo? I feel that other people are playing without copying others. You can hear parts of other licks, but the main idea is theirs.

So, I guess my question is: How do I go about trying to follow changes and maintain coherency?
 

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Hm.. my answer would differ slightly depending on how general or specific you're being.. are you asking about diminished stuff or about playing changes in general?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'd say overall, I mean about coherency over ALL changes, but I would also like to address the matter of me being unable to chain up things with diminished, since it seems that people have different approaches to these.
 

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The way you're thinking about improvisation now is going to hurt your long-term ability to play coherent, musical ideas. It's important to know chords and chord structure, so definitely keep studying those, but it's important that your musical ideas come from a non-theoretical place.

Good improvisation comes from well-developed intuition. You shouldn't be hearing scales or arpeggios, you should be hearing compositional ideas and then developing them. The structure you're learning will inform and expand what you're able to do compositionally, but it will never replace an intuitively constructed solo.

If you listen to lots of jazz improvisation, then you've probably heard lots of ideas that use diminished, half-diminished, lydian, altered, and many other harmonic concepts. If you figure out which is which, you could have a series of "oh, I see, that's cool" moments that will give you insight in how to compose/improvise your own music made from those concepts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The way you're thinking about improvisation now is going to hurt your long-term ability to play coherent, musical ideas. It's important to know chords and chord structure, so definitely keep studying those, but it's important that your musical ideas come from a non-theoretical place.

Good improvisation comes from well-developed intuition. You shouldn't be hearing scales or arpeggios, you should be hearing compositional ideas and then developing them. The structure you're learning will inform and expand what you're able to do compositionally, but it will never replace an intuitively constructed solo.

If you listen to lots of jazz improvisation, then you've probably heard lots of ideas that use diminished, half-diminished, lydian, altered, and many other harmonic concepts. If you figure out which is which, you could have a series of "oh, I see, that's cool" moments that will give you insight in how to compose/improvise your own music made from those concepts.
Its this idea I keep forgetting. I get an idea, and I can sing it, but I cannot get it from my mouth to the horn. I've been told to transcribe these ideas, and then try to play them!

Thank you very much! The problem isn't that I don't hear what I'm supposed to, its that the scales my fingers know don't link up with what my brain thinks of!

Is this the best way of going about this? Or is there more?
 

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The way you're thinking about improvisation now is going to hurt your long-term ability to play coherent, musical ideas. It's important to know chords and chord structure, so definitely keep studying those, but it's important that your musical ideas come from a non-theoretical place.
I agree that to know chords and chord structure is paramount to your improvisational ability. Its about thinking and playing intervallically, so you must think of and learn each chord up to its 13th. Thats 7 notes and not 4. Once you have learnt them up to their respective 13th, then you should begin to add the altered chord tones. That would be a great start
 

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Its this idea I keep forgetting. I get an idea, and I can sing it, but I cannot get it from my mouth to the horn. I've been told to transcribe these ideas, and then try to play them!

Thank you very much! The problem isn't that I don't hear what I'm supposed to, its that the scales my fingers know don't link up with what my brain thinks of!

Is this the best way of going about this? Or is there more?
Sing a short phrase. Play it on the horn. Do you hae a piano? Or Sibelius or Finale or anything that can play a chord for a long time? Play a chord, or just one note (Matt Otto has some good drones on mp3 you can play over on his website). The sing something over it. Then play what you sing. Repeat. Start with 2 note intervals and when you cna do that move on to interesting melodies. Being able to play what you hear is the skill to improvising music. Teaching yourself what to hear is another subject.
 

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Its this idea I keep forgetting. I get an idea, and I can sing it, but I cannot get it from my mouth to the horn. I've been told to transcribe these ideas, and then try to play them!

Thank you very much! The problem isn't that I don't hear what I'm supposed to, its that the scales my fingers know don't link up with what my brain thinks of!

Is this the best way of going about this? Or is there more?
Sing a short phrase. Play it on the horn. Do you hae a piano? Or Sibelius or Finale or anything that can play a chord for a long time? Play a chord, or just one note (Matt Otto has some good drones on mp3 you can play over on his website). The sing something over it. Then play what you sing. Repeat. Start with 2 note intervals and when you cna do that move on to interesting melodies. Being able to play what you hear is the skill to improvising music. Teaching yourself what to hear is another subject.
I was just about to write this. Great advice.........
 

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Personally I find using Aebersold and Hal Leonard play alongs some of the best teaching tools for learning improvisation.

