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Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Groove On #2807236 01/27/19 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Groove On

Love it, nice example. laugh
Thanks,Groove On!

Due to the large number of trees (scales, chords, rhythmic patterns), the main thing is sometimes overlooked: musical logic. First it is worth remembering the mechanism of verbal logic. Here are three statements and a conclusion:

If it is snowing, it is cold
If it is cold, John is wearing a coat
It is snowing
Therefore, John is wearing a coat

Here the words snowing , cold , John , wearing , coat are repeated twice. These repetitions provide a logical connection between the statements and the logic of the whole structure (I do not touch upon the question of its truth - music is in no way connected with this ). The logic of musical construction is based on a similar principle of a chain of musical utterances containing repetitions, changes, and some balance between them.
My example again with designations of repetitive elements by a similar color:

[Linked Image]

Last edited by Nahum; 01/27/19 05:54 AM.
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Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2807257 01/27/19 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
The logic of musical construction is based on a similar principle of a chain of musical utterances containing repetitions, changes, and some balance between them.

Part of the problem is that the words for these ideas can obscure them.

For example, in 'classical' music the same ideas might be referred to as development of motif -> sequences -> transformations. High-sounding names indeed, but it can be quickly brought down to earth if we just call it a lick -> repeats -> variations. But many times, these simple ideas get caught up in a tangled spider-web of words.

From your original list of 4 approaches, I think #4 is the one that is the easiest to learn but is also the most obscure for the average person, even though it is technically taught to children in nursery rhymes and beginner pieces/songs.

1. learning by ear and/or written transcriptions;
2. preliminary study of chords and harmonic patterns;
3. preliminary study of scales;
4. preliminary study of small structures - riffs, motives.


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And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2807260 01/27/19 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
If it is snowing, it is cold
If it is cold, John is wearing a coat
It is snowing
Therefore, John is wearing a coat

Okay, so if the MOTIF/LICK is "If It Is"
- the repeats of the motif would be the SEQUENCES
- and the MOTIF with a modifier like 'cold' or 'snowing' would be a TRANSFORMATION/VARIATION
- adding "John is wearing a coat" would officially make it a PHRASE/RIFF because of the ending cadence
- And I guess the whole "poem" would be a MELODY?


We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2807265 01/27/19 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Groove On

Okay, so if the MOTIF/LICK is "If It Is"
- the repeats of the motif would be the SEQUENCES
- and the MOTIF with a modifier like 'cold' or 'snowing' would be a TRANSFORMATION/VARIATION
- adding "John is wearing a coat" would officially make it a PHRASE/RIFF because of the ending cadence
- And I guess the whole "poem" would be a MELODY?

I agree that at the basis of verbal structure you can build a melody . I did it in the past on improvisation lessons in real time .

Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2807267 01/27/19 08:01 AM
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I am having big problems learning to improvise on the piano, as many of my posts here (asking for music for popular songs) will attest. Ive been playing for 8 years now, did ABRSM grade 4 and can play some Joplin rags. But sit me in front of a piano with no music and the best i can muster is playing a I, IV, V progression, 4 to the bar, in C. It is, and sounds, boring.

Ive just brought an electric guitar. After 2 weeks I can do a little improvisation around some basic chord shapes of E, A, D, F, C, G. And i can do a bit relating to power chords all the way down the neck, and some repetitive soloing shapes again all the way down the neck off any base note. I can whack the amp up, add some distortion and reverb and it sounds half decent.

I am wondering whether the way a guitar works (in terms of the hand position patterns that repeat all over the place) makes it easier to improvise on a guitar?

Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2807326 01/27/19 10:59 AM
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Hi

I don't think either instrument is easier. For most people I suspect the instrument they take up first is the one they are most likely to be able improvise on. Not always the case I'm sure, but that would seem the most likely answer. In my case I started Piano when I was about 8 or 9, but didn't start learning guitar until I was in my mid to late 20s. I wanted to play blues guitar as I'm a ok blues Pianist, but it never clicked for me, so I stopped after a few years. I started guitar again a few years ago (more than 25 years later) and am really enjoying it, but improvising I find very difficult.

What you're doing on the guitar has as much to do with the different sounds and tonal qualities you can get on the guitar/amp as with improvisation. And not having heard what your I IV V "four to the bar" in C sounds like, I can't comment on its merit or otherwise. I like playing blues in C on the Piano! Sometimes simple is great.

