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  1. #1

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    I've thoroughly enjoyed perusing this forum - so many thought-provoking ideas, links, and perspectives.

    Thought I'd toss an observation out here re: improvisation and see if I'm just confusing matters, in which case please set me straight...

    What I've learned from Chris Parker's "What I've Learned from Barry Harris" includes the idea that one can REDUCE the number of chord changes when improvising over a standard set of changes. E.g., a ii/V can be thought of as just a single longer V. This makes thinking about a ii/V/I a simple(r) matter of thinking about a longer V, resolving into the I.

    OTOH, Fareed Haque's excellent Truefire materials include his "substitution" principles, which seem generally to EXPAND the number of changes when improvising over a set of changes. E.g., for improv purposes, a ii/V can be thought of as a somewhat faster moving VI/ii/tritone/I... put differently, you can introduce additional tensions within the basic changes. There are other examples, but in no case do you reduce the number of chords involved ... either swap out/maintain the count or further increase them.

    To be clear, I've gained so much in terms of musical knowledge and confidence by exploring both of these approaches (with special heartfelt thanks to Chris Parker/YouTube and Professor Haque), I'm certainly not looking to initiate a right vs. wrong debate here.

    But I am wondering whether I'm simply missing a larger point here?

    In fairness, Haque notes that his additional chord insertions ("substitutions") might be most useful when facing a s-l-o-w moving set of changes, thereby introducing more harmonic content where it otherwise might be lacking in the tune. Harris's approach (per Mr. Parker) is about simplifying things without mention as to whether it's a fast tempo that demands it; it's explicitly intended to help the musician reduce thoughts about chord changes where musically possible.

    Okay, is there something else going on here that might help me bridge the divergence between Haque's invitation to add even more chord changes and Harris's encouragement to eliminate some of the ones that are already there?

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  3. #2

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    They are pointing out two ways of approaching something -- why not try/do both? [and then find a third way?!]

    Like you said, it's not "right/wrong."

  4. #3

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    Well, there is tempo and there is harmonic rhythm. I'm not certain but it sounds like you may be confusing the two. In other words "short II-Vs" as opposed to "long II-Vs".

    Short II-Vs refers to two beats per chord in a single measure. Long refers to one measure per chord.


    So, when playing a short II-V the burden of conveying two harmonies in the melodic line can be unnecessarily... burdensome - especially at a brisk tempo. The II chord was added to such measures by jazzers to create more harmonic movement and forward motion in the music. The composer only listed the V chord in other words. Another consideration is that the II chord has tones 2-4-6-8, which are the 5th-7th-9th-11th of the Dominant V chord, so depending on the order in which the notes are played you may have something, especially if you drop the 11th. In other words, a Dom9 arpeggio has the same notes as the II triad, so covers both chords.

  5. #4

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    As poster marcwhy states above it is unknown just what theories will provide you with your own "eureka" moment so by all means investigate all, but I can answer a bit for Dr. Harris by way of Chris Parks' tutelage.

    Truncating a ii- / V , as Barry Harris professes, is to see that the ii- (lets say D- related to G7) is already a part of G7.
    That is to say an arpeggio on the 5th of G7 gives you the ii-. So all things are there already in the V chord.

    From there you would interpolate that all arpeggios on each of the important intervals of G7 ie. the root, fifth and seventh will serve. That gives you G7, D- and F major over G7. (Try an F major arpeggio over a D-7 / G7 track!)

    Add to this all the permutations that BH's creative "etudes" give you on scales and arpeggios associated with G7 and all the measure time can be filled without having to consider separately the related minor chord.

    That isn't to say it's disregarded, it's just a part of the whole (smaller) picture.

  6. #5

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    Another thing is, look at some transcriptions of your favorite players or transcribe yourself. Instead of looking at some II-Vs that are constructed for educational purposes, look at what the players actually did/do.

    Charie Parker might play 3-5-7-9 over the II chord and then something predictable over the 5 chord. You could look at the those notes as a superimposed IVMaj7 over the II, or as 7-9-11-13 of the V chord if you choose to.

    So one question might be, who's "conception" do you want to most closely align with? Charlie Parker or John Coltrane? Dexter Gordon or Michael Brecker? Charlie Christian or Wes Montgomery? Wes Montgomery or Peter Bernstein? etc. you get the idea.

  7. #6
    It works both ways. Harris also uses different substitute changes to melodically improvise over simpler changes. Most of what I've seen is on the blues. Chris has some of these in the TILFBH vids.

    Jazz is a tessellation.

  8. #7

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    If I'm not mistaken, while BH does think of a ii-V as just a V there are a ton of "substitutions". For example, each V incorporates three important triads built on the root, fifth, and flat seventh. Then you have "siblings", which include the tritone, the dominant on the minor third, and a dominant on the major sixth. So, if my math holds, you have a choice of twelve different triads and four different scales to play over a ii-V. Honestly, that has never seemed simplified to me, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around BH material.

