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Hi, first I'll share nice short article about how to divide your jazz practicing time http://www.philmarkowitzjazz.com/practice.html This helped me a lot, because now I know how I can make my practicing time more efficient:

15% technique and warm-up
15% repertoire
50% linear construction
20% performance

Especially it have changed my approach to technique (I used to devote even 80% of time for technique). Of course it's simplification, because it doesn't include transcribing for example. But I'd like to ask you experienced guys how to understand linear construction exactly. If I understand it correctly, it's ability to freely playing any melodic shape at any given moment in piece, which enables me to play a few-note sequence that repeats higher and higher through subsequent changes. as an example I'll past fragment of "jazz piano book" by Mark Levine (by the way I'm very grateful to ML since it's only book I found that gives a few pages to this subject).

[Linked Image]

Levine also mentions Herbie's solo on "all blues" on "my funny valentine" album (1964), which contains beautiful sequences from about halfway of his solo. Anyway, sequences are very important since they are the best way to increase energy and add some nice structure to the solo. So my questions are:

1) do I understand "linear construction" term correctly?

2) do you know some books covering this subject? or any materials explaining, encouraging or showing how to practice it?

3) how have you learned it and how to practice it?


I'll be very grateful for your responses since I'm digging this subject right now. BTW, I practice Hanon in all keys and consider doing it in such scales as melodic or diminished, which also may be a route, but in real life you change chord much often, even every second (I guess that's why we call it changes).



PS. Other subject is what mentioned Rufus Reid in this workshop (or in part two): you may play 5 hours or you may practice 15 minutes a day, but really REALLY practice and that makes the difference.


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I've never heard the term linear construction, but my guess is that it simply means working on putting together improvised melodic lines that work over chord progressions. Sequences, as suggested in the Mark Levine passage, are on one way of approaching this. Scales, arpeggios, guide tones and many other ways exists. It's not surprising that someone suggests spending 50% of practice time on this because that is what improvisation really is; creating a linear melodic line over the chord changes in a piece.

I'd note that there are two ways to doing sequences. The Mark Levine expert shows a sequence that stays diatonic to the chord progression. Herbie Hancock frequently creates a sequence that stays true to its own pattern and goes outside the chord changes. The notion is that the ear begins to hear the sequence and doesn't care that it no longer follows the chord progression, although the key to it is how to return to the chord progression. Herbie's technique is, in my view, a more advanced one that is very hard to pull off, but very exciting when you do.

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Thanks man smile I guess we can think about sequence as 3-note motif, but also 15-note one, and now border between traditional understanding of "melody" and "sequence" blurs; as I read Markovitz I see that you're right and he also means just the melody that terminates and not repeats. But for practice he advices to repeat it over the whole song in the same range and focus on "harmonic content, directionality and rhythmic approach".

For now I just play invented sequence very slowly through a standard and than chose another tune and motif; but it's hard not to start freely improvising since sequences give you such an energy and base for solo smile

It's also interesting what you write about Herbe's approach, I have to transcribe some of his work. Or maybe you have any material or example of it?

Any other voices wold be highly appreciated.


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Listen to Herbie's solo around 6:40: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvRkGglLe-U

Great example of a pattern (might be dimished?)that crosses harmony and bar lines.

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Based on what Markowitz says, namely:

"...the three essentials of linear construction: harmonic content, directionality and rhythmic approach."

I conclude that he's simply talking about constructing the lines of your solo. By linear, he means notes without big leaps. IOW, you want to make a lyrical melody line, perhaps with a lot of scalar motion, and you want to make sure that it fits with the chords and has an interesting rhythm.

The other things you mention are interesting, but I don't think that's what he's talking about.

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He just meant linear construction = "creating\learning vocabulary".

Which makes sense too considering the % of time allocated to it. But he did use the word vocabulary eventually. Weird usage though because we tend to think of linear lines as stepwise or chromatic melodic movement vs. arpeggiated lines. For example, Bebop is heavily linear (bebop scalar passages).


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Jerry Bergonzi has a book called Melodic structures&Thesaurus of Intervallic Melodies , and those books deals with patterns quite a bit. So does Dave liebman's "A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody". I think John Coltrane used "Thesaurus Of Scales And Melodic Patterns" by Slonimsky" for source of his ideas.

These are all great, but are you talking about this in terms of playing inside the changes or outside of changes? While learning inside patterns may be valuable, I've noticed a lot of people kind of over-reached and worked on outside patterns without having sufficient background in inside/bebop playing.

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Thanks for your replies, guys!

Originally Posted by jazzwee
He just meant linear construction = "creating\learning vocabulary".


Agreed. But the question is how do you understand and use "words".