Take one book at a time, learn each song, listen to the chords changes over and over until you feel you can anticipate the changes, and then play solos based on the songs theme.

I have been using both series since they were available on LP, and having the chord changes being played without a soloist allows you to work on improvisation at your skill level, and at your own pace.

That said, my favorite "skills" book is Oliver Nelson's "Patterns for Improvisation".

This book is not filled with a lot of theory or history. It gets right down to the heart of the matter, and is filled with great scales for working your sax and mind.

As far as being coherent, I start every solo much in the mindset of Sonny Rollins, and many others; start with a theme and build on it.

To do this you must know your scales but don't be afraid to play outside the scale structure.

The scales are the meat of any solo, but playing a bit outside adds the sizzle.

B:cool:
 

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Sing a short phrase. Play it on the horn. Do you hae a piano? Or Sibelius or Finale or anything that can play a chord for a long time?
"Band IN A Box" is great for practicing improvisations. You can quickly set up a song with any chords you want to play to.

You should know the scales for the key you are in (include pentatonics and chromatic) and then just use your ear. It has to be spontaneous and not thought out too much.
 

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Sing a short phrase. Play it on the horn. Do you hae a piano? Or Sibelius or Finale or anything that can play a chord for a long time?
"Band IN A Box" is great for practicing improvisations. You can quickly set up a song with any chords you want to play to.

You should know the scales for the key you are in (include pentatonics and chromatic) and then just use your ear. It has to be spontaneous and not thought out too much.
I disagree with the last line, "not thought out too much".

I think you should be thinking all the time. You need to be able think at least eight bars ahead at all times and have an idea of what you are going to play.

This is what a makes a congruent solo.

However the most important parts are the beginning and the end. Know what you want to say in the first few bars, and know how to climax to the end of the solo.

You need to be able to feel and hear the turnaround. Without that you are just rambling not playing a solo.

B:cool:
 

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I said music should not be thought out too much and you said you disagree so that means you think music should be thought out too much.

That doesn't make sense. True creativity must come from the subconscious. If your music is based on theory, it's going to be predictable and boring.

I believe jazz died the moment they started teaching it in colleges.
 

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For example, say I have a G7 chord, G B D F. I'll play G B or D, and then occasionally do a quick movement looking something like G A B C D C B.
Just to address this specific issue, I'd say start experimenting with chromatic passing tones, leading tones, and neighbor tones. Play the chromatics (out of key notes) mostly on upbeats.

Examples, using G7:

Passing tone: An F# linking G to F usually descending (G F# F) with the F# always on an upbeat. Or any chromatic or scale tone that links one chord tone to the next.

Leading tone: A common one would be b3 to 3 of a chord tone: Bb to B in this case. Try an arpeggio, starting on an upbeat: Bb B D E G. You can lead into any chord tone from a half step below.

Neighbor tones: A tone just above or below the target note or chord tone: C to B, or Bb to B. Two neighbor tones, one above & one below, bracketing the chord tone, create an enclosure (start these on a downbeat): C Bb B. Usually the upper tone is diatonic (in the key) and the lower tone chromatic. You can add further embellishment: C A Bb B

You have to experiment with these embellishing devices, but they add interest and smooth out your lines. They are also are effective in connecting one chord to the next.
 

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I said music should not be thought out too much and you said you disagree so that means you think music should be thought out too much.

That doesn't make sense. True creativity must come from the subconscious. If your music is based on theory, it's going to be predictable and boring.

I believe jazz died the moment they started teaching it in colleges.
I don't know man. I don't know what based in theory or based in subconscious means.

But at any rate, the subconscious is useless if it's not filled with good materials. That's all transcription, singing along, and all this is about. Filling your *reflexes* with the correct feeling. Copy the greats note to note to instill in your fingers muscle memory.

To me, I've felt the process of *not thinking* comes after some rudiments are instilled into your musical mind.

For example. I have a niece that tries to ask for stuff, and she's young enough to mix up may I have some and will I have some cake haha right?

So you'll have to say, "no it's may I have some cake"


This is what' learning the language is, through transcription. The "child" will approximate good jazz feeling, one might approximate ii-V lines, pentatonics, double time... not good.

But until there's a correction by searching the language of this music through the great players directly through recordings, it'll be a difficult road. You CAN get there alone though if you have a super ear. Chet Baker comes to mind. But to get there this reverse way, there has to be ALOT of performance time.

