Part 3 of the series of ear training exercises. In this exercise, you approach each chord tone from a half step below. Now this part of the series of exercises is a bit more difficult because the approach tones are generally not a part of the scale. As a result, they are often quite dissonant and hard to hear. With effort and patience, your ear will eventually become used to them…
Posts Tagged ‘EXERCISES’
Today’s jazz musician has to deal with a peculiar situation. Opportunities to develop under the tutelage of a battle tested mentor or in a stable working band are few. At the same time, there is a staggering amount of educational material available via the internet. While the benefits of personal interaction with a more experienced musician is invaluable, the internet provides many great educational resources.
There are countless You Tube videos of clinics given by master musicians: Kenny Werner, Hal Galper, Clark Terry, Rufus Reid, Bill Evans, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, Stefon Harris, Bruce Forman, Bill Fielder, etc. the list goes on and on and on. They deal with a variety of topics from issues relating to specific instrumental techniques to general concerns about performance and practice.
I go online every so often to see if I can find new material to check out. I’ve been looking at videos by Hal Galper and Kenny Werner because they draw distinct lines in sand regarding the psychology of performance and practice, something that I think about a lot. I’ve especially enjoyed Galper’s videos because he is able to address the two issues within the same lecture…
Galper’s book FORWARD MOTION has given me many ideas about how to create stronger melodic lines. I’ve taken some of that information along with some suggestions given by Garry Dial, one of my college teachers from way back, and Matt Otto, a classmate of mine from college who recently did a clinic about ear focusing on ear training, to address some of my issues with more fully negotiating chord changes.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about ear training, wondering how I can learn to hear more. I’ve always had a pretty good ear. Luckily, my first instructors encouraged me to play what I heard. Because of that encouragement, I feel comfortable relying on my ears as the final judge even when I play things that aren’t “correct”. There are many things I hear well but, even after all these years of improvising, there are things that my ear doesn’t process quickly enough.
While in college, Garry Dial told me about outlining chord tones to build strong melodic lines, approaching them from above and below, chromatically and diatonically. That information now seems so logical but back then, stubborn old me didn’t put any time into studying it. After listening to clinics by Matt Otto and Hal Galper, I’m reviewing Dial’s lessons, practicing them as an ear training exercise.
Here’s what I am working on now:
I use the chord progression of the first A section of “Autumn Leaves”. Since the tonal center is Bb Major, I use a Bb drone (that I downloaded from Matt’s website) as a reference to sing over. Over the drone, I first sing the roots of the progression followed by the 3rds, 5ths, 7ths and so on up to the 13ths.
There are certain rules I think about as I do this, mainly regarding the 11th degree of a Major or Dominant Chord and Dominant Chords that resolve to a i Chord in minor. I sing a #11 on all Major and Dominant Chords unless it specifically states that it has a natural 11th degree (a C7sus4 Chord for example). If a Dominant Chord is resolving to a i Chord in minor, I imagine the chord as a product of an Altered scale. 5ths, 9ths and 13ths are flatted, 11ths are sharped. Also, if a minor Chord is static (not part of a moving progression), I sing the natural 7th degree. I sing a b5, b9 and b13 on min7b5 chords.
I sing the the notes in quotations over the chords listed before them:
Cmin7 “C” F7 “F” BbMaj7 “Bb” EbMaj7 “Eb” Amin7b5 “A” D7b9 “D” Gmin7 “G” G7b9 “G”
Cmin7 “Eb” F7 “A” BbMaj7 “D” EbMaj7 “G” Amin7b5 “C” D7b9 “F#” Gmin7 “Bb” G7b9 “B”
Cmin7 “G” F7 “C” BbMaj7 “F” EbMaj7 “Bb” Amin7b5 “Eb” D7b9 “Ab” Gmin7 “D” G7b9 “D”
Cmin7 “Bb” F7 “Eb” BbMaj7 “A” EbMaj7 “D” Amin7b5 “G” D7b9 “C” Gmin7 “F#” G7b9 “F”
Cmin7 “D” F7 “G” BbMaj7 “C” EbMaj7 “F” Amin7b5 “Bb” D7b9 “Eb” Gmin7 “A” G7b9 “Ab”
Cmin7 “F” F7 “B” BbMaj7 “E” EbMaj7 “A” Amin7b5 “D” D7b9 “G#” Gmin7 “C” G7b9 “C#”
Cmin7 “A” F7 “D” BbMaj7 “G” EbMaj7 “C” Amin7b5 “F” D7b9 “Bb” Gmin7 “E” G7b9 “Eb”
I don’t concern myself with singing rhythmically, I concentrate on hitting the pitches precisely. I use the piano as a reference when necessary. If you have an Mp3 player, you can download the drones and practice these whenever you feel the urge.