  9. #8

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    By the way, his name is Chris Parks, and the YouTube videos are ‘Things I’ve Learned From Barry Harris’. What a terrific series it is!

    What Barry’s wonderful method shows you is many OPTIONS for what you can play. it’s up to you how many you think of at any time. If you are confused, reduce the number of option you think of.

    It’s my opinion that people often practice improvising at too fast tempos. By practicing improv SLOW, you can give your ear time to think ahead AND hear more. I try to get students to do this. After a period of time, they often see much better results. The OP may want to try that.

  10. #9

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    Yeah, there are at least a couple of ways to think about this:

    1. An analytical approach up front. Understand it before you practice it.

    OR

    2:
    • Get down to business nailing 15-20 of the best sounding II-V patterns that appeal to you, with a good deal of them stolen directly from great players solos. Practice them around the circle of fifths and descending by major 2nd etc. (Imitate).
    • Then return to more in-depth studies looking to further build II-V skills. (Assimilate)


    After all, they take a while to get down and you'll need more than one fingering for them.

  11. #10

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    Ok I don’t know Fareed’s approach but by the sound of it it’s what I would think of as quite traditional for jazz guitar...

    So we may think of additional or substitute chords on a progression. For example we might play

    Fmaj7 Db7 | Em7

    instead of Dm7 G7 | Cmaj7

    So this is a harmony based system; albeit one based on a number of practical rules of thumb (that can later be contextualised with theory if required). I think this is very guitaristic. We think chordally, shapes. We can add in scales and so on as structures around chords. So I think this is accessible for a guitarist newcomer, and what I think I end up teaching the most. It's also a tight fit for a 'CAGED' approach to mapping the fretboard.

    The more time you have on a chord, the more subs you can explore.

    So Barry’s approach is to fold all of the options into scales; generally dominant (mixolydian) and ‘important’ minor (minor 6-dim, similar to melodic minor) and generate harmony as a by product of melody. So instead of thinking Fmaj7 we instead think ‘the chord of the 7th on G7’ (chord is Barry shorthand for a four note grouping in thirds.) In this way we have all the options although the chord progression we actually think about can be very simple; three chords for a blues or rhythm changes 'A'....

    So, Barry's classes are him specifying recipes through the scale to make up lines. Often very rapid fire! I would say in Barry's system the language and melody is very much foregrounded and the harmony is often emergent from that.

    This is very piano to me - scales make more sense on the piano immediately than they do on guitar. I would actually advise working on Barry’s stuff at piano, if even a little bit, as well as on guitar. (I’m no kind of pianist btw.)

    This may remind you a little of chord scale theory; and it's not unlike CST in some respects. I would say the main difference is that CST's fundamental tenet is that 'scales and chords are two sides of the same coin' ; so for every chord there is a scale and vice versa, and we relate one to the other and seeks to place pitch choices at least mostly in a vertical context against the chord of the moment.

    In contrast Barry downplays the importance of understanding everything in favour of making music, and improvisation scalar ideas can often 'clash' with the chords they are placed over - as is the case with real world jazz lines by the masters.

    For instance, the 'chord of the seventh' of the tritone sub - Db7 in this case - will be a Bmaj7 on G7. (Barry notes the F# against the G7 in his DVD.)

    In practice there ends up being a lot of overlap; and in some ways its different routes up the mountain.

    However, as a chord sub guy initially, I found the chord approach unsatisfying with respect to Bird and Bud's lines and Barry Harris's approach matched that language better; which is no surprise really given that's what Barry was obsessed by. The chord approach on the other hand lines up well with many of the greats of straightahead jazz guitar such as Charlie Christian, Herb Ellis, Wes, Joe Pass, George Benson and so on.

    So, in general a common theme with all experienced improvisers is that they all 'chunk harmony' and simplify things only to reintroduce complexity. So, for instance, most pros will 'chunk' ii-V together, reading, hearing and improvising.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-20-2020 at 08:38 AM.

  12. #11

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    Furthermore I would say Chris is great at clearly presenting the material that Barry teaches (one reason I stopped doing this myself is because he is so much better at it), but you need to check out the way Barry teaches it, because that's often overlooked. The speed thing is key; you are aiming to hear fast and improvise in real time, so Barry workshops everything at upwards of 200bpm.

    The Howard Rees produced Barry DVD's aim to replicate this experience.

    Barry is also doing live stream teaching, but I find the pace a lot more relaxed as he has to go through all the players one by one on Zoom instead of just getting everyone to play tutti unison. (But the unison thing allows players to join in as much or as little as they want without embarrassment.)

    In class it can feel like its all whooshing over you head at first. That's OK - you are going to get entirely roasted first session and this is a Good Thing. Even if you can hear one line of it, and learn that, it's honest. It's also the best training if you can hang on in there. Steal what you can, and work on what you need to. (I remember having to go home the first time and practice my scales for a year before his next visit, just so I could do the scale outlines at his tempo!) Eventually you will be able to keep up better and better.

