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  1. #1

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    A bit of practical musical philosophy here.

    I never had problem with melodic ideas - my problem was always how to express them deirectly on the instrument in the most convincing way. This has always been and still is the general thread of my practice.

    I am not pro or teacher but I do teach occasionally - I try always to limit it within the competence I feel secure - there are aspects of jazz playing where I do not feel I have the right to teach anyone but in some aspects I know I can help... besides I enjoy it as it helps to systemize and firmulate things for myself too.

    What I noticed during the communication with these 'students' and what was discovery for me was that for most of them the situation is quite the opposite than it was for me: they often want to play something in general but they have no melodic ideas.
    At the beginning I was confused with the fact that I had to teach how to create a simple melody or melodic line.
    Things that were on unconcious level for me had to be transferred into some rational system.

    I think that jazz melodicism is basically built by the same principle that in classical music - it was derived from stadards that were mostly composed by musicians with classical cultural background - even though in light classical music - and in jazz that 'skeleton' was embelished and developed.

    The basis of classical melodicism is expressive intervalic movement with compensatory principle: i.e. jumps are compensated by scalar line, movement in one direction with movement in another direction and so and so on.
    Classical (and jazz) intonation is very subtle precise and important, the melodicism is developed to highest point and ithe melody contains information almost about every other essential aspect: rythm, meter, harmony - even dynamics and tempo (as these two are secodary and ca be derived from the essentials in my opinion).
    Its expressiveness very much connected by harmonic subcurrent that stipulated ternsion/release relationships. But it was developed to such an extent that hearing harmony was natural - especially inrealtive simple music as standards

    (Imho - rock music has different melodicism -much simpler, closer to spoken intonation with less nuances and expressiveness --- though there are lots of exceptions to of course).


    So I tried to figure out how I can teach a student to 'melodicize his thought' - to improvize a line, a motive a melody that would be capable to express all teh musical aspects and at the same time be induvidual and meaningful and expressive as to some degree a pure gesture.

    I speak about practical excersise...

    I tried to apply some typical jazz approach

    1) triad arp + 1 note, like 1-2-3-5, or 1--3-5-6 or any other combinations

    2) penatonics which I treat also as triads wuth added notes

    3) triad pairs --- a bit strange tool imho as I do not catch any purely musical principle behind these hexachords... it is mechanical but it may help to force person into melodic playing as it mixes lines and intervals but it requires guidelines for a student too

    4) I used some BH melodic excersises which are great but they are too be-bopish -- I would like to have too narrow stylistic reference

    A few times I composed excersises that contained bass line (not chords) and occasional melody notes wirtten out and some restrictions according to whic a student had to fill-in

    But still i am looking tfor some new solutions. I f you have any ideas... again I am speaking about practical excercises (preferable guitar related) that would force student to make proper choices and he will get it into his ears and hands eventually.

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Well, this seems obvious, but I didn't see it in your post: They need to learn and internalize a lot of tunes, and be able to sing and play them by ear. In my opinion someone should know 10 tunes before going into any of the stuff you mentioned.

  4. #3

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    I think I’d just teach them a load of standards by ear and then start work on solos, talking about theory as necessary.

    I don’t feel it’s reasonable to expect anyone to compose idiomatic jazz melodies, and even less improvise them, until they’ve been exposed to a lot of that material.

    Beyond this initial phase, licks are a useful halfway house until the player starts to develop a more integrated musical sensibility.

  5. #4

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    Btw I think jazz educators get obsessed with trying to teach improvisation because they see this is a unique aspect of jazz. I don’t need to tell Jonah of all people that it is not.

    these tools in the OP are compositional tools of course, that can be productive in combination with a good aural sense of the music... of course as I know nothing about the person in question, I can’t really go further than this.

    in the end improvisation is learned within an idiom. You can’t be creative until an idiom is mastered. That seems to bother a lot of people but I can’t see how it could be otherwise.

  6. #5

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    Head for the 3rd, it's the strongest note. How you get there is up to you. Chromaticism and dissonance over the V is jazzy.



    But it's never random or abstract. What's played must be in concordance with the whole feel of the tune, the harmonies, and the rhythm - so the 'backdrop' is more important than the notes. What I've done in the soundclip is only generic.

    If you think the 3rds sound like 'All The Things You Are', they do, but it's really the other way round. 'All The Things You Are' sounds like the 3rds, that's how it was composed :-)

  7. #6

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    They can also work on standard motivic development. The best thing about that approach is that it applies to any style of music, melody and improvisation. You take a simple melodic motif, and start working with that, transposing, altering, moving, augmenting or diminishing it, questions and answers, etc. Motivic development is pretty much taught similarly in classical and jazz, and it's easy to find material, theory and ideas online.

    You can organise motivic development material to either be a short lesson with having students work on it for weeks (for ever? ), or elaborate with multiple lessons.

    If they have been listening to any kind of music they will have a grip on that, whereas the second part of jazz improvisation, the "through composed" part, is a bit more advanced to get into as it requires some knowledge of the idiom, licks, transcriptions, etc. Mixing both works great, taking a transcribed simple phrase and working with that as a motif.

  8. #7

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    They can also work on standard motivic development. The best thing about that approach is that it applies to any style of music, melody and improvisation. You take a simple melodic motif, and start working with that, transposing, altering, moving, augmenting or diminishing it, questions and answers, etc. Motivic development is pretty much taught similarly in classical and jazz, and it's easy to find material, theory and ideas online.
    Thank you

    'Motivic development' is a bit arguable area for me... bith in classical and in jazz. I know what is meant under that term usually, the problem I see there is that.... there is practically no actual development of motive as I understand it.
    But it is another topic maybe...
    Last edited by Jonah; 02-21-2020 at 04:02 AM.