Once you are comfortable with singing the Chord tones, try approaching them from above by a diatonic step:
Cmin7 “D” to “C” F7 “G” to “F” BbMaj7 “C” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “F” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “Bb” to “A” D7b9 “Eb” to “D” Gmin7 “A” to “G” G7b9 “Ab” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones (3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th) the same way.
Try approaching the Chord tones from a half step (chromatically) below:
Cmin7 “B” to “C” F7 “E” to “F” BbMaj7 “A” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “D” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “G#” to “A” D7b9 “C#” to “D” Gmin7 “F#” to “G” G7b9 “F#” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones the same way.
Try combing the diatonic step above with the half step below:
Cmin7 “D” to “B” to “C” F7 “G” to “E” to “F” BbMaj7 “C” to “A” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “F” to “D” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “Bb” to “G#” to “A” D7b9 “Eb” to “C#” to “D” Gmin7 “A” to “F#” to “G” G7b9 “Ab” to “F#” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones the same way.
Reverse the order, going from half step below to diatonic step above, then to the Chord tone.
Cmin7 “B” to “D” to “C” F7 “E” to “G” to “F” BbMaj7 “A” to “C” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “D” to “F” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “G#” to “Bb” to “A” D7b9 “C#” to “Eb” to “D” Gmin7 “F#” to “A” to “G” G7b9 “F#” to “Ab” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones the same way.
Below is a link to the A section of Autumn Leaves” and an Mp3 audio example of the exercise.
After getting the sounds of the Chord tones and Approach tones in your ears, try putting an Aebersold track on and singing them rhythmically. Try them out on your instrument… The good thing about using “Autumn Leaves” as a practice model is that the A section contains many of the chords that improvisors deal with regularly: Major 7, Major 7#11 minor 6, minor 7, minor 7b5 and ii-Vs in Major and minor. These exercises and be adapted to any chord progression.
I really love something that Hal Galper says in one of his lectures: He asks the class, “Do you have problems hearing?” Most of the students say they do. His response to that is, “No you don’t, you play exactly what you hear… You have to learn to hear more vividly to build more sophisticated solos.” He also says that certain players play fast because they are able to hear faster. Practicing hearing is often neglected by musicians even though our ears are our most important asset. I think these exercises are a great way to expand hearing and gain a more intuitive understanding of Chords and progressions.
So there you go…
CHORD TONE EXERCISE (mp3)
Here are some arpeggio and intervallic patterns based on the major and minor bebop scales each pattern cycles through all twelve keys…
I was playing a gig last night with a friend of mine, Ray along with drummer, Sonosuke- two saxes and drums, a challenging situation but fun nonetheless. we had a great time playing through some of Ray’s original material and standards. at one point in the evening, Ray suggested that we play “Cherokee” in 7/4. i wasn’t going to say no, but the thought playing in an odd meter without any harmonic anchor made me a little queasy. i immediately began counting in my head, “1-2-3-4, 1-2-3…” Ray, who’s quite an incredible young sax player, ripped through his improvisation and sounded very relaxed and loose, and Sonosuke, very adept at incorporating odd meters and rhythmic modulation into his concept, skillfully accompanied Ray’s blowing. i, on the other hand, kind of limped through my solo. i made it to the finish line by falling back on a technique i learned from a college teacher (“when in doubt, play soulful long tones!”) but i pretty much got my butt handed to me on a platter…
Tokyo has always been behind the curve as far as the trends in jazz concepts. only recently have i been hearing players here starting to address improvisation over odd meters, something that the straight ahead guys in NYC were heavily into by the time i left, some 8 years ago. being a California guy who went to music school in L.A., i was hip to that concept many years ago, but i generally heard it in the context of badly played jazz fusion, so as someone who was more into straight ahead styles, i didn’t pay much attention to it. my argument for disregarding it was that i thought it generally sounded mechanical and cold, as if guys were, like i did last night, counting in their heads, “1-2-3-4, 1-2-3…” it seemed like a certain portion of musicians’ brains were dedicated to the task of metronome, which inevitably left less space for actual music… in my opinion, the more things a musician can internalize (instrumental technique, sight-reading, knowledge of harmony, grasp of past styles, etc.), the freer he will be to actually create. it follows that playing in odd meters also must be internalized if it’s to sound human and natural. over the last couple of years, i’ve heard more and more musicians who sound very comfortable improvising in odd meters. i plan to be one of those guys too!
