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  1. #1

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    Hi everyone....

    I've started practicing on Charlie Parkers "Donna Lee". Before I got into jazz I played a lot of progressive rock... the whole shred kinda thing. But playing Donna Lee fast like the clip with Joe Pass and NHOP on youtube.com is totally different than what I'm used to. I'm able to play fast, but this tune has been quite an obstacle. Really don't know why. I like the up-tempo feel, and it is much fun to play a song like this than just rippin' fast scales covered in distortion. (Not meant as an attack on anyone, just my opinion).

    Therefore I wanna hear if anyone in here has had experience with the tune, and has been able to build up a good speed. Or do you have some good fingerings, etc. I'm trying to get better at not just playin' fast but also thinking fast while playing a fast tune. I think the there's a giant difference between playing sixtuplets in 4 fours at 125 bpm, than playing the whole song at 160 bpm.

    For the record I play with a pick, and don't intend at this moment to start using my fingers. Not on this tune.

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  3. #2

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    Hi there,

    Do not worry! I too have been playing guitar in different styles already for some years before switching to jazz and I too picked up Donna Lee to practise. Boy.....!! It took me about two months to play it properly and in a good tempo. For me too it felt just very strange and I could not realy explain why at first I couldn't get in my fingers.

    But the key in my case was to figure out a good fingering that felt natural to me (I play the whole tune between the 3rd/4th position and the 7th position) and then practice bar for bar, line for line, VERY SLOWLY (as slow as 80/90 bpm). I did not try to play it any faster untill I could play the tune flawless from beginning to end in this very slow tempo. Once I was able to play it slow, the speed came on it's own and now it has become my favourite daily excercise.

    And now that I can litterally dream the tune, it enriched my jazz playing to a great extend! I realy think mastering this tune is a good way to devellop your bebop playing when it comes to timing and feel and provides you with numerous bebop-licks as well.

    If you wish I can give you my fingering in GuitarTab format, but I think finding your own fingering is an essential part of mastering the tune.

    Good luck!

  4. #3

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    Thanks little Jay.... yeah you're probably right. I'm working on it.... a funny thing is that yesterday after I wrote the post, I tried a different picking technique, and it made a bit easier. I already have worked my way through it all, I was just interested if anyone had a very good fingering or so. But I'll stick with my own, and work up the tempo.

  5. #4

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    it's a hard head. I play it the same way every time I play it with a specific set of fingerings. Every guitar player I know plays it differently. I play it all in the middle of the guitar, I know a lot of guys who play it in the lower positions. I just prefer the middle of the instrument.

    The tune isn't a fast one either, it's just note heavy. With most bebop heads you develop a fingering for that head and play it the same way every time. At least that's what I do.

    Practice it very slowly and as accurately as possible with a metronome. As you master a tempo then bring it up between 2 and 3 notches. Find the tempo you can just barely not play it at and work that tempo until it because as easy as playing anything else. Rinse and repeat.

  6. #5

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    Jake.... do you know the video with Joe Pass NHOP on youtube where they're playing Donna Lee? My goal is to be able to play the head in that tempo, but the sound quality is bad plus I count it sixteenth notes, and now I got the sheet it is in eight notes... I've had a difficulty in finding how many bpm (measured in quarter notes) they play it, do you know it? Or what would be a decent tempo for this tune?

    The reason why I focus on this, is that I've spend a year building up my speed with scales and arpeggios, then learned some shred tunes by joe satriani.... now I want to apply this technique for something more musical and Donna Lee has become such goal....

  7. #6

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    A lot of "shred" technique doesn't really apply or translate to Jazz phrasing because of the sweeping and such that comes with a fair amount of shred. Much of 'typical' jazz phrasing is done with alternate picking and smaller 3 or 4 note sweeps at the most. Not to say it's not a great idea to get as fast and cleanly as possible. Speed is great, however, articulation and control of speed is far more important.

    I'm listening to a video of them playing is and to me it's faster then they really want to be playing it but they're playing it that fast to show off There are several videos of them together on youtube, so I 'm not sure which one you are referring to.

    In one video they're playing at around quarter = 320.

  8. #7

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    okay thanks, that's fast. I'm referring to the show off video :-)

  9. #8

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    hay c.a.j.o. you dont need to worry about speed and anu tehnical thing,its eazy you just lock up your self in a room for some time and practcice slowly.Reall challenge is to improvise over tune,I can play it fast no problem but improvise feel all the changes its little bit tricky.I dont understand the people whos impressed by playing really fast,because there is no big mistery to it,just depends how much time you have to practice and sorry for my english spelling i hope you understan what i want to say

  10. #9

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    Yeah, my problem is not that I can't play fast.... I used to play progressive rock, shred before I started my jazz venture. I know how to work up tune to a fast tempo, I was really just wondering how experienced jazz musicians approached a tune like this, since this is way different than I'm used to. E.c. like all other rock shredders I worked on "Flight of the bumble bee" last year. It's so much easier to play fast, because it's almost just chromatic sixteenth notes through the whole song, mostly on one string at a time.... so I'm not seeking advice on how to develop speed, alternate picking and all that but more how you guys, maybe pros like Jake, approach tunes like this. Like I said in the beginning post, I want to start using my technique that I developed with scales on real music.

