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  1. #26

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    I’m not going to debate you Lawson because there is a lot of truth in your post, there really is something called talent. Talent is observable in every major field.

    And there are the years that one studies, as you say. Many of us can say the same. It’s easy to conclude that we just don’t “have it”.

    BUT - don’t be too hard on yourself. One may never really know what they can do with music until they go all in. What if you could commit yourself to music 6-12 hours per day with a complete support system? ( both financial and family). 100% focus and commitment. You could start with both simple form (like the blues) and simple expression. (Simple motif based improv and simple line building, over and over and over and over). Then keep going, and keep building brick by brick.

    You might surprise yourself. Just think of all the greats who had to do the same/similar. Bird, Trane, Rollins and his Bridge are but a few of the countless examples. This comes up in jazz interviews/biographies over and over.

    Improvisation can be difficult to put in a “part-time box” like exercise or something. An hour a day of exercise is maintenance oriented, while Jazz Improvisation skill is expected to ascend like an F-16 until one reaches the sky. That’s asking a lot of a person and doesn’t lend itself to hobbyist levels of commitment, unfortunately.

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  3. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I’ve mostly lived in less populated places. Small towns in Sweden usually don’t have jazz clubs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to a few concerts/gigs.
    Sorry, I was talking about your skills, I mean, what do you play ?
    Do you already play something, not necessarily jazz ? It can be blues, rock, pop songs.
    Everyone begins with something. Talk a little bit about you.
    If you don't, they will add other philosophical concepts.

  4. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lionelsax
    Sorry, I was talking about your skills, I mean, what do you play ?
    Do you already play something, not necessarily jazz ? It can be blues, rock, pop songs.
    Everyone begins with something. Talk a little bit about you.
    If you don't, they will add other philosophical concepts.
    I think maybe you intended this question to OT?

    If not:
    I played guitar in my teens and young 20’s and picked up it up again a couple of years ago after a 15 year hiatus. All things considered, I think my jazz guitar skill level is intermediate. Some might not agree. I’ve posted a few videos in the JGBE Jam threads if you want to judge for yourself.

  5. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I think maybe you intended this question to OT?
    Sorry, yes, I did.

  6. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by teribyrdie
    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?
    Learn songs. Lots of them.

  7. #31

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    Just to stick with the talking analogy for a minute: as said before you can know all the words and grammar, but without some original ideas and some passion you're going to be a very boring speaker. The only listeners that'll be interested are ones that haven't come across the ideas before. Like... uneducated.

    To the OP: you can learn all that stuff and how to put it in the right place, but it won't make you 'the ultimate improviser'. It'll make you a good student though. Real Music, like real Chess, is a lot more than that.

    Improvisation: I like what Peter Bernstein said in an interview. He likes to think of a slightly different definition of improvising. More of a MacGyver thing. Let's say you're locked out of your house. You work with what you have at hand to find a way in. "Let's see, what do we have here. Ahhh there's a piece of wire. Maybe if I bend it to the right shape I can weasel it in there and release the latch. In jazz you look at the melody, the chords and some other stuff you've learned to see if you can figure a way through using what's at hand." (total paraphrase from a year old memory)

    It's just a more light hearted way of thinking about it.

  8. #32

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    If you listen a lot to even the greatest players, you will hear some things you've heard before. Somebody posted a memory some time ago about Art Tatum playing the exact same solo twice.

    I think a lot of players (maybe all of them?) put well-practiced scraps (pieces? phrases? what do I call them?) together to make a solo. But, I'm confident that everybody tries to do something new just about every time.

    Of course, in a jazz band, the goal isn't to play a solo as if the rest of the band was a recording. You're trying, I should think, to make something great together.

  9. #33

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    While there are limits to what music may emerge on a given day based on our
    background, knowledge and skill, it is a different event when we play with others
    where the differential calls on us to reach beyond our present limitations if we are
    willing to go there.