    You can also try listening to and playing back phrases at tempo from recordings. Dexter Gordon is a good one to start this with as he phrases in very clear 8th notes; resist the temptation to slow down recordings (and don't necessarily aim for perfection) if you are interested in working on this type of hearing.

  13. #12

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    I couldn't add anything to Christian's well thought-out post but let me ask you a question:

    Are you talking about comping or soloing?

    When comping, you may add any number of substitutions to add colour. When soloing, it may be easier to conceptually group together some chords as "one long V".

    Historically, Bebop and all the modern jazz that evolved from it came from substituting chords; but then the material they started out with was comparatively unsophisticated - like, "Whispering" starts with two bars of the same chord; "Groovin' High" has three or four chords in the same two bars. Beboppers came to substitute the chords in the accompaniment to match the extensions they were playing in their solos - at least, that what Dizzy Gillespie says in his autobiography. OTOH Dizzy came up with the melody notes by studying the chords at the piano.

    Finally, here are some great ii-V exercises: https://jasonlyonjazz.wordpress.com/...ion-exercises/

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve
    I couldn't add anything to Christian's well thought-out post but let me ask you a question:

    Are you talking about comping or soloing?

    When comping, you may add any number of substitutions to add colour. When soloing, it may be easier to conceptually group together some chords as "one long V".

    Historically, Bebop and all the modern jazz that evolved from it came from substituting chords; but then the material they started out with was comparatively unsophisticated - like, "Whispering" starts with two bars of the same chord; "Groovin' High" has three or four chords in the same two bars. Beboppers came to substitute the chords in the accompaniment to match the extensions they were playing in their solos - at least, that what Dizzy Gillespie says in his autobiography. OTOH Dizzy came up with the melody notes by studying the chords at the piano.

    Finally, here are some great ii-V exercises: Bebop Part I – Perpetual Motion Exercises | Jason Lyon on Music
    I'm talking about soloing. BUT - you would certainly get some benefit out of chucking together bits of chordal voice leading as II-V's for example. I mean, just go listen to Wes for that right?

    According to Barry, Parker would solo on Whisperin' - the rhythm section comps Groovin' High, if that makes any sense. So Eb D7 on Eb Am7 D7.

    The melody of that tune is like the ur-II V lick! Transposed exactly over each one. Like a guitar player would do haha.

    Barry doesn't talk about extensions all that much. He'd rather you called a note a 2 or a 4 than a 9 or 11. It all comes out of the scales for him. Obviously, you could also understand some bop lines as extended chords. I think this may have been more common with guitar players, maybe Dizzy saw it that way more.

    The ii-V thing aside, most bop comping (Monk and Bud) voicings are pretty straightforward and represents a development of stride piano - 10ths, 6ths, shell voicings using 1, 3, 6 maybe 7 on dominant chords, b5s for colour.

    Of course Barry has his own thing for chords based on his eight note scale derived from block chord approaches, but I'll often hear him play a simple 7th or shell in the left hand.

    Comping becomes a bit more complex in the 60s and we get into the chord/scale thing and pianist playing hands together more.

  15. #14

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    My question was actually aimed at the OP but thank you for the elaboration.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve
    My question was actually aimed at the OP but thank you for the elaboration.
    Haha yeah I realised that after I posted it.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Petimar
    By the way, his name is Chris Parks, and the YouTube videos are ‘Things I’ve Learned From Barry Harris’. What a terrific series it is! ...

    It’s my opinion that people often practice improvising at too fast tempos. By practicing improv SLOW, you can give your ear time to think ahead AND hear more. I try to get students to do this. After a period of time, they often see much better results. The OP may want to try that.
    Thank you for the correction. And yes, it is a terrific series. I've taken copious notes of each episode and refer to them regularly for practice ideas and reminders. As such I should honor Chris with his proper surname - Mr. Parks!

    And I'm a big believer in practicing everything in life slowly enough to allow thoughtful integration to seep in. Doing anything faster than one's current skill level permits simply teaches one how to do something poorly.

    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve
    My question was actually aimed at the OP but thank you for the elaboration.
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Haha yeah I realised that after I posted it.
    [smirk] Okay then, as the OP, I'll answer your question concisely: "Yes."

    Like most of us, I'm working on chord passages (comping/walking bass styles) and I'm also working on solo lines. ;-)

    And so the distinction you draw (between when it's hip to add more chordal textures vs when it's useful to simplify things) seems spot on.

    Many thanks to all who've replied thus far and shared helpful ideas. Continuing to learn as I go.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    Thank you for the correction. And yes, it is a terrific series. I've taken copious notes of each episode and refer to them regularly for practice ideas and reminders. As such I should honor Chris with his proper surname - Mr. Parks!

    And I'm a big believer in practicing everything in life slowly enough to allow thoughtful integration to seep in. Doing anything faster than one's current skill level permits simply teaches one how to do something poorly.
    Well you will probably think I’m nuts, but I’ve come to appreciate the value of nurturing fluency and flexibility in teaching music over mere accuracy.