  11. #10

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    then we have same problem,I also played rock and speedy stuf,then 3 years ago I got really interested in jazz, I have no teacher and I trying my best to teach my self,its harder and slower,I have no formal education.My approach to this tune is find good melody,feel the changes ofcourse some speedy lick but not playing scales up and down.it took me some time to get away from rock playing so best wishes and good luck

  12. #11

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    thanks... it's hard work, but also very fun work! I never get tired of struggling on something like this :-)

  13. #12

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    It's tough because it changes direction so much. It twists and turns. It's intervallic. In order for it to really 'crackle' you have to pop the accents. The feel of the swing should be pretty deep. In a lot of rock stuff the direction is more static, much easier to get the wrist on automatic pilot.
    Slow is the key. pop those notes, make it dance. think fred astaire. seriously.

    mike

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike walker
    In order for it to really 'crackle' you have to pop the accents. The feel of the swing should be pretty deep.
    Slow is the key. pop those notes, make it dance. think fred astaire. seriously.

    mike
    I couldn't agree more. I spent years learning heads and solos from the Parker Omni Book...the only problem is that it always sounded like a$$ and I could never figure out why. The notes and rhythms were right and on some tunes I could get it to tempo, but it always sounded lifeless. It wasn't until I went back about six months ago and applied accents at slow tempos first that it all made sense.

    Playing with accents has improved my playing tremendously in every setting... I'm just bummed I didn't apply it sooner.
    Last edited by djangoles; 08-05-2008 at 08:49 PM. Reason: spelling

  15. #14

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    djangoles,
    It's such an important aspect of playing that genre of music (any genre in fact)
    Their maybe a lot of 8th notes but their are internal rhythms popping and bringing life to the line. SO often overlooked by players who are learning that stuff.

    Mike

  16. #15

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    its def not an easy head to play. I love playing it as a slower bossa. Try it

  17. #16

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    You either have good pick technique or you don't... For most tunes it really doesn't matter... but up bop tunes expose any problems in your technique. I played Donna Lee the other night at gig along with a bunch of other Bop cover, I was playing with this smoking Alto player... I don't have any problems with tempos.... having something worth saying is an issue sometimes. There are tons of better players than myself... but I can cover and would gladly check out your technique if you post something... would probable be more helpful than just seeing me read through bop heads...
    Mikes point about the feel is at the top of the list for me... if it doesn't lock... it really isn't working... I listened to JP duo version at pretty up tempo... the feel or lack of.. was rough... but when cameras are on top of you the feel may get lost. Just for record I have always been fan of JP ... Reg

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike walker
    It's tough because it changes direction so much. It twists and turns. It's intervallic. In order for it to really 'crackle' you have to pop the accents. The feel of the swing should be pretty deep. In a lot of rock stuff the direction is more static, much easier to get the wrist on automatic pilot.
    Slow is the key. pop those notes, make it dance. think fred astaire. seriously.

    mike
    Hi OP are you playing with the distortion on ?
    its really difficult bringing out those accents and internal rhythms when you've got the distort on ........

    OWhile your there Reg
    My picking is sub-standard (downstrokes with a pick)
    I can get play Donna Lee OK using my usual hammer and pull-offs
    slides etc
    Do you know Jim Mullen ? he's a mainly downstroke thumb player
    and he gets around OK ......

    Honestly , I wish I could fast alt pick like you but I don't think its in me (I'm 54 and been playing most of that)
    Its a drag but there you go
    I do know that in life (and music) one door closes another door opens so
    I guess its made me work harder on my articulation in the style I do have
    (is it called Legatto ? I hope so ..... its sounds posh)

    Aparently Jim Hall had a sign
    'can't play fast , won't play loud'

    Anyway the real challenge is trying to play something worthy enough to
    follow that Parkrer head on Indiana changes .........

    I like Jaco's version a lot

  19. #18

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    Folks - I'm feeling the urge to get this one under my belt.
    Can anyone point me in the direction of some accurate tabs?

    Cheers
    Nick

  20. #19

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  21. #20

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    Tab? I learn a lot by working out my own fingerings from transcriptions in notation.

  22. #21

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    You could just download a youtube clip of someone playing it and slow it down in VLC player, think it goes down to half tempo with ok audio quality.

  23. #22

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    If you rely want to learn it, transcribe it. It'll stick like peanut butter.

  24. #23

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    Just get the Charlie Parker Omnibook or a fakebook. What you will learn from working out your own fingerings will far exceed learning what works for someone else. It's the whole process that teaches the whole guitar.

