Many, many thanks to everyone who volunteered for The Chord Committee. Numerous excellent solutions have been proposed. In order to avoid discord, I have combined all of your suggestions into one beautiful, majestic chord. In hopes you will find the solution acceptable, the chart and recording are presented here for your approval. (Click on “continue reading” to view the complete chart.)
Andy and i were playing this lick the other day.
Andy asked with which chord this lick could be used. I had no answer. Do you?
Although i am just a lowly jazz saxophonist, it is important for all of us musicians to have a working knowledge of piano. So i found an excellent teacher, Dawn Martin, who is really excellent at helping undo my bad habits which cause muscle strain. Two areas that particularly stymie me are:
- Skips of an octave or a major seventh
- Quickly returning the five fingers into the new position after a large skip
The 60 Hanon exercises are awesome, as is working through the 12 major scales, two hands, three octaves. I wrote the exercise below to help with the problems described above. For lack of a better name, i call it “Hanon 61.” Maybe it will help you as well. (Press “CONTINUE READING” below to see the chart.)
You can learn how to improvise like a professional jazz musician! Watch this video to see how you can begin the exciting journey towards becoming a jazz improviser.
Mastering arpeggios gives you yet another tool to use (in moderation) in your improv solos.
Have you ever tried playing Fats Waller’s great tune “The Jitterbug Waltz”? Find it on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Bright Moments” album. Mastering arpeggios will make that tune much easier to play.
Here’s a challenging and interesting way to master arpeggios. The idea for this exercise was suggested to me by a warm-up my talented friend Al Thompson often uses.
Click on “continue reading” for a complete chart.
Brazilian bossa nova’s introduction to the U.S. thanks to composers Luiz Bonfá (Samba de Orfeu and Manhã de Carnaval), Antônio Carlos Jobim (Desafinado, Girl from Ipanema, Corcovado, etc.), and instrumentalists João Gilberto and Stan Getz literally transformed the jazz landscape overnight.
For the past 50 years, casual straight-ahead jazz gigs have invariably featured at least one bossa per set.
Familiarity with the following exercise will greatly enhance your facility with the melodic and harmonic nuances found in these wonderful compositions. Here is the basic lick:
Here is a recording of the lick played in all 12 keys:
Develop your ear to flawlessly play passages such as this one in all 12 keys by downloading and working through “New Ears Resolution.”
You’ll ace this one, if you’ve played through “New Ears Resolution.” If not, it may be tricky.
Below is a recording of the pattern in all 12 keys. Submit a “comment” at the bottom of this post, if you need a chart to play along with the recording.
Note that this phrase traverses the first five chords of the standard “Someday My Prince Will Come,” a long-time staple of Miles Davis’s book. That “harmonic quote” was not intentional. When you start creating patterns in a “stream of consciousness” manner, elements of your repertoire tend to crop up in various guises.
Multi-instrumentalist Kevin McCartney recently taught me about the ebb and flow of tension and release created by Cuban clave patterns. In this exercise, the many accidentals create a bit of harmonic tension, which is then released through resolution to adjacent diatonic notes. Note in particular the tension created by Si, Di, and Le.
Upon further reflection today (during surgical anesthesia!), it occurred to me that this phrase uses all 17 notes in the scale: the 7 diatonic pitches, the 5 sharps, and the 5 flats. For a horn player, G# and Ab are identical. However, a symphonic violinist thinks of them quite differently.
What you hear in this recording is actually 5 clarinets. Took me about 20 takes to get 5 usable ones.
Just listened to an inspiring interview with Sonny Rollins. They asked him how he practices. He said he just picks up the horn and starts playing. They asked, “What do you play?” Sonny responded: “I guess they would be what you might call ‘cliches’. You just play those until something meaningful begins to surface.” If Sonny is not afraid to play “cliches,” then it’s probably OK. So i picked up the tenor and just started blowing over some basic slow F blues changes. After 10 minutes, this lick started to emerge from the clay. To you, it may sound like just one more cliche, but for me – as i worked through it in all 12 keys at a moderate tempo – it proved an opportunity to address some fingering and range challenges i might otherwise have missed. It’s relaxing and fun to play a lilting, swinging lick, knowing your chops are improving as you play. Kind of reminds me of working through Hanon on the piano (though i’m only on number 8!).