    This was a meaningful essay when I read it too many years ago.

    Jazz Guitar Online Feature: Sonny Sharrock: On Improvisation

  10. #34

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    The most important thing:
    Ears and ear training.
    If you can hear better, you will progress faster.
    Feel and time- you can handle it with good hearing.
    Listen to as much music as possible - any kind of good music.

  11. #35

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    All of it, and none of it.

    We're all just recombining the same 12 notes that everyone else has. Improvisation isn't magic, and it doesn't come from space...its just thinking and reacting in real time. You'll play some stuff you've played before...you'll play some stuff you haven't. But every note you play has been played before...but if you're improvising, you can also take comfort in the fact that nobody's played them that exact way before...not even yourself. Those notes, those phrases...its everything and nothing.

  12. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donplaysguitar
    I’m not going to debate you Lawson because there is a lot of truth in your post, there really is something called talent. Talent is observable in every major field.

    And there are the years that one studies, as you say. Many of us can say the same. It’s easy to conclude that we just don’t “have it”.

    BUT - don’t be too hard on yourself. One may never really know what they can do with music until they go all in. What if you could commit yourself to music 6-12 hours per day with a complete support system? ( both financial and family). 100% focus and commitment. You could start with both simple form (like the blues) and simple expression. (Simple motif based improv and simple line building, over and over and over and over). Then keep going, and keep building brick by brick.

    You might surprise yourself. Just think of all the greats who had to do the same/similar. Bird, Trane, Rollins and his Bridge are but a few of the countless examples. This comes up in jazz interviews/biographies over and over.

    Improvisation can be difficult to put in a “part-time box” like exercise or something. An hour a day of exercise is maintenance oriented, while Jazz Improvisation skill is expected to ascend like an F-16 until one reaches the sky. That’s asking a lot of a person and doesn’t lend itself to hobbyist levels of commitment, unfortunately.
    Very good post.
    Thanks

  13. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    All of it, and none of it.

    We're all just recombining the same 12 notes that everyone else has. Improvisation isn't magic, and it doesn't come from space...its just thinking and reacting in real time. You'll play some stuff you've played before...you'll play some stuff you haven't. But every note you play has been played before...but if you're improvising, you can also take comfort in the fact that nobody's played them that exact way before...not even yourself. Those notes, those phrases...its everything and nothing.
    I don't get it a bit.
    After all, the most beautiful solos of jazz musicians are works of art.

  14. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    I don't get it a bit.
    After all, the most beautiful solos of jazz musicians are works of art.
    What I'm saying is that if people are worried about everything they play being completely spontaneous, they're worrying about the wrong thing.

    Listen to the alternate takes on classic jazz albums for proof.

    Relax and be in the moment...and if a lick comes out in the moment that you've played 100 times before, don't sweat it. Did it sound good? Then it was good.

    You can paint a beautiful picture without inventing new brushes and colors. Its how you use them.

  15. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donplaysguitar
    I’m not going to debate you Lawson because there is a lot of truth in your post, there really is something called talent. Talent is observable in every major field.

    And there are the years that one studies, as you say. Many of us can say the same. It’s easy to conclude that we just don’t “have it”.

    BUT - don’t be too hard on yourself. One may never really know what they can do with music until they go all in. What if you could commit yourself to music 6-12 hours per day with a complete support system? ( both financial and family). 100% focus and commitment. You could start with both simple form (like the blues) and simple expression. (Simple motif based improv and simple line building, over and over and over and over). Then keep going, and keep building brick by brick.

    You might surprise yourself. Just think of all the greats who had to do the same/similar. Bird, Trane, Rollins and his Bridge are but a few of the countless examples. This comes up in jazz interviews/biographies over and over.