  9. #8

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    Thank you all for the idea with songs...

    Sure I use songs - and I insist on learning by ear... and I have an approach of hwo to use and learn from a song, from melodic structure/ harmonic realtions etc.

    I remember myself - before I got seriously into jazz guitar I knew many songs - some I could play on piano, some I could just sing, I knew the lyrics, knew the performers, often the movies where they came from, the context - I loved it... so jazz guiatr was natural expression of this love and passion

    But what surprises me that people sometimes want to play something 'jazzy' but do not know either context or music


    Btw I think jazz educators get obsessed with trying to teach improvisation because they see this is a unique aspect of jazz. I don’t need to tell Jonah of all people that it is not.

    these tools in the OP are compositional tools of course, that can be productive in combination with a good aural sense of the music... of course as I know nothing about the person in question, I can’t really go further than this.

    in the end improvisation is learned within an idiom. You can’t be creative until an idiom is mastered. That seems to bother a lot of people but I can’t see how it could be otherwise.
    This i very true.

    I would only stress one point.

    Why I was about more 'abstract' tools in this thread - not that much style related - because in modern conditions we have problem with living styles. We do quite a lot of 'what was before' and 'how it was before".

    Ho to keep it vivvid amd living? I do not know... it is probably in today's world becomes very individual issue as thee is no living language of that music ... nevertheless Peter Bernstein, or Bill frisell (when plays standards)., or Lage Lund or even Julian Lage with his direct stylistic references - they sound like modern language to me...

    So - maybe I am wrong - but I try to combine that more or less abstract (truely it is not abstract of course too bu more general maybe) tools that force a person maybe just to think in terms of what is going now with no big reference to style
    with diving into the style through songs and idioms... but for that the student muct really know what he wants.

  10. #9

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    I don't know small a minority I'm in, but I think of this differently - I think.

    To me, melody comes from scat-singing, or some other form of musical imagination.

    What helps is to scat sing an idea for a measure's worth, or so, and then scat sing the next measure, and so on.

    To my (possibly narrow) mind, this is melody.

    I don't know what to call an idea that's composed from mathematical constructs (I know, that's too extreme). I guess it's melody too, but I don't think it's the same sort of thing. Not that I don't like it when it's well done.

    But for the student, it seems to me that being able to scat sing over some changes and play the line -- is the fundamental skill. The theory comes in later, at least to this way of thinking. The theory helps you remember and find the sounds and, at a more advanced level, find new sounds (not that I've gotten much from the time I've spent trying that).

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I don't know small a minority I'm in, but I think of this differently - I think.

    To me, melody comes from scat-singing, or some other form of musical imagination.

    What helps is to scat sing an idea for a measure's worth, or so, and then scat sing the next measure, and so on.

    To my (possibly narrow) mind, this is melody.

    I don't know what to call an idea that's composed from mathematical constructs (I know, that's too extreme). I guess it's melody too, but I don't think it's the same sort of thing. Not that I don't like it when it's well done.

    But for the student, it seems to me that being able to scat sing over some changes and play the line -- is the fundamental skill. The theory comes in later, at least to this way of thinking. The theory helps you remember and find the sounds and, at a more advanced level, find new sounds (not that I've gotten much from the time I've spent trying that).
    Musical imaginotion is as much part of pernoality and personal experience as rational tools. There is no contradiction.
    All in - I am not into theory here -- I am mostly very practical in music.

    But yes, singing (and scatting) is important part of - let me call it - natural musical expression.

    Even more: most greates classical condutors I admire im my opinion sing with orchestra (I can clearly hear it), or pianists like Horowitz - he just sings... it does not mean simplification of complext music... singing is phrasing, singing is breath.

    I absolutely agree about its importance.

    Especially on plucked instruments with its natural decay - singing on guitar means control on all the details of articulation or phrasing: where and how it starts how it flows - where and how it ends

  12. #11

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    A more precise description of "melodic idea" would help. I get the sense so far that what you mean is "an idea for a melody" rather than "an idea that IS a melody"...?

    If so, I would think it better to produce ideas whose content IS melodic in form from its inception rather than attempting to melodize thought that isn't.

    Thoughts or ideas that are intrinsically phenomonologically melodic need no reformation because they are neither verbal, visual, graphic, geometric, theoretical, nor any other sensory or conceptual modality other than the natural form of melody itself - in the perceived form of sound itself (applies to harmony and rhythm, too).

    If your thought or idea were not in melodic form (so you weren't hearing the melodic line in your mind's ear), then despite transforms, algorithms, methods, or systems to execute it, where would be the comparator against which to judge quality control, so you might know if you even played what you intended?

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding... music is intrinsically self revealing - it teaches you directly by your hearing it.

  13. #12

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    You can also make up lyrics on the spot when you've an idea of what sound and phrasing you want. Or adapt existing ones. Like this: "Do you know the way to San José? Yes, that's where Cosmic Gumbo lives, and he's very [still trying to come up with a rhyme there]" (sorry CG, I can't help it; it's your silly handle & picture that get me going)

  14. #13

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    I never had problem with melodic ideas - my problem was always how to express them directly on the instrument
    I think it's called practice the fingerboard!

    they often want to play something in general but they have no melodic ideas.
    That's because they're young. Most college stuff is derivative. In fact, nearly all of it is derivative.

