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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'd like to ask if anyone can help me in my endeavours to develop a certain ability that I have been long yearning for: It's to improvise by hearing the next note internally, recognising the interval (whether it's the staying on same note, going up a particular interval or going down) and then executing that interval on the instrument? Ideally the aim would be to recognise and play a series of notes in this way without any referance to the chord names or to scales (just using the ear to guide the phrase).

Where I am at now: I have worked on my ear training over the years and have a reasonably good sense of relative pitch. I trained myself using 'moveable do solfege' to be able to identify all 12 chromatic tones relative to the context of a tonic note. This has seen me well and I continue to work on it. I also use knowledge of scales/modes/arpeggios etc that I know will work well against a certain chord or harmonic context. I can now improvise using a combination of the above methods. I also can recognise random intervals (up or down) reasonably well ranging from unison to wider than an octave. Perfect pitch is out of the question!

What I have discovered recently is that sometimes (just occasionally) I will be improvising (or playing a tune I know from memory) and whilst pre-hearing the next note I would like to play, my mind will say something like "go down a minor third" or "up a tritone". This would be without any referance to the scale I'm playing or the chord that is sounding (which = a good thing). I have started practicing the method by trying to play improvised melodies and recognising/executing each interval as I go... It's slowly progressing and the smaller intervals are easier (2nd and 3rds)! Are there any other exercises or approaches that could help me to get this up to a usable skill for performance?? Thanks.
 

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George Russell's LYDIAN CHROMATIC THEORY OF TONAL ORGANIZATION is developed completely around intervallic relationships. He developed scales from these but the scales are the least interesting aspect of what he uncovered for improvising.

Russell's ideas are important (everyone from Miles to Mingus to John Lewis to Dolphy to Coltrane went to him), but the latest versions of his book are a disaster.

Try to find an early softcover version (white cover or gold cover). Go straight to the intervallic material, skip the scales.

There's a lifetime of study there.
 

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Play all your major and other scale types in 3rds. 4ths, 5ths, 6ths etc. You'll develop that ability even better. Diatonic 3rds withing that scale. Tim Price had me do that and its a good exercise. K
 

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Selmer Seri III
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Cat Haddock –
Before I say what I’m going to write please understand that, “I know nothing and I know I know nothing” (IMHO).

"….my mind will say something like "go down a minor third" or "up a tritone". "

I think you may be thinking too much; when you are creating, telling a story, pouring your soul you don’t have time to ‘think’ scales, intervals, etc. Solfege helps your ear/brain to recognize and feel sounds. Get a good grasp on the ‘head’ and form of the tune. Have some sort of idea what you are going to do. Listen to what others in the band are playing. Listen to what the master players have done on certain changes of tunes. Some players I know like to invert melodic intervals, retrograde certain areas and create a motif that is indicative to the melody of the tune. It’s one big sound world out there.
As for what I’ve used: Oliver Nelson “Patterns For Improvisation”. Paul Hindemith “Elementary Training For Musicians”. Others……..
Much more but Rome was not built in a day. Keep in shape. Things will happen….
Good Luck
 

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Play all your major and other scale types in 3rds. 4ths, 5ths, 6ths etc. You'll develop that ability even better. Diatonic 3rds withing that scale. Tim Price had me do that and its a good exercise. K
He's having me do 3rds and 4ths right now.
 

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Selmer Balanced Action Tenor Saxophone, Powell Flute
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It takes a lifetime to get to the point you want to get to, if you even ever get there. Enjoy the journey! Anyway...have you ever noticed when your friend calls on the phone (without caller ID!) you don't even have to ask who it is? This is because after a while you can recognize their voice no matter what. This happens with intervals/pitches/improvising also. At least with me it has. I find that the more I play/transcribe/listen the more it happens. Especially transcription. That is the best ear training exercise ever. I have noticed that I can hear certain lines and play them back immediately without having to "transcribe" them now, b/c they are like my friends calling. I just know their voice. I hope this makes sense and maybe helps you out a little too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thankyou for all of the suggestions everyone I will certainly look further into some of the texts mentioned; George Russell's LYDIAN CHROMATIC THEORY OF TONAL ORGANIZATION sounds particularly interesting. I already play scales in diatonic thirds but will take the suggestion of working on bigger intervals in this way. I'm also working on some 'static' patterns with min 2nds, wholetones, 3rds, 4ths and tritones and these do seem to be helping too.

Just like to add that I don't anticipate using this mode of thinking all the time when playing. I value the use of use scales, patterns, transcribed licks and all the other devices in the arsenal as will as those inspirational moments where 'things just happen'. It's just that sometimes I can pre-hear what I want to happen whilst mid-flow and I get too confused trying to work out what scales, modes or chord tones those notes relate too - I think that this approach could be a way to find the notes I need to express myself more creatively.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
George Russell's LYDIAN CHROMATIC THEORY OF TONAL ORGANIZATION is developed completely around intervallic relationships. He developed scales from these but the scales are the least interesting aspect of what he uncovered for improvising.

Russell's ideas are important (everyone from Miles to Mingus to John Lewis to Dolphy to Coltrane went to him), but the latest versions of his book are a disaster.

Try to find an early softcover version (white cover or gold cover). Go straight to the intervallic material, skip the scales.