Here is a recording of that lick in all 12 keys @ dotted-quarter = 100. I quadruple-tracked the tenor to give it a fuller sound.
Is your first thought when you wake up, “Where’s my horn?…I can’t wait to practice!”
Commuting home from work, are you reaching for the recliner and the remote,…or do you make a beeline for the practice room?
Far too many students tell me, “Practice is drudgery!”
Redesign your practice routine, so it’s not routine.
What do you think about quotes from other tunes in the middle of an improvised solo? Some masters often quote (Desmond and Stitt are prime examples) while others almost never do (Coltrane comes to mind). Do quotes provide a valuable resource, or are they a distraction? Love to hear your opinion! Please leave a post below. Continue reading “To Quote or Not to Quote?”
I miss him too, Charlie Brown. Dig the amazing melody below, just one of a thousand Sonny Stitt churned out daily like butter.
It’s tough choosing a tonality when chords move by half step. Here is a method that gives good results.
Jimmy Heath is another master with whom I hope to become more familiar.
Driving into a glorious autumn dawn on the way to church Sunday, I was listening to “Picture of Heath” and was particularly struck by the third chorus of Jimmy’s soprano solo on “All Members.”
I don’t usually go to the trouble of formally transcribing solos, since there are so many fine transcriptions available on-line. But Jimmy’s third chorus really knocked me out, and i felt compelled to examine the strategy, structure, and logic of this amazing 12-bar chorus. Continue reading “Dig Jimmy Heath!”
Have you ever ridden on a roller coaster blindfolded? That’s how it feels to improvise without understanding internal modulation. It’s like driving through a thick London fog. Progress is halting, movements are uncertain and tense.
By contrast, the player who understands how to navigate key changes improvises smoothly and confidently.
This month, we learn to recognize an internal modulation and craft an effective response. Continue reading “Mastering Modulation”
Last month, we looked at the major scale, which has been foundational to Western music for 400 years. Each of the 7 notes in that major scale can function as the root of a diatonic chord. A basic understanding of those 7 chords will greatly improve your ear and your improvisatory skill, so let’s focus on them this month. Continue reading “Diatonic Chords”
Do you want your improvised solos to soar and delight your audiences? The first and most important step to achieve this is to develop the link between your ears and your fingers. In fact, ultimately we need to be able to transfer any musical idea we imagine to our fingers. I call this “Hand-ear coordination”.
It is a thrilling moment when a musician first experiences the freedom of playing without reliance on the printed score. To be able to play a melody by ear or to spontaneously create an improvised solo never before heard provides joy not to be missed by the player committed to musical excellence.
A question just came in from a user of New Ears Resolution as to how he could use movable DO to transpose Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation.” (His letter is posted below.)
Craig wrote this article for the February, 2016 issue of Saxophone Life Magazine. It appears here courtesy of SLM.
It’s definitely impressive to hear jazz musicians improvise at incredibly fast tempos. What is, however, far more inspiring is hearing how the great masters are able to create beautifully crafted, swinging melodic lines, regardless of tempo. Continue reading “RIPPING RIFFS OR MEMORABLE MELODIES?”
How does a musician learn to perform thousands of songs in any key without looking at music sheets? How can you improvise over a set of “changes” you’ve never heard or seen before in a live performance? “New Ears Resolution” has made this a daily reality for me during a 40-year career of recording dates and live performances. But I cannot claim to have created this revolutionary approach to ear training. I learned it during high school while studying with Alvin L. “Al” Learned, founder and president of Hollywood’s legendary Westlake College of Music “one of the most important educational institutions for the study of jazz in the post-World War II era.” Continue reading “Learning to Play by Ear: A 1958 Perspective”
His Blue Note LP One Flight Up includes a fine reading of the Jimmy Van Heusen ballad “Darn That Dream” on which he dexterously employs a device favored by Charlie Parker. This maneuver involves momentarily raising the key a half-step and inferring a ii-V progression in that key.
Here are two instances in which Dexter deftly employs that ploy. As anyone who has ever tried to transcribe his solos knows, one of the hallmarks of Dexter’s style is his unique approach to rhythm. While his languid phrasing is pure joy to hear, it’s a nightmare to transcribe. I have greatly simplified the rhythm in these two examples, focusing instead on the pitches Dexter chose for the brief modulation. Continue reading “Darn That Dexter!”
