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  1. #1

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    Working on "Donna Lee" got me interested in Charlie Parker's 2 choruses of improvisation on that tune. I have decided to learn that solo and thought I'd invite anyone who wants to joint me. I'm not the most advanced, so I doubt I can go really quickly. I was thinking maybe 8 measures per week?

    At any rate, I'll be doing this and if anyone wants to learn this with me, just post a reply.

    If you have already learned it and just want to post to show off and make all us beginners feel bad, go ahead, have at it. Can't stop you. But I'm especially interested in forum members who are wanting to engage some challenging project that will teach a lot of good bebop vocabulary and phrasing.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    As you know I’m also working on Donna Lee. I can’t play the solo nearly as fast as bird but here’s how I finger it. I don’t want to show off, only perhaps save you or someone else some time.


  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    As you know I’m also working on Donna Lee. I can’t play the solo nearly as fast as bird but here’s how I finger it. I don’t want to show off, only perhaps save you or someone else some time.

    Thanks! This is really helpful. Getting these things up to the tempo is not as vital to me as learning the vocabulary and how it lays on the fingerboard. I have set 200 bpm as my nominal goal tempo. Not as fast as any of the recordings, but quite challenging for me.

    I'll post my fingerings on mm. 1-16 shortly.

  5. #4

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    Here is my attempt to do the first 16 measures of the Charlie Parker Omnibook transcription of Bird's solo on "Donna Lee." Not the most exciting thing you'll read today. Not nearly as exciting as outing banned folks or departing dramatically from the forum... not even as exciting as watching paint dry. But if anyone watching this catches a mistaken note, please let me know.

    On time, this is only approximately in correct time. I'm mainly here working on the right notes and fingerings, so if there are errors please by all means say so!

    For fun: guitar is a 1999 Gibson ES165 Herb Ellis, played into a Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb, recorded via direct line to an A/D box and then to the computer.


  6. #5

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    And why not try it with the record? Here's the first half-chorus with the record, slowed way down to 135 bpm.

    There is something really magical about Bird's articulation, phrasing, his execution that is hard to describe. I hope I can absorb a little of it.

  7. #6

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    Getting there!

    To me, one of the hardest things in this solo is to not let several notes ring at once on the 16th notes Cm9 arpeggios. Try to find a fingering that helps you separate the notes.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    Getting there!

    To me, one of the hardest things in this solo is to not let several notes ring at once on the 16th notes Cm9 arpeggios. Try to find a fingering that helps you separate the notes.
    Yes that has actually been a recurring challenge for me in playing bop tunes.

  9. #8

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    This solo is an amazing example of treating say 2 choruses as if it were one large musical statement. Really, his "lead in" is not just a lick to get to his solo, but actually launches the solo in mm. 31. The usual places for breaking a phrase, the A, B, and C sections, are just ignored, as is the end of the first chorus and the start of the second. And yet, there are GIANT rests in this solo. Several places where for 4-6 beats he's just letting the space happen, though not in the places normally one expects.

    I am confident I will be able to learn this solo. I am also confident I will never be able to play like Bird did. Wow. My respect for his musicianship was already high, but now it's over the top.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    And why not try it with the record? Here's the first half-chorus with the record, slowed way down to 135 bpm.

    There is something really magical about Bird's articulation, phrasing, his execution that is hard to describe. I hope I can absorb a little of it.
    Great to witness your tenacity, Lawson! Getting deep with one tune will pay off enormously. Your fingering on the whole is getting much more logical and in synch with the nature of each phrase. Regarding the arpeggios, no need to find an alternative - just be careful to lift each finger progressively as you sweep across the strings. Pitchwise, the only error that immediately stood out to me was the Eb rather than E natural lower approach note to the Fm7 arpeggio in bar 9 of the solo.

    As suggested in your posts, it's in the areas of rhythm and articulation that Parker really shines. I'll leave aside for the moment his incredible ability to vary the length of phrases, drop in and come out at any chosen point of the bar and float across the time while still laying down an impeccable groove. That's another whole discussion. Instead, let's concentrate on both rhythm and articulation at a more micro-level.

