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Which do you you practice more? New Scales, Licks and Patterns, or New Rhythms?

  • I spend most of my time practicing new licks, patterns, scale choices, etc.

    Votes: 27 77.1%
  • I spend most of my time practing new rhythms on the scales,licks and patterns I already know.

    Votes: 8 22.9%
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Discussion Starter #1
I was getting a bit tired of the Randomly flirtacious, intelligentsia type threads, so here's a saxophone question.

Which do you spend more time learning/practicing? New Scales, Licks, Patterns, etc, or New Rhythms on the Scales, Licks and Patterns that you already know?

I've done a few improvisation workshops lately, with people of various experience. Some players had never improvised before and in another workshop, some are far better players than me.

The thing that stood out, above all else, was that the better improvisors didn't necessarily use more notes, or know more licks, or make more exotic scale choices. Often they'd play very very few notes, but whatever they played, they had great rhythmic skill. They swung better, had more rhythmic variety and a better feel for the pulse.

At the more advanced of the workshops I've recently attended, everyone can play. They're all active players in a good big band. Everyone knows their scales and basic theory.

It wasn't that the better improvisors knew more theory. I think that they knew more rhythms and were much surer whith their rhythmic placement and time. They swung more.

So I wonder, which do you practice more? New Scales, Licks and Patterns, or New Rhythms on the ones you already know?
 

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Dog Pants, when I practice it's pretty much on fundamentals - long tones, scales, chords, intervals, change running, etc.

I think your question is really about rhythm though and I don't practice that as such. What I do in that regard, though, is evaluate my playing. I listen to recorded solos of mine and hear where I might be relying too much on certain rhythm patterns, so then I might play improvised solos (maybe w/ BIAB) and try to avoid these redundant rhythms. I also hear where I'm stale and so I look for opportunities in my solos to play different, more interesting rhythms.

I also (and have since time immemorial :D) listened to other players and if I get stale, I might cop some of their rhythmic ideas and work them out.

I don't spend a lot of time "practicing" rhythms, but I try to have big ears when I play and eliminate or add accordingly.

For those who need a jump start, there's a pretty good book and CD, "Ultimate Funk Grooves" by Ben Tompsett which has almost 100 characteristic riffs that players could incorporate into their playing.

The same company, ADG Productions, has also an Ultimate Jazz Riffs and a 100 Blues Riffs published. I do not know these books, but if they are the same quality as the Funk book, then they might serve as good sources.
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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I do practise rhythms quite a bit, often on very limited combinations of notes. I think i got into this habit in an attempt to improve my tonguing/articulation. I do think that possibly the rhythm/swing side of playing does tend to get a bit neglected in books. I mean, Lester Young (for example) can generate tremendous excitement in a solo just through varied rhythms etc.

With scales and chords I suppose my rule is that what little i know i try to know well..
 

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I practice rythms with the studies I go over together with my teacher. For the rest, I'm still working on the scales/arpeggio's thing. And on the pieces for the band and the fanfare. But they're rythmically challenging as well. I just don't use them that often in my solos... yet...
 

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I think the two most important things in musical improv (in the bebop/jazz world) is rhythm and sound. If either one of these are lacking it doesn't matter what you play.... IMHO
 

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phannah said:
I think the two most important things in musical improv (in the bebop/jazz world) is rhythm and sound. If either one of these are lacking it doesn't matter what you play.... IMHO
I concur here phannah. In Bergonzi's words rhythm is King.

I do everything TUNE BASED. I mean I learn a tune and vary it rhythmically and also look closely at the scale chord movement and work the ideas/patterns within. I don't use play alongs as much as I use the CD drummer or just a metronome.
Playing slow helps the tone and doing long tones but actually doing a tune. ex play melody to Giant Steps extremely S L O W or ballads
 

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How 'bout "C) - none of the above"?

My latest obsession is Barry Finnerty's book " The Serious Jazz Practice Book".

It's focus is using intervals over scales as building blocks to find new sounds.

Highly recommended for finding some new ideas.
 

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Dr G said:
How 'bout "C) - none of the above"?

My latest obsession is Barry Finnerty's book " The Serious Jazz Practice Book".

It's focus is using intervals over scales as building blocks to find new sounds.

Highly recommended for finding some new ideas.
That's a great book! 'Just got about six months ago. Kind like "Patterns for Jazz" on steroids.
 

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Dog Pants said: "At the more advanced of the workshops I've recently attended, everyone can play. They're all active players in a good big band. Everyone knows their scales and basic theory.

It wasn't that the better improvisers knew more theory. I think that they knew more rhythms and were much surer with their rhythmic placement and time. They swung more.

So I wonder, which do you practice more? New Scales, Licks and Patterns, or New Rhythms on the ones you already know?"

