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  1. #1

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    Hi Everyone,

    This is my first post and I look forward to reading everyone's responses on the subject.

    Earlier this month, I began learning Pat Martino's Just Friends solo off El Hombre. It was a fun process and I actually finished the entire solo sooner than expected. Seldom do I transcribe entire solos, I usually take little bits and pieces of my favorite parts; I had a difficult time narrowing it down and decided to transcribe the entire thing!

    Anyway, I have the lines under my fingers and I can play along with the recording without much of an issue. The real problem lies in trying to pull this material from it's present harmonic context and apply it to another standard. I have been trying to take small chunks and work it into tunes like Four and Autumn Leaves, but it just doesn't seem to work. I have heard stories of how Wes transcribed a bunch of Charlie Christian solo's note for note and how Martino transcribed a bunch of Wes in his early adolescence. Does the vocabulary come through "osmosis" simply by means of playing the solos hundreds of times? Will my sub-conscious automatically begin to assemble the parts for me over time? If so, this seems like a bit of a haphazard approach.

    At this point I fear that all this time invested was for naught since I can only play these lines in one context and need to consistently think about the lines before I play them. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get the most return on investment?

    Best,

    Steve

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  3. #2

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    I'll answer because nobody else did. The thing with transcribing is, it's only one of many steps to get to where you have your own voice.

    Wes transcribed Charlie Christian, but didn't sound like him.
    Pat Martino transcribed Wes and Johnny Smith, but doesn't sound like them, except for the Wes octaves.

    The process of transcribing, and playing along with the records, helps your musical brain learn. Eventually you have to find your own voice.

  4. #3

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    So true. Transcribing something will not leave much untouched(in a good way) but it will not make you play like this guy on that particular spot forever. You transcribed this one solo but he has played so many more.

    Well, the ears&feels&grips got better for sure. It's indirect improvement, this transcription business.

    Eh, that reminds me to get back on that nitpicking myself.

  5. #4

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    I think it’s a gradual process, a sort of osmosis as you say. But having said that, you should be able to apply some of the phrases to another tune. If there’s a 2-5-1 sequence in both tunes you should be able to transpose and and adapt the relevant phrase from one tune to the other. Failing that, some of the chord types will be the same. E.g. bar 3 of Just Friends is a minor chord. So you can probably fit some of Pat’s phrases in that bar to the first chord of Autumn Leaves.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I think it’s a gradual process, a sort of osmosis as you say. But having said that, you should be able to apply some of the phrases to another tune. If there’s a 2-5-1 sequence in both tunes you should be able to transpose and and adapt the relevant phrase from one tune to the other. Failing that, some of the chord types will be the same. E.g. bar 3 of Just Friends is a minor chord. So you can probably fit some of Pat’s phrases in that bar to the first chord of Autumn Leaves.
    +1

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    So true. Transcribing something will not leave much untouched(in a good way) but it will not make you play like this guy on that particular spot forever. You transcribed this one solo but he has played so many more.

    Well, the ears&feels&grips got better for sure. It's indirect improvement, this transcription business.

    Eh, that reminds me to get back on that nitpicking myself.
    I agree.

    I'm 'transcribing' a lot these days - without writing anything down. Neither am I 'transcribing' with a view to examining melodic ideas (though I'm looking more closely than usual at each melody/head).

    Because I now believe that the above-mentioned 'indirect improvement' amounts to learning how to play this music on this instrument, which has become the basis of what I work on.

  8. #7

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    Transcription takes you...right to the heart of the periphery.

  9. #8

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    As it happens one of the first solos I transcribed was Just Friends by Joe Pass (from the 'Catch Me' sessions).

    I know that I got a lot of bebop 'language' just from that one solo.

  10. #9

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    A lot gets 'transcribed' passively. For me, that's the best way.

    Actually, I started singing along - 'air guitar', 'guitar face' and all - as soon as I started buying and listening to records. It seems ironic that I stopped when I started playing guitar - but that's also easily explained (by the complexity of inherent challenges).

    'Transcribing' has become elimination of half-guessing. Practising (with conviction, but with lighter strings and touch - round 10s on Tele, flat 12s on big archtop) with the thumb and fretting with three fingers (except chords and octaves) seems to be making the right path 'reveal' itself.

    And, for me, 'The Return of 'Guitar Face' is a desirable goal - and an indicator that I'm not trying to run before I can walk.