First, there is understanding of pattern like in "Bebop bible" or supplement to Aebersold 3rd volume, where you learn exact pattern and execute it in very similar way, on progression it was written. In this approach you practice certain pattern in 12 keys and intervals of melody are the key to play it "right".

Second
way is to think about pattern more like shape (not exact intervals), so you play it more freely on any change, just saving rhythm and direction INSIDE changes ("harmonic content, directionality and rhythmic approach"). You practice it very different way - moving stepwise in every scale in every key or though a whole song.

Second way enables you to play sequences (repeating pattern), and that's the subject I'm digging.
etcetra, I believe the books you mention say more about first way of understanding "pattern". Though I looked only at Bergonzi and also I might overlook something. Anyways thanks a lot and I'll take a look at them all.
The subject is essential since it says HOW TO PRACTICE something very basic. Of course advanced use of knowledge in all these books leads you to play sequences etc., but I'd like to see something about it directly. Moreover, I'd like to see not only theory, but advices how to practice it effectively. Maybe I demand too much? smile


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Originally Posted by kiedysktos.

Agreed. But the question is how do you understand and use "words".


It's all the above and more. And it's a lifetime of searching.

Building vocabulary is a combination of (a) Copying, and (b) Self-Creation.

There's no one formula. I have had a long term teacher who is such a great composer that he comes up with new stuff on his own day in day out. He can also pull out lines that some master did (perfect pitch and really long term pitch memory).

He never actually taught me vocabulary but thought it was important for me early on to not hit random notes but always be outlining some underlying harmony that I'm playing against. So as a starting point, it was about playing chord tones on downbeats (strong beats). Chord tones being 1-3-5-7 of the chord.

If you copy (transcribe), you'll find out that outlining the harmony is the most important thing to learn. If you study it based on the harmony and chord tones, you will discover the same thing.

But it seems like you're focused on patterns and such and I have to tell you that randomly playing patterns without understanding the harmony you're playing with doesn't yield good results.

When my teacher plays outside the written harmony, I found he was actually implying some the other harmony (chord substitution) so he's never without a foundation underneath.

Now what I'm saying isn't all. Since these are just the words, and not the sentences.

I was just thinking that the new Band-In-the-Box is able to automatically generate really good sounding computer-generated solos based on cliché lines. What this means is that someone at BIAB was able to create written rules for vocabulary and put that logic in software, vocabulary which are in fact cliché sentences. In the absence of that, then we are left with our own ears to hear these cliché's which are the starting point (transcribing).

BTW a good book on the harmony outlining I'm talking about is available on the internet. Forward Motion (Hal Galper). It explains the concept well. I think it's an important foundation myself.

Then on actual vocabulary examples that are found in jazz, I found the book Comprehensive Technique for Jazz Musicians(Bert Ligon) really practical. He already did the transcribing. You just have to read it and practice it.

I would start here. And don't jump the gun on linear patterns that are out of context.


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Thanks for your advices smile I didn't mention I know most (if not all) scales and play most of them (maybe not these as exotic as in-sen or some unusual pentatonics) when I want, so I have no problem in freely playing inside bebop songs. But what I see in the first sheet example in this thread is still out of my reach, so I'm searching a way to go there. Actually I have enough theory, I'm searching some nice ways to practice new techniques I feel can take me another step forward.

Though I appreciate all the comments and I'll take look at these books.


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Originally Posted by jazzwee


When my teacher plays outside the written harmony, I found he was actually implying some the other harmony (chord substitution) so he's never without a foundation underneath.



With his LH, does he tend to
a) play the chord sub
b) keep the original chord
c) do a mixture ?

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there's a lot of nice stuff in this discussion ... just to add a few more ideas (to clarify) ... in music, that term 'linear' refer to things that happen in a row ... one thing after another. it doesn't really mean anything more than that. having said that, it's one of those words that can SEEM to mean quite a bit more! sometimes the use of that term is more jargon than anything else ... every profession, including jazz, has it's jargon ...

sequences: THE source for how to use them is JS Bach. Sequences were a huge stylistic feature in Baroque music and Bach, among others took their usage to stratospheric levels. So, for example, get out Bach inventions, Sinfonias, fugues ... it's all there as a basic foundation.

as was said earlier in this thread a sequence is just a short little idea repeated at another pitch level. usually, the original figure that gets repeated is 3 or 4 notes. that's not a strict limit - but the point of a sequence is you usually want the listener to hear that you're repeating (and varying) some short group of notes. so a 3 or 4 note pattern is a pretty ideal size for that.

the notes in sequences can be altered so the sequence doesn't have to contain exact repetitions (whether transposed diatonically or chromatically). there are ways to alter sequence patterns other than transposing modally or diatonically ....

custard apple ... those three questions you raised.pretty much, when jazz musicians do that stuff, they can do some combination or choice among all three. it's very common-practice stuff. but if you haven't come across it before, it can seem absolutely MAGICAL and MYSTiCAL! well, that was my experience when i first found out about it.

you can find examples in charlie parker all over the place. john coltrane and mccoy tyner took it to another level. a really really REALLY influential teacher in boston (charlie banacos) called it "chord-on-chord" and he taught it specifically in terms of mccoy tyner's style.

hope this stuff helps ...