    The essence of bop phrasing as laid down by CP is accenting and slurring weak to strong beats. At the micro-level, we're talking about a stress on the second eighth note of each beat that connects to the following downbeat and creates a sense of forward motion. The first step in gaining control over that type of phrasing is ensuring that upbeats (generally upstrokes for alternate pickers) are accented just as strongly as downbeats. If you practise scales as part of your daily regime, try playing them in that manner. This may feel counterintuitive at first for all sorts of cultural, stylistic and physical reasons but it's very important.

    Next, introduce slurs wherever possible from weak to strong. Here's an example of a descending Ab major scale (from the 9th degree) with those principles applied:

    Learning Charlie Parker "Donna Lee" Solo?-ab_scale-jpeg

    Note the change of position to facilitate slurring. This may not always be practical when dealing with longer phrases but it's worth keeping it in mind.

    Let's now transfer these moves to an actual Parker line. Here's the phrase that sets up his 1st chorus:

    Learning Charlie Parker "Donna Lee" Solo?-dl_phrase-jpeg

    I've pretty much stayed with your fingering except for the shift to enable an extended slur across the triplet. Another option might be to play that whole last section at the 5th position on the 3rd string. Weak-strong accented slurs occur throughout with the exception of the G-F in bar 2.

    Lawson, I guarantee that if you spend as much quality time on these aspects as you have already on getting the pitches down, your playing will be transformed!
    Last edited by PMB; 01-25-2020 at 09:33 AM.

  11. #10

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    Here's a clip (I hope it inspires rather than intimidates) that clearly demonstrates what I've been rabbiting on about:

    Last edited by PMB; 01-25-2020 at 05:07 PM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by PMB
    Great to witness your tenacity, Lawson! Getting deep with one tune will pay off enormously. Your fingering on the whole is getting much more logical and in synch with the nature of each phrase. Regarding the arpeggios, no need to find an alternative - just be careful to lift each finger progressively as you sweep across the strings. Pitchwise, the only error that immediately stood out to me was the Eb rather than E natural lower approach note to the Fm7 arpeggio in bar 9 of the solo.

    As suggested in your posts, it's in the areas of rhythm and articulation that Parker really shines. I'll leave aside for the moment his incredible ability to vary the length of phrases, drop in and come out at any chosen point of the bar and float across the time while still laying down an impeccable groove. That's another whole discussion. Instead, let's concentrate on both rhythm and articulation at a more micro-level.

    The essence of bop phrasing as laid down by CP is accenting and slurring weak to strong beats. At the micro-level, we're talking about a stress on the second eighth note of each beat that connects to the following downbeat and creates a sense of forward motion. The first step in gaining control over that type of phrasing is ensuring that upbeats (generally upstrokes for alternate pickers) are accented just as strongly as downbeats. If you practise scales as part of your daily regime, try playing them in that manner. This may feel counterintuitive at first for all sorts of cultural, stylistic and physical reasons but it's very important.

    Next, introduce slurs wherever possible from weak to strong. Here's an example of a descending Ab major scale (from the 9th degree) with those principles applied:

    Learning Charlie Parker "Donna Lee" Solo?-ab_scale-jpeg

    Note the change of position to facilitate slurring. This may not always be practical when dealing with longer phrases but it's worth keeping it in mind.

    Let's now transfer these moves to an actual Parker line. Here's the phrase that sets up his 1st chorus:

    Learning Charlie Parker "Donna Lee" Solo?-dl_phrase-jpeg

    I've pretty much stayed with your fingering except for the shift to enable an extended slur across the triplet. Another option might be to play that whole last section at the 5th position on the 3rd string. Weak-strong accented slurs occur throughout with the exception of the G-F in bar 2.

    Lawson, I guarantee that if you spend as much quality time on these aspects as you have already on getting the pitches down, your playing will be transformed!
    Many thanks. I feel like I've gotten a solid lesson.

    On the Eb, I'm playing from the Omnibook, which has an Eb there. I need to pay more attention to the recording.