When we talk about improvising on the Piano, generally that is the province of Jazz Pianists, but I don't get the impression from this post, or your other post, that I replied to, that Jazz Piano is really of interest to you? You say you want to able to accompany yourself, something like Elton John does. That is a different discipline to Jazz Piano, and there is no need to be a fluent improviser to do that.

From what you've said in the 2 posts I've seen, I think you need to be clear about what you really want to do. And then you need to find a way to achieve that. Given that neither chords, lead sheets or transcriptions seem to be of help to you, the conclusion I've reached is that your best option is to find a Piano teacher.

Cheers


Simon
Vox Continental 73, Casio PX-S3000
Yanagisawa AW10 (alto Sax)


Play what you enjoy listening to, listen to what you enjoy playing!




Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Simon_b #2807351 01/27/19 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

I don't think either instrument is easier. For most people I suspect the instrument they take up first is the one they are most likely to be able improvise on. Not always the case I'm sure, but that would seem the most likely answer. In my case I started Piano when I was about 8 or 9, but didn't start learning guitar until I was in my mid to late 20s. I wanted to play blues guitar as I'm a ok blues Pianist, but it never clicked for me, so I stopped after a few years. I started guitar again a few years ago (more than 25 years later) and am really enjoying it, but improvising I find very difficult.

What you're doing on the guitar has as much to do with the different sounds and tonal qualities you can get on the guitar/amp as with improvisation. And not having heard what your I IV V "four to the bar" in C sounds like, I can't comment on its merit or otherwise. I like playing blues in C on the Piano! Sometimes simple is great.

When we talk about improvising on the Piano, generally that is the province of Jazz Pianists, but I don't get the impression from this post, or your other post, that I replied to, that Jazz Piano is really of interest to you? You say you want to able to accompany yourself, something like Elton John does. That is a different discipline to Jazz Piano, and there is no need to be a fluent improviser to do that.

From what you've said in the 2 posts I've seen, I think you need to be clear about what you really want to do. And then you need to find a way to achieve that. Given that neither chords, lead sheets or transcriptions seem to be of help to you, the conclusion I've reached is that your best option is to find a Piano teacher.

Cheers





I mean, improv isn't really improv I guess. Its piecing together previously learnt patterns, in various chords. I started with Authur Migliaza's boogie woogie book a few months back, and I learned a few licks. But it still doesn't teach you how to just sit there and play something off the top of your head. Maybe I just haven't got the musical ear it takes to do that (I didn't start learning till age 30). I mean, as an example, I can play Joplins The Entertainer pretty well, and I know what a rag should sound like, and I know what the beat should sound like, but if you were to ask me to make a simple ragtime progression up on the spot I couldn't do it.

Having thought about it a little, the biggest problem I have is knowing what chords go together. The only ones I can quote off the top of my head are C,F,G and D,G,A as I,IV,V progressions. Thats pretty poor after having done 4 grades and played songs in most keys in the 8 years Ive been playing, but I don't know where to go to get that knowledge from. Rythyms are similar issue, Ive played all manner of time signatures over the years but sit me in front of a piano and all i can do is some 4/4 on the beat block chords. Its woeful lol.

Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2809227 02/01/19 12:28 AM
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Cudos Cade for ploughing thru that “...100 bebop patterns...” book (was that in all keys?) and sympathies that “...the patterns don’t stick very well...”

By chance, I started the chore of trying to solo like a sax player after having first memorized to blindness (starting up/down from any point) the 12 so-called Barry Harris scales.

Over-applying the concept that the RH can play in the BH scale 1/2 step above the root note of each LH chord, it was recognized that the RH soloing could change keyscale on most quarter notes and that the first, basic pattern-sentences would consist of any 4 noted word/pattern in such a scale above the ii chord followed by any 4 noted word in such a scale above the V.

Several routes for later expansion present themselves without application of much brainpower (e.g., lengthening these 4 noted “words” to 6 or 8 noted words), while others may tax the brain (e.g., doubling sentence-length by supplementing each used keyscale word with a word from one of its diminished sister scales).

