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Discussion Starter #1
Long tones
scales
lines/patterns
etudes
transcriptions
As most here are well aware, much of the material I mention-and probably more- can be practiced in a relaxed state:i.e. [methodically] (w/metronome, slowly at first, etc.)
However, the situation about what I call conceptualizing-brings about a problem for me.
If I take a standard like All the things and conceptualize it mentally without the horn, I might be harmonically cool to a point. For example on tenor I look at this tune like a Bb major seven triad Bb D F A being the tonal centers in the tune mixed in w/the flat six Gb on the bridge. The main progression on the first section all being in Bb (vi-ii-V-I-VI-(ii-V-I) maj third above. Then the whole thing in the key of the dominant (F). I could keep doing this with A sections and wind up back in Bb as well et,etc,etc,...
But how do you practice this physically- in a relaxed manner? How do you incorporate more harmonic, melodic choices, your ideas in your tune-and make it stick? You can of course practice blowing over the tune-but the process I speak of-conceptualizing the material, ideas,or manipulating or even looking or hearing something in a different way would have to be very slow-unless one is completely spontaneous-in which case you would be at the extreme genius level-(I think there is only one cat on the planet like this.)
I would take the tune rubato as a ballad and go through it-perhaps even warm up in this way and try to create melodies throughout-like several new melodies. Then I would go through and stop at certain places and play my stuff so to speak. This is done without a metronome-because I'm not exactly trying to master a line, I'm just trying to define the tune as I know it. And as far as I can tell, you define a concept by what you choose to play. For example, over the G minor, I may have something that are really Bbmajor (a particular line) but sound great over the Gmin because it brings out the extensions- than I could further explore by playing A7alt. over it (secondary dom.) and this is how to a point I define the sound-by what I can play-or what I can hear over it. So in the practice room I'm going up and down things and trying to conceptualize a melody and all of it from the outside mayseem like perhaps- I'm noodling. I sometimes feel self conscious because I'm not doing the metronome thing or the scale thing. But I AM coming to terms with the tune the way only I would know it-or define it. After a week of internal debate I think the thing w/ the melody is the hippest thing to do. And it proved beneficial when I did this on a particular tune and played it with another musician. I had a refreshing approach. I may have answered my own question, but I have started to think that playing my 'stuff' over a progression or given chord sound may be extraneous in the practice room. But I also think this could be useful to practice moving from one sound to the next the way music moves as oppossed to a written out exersize. But this is the area where I think I burn out on, where I may waste energy. Perhaps this last part is extraneous. I don't really know if this is the issue, or if the issue is just the way I look at the situation or better yet, the fact that become unrelaxed during this part. I have heard extraneous comments outside the practice room before because I'm not in there playing Mary had a little lamb or whatever and I'm not a kid in college over there. But I could care less what people think unless it would help my growing as a musician but perhaps I'm being affected or doubting. So the question would be:
How do you conceptualize a tune in a relaxed manner?
 

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Just play it by yourself. I find I get the most accomplished with a tune once I've transcribed a few different people playing on it. Then i just play it (without metronome or back-track)....i don't play it in time at first...just blow over the first chord, and when you're ready, connect to the next....after a while I usually get my ideas organized and have a better feel for what works where and how....then i start playing it with a metronome. Ever listened to Chris Potter's recording of "All the Things you Are".....transcribe things like that, where voice-leading is essential for the listening to follow the form in your playing.

I've also started spending alot of time at a keyboarding working on voice leading. And something else I kind of learned from Chris Potter....I try to learn the melody in either hand (on piano/keyboard), and then create a countermelody in the other hand. This way, I'm hearing the melody as I go, and that makes it very easy to hear the changes.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the response chops2200. You obviously knew who I had referred to (Potter). I did get the opportunity to hear that recording awhile back,-it's about the sickest thing I've ever heard. I look forward to incorporating the above mentioned especially the countermelody into practice. What do you do for rhythmic variation. I got the Gonz book melodic rhythms.
 

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I have a Joe Lovano DVD where he says to go thru a tune rubato like you've described in order to hear the changes flow from one to the next.
 

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I've never worked from that bergonzi book, although I have a few of his others and they're great. For rhythmic variation I just keep pounding away, eventually I cut through the recycled patterns and break into new territory. Then anything is free game, and my playing starts out as alot of fragments until I bring my ideas together.

You should pick one rhythm, say 2 beats long...and blow over an entire tune, using just that rhythm. Place it on different beats, make it last different lengths (without changing the relative rhythm to itself, make 8th notes 16ths, and 1/4's into 8ths.)

just play the hell out of one rhythm until there's nothing left, then go to another, or try to add on to the rhythm.
 