  25. #24

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    Just came across this which may help.


  26. #25

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    Trying to come up with accurate tabs on this tune is going to work against you. Charlie obviously does it on an alto sax. If you really want the feel of the tune's head . . you'll need to work on discovering your own fingering based upon what you want the head to sound like. To really capture the essence of the head of this tune . . it will require a lot of slurs . . hammer-ons, pull offs, slides . . as well as some really weird repositioning of fingering. It took me a while, but, now when I play this head, my arch top sounds eerily similar to an alto sax. ;-)

    There really is no one correct fingering for this head. 100 different guitar players will probably do it 100 different ways.

  27. #26

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    Just a simple question I gotta ask here - and I'm asking because I really don't get this thing....

    It seems nobody objects much about the "learn it from YouTube" advice. But how is that any different from tab? Tab shows you where to put your fingers -- which string, which finger, and so on. Ditto for some guy on YouTube showing you where to put your fingers - which string, which finger, etc.

    So shouldn't we berate the YouTube method, too?

    (I'm all for standard notation - please don't take this otherwise. I really just don't see the difference w/tab and YouTube.)

  28. #27

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    Get a looper pedal and go to town...

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van_jazz
    Just a simple question I gotta ask here - and I'm asking because I really don't get this thing....

    It seems nobody objects much about the "learn it from YouTube" advice. But how is that any different from tab? Tab shows you where to put your fingers -- which string, which finger, and so on. Ditto for some guy on YouTube showing you where to put your fingers - which string, which finger, etc.

    So shouldn't we berate the YouTube method, too?

    (I'm all for standard notation - please don't take this otherwise. I really just don't see the difference w/tab and YouTube.)
    This video doesn't really show you fingerings one-by-one - it just slows the tune down and breaks it into more manageable chunks. I suppose you could marry yourself to his fingerings but as has been said, you should probably see if there are others that are more manageable for you.

    When using this video, I would be reading the music(not tabs) as well and would be listening to the tune being played by other players as well.

    I am finding it helpful used in conjunction with other devices. I don't think it's the same as just looking at Tabs and going note-by-note, finger-by-finger. Using a video like this one involves more listening - if you don't want to see what he has done, then turn away from the screen. If you get stuck on a fingering, then he gives you one example of one that works for him.

    That being said, if you are able to pick up a recording of Joe Pass playing Donna Lee at light speed and pick it up by ear without any music in front of you and without slowing down the recording and without ever looking to see what position he is playing any of the passages in, then that is probably the best way of learning it. That would take me a year for this particular tune and I'm not that patient. (Of course, it might still take me a year to get it up to speed if ever but that is a different issue ).

  30. #29

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    To be honest, I don't really mind tabs nor youtube and I use both all the time when I'm in a hurry and need to learn something fast because I got a last minute stand-in job or something.

    BUT it seems when I learn a theme or song just by listening to the original and reading the lead sheet - thus figuring out my own fingerings - it tends to stick to me a lot better and I can incorporate it much better my own playing-style, which to me seems like a good thing.

    Learning Donna Lee this way, took me about 5 or 6 nights just to be able to play thru the head and it took even longer to be able to play it fluently and up tempo and well enough to gig with. But since then I play it regularly as an exercise and I dissected the head into separate licks that provided me a great bebop-lick-repetoire! (I did that to a lot more Parker tunes, really helpful!).
    Last edited by Little Jay; 07-16-2014 at 08:25 AM.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jay
    To be honest, I don't really mind tabs nor youtube and I use both all the time when I'm in a hurry and need to learn something fast because I got a last minute stand-in job or something.
    Yep.

    It seems to me that notation, in the long run especially, will benefit a professional player, or any gigging jazz player, better than tab.

    However, let's go back to the OP: at this stage of his development (I'm assuming he's an 'younger player' - not meaning chronological age necessarily): what would be more important, 1) that he get Donna Lee under his fingers and in his ears, or 2) that he put in the months and months learning to read a score the likes of Donna Lee, and then learn it that way? (That's one hairy score!)

    I think getting tunes in one's ears, and in muscle memory, and in one's bones - I think this is wa-a-a-a-a-a-ay more important, right off the bat, as soon as possible, than learning notation, so that SOME DAY he can read Donna Lee from the Omnibook. Ditto for ALL the tunes in the Real Book, or not in the Real Book, etc.


    Pardon me if I'm missing something.

    (Btw, Carl Verheyen is my hero! He's a self-taught reader, and he was reading tab, I betcha, before notation; still I see his point.)

    Peace,
    Loren
    Last edited by Kojo27; 07-17-2014 at 10:21 PM.

  32. #31

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    You can check these vids, might be helpful, in both case fingering is much chord/harmony related




  33. #32

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    Hi here is the theme of Donna Lee if you want to learn it:



    all the best /Tobias