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  1. #1

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    Do you plan and practice your solo form for tunes before hand? Like introduce an idea, develop it with variation in the next three bars, introduce a second (may be a more out) idea on the 5th, back to the the first at the 9th bar, revisit the head on 11th etc. or do you strictly rely on intuition.
    Do you study solo forms of the masters?
    How does one practice telling stories?

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  3. #2

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    I hope this doesn't rub the wrong way.

    Get as much of the song into your ear as possible. Sing as much as possible. Chord tones, guide tone, etc.

    Always be aware of the home key--this is a sore point for some--and relate everything to the home key (I dunno why that's blasphemy?)

    Simplify progressions and always relate back to the big picture. Learn the melody in and out--there really is a lot of truth in that cliche.

    Try to make music away from the guitar--whether that's the piana, bongos, or your voice.

    Listen to your favorite story tellers as much as possible. Learn to sing their solos.

    It may sound very Tristanic (it's a tragic love story, without Leonardo DiCapprio--and the ship is a blind pianist), but there's so much you can glean if you can internalize the sound of what you want to play way from your instrument.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    I hope this doesn't rub the wrong way.

    Get as much of the song into your ear as possible. Sing as much as possible. Chord tones, guide tone, etc.

    Always be aware of the home key--this is a sore point for some--and relate everything to the home key (I dunno why that's blasphemy?)

    Simplify progressions and always relate back to the big picture. Learn the melody in and out--there really is a lot of truth in that cliche.

    Try to make music away from the guitar--whether that's the piana, bongos, or your voice.

    Listen to your favorite story tellers as much as possible. Learn to sing their solos.

    It may sound very Tristanic (it's a tragic love story, without Leonardo DiCapprio--and the ship is a blind pianist), but there's so much you can glean if you can internalize the sound of what you want to play way from your instrument.
    These are all good things to do. They are more or less all part of my practice routine. I suspect most people work on these general improvisation skills and rely on their intuitions for the form of their solos.
    But my question is if there are people who do more targeted story telling and solo form practice. Targeting relevant skill by doing for example:
    - Come up with a 1 bar theme and take it through the entire harmony of a tune.
    - Come up with 2 themes, alternate them every 8 bars.
    - Analyse the melodic shape of Charlie Parker's solo on Confirmation. Solo (on any tune) mimicking only the shape of Charlie Parker's solo.
    - Study the same solo (Confirmation) identify all themes used in the solo (melodic or rhythmic) use these themes to develop your own.

    These are the types of activities that I'm hoping will be discussed in this thread.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-29-2019 at 07:28 AM.

  5. #4

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    basically you are asking how does one reach into his own soul

    every person has their own path..for some its study and diligence... for others it's more spontaneous (but informed) creation

    speaking of tristano (nice erez)

    intuition...thought to be one of the first free jazz improvisations ever recorded...(tho louies primordial hot 5 sound pretty improvised on many occasions)



    should be an interesting thread!

    cheers
    Last edited by neatomic; 06-24-2019 at 09:43 PM. Reason: cl-

  6. #5

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    I read that Jim Hall used to practice for hours before a gig. I wonder what that entailed...maybe that info is out there? But when I heard this, I wondered if he knew what songs were being played and worked out what he was going to play?

  7. #6

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    I don't think so. Jim Hall wasn't about a bunch of licks. He loved the interaction of it all--working solos out doesn't sound like Jim. Maybe Pat... okay, I'll stop

    I've studied with a couple of Peter Bernstein's students--and Pete B was a student of Jim Hall. What they share is the ability to really hear what they are doing,

    they both connect with each note they play.

    Jim was an avid student of classical music--I'm sure he gleaned a lot about motivic development from the classical cats he studied. I'm telling ya all, the trick to story telling is to get as much information

    in your ears as possible--away from the instrument. I mean, really woodshed those sounds so that you ears know 'em in and ooot. Your ears are more powerful than you think.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    Do you plan and practice your solo form for tunes before hand? Like introduce an idea, develop it with variation in the next three bars, introduce a second (may be a more out) idea on the 5th, back to the the first at the 9th bar, revisit the head on 11th etc. or do you strictly rely on intuition.
    Do you study solo forms of the masters?
    How does one practice telling stories?
    I do because I'm a rookie improviser - but am going to focus on improv for the next 2-3 years.

