lePercolateur - hipster gypsy jazz
May 23rd 2013
1920 W. Irving Park Rd
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I believe that jazz is an apprenticeship––an apprenticeship never really ends. When we hear or participate in music performances and recordings we are experiencing the levels at which the various artists have evolved. For this reason jazz players constantly strive and share different approaches and devices that help us to find different paths of expressing the common language we speak.
I have two exercises that I find very helpful in changing the texture and complexion of improvisational ideas. I refer to them as “parameters.” My favorite two areas of parameter playing find their focus and energy in two basic areas: Interval (harmonic) and Rhythmic (use of space). In this article I would like to suggest a few pattern ideas that clarify the process and give way to you creating your own personal patterns.
I like to set high and low interval parameters as the targets used in shaping a line. For instance, I may think of a ninth above the starting note of a phrase as the high parameter and conversely a ninth below as my low parameter. This could just as easily be a tenth on the high side and a sixth on the low side or vice-versa. The best way to practice this is to take a set of changes you are comfortable with and write a high parameter and low parameter pitch on a piece of manuscript. If you don’t have any manuscript paper available you can just write down the names of the pitches and play everything inside of those parameters.
You may be pleasantly surprised at how this will help you to discover patterns your “intuitive ear” hasn’t suggested. Once you have tried different parameter combinations you can then decide which ones you would like to incorporate into your present vocabulary. Constant repetition and practicing will allow these to become a part of your intuitive vocabulary.
Another way to use this device is in determining the parametric shapes used by various players when studying transcriptions of their solos. If you haven’t observed upper and lower parameters in a transcribed solo this will allow you understand the perspective of another musician’s playing.
The next step is to write down the different parameters in as many situations as you can think of. After you have done the intellectual homework, play over any set of changes you are familiar with and keep the combinations you like. Use this device for as long as it may take for you to make it part of your intuitive vocabulary. In my next article I will share a simple visual device I like to use and have shared with my students to create the use of rhythmic space. Always remember that being an apprentice never ends.
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