Monday, February 20, 2012

Free jazz handbook

That's free as in free beer, not as in Albert Ayler. Jamey Aebersold, the godfather- I guess- of jazz playalongs, has a very useful book covering the basics of jazz improvisation of available as a free download. Much of it is written for tonal instruments, but there's a lot of good advice and important general information applicable to everyone, including drummers:

"There’s no way anyone is going to play jazz or improvise well without listening to those musicians who have come before. Through listening alone you can find ALL the answers. Each musician is a result of what they have listened to. It’s easy to determine who people have listened to by listening to them play. We all tend to use imitation and it’s good to do this. Some feel that if they listen to others they’ll just sound like them. This is not true but your ego will try to convince you it’s true. The ego hates competition or what it preceives to be competition. Don’t let it fool you. If no one listened to anyone else, why play music?"

"One major point to remember concerns the avoidance of attempting to accomplish too many goals while practicing. The mind cannot easily digest more than one or two major points at the same time and still be effective. Always be very clear as to what you are practicing a particular exercise for."

1. At what part of your instrument will you begin your idea? Middle register, high, low?
2. How do you want to begin? Slowly, with held notes and use of space/rest? Quickly, with lots-of attention, motion, visibility? Moderately so as to suggest a searching mood? [...]
4. Once you begin, do you want to ascend, descend or stay in one area, register?
5. Do you want to use pick-ups ... one, or more? If so, make sure they lead to the first strong beat!
6. Once you’ve begun your phrase, how long are you prepared to maintain your continuity, thoughts, ideas? One measure, two, four, eight? Have you thought of it?
7. What rhythm are you going to initially play? Does your mind already “HEAR” the notes/pitches in rhythm? Can you actually play them? Remember, your first phrase represents the first several words or idea of a sentence. Think before you begin. [...]
9. Is your initial idea coming from your mind or is it something that your fingers have picked out? [...]"

"Don’t try to play everything you know in one solo. Take your time and plan ahead. Try to visualize your solo with ups and downs, fast sections and slow sections, loud and soft passages, tension and release sections. Aim at overall Tension-Release to your solo. Utilize repetition and sequence. Listen to jazz masters on recordings to get ideas and to wet your imagination. Music is for ears."

Get Jamey Aebersold's free Jazz Handbook

• Two factors that stop people from improvising are fear of getting lost and fear of playing a wrong note.
• Tape your own playing and listen to yourself. Don’t be critical. Just Listen.
• Humor is an important part of creativity.
• Can you practice for one hour without interruption?
• If you don’t think before you play a phrase, it is not improvisation - just an exercise.
• Think each note before you play it.
• Don’t practice the same thing forever - break new ground.
• Most music is grouped in 2, 4 and 8 bar phrases.
• Most drummers sing the melody to themselves to keep their place but they can learn to hear in phrases.
• Jazz players usually play eighth notes - play scales and exercises this way.
• Listen and lift ideas off records.
• LISTEN! -Over and over and over! All the answers to your questions are on the records.
• Listen to Jazz every day.
• If you are well equipped technically you can take chances.
• In live Jazz there is interaction between players.
• It is great to play with people who are a little or a lot better than you - they will push you to improve.
• No one is a born player. Good instruments and teachers are important but the player makes himself.
• Charlie Parker practiced 11 to 15 hours per day for three years to four years.

1 comment:

Marlon Pym said...

Many many thanks!