- for Listeners & Musicians
The Language - Courtesy of Greg Lyons
art is in the spontaneous creation of music based on an
internalised language. The language in this case is commonly
known as jazz, which is simply a style based on the same
language that Johann Sebastian Bach was using. Most of us will
study of improvisation on this language as it is contemporary
and already quite broad in it's stylistic compass. This language
gives us a
foundation in rhythmic, melodic and harmonic structure that
allows us to forever expand, developing the template
indefinitely according to
How one develops that language is the subject matter of a fairly
substantial industry these days. There is an enormous wealth of
books available and this choice can sometimes confuse the issue.
- An absolute priority. Would we listen to Ella Fitzgerald, Beyonce or Cassandra Wilson if it weren't for that
magnificent, gut-wrenching tone? No. The musical statements we
create can't possibly have any impact if we have a sound
like a squeaky door. We wouldn't enjoy playing much anyway, so
it's doubtful whether we would stay with it long enough to
develop interesting musical statements. For all of us, it's a
question of spending a good proportion of our time focused on
- The nitty-gritty for the young musician preparing for the jam session. This
involves first selecting a list of tunes that will be known by all jazz players.
Then selecting a tune to focus on, learning the melody, learning the chords, and
once these have been internalised, creating melodic lines that link the
chords in the progression. As
you become more advanced, this should also be done in all keys,
but initially you can
focus on just those keys it's likely to be called in.
3. TECHNIQUE - Obvious really, but I try to limit the amount of "donkey-work" and consider that for an improviser, if it isn't ear training: doesn't also expand our internalised vocabulary, it's fairly redundant. Beginners should be introduced gradually to this kind of practise as the need for repertoire and vocabulary expansion is paramount. You should work on all exercises to the point where you've really learnt it, then move on. I like to use the term saturation as this refers better to the feeling that you're a bit mentally burned-out by something and need a change. For advanced players and those really driven to improve, working on all intervals in all combinations will eventually give you a technical facility that will allow you to expand your melodic vocabulary in inspiring and personal ways.
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