    Actually of all levels, even beginners.

    Everything Barry does is for a reason as contradictory to other teachers or counterintuitive it might seem at first.

    It’s actually ok to sacrifice a little perfection and accuracy sometimes in order to get the student used to music as it actually is, and that’s often that you feel put on the spot; you don’t always have the chance to practice everything you do slowly, and playing at tempo is a profoundly different psychology than going over something slow.

    Also, hearing fast helps you play fast. Audiation of lines at tempo is just as important as working out every pitch exactly, especially in a music as rhythmic as bop. Once you are reasonably confident at playing lines by ear, and have reasonable technique, I think it’s important to resist the temptation to slow down recordings unless you absolutely have to; in the days of 78s slowing down the record also dropped the pitch so this was only used on particularly fast double time passages and so on. Barry also learned by sitting behind the piano player at gigs and watching their hands. If you want to be a sharp musician you need to practice being sharp.

    (Musicologist Paul Berliner calls this type of real time ear learning ‘shadowing’ and points out that the masters could play a millisecond behind you and play what you play almost AS you play it. If you want to understand more about Barry’s approach I suggest checking out the relevant chapters of his book Thinking in Jazz.)

    So Barry’s teaching simulates the bandstand to some extent. As Pasquale Grasso puts it, if you don’t practice at 320 bpm, you aren’t going to be able to play at 320 bpm.

    Others may disagree, but I don’t recommend Barry Harris for starting jazz improvisers and I find his teaching doesn’t work unless players already have a strong command of the instrument; so I would suggest as preparatory work making sure you can run scale outlines for common bebop standards at bop tempos (200 at least). I imagine Chris will probably have a video on this, can’t remember if I’ve seen one.

    If you want to practice SLOW though; I would advise checking out the Lennie Tristano discipline of improvising in 8th notes at 60-80bpm. In its own way it’s just as hard!

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    but you need to check out the way Barry teaches it, because that's often overlooked. The speed thing is key; you are aiming to hear fast and improvise in real time, so Barry workshops everything at upwards of 200bpm.
    This is incorrect and not helpful to the OP.

    While Dr. Harris is quick to point out that "we play in eighth notes" this is a measure of delineation not a tempo demand.

    I would even go so far as to say that he would prefer something pretty @ 50 bpm then something model @ 200 bpm.

    Speed is a distraction not a "key" or we would all be following Eddie to the grave.

  20. #19

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    For example


    make sure you play in different positions and octaves.

    Just this kept me going for some time, but I am quite dull at music.

  21. #20

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    @christianm77 Fair enough. I certainly respect your point of view.

    But diffrn't strokes...

    It's evident to me that any ability I enjoy in playing other instruments (piano, organ+footwork, various other stringed instruments, woodwinds and drums) has benefited immensely from an initial slow/deliberate pace. Once a reasonably accurate technique is established as a foundation, I then pick up the pace. Mind first. Hands second.

    I've found the other way 'round (speed first, hoping my mind catches up) has reliably produced sloppy crap from which recovery takes extra effort to undo, if ever possible.

    On a separate but related note, I've practiced tai chi daily for decades. The slower the better. And yes, the slower the harder.

    Cheers.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    @christianm77 Fair enough. I certainly respect your point of view.

    But diffrn't strokes...

    It's evident to me that any ability I enjoy in playing other instruments (piano, organ+footwork, various other stringed instruments, woodwinds and drums) has benefited immensely from an initial slow/deliberate pace. Once a reasonably accurate technique is established as a foundation, I then pick up the pace. Mind first. Hands second.

    I've found the other way 'round (speed first, hoping my mind catches up) has reliably produced sloppy crap from which recovery takes extra effort to undo, if ever possible.

    On a separate but related note, I've practiced tai chi daily for decades. The slower the better. And yes, the slower the harder.

    Cheers.
    Well it’s not really my opinion on this that matters lol, and why would you give a shit about it?

    Instead I’m trying to my best representation of Barry’s approach based on my experiences in his classes, what he has said and what I have read and heard from his other students. It’s a very specific thing and I think the way he teaches is a big part of what he does. Berliner really covers it best I think, his book is wonderful I can’t recommend enough.

    But then there’s lots of people sort of taking elements of it they like and doing their own thing, and I think that’s cool too. (But I do like Barry’s approach to teaching which is a profoundly different learning model to the typical ones we encounter, and it’s taken me a long time to see its wisdom.)

    If you would prefer slow and meditative approaches to developing improvisation, I honestly think you might get a lot out of this book
    A Jazz Life, a book by John Klopotowski | Jazz Guitar | Warne Marsh

    However, there is also a meditative state to be found in doing things fast. in this case it is mind first in exactly the same way. And that is why you need to have a really strong command of your instrument, scales and so on before starting with Barry.