    I f you have any ideas... again I am speaking about practical excercises (preferable guitar related) that would force student to make proper choices and he will get it into his ears and hands eventually.
    I told you, head for the 3rd, it's the strongest note. Add a dash of chromaticism and a sprinkle of dominant dissonance and bingo. Your lines will be unarguable.

    Then, when you've got the rules, you can break them... and jazz was born.

  15. #14

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    I've seen a couple of quotes
    one from Frank Vignola ...
    Essentially, 'learn lots of tunes....'

    Branford Marsallis , something like
    'dont worry about improv , learn lots of tunes
    and the improv will come along ....'

    I'm paraphrasing there

    I'm finding the above to be true
    (for me anyway)

  16. #15

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    There's one a month... and nobody does them except me. Even the thread-master has given up


  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    I've seen a couple of quotes
    one from Frank Vignola ...
    Essentially, 'learn lots of tunes....'

    Branford Marsallis , something like
    'dont worry about improv , learn lots of tunes
    and the improv will come along ....'

    I'm paraphrasing there

    I'm finding the above to be true
    (for me anyway)
    I guess I'm confused. How can the answer to "how to play beautiful melodies" not be "learn and play a lot of beautiful melodies?"

  18. #17

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    I teach Barry Harris's Basics for melodic improvisation-
    Last edited by rintincop; 02-21-2020 at 03:59 PM.

  19. #18

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    Ask yourself - How did Chet Baker do it? ...

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    Ask yourself - How did Chet Baker do it? ...
    haha do what? you gotta be a bit selective here...

  21. #20

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    Interesting topic. The "learn a lot of tunes" (to begin improvising) certainly makes sense. The more tunes I learn (and especially in the realm of lead/solo "licks" and passages)... the more arrows in my quiver. However...

    I have also always thought... there's little originality in that. Meaning, the great got great by "learning a lot of tunes", but many times their individual style (note choice and phrasing) did not come just from learning other's music... at some point, it comes out of the players imagination... it's the only way to be unique. I'll use an obvious example, altho not jazz: Steve Vai. Vai sounded like no one when he burst on the scene- including EVH- and to this day sounds like no one, and no one sounds like him (unless they are mimicking him of course). And having read/listened to ALOT of his interviews, it came from exploring the instrument, and the harmonic ideas, and his imagination (the "record player in his head")... e.g., a lot of noodling an experimenting. And a lot of sucking goes along with that, for a long time lol. I believe this is one aspect that cannot be taught, except in concept only.... just as I am talking about it here. You have to play freely, NOT being stuck to a particulate tune or idea, or "standard sound", you have to dare to suck as you explore the connection between your brain/soul and the music.... like meditation, the connection exists, you just have to figure out how to use it...

    Another more jazzy example is Jim Campilongo. Far from playing licks he's memorized over 45 years, he plays things NO ONE has played before, because HE pulled them out of his own imagination and brought them the life. Sure, a lot of his "tricks" come from Roy Buchanan, but if you've seriously listened to Campy, he sounds like no one else.... you can hear influences, like Buchanan and Bryant, but he's not just playing an amalgamation of other's people's licks in different orders. He has actually CREATED a new space on the instrument... he's gone where no one has gone before.

    In concept, being able to play whatever you think - instantly- is the goal. To be one millisecond ahead of the music, and know where the next note is going... taken directly from your imagination and placed on the fretboard. (not taken from a memorized lick). The journey may take a lifetime, but that's the joy... it never ends!

  22. #21

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    Absolutely, that's the point. I'm quite sure that a lot of inquiries here are about looking for a 'quick way' to do things. We want the magic solutions, the quick route. Probably it's the same with most things, not just music.

    There isn't a magic quick way. Or maybe there are one or two but they're not really much good. The only way to get good at something is to become a nerd. You've got to get right into it, live it, breathe it, play with it, explore it, experiment with it, maybe see what others have done... you've got to immerse yourself in it completely for a long time without thought of time and, given the requisite flair, something will come out of it, bound to.

    Einstein once said he didn't think he was smarter than anybody else, it was just that he worked harder at it; he worried at it like a dog with a bone.

    I think that's true. There are no magic short cuts, just a lot of doing it for its own sake. Which, if you love what you're doing, isn't that terrible.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    I've seen a couple of quotes
    one from Frank Vignola ...
    Essentially, 'learn lots of tunes....'

    Branford Marsallis , something like
    'dont worry about improv , learn lots of tunes
    and the improv will come along ....'

    I'm paraphrasing there

    I'm finding the above to be true
    (for me anyway)
    see my comment above.

    i try not to post stuff that isn’t based on a foundation of something. Usually.

    people get hung up on improv. I blame the hippies and their individualistic notions of creativity.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop
    I teach Barry Harris's Basics for melodic improvisation-
    This isn’t a good path for a neophyte improviser in my experience. It’s a pretty good one for a player with a good command of the basic materials.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    Interesting topic. The "learn a lot of tunes" (to begin improvising) certainly makes sense. The more tunes I learn (and especially in the realm of lead/solo "licks" and passages)... the more arrows in my quiver. However...

    I have also always thought... there's little originality in that. Meaning, the great got great by "learning a lot of tunes", but many times their individual style (note choice and phrasing) did not come just from learning other's music... at some point, it comes out of the players imagination... it's the only way to be unique. I'll use an obvious example, altho not jazz: Steve Vai. Vai sounded like no one when he burst on the scene- including EVH- and to this day sounds like no one, and no one sounds like him (unless they are mimicking him of course). And having read/listened to ALOT of his interviews, it came from exploring the instrument, and the harmonic ideas, and his imagination (the "record player in his head")... e.g., a lot of noodling an experimenting. And a lot of sucking goes along with that, for a long time lol. I believe this is one aspect that cannot be taught, except in concept only.... just as I am talking about it here. You have to play freely, NOT being stuck to a particulate tune or idea, or "standard sound", you have to dare to suck as you explore the connection between your brain/soul and the music.... like meditation, the connection exists, you just have to figure out how to use it...