This is all to say that on-the-fly recognition of the name of each keyscale from which your upcoming RH word-pattern is sourced (e.g., on a quarter noted level) seems to circumvent, at least for me, your issue of the “patterns don’t stick very well.”

Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2810169 02/03/19 10:16 AM
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Re: Baker, yes, all keys, and in fact I typed & printed them out in all keys just so I could practice them that way.
I just start at the top and go down the list for 30 of them or so, then start from that point the next time. It also has the virtue of having me do technical practice in all keys equally (eventually), but a good heavy sustained dose for each key.

The other thing I'll do is play through transcribed Bird solos straight (from his Omnibook), just for pure sightreading & technical practice.
And similarly, I just start at the first tune and do two or three. Then I'll start from the next tune the next time.

I actually start my practices with the so-called Barry Harris scales, up and down the whole 88 -- maj, dom7, & double-diminished (whole-half), sometimes the alt scale, in all 12 keys, then the chromatic. And each practice session I'll start on the next note (the 1, the 2, the 3)...
You can see my usual pattern. That sums up what I'd call my technical practice.

I like this advice you and Naham are giving me about patterns & small structure. It's helping to demystify what I thought it meant. I tended to think it meant phrases or ways of phrasing that are thematic or idiomatic, when you play a certain style so much it gets ingrained. The easy analogy is blues playing, where really typical lines get ingrained relatively easily as it lends itself to that. But that wasn't happening as naturally in other styles. But I like the analogy to literal phrases (linguistically) you are both giving me... It reminded me of the "singing method", where you basically just improvise a riff by singing it out and practice having your fingers be able to follow what you sing. It's very natural for me to sing improvised lines roughly in the way you're suggesting (although I'll think more explicitly about the structure and relationship of lines from now on). It was something I was trying to figure out how to work into my practice recently. And at least in my mind, it fits perfectly with this linguistic-inspired method of naturally voicing out a phrase, and then building on that phase in logical or almost conversational ways. And I can start to see how to develop it over time with ramping up the complexity of the patterns and relationships, at least I think. I'll try to work something like this into my practice sessions for a while and possibly report my findings of how it goes after a good bit. Thanks all!

Re: Learn to improvise - where to start?
Nahum #2810374 02/03/19 11:34 PM
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Thanks for the further details Cade (your obvious enjoyment of scale-focused doodling feels like a kindred spirit and I second how important it is to demystify a path to achievement of any semblance of a solo-sax-like RH since, otherwise, the motivation to reach an acceptable conclusion to this semi-autistic ambition can wither so easily).

Your mentioned “singing method” for demystifying never came to mind for use by me because it would have to be some pretty sophisticated scatting talent to weave back/forth through tightly packed series of minor 3rds and augmented 5ths.

Instead (seeing it all by hindsight) to demystify, I relied on a formulaic key (i) memorizing only the 12 minor BH scales usable with a root note 1/2 step above the root note of the LH chord (so e.g., over a B7 dominant, the scale of C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, A, B), and eventually (ii) switching every quarter beat to another 4-noted word in a different one of those 12 scales.

One example is for RH to change scales just in a 4-up, 4-up, 4-up, 4-up (so e.g., the minor BH scales rooted in G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab can be used to play the G scale’s Eb, E, F#, G, leading right into the C scale’s Ab, A, B, C (leading further into the F scale’s 4 noted word, etc.). For a quick though imperfect taste, this 6 word/24 noted sentence can be used as a solo over a walking bass for the head of St. Thomas in the key of C (more mileage comes from mixing up word types in each successive keyscale).

Another example is your famous mentioned blues riff which is label-able with reference to only two of these minor BH scales (e.g., in the lead-up half-measure which moves your LH from C7 to F7, the RH can play overlapped pattern-words from the minor BH scales rooted in Ab and Db (e.g., the simplest would be G-Ab-Bb-B and then A-Bb-C-Db).

All the more complex keyscale sequences besides 4-up, 4-up, do not change the basic truth of this particular path to demystification: no pattern recall is needed, rather the big effort is in the second-to-second mental recalling of the next pre-decided and pre-mentally-mapped keyscale (as this effort becomes automatic, the fun of the improv is then in deciding on the fly from among the 8 notes in the next keyscale, which word pattern to use, as a line up to the next keyscale’s word pattern).

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