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  1. #1

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    I thought I’d share something from my practice routine which I’ve done nearly every day for decades. It’s exercising playing “something that is nothing”. It can be looked at as free form, but it’s actually not about the music coming out at all. Instead, it’s about emptying your mind of the accumulated knowledge and just feeling the flow of sound without judgement. The moment I “think” anything I stop- that’s the only rule. Said otherwise, it’s the practice of turning off the ego. Here’s from about an hour ago.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Does anyone else do this??

  4. #3

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    I do. I try to disappear myself and let things happen. I've never recorded it, but I have a feeling is not this good. Yours seems quite cohesive. It's a way to open up some other channels.

  5. #4

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    Yes, every day. I don’t learn songs.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    Does anyone else do this??
    I do it, but probably not as often as I should. When I do, I try to record - sometimes ideas for tunes are in there.

  7. #6

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    Take a couple shots of Tequila or choice of medication and get lots of rest.

  8. #7

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    this mornings application of this to playing a tune.

  9. #8

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    I love the idea - both the rando and the tune versions - think I’ll put it in the working rotation.

    For some reason this thread lead me to recall Lee Konitz’s nearly 40-minute solo version of “The Song is You”. I challenge anyone to put this on, sit in a chair, put down your phone and any other distraction, and listen to this track from the first note to the last.


  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    Does anyone else do this??
    Yes, I do.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bengruven

    For some reason this thread lead me to recall Lee Konitz’s nearly 40-minute solo version of “The Song is You”. I challenge anyone to put this on....
    . Oh to have 40 minutes of feee time!! I’d love to, but doubt anyone will.

  12. #11

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    Not an interesting response here, but I'll just chime in and say I do this also. Usually just 2 voices moving around.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    . Oh to have 40 minutes of feee time!! I’d love to, but doubt anyone will.
    Listening to Lee Konitz isn’t “free time”; it’s mandatory mental health maintenance!

    Seriously, when this whole “mindfulness” thing ramped up in the past couple of years, I decided to implement my own spiritual, mental, and emotional practice. I listen to one complete uninterrupted album of jazz or classical music each day, sitting or lying down, with no other activity or distraction, other than maybe a beverage containing caffeine or alcohol . I choose albums recorded before the CD era, so they’re limited to 30-45 minutes. I don’t try to learn anything, just attend to each moment of music passing by. It’s wonderful. Takes me back to the days before I had a mobile phone (or any phone at all!) or a computer or a television (or a wife and kids) - just a guitar, a stereo and a stack of albums and cassettes. It’s spiritually cleansing; I recommend it!

    I also like to think that it is making my own playing better, in some way.

    So, I took up my own (half-kidding) challenge today and listened to the whole Konitz track just a little while ago. I can’t say I totally enjoyed every moment, but it did remind me of something very important and reaffirmed a conclusion I arrived at a while back and have forgotten several times. And I certainly feel inspired to practice, so that’s up next.
    Last edited by bengruven; 03-24-2020 at 03:48 PM.

  14. #13

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    How much practice time is enough? (Trick question)

  15. #14

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    Mark, I haven’t yet listened to your clips—of course I will, because they always combine intelligence, research, nuance, and natural velocity—but this is something I also do every morning, and most nights before bed. Parentheses to the day, if you will.

    Sometimes it’s 30 minutes before there’s a turn toward a tune (somebody elses’s) or a composition I’m working on. Sometimes a lot longer.

    Jazz language is part of it, sometimes all, sometimes very little. Music is so much vaster than jazz. As for my values, melody and harmony are important, and letting dissonance work out with consonance, and being prepared, indeed searching, for surprises. I know how to develop and resolve what I compose, but if there’s no surprise for me, there will be none for a savvy listener.

    So: Letting the fingers move as they will, not willing them to do differently. As Victor Wooten said (more or less) in Downbeat some years ago, any wrong note is next to a right one, and finessing the wrongs into rights is a fundamental pleasure of improvisation.