    Another more jazzy example is Jim Campilongo. Far from playing licks he's memorized over 45 years, he plays things NO ONE has played before, because HE pulled them out of his own imagination and brought them the life. Sure, a lot of his "tricks" come from Roy Buchanan, but if you've seriously listened to Campy, he sounds like no one else.... you can hear influences, like Buchanan and Bryant, but he's not just playing an amalgamation of other's people's licks in different orders. He has actually CREATED a new space on the instrument... he's gone where no one has gone before.

    In concept, being able to play whatever you think - instantly- is the goal. To be one millisecond ahead of the music, and know where the next note is going... taken directly from your imagination and placed on the fretboard. (not taken from a memorized lick). The journey may take a lifetime, but that's the joy... it never ends!
    its interesting how people see the result and imagine that to be the process, or that the process remains static over the course of the musician’s development.

    i can’t speak to Campilongo as I’m less knowledgable about his development as a player, but Vai’s first break was not as a guitarist per se, but a transcriber for Zappa. His second break was then to play very difficult written parts in his touring bands. As I understand he had some solos in Zappas band, but Frank was very much the main improviser.

    needless to say he literally wrote the book on Zappas playing. In short, he served a (very tough) professional apprenticeship. The diversity of his musical interests made him very original, but he was paid by Zappa to play and write down the right notes.

    how did he start? Learning Zeppelin and Kiss like most guitar playing kids of his generation.

    now, it’s interesting that we never seem to expect jazz players to follow the same path as a budding rock player. That is to start with the music itself.

    the need to be original is a terrible expectation to inflict on yourself let alone your students. I honestly believe trying to be original leans too much towards self love. It is better to love music and dive right into it.

    Originality comes from a deeper place than that. We may strive to have our own voice, but I think even then we might be trying to shape things too much. As teachers we can encourage a students in this direction of course, but we have to start with some basic skill set. The interesting thing is while people feel this instinctively with regard to rock and blues, they seem to think that originality is important from day one in jazz.

    At some point an element of self denial kicks in - if we copy Wes or whoever for too long, we need to stop playing those licks. often in accounts, this pressure comes from the community. But that’s not to say it’s wrong to start by copying Wes, or whichever beloved Musican.

    i think this shifting nature of this journey is poorly understood in current pedagogical practice.

    anyway if this was a forum of bass players, we’d be framing this completely differently haha
    Last edited by christianm77; 02-22-2020 at 12:58 PM.

  26. #25

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    I wish we could get away from this idea of trying to be like somebody else. We'll never be like somebody else and, even we did, we'll only ever be a poor imitation so what's the point?

    This doesn't mean we ignore what others have done, though. Stealing's fine but only when it corresponds with one's own feeling. Staying true to one's own feeling is the quickest way to finding one's own voice.

    There - 'the quickest way'... now I'm at it too

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    the need to be original is a terrible expectation to inflict on yourself let alone your students. I honestly believe trying to be original leans too much towards self love.
    Couldn't disagree more on that, but I think we may be arguing perspectives... HOW to look at it, because as you'll see... I agree with everything else in your post!

    I've never said to not learn other's music, or certainly the basics/mechanics. But without being original, music at large would be very boring and pedestrian indeed. And I don't think being original is a burden.... I think it CAN be, if you overthink it... if you TRY to be original... instead of just letting what will be, be. If everyone could get out of their own way (ego), and just play, they would BE original, because it would be impossible NOT to be, because there is only ONE of them in the entire world.

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    It is better to love music and dive right into it.

    Originality comes from a deeper place than that. We may strive to have our own voice, but I think even then we might be trying to shape things too much. As teachers we can encourage a students in this direction of course, but we have to start with some basic skill set. The interesting thing is while people feel this instinctively with regard to rock and blues, they seem to think that originality is important from day one in jazz.

    At some point an element of self denial kicks in - if we copy Wes or whoever for too long, we need to stop playing those licks. often in accounts, this pressure comes from the community. But that’s not to say it’s wrong to start by copying Wes, or whichever beloved Musican.

    i think this shifting nature of this journey is poorly understood in current pedagogical practice.

    anyway if this was a forum of bass players, we’d be framing this completely differently haha
    Agree with all that!

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    I wish we could get away from this idea of trying to be like somebody else. We'll never be like somebody else and, even we did, we'll only ever be a poor imitation so what's the point?

    This doesn't mean we ignore what others have done, though. Stealing's fine but only when it corresponds with one's own feeling. Staying true to one's own feeling is the quickest way to finding one's own voice.

    It really is just that simple. But the ego, expectations of others, and "norms" must be left at the door.

  29. #28

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    Also - define original.

  30. #29

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    Maybe it all come down to how people learn?

    I don’t know what’s the matter with people:
    they don’t learn by understanding;
    they learn by some other way – by rote or something.
    Their knowledge is so fragile!

    R. Feynman

  31. #30

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    Quite - repeating isn't the same as learning.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Also - define original.
    To me, original means "not done before". It could be a song, a lick, a poem... as I said about Jim Campilongo, there are things in his playing that I have never heard anyone else play- and I listen to many of the players that influenced him... he learned, copied, but then explored until he broke new ground.