    Improvisation can be difficult to put in a “part-time box” like exercise or something. An hour a day of exercise is maintenance oriented, while Jazz Improvisation skill is expected to ascend like an F-16 until one reaches the sky. That’s asking a lot of a person and doesn’t lend itself to hobbyist levels of commitment, unfortunately.
    Unfortunately, my job, family, and life obligations make such an investment impossible. I will always be in the "part time box" for a while. I am not expecting to ascend like an F-16. I've been slogging away at it for 35 years, played the guitar for 60 years. I'm just facing the fact that I likely don't have the special sauce, but I do love the music and love playing it. I'm the guy who posts a clip and folks say things like "nice guitar" "great tone" but never "I liked what you did at..." Polite, which is welcome, but silence says a lot. I just don't have it, but I can enjoy playing, so that's what I try to do. I can talk theory all day. I can give the speeches about what a great improviser ought to be doing. As DB likes to say I can "type a great solo." But I have decided, a long time ago, to just shut up on that stuff. I play, I do my best, I post, and a few people offer helpful advice, most are just politely reserved. It's okay, I love good manners, wish I personally had more of them.

    Thanks for the advice and interest. But there is no way I can carve out such a chunk of time for music, except maybe after I retire in 5 or 6 more years, if I still have the itch to do this.

  16. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    All of it, and none of it.

    We're all just recombining the same 12 notes that everyone else has. Improvisation isn't magic, and it doesn't come from space...its just thinking and reacting in real time. You'll play some stuff you've played before...you'll play some stuff you haven't. But every note you play has been played before...but if you're improvising, you can also take comfort in the fact that nobody's played them that exact way before...not even yourself. Those notes, those phrases...its everything and nothing.
    This is exactly how I see it.

    SRV didn't play any notes no one had ever played before. But listen to "Lenny" or "Riviera Paradise", and it's patently obvious no one had played notes LIKE THAT before.

  17. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    Unfortunately, my job, family, and life obligations make such an investment impossible. I will always be in the "part time box" for a while. I am not expecting to ascend like an F-16. I've been slogging away at it for 35 years, played the guitar for 60 years. I'm just facing the fact that I likely don't have the special sauce, but I do love the music and love playing it. I'm the guy who posts a clip and folks say things like "nice guitar" "great tone" but never "I liked what you did at..." Polite, which is welcome, but silence says a lot. I just don't have it, but I can enjoy playing, so that's what I try to do. I can talk theory all day. I can give the speeches about what a great improviser ought to be doing. As DB likes to say I can "type a great solo." But I have decided, a long time ago, to just shut up on that stuff. I play, I do my best, I post, and a few people offer helpful advice, most are just politely reserved. It's okay, I love good manners, wish I personally had more of them.

    Thanks for the advice and interest. But there is no way I can carve out such a chunk of time for music, except maybe after I retire in 5 or 6 more years, if I still have the itch to do this.
    Hi Lawson-Stone,
    I can suggest something for You.
    You can make progress with a small amount of time.
    The first condition is systematic work.
    1 Guitar warm-up - several minutes...every day if it possible./play some scale,arpeggios etc/.
    2 Play Pat Martino / Linear Expression lines every day - the basic ones. First slow then faster.One line -one day.
    Practise it with the tunes-more difficult...but you can do it.Slowlly.
    3 Focus on one song, not like Virtual Jam / sorry Jeff / - lots of songs but not much time.
    4 Make one tune so that you are satisfied. Take your time with the tunes.Record your work .
    Listen to jazz like you do before.
    You will see how you develop - it will be the most beautiful for you.

  18. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    Unfortunately, my job, family, and life obligations make such an investment impossible. I will always be in the "part time box" for a while. I am not expecting to ascend like an F-16. I've been slogging away at it for 35 years, played the guitar for 60 years. I'm just facing the fact that I likely don't have the special sauce, but I do love the music and love playing it. I'm the guy who posts a clip and folks say things like "nice guitar" "great tone" but never "I liked what you did at..." Polite, which is welcome, but silence says a lot. I just don't have it, but I can enjoy playing, so that's what I try to do. I can talk theory all day. I can give the speeches about what a great improviser ought to be doing. As DB likes to say I can "type a great solo." But I have decided, a long time ago, to just shut up on that stuff. I play, I do my best, I post, and a few people offer helpful advice, most are just politely reserved. It's okay, I love good manners, wish I personally had more of them.