There's a lifetime of study there.
Can I ask why the later versions are 'a disaster'? Are they subsequent books with different material or is it the same book? Thanks
 

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Lots of great suggestions so far in this thread. One suggestion I would add to the list is: Play familiar melodies (simple folk/children's songs and pop songs to more complicated jazz heads) and play them is several keys. If the melodies are familiar to you, you should be pre-hearing the intervals, which obviously remain the same no matter what key you're in. Then the challenge is to apply the intervals of those melodies to your saxophone. I agree with the statement above about not thinking too much.

I'll re-emphasise: Start with simple tunes.
 

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Start listening to Eddie Harris, he plays very intervallically (sic?) with lots of 4ths, wide leaps and such,

but that Barry Finnerty books sounds very interesting. Think I'm gonna have to check that out! Thanks.
 

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+1 on Eddie Harris. You may want to check out his book too. There's some very good stuff in it.
 

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I would also suggest Mark Levine's Jazz Theory book. DukeCity suggested focusing on simple tunes you know. To that end I would recommend http://www.earmaster.com/intervalsongs/

First off, I'm not associated with this site in any way. The chart gives many examples of well known tunes and catagorizes them based on what intervals are used. Both ascending and decending examples are given for each interval.

I find this helps ingrain the invertals into my unconscience brain.

Denny
 

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I trained myself using 'moveable do solfege' to be able to identify all 12 chromatic tones relative to the context of a tonic note. This has seen me well and I continue to work on it..
Seems like you're already there, in terms of being able to name and hear any given interval. But as a couple posters above have suggested, you may need to get beyond 'naming the interval' and instead just hear and play what you hear. What I'm saying is when you think 'now I'll play a tritone' (or a perfect 4th or whatever), that thought process can get in your way. The goal is to play that sound without even thinking about what it's called.

I know a bunch of tunes and heads that I can play easily, but if I had to name all the notes to one of those tunes (even a fairly simple one), I'd have to think pretty hard about it. So it has to be sort of automatic, in your subconcious, before you can play expressively. King of strange, but that's how it works for me.
 

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Can I ask why the later versions are 'a disaster'? Are they subsequent books with different material or is it the same book? Thanks
Completely different books. The two early versions were really aimed at improvisors first. Each subsequent version got MUCH more convoluted and, for me, impenetrable (and I didn't have any problem understanding the theory in the first place).

If I had gotten into it later and been confronted with the later versions first, I would most likely have given up.

But the early versions are fabulously useful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Seems like you're already there, in terms of being able to name and hear any given interval. But as a couple posters above have suggested, you may need to get beyond 'naming the interval' and instead just hear and play what you hear. What I'm saying is when you think 'now I'll play a tritone' (or a perfect 4th or whatever), that thought process can get in your way. The goal is to play that sound without even thinking about what it's called.
I agree. I think that what I am trying to find are ways to get to that end goal. Others posting on this thread have said I may be thinking too much.. and they are right, I am - but in my opinion we all have to go through the slow and clunky stages of thinking about the concepts we want to use, working things out step by step and practicing them until they can start to get smoother, quicker and more automatic. I see what I am trying to work on here as a means to an end. BTW I am starting to think that thirds exercises, 4ths etc are helping and have also been looking at drop 2 voicings which so far (early days) I think could be quite effective at helping to expand the size of interval jumps while still maintaining control.
 

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This sounds mechanical to me. I have, of course, practiced all the various intervals in many different scales and found some interesting things by doing so (for example, you can explode a traditional pentatonic scale into a series of stacked 4ths). But the most important thing, I think, is to develop your musical thought. Don't worry so much about using a theoretical construct as a basis for improvising. Instead, find stuff that sounds good and find (or invent) a theoretical construct that fits it. That way, you can then use that construct to investigate other possibilities (intellectually), rejecting those that sound bad (artistically).

Your idea of "starting somewhere" is sound, but you need to learn to make artistic judgments quickly, and not follow paths that "look good" but don't sound good. You do have to practice your scales and arpeggios, and the more facility you have the better off you will be, but don't depend on scales and arpeggios to provide you with any "aha" moments in improvising.

I still to this day try to practice something (a lick, or a pattern) in all 12 (or is it 15?) keys every day, and that's after 50 years (gulp) of playing saxophone. But I don't try to use that as a basis for improvising. That's just to keep the ear <-> finger pathway clear and functioning fully (and avoiding the ear <-> brain <-> finger pathway).
 

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This sounds mechanical to me. I have, of course, practiced all the various intervals in many different scales and found some interesting things by doing so (for example, you can explode a traditional pentatonic scale into a series of stacked 4ths). But the most important thing, I think, is to develop your musical thought. Don't worry so much about using a theoretical construct as a basis for improvising. Instead, find stuff that sounds good and find (or invent) a theoretical construct that fits it. That way, you can then use that construct to investigate other possibilities (intellectually), rejecting those that sound bad (artistically).

Your idea of "starting somewhere" is sound, but you need to learn to make artistic judgments quickly, and not follow paths that "look good" but don't sound good. You do have to practice your scales and arpeggios, and the more facility you have the better off you will be, but don't depend on scales and arpeggios to provide you with any "aha" moments in improvising.

I still to this day try to practice something (a lick, or a pattern) in all 12 (or is it 15?) keys every day, and that's after 50 years (gulp) of playing saxophone. But I don't try to use that as a basis for improvising. That's just to keep the ear <-> finger pathway clear and functioning fully (and avoiding the ear <-> brain <-> finger pathway).
 
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