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Hi all, I have a problem, and would appreciate any tips from you guys. When jazz soloing, do you actually count the bars? As the speed increases, I find I follow the chords less and less, and use my ears more. Consequently, when there is a sudden and dramatic chord change, I miss it. I also lose track of where I am, i.e was that 24 or 36 bars kinda thing, and the longer the solo, the more likely I am to get lost! It happens even more if the phrases are unusual lengths. Your wisdom, please, ladies and gents!
 

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you should know the tune to the point where you know how the tempo, chords, bassline all work together...its usual to get lost when you're soloing but really pay attention to the chords the piano player is playing....2-5-1 licks help guide your ear in this case. but just practice, practice, and practice
 

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Think in groups (eg of 4) and not single bars. A blues is typically 3 groups of 4 bars: you should normally clearly hear the beginning of each group by the bass line. And stopping a phrase in the middle of a group of 4 won't kill your solo.
The same applies to most AABA (I got Rythm) and ABAB' (It Could Happen To You) structures.
Furthermore, as said by foxy, the groups quite often are "prefab" chord sequences like II-V-Is, which the bass also underlines.
Of course, soloing 4 bars by 4 doesn't sound very fluent, but it is safe to build upon.
 

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All of this advice is good stuff. But I often find the piano in a jazz context to be misleading with all that block chording. It's often hard to hear the changes and sometimes pianists revel in being harmonically obtuse. The real yellow brick road to follow is the bass. And listen for the sign posts: the I to the IV change in a blues is good; the bridge in an AABA tune often moves away from the tonality of the piece (like the way I Got Rhythm goes to the III chord).

In fact this last tune is a good example of an easy tune to get lost in. The A theme with its I VI II V progression allows the soloist to ramble about in a directionless way - easy to get lost. But when the bass goes to the B theme it stands out like a country dunny.

My other trick is to have the lyrics going in my head and to make melodic statements in my solos that are not inconsistent with the phrasing of the lyrics. Surprisingly enough this makes for better and more accessible solos.
 

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try listening to the song without soloing until you really have the sound of the chord structure ingrained in you mind.
Yeah.

And try SINGING the song several times and then sing a solo over it. If you know where you're going, you'll get there.
 

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get familiar with the bass line and sing it. (just sing the root of the chord at first.) AND the melody of course.
Look (hear) for the bigger picture, what's the structure of the tune/song, if you do get lost you'll probably will hear the resolution at the end of each section so you can pick up the beginning of a new section. Don't worry, this happens a lot when you start,it's part of the learning process, even more experienced players get lost from time to time ( be it very temporarily) because they're adventurous and stray away from the basic structure.
 

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I tend to lose my place more when I play double time...I am still working on that...everyone loses their place even if it's just a beat or two. Learn how to find your way back quickly. Practice listening to the band while you play. It will get easier.
 

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Good answers and I have to agree with focusing a bit on the bass. That is what keeps me in line. Knowing the tune inside and out is crucial. Especially if you are going to get a wild with the solo. I have found that one of the most important aspects of not losing yourself while soloing is having excellent back up musicians that are flexible and can "bring you back". That's what makes a great session for me. It has a lot to do with how well "in tune" you are with the band....... mentally, that is.
 

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Feed your ears when you are not playing, too. Listen to as much great jazz as you can. The more you listen to great recordings: the more your ears will predict the direction that the changes are going.
 

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I have found that one of the most important aspects of not losing yourself while soloing is having excellent back up musicians that are flexible and can "bring you back".
True. Having competent musicians who know how to comp is extremely important.
 

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I've been struggling with this problem quite a lot. I play regularly at a jam session that has just bass and drums - and often the bass is almost inaudible. At some point I got the advise from the bass player to play a blues to the metronome and try to play 12 choruses and not get lost. I've been practising that the last year and it has helped me a great deal. I put the metronome on the 2 and 4. When playing at a session I tap my foot - it helps internalizing the counting, I guess because you actually feel the beat in your body.
It works!
 

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try outlining the chords in your solo. if you use the some of the chord tones, those notes are guaranteed to sound good, and you are far less likely to get lost.
 

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1. When jazz soloing, do you actually count the bars?
2. As the speed increases, I find I follow the chords less and less, and use my ears more.
1. Of course.
2. How does "using your ears more" make up for lack of "following the chords"?
Also, this kind of thinking suggests that those of us that count well don't "use our ears" as much. The main problem philosophically you are having is that since you don't count, you dont know where you are, and are only re-acting to sounds you have just heard, rather than anticipating whats changes in harmony that are about to occur.
Improvising is similar to reading music in that in both, counting has to be practiced, andf the proccess habitualized so that it becomes automatic.
 

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As the speed increases, I find I follow the chords less and less, and use my ears more.
Just to follow up on what john galt said (which is right on), you can't follow the chords without using your ears. The more you use your ears, the more you can follow the chords. They are not separate skills.
 

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mpjbiker,

I find myself dealing with this problem when practicing with Jamey Aebersold books. He'll set up a song and give the soloist 117 choruses, (I'm exagerating of course). What helps me most is listening without playing to get a feel for the structure, and doing my best to memorize the chord changes. I know you can't memorize everything you play all the time, but if you're practicing a certain set for a certain gig, it will definately make a difference for you. Keep practicing and it will come to you. Good luck, and have fun!!

Jeff
 

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Hi all, I have a problem, and would appreciate any tips from you guys. When jazz soloing, do you actually count the bars? As the speed increases, I find I follow the chords less and less, and use my ears more. Consequently, when there is a sudden and dramatic chord change, I miss it. I also lose track of where I am, i.e was that 24 or 36 bars kinda thing, and the longer the solo, the more likely I am to get lost! It happens even more if the phrases are unusual lengths. Your wisdom, please, ladies and gents!
Memorization is the key. Pick out your favorite tune on your Abersold or any album, and recite the chords as tune plays; ie: "Bb7, F7, Bb7, etc.... When you can name each chord with out reading them off the lead sheet, and you have the melody memorized, you will be able to know where you are in the tune at any time. Learn a few tunes in each style and with different formal structures, and you will be able to "fake" your way through many songs because they have a similar organization to a song that you know. If you get to play with a competent rhythm section, they will expect you to know the tune as well as they do. After all, you wouldn't be happy if they kept getting lost and the bass and piano were in different places. Learn the tune completely. You won't get lost and you will have a lot more fun playing.
 
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