    It’s never about speed (I recall Frisell laughing about being no McLaughlin), though my hands and fingers think much faster now than when I was 20, 40, even recently as 60. A benefit of the meditative practice, not from bumping up the metronome.

    I’m fortunate with time and income in retirement. No deadlines in a happy home with a lifelong classical violist coming back to chamber music after a career in law. This can happen any time of day, but having it as a dawn and dark parenthesis seems best.

    This may be relevant to no one else who reads the thread, but it’s clear to me that none of this is possible For me without recovery. I’ll have 9 years on Easter. There was a literary life before—I worked hard at it, suffered in it, won prizes and fellowships and published a lot. But felt no freedom; little gratitude or love; routine disappointment, disillusionment, remorse, regret. Art can’t compensate for an unmanageable life and spirit; alcohol and heroin can dissolve the best technique and strongest will.

    I’ll go listen to your freeplays now.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhl-ferndale
    Mark, I haven’t yet listened to your clips—of course I will, because they always combine intelligence, research, nuance, and natural velocity—I’ll go listen to your freeplays now.
    Your comments are so eloquent, and that’s before listening, so needless to say I will be crestfallen if I don’t read insightful comments post mortem. Thank you! Thirsty ears are what makes music worth making.

  17. #16

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    Well, as with more than one post I thought captured some essence and conveyed it with pizzazz, the one I had just about finished a minute ago concerning what I got from the first version slipped on the internet and fell into oblivion.

    I’ll reconstruct it tomorrow. All good things. In the meantime some of the West Coast and transPacific JGs may have better things to say. Sleep well. I have an appointment with my Turner R-6. Tomorrow morning coffee with the Paddock Metropolitan.

    Oh, ps: I don’t know if I mentioned this, but my former sister-in-law (who lives in Scarsdale) gave her sister and me a blank CD titled Mark Kleinhaut Trio, written in Sharpie, a long time ago. I found it after my wife’s death in packing up my life. It’s here in the jazz shelves in Southern Pines. Stop by sometime, I’ll play it for you.

  18. #17

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    Coffee is the critical ingredient So here’s this morning’s installment. With a nod to news of the day. Alternate title is Easy Queasy.
    Last edited by Mark Kleinhaut; 03-25-2020 at 07:30 AM.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    I will be crestfallen if I don’t read insightful comments post mortem.
    Nothing's impossible.

  20. #19

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    Guys, I don't know why I'm so weird, but I am ?nice.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by corpse
    Guys, I don't know why I'm so weird, but I am ?nice.
    I dig it

  22. #21

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    My reconstructed impression—

    speed of thought collaborating nearly effortlessly with thoughtlessness. Like seeing writing unfold at the speed of intelligent silent reading. Perception and grasp moving simultaneously.

    I recognize certain chord voicings (quartal stacks, diminished/ augmented/tritone clusters) from my own practice—and how the scalar, single-line scampering up and down keeps linking tone-clusters as bases of exploration up and across the tiny cliff-face of the fretboard. The clusters are points of rest however brief; single lines keep scouting, exploring, arranging and rearranging the next cluster points.

    (All of this is metaphor, of course. That’s how I translate the world, I.e. everything that isn’t self explanatory.)

    I notice how the left hand tends to operate from a draped position (wrist relaxed, fingers running freely up and down together like spider-legs) more than a torqued-wrist grip that forces the pinky forward, leaves the index at the rear like a little general who has to barre on short notice, and seems bad for free-play and arthritis in the long run. Your left hand looks free and that counts for nearly everything.

    Related topic: I wonder about practice-place and posture. How do they reflect meditation (relaxed will) and discipline (attention, will, repetition—>perfection)?

    We’re used to seeing you in front of closed wooden blinds in this living/family room. Is that also where you practice (off-camera) free-play regimen? Do you have a certain chair in a certain room, change locations to mix it up, sit outside when the weather is kind?