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Oh, Viper....have you heard the other recordings of Potter playing solo like this? I have one of him on his tune Okinawa that is absolutely amazing.

--- saw him on Saturday and his band was killin all night.
 

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I've been playing with the Kenny Werner free play CD from Jamey. If I could get that feeling into All The Things it would be a big step up. Check out Sam Rivers too in addition to Potter. He is very underutilized IMO
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Chops 2200 I haven't heard as much I'm kind of behind the times. The only things I have from Potter is the Unspoken and his first recording as well. I seriously need to get with some more recordings. On the Bergonzi, he somewhat introduces the rhythmic excercizes from the perspective of a drummer, which I dig because I know he plays drums. I know Liebman and Brecker played drums as well. I read an article by Lieb explaining the need to participate in the rhythm section - he says "be a drummer". I'll be trying what you said and also writing out a II-V and some variations on the rhythm. It sounds a little mechanical but hopefully the end result will be hip. I think my rhythmic perception or lack of and my phrasing is what I hate most about my playing.
 

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I got those mental constipation blues,

can't write a tune, can't afford new shoes,

got a lead block in my head, I wish I was Cole Porter instead,

I'm as good as dead, so who cares?

Why try, why cry?

Just write.
 

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Some scattered thoughts:

  • "All The Things You Are" is a rubato ballad. That's how it was written and how it is best played.
  • Moving from mental conceptualizations to the horn works only if:
    1. You know the instrument really well
    2. Your conceptualizations take into account the limitations of the instrument
  • Think about the lines you hear, then think about the changes that fit them if you have to. Doing it the other way makes for mechanical, boring improvisations.
  • Spontaneity is a function of vocabulary. If you know more licks than the listener and enough licks that you don't repeat yourself, your playing seems spontaneous.
  • The only thing I learn from reading through exercise books is books is how to read. I believe that you learn to improvise by listening, thinking and playing, not necessarily in that order.
  • Great improvisation is a function of what you hear, not what you know. Sometimes, however, you need to know stuff in order to hear more and better things.
PS. Your posts will be much easier to read after you learn to use the Enter key. When you "could care less" about something, that means you do care some. I think you meant you "couldn't care less."
 

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Very well put Al,

That's why I use as little written music as possible in my high school jazz classes and with my beginners almost none. We also sing every day to start the class.

Rule #1: Everyone in the band is a drummer.
Rule #2: See Rule #1
Rule #3: If you can't sing it...it doesn't exist.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Al Stevens said:
Some scattered thoughts:

  • "All The Things You Are" is a rubato ballad. That's how it was written and how it is best played.
  • Moving from mental conceptualizations to the horn works only if:
    1. You know the instrument really well
    2. Your conceptualizations take into account the limitations of the instrument
  • Think about the lines you hear, then think about the changes that fit them if you have to. Doing it the other way makes for mechanical, boring improvisations.
  • Spontaneity is a function of vocabulary. If you know more licks than the listener and enough licks that you don't repeat yourself, your playing seems spontaneous.
  • The only thing I learn from reading through exercise books is books is how to read. I believe that you learn to improvise by listening, thinking and playing, not necessarily in that order.
  • Great improvisation is a function of what you hear, not what you know. Sometimes, however, you need to know stuff in order to hear more and better things.
PS. Your posts will be much easier to read after you learn to use the Enter key. When you "could care less" about something, that means you do care some. I think you meant you "couldn't care less."
Opinionated:
Actually, when I say I could care less or I couldn't care less, they both mean the same thing to me. Picture this: I could care less (but I don't see how) or I could care less, (but not by much)-my posts are not that difficult to read obviously because you responded, huh? Actually, you've responded to over two thousand posts-did you feel obligated? does anyone know if there is a limit to the number of responses you can give on the forum. Nevermind I could care less. I could care less anymore than I could care about the clown who posted the poem.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Al Stevens said:
My opinion:
We are all trying to accomplish goals in practice, there's more than one way to go about this thing.
Why would a cat try to limit himself to one way of playing a tune, one time feel or one particular key.
I try to take advantage of having access to the mind of a great improvisor perhaps through a publication.
Perhaps an intellectual approach in the practice room may bring a more creative performance.
Last week I took a line in every key and wrote ten rythmic variations on it and played those in every key. I hope I can keep that up for ten years or even two years of this and I believe I would make formidable progress.
 
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