Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 20 of 47 Posts

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
480 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On Monday nights I go to a jazz jam and I have noticed a tendency towards using the fake books even on tunes that everybody knows cold. Call up "Blue Bossa" and the pages start rattling like autumn leaves (no pun intended). These cats all know the melody and which chord comes next. So the question is this: When do you put aside the props and play the music, rather than the music playing you?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,551 Posts
Personally fake books are a big no no to me. Maybe at an informal jam, but even then I don't do it.

I see guys playing gigs with music out and that just pisses me off to no end. It's one thing if you get called to do a sub gig playing all original tunes with no rehearsal, but when a guy's up there playing standards with a fake book it looks terrible.

You don't see actors going up on stage with there scripts in performance...Or a pianist playing a Brahms Sonata with the music, at least most of the time and I have strong feelings about not doing that either.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
94 Posts
Everybody always says to MEMORIZE tunes. Now matter how much you have the changes under your fingers, people always says memorize memorize memorize. Interestingly enough, those are both tunes in which I'm working on getting memorized. My teach gives me a standard each week and I work on memorizing it. There are articles I think here about memorizing tunes I think...
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
41,908 Posts
well, it is commonplace, I believe, among those who take part to the majority of the sessions in the world. Yet, for those like me who are very bad on music reading ( so the fake book offers just very limited help to me), there are places where the approach is substantially different, one of these places is close to where I live, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, there is the " Oktopedians" group, lead by Arthur Heuwekemeyer and Charlie Nanlohy, once founded by the late Herman de Wit. The Oktopedians base all their philosophy entirely on playing by ear and developing yourself playing this way.

You play as you speak, as you sing.

All levels are playing together so expert and less expert musicians are all in the same boat. Not for everyone, perhaps, but definitely a place I like.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,596 Posts
I never understood what the big deal is. Sometimes jazz is too complicated to just "go at it" anymore. If you're playing standards like they did fifty years ago, then yes, I agree... but it's now fifty years later and things are different. With more and more complex tunes and trickier arrangements, meter changes, et al being commonplace especially in NYC, having the music there seems necessary.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
41,908 Posts
does it? Somewhere I read, I think on this forum, studying? You do that at home not when you play.

The whole point of Jazz is to take a theme and elaborate it out of your inner self, readiig music while you play can only be a limiting factor. But then what the heck do I know....? :)
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,783 Posts
opt12 said:
Everybody always says to MEMORIZE tunes. Now matter how much you have the changes under your fingers, people always says memorize memorize memorize. ..
For good reason. I know in my case, until I memorize a tune, I really don't know it, no matter how many times I read it off the sheet music. I also think using a fake book can be limiting in that everyone plays the music the same way every time. Now, I realize that is a blanket generalization, and that really good musicians can use charts as a guide, rather than as a limitation, but for many, myself included, reading the music limits spontaneity.

I do agree with Razzy though, in the case of complex arrangements with multiple instruments playing different parts, OR in a sub situation with unknown tunes or arrangements, that charts are probably necessary. That's not the same thing as using a Fake Book to read off Blue Bossa, or Watermelon Man....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,551 Posts
I'd be embarassed to get up and play from music, even if it was a complex tune. It shows a lack of study. Now if we were talking a long, through-composed work, it might be a different story, but mixed meters? No way.(Note, the sub situation was already explained in my previous post.)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,885 Posts
This is one of my beefs with how jazz is imposed today. There is far too much literature. When I learn tunes, I usually use a fake book/lead sheet to learn them, or off the recording. But I don't memorize the notes and chords per se, I study them until I can play the tune backwards and forwards and be able to sing the melody (and of course be able to play it well on my horn) because I am forcing myself to listen for the sound. And once you start doing that with one tune, it will make the next tune you learn easier to learn, and so on and so forth. It stops becoming a memorization game. If you study it, shed it, listen for the sound, and treat it as a song of its own, you will be far less dependent on a lead sheet.