The road to dynamic, expressive improvisation is paved with practice and listening. Hank Mobley’s near perfect solo on Irving Berlin’s “Remember” from his classic LP “Soul Station” is filled with profound lessons on phrasing, rhythm, tone, melody, pacing, and development. Here is just one of the great ideas you will encounter when studying this wonderful recording.
As always, we recommend learning the phrase in all 12 keys. Practice with the audio file found below. Continue reading ““Remember” Hank Mobley’s “Soul Station”?”
Some saxophone & clarinet students have difficulty with jazz articulation, because they have not learned to tongue properly. They begin each note with a constriction in the throat, which sounds as if the student were humming into the mouthpiece. The beginning of the note is fuzzy and indistinct. Continue reading “Jazz Articulation, Accents, and Proper Tonguing”
The San Francisco based group “Jews for Jesus” is currently offering “Renewed Hope” for sale on its web site. “Renewed Hope” is Craig’s seventh CD — his third worship CD — featuring words from The Bible, original music by Craig Buhler, the vocals of Rich Tatum, and the music of HONK. Produced by Grammy winner Steve Wood.
Have you ever had difficulty playing a tune, even though it presented no obvious technical hurdles? Perhaps the problem lies in a hidden harmonic riddle, which, when solved, will unlock your understanding of the song and make it easier to play and to remember.
At a recent gig, pianist Mark Schecter called off Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High.” Although Storyville used to play the song, it still made me stumble. However, after deciphering its harmonic implications, playing it became simple.
Here’s how to solve a riddle like that.
Is there a more effective, efficient method for learning and retaining a large repertoire of jazz standards? Continue reading “How to Learn Songs”
The exercise shown below will greatly increase your familiarity and confidence in improvising over this lovely chord. Continue reading “Dominant Seven Flat 9 Chords V7(b9)”
Even many accomplished musicians never learn the fine art of playing by ear. A strong ear is a “must” for those of us musicians with visual disabilities. I owe my ear to a uniquely inspired teacher. The story begins in 1963. Continue reading “HOW I LEARNED TO PLAY BY EAR”
Do your solos brim with vitality, gliding across a colorful landscape, as you explore ever deeper into the ocean of sound? Or do you flounder among waves of notes, swimming through a maze of chord changes?
The following clips illustrate three powerful tools to stimulate your creative potential and enthuse your audience.
1. RHYTHMIC SHIFT – Example 1 presents a 7-beat phrase that starts on the “and” of beat 3. The phrase is then repeated, but this time, it begins on the “and” of beat 2. Repeating the phrase gives your thought unity, while the rhythmic offset offers variety and surprise. Try playing along with this recording in all 12 keys.
2. DIMINUTION – In example 2, the 7-beat phrase is the same, but a triplet compresses the second statement of the theme. Your motif is still easily recognized, but you have added variety.
3. TONAL SHIFT – In Example 3, the second statement of the theme modulates up a minor third. Tonal shift was a favorite device of John Coltrane. The listener still recognizes your theme, but her ear delights in this fresh new element you have added to the mix.
As you become more comfortable with creating and developing thematic material, your unique personality defines your individual style. You improvise dynamically and coherently.
To master these 3 techniques, play along with the 3 audio files offered here. Contact me, if you need a chart. Or, if you want to learn to play by ear in all 12 keys (as I did while recording these clips), download “New Ears Resolution” and liberate your musical imagination!
How often do we teachers hear students complain about having to practice long tones and scales? Every teacher knows that long tones greatly enhance tonal quality and intonation and that scales are the raw material from which improvised solos are crafted. The problem is that any musician who practices being bored will bore the audience. What you practice is what you perform. Practice joy, imagination, and freshness, and your show will be fresh. Practice dry technique, and your gig will be a desert.
Below is a 4-bar phrase containing a descending major scale (Ionian mode) and an ascending Mixolydian mode. I worked on this exercise until the rhythm and note sequence started to feel interesting to me.
Try playing along with the background track provided below and see if this approach adds a bit of zest to your practice time. Develop your own variations on this idea. Email me for a FREE copy of this exercise in all 12 keys, if you have trouble figuring it out. Better yet, download “New Ears Resolution” and learn how to play any melody in any key by ear.