    If you are somewhat over on one side - fast or slow, it might be good to balance your Yin and Yang a little so to speak with the other thing....

    (Speaking of which I haven’t practiced slow improv for ages...)

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Well it’s not really my opinion on this that matters lol, and why would you give a shit about it? ...
    Because you've taken time to offer thoughtful perspectives based on your considerable experience. That's why.

    And I thank you.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    Because you've taken time to offer thoughtful perspectives based on your considerable experience. That's why.

    And I thank you.
    Well you are welcome; but when it comes down to it the way Barry teaches is not the way I would teach, even. (I don't think I have any 'method' be it Barry's or my own - I just try and teach the student in front of me.)

    And while 5 years ago I was very much doing the Barry thing, these days I've taken what I felt I needed from him and touch base from time to time. Which is not to say I've 'mastered it' in any way lol.

    Becoming a really good bop player can easily eat up a life, and not everyone wants to reach the pinnacle of that classical language. But I've certainly found Barry's work invaluable for equipping me with a working knowledge of bop vocabulary without resorting to lick based approaches.

    So aside from the specifics what I do think is there is a tendency in our culture to overvalue the 'what' over the 'how'; how the information is communicated is at least as important as what it is. At first I just thought him incredibly old fashioned, a bad teacher even. It took me a while to realise what Barry is actually doing is to some extent replicating the way he learned, and the way he taught of course back in Detroit where he grew up with all those luminaries, many of whom credit his teaching. So I feel I'd be doing his work a violence if I took the 'what' away from the 'how.' But, I am a student educationalist so it's no surprise that these things would interest me in particular....

    Ultimately, Barry is a living legend to whom aspiring jazzers beat a path, surrounded by a circle of devotees; his students are pretty much self selecting. Many people show up to Barry's classes and find them utterly alienating and unhelpful; certainly his model of teaching doesn't look like any modern model of education informed by developments of teaching practice and theory of the past 50 years, or those used to organised and progressive curricula. But there is a very serious method in it; and I don't think everyone gets that. Everything has been thought out.

    Which is not to say that this is the only way of doing things.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt

    On a separate but related note, I've practiced tai chi daily for decades. The slower the better. And yes, the slower the harder.

    Cheers.
    Yes .... But how did that Tai Chi work out for you in a fight?

  26. #25

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    Haha very good L...

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lobomov
    Yes .... But how did that Tai Chi work out for you in a fight?
    Worked beautifully. Albeit slowly ;-)

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    Okay, is there something else going on here that might help me bridge the divergence between Haque's invitation to add even more chord changes and Harris's encouragement to eliminate some of the ones that are already there?
    Just different ways of thinking. Harris teaches the fundamentals of bebop. Haque comes from a different palate.

    Seen The Advancing Guitarist yet? Mwaah-ha-ha-ha!

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    Worked beautifully. Albeit slowly ;-)
    Everything was just like the Matrix

  30. #29

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    Getting back to the OP - sometimes it looks like teachers are contradicting each other.

    - Sometimes there’s a deeper synthesis it takes time to see
    - And sometimes they are just contradicting each other.

    life is messy!

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Everything was just like the Matrix
    Excellent :-)

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Getting back to the OP - sometimes it looks like teachers are contradicting each other.

    - Sometimes there’s a deeper synthesis it takes time to see
    - And sometimes they are just contradicting each other.

    life is messy!

    Then you have someone like Christiaan van Hemert saying that if you want to get good fast then don't do music theory



    Instead learn/transcribe a lot of solos and categorize and applying licks from those applying them in different settings.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lobomov
    Then you have someone like Christiaan van Hemert saying that if you want to get good fast then don't do music theory



    Instead learn/transcribe a lot of solos and categorize and applying licks from those applying them in different settings.
    Your time is certainly better spent using your ears. Barry doesn't talk much about that process, probably because it would never occur to him that people are misled to the point where they would try to play music from theory.

    Theory should be descriptive of actual music you have encountered.

    And licks are great to get started. (Traditionally, that's how you would learn until your elders would start to tell you off for copying other peoples shit - they don't do that enough these days.)

    For the more advanced student, I think there's room for a much more organic and individual process... licks are a way in, and the ear is always necessary, but collecting chunks of material is just one thing you can do. Barry can show you a way to be highly idiomatic without being a mere imitator. The Tristano school is also interesting from that perspective.

    So, I don't think the 'licks' thing is the be all and end all for me, but I see it's value. Most gypsy style players tend to be lick based improvisers, but answer me this:

    Whose licks was Django playing?

    But in the end most of my real world concerns as a teacher are with beginner to intermediate jazz players and those who find it hard to get started with the music itself. Hemert is great for that, never found myself disagreeing with any of the videos I've watched. Dude can certainly play.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Your time is certainly better spent using your ears. Barry doesn't talk much about that process, probably because it would never occur to him that people are misled to the point where they would try to play music from theory.
    That is the thing. You gotta have ears .. and in order to have ears you gotta have chops. That journey where you at a young age marvel at a guitar solo on wonder to reaching the point where you can basically envision the fingerings as you hear it. You get those chops/ear by playing a lot of different stuff.