Like it was mentioned, unless you're at a sight-reading gig and there are some complicated arrangements, then I could see using music. But for the most part, if you're at a jam session, don't bring a book. It shows that you don't really know the tune. When Thelonious Monk was alive and recording, he made his sidemen learn the tunes from ear if they could - at the recording session. If it was too difficult for them to learn from ear, he tossed them the lead sheet. When Monk was working with Coltrane, they didn't use sheet music. Coltrane had to learn his tunes from ear. And Monk's tunes aren't exactly "Autumn Leaves" and "Watermelon Man".
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,494 Posts
There are so many different situations that it is not a good idea to make
sweeping generalizations.

Sure, in a perfect world, none of us would need any music.
Everybody would know every standard piece inside out and backwards.

However, for some of us, we simply do not have the time to put in and
memorize every single piece, and so the Fake books have their use
in that context.

Then there is the situation where somebody calls a tune that you have
never heard.

For me personally, I find that if I first learn a piece by reading it from
music, then I have a difficult time commiting it to memory.
If however, I just play the piece first time around by listening and
playing by ear, then it sticks.

I think the brain uses different processes for internalizing the tune
when you read the dots as opposed to hearing the tune.

Obviously, when you are reading, you are not listening so well. It is a process
through our vision system, not our aural system. Then you take what
you learnt visually, and try and convert this to an aural method and
the brain does not work as well.

There are many, many musicians out there, good and bad, that do not
have this same difficulty. They are fortunate.

I have a friend who can play any piece that he has heard, in any key
and in any style, just from hearing it. He may not have heard it for years,
but it's all stored up there. On a few rare occasions, with some obscure
tunes, I saw him pick up the fake book, glance at it for a second or two,
and then just play the damn piece note for note without the music.

Bottom line, we are all different. Some need aids more than others.
Be thankful if you do not.
But don't just write them off as lazy. There may be very valid reasons
why they have not memorized a particular standard piece.
Some simply do not have that ability.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
4,596 Posts
milandro said:
does it? Somewhere I read, I think on this forum, studying? You do that at home not when you play.

The whole point of Jazz is to take a theme and elaborate it out of your inner self, readiig music while you play can only be a limiting factor. But then what the heck do I know....? :)
I dunno. I think that Chris Potter, Seamus Blake, Donny McCaslin, Bill Stewart, Scott Colley, Antonio Sanchez, Ben Monder, etc etc are all fine jazz musicians and don't really sound limited on their studio recordings at all. Oh and can't forget Mike Brecker.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
291 Posts
Well said Kavala.

I would add that if a player happens to be playing from a lead sheet or a fake book, it doesn't necessarily make them a lesser player either. If they are doing the tunes justice, developing a great solo over the changes etc what difference does it make.

Some people feel reading the music is limiting, I would argue that some other people find having the reference in front of them liberating to the point where they have the confidence to push boundaries in their playing etc. Just because they are using a chart doesn't mean the music is playing them. I think if you feel that it is, that is a personal thing that doesn't apply to everybody.

If you are so put off by how the guys/gals on stage appear, including the sight of music on stands, then you're missing the point anyway and distracting yourself from the music.

Dan
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
76 Posts
Its clear that using music is different from not using music, especially in a live situation where you can't look at the crowd when you're reading a chart. Ok so maybe people don't look at the audience - e.g. eyes closed? But there is a level of contact. Looking at music means looking down which means closing your throat charkra. Or is that's too hippy, it encourages the chest to collapse and the throat to close - limiting projection and therefore connection to the audience. There's always going to be people who can't see your face because the music is getting in the way - especially if you've got it at eye level. It also looks a lot less cool.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
41,908 Posts
there are many types of music making and many different, (Oh! So different) types of musicians just as there are many different audiences ! Some musicians read music, some don't , some need it as a safeline, to remind themselves of something, some play it all by memory, some play something different everytime. Does it really matter?