    Thanks for the advice and interest. But there is no way I can carve out such a chunk of time for music, except maybe after I retire in 5 or 6 more years, if I still have the itch to do this.
    I hear you 100%. I can relate.

  19. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    Hi Lawson-Stone,
    I can suggest something for You.
    You can make progress with a small amount of time.
    The first condition is systematic work.
    1 Guitar warm-up - several minutes...every day if it possible./play some scale,arpeggios etc/.
    2 Play Pat Martino / Linear Expression lines every day - the basic ones. First slow then faster.One line -one day.
    Practise it with the tunes-more difficult...but you can do it.Slowlly.
    3 Focus on one song, not like Virtual Jam / sorry Jeff / - lots of songs but not much time.
    4 Make one tune so that you are satisfied. Take your time with the tunes.Record your work .
    Listen to jazz like you do before.
    You will see how you develop - it will be the most beautiful for you.
    I do a lot of this already, but I haven't tried working through a "lines" book systematically. Maybe I'll give it a go, nothing to lose, right?

    Thanks for concrete suggestions!

  20. #44

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    I guess the only thing I will add is: that I work at breaking my habits. For example: if there is ii-V, and I start in a particular place, I am highly likely to play a certain group of ideas over the V. I get very bored and force myself to stretch (musically and often physically), for new ideas. (An idea for me is often like a coil that I can mutate in different ways). After I have pushed myself to move into different ideas, they then become typical, and I get bored and start pushing again.

    I think the most freedom comes, when I have the song’s melody playing in my head, and I am creating counter melodies.

    If I play a tune I have never heard, then I have to really work, and I typically feel confused. When that happens I am stuck with only my bag and although my bag is not small, things become a bit redundant, and it is difficult to get an arch. (However I would not consider myself to be much of a jazz guitarist).

    (Licks are cool but only if I have turned them into little musical universes that are twisting and changing all the time).

  21. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I’ve mostly lived in less populated places. Small towns in Sweden usually don’t have jazz clubs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to a few concerts/gigs.
    I admire your perseverance and passion when you are so remote from what drives you.

  22. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    What I'm saying is that if people are worried about everything they play being completely spontaneous, they're worrying about the wrong thing.

    Listen to the alternate takes on classic jazz albums for proof.

    Relax and be in the moment...and if a lick comes out in the moment that you've played 100 times before, don't sweat it. Did it sound good? Then it was good.

    You can paint a beautiful picture without inventing new brushes and colors. Its how you use them.
    I've heard more than once that the first take was the one that went on the final press. All subsequent were "less spontaneous" or people were trying too hard to make the next take the same but better than the last, but that spontaneity was lost.

  23. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by teribyrdie
    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?
    I don't feel as though it paints the whole picture personally. I think they are right to a point- but the way you voice the licks, the tempo, how you lean on the beat, the style of Jazz you are applying the mix to, how familiar you are with that style, all plays into it. The more I attempt to play and improvise, the more I realise that Jazz is not a binary do this or that thing, but a combination of everything. Yes, there is theory, there is practicing fundamentals and theory, playing with others live, just knowing your instrument backwards, trying/stealing/copying/inventing licks that work for you, listening and transcribing and reacting to the tune's direction when it is being performed. It all blends into this wash of complimentary techniques to make for me what is music. I see individual notes as just a sound or 'letter' without a context. I see a string of notes like an arpeggio as 'word' but not attached to a sentence. I see a phrase as a sentence without a paragraph or a story behind it. I see a string of phrases becoming a song and a story. It could be fast, slow, calm, angry, etc etc, but they are still the same alphabet of 12 notes, just ordered and announced differently.