    Also, original does not automatically = good. I could probably come up with something (a lick, a noise, etc) no one has done before, and while that would make it original, it doesn't necessarily mean it's musical. Of course, liking or not liking something is subjective/opinion. So perhaps the term "musical" is better than "good." I'm sure many people think Vai is nothing but noise tomfoolery and wankery... but there's no denying that he's original.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    Couldn't disagree more on that, but I think we may be arguing perspectives... HOW to look at it, because as you'll see... I agree with everything else in your post!

    I've never said to not learn other's music, or certainly the basics/mechanics. But without being original, music at large would be very boring and pedestrian indeed. And I don't think being original is a burden.... I think it CAN be, if you overthink it... if you TRY to be original... instead of just letting what will be, be. If everyone could get out of their own way (ego), and just play, they would BE original, because it would be impossible NOT to be, because there is only ONE of them in the entire world.



    Agree with all that!
    what I’m arguing is we get effects and causes, the destination and the road, confused.

    of course originality, or perhaps less dauntingly phrased, individuality is a highly desirable end goal. However, I don’t think being aware of it as a goal actually helps. At all.

    which is difficult because I am aware of it and desire to be it very much.

  34. #33

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    I thought Bruce Formans point was interesting. Basically it was a lot harder to get things right in the days of vinyl, let alone 78s.... so people made mistakes that contributed to their original take.

    so maybe with software like Transcribe we have squeezed out that natural evolution, the mutations in the musical DNA.

    what are we left with? I think eclecticism is where it is at now. And perhaps a less obsessive desire to get it exactly right; as horrifying as that is to many people! Culture has become a tribute to itself.

    and I’m aware that might seem like I’m contradicting myself. So much of this depends on where a budding musician is in their journey. Some things are appropriate for the beginner, others for the intermediate and so on.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    To me, original means "not done before". It could be a song, a lick, a poem... as I said about Jim Campilongo, there are things in his playing that I have never heard anyone else play- and I listen to many of the players that influenced him... he learned, copied, but then explored until he broke new ground.

    Also, original does not automatically = good. I could probably come up with something (a lick, a noise, etc) no one has done before, and while that would make it original, it doesn't necessarily mean it's musical. Of course, liking or not liking something is subjective/opinion. So perhaps the term "musical" is better than "good." I'm sure many people think Vai is nothing but noise tomfoolery and wankery... but there's no denying that he's original.
    Sounds about right

  36. #35

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    I'll venture another comment on this subject, although I'm not certain about it.

    It seems to me that there is more than one way to approach playing something at least vaguely recognizable as jazz.

    It seems to me that some players are more "lick-based" than others. Some seem more theory-based - and I can almost hear the click when a scale plugs into a chord.

    Other players strike me as more rooted in melody -- the sort of thing that happens when you scat sing. At least, when I scat sing a solo, I'm a lot less likely to produce a melody that lays well on the instrument, or a lick I've heard/played before, or a manifestation of a theoretical device. I think of the scatting as more purely "melody" - and that's my goal when I play.

    The result, at least in my hands, does not sound to me like classic jazz guitar. Not enough notes, not enough jazz vocabulary, not enough variation in sounds, etc. I've wished I could do that for years, but I've given up. But, on a good night, I think the scatting based approach produces better melody and more feeling.

    Occasionally, I've been surprised when something that sounds like pure melody is explained by the player as conforming to a theoretical device, usually a specific scale, not that they are mutually exclusive. I'm aware that these are not discrete categories, but, rather, amorphous trends.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    what I’m arguing is we get effects and causes, the destination and the road, confused.

    of course originality, or perhaps less dauntingly phrased, individuality is a highly desirable end goal. However, I don’t think being aware of it as a goal actually helps. At all.

    which is difficult because I am aware of it and desire to be it very much.
    I can go with "individuality"... because that's exactly the same thing, since there is only one of each of us, it can't help but be "original". Same point.

    Still think I disagree with the striving for (I think one should, at some point at least)... but again- it does not have to be a hurdle. We're getting into Taoism now, LOL.... people who try to be happy aren't happy, happy people JUST ARE.

    When an archer is shooting for fun

    He has all his skill.
    If he shoots for a brass buckle
    He is already nervous.
    If he shoots for a prize of gold
    He goes blind
    Or sees two targets –
    He is out of his mind.

    His skill has not changed,
    But the prize divides him.
    He cares.
    He thinks more of winning
    Than of shooting –
    And the need to win
    Drains him of power.
    -Chuang Tzu

    (the point being, you have to learn how to shoot for the joy of it, even if in competition... be true to yourself. Lose ego.)


    Life is a school,
    where you learn
    how to remember
    what your soul
    already knows.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    To me, original means "not done before". It could be a song, a lick, a poem... as I said about Jim Campilongo, there are things in his playing that I have never heard anyone else play- and I listen to many of the players that influenced him... he learned, copied, but then explored until he broke new ground.

    Also, original does not automatically = good. I could probably come up with something (a lick, a noise, etc) no one has done before, and while that would make it original, it doesn't necessarily mean it's musical. Of course, liking or not liking something is subjective/opinion. So perhaps the term "musical" is better than "good." I'm sure many people think Vai is nothing but noise tomfoolery and wankery... but there's no denying that he's original.
    Hmmm, if I had to answer rag's question I'd have to say in music it often boils down to a sound and a feel. I'd recognise either of those players from one note. And sure they have their own licks etc, but I think that's the really deep element.