    I'll play with the slurring idea. Good concrete stuff to try out.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by PMB
    Here's a clip (I hope it inspires rather than intimidates) that clearly demonstrates what I've rabbiting on about:

    That's really nice! Intimidating in the right way, challenging but also inspiring. Other than the tempo, I can see that the actual changes to the tune are not as conceptually hard to get as some others might be. So I can understand improvisors liking to stretch out on it. Hope I get there one day!

    Thanks for the time and insight you've contributed. I am going to work with the ideas a bit and see what happens.

    ALSO: really, is the Epiphone Elitist Broadway not the most dynamite for the dollar you ever saw in a fine archtop? I had one in sunburst that was simply without any shortcoming, stock.

  14. #13
    Great thread. Thanks!

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by PMB
    Pitchwise, the only error that immediately stood out to me was the Eb rather than E natural lower approach note to the Fm7 arpeggio in bar 9 of the solo.
    I'm trying to track this down while I'm still working out my approach. I was mistaken about which Eb/E natural you were talking about. I miscounted the measures since I tend to think the solo starts back in m. 31. I see now you're counting properly from 33 and wow, I did miss that one. I find I keep forgetting that the Omnibook doesn't notate these solos "in key" but as if they're all in C, with all the accidentals noted. I keep thinking "Key of Ab... every E is an Eb..."

    Thanks for catching that, I'll work on re-training the muscle memory!

  16. #15

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    I have the first chorus (more or less!) at about 160 bpm. The best thing I have done on this is to play with the original recording. I find the comping on that really hard to sync with for some reason, but since it's a classic I assume the pianist is great and I need to figure it out.

    The last line of the chorus is just a repeated figure, but it has been the hardest part to get right. I get it maybe 75% on this. It's typical Bird, a figure that sounds easy until you try to play it, and it starts on a different beat every time it repeats.

    So for all of you breathlessly wondering how I'm doing on this (HA!) here is me doubling Bird at about 2/3 tempo.

  17. #16

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    So this is chorus 1, played at 160 bpm, using the Hal Leonard Real Book backing track. There are still places where the "note-beat relationship" is less than perfect, shall we say? Down right messed up time in a few spots. Bird's phrasing with the beat is really, really slippery.

    I almost did not post this because it has some errors, but I don't believe in waiting for perfection. I learn more when my mistakes are identified, and often forum members provide excellent advice.

    Plus you can have fun listening for my mistakes! How many can you find? Maybe I should offer a prize. Maybe not.

  18. #17

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    Learning this piece is quite an impressive technical exercise. I worked on it a long time ago, maybe I got the head to about 180bpm, that's were my technique starts to fall apart.

    How do you go from memorizing this written music to actually acquiring some vocabulary that you are able to use in improvisation. Is there a plan and procedure that you have to accomplish that?

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    Learning this piece is quite an impressive technical exercise. I worked on it a long time ago, maybe I got the head to about 180bpm, that's were my technique starts to fall apart.

    How do you go from memorizing this written music to actually acquiring some vocabulary that you are able to use in improvisation. Is there a plan and procedure that you have to accomplish that?
    Good question. I don't know. Right now I'm putting my hope in the absorptive powers of the unconscious mind. Like so much other music I know, most of it was caught or absorbed from repeated playing and some "aha!" moments. I think I have less ability to incorporate stuff like this into my own playing than some. I have to immerse myself in a ton of stuff before anything starts to stick.

    that could be a good thread all its own.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    that could be a good thread all its own.
    Yes.

    I'm curious because I don't seem to absorb vocabulary that way. Charlie Parker, genius imo, and his playing is so choke full of good licks/phrases/vocab (it's just semantics use the term you prefer), it's just overwhelming.to me.

  21. #20

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    I am posting another clip of this same chorus for 2 reasons. First, I was experimenting with a Boss Fender Deluxe Reverb pedal, running straight into the A/D box for recording. Second, for some reason I played better this time. Maybe because I was thinking about the pedal!