Jazz is a form of musical expression which was born out of instict, for the espression of the natural musicality and contained very little in the way of music " culture". As it intellectualized itself, became something different and nowadays shares , for the most part, forms and ways which have been codified for a long time in the classical music scene. The difference between a GIG and a Concerto.
The need of musical execution (as a limited form of interpretation of a codified canon) of a known piece makes it necessary to use sheet music in order to performe a given piece of music in a given way but it somehow overshoots the target of the Gig entering the realm of the Concerto, I think.

It is ok to have a bunch of cats in a smokey room saying that they are gonna play such and such standard and indicating one another in which tone and what changes there will be. That's Jazz . It is also, nowadays, equally Jazz playing a complex piece which requires polyphonic interlacing sounds of many instruments at the same time, impossible to achieve without some sort of music sheet. .....It takes all sorts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
If a guy uses sheet music, that's fine by me. So I guess most of youse guys think 'You're not a man if you can't play from memory'; 'You're not a man if you use a strength 2 1/2 reed'; 'You're not a man if you don't playtunesveryquickly'... :|
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
41,908 Posts
no, I don't think that is the point I was trying to make. Playing by ear or memory is not a show off of virility (!). There are many ways, many styles, many needs and to each his own. I confessed earlier my inabilty to read in a proficient enough way to make this process viable for me, so I do whatever little I do my own way. play by memory and ear. There is no way to tell anyone which way is the best way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
721 Posts
I use Real Books all the time, for the simple reason that I would rather have the choice of playing from around 200 tunes that I can do a reasonable job on, rather than the 40 or so I feel safe playing from memory. I haven't got the sort of memory (or the time) to retain complex chord sequences, and I don't slavishly read what's there anyway: the chart just makes me feel safer. My sight-reading is so bad I couldn't just read what's there. I feel much freer, and improvise better with the chart, so why the moralising about using a chart? It all comes down to how you get the best results. The best bass player I know, who plays with some of England's best jazz musicians, is the same as me. Another bass player I know does everything from memory (he has an astounding memory and musical grasp), but he's nowhere near as good an improviser as the other guy. The comments that argue we are all different have it right: some people just remember music easily, others don't. I have done decent recordings of tunes that I still can't play without the chart. So what? Could the moralisers give us a break and let us get on with playing the way we do it best?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,001 Posts
Apart from if I lead my students at our Christmas events, I haven't played with an ensemble since school orchestra (on violin) back in the late seventies - early eighties. Strike that, I did play with a 'scratch orchestra', as they termed it - clarinets and saxes - at an open day at the Guildhall School in London in 2006, sight reading an ensemble piece without rehearsal. I do want to start playing with a band, maybe forming my own, just not had the time to get around to it - plus, there don't seem many interested parties in my area (I've been trying to find a pianist for piano-saxophone duet gigs).

When playing to backing tracks practicing or busking, I have the music in front of me as my 'road map' but don't stick to it precisely, doing my own thing, which may include a modicum of improvisation. The sheets I play from don't often contain chord names or symbols, as a real book may do, so I'm essentially playing by ear but the sheet's there if I need to find my way back. That's my way of doing it, each to their own and all that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
95 Posts
It's key to memorize the tune. Even better to learn it in a few keys, if not all the keys (at the very least as an exercise).

This is the only way to get "inside" the tune, so to speak. To really understand its structure, and how it's different from other tunes with similar changes.

Sure, you can play from the lead sheet. There's nothing wrong with that. From my own experience, however, my understanding from the lead sheet is superficial, and my improv as well.

I also find that it takes some time for a tune to become "mine." I can memorize it rather quickly, but I need to play it for weeks, if not months, in a variety of keys, before I feel like I own it.

But when I do, it is deeply satsifying, and I find my improvisations far more authentic that they would be if I was merely reading.

The question becomes a practical one: who has the time to go so deeply into all the tunes that are out there?

My solution is to be selective. If a tune really grabs me, I study it.
If I don't really love a tune, I don't play it. I feel no obligation to learn all the tunes out there.

For me its about creating a personal repetoire of tunes you really understand and really love.
 
1 - 20 of 47 Posts
Top