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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all-

Been taking lessons from a great teacher, monster player, etc. He has been giving me tunes to learn and solo over but I end up playing what amounts to "noodling" I guess- random notes that don't say anything and may or may not fit the chords. Basically, musical diarrhea. Nothing melodic 99% of the time.

He told me to try singing a solo over the song. No dice. I can sing the melody, I can memorize OTHER PLAYERS' recorded solos and sing them perfectly... but when it comes time to sing something original, the same crap comes out of my mouth that came out of my horn.

Any ideas? I know it's an open-ended question and not one that's easy to answer. I'll be discussing with my teacher as well tomorrow, but it's really bothering me right now because otherwise I have a great ear...
 

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There is really no answer to questions like this.

Some people have a feel for some things and can do some things and others can't.

After someone learns all the scales and tunes and iicks and tricks etc improvising has to come from them.

Improvising is really the same as composing but in improvising it is more free form.
Improvising in a boring wandering way is pretty common with the improviser losing the listener after the first 10 seconds.
Improvising and keeping listeners is much more rare and those players just have a knack or feel for it with ideas flowing into each other and have a surplus of ideas and they put things in certain places where they feel they should be put.

It's like asking why are the songs I write so boring, who knows really, they are either boring or not boring.
There are some licks and tricks to songwriting but even knowing and using all them does not guarantee a song being written that others will like.
 

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You've got good answers so faR.

When you transcribe, don't just write down or learn the phrases, but analyse what the solist is doing (eithe consciously or unconsciously) in terms of developing and building ideas and melodic shapes:

saxpiece mentions composing, this involves

Stating a them then repeating/developing and departing from that theme.

Play a phrase, think of it like a sentence of words, e.g. "Good morning, how are you?"

there are various things you can follow that with, e.g.:

  • Fine thanks, how about you?
  • Good morning? What do you mean by "Good Morning?"
  • Good morning to you too, I'm OK, but my back is playing up again
  • Celery, what yellow dog. My hovercraft is full of eels.
  • asdghjasdf adioifb asdgasf
 

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if you are really having trouble try exclusively playing the chord tones and arpeggios rhythmically. I would start off just doing the chord tones and arpeggios plainly to get a feel for the changes. I could also help to do this painfully slow as well.
 

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Well, I'm not an expert on this but this is something you can try.

-Pick a solo you like over changes you are learning. Learn to sing\play it over the changes. Then take apart the solo by playing pieces from it and filling it up with your own improvisations.

-Also try to sing basslines, voice leading and chord tones.
 

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There is really no answer to questions like this.

Some people have a feel for some things and can do some things and others can't.

After someone learns all the scales and tunes and iicks and tricks etc improvising has to come from them.

Improvising is really the same as composing but in improvising it is more free form.
Improvising in a boring wandering way is pretty common with the improviser losing the listener after the first 10 seconds.
Improvising and keeping listeners is much more rare and those players just have a knack or feel for it with ideas flowing into each other and have a surplus of ideas and they put things in certain places where they feel they should be put.

It's like asking why are the songs I write so boring, who knows really, they are either boring or not boring.
There are some licks and tricks to songwriting but even knowing and using all them does not guarantee a song being written that others will like.
Composition is a skill not some kind of freakish talent you are born with.
 

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I think Saxpiece is giving good advice. You may wish to check out what’s normally considered a classical style of composition: "theme and variation". I won't try to explain this but you can hear and check out thousands of examples of how this works. Jazz improvisation, especially if based on a known tune, is really nearly the same thing as classical theme and variation with different rhythmic structure. Variations can at first be very small, but then expanded.

Nobody needs to beat themselves up about stuff they can't do as easily as others. We are all different and that's just a fact of life, but it is possible to have a "block" that can sometimes be opened by finding a key element that might be missing. Yes, you should hear and be able to sing whatever you are going to play. Otherwise it's just playing by the numbers. Many never aspire to much more than that and are satisfied with teaching their fingers to dexterously execute strings of licks and arpeggios that show technical practice, but don't otherwise have much to say.

Knowing what you want is a good start, but hopefully you won't let it become a frustration. I'd love to have a 170 IQ be 6'2" and handsome, but it just isn’t going to happen.
 

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Hi all-

Been taking lessons from a great teacher, monster player, etc. He has been giving me tunes to learn and solo over but I end up playing what amounts to "noodling" I guess- random notes that don't say anything and may or may not fit the chords. Basically, musical diarrhea. Nothing melodic 99% of the time.

He told me to try singing a solo over the song. No dice. I can sing the melody, I can memorize OTHER PLAYERS' recorded solos and sing them perfectly... but when it comes time to sing something original, the same crap comes out of my mouth that came out of my horn.