i went out to my favorite practice spot today, and before i got started, i told myself that i would stop using the term “odd” meter. the word “odd” is loaded; perhaps it’s a small thing but the word carries negative connotations, (foreign, strange, difficult, etc.) that can become mental roadblocks. how about a different name that’s already in common use, like “compound time”, or something like “complex meter”? they still sound a little daunting, but better than “odd”. the only reason that playing in 5/4 or 7/4 is more difficult than playing in 4/4 and 3/4 is that we’re not as familiar with them. we have to get to know them. the best way to get to do that is to first relate them to ones we already know well. for example, why not divide 5/4 into two groups: one of 3/4 and one of 2/4? use the same procedure for 7/4, divide it into two groups: 4/4 and 3/4. or reverse the group order: 3/4 then 4/4. the first thing i worked on was taking a tune very familiar to me and working out the melody over a compound meter (7/4). i laid it over the time signature in as many ways as i could think of, playing it slowly. then i improvised over it using the two meter groupings that i mentioned above. i tried to think simply, using half notes and quarter notes at first, then moving on to lines using eighth notes. after a time counting out aloud, my brain became more accustomed to functioning over 7/4 but i still heard that little voice in my head, “1-2-3-4, 1-2-3″. i’m convinced, however, that my inner metronome will subside as my brain becomes accustomed to alternating between the two (or more) simpler meters that comprise the compound meter. from playing familiar melodies in compound meter, i went on to play through some exercises that i usually play in 4/4 or 3/4.
one kind of obvious conclusion that i came to in the short time i’ve been working on compound meters is that the reason melodies and improvisations tend to sound mechanical in compound time is because we’re oriented to playing, writing and hearing one simple meter at a time. it’s funny though- i can play and hear quite easily in 5/4 time, mainly because of playing and hearing the song “Take Five” over the years. i hate that song with a passion (not that it’s a bad song per se, but it’s been beaten to death) but it did serve a purpose because i’ve more or less internalized playing in 5/4.
one of my goals is to create songs that are actually oriented to compound meters, melodies that naturally flow through the divide between the simple time signatures groupings. in that way, i will have a body of work to draw from rather than mutated standards. i wrote out some exercises i came up with during my practice session…
A little something for your hand-eye coordination…
Here are some some exercises that are built around cyclic patterns. i enjoy working on material like this because it allows me to concentrate on a specific set of movements without pause. like the exercises in the previous post, i practice these with an emphasis on clean, even execution from note to note. again, i try to keep my fingers low, moving between notes as economically as possible. i don’t try to burn through them although that’s fun sometimes. these are just a few of the virtually limitless note combinations that are possible…
Here are a few exercises for building finger strength and evenness. when playing these on the saxophone i concentrate on a couple of things in particular: i rest my fingers against the keys of the horn and try to change notes with firm, minimal movements. i usually practice these exercises using a metronome set to a pretty slow tempo (1/4 note= 90-120 bpm) and often practice them without sound… these are great exercises for developing muscle memory. you’ll likely notice an immediate difference in your playing after working through these for several minutes. practice them often to remind your fingers of the roles they play in your overall technique. all these exercises are written out in four note groupings but they should also be practiced using three note groupings…
PRACTICE PORTAL is more or less back to normal. i’m still in the process of restoring the MP3 files. that will take some time for editing… in the switch to a new host for this site, several of the most recent posts were lost. fortunately the PDF’s were saved offsite so i will post those here. as for the commentary, if i can remember what babbled about, i’ll repost the it. for now, help yourself to the PDFs…
ABBEY LINCOLN w/ STAN GETZ- BIRD ALONE
JOHN COLTRANE- SATELLITE
JOHN COLTRANE- SATELLITE (mp3)
MULGREW MILLER- ANOTHER TYPE THANG
MULGREW MILLER- FOR THOSE WHO DO
JOHN SCOFIELD w/ JOE LOVANO- SINCE YOU ASKED
JOHN SCOFIELD- SO SUE ME
JOHN SCOFIELD- SO SUE ME (mp3)
GROVER WASHINGTON JR- MESSAGE FROM THE METERS
CEDAR WALTON- MOSAIC
CEDAR WALTON- MOSAIC (mp3)
BODY AND SOUL DIATONIC TRANSPOSITION
ANDREW HILL- REFUGE (mp3)
ANDREW HILL- PUMPKIN (mp3)
ANDREW HILL- BLACK FIRE (mp3)
Here are a few more patterns for practice. i wrote them out at 2 in the morning while watching the NBA all-star game (Dwight Howard should’ve won the slam dunk contest with that insane banger on a 12 FOOT RIM. that dude is straight-up ridiculous!!) these patterns are built around ascending and descending diatonic fourths. a little something to keep your fingers limber…