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  1. #1

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    Bought both Peter Bernstein's master class on mymusicmasterclass.

    8 pages of notes later...

    The one thing I keep coming back to in my head, and why I believe Peter Bernstein sounds unique as a guitar player, is his story about building a boat on a deserted island.

    The improviser is like a person stranded on a deserted island that needs to build a boat. To build the boat, the person can only use the resources on the island (driftwood, old rope, some nails that washed ashore).

    To build a solo, the improviser should use the resources available in the tune (melody, harmony, rhythm).

    For me, the answer to this mysterious Jazz guitar puzzle that I've been trying to solve since 1986 when I packed up and went to GIT, has been right in front of me the entire time.

    I've invested thousands on magic bullets when all I had to do focus on the tune for all the information I needed to sound different on each tune instead playing different versions of the same solo (CST, arps, tricks), going through the real book.

    I highly recommend his course. The section on how he moves his fingers like a piano player over chords to create solos is great.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Here's a question for you: how would analyze and then go shed the distinct RHYTHMS particular to the tune?

  4. #3
    Wasn't it Monk that said "keep singing the melody in your head while you play"?

    Buy Bernstein's course and let him explain it to you better than I can. 😊

  5. #4

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    I don't think one needs the original melody or rhythm to improvise over a tune. One can go a completely different direction. That's not to say Bernstein, whom I admire, is incorrect, but to suggest that his is just one way to go about things.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    Here's a question for you: how would analyze and then go shed the distinct RHYTHMS particular to the tune?
    My favorite exercise (which I recently tried doing again, and it's hard!)-- try improvising on the tune using the same melodic rhythms as the melody, but use different notes...

  7. #6
    Well said. The mountain should never criticize the river for being lowly, nor should the river criticize the mountain for being immovable.

    I was sharing my epiphany, not laying down the law. For my ears, Bernstein's approach resonates truth. This after decades of my own playing sounding like pushing buttons over chords (CST).

    I hear a difference...do you?


  8. #7

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    I had a lesson with Pete about two years ago, and the point he really drove home is that "Jazz is a decorative art." Meaning that you should always be working with the melody of the tune you are playing. He also stressed learning all the parts on classic records. We chatted about Horace Silver, and he gave Strollin' as an example of a great tune to learn.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by cyberkrunk
    He also stressed learning all the parts on classic records.
    I'd love the opportunity to learn from him too. What do you mean by "all the parts" in the quote above. Really curious. I looked up Strollin' on YT. Cool tune.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4thstuning
    I don't think one needs the original melody or rhythm to improvise over a tune. One can go a completely different direction.
    But then you are not playing any specific tune either...except your own.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimPeak
    I'd love the opportunity to learn from him too. What do you mean by "all the parts" in the quote above. Really curious. I looked up Strollin' on YT. Cool tune.
    So, for example, on Strollin' learn both horn parts in the head. Play them separate, together, combinations of the above, etc. Play the articulations, get the feel down.

    Funny side note, we jammed on Ladybird, and he did *not* like the fact that I played the melody in the Dexter Gordon style, rather than as Tadd Dameron wrote it. He did not like that at all

  12. #11

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    the deal has to be this:

    knowing all the harmony (the stuff different tunes have in common) - focus like mad on the melody (the stuff that makes this tune this tune and no other)

    it could also be:

    you have to let the melody guide your investigation of the harmony (your learning of the harmony)

    but even with that second point granted, the first point still holds: given that you know everything you need to know about what this tune has in common with all the others, you should put all your energy into the melody

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    the deal has to be this:

    knowing all the harmony (the stuff different tunes have in common) - focus like mad on the melody (the stuff that makes this tune this tune and no other)

    it could also be:

    you have to let the melody guide your investigation of the harmony (your learning of the harmony)

    but even with that second point granted, the first point still holds: given that you know everything you need to know about what this tune has in common with all the others, you should put all your energy into the melody
    Martin Taylor has been saying this for years. In fact, Martin calls improvising variations on the melody of a tune.

    All great improvisers never loose sight of the melody , and their target notes are contained within that context , and the phrasing and harmonies are built around same.

    Also, you have to be a great listenener, and stay very connected with the tune, or you just ramble on meaninglessly - in search of territory thats already present.

    We always think there is more to it........

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  14. #13

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    An interesting little test: Listen to a solo, and see if you can identify the tune it came from. If you can't, then probably something is awry.


    Otherwise, we could construct a "super duper" solo...for all tunes based on "rhythm changes"--and there are hundreds of them, right, and play it every time out.


    (Sarcasm meter is low on batteries, so I'm not getting a reading, but I'm being facetious, above.)