    Your posture appears perfectly suited to the task. Like a buddha focused inward while hands and fingers (the left, especially) enact thought, feeling, decision, delay, attack, escape, arrival, rest (not much of that!), departure. Could the mind in the left hand play so freely without the militant, obedient rigidity in the right arm and wrist and fingers? I imagine your will (brain)?remains more engaged in the right arm, probably because using a pick is receding ever further from my practice, but it would be interesting to know how you arrived at this solution, how comfortable or effortful it is. In any case, whenever I see a good improviser with distinctive playing posture (John Stowell), I think sine qua non—the play depends on the posture and habitual comfort of gesture. Joe Pass seemed to embody the standing version of this, and when I remember his injunction about not doing what feels too hard, I think of his relaxation (not his pinched face, though).

    ~~~~~~~~~

    Caveat: reconstruction of lost thought (about music) is like deconstruction of a performance once the house lights go on and audience babble resumes—incommensurate, diminished, inadequate....The wave that lifted us off our feet on its way to the break has gone ashore.

  23. #22

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    Robert, you’re making me wish to put out a solo album just so I could use your post as liner note!! Thanks for your insights. I might have to really think about some od this stuff, but I always try to work with whatever comes easy to me. So much I hear teachers saying to put all your practice energy into playing what’s hard and what you can’t do. I’ve always done the opposite. Here’s a couple of photos of my work space. Always in THAT chairDaily practice: improvising on nothing-02aa5238-213b-407f-b454-b2f65d95e5bb-jpgDaily practice: improvising on nothing-c4329662-4db2-415e-87f4-f85ad6046bb5-jpg

  24. #23

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    I support the solo album. Happy to write anything for it, too.

    Is that chair good for you? I acquired a padded folding chair with locking leg adjustments (coz I’m shrinking even as I write) I can move hither and yon, load in the car etc.

    One day, though, I’d like to have a rotating stool with contoured seat and a fan back, with stirrups at different heights (guitar on left knee) and rear calf supports. That’s a dream prosthetic.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhl-ferndale
    I
    Is that chair good for you? .
    The short answer is yes, it’s fine. I use a simple wood stool with a pad for playing out. I agree posture is very important. Mom was right: “sit up straight”. Guitar always on left thigh, but strap doing the real work. Instrument needs to be balanced so if you lift your hands it doesn’t move. And always drive to be relaxed and breathe, breathe, breathe.

  26. #25

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    Late to the party, but yes, I love playing free, but melodic. It's not easy, really. I haven't recorded much of it, maybe I should...its kinda like posting a page of a diary.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Late to the party, but yes, I love playing free, but melodic. It's not easy, really. I haven't recorded much of it, maybe I should...its kinda like posting a page of a diary.
    Hi Jeff, I’ve no doubt you do this. I’d recommend recording. Interesting things reveal themselves. Plus it’s extra training for building immunity to red light fever.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Late to the party, but yes, I love playing free, but melodic. It's not easy, really. I haven't recorded much of it, maybe I should...its kinda like posting a page of a diary.
    Hi Jeff, I’ve no doubt you do this. I’d recommend recording. Interesting things reveal themselves. Plus it’s extra training for building immunity to red light fever.

  29. #28

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    do this?
    Certainly, but one has to be careful. Anybody can play nonsense. I know the idea is to break habitual patterns but no one does it when playing a tune.

    I mean by a tune something with a form. You can't just play literally any old thing unless you're going to call it 'free jazz'. So, for me anyway, it's easy to do but has very limited application. When the band starts up you need to start playing tuneful stuff again.

    So the challenge really is breaking the mold - but keeping it sensible too. Unless it's extreme free jazz - and I'll probably be told even that is somewhat organised.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    Does anyone else do this??
    That's basically how I wrote The Catfish Strut.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Certainly, but one has to be careful. Anybody can play nonsense. I know the idea is to break habitual patterns but no one does it when playing a tune.

    I mean by a tune something with a form. You can't just play literally any old thing unless you're going to call it 'free jazz'. So, for me anyway, it's easy to do but has very limited application. When the band starts up you need to start playing tuneful stuff again.