In a way, the big question of how to learn to improvise, as well as how to teach it is, "What do you do with all these damn scales and chords anyway?"
Before jazz education become so organized, it boiled down to playing along with records and jamming with other musicians. I think it still does.
Still, I think it is a good question and there are things you can do.
I've not practiced rhythms separately much, but, I have taken a given mode or scale and improvised on it, going through the keys by m2's, M2's, M3's, etc., trying to make musical sense, while getting familiar with fingering of the scale on the horn. I've also taken an eight bar rhythm, selected a particular mode or scale to use, and then taken it through the keys. It helps to imagine a chord progression to play over.
I think your spot on, Dog Pants, in that the rhythms, (along with the phrasing--hard to separate the two in practice), are what make solos work. It's hard to separate this and put it in exercises that aren't either extremely boring or extremely Zen though......daryl
 

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An exercisse my teacher gave me is to take a simple rhythm line over one or two bar and always repeat that same line for the entire chorus of a song. Doing so helped me to focus more on rhythm than note itself when improvising for real. I still do that for about half an hour every time i practice.

I would recommend for anyone that is starting to improvise ( like me :D ).
 

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Saxolleap said:
An exercisse my teacher gave me is to take a simple rhythm line over one or two bar and always repeat that same line for the entire chorus of a song. Doing so helped me to focus more on rhythm than note itself when improvising for real. I still do that for about half an hour every time i practice.

I would recommend for anyone that is starting to improvise ( like me :D ).
Saxolleap, I'm curious about the thing you quote, (Is it your quote?), at the bottom of your thread---the thing about alto's should sound like sopranos, tenors like altos, etc; whats up with that? No offense intended, just curious. My take on the sax family would be quite the opposite!......daryl
 

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I mostly practice licks from upcoming performances when I have any time at all to practice. Other than that it is scales or reading new stuff.
 

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Just something an ancient teacher of mine told me as a joke one day. Found it quite funny and keep it in mind since then. I don't know if it is from him or if he heard it somewhere.

It is meant to be more of a joke than something serious.
 

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Saxolleap said:
Just something an ancient teacher of mine told me as a joke one day. Found it quite funny and keep it in mind since then. I don't know if it is from him or if he heard it somewhere.

It is meant to be more of a joke than something serious.
Thanks...........d
 

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Here's something I like to do:

Start with a melody you like (could be a standard, part of a solo, a line you like to play, etc).

Take out everything that is not essential. What can you take out of the line and have it still sound like the same line? What is the essential melodic movement and what is embellishment?

Play just these essential notes, in their correct place in the line rhythmically.

This is the core melody and melodic rhythm of this line. Note how it corresponds to the harmony and harmonic rhythm.

I find these lines in themselves to be quite compelling, but you can also play around with this melody in many ways. Here's a couple of things you can do with them.

Experiment with the melodic embellishment of this core melody. You can add almost anything in between these notes and it will still be essentially the same- it will make the same kind of melodic sense.

Experiment with changing the rhythmic placement of this core melody. See what happens.

It is my experience that every line I enjoy is at core a simple, swinging melody.

Please remember that while one can learn about different rhythms from a book, there is only one way to learn that mysterious thing called swing or groove or feel - that's the direct experience of it. How you play the quarter note (and how playing it in different ways feels different) is just as important as the fact that it was a quarter note.
 

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Thanks for that, Tom. A v interesting approach. :)
 

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I am mad I can't participate cause now-a-days I'm practicin' my scales in patterns I here in mi head :-(

You know like phrasing quarters w/ eighths and sixteenths over various lengths in bars. Mi metrodome or a rythym section is great for this to keep time up.

Peace,

SneekyJ
 

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Hi Dog Pants,

Sneeky here again. After actually reading the thread this time, I felt my initial response was selling you short, and felt compelled to add a little more.

If I am understanding correctly, you are really wanting to know which methods will enhance your ability to swing harder. I hope thats close. I think all responses here are correct by the way!

I would like to add:

Become an obsessed fan of the styles of music you enjoy. Study its heritage, and those that interpreted it.

Thinking "analytically" has also vastly improved my progress through the study of music. Without a sound practice schedule, routine, and evaluation process on a weekly basis, I would feel stagnate or something.
I warm up on various scales everyday until they get to feeling subliminal. If it takes forever, it takes forever. Then I'll get into phrasing them out in various patterns, modes, etc, etc that I hear in my head. Using a metrodome or creating loops is great for keeping time.

To me improvisation has alot to do with time and phrasing. The styles of jazz you prefer contain certain phrasing characteristics. You can never listen to enough music. I personally love bebop, hard bop, blues, funk, and some contemporary stuff. Imagine with me the amount of artists I get to listen to. Sure I have my preferences!

Another thing is to not seclude yourself to listening to just sax players. Listening to trumpet, piano, guitar, and bass players have given me a wider appreciation to my preferred styles as well.
Just an example here: I completely dig Clifford Brown's phrasings over alot of sax players phrasings.
Listening is important because it develops the ear. When you start to effortlessly translate / relate the messages in your mind through your voice (instr.), then your home free man... All this is still a work in progress for me and always will be.

I will close with this:

My old sax teacher was one of the sweetest players I've ever herd.
He always used to say: Less Is More!

Peace,

SneekyJ
 
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