But it sure saves you alot of headache to simply identify your problem spot. Find artists you dig that play *those parts* well, and learn that aspect of the language.
 

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Heavy Weather gave you some great advice, especially if you can already hear in your head what you want to play.

Yes, you need to know and understand the chordal structure and underpinning of music, but this is not necessarily the key to playing a meaningful or interesting melodic line. It's not just a matter of passing tones either. Being one with your instrument is a matter of having the ability to play what's in your head. This requires practice, but not necessarily translating what is already a musical thought into a visual or mechanistic exercise. Playing any instrument as a CREATIVE improviser requires that you are one with that instrument so that whatever is within you can flow through. People without musical thoughts may need to read, memorize, copy, or cut and paste every solo, by thinking mechanistically, visually, or using “muscle memory”. For them this may be as good as it gets.

Music is a language. If you already think in this language and can speak it (singing/hearing your ideas) then an instrument is just another voice, but it requires practice for you to become one with that instrument. Looking for shortcuts by "translating" music into another language (mechanistic, visual, etc.) is at best an educational diversion.
 

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Try improvising to "Take The A Train", or the pop song "Spooky".

Make sure you play the chords on some type of keyboard (even if your keyboard skills are bad) to help get the chord progression into your body.
 

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Music is about communication. Your niece asked for cake and you understood what she wanted regardless of the fact that her English wasn't perfect. Given time she is going to learn that without you correcting her. She probably resents it as I always resented my uncle saying that my hair was too long for a boy.

I agree the muscle memory is important and essential but I'm what I'm hearing a lot of in music is people relying too much on memory and too little on creation, also it would be beneficial if people made up their own patterns instead of doing what everyone else does.

I don't know man. I don't know what based in theory or based in subconscious means.

But at any rate, the subconscious is useless if it's not filled with good materials. That's all transcription, singing along, and all this is about. Filling your *reflexes* with the correct feeling. Copy the greats note to note to instill in your fingers muscle memory.

To me, I've felt the process of *not thinking* comes after some rudiments are instilled into your musical mind.

For example. I have a niece that tries to ask for stuff, and she's young enough to mix up may I have some and will I have some cake haha right?

So you'll have to say, "no it's may I have some cake"
 

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I said music should not be thought out too much and you said you disagree so that means you think music should be thought out too much.

That doesn't make sense. True creativity must come from the subconscious. If your music is based on theory, it's going to be predictable and boring.

I believe jazz died the moment they started teaching it in colleges.
Are you stating that to truly improvise you do not need to know anything about jazz, and that it should magically appear from your subconscious brain to your fingers?

You need to bottle that man!

B:cool:
 

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Music is about communication. Your niece asked for cake and you understood what she wanted regardless of the fact that her English wasn't perfect. Given time she is going to learn that without you correcting her. She probably resents it as I always resented my uncle saying that my hair was too long for a boy.

I agree the muscle memory is important and essential but I'm what I'm hearing a lot of in music is people relying too much on memory and too little on creation, also it would be beneficial if people made up their own patterns instead of doing what everyone else does.
This is also true.

A musician can play a phrase that just plain ends badly. And I might listen and say *hey I knew what you were getting at, you were asking for Cake* haha. You know?

And yes, they will learn without correction. By their own powers of observation.

Some musicians don't have that in a strong degree and need that nurtured and cultivated. Some guys need a push into a sensitivity that they never experienced in listening. This is where singing along with the solos exactly as played helped me.

Relying too much on Muscle Memory? Sure it can happen.
 

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heh heh. does jmoen3 realize what he has started (again)?

1st, read my little phrase at the bottom. 2nd, apply this to almost everyone.

next, ... i think you need to develop both the muscle memory and the creative part of the brain for improv.

every person is limited on what they can think musically and, if you are relying on ("thinking" with) your creative brain most of the time, you will probably find that you will repeat ideas now and then, in some way or another. these are what will 'characterize' your solo(s). learn and memorize these ideas (transcribe them if you need to) during practice. reasoning behind this is that you will "think" of these as a phrase when soloing real time, and muscle memory will allow you to whip them out without "thinking" about them mechanically (thinking mechanically tends to kill the creative thought process).

there are mulitple things that are helpful to memorize mechanically to enable this kind of "phrase recall". practice time is what gets you there.

the creative connection is gonna require practice time, too. just like it took you time to learn to speak with your mouth. good advice has already been given for that.
 
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