    So the challenge really is breaking the mold - but keeping it sensible too. Unless it's extreme free jazz - and I'll probably be told even that is somewhat organised.
    I feel like you’re addressing the “usefulness” or practicality of this kind of playing, which is missing the point of this entire exercise. It’s not supposed to be how one would play in the sense of form/tunes or note choices, but rather it’s about coming to connecting with musical flow by removing the intellectualism we all bring to our playing. I’m saying we oppress ourselves with our knowledge and impede the direct connection possible between ear and finger. The purpose is to train development of this connection, which will manifest positively when one turns their intellect to the controlling role (like in the gig).

    It may come out sounding like nonsense and that’s entirely fine. It’s very easy to quit after a couple of minutes feeling like it’s just bullshit, but that only proves the ego (judgement) is still in control. Once you’re truly doing this you cease to even know it.

    One last thought, the free jazz styles often have many rules and dogma. This is not that. This isn’t free of form or about breaking molds. It’s about developing the skill to play from the subconscious, so it’s free only if self control. Please remember too, I said this is only “part” of the daily practice. I’ve been doing it for most of the 50 years I’ve been playing. I’d skits urge folks to give it’s a real chance and see for themselves. Don’t be “careful” about this peace and best wishes, -M

  32. #31

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    I though I’d throw in a trio version of Alone Together that incorporates a group approach to free playing on a standard. It’s out, it’s in, it’s in between. Hope you’ll enjoy.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    ...the direct connection possible between ear and finger. The purpose is to train development of this connection, which will manifest positively when one turns their intellect to the controlling role (like in the gig)....
    Well said. Puts a much finer point on what I was trying to get at with 'new channels', and getting out of old habits.

    I'd also like to say that your exercises do NOT sound like nonsense to me. I guess we might say that all nonsense is not created equal.

  34. #33

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    years ago I wrote a teaching/learning "method" I called guitar yoga..I was into eastern spiritual approaches to life at the time..the Zen teachings touch me more than others and I still appreciate it ..

    my daily practice includes a meditative time and "freeplay" ..yes the years of practice and study of harmony and melodic patterns are used but not in a systematic way..as in a song structure..the many musical sounds I have heard of the years are there to experiment with..mix and match..and I discover that my years of practice have allowed me to relax and feel confident ..I know how to play the notes..the chords..there is no need to "try" any longer..now just hear..feel..be and enjoy..the music

  35. #34

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    This is something everyone should do imo. I accidentally wrote one of my better tunes like that! If I'm doing this and suddenly hear something that sounds interesting, I stop and work on it.

    A nice secondary effect of "noodling" as a conscious choice, is that it positively affects my fluidity - if I have worked on something earlier, say a particular voicing, it's now in my library of sounds and moods I can audiate, even if I can't play it well - but then later on, when I'm improvising freely, an impulse might be that particular feeling, and I might play it - accidentally practicing something, I suppose

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    Does anyone else do this??
    Short answer: No.

    Longer answer: But I will begin immediately. The exercise as you've described it resonates closely with how I've approached learning many other things in life over the years. Now, I can't imagine why spending time this way with a guitar in my lap never became part of my daily practice until today. This will change going forward!

    Thank you kindly.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    Short answer: No.

    Longer answer: But I will begin immediately. The exercise as you've described it resonates closely with how I've approached learning many other things in life over the years. Now, I can't imagine why spending time this way with a guitar in my lap never became part of my daily practice until today. This will change going forward!

    Thank you kindly.
    How did it go for you? The first few times, it can be difficult to not be self conscious.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Kleinhaut
    How did it go for you? The first few times, it can be difficult to not be self conscious.
    Definitely an exercise that's easier said than done. The self-conscious factor is significant. But like with meditation and other life-long practices, I'm sure it just takes a while to settle in.

    I've actually enjoyed a form of vamp/chordal/rhythmic improvisation on several other instruments over the years ... just never occurred to me to do it on guitar.

    Now turning another new page in my musical life based on your post. Thanks again!