    Originality is a problematic concept for me because - it's extremely subjective based on what music you are familiar with. Someone might seem completely unprecedented and left field simply because they have imported something from another style of music into a genre unfamiliar with those aspects. You might think Satriani was a blazing original if you'd mostly paid attention to heavy rock and blues rock players up to that point, for instance, but if you know your mid 70's Holdsworth with Tony Williams - you can instantly hear where the style and sound came from. He tells you that himself - check out his interviews with Jude Gold.

    Satch isn't a rip off of course - he adds his own special sauce to the mix, and brings it into the pop/rock sphere in a way that Allan simply wouldn't have in a million years, plus Joe does indeed have his own sound.

    Vai? His basic lead style - Beck, Holdsworth, EVH and Zappa gets you right in the ballpark. That's his own special combination, but it's clear where he's coming from. Also the physicality of the way people play... Often what people think of as originality or individuality is a certain combination of influences.

    (Now Holdsworth has more claim to originality than either, but he was borrowing from diverse influences again - classical, jazz sax players, violin (which he played) and on guitar players like Jimmy Raney who had already pointed jazz guitar in a more hornlike, legato direction.)

    Campilongo too, had his forebears in Western swing and Country/Jazz fusions that go back a long way. And a hefty helping of Roy Buchanan. At least that's what he says.

    One of my favourites, Peter Bernstein told me a lot of his chord stuff comes straight out of Monk. No-one else does that stuff on guitar much, so it sounds original to me.

    EVH's tapping thing seems wildly original until you realise that Steve Hackett was doing it 5 years before. Did EVH listen to him? Maybe not... Either way, that's an interesting physical idea that occurred in isolation to more than one person. Eddie himself, like Bernstein was inspired by piano - in this case Debussy and Bach. Hackett too, as I understand. They found the same solution to playing rapid, single note arpeggios.

    So yada yada, anyway I'm sure you aren't arguing the opposite, but it's always worth bearing in mind, every one of these very individual and unmistakeable players has spent a lot of time checking shit out, not necessarily just their own instrument or genre. We know Vai listens to all sorts of stuff, Campilongo too, Charlie Hunter makes a point of talking about how eclectic Satriani's tastes were.

    That's really important. Originality in music, if we must use that term, doesn't emerge in vacuo. So that's what I'm talking about. I don't think when Vai sat down with his first Holdsworth or Jeff Back LP and tried to work out what the hell was going on, that he was concerned with being original. I think he just loved the sounds and wanted to work out how to make them.

    I don't think you can begin with the destination in mind (there is no destination anyway). So that's my takeaway as a teacher and learner. I think as a teacher - encourage diverse interests, make suggestions, turn people on to shit, but don't get ahead of yourself. As a student or teacher... creativity emerges if it's left to do so. You can't force it out...

    Another way of framing it is - how would anyone know if something was original if they didn't have other stuff to compare it to? I mean originality can't be completely random or it's just - random. It has to be a take on something that already exists. Even Derek Bailey... (to some extent)

    The other problem I have with it is the myth of the lone genius. Everyone operates in a community. Einstein, no less than any musician. If you study relativity for instance - it's full of the names other mathematicians and scientists - Ricci, Schwarzchild, Riemann, Minkowski and so on. All of them are important to the modern formulation of the theory, and while no one disputes Einstein's genius, he was also a celebrity. He's the guy people have heard of. No-one gives a shit about James Clerk Maxwell lol.

    Environment is important too. Everyone of the musicians I listed developed in a rich musical environment.

  39. #38

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    In terms of the brass tacks of teaching jazz, the same thing is true, you have to start with the music. Like if you were teaching rock.

    I think it should be a priority of the teacher to prepare the student to make good sounding, professional musical statements in the genre that someone would pay to hear. They don't have to be improvised. They don't have to be the student's own invention, though that's fine if they sound good. That will come naturally anyway as they learn how to play more and more stuff. Think Wes Montgomery.

    That's the buy in - to the real learning experience, which is the community of practice. The bandstand.

    To some people that might be heretical, but at the moment from my experience students are being failed in this regard by educators, because they imagine it is possible to teach improvisation, while it is actually only possible to learn it, and it is best learned - in the wild. On the bandstand, from the records and from experienced musicians.

    That's the start. Later, there are other phases. But you can't jump them.

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    I can go with "individuality"... because that's exactly the same thing, since there is only one of each of us, it can't help but be "original". Same point.

    Still think I disagree with the striving for (I think one should, at some point at least)... but again- it does not have to be a hurdle. We're getting into Taoism now, LOL.... people who try to be happy aren't happy, happy people JUST ARE.

    When an archer is shooting for fun

    He has all his skill.
    If he shoots for a brass buckle
    He is already nervous.
    If he shoots for a prize of gold
    He goes blind
    Or sees two targets –
    He is out of his mind.

    His skill has not changed,
    But the prize divides him.
    He cares.
    He thinks more of winning
    Than of shooting –
    And the need to win
    Drains him of power.
    -Chuang Tzu

    (the point being, you have to learn how to shoot for the joy of it, even if in competition... be true to yourself. Lose ego.)


    Life is a school,
    where you learn
    how to remember
    what your soul
    already knows.
    I could talk about the Zen gardens of Kyoto and how the arrangement of rocks show you that perfection is unattainable, but who am I kidding? It's all Yoda and the Matrix down this end.

    I think striving to be original is a self defeating exercise of ego. And yet, I still grapple with it. Good quotes anyway.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I'll venture another comment on this subject, although I'm not certain about it.

    It seems to me that there is more than one way to approach playing something at least vaguely recognizable as jazz.