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by goldenwave77
    An interesting little test: Listen to a solo, and see if you can identify the tue it came from. If you can't, then probably something is awry.
    Otherwise, we could construct a "super duper" solo...for all tunes based on "rhythm changes"--and there are hundreds of them, right, and play it every time out.
    Variations of the same solo played on different tunes is how most learn, teach and play. B7? Push these buttons. Minor 2/5 push these buttons. Sound out? Sideslip up or down.

    I'm just thankful my ears finally heard the jive coming from my fingers. It's almost like a red pill blue pill matrix decision. There's no going back to pushing buttons over chords after you tasted how good decorating melody actually sounds.

    I'm concentrating on playing on one or two strings at a time to undue those jive button pushing nervous ticks I've been vomiting forever.

    It's like I rediscovered Jazz. Thanks Pete Bernstein!!!

  16. #15

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    I enjoy using the original song as a source for improvization... it gives mme for feel of integrity, form, musical development within a song...

    But I partly disagree with 'decorative idea'...
    Decorating as I understand it is adding something to the main thing... decoration is always secondary and often has limited artistic function (i.e. decorative)... this is just as it is conceptually... of course there can be masterpieces of decoration but they will stay a decoration essentially...

    It is easy to compare with classical... there's a form called variation that was popular in renaissance then later was gardually suppressed by other forms (forms that involve rather development than variation)...

    But if we analyze variations - beginning from John Bull, Dowland, Byrd, Frscobaldi etc (there were plenty of them) - then much less in baroque time (like magnificen Bach's Chaconne e.g.) - and really a few in classic time...

    We will see that all the great composers took variation form as a combination of two major layers of forms being overlapped by one another:

    1) the layer that had the idea of repetition of sections: something repeats with some changes... note that in some Passacailes there could have been endless quantity of variations... so to me this layer has an idea of never-ending or circle time concept.. you forget the beginning you do not know the where the end is - you just know what just happen and see what happens next
    2) the 2nd layer is general form of the piece that has beginning, climax and the end (and other nuances of form in details)... through these never-ending repearting sections there goes a singular line of general meaning of a tune that allows to combine it all together...

    In rennaissance music it was not that much important - you can find plenty of pieces that just had more or less 1st level in it.. but also you can find Byrd's, Bull', Gibbon's p[ices with obviously two levels involved (to teh extent that some central variations had changes in original harmony to make a climax point)...

    the functional tonality got over the music the more forms were getting connected with logics of tonal development - T-S-D relations, modulations etc.
    Pure variations turned out to be the main form of early modal music...

    Really serious variations of later composers mostly are built around some functional tonality form and have features of sonata or other forms where modulations are involved and important...

    So it seems to me jazz conceptually is much more modal (not in means, means could be functional tonality) - the idea of used closed and repeated harmonic structure turns functional harmonic turnarounds in some kind of modes too...

    But it seems to me it is great when we can combine both concepts as they did it before: repeated variation series and general line of development...

    Wes did it all the time with pretty simple means (mostly arrangement) - but there are also other tools.. and one of them is keeping in ming original song and trying to develope it all the way through..

  17. #16

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    I think a tune is a tune. Most really good, if not great, tunes are fairly unique and have a distinctive quality to them. They have a melody and a harmonic background, those two.

    What is improvisation? Playing the tune from a lead sheet is simple but no one would call that improvisation. Improvisation starts when either departs from the strict notes of the tune, or uses fills in the pauses, or embellishes the tune here and there with occasional departures.

    Thereafter it's possible to launch off into completely unrelated melodic lines that just happen to fit over the chords. Personally I find that, if one has internalised the tune and knows it properly, that internalisation itself guides the feel of what you're playing. It's never a question of just playing anything that fits. I'd call that pretty bad improvisation - in fact it may not be real improvisation. The spirit or feel of the song or tune must always be there in some form otherwise there's not a lot of point to it.

  18. #17

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    Yes.. but what I like in peter's apoproach is that it presumes general integrity... since you use a tune you use it all the way to he end... not just like annoying intro providing changes... just artistically this approach is more solid more mature to me...

    which does not exclude other approaches... plenty of great players just played through changes...

  19. #18

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    Here's a good demo of the similar approach from Gilad Heckselman:


  20. #19

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    I'm not the OP, but I've taken lessons with Peter and talked to him a lot over the years, so I'll venture a guess on what he means here: All the parts means learning all the things that make the song distinctive: The melody obviously, the harmonic changes, but also all the hits and counterlines:

    - Junior Cook and Blue Mitchell harmonize the melody to Strollin' beautifully, so make sure to learn both their lines.