    I am unfortunately a child of the 80s where concepts and theory was huge in all sorts of endevours and spent too much time approaching everything in life from a helicopter view instead of being engrossed in the nitty gritty side of things.






    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Whose licks was Django playing?
    Isn't Django just lucky to be born at a time where recording was non-existent, so no one has any recordings of the players that shaped him in his formative years from 1922 to 1928 and then boom the 30s roll around and Django is the Django that is sacret until this day

    I mean Wes had a very unique voice, but famously built his chops learning the CC catalogue ... Metheny is unique too but rumor has it that he locked himself up with Wes in his teens etc etc.


    Wikipedia mentions local virtuoso players of the day such as Jean "Poulette" Castro and Auguste "Gusti" Malha. Do we have any recordings of them? .. Google let me down?

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Hemert is great for that, never found myself disagreeing with any of the videos I've watched. Dude can certainly play.

    I really like his channel/patreon. It's refreshingly simple: This month is Djangology month. Lets start with a Django solo then we do a Birelli Lagrene Solo and a Angolo Debarre one. Finish it off with a Rhythm workshop, so all bases are covered. Next month is Donna Lee month etc.

    Down to earth practical stuff .. The main problem is off course that you have to put in the work, where more conceptual vids allow you to just sit there and nod .. Feel like your playing has improved without you lifting a finger
    Last edited by Lobomov; 10-22-2020 at 04:52 AM.

  35. #34

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    I’ve listened to a lot of Django and I would say he was one of the most creative and inventive improvisers of all time. While he certainly has licks he goes beyond them. And he has licks that I’ve heard no Gypsy style player play.

    One influence was Louis Armstrong, and we can certainly hear that.

    Similarly, whose licks was Charlie Parker playing? Or Wes?

    With Parker we can actually map the transition; from playing Prez licks joined together to being Charlie Parker.

  36. #35

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    You replied while I was editing my post above .. cool.


    But yeah .. People learn a foundation based on licks/other players and then at some point if they are really good their own personality starts shining thru big time and they become undeniable.

    And sure, once you have your chops dive all into theory and all that .. Metheny's "criticism" of Joni Mitchel is the go to example when defending that

    It's just that chops are the basis and that is overlooked these days. I have great fun telling people on different internet forums than this one to learn licks/tunes and repetoire and then watch beginners with no mastery of their instrument go in and overrule that advice with pointing out that you need theory first else you can't make sense of the tunes

  37. #36

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    If your aim is to play, it’s more important to play than to understand.

    Also people who are experts in other fields often assume that the mindset that is successful in that field will be helpful in music.

    Understanding music has never been a focus of musicians but more of intellectuals who are interested in music.

  38. #37

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    BTW listening to Django’s contemporaries such as the Ferret brothers, Oscar Aleman and all on reveals there was very much a style of playing in Paris at that time.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    ... Understanding music has never been a focus of musicians but more of intellectuals who are interested in music.
    Not quite sure how to digest this. Perhaps it hinges upon what you mean by "understanding music"?

  40. #39

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    I think learning licks and playing them rote is definitely the path for many musicians. I also know that it is de rigueur to dismiss all things intellectual as effete masturbation of people who can’t actually perform. But it isn’t the way for everybody. The problem is that too many people think their way is universal.

    I play/practice two to three hours a day, and have done so for thirty years. For the first decade or so I played classical guitar. It was all rote memorization and no theory. Then I became interested in the blues, which I also learned as grips and licks. I could play my pentatonic licks, but all my solos sounded the same. I couldn’t tell you what a triad was or what people meant when they said “1-4-5”. One what?

    After twenty years of playing I was incapable of composing anything, let alone improvising on the fly. Then I discovered jazz and the intellectual music theory of bebop and modern jazz players. I feel my playing improved more in ten years than the previous twenty once I began to understand the music.

    Perhaps real jazz scholars can tell me that Dizzie Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, et. al., didn’t know theory. That they just played licks until, by devine inspiration or accident, new licks were born. Perhaps, but my brain doesn’t work like that. The more I understand what they are doing and why they made their choices the more tools I have for composing my own lines.

    There is no doubt that music is a physical sport. You have to actually do it —a lot— to be able to do it well. Without playing and practice you will never progress. But practicing and playing doesn’t imply rote memorization over theory. I can listen to a lick, nod my head, and say “cool, I get it.” But if I don’t practice it and use it in my playing I really haven’t added anything to my playing. Likewise, you can explain the theory of functional harmony, or the melodic minor scale, but if I don’t practice applying it to real music knowing about it doesn’t do anything.

    Theory isn’t the opposite of practice, and licks alone are not music. They are not even mutually exclusive. There are many paths along a musicians development. The only constant is that you have to keep pushing yourself down your path.