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Originally Posted by printer1


custard apple ... those three questions you raised.pretty much, when jazz musicians do that stuff, they can do some combination or choice among all three. it's very common-practice stuff. but if you haven't come across it before, it can seem absolutely MAGICAL and MYSTiCAL! well, that was my experience when i first found out about it.

you can find examples in charlie parker all over the place. john coltrane and mccoy tyner took it to another level. a really really REALLY influential teacher in boston (charlie banacos) called it "chord-on-chord" and he taught it specifically in terms of mccoy tyner's style.

hope this stuff helps ...


Thanks prints. You've been very helpful as usual.
At the moment, my improv is 98% inside the changes.
I haven't studied McCoy Tyner yet but maybe in the latter part of 2013 I will be ready to introduce more variety in my improvs.

One way to introduce variety is to use modes. I don't mean modal but getting outside of the chord-scale while sticking to the functional harmony of the standard. Do you agree ? I'm thinking my long-term goal for 2013 should be "To employ more variety in my solos by using modes".

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CA, certainly, you could do what you're suggesting. Sometimes a little variety is all we need to think differently and out of the box. I find that to be true all the time.

As long as you feel like you're moving forward, well, then you are. Never worry about the speed at which you move forward!

Maybe another thing to point out is "chord scales" are taught as very basic things we need to know. But maybe their not? (Just raising the question!) ... Is it the chord scale that's important or the melody we make with the chord scale? I'm saying this because Louis Armstrong and Lester Young - you can't really find that many complete chord scales in their solos. But wow do they they have something to say! As we all know! (And their ALWAYS inside the chord and key!)

... have you read Miles Davis' autobiography. There are some great passages in it where he talks about modal playing ... It's like a lesson w/Miles!

Hope this helps!

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Originally Posted by custard apple
Originally Posted by jazzwee


When my teacher plays outside the written harmony, I found he was actually implying some the other harmony (chord substitution) so he's never without a foundation underneath.



With his LH, does he tend to
a) play the chord sub
b) keep the original chord
c) do a mixture ?


With this particular player, I would say it depends. If the chord is dominant, then it could go either way. Contrasts are made by moving dominants around in minor thirds, and right hand may support the chord or add extensions.

This may not be entirely clear. If the chord is Bb7 and a player starts playing a B- shape, is it really implying B- or Bb7(b9)(#5). What I'm saying is that in this case, his LH will likely be playing a dominant voicing of some chord in the diminished cycle of that dominant (Bb7/Db7/E7/G7--these are all related)

Now on non-dominant chords, I would expect that he will in fact play the sub on the LH or at least not interfere with the RH.

This is what I've seen him do.

If I ask him though, I will often get the answer that he is very, very clear on what harmony he is implying AT ALL TIMES. So in that sense, I would say, he believes he is NEVER OUTSIDE. But yet his music does sound outside.

For example, let's say he wants to imply a chord a half step up, he won't just repeat a line from the previous phrase, he will make a brand new melody using chord tones on the chord a half step up. So it's a very conscious choice and it will sound completely independent.

I personally can't "hear" that...


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Hi JW
Yeah I agree that often for major chords, the overall sound is too clashing if one didn't play the sub with the LH.
I also agree that for dominant chords, it's up to what the player feels like/ hears at the time.

Hi Prints
No I haven't read Miles' auto. What is it called ?
I do want to understand this Dizzy/Miles/Trane approach at some stage.

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After some amount of practice I must say it's not as hard as I thought smile (1 st figure in the thread)

Difficulty I see are scales which have uncommon interval structure - diminished and whole tone. While first example is in major harmony or melodic harmony (which are quite similar in stepwise sequences playing), playing diminished or whole tone on dominants and other scales on tonics demands much more focus. Also sometimes it forces you to change sequence in the middle of it or to stay in the same place for one cycle if you want save the structure of sequence.

Other thing I see is playing sequences on pentatonics is a must and will also take much practice.