    It seems to me that some players are more "lick-based" than others.
    It's possible to be a lick player and not get past this phase, but I think it's also important to be a lick player at some point.

    The secret is most people make their chunks too big, which makes them easier to identify. Trade secret - never learn a lick longer that about 7 notes. Then you can secret them about your playing and no-one will be any the wiser. (At least that's what Scott Henderson says, and hey he's a pretty origi... I mean individual player.)

    Some seem more theory-based - and I can almost hear the click when a scale plugs into a chord.
    Oh god I know that, it is the most boring thing. Sometimes I hear myself do it. Argh it's painful. I blame the teachers.

    Other players strike me as more rooted in melody -- the sort of thing that happens when you scat sing. At least, when I scat sing a solo, I'm a lot less likely to produce a melody that lays well on the instrument, or a lick I've heard/played before, or a manifestation of a theoretical device. I think of the scatting as more purely "melody" - and that's my goal when I play.

    The result, at least in my hands, does not sound to me like classic jazz guitar.
    Maybe you are, I dunno, an individual and unusual player? Classic jazz guitar has been done anyway. It's nice to do it again, but there's no necessity.

    OTOH maybe you need to get deeper into the music and learn more about it. Well actually, that's always true for everybody. It's just really good players don't need to be told this because it's their favourite thing.

    Not enough notes, not enough jazz vocabulary, not enough variation in sounds, etc. I've wished I could do that for years, but I've given up. But, on a good night, I think the scatting based approach produces better melody and more feeling.

    Occasionally, I've been surprised when something that sounds like pure melody is explained by the player as conforming to a theoretical device, usually a specific scale, not that they are mutually exclusive. I'm aware that these are not discrete categories, but, rather, amorphous trends.
    Well I used to be a 'hear everything' fundamentalist. I think it's a phase it's good to go through, locks everything down, cuts through the noodly noodly guitarist finger wiggle bullshit, gives your playing more intention and honesty. After a while, it's fun to adopt a more playful and experimental approach.

  42. #41

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    Another perspective is to think about this from the point of view of the composer.

    I doubt that composers of great melodies were thinking about licks or theory.

    It seems to me that, if, hypothetically, you were presented with a certain set of changes and played the melody to ATTYA (in an alternate universe where that tune hadn't been written), that would be an excellent solo.

    In this view, you generate melody from an unconscious internal process.

    If the melodies you generate get stale, you can work on training your ear to hear more sophisticated things. Traditionally, this is done from listening and lifting, but can also be done, at least by some players, via theoretical constructs.

    A player I've seen up close and personal for hours (and who made the cover of GP), who is an absolute encyclopedia of jazz guitar, is impressive in technique and vocabulary, but, to my ear (and I'm probably in a minority), melodically less interesting because, I think, of a lack of feeling. Nothing is a guarantee.

    My idea of greatness is Jim Hall, to name one player.

  43. #42

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    There's some real wisdom going down round here ....

    thanks everyone , I hadn't heard the Tao stuff before
    love it

    I also like
    "do or don't do , there is no try"

  44. #43

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    Oh yeah , thought of another thing ....

    play the thing you hear (or as close as you can)
    (that's why you practice a lot)

    don't let your hand play what it wants ....
    the hand just wants to play the same old stuff
    it always plays , which is very boring

  45. #44

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    I remember a Tony Rice quote in Frets circa’87: “Play what you hear. If you make it your goal to play what you hear, you will find a way to get it onto your instrument.”

    I would add to that a Robert Fripp quote in Guitar Player: “Begin at the beginning. Therefore, we begin where we are.”

    Obviously, people begin in different places. That leads to unique playing, whether one starts as a copyist or not.

  46. #45

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    I recall an interview with Jeff Beck in which he was asked what scales, etc., he used. He replied "I just play the notes I want to hear."

    All the training on scales and arpeggios and chords, etc., is just to introduce your ear to what can be heard and to develop some ear-hand coordination. Music is singing whether with your voice or your instrument. Howard Roberts (IIRC) pointed out in his Guitar Player column back in the early 80s that "when you sing you automatically get the sharps and flats, playing should be just like that."

    Also, "melodicizing your thought" is a wonderful phrase. I really like it.

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Another perspective is to think about this from the point of view of the composer.

    I doubt that composers of great melodies were thinking about licks or theory.
    again I think this is certainly true, but as an educator I got to point out - most students are not Richard Rodgers or Jerome Kern. They haven’t acquired that level of familiarity with the material.

    You don’t obviously start our day one writing GASB classics. You write a thousand songs and develop an internalisation of melody and harmony that is deep and profound.

    which is not to say the man who wrote ATTYA wasn’t self consciously setting himself a little project... but this is done agains the background of having thoroughly assimilated the idiom of Tin Pan Alley songs and wanting to subvert the form a little bit.

    so for me it comes back to the same thing - Vai, Chet Baker, Cole Porter, whoever floats your boat does x, but that doesn’t mean you are ready to. It’s the same thing as why Bach can break the rules of Bach harmony... ‘he is allowed, you are not’ as they say

    OTOH there has to come a point where you are able to let go. I’ve been studying jazz and learning solos and tunes for decades now. And yet it is hard for me to chuck that stuff out and go on instinct. I’ve personally found that learning melodies helps with that a lot. It’s also great for the earlier stages.

    it is quite possible that this level arrives much sooner than we think, too.

    It seems to me that, if, hypothetically, you were presented with a certain set of changes and played the melody to ATTYA (in an alternate universe where that tune hadn't been written), that would be an excellent solo.