    That said, 'transcribing' is a discipline - I find it hard to put my feelings aside because I'm in constant awe. But I'm able to do it because because it leads to feelings corresponding to 'ecstasy/exstasis from intense concentration', as in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow.

  11. #10

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    Just a thought. Dunno how many people inject certain well-learned phrases in their solos, usually these get modified on the fly anyway.. But the trouble with learning numerous full transcriptions is that they don't get "absorbed" that well compared to snippets. Something long and complex takes loads of time to actually get into bones. If taking just a real pleasant and comfy phrase, playing this for 30 minutes or so, it might pop out in the solo (or some variation of this) later by surprise. Doing a full transcription is a very well spent time and effort, just that it may not work exactly as imagined.

  12. #11

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    Playing a transcription that you transcribed isn't all about coping those lines.

    It's more about coping that feel.

    The more Wes I coped the more I understood that pocket of his, especially with octaves.

    The more Miles I coped, the more I understood about space and the beauty of the 9th 4th and 6th on minor tunes.

    The more Dex I coped, the more I understood about building a thematic line.

    But all of those transcriptions taught me one thing: feel.

    How to place those eighths. How to phrase. How to bring out a line dynamically. How to quote.

    All that.

    It's also a form of ear training. Which reminds me, come on down to the ear training journal.

    I'm back and I'm ready to listen...

    That was bad

  13. #12

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    I've been transcribing a lot lately. Well, I always have, but put learning and theory books aside now.

    It feels like this is the quickest way for me to learn, as I'll ABSORB those awesome phrases I love hearing, and then PLAYING...

    I'm very much in the same boat in terms of finding ways to use what I've transcribed. Up to this point I've transcribed about 10 tunes start to finish, play them quite well imo, but I haven't really gone through them critically. I mean really pick them apart.. and then use what I've spent so much time figuring out.

    Just recently I've been transcribing 3 or 4 different versions of the same song (different artists), not to play the exact recording in entirety, but to pick up the LANGUAGE. What are these guys thinking over certain chords? certain changes? Why would he phrase it that way? Why did he play sixteenths in those measures? when does the solo climax? I've then been taking these pieces of language and transposing to different keys, see how it sounds different, different fingerings..

    I'll probably stick with this method going forward, as I'm learning 10x as fast as I have up to this point. It feels like I cover EVERYTHING when I pick up the guitar now, not just one aspect at a time.. my ear, technique, time feel, musicality..

    I'd also welcome any tips on how to "get the most return on investment" as the OP stated.

  14. #13

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    I found that although I transcribed about a dozen complete solos, only a few phrases in each one really stuck with me and got absorbed. So it might be more effective to concentrate on sections or phrases which really ‘speak’ to you, if there isn’t time to do the whole solo.

    I think Emily Remler advocated something like this in one of her videos.

  15. #14
    Hey guys, thanks for all of the different advice in regards to transcribing. I am finding that taking the small bits of information learned and beating it to death is actually having a greater affect on my ability to utilize these lines in lieu of playing the solo beginning to end for hundreds of times..this just seems to take up the bulk of my practice time!

    Another thing I started doing was taking these lines and putting them into different harmonic settings, does anyone know if this is worth the effort?

    For example, I took a simple ii-V line from Pat's solo on Just Friends and now I am tweaking it ever so slightly to fit changes like the first four bars in the B section of There Will Never Be Another You..this also is pretty time consuming but what I find is that I now have a line that serves me in multiple settings.

    Am I getting hotter or colder here?

  16. #15

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    When I was learning jazz and had learned to sing a bunch of Charlie Christian solos, I remember playing his opening line on "Rose Room" on a II7 VI7 I on another tune and my teacher remarking "That's the way to do it!".

    I think transcribing was very valuable for me, but I also think you really need to find players and solos that are going to be useful for you. To someone just starting out in the jazz language, a Michael Brecker or Pat Metheny solo isn't going to be the best place to start. When I very first started, I transcribed a lot of Clifford Brown, but because his lines were too far above my level, I wasn't able to take much from it. Whereas with Charlie Christian, I feel like I was able to build off his lines more. Lester Young and Chet Baker were this way for me, too.