    When I improvise (and I am by no means good at it yet) I do find myself falling back on familiar phrases. Especially in the adrenaline of the moment in front of everyone. My brain defaults to 'safe' spaces 'cause I am petrified that everyone will hear and remember clams from when I tried something 'different' today. I'm trying hard to fill up that safe space in my brain with more vocabulary I can regurgitate without even thinking about it. But to park it in there I know I need to practice like anything to reinforce the good ones and purge the bad ones out. And that for me at least comes back to fundamentals (scale and arpeggios) before long. I guess what separates beginner and intermediate skill levels from advanced is the volume of this vocabulary and how complex those 'safe space' phrases become in your mind.

    When I improvise, the last thing I find myself thinking about is the mechanics of a chord or scale, but I am playing what I am hearing in my head and if it sounds right, I try to get my fingers to replicate it. When things sound like they are going pear shaped though I do start to revert back to fundamentals and regroup from that point.

    M

  24. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    I could be wrong here... but I think there is also just a special something, a gift, a habit of mind, a bent of the imagination, but something mainly inborn, that has to be present for someone to be a good jazz improviser. I do think everyone can make music, everyone can improvise, but I have spent decades learning all the tips, tricks, etc. but in the moment, it all flees and I have about 4 licks I fall back on. It's like chess. You can know all the moves, all the rules, you can study the top 100 games in history, and do "chess problems" online all day... but sitting opposite an actual player, if you don't have the chess mindset, the chess mentality, you'll get demolished.

    Of course, someone can have the gift, the mindset, whatever, and without the skills, the knowledge of the instrument, the listening, obviously they will not develop their gift. But at the same time, you can't give yourself a gift that nature hasn't already given you. You can learn a lot, cultivate the skills, and be a non-train wreck improviser, but that special something is still needed.

    I speak as one who has decided that I just don't have that. I play this music because I love it, I love the guitar, and I actually like most of the jazz guitarists I've met, unlike horn players, I might add! But I have no illusions. I doubt I'll ever be anything more than a hack hobby player with really nice guitars. I hope I'm wrong, but so far, 35 years of trying at jazz, and a lifetime of playing (with) guitars, and it hasn't happened. So I learn great solos played by others, I try to learn a lot of tunes, become a good comp player, but soloing well, improvising memorably, just doesn't seem to be in the cards for me.

    I'm not making history, I'm just trying to make music.
    I kind of feel the exact same about my guitar playing. I've always thought it was a matter of a lack of time but I know people with similar time constraints who make wonderful progress.

    I've been meaning to start a thread asking people here why they play jazz guitar. What is their motivation?

    Personally, I'm never satisfied with what I play and at times wonder why I attempt to play jazz. So, I've been questioning why I do this. Do I actually enjoy the process of learning and playing guitar or am I trying to achieve a certain level of fluency to express myself and am frustrated that I haven't reached it? Would I be more happy just listening to others make music?

    What I've settled on is that even if I don't reach the mastery I desire, by striving to learn jazz guitar I get a deeper understanding and appreciation of this music and on rare occasion even create something myself that I can enjoy.

  25. #49

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    I usually record myself, very long solos, I try not to repeat myself. I listen to the recording. I analyse what's happening. I generally complain about lack of rhythmical variations (maybe because I use backing tracks). There are a lot of phrases, some nice ideas but rhythmically it's annoying.

  26. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lionelsax
    I usually record myself, very long solos, I try not to repeat myself. I listen to the recording. I analyse what's happening. I generally complain about lack of rhythmical variations (maybe because I use backing tracks). There are a lot of phrases, some nice ideas but rhythmically it's annoying.
    Maybe you should use a backing track that inspires the playing .
    You can find them, but not too many of them.
    Some time ago you found an excellent organ backing as I remember well.