    In this view, you generate melody from an unconscious internal process.

    If the melodies you generate get stale, you can work on training your ear to hear more sophisticated things. Traditionally, this is done from listening and lifting, but can also be done, at least by some players, via theoretical constructs.

    A player I've seen up close and personal for hours (and who made the cover of GP), who is an absolute encyclopedia of jazz guitar, is impressive in technique and vocabulary, but, to my ear (and I'm probably in a minority), melodically less interesting because, I think, of a lack of feeling. Nothing is a guarantee.

    My idea of greatness is Jim Hall, to name one player.
    Mine too.

    tbh I think ‘ear training’ as a seperate thing one works on is missing the point. The ear should be involved in everything. Recognising intervals is useful, but hearing melodies and chord voicings is where it is at for the working player, and it’s been my experience that this improves the more you listen to and learn music. So comes back to the same thing.


    im pretty certain than formal training aside this is the cornerstone of Jim’s music. How many standards do you think he knew? He grew up in the dance band era (just about) so that’s 15-20 songs a set no breaks, no charts. Maybe 4 sets a night. Got through a lot of material, learned to blag really well by ear. And so on.

    The enshrinement of ‘transcription’ as a learning activity separate from just doing music is revealing too, and I think unhelpful as an idea. I find it hard to imagine an Irish traditional musician use the the t word for learning a new tune by ear. But jazz is now a literature as well as an aural tradition, and that’s changed the process.

    You actually have to learn to hear your ‘theoretical concepts’ to some extent because otherwise they won’t actually come out on the bandstand. I mean, everyone surely has realised that, right? As soon as you think ‘I’ll do this clever thing’ your playing comes off the rails. So they stop being theoretical concepts and start becoming chunks of music to be useful. Or for more meta/philosophical ideas, very well internalised.

    (which is why you should never expect to be able to apply what you do in the practice room to the bandstand of course.)

    there is another thing where you become relaxed about how things sound sometimes. But usually you end up audiating the rhythm very strongly, and relax somewhat on what pitches come out. actually suspect this happens a lot with jazzers.
    Last edited by christianm77; 02-23-2020 at 06:28 AM.

  48. #47

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    Lots of people skiing about architecture here .

    As a student and as a teacher ....1) I couldn't agree more with this
    To me, melody comes from scat-singing, or some other form of musical imagination.
    - the most revealing lesson I took with a very well known guitarist from 'up North' was when he suggested I sing the line I was improvising (developing). The results were really surprising to someone who has valued originality all his musical life. I have a pretty good framework in a sense of knowing what positions sound like so that enabled me to take the line for a walk. So, a lot of historical woodshedding has enabled me to see/hear where to go, but my singing made the line interesting and emotional and creative. If I relied on this scale over this chord it would have sounded like improvisatory appliqué. Make a jazz sound here, as most do.

    2) I have a student who is very talented though she is very un-keen to learn all the single line stuff. We have had the most success with shaping a motif around chord shapes. It's limited but the student still has choice and can develop phrases through the incoming harmony. There is also the payback from the guitar being predominantly a visual instrument. When all is lost you can hang off a chord tone.

    3) Not sure about the learning standards approach; there may well be dividends to playing lines, fluency, geography but I suspect, like a lot of stuff in jazz pedagogy, it's axiomatic. Impro is not playing someone else's tunes.

    4) Some intersting impro: Scott Henderson playing Lady P? Fantastic. Brad Mehldau's impro in Not You Again with J. Scofield? I looked at the notes and he played NOTHING that related to the chords (maybe the odd note :-) ), yet it was beautiful.

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    again I think this is certainly true, but as an educator I got to point out - most students are not Richard Rodgers or Jerome Kern. They haven’t acquired that level of familiarity with the material.
    .
    I talked about "training your ear to hear more sophisticated things" rather than ear training. The latter term brings to mind exercises. The former, to my way of thinking, is everything you do to expand your musical imagination and improve your ability to distinguish sound.

    I used the term "lifting" to avoid the term "transcription" - which brings a pencil to mind. I could have said "incorporating", or some other word, in my search for the less restrictive term.

    If you can't write a good melody for a song, working slowly with every opportunity for review and editing, what chance do you have of improvising one on the fly on the bandstand? Same for scat singing. it seems to me that a lot of exercises build the ability to play, instantly, the melody in your mind, but they don't directly impact the melodic gift. That's a matter of musical sophistication at an unconscious level. That comes with time, focus on the music and allowing the unconscious process to manifest.

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I talked about "training your ear to hear more sophisticated things" rather than ear training. The latter term brings to mind exercises. The former, to my way of thinking, is everything you do to expand your musical imagination and improve your ability to distinguish sound.

    I used the term "lifting" to avoid the term "transcription" - which brings a pencil to mind. I could have said "incorporating", or some other word, in my search for the less restrictive term.

    If you can't write a good melody for a song, working slowly with every opportunity for review and editing, what chance do you have of improvising one on the fly on the bandstand? Same for scat singing. it seems to me that a lot of exercises build the ability to play, instantly, the melody in your mind, but they don't directly impact the melodic gift. That's a matter of musical sophistication at an unconscious level. That comes with time, focus on the music and allowing the unconscious process to manifest.
    yeah sorry my post may have come across as if it was criticising what you were saying. The term ‘lifting’ I actually really like, but that refers more to solos afaik. I think learning songs is a good preparation for that, also.

  51. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugo Gainly
    Impro is not playing someone else's tunes
    Of course it's not, it's playing something else over them (like Sco on Not You Again) :-)