  9. #8

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    Writers practice telling stories? Plots, subplots, in media res openings, character development, denouements, epilogues etc

    Seems an interesting way to think about it.

    Also, there’s the whole classical form thing.

  10. #9

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    Beyond pick up gigs and jams - I have a general arc planned for some of my solos that seems to work within a set. That gets progressively refined by feedback from audiences, bandmates and my own assessment.

    In general I find this type of high level formal thinking interferes less with my general flow.

    Working jazz projects are often quite worked out in that way even if you don’t necessarily play the same shit every night. Varies from band to band. This can happen even for projects playing ‘free music.’

    Usually like to have an idea of solo order in a set so I can craft something that works for that context.

    It’s like telling a joke. You may pad it out, change the wording, but the form is there, the punchline is always the same. You refine it and change it based on audience and what has worked before.

    There are also ‘purer’ forms of improvisation too.

    But improvisation is a fairly meaningless and unhelpful term. I think actors and drama people actually have more language when it comes to this type of thing.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post

    It’s like telling a joke. You may pad it out, change the wording, but the form is there, the punchline is always the same. You refine it and change it based on audience and what has worked before.

    There are also ‘purer’ forms of improvisation too.

    But improvisation is a fairly meaningless and unhelpful term. I think actors and drama people actually have more language when it comes to this type of thing.
    a joke teller always wants to arrive at the same destination..an improviser wants to take you on a journey...no compare...

    one is methodical, the other ....floating in the wind


    cheers

  12. #11

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    I listen to what the band is doing leading toward my solo. Then, I try to find something with contrast.

    I don't think in very long lines, but I don't think in terms of a specific number of bars or specific ideas either.

    I sing something to myself and try to play it. Based on the way it sounds with the band, I'll decide on a direction.
    I generally like a solo to build in intensity, so I think about that. And, I think about when to bring it down, or back up. A lot depends on what the rhythm section does.

  13. #12

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  14. #13

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    dang, i always get hungup @ alt 4^ !!! haha


    cheers

  15. #14

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    Sometimes I really envy those of you that play in actual bands on the regular. That said, there's a lot that I am learning by playing at jam sessions--many of which are with complete strangers.

    I can't plan out the arch of my solos at all at a jam because the variables are too numerous. There's the number of other musicians, the types of musicians, the levels of musicians, the venue, the equipment (I always bring my DV Mark because there isn't always a house amp--actually that's more frequent than I woulda thunk). Sure, I have my own set of pet licks--but I can't play the same way while accommodating to each set of variables. And if I am lucky enough to find another guitarist who REALLY listens (I have in Washington--but he better keep mum until we record something and post it here at JGF to surprise everyone ) and knows how to lead and follow, I'll play different in that situation. I love it because I learn something new every time... even if I fall on my arse half the time.

    That said, I always try to craft some semblance of cohesion in my solos--and that cohesion takes shape as a rough story. Sounds poetic, doesn't it? Storytelling? I think so, but there is a method to the madness. My two FAVORITE podcasters say it best "LISTEN". I might add "listen to your surroundings AND listen to YOURSELF". What does that mean? Well, it sounds simple, but it took me a while to develop--maybe I'm a late bloomer in music. But listening to yourself means just that, listening to what you just played--holding on to it for a split second--long enough to continue the idea. Or, learning how to hold on to that linear content in the back of your mind so you can revisit it later in your improvisation (that's hard!) The best soloists--in my definition--knew how to listen to themselves. I'd say that Charlie Parker fell into this category, even though he recapitulated a lot of his own vocabulary. So what? He knew how to rearrange it and shape it into the architecture of each song he played. My ears are light years ahead of what they were 10 years ago--now I can really hear the beauty in Parker's lines and it's FREAKING EXCITING

    Getting back to the topic, if you want to get better at playing cohesive solos--learn how to listen to the micro--what you just played and a possible destination of the line--and the macro--the sonic landscape of the tune--what's the home key? Where does it travel? Where does it all end up? What does the freaking melody sound like, now that I'm half way through the tune?

    There's another thread going on in tandem to this one about how the theory fits within the scope of our jazz guitar heroes. I dunno if this is all either or. What I can say is this: theory becomes useful when you can access it sonic-ally in your inner ear--when you can hear it away from your instrument.