Any ideas? I know it's an open-ended question and not one that's easy to answer. I'll be discussing with my teacher as well tomorrow, but it's really bothering me right now because otherwise I have a great ear...
I hope you realize you have a good thing going there. Memorizing melodies and other people's solo's and being able to sing them perfectly is a VERY good start.
You DO have a great ear or you wouldn't be able to do this. And at the end of the day having a great ear is the most important thing IMHO.
What seems to be missing is the connection to your voice and/or the instrument. Or knowing where you are exactly in the chord progression.
Limiting yourself to the chord tones (start with the roots and play them in a nice swinging rythm) for a while might help, your mind/ear will fill in other notes sooner or later and then you'll be playing them before you know it.
To get rid of the aimless noodling around on your horn it might also help to think in really short statements, (0ne or two bars) and put some space in between those. I haven't the faintest idea where you are on your path but when I let my students improvise they often tend to play nice stuff but miss (don't recognize)the opportunity to close the statement and go on with their line leading nowhere. Limit yourself to 2 bars for a while.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks guys. My teacher has been having me spell chords (play arpeggios) as they happen along with the songs. He has also told me to base a solo off of the melody of the head. Neither seem to be catching on with me yet. He has given me a ballad this time (All the Things You Are), and it's one I'm very familiar with from repeat listenings previously... the melody is pretty bare, and it's hard for me to "embellish". I guess I'll just keep plugging along.

One other issue I have but forgot to mention is, I can hear grandiose solos in my head but when I try to sing them hoping I would then be able to play them... It's nearly impossible right now for me to take what I'm hearing in my head and sing it. And that really sucks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I don't understand this. The melody, being bare, should be easy to embellish.

Have you learnt the words to it?
Meaning, there's not much to it so maybe it's hard for me to hear the possibilities. I have not learned the words, is that important?
 

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Meaning, there's not much to it so maybe it's hard for me to hear the possibilities. I have not learned the words, is that important?
Learning the words is an enormous help to getting to grips with any melody. I don't mean getting the right notes and being able to memorise it (which is essential of course anyway), but it really helps with phrasing, expression and improvising.

They are beautiful words. Listen to some vocal versions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Learning the words is an enormous help to getting to grips with any melody. I don't mean getting the right notes and being able to memorise it (which is essential of course anyway), but it really helps with phrasing, expression and improvising.

They are beautiful words. Listen to some vocal versions.
Understood. I did listen to a version by Ella and it was quite good.
 

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i'm kind of in the same boat as you, a couple years ago couldn't make up a lick to save my life. i was not born to be a composer, but want to be challenged and love jazz.
my teacher taught me to practice the scales and chords, and especially the chord tones in the tune and play variations of it. i had no idea of how to improvise so i did what i was told. that really taught me to hear and play the changes in the chords, and connect the music to my ears ears and fingers. i also listen a lot to learn the jazz language, and hum to it. then i try to transcribe by ear but i sometimes mess up when it translate to playing, but since the lick is off from the original it becomes my own :) i transcribed a few solos on paper too.

recently i've been playing by ear with recordings, and i started to "hear" in my head the music to flow next and my fingers follow. i still have a lot to learn but it was a lot of work for me to get make a few baby steps. my goal someday, like 10 years from now, is to be better technically, and communicate intelligently through improv.
 

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I was in that boat myself. I remember the some of the steps I took to get out ....

1. I concentrated on the blues in the key of C, favorite progression, easiest key.

2. I picked a chord seq that had some movement so that just following it would help me out ... CFCCFFCADmG(CA)(DmG)

3. I sang solos, recorded them, etc.

None of that worked, and here is the thing that finally got me at least pointed in the right direction ...

You have to play phrases, not notes, and the phrases have to be 2 or 4 bars in length. This is assumed by every player who can play, but, if you can't play, it may not come natural. It didn't come natural to me. So, I concentrated on playing 2 bar phrases, first an assertive phrase, then an answering phrase. You begin to see how the phrase length fits with the chord sequence. There is a give and take to it, tension and anticipation, it's not cut and dry as you might think. I don't remember all the details, but sometimes the end of one phrase is a set up for the next, etc. The thing is, practice two bar phrases, the notes be damned, just get to the point where two bar phrases seem natural and coming from inside you, not from just following the rules. Here is the word ... purposeful. Then, start trying to come up with good two bar phrases. Note: each progressive step can take a long time !

My 2 cents !
 

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just remembered, the book "essential elements of jazz" by steinel (comes with a cd) was extremely useful for me when i first started. it works through some of the excersices mentioned here, like scales, phrases, question and answering as phrases, etc. it's very basic and extremely useful to begin with. get it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks all for your posts. I'm thinking that I'm just going through a growing pain... I'll keep at it.
 
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