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  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett
    ... Theory isn’t the opposite of practice, and licks alone are not music. They are not even mutually exclusive. There are many paths along a musicians development. The only constant is that you have to keep pushing yourself down your path.
    This makes clear sense to me.

    My path: When I hear something new to my ears that I really enjoy, I often wonder: "hey, what was that? what did he just do there?" For me, the most satisfying insights usually take shape from a theoretical answer. Then I can integrate it into my base of understanding ... transpose it into other keys, work it into other contexts, make it something I can enjoy over and over again.

    Without some grasp of theory, I'd have a much harder time getting anywhere. Instead, I'd find myself just flailing away for a while until I lose patience or interest.

    Related to this, musical "cross-training" has been a phenomenal eye-opener for me. The more instruments I learn to play, the more I see both the differences and the similarities. For me, it makes theory come alive.

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    Not quite sure how to digest this. Perhaps it hinges upon what you mean by "understanding music"?
    Asking why something works is less important to a musician that just doing it.

    This is often very hard for people to accept. Please understand that my background is in the sciences, so it also took me a long time to get it. Doing what I did I tended to look for cleverness and down value the importance of embodied knowledge... And it's that embodied knowledge that makes one a good musician. Nothing else. Sorry if that's quite obvious to you, it wasn't to me.

    It doesn't mean also you can't understand music in a more intellectual way; provided you don't confuse this with the actual process of being a musician. I think I've got quite good at spectating the two.

    So a concrete example:

    It is less important to understand 'why' a II-V-I works the way it does, than to be able to recognise it on the page, know many ways to play one, know lots of things one can do on it as an improviser and above all, know how it sounds.

    Knowing a lot of stuff about functional harmony, analysis and so on is really not that relevant; and I say that as someone who is interested in all that stuff.

    It' snot even helpful to know you are playing a #9 or whatever over the V7 chord. That stuff is really for the exam papers, not the bandstand. In fact, even learning to hear a #9 in isolation over a V7 chord - the musical equivalent of individual vowel sounds or something - is much less important than hearing musical 'words' and 'sentences' - these could be at first licks, snippets of language, common voicings and so on. The stuff Hemert advises you to do, basically.

    You may gain a degree of theoretical knowledge and understanding through learning music, but might well be more rules of thumb, guidelines and idioms than anything resembling 'musical physics.' Or you might abstract general rules and principles which you can publish in a book as the 'secret' of playing music and confuse the bejeezus out of beginners.

    Walk the walk, don't (just) talk the talk...

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Asking why something works is less important to a musician that just doing it.
    Speaking as a musician: Not sure I accept this universal claim.

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    This is often very hard for people to accept... '
    Speaking as a people: Agreed! ;-)

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    Speaking as a musician: Not sure I accept this universal claim.


    Speaking as a people: Agreed! ;-)
    I think it's a complete distraction, or to be fair, a separate area of study. As I say, I'm interested in this stuff. And people spend a lot of money and time on it in the belief that it is important to becoming a musician.

    It's like the way Mozart and Bach were able to write all these works of functional harmony without having a clue what 'functional harmony' was.

    Don't mistake music practice for music theory. One seeks to do, the other to understand and justify.

    As Barry says 'you don't have to understand everything you play.'

  45. #44

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    Perhaps a more palatable way of putting it, is this:

    I've met and played with great musicians who know ALL the theory, and ones who know NONE. The thing they have in common? They have great ears.

    Ergo, theory is optional, playing by ear as much as possible is not.

    It's interesting that I think that would be a fairly mainstream opinion (perhaps I'm wrong), but as soon as I start talking about the limited utility of 'understanding' music to the musician compared to simply noticing and categorising patterns through experience, people find that harder to swallow. One really follows from the other. (Which is not to say music theory isn't interesting for its own sake.)

    It's my belief that every musician who composes or improvises has some sort of practical 'theory'; this might be derived from school learned theory or it might be something very personal and idiosyncratic. It might be based on something very wide ranging and generalised like Chord Scale Theory or something entirely practical and rule of thumb-ish. I actually think the latter describes Barry's way of teaching much more. But in all cases this working body of helpful knowledge has to be based on real musical experience.

    If they aren't teachers they may keep their ideas private, but as it is a feature of human intelligence to recognise patterns, this certainly happens whether or not a player is versed in 'theory.'

    For instance, in the way the progression IV Ivm I in Gypsy Jazz cycles is called 'Christophe'; it's enough to categorise that common chord progression with a memorable name. According to Jimmy Bruno older jazz musicians often had funny names for musical objects they found it convenient to label, such as Honeysuckle Rose bridges and so on (which many older players call 'Montgomery-Ward.')

    Note that the gestalt - the musical 'word' is named, not each chord as in Roman numeral notation. More efficient, and practical.