    The more time I spend developing my ears--through transcription (informal) and Contextual Ear Training Studies (formal)--the more all the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together.

    I know this all sounds like hogwash to many here, that's fine. But remember, we're all dealing with the art of manipulating sound and silence. Why not get good at learning how to relate better to sound and the absence thereof?

  16. #15

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    There is something to this, and there is an additional thing about successfully knowing which stories to tell...

    If you have ever watched a professional comedian performing a long show like an HBO special, you know that they tell stories, sometimes 5-10 minutes long. The worst thing that can happen is if after the comedian invests that time, the audience ultimately does not like the story or may even be put off by it.

    If you watch carefully, you will notice that they don't just walk out and start in on a story; they start with a few one or two line jokes that are pretty edgy, or off color, or otherwise push some offense buttons for shock value... those are throw away test jokes for gauging the audience. The comedian reads the audience reaction to select which of his stories will be appropriate and which ones he must avoid with this crowd. After a couple of stories the comedian will zing out a couple more test jokes to check on the audience in preparation for selecting his next few stories, etc... the real pros at this get it right and rock the house.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Looks like I'm going backwards.

  18. #17

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    I don't think of taking a solo as telling a story. Although I can see a relationship of the two. To me Jazz improvisation is about freedom. We all have a vocabulary of riffs, devices etc. and hopefully reach out for something else at some point of a solo.

    I practice taking solos with background tracks at different speeds. The slower tempos are best for listening to what I'm doing and hearing different things that I could be doing. Increasing the tempo is good for executing those newer ideas at faster speeds.

    So yes, a solo can start out slow (the setting) and build up (identifying characters) and eventually come to a climax, but there also seems to be a lot of Jazz solos out there that go full blast throughout.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobby d View Post
    I practice taking solos with background tracks at different speeds. The slower tempos are best for listening to what I'm doing and hearing different things that I could be doing. Increasing the tempo is good for executing those newer ideas at faster speeds.
    I'm all for practicing improvisation at different tempos. And I agree about increasing the tempo to execute those newer ideas at faster speeds... to a point. I'm a huge fan of Barry Greene's instructional material. He's a great player and he understands how to break things down--not as well as Franky V.--but to a point. He often gets asked "why can't you play all those cool licks at a slower tempo?"

    His response was interesting. Let me paraphrase a little, because I forgot what video it was from (can someone find it and post it--if he or she knows what I'm referring to?).

    He said something like, "I play different material when I play ballads, when I play mid-tempo, and when I play up. My mid-tempo material is somewhat informed by Clifford Brown. The way he uses [mordents] and triplets to ornament his line. When I play uptempo, I don't really play that stuff."

    Here's something else to think about. I asked Bruce Arnold the same question a while back. I don't refer to him for building my melodic vocabulary, but he definitely is my ear guru--no doubt. Anyway, he said something similar. He said [paraphrased] "we hear things differently when we play fast than when we play slow. We relate to the harmony on a different level. On slower tempos--we can hear in more detail--but it can be difficult to discern the cohesion of the whole piece. That is, we are more likely to lose the 'home key' of the tune. At fast tempos, we tend to generalize a little more because it is easier to hear the big picture of the piece."

    I related this to being a passenger in a car. When you look out the side window and the car is driving slowly, you can make out all the details. You can see the leaves on the tree, the windows on the buildings, and that guy flicking you off because he had a bad day (maybe that's only in NYC ). When you drive faster, everything turns into a blur, but you become more aware of the clouds in the sky, the Sun--the big picture (that was there when you were driving more slowly).

    I always talk too much, right? Anyway, long story short--the tempo decides how you hear the tune and what you play over the tune. Parker definitely played differently on a ballad than he played on "BeBop" or "A Night In Tunsia".

  20. #19

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    My solos are often a tragedy, but most often a farce.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    My solos are often a tragedy, but most often a farce.
    As long as they are fierce and fiery, they'r fine.

    B.B. King, paraphrased: [Soloing] is like speaking; as long as you are telling the truth, you don't have to worry about repeating yourself.
    Last edited by citizenk74; 06-30-2019 at 09:32 AM. Reason: Additional thought (hey I don't have that many, I need to jot 'em down before they escape!
    Best regards, k