    - Gene Taylor also plays a really distinctive bass part in the melody (the little G - Ab - Db thing that kicks off the tune)

    - The whole band plays some important rhythmic hits at the end.

    - Horace silver's comping is super catchy and riff oriented, he almost plays in a big band kind of style behind the soloists.

    Knowing these kinds of details are one of the many reasons Peter sounds so distinctive. He knows a lot of verses to standards and will play them when he feels it's an important part of the tune. Brad Mehldau said in an interview that even when they were in college, Peter would go to the NY public library and find original lead sheets for tunes to get the original harmony.

    When you hear Peter play Monk, one of the reasons he sounds so different and sooooo good is that he's learned every part of Monk's music: he plays all the stuff in between the melody and bass that's so important.
    Last edited by pcsanwald; 03-16-2017 at 08:07 PM.

  21. #20

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    on one of his seminars in italy he talked a lot about him knowing every tune there is (i believe him ), and being able to play any tune in any key. I started practicing that, (key transposing) and it was an epiphany. I do believe that him being so melodic and substantial as a player may have a lot to do with that deep and thorough knowledge of jazz melodies that comes from learning all that repertoire. So if i learned one thing from his approach on the guitar, it would be, ''learn tunes, play them in all keys".

  22. #21

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    I only really realised how awful I was at playing tunes by doing trio gigs with bass and drums.

    If you play in standard settings with a horn it and be all to easy to neglect the melody.

    Anyway, again one of the best and most revealing exercises I have found for me, is to record a melody without a click or any backing, and then comp along with it. Any missed beats or rushed notes become immediately apparent. It is embarrassing how many times I have to play a simple tune to become familiar enough with it to play it in time without clams.

    But, I ask myself, what have I spent most of my practice working on? Well just about everything but play melodies!

    Another thing to practice is comping of course. Peter points that out too. This exercise is a one way to do it.

  23. #22

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    Does anyone who has watched Peter's MMMC videos know what tune he plays to kick it off in the first one?

  24. #23

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    Just came across this clinic with Peter Bernstein and Steve Masakowski! Some great ideas and playing!


  25. #24

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    Solos that derive off the melody are terrific. So are the millions of solos that don’t.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenA
    Solos that derive off the melody are terrific. So are the millions of solos that don’t.
    Billions... billions!

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimPeak
    Wasn't it Monk that said "keep singing the melody in your head while you play"?
    I've heard drummers say they do that and it's how they keep their place.

  28. #27

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    I read a story about Ed Bickert on a gig with another guitar player who wasn't at the same pro level as Ed - anyway, they're playing some tune and it gets to the solo and Ed tells the other guy something like "You take it, I don't know the head". I seem to recall this was part of a story about about how Ed would not solo on any tune if he didn't know the head.
    I've studied with a local reeds player who always talks about how referencing the melody in your solo will "elevate the solo".
    Anyways, I don't know if there are any absolutes in this jazz stuff. Probably not. But I will say that even if we take the solos that don't seem to relate to the melody, how do we know the improviser wasn't hearing the melody in his head and just totally in the zone, not thinking at all about what notes came out? We can never know. In my best solos, I'm not thinking at all...just sorta kinda aware, barely, I have no idea what I was thinking, you know?

  29. #28

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    Lesson in there for sure. Learning the melody properly makes everything easier. But so easy to skip over that step because it can actually be hard at first. Harder than playing a bunch of licks

  30. #29

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    I have attended many masterclasses for Classical guitar. However, the music is the written framework and the artist shows players how to breathe life into the black dots in the score. It works. However, for me, Jazz is different. When you muck it up with too much analysis and theory, you loose it's nature, personality, spontaneity, and driving force. Just listen to the kids coming out of Jazz programs today. For the most part, their robotic imitators of great players who were neither robotic nor imitators. They learn improvisation by playing the solos of the greats. In the end, they're talented imitators, not originators. This doesn't mean that one can intuit solos as a savant without understanding the structure of music, but it also doesn't mean that you're a pre-recorded music machine who jumps into pat solos everytime you play. Music education programs have created some great technicians . . . I don't think they produce an abundance of creators as was the case when a musician got his chops on the road by steady gigging with other musicians. And, aren't these the musicians whose solos, technique, and style we study most today? You can sit in your room till your nose bleeds memorizing modes, scales, chords, etc., but you'll never get a personal voice until get into a club/bar and play live with other musicians. We live in an age of instant gratification where as long as you sound like a Jazzer you must be one. The Art Form ,for me, is dying. The world craves the generic. Playing live????? . . . Marinero