    Barry uses this approach to generate bebop lines; 'scale down to the 3rd' 'up the chord of the 7th' 'down the scale with rule 3' 'arpeggio down on 2' and so on.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-22-2020 at 03:25 PM.

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    ... It's like the way Mozart and Bach were able to write all these works of functional harmony without having a clue what 'functional harmony' was.
    I beg to differ.

    Bach and Mozart clearly were not "able to write all those works of functional harmony without having a clue what 'functional harmony' was."

    Quite the contrary.

    They knew exactly what they were doing and were masters of music theory.

    The etudes they composed were designed to illustrate and expand upon the concepts of functional harmony - concepts learned from the masters of functional harmony before them. And, in turn, concepts they passed on to those who studied under them.

    In my OP I wondered aloud about the contrast of Haque's chord addition and Harris's chord subtraction and invited comment and correction if I were misunderstanding their points of view. You've offered some intriguing ideas for which I'm appreciative.

    But to suggest that Bach and Mozart didn't understand the functions of harmony found in the well-tempered Western scale is a bit silly.

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWatt
    I beg to differ.

    Bach and Mozart clearly were not "able to write all those works of functional harmony without having a clue what 'functional harmony' was."

    Quite the contrary.

    They knew exactly what they were doing and were masters of music theory.


    The etudes they composed were designed to illustrate and expand upon the concepts of functional harmony - concepts learned from the masters of functional harmony before them. And, in turn, concepts they passed on to those who studied under them.
    This is unlikely as the concept of functional harmony was invented in the late 19th century by Hugo Reimann.

    In fact at least some experts on 18th century music seem to agree that even Rameau's concept of fundamental bass (which would seem basic to us - the idea that 5 3, 6 3 and 6 4 chords are all inversions of the triad) was not widely accepted among musicians even after the publication of his music theory. Rameau's concept is typical of a music theoretic observation - seeking to unify diverse phenomena under one simpler principle.

    Musical physics if you will... They called Rameau the Newton of music, right?

    But as anyone basically familiar with classical harmony knows, of course, this is a simplification because all the inversions behave differently.

    BWV posted this interview elsewhere, which is interesting. Gjerdingen is a professor who has researched 18th century music education in some depth, and wrote a very interesting book called 'Music in the Gallant Style.'

    I like the bit where he calls music theory 'useless'

    But I'll add in Robert Levin, who is obviously a leading authority on Mozart, student of Nadia Boulanger, who both hold up as an example of a continuation of that 18th century tradition through the Paris conservatoire.


    According to this, the way Mozart and Bach wrote- as with all of their professional contemporaries was based on... a huge number of stylistic and idiomatic rules of thumb, particular cases and a lot of experience. We encounter these still in things like Bach chorale harmony; prohibitions on consecutives, to avoid chord iii, not to double the leading note, and so on. Obviously I haven't done that depth of research, but given the time line of Western music theory, I find it convincing.

    In my OP I wondered aloud about the contrast of Haque's chord addition and Harris's chord subtraction and invited comment and correction if I were misunderstanding their points of view. You've offered some intriguing ideas for which I'm appreciative.

    But to suggest that Bach and Mozart didn't understand the functions of harmony found in the well-tempered Western scale is a bit silly.
    If you mean by that they intellectually understood the concept of tonic, predominant and dominant, for instance, apparently, no, they didn't. They couldn't possibly have because that music theory did not exist at that time.

    Did they write music that was later analysed that way by third parties after they were long dead? Yes.

    If you want to hand wave that they understood it on an intuitive level, it's kind of similar to saying a tennis player intuitively understands Newton's laws of motion.

    OK, maybe... but we don't send the tennis player to study physics, do we?
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-22-2020 at 07:30 PM.

  48. #47

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    BTW there's a lot of stuff on Barry Harris on that podcast as well. I think the bloke who runs it has the exact same weird obsessions as I do

  49. #48

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    Clearly, the musical genius of Bach and Mozart blossomed through their firm grasp of theory - more precisely, how harmony functions.

    Herr Reimann composed more terminology than inspiring music. Moreover, labeling stuff after the fact should not be confused with creating underlying concepts.

    Today, 300 years later, Bach's 2- and 3-part inventions and Mozart's concerti bring me to tears. I don't have a favorite Reimann tune.

    Though we disagree, I continue to respect your point of view.

    Peace.

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett
    The problem is that too many people think their way is universal.
    Well, that just about sums up most of society's problems, doesn't it?

  51. #50

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    My two cents. Bill Evans really knew his theory very well and he contributed more than anyone to te use of modes in jazz, except perhaps Debussy, the study of whom gave Evans his way. Dizzy and Miles, and I think Monk too were experts in theory. But they could hear what they -and others -were playing at practically every note.
    To regard a ii-V as a V in soloing is just saying they share the extensions. But I’d definitely stay away from the 7 in the ii chord as it would set you up for resolving to the VI or the vi. Even in comping it’s quite nice to play an ii9 and a V13 changing only the 5 in the ii chord. Depending on the context of course.


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