But getting back to "linear construction" term. I try to imagine how exactly Phil Markovitz would told to practice it for an hour (it's a pity there is no contact with him). With jjo or TrmomboneAl understanding it would mean to simply jamming (creating horizontal lines), but with much attention. I guess it's choosing some phrase which we want to input to vocabulary (jazzwee explained what may be source to such a phrase) and playing it in all keys, then using it as a sequence and playing through one or two songs in every bar. Then another phrase and another until time expires. And doing that every day for 50% of practice time. That's a lot of endless work smile



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I didn't intend to suggest that linear construction meant "jamming." What I intended to say is that the term linear construction doesn't suggest how to go about putting together a linear line. There are dozens of ways to go about this and one needs to select how one wishes to go about this. The term itself is too broad and doesn't suggest an approach.

I'd also suggest, as Jazzwee has pointed out elsewhere, that one must be careful about placing too much importance on what notes you play. Linear construction involves rhythm, as well as note selection, and rhythm is really more important.

Here's an exercise to help your rhythmic approach. Solo through half a piece playing only on beats 1 and 2. They do it again soloing only on beats 3 and 4. Then solo all over, but start your phrases on the and of 2, then the and of 3, and then the and of 4. Most of us have habits and tend to start our phrases in the same place and begin to use rhythmic cliches. This simple exercise can break some of those habits and lead to more interesting "linear construction."

Good luck!

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custard apple ... here's the miles autoB ... http://www.amazon.co.uk/Miles-The-A..._1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356302226&sr=8-1 ... it's a great great read! ... as in once you start, you might not put it down! i read it twice in a row. it's THAT good!

that chord substitution stuff that's being discussed ... yes, it can sound dissonant if the left hand doesn't agree with the right hand. BUT, that's part of the style ...RH going outside and LH staying in. Bud Powell is a model for this. And also one of the first to go at it. You'll often find in his solos that, say over, an F dominant 7 chord he plays Dbm7 which resolves to Gb7. Everyone knows that you can substitute a dominant chord a tri-tone away from another dominant chord. You can also throw the ii-7 chord of that substitution in. Which is what Bud Powell did all the time.

What makes this stuff work is the strength - the quality - of the lines. And sometimes the lines can be of a very high quality and not so easy to analyse - meaning the line works but there doesn't seem to be any apparent way to analyse them.

Another amazing example to hear is Paul Bley playing a solo on All the Things You are on a recording called, I think, Newk meets Hawk (Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins). Bley's solo (his RH) is light years from the changes which for the most part his left hand plays very literally.

lenny tristano is another great source for inspiration in this style.

at the risk of seeming repetitive (since I've said it already) ... IF you're thinking about sequences and how to work with them take a look at JS Bach .... actually, too ... his counterpoint has an amazing variety of dissonance.

And for sheer technique in how to construct a line (ummmmm ... linear construction if you will ....) take a look at the Brahms transcription for left hand of Bachs Dm Violin Chaconne. It's really difficult to play LH alone. If you split it between two hands it not so hard ... it sounds great. and wow! what a line!

another take on this i remember from an interview somewhere w/Joe Henderson. When asked how he plays outside of the harmony of a particular tune, he said he sometime's plays everything up a whole step from where it should be.

this stuff is all kind of like the x-files (that tv show ...) ... the truth is out there!

anyway, hope this helps!


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jjo, sorry, I didn't want to simplify your statement too much smile

Originally Posted by jjo
I'd also suggest, as Jazzwee has pointed out elsewhere, that one must be careful about placing too much importance on what notes you play. Linear construction involves rhythm, as well as note selection, and rhythm is really more important.

Thanks! Though to play rhythm freely, you have to spend thousands of hours playing inside changes, so you don't have to worry about it anymore and may focus on the rhythm. Right now I'm working on these thousands wink


Originally Posted by jjo
Here's an exercise to help your rhythmic approach. Solo through half a piece playing only on beats 1 and 2. They do it again soloing only on beats 3 and 4. Then solo all over, but start your phrases on the and of 2, then the and of 3, and then the and of 4. Most of us have habits and tend to start our phrases in the same place and begin to use rhythmic cliches. This simple exercise can break some of those habits and lead to more interesting "linear construction."

Good luck!

Now that's what I like: exact exercise + encouragement smile your exercise is very much like Bergonzi's approach, where he takes everything to pieces. At first it looks like being too mathematical, but it's the way to go. It requires a lot of patience, so I didn't follow Bergonzi, but I'll do this exercise and I thing I'll go back to mr B. There is a lot of truth in what you say, since I often start my phrase on and of 1.

Originally Posted by printer1
another take on this i remember from an interview somewhere w/Joe Henderson. When asked how he plays outside of the harmony of a particular tune, he said he sometime's plays everything up a whole step from where it should be.

I know it's OT a little but masters have their tricks and it reminded me Ornette Coleman. He was asked what he plays when he play free and have nothing to rely on. "I play Giant Steps", that's what he said smile


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