    I very much agree that playing complete solos verbatim probably isn't the best way to work that stuff into your playing. You should think of that kind of practice as etudes: It's great technical work, in many cases it will stretch your technical limitations in good ways, but it's not a substitute for learning how to hear and build melodic lines yourself.

    If I were in your shoes I'd recommend learning a few Chet Baker trumpet solos. Learn to sing them along with the record first, then put them on your instrument. Then practice playing variations off them. I'd be interested to hear about the results if you try this. I recommend Chet Baker because he's a spare, mostly diatonic player. There's a lot more space for you. Whereas as much I love martino, he's a notey cat. I'd have had trouble building off his solos early on.

  17. #16

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    There's an inherent tension between trying to develop your own style in your own way and, on the other hand, trying to be a "well rounded, well educated" player.

    Someone pointed out recently that many of our idols have many things they can't do well on guitar. And, yet, it is likely that the teacher at your local music school can do just about everything.

    So, do you work on the sounds that you can already hear or learn easily, or do you put in the extra effort to try to learn something that doesn't come easily?

    Yesterday, a local jazz critic named a handful of people he wanted to see be supported by the main jazz organization in our city.

    I know one of them. I once asked her for a lesson and she warned me, "I only play my own music".

    I can tell her apart from other players because of certain harmonic ideas that recur in her songs. Her harmonic palette isn't broad, but it is individual.

    I think about this every time I hear something new, and get the impulse to drop everything and work on it.

    But, my experience is that I started getting more gigs when I worked harder on my individual style.

  18. #17

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    When I transcribe I do a harmonic analysis, and actually write down the intervals below the notes to help me figure out what is going on. To me, that is where the real learning is. If something sounds good harmonically there is always a reason for it. Finding the reason is the learning. It goes without saying that I like a lot to read books about music harmony, which can be applied to any instrument, not just the guitar (learning the fretboard and learning harmony are different things, even though one has to learn both).
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    It's better to play one thing for 24 hours than 24 things in one hour. -- Bill Evans

  19. #18

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    I wanna give a shout out to Jens Larson, this is the best advice on using transcribed material in your own playing:


  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I found that although I transcribed about a dozen complete solos, only a few phrases in each one really stuck with me and got absorbed. So it might be more effective to concentrate on sections or phrases which really ‘speak’ to you, if there isn’t time to do the whole solo.

    I think Emily Remler advocated something like this in one of her videos.
    I feel like I do this also. While I think it's really helpful to transcribe entire solos, the real meat it taking something you really dig and understanding it's context.

    I just finished Wynton Kelly's solo in Freddie Freeloader, and there's some really great stuff that I've absorbed. The lick that he plays as a pickup to (I think) the V chord? He plays that everytime, yet it's not old or boring. I'm totally ripping that off.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by BurninToBop View Post
    Another thing I started doing was taking these lines and putting them into different harmonic settings, does anyone know if this is worth the effort?

    For example, I took a simple ii-V line from Pat's solo on Just Friends and now I am tweaking it ever so slightly to fit changes like the first four bars in the B section of There Will Never Be Another You..this also is pretty time consuming but what I find is that I now have a line that serves me in multiple settings.

    Am I getting hotter or colder here?
    You are very warm. This is what I think you (and I) should be doing when we transcribe. Take those lines, learn their context, and place them into different keys. And you don't have to play them verbatim....take a fragment and redo it if you like to make it sound like you want.

    And it's funny you mention, TWNBAY. I just posted a link in the Improv forum about that song (in the recent thread about it) and I used the pickup I talked about from Wynton in that song. Bonus if you can pick it out I suppose.

  22. #21

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    There is a chapter in Bert Ligon's Comprehensive Technique book where he takes a Charlie Parker phrase and develops exercises from it by coming up with various variations of the phrase.
    Say if the phrase is ascending a minor triad with an half note approach on the upbeat. Some of the variations to practice would be:
    - Approach other chord tones.
    - Invert the melodic shape (descend instead of ascend).
    - Approach to different inversions of the triad.
    - Change the quality of the triad to apply to other chords (minor vs major)
    - Rhythmic displacement (start on other beats)
    - Other rhythmic variations (use triplet after the approach etc.)
    - Retrograde (first descend, but still approach the bass note in the end).
    There are of course other devices (such as subtraction or adding notes). You can also combine two or more devices.
    Some of these can be taken to different keys, different chord qualities or even applied to all diatonic triads of a key to get them into your playing.