    This pedal is interesting. It's hard to get "clean" from it. You have to turn the gain nearly off and the level way up. There's too much break up in this clip, to my ear, but others might like it. Second, the reverb not only emulates a spring reverb, it emulates the periodic odd artifact noise of a spring reverb. That occasional pop or stray sound. Authentic, yes; but desirable, no.

    On balance, I likely would not recommend this pedal if someone wants the "clean" Deluxe Reverb sound because you don't have a lot of range that's clean. Also, that reverb artifact noise is just plain odd. Almost like if they also programmed into it the sounds of clinking glasses and crowd conversation?

    Otherwise, I actually enjoy the pedal. It kind of works with you as you play, which is interesting.


  22. #21

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    Maybe some were afraid I'd given up. Maybe others where HOPING I'd given up. But no, "negative persistence" is one of my traits.

    So now I have the first chorus of the Bird solo on "Donna Lee" up to 170 bpm. At the faster tempos, I find that smaller increments come at a greater price. Going from 160 to 170 is way harder than going from 140 to 150. Also, there are fingerings that are fine at slower tempos but simply won't work at faster ones.

    I also continue to be amazed at how Bird can just drop things into the tempo at any point and it fits. The guy has an astonishing sense of where he is in the form. Sometimes I"m actually not sure his rhythm section always knew... but anyhow, here is my effort at 170 with the Hal Leonard Real Book backing track. No doubt errors abound! Constructive advice is always welcome.


  23. #22

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    Wow. It gets harder and harder to bump up just 10 bpm! But here is 180, or 182 to be precise.

    I have struggled with the section of mm. 21-27, esp. the figure with the 8th note triplet and the next measure's 16th note triplet. It's hard to feel the beat playing those 7 measures but I'm making progress. I'm finding that, the way I finger it, the Bb note in the 8th note triplet is crucial. I have to nail it with my index finger, which is a slight shift, for the rest of the line to go right. Once I realized my finger-wrecks were because of not shifting smoothly there, it began to clear up.

    The phrases in this solo are such classic bop. Unlike some other solos I've learned, these phrases are getting into my other player rather quickly.

    It's done twice here: once on the L5ces, once on the ES175 VOS1959.

    Any constructive observations or advice is appreciated.


  24. #23

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    I hope this thread is helpful or at least interesting, at least you're thinking, "Wow I could play way better than that..." Tonight I managed to get through the head and the first chorus at a pretty nice tempo of 185 bpm and actually enjoyed it, didn't have the grim "Gotta survive this.." mindset.

    Recorded with the Princeton Reverb Re-Issue and an SM57 microphone. I need to learn more about mic placement, this is a little darkish, but I still like the sound.

    As I work on playing these cleaner and quicker I'm working out the next chorus.

    Whoever is watching out there and following this, thanks!


  25. #24

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    I find the best way to improve on something I"m working on is... move on to the next section, so this is working out the fingering for the first statement of the 2nd chorus of "Donna Lee," Bird uses the repeated and rhythmically offsetting phrase of the last line of the first chorus to move seamlessly into the second chorus. It's hard to realize you've gone to the top of the form here, so amazing. Then he uses the same figure over Bbm7 that he used in the same spot in the first chorus, but here he resolves it differently. Again, brilliant.

    So I play through mm. 29-41 3 times with a metronome at 130 bpm just to get the fingering and relative rhythm in my head. If anyone is working on this, I hope it helps. For me it's just keeping myself accountable for making progress by posting here.

    Recording note: I stumbled onto a used Quilter Tone Block 202 and have been having a lot of fun with it. It will replace my DVMark heads which aren't very rugged and it has more power. I like the features of this little head a lot. I' recording via the XLR out, which profits from having a speaker attached because somehow it incorporates the impulse from the speaker into the signal going outbound.


  26. #25

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    Progress is progress! You got it.

    TB 202 is a great amp. I've been really happy with mine for over a year. Nice to hear a fine archtop recorded direct through that. I haven't recorded anything since I picked up guitar again, but I've been hoping this would be a nice easy way to approach it. Now I know! Thanks for mentioning that.