Just As Suzuki uses oral transmission for children. I believe a similar “talent education” can be adapted for adults.
As children, we learn a great deal through aural transmission. This process can and should be continued into adulthood. Especially in reference to a musical education. To much emphasis is placed on the written page in adult education. As music is an Aural art. Its transmission should primarily occur aurally. Written music clearly has its place and is of great importance later. However, in the early stages it is wise to focus on the art its self. In its pure form. The aural form. RAther than the documentation of the art (sheet music). A great many students lack aural abilities and musicianship. These things can only be learned through aural methods and especially early in the musical education. No matter the age of the learner.
The usual method for memorizing a piece of music consists of breaking that piece down into smaller easily managed parts and basically pounding them into our muscle memory and burning them into our mind with a dreadful amount of repetition. Unfortunately, this method yields mixed results for most players. Mostly because muscle memory is a very unreliable form of memorization. Many people, especially students and amateurs find that in the heat of the performing moment the have a slip of memory of a brief moment of uncertainty.
What I want to talk about is a method of practicing which I will refer to as integrative retention. What this refers to is the idea that while learning a piece or a lick or a chord progression we should not rely completely on our muscle memory and our mind. Rather, we should use a process of utilizing our voice our mind our muscle memory and our bodies. Here is an idea of what that might look like.
Take a simple l;ick for example. Start by playing the lick on your instrument. Then sing the lick while playing, then sing the lick accapella. Now sing the lick while playing the chords underneath which can be applied to it. Now take a walk. Choose a walking speed which can be applied to a possible tempo that you might take that lick at (you could make your steps be 8th notes if you want to play the lick more quickly) While you are walking sing the lick in cadence with your steps, try different rhythmic inflections, try to transpose the link or reverse it. Etc.
Are you looking for ways to expand your jazz language? Here is a quick tip to double your usage of minor phrases.
A minor 7 line can be used over the dominant 7th chord a 4th below it! For example d-7 outlines the structure of a G7 chord from the 5th: d(5)-f(7)-a(9)-c(11) use this last tone with care. Consider raising it and using it in passing to the 5th of G7. Or leave it natural and pass to the 3rd of G7. Add the 9th of d-7 and it gives you the 13th of G7.
Some lines will work better than others so start experimenting with your minor lines and double there usage.
‘We compose or perform music not for the sake of monetary compensation. Rather, because we have something to express. Something inside that can only be expressed through means of musical utterance. A yearning deep within that cries out to be heard. It is very important to maintain this perspective. Or risk loosing heart. Remain faithful to that expression.
As you remain faithful to your heart. Be excellent in everything you do. For this is to live a life of fulfillment. Whatever you occupation may be; do it to the best of your abilities.
A positive outlook on life; and one which declares your obligation to be the best at your art. Will make a huge impact on your quality of life. Quality of life is not determined by circumstances; location; affluence; or any number of things commonly associated with it. Personal outlook determines quality of life. ‘
The musicians ability to hear and understand musical concepts is one of their most precious and useful abilities. If the abilities of the ear are lacking one should strive to develop them. In fact, one should be constantly developing the abilities of the inner ear. When you listen to music, listen actively. Hear everything and understand it. Pick lines out of the inner harmonies and sing them, write them down and analyze what is happening. A really great idea, is to listen to a piece several times. With the intent of choosing a different line or part each time. Building understand through in depth analysis and transcription. Look at sheet music away from your instrument and strive to hear the music off the page. Sing intervals and harmonies that you might gain deeper esthetic knowledge of them. Pick out the bass part of a piece and sing it. Then the middle voices, etc. As you develop learn to trust your ear. Try improvising with a track and picking out the guide tones by ear. Or playing a melody or countermelody which enhances and outlines what is happening in the piece.
If ear development is difficult at first do not be frustrated. Just take it slow. Do not try to practice ear training for extended periods of time. I would recommend only 10-15 min sessions. Start small by doing things like singing scales, intervals and triads. Slowly work into more complex places. And of course if you have questions do not hesitate to leave them.
I wanted to take some time today to outline what truly good practice looks like. Many people are under the impression that if they just bang away at scales and pieces for hours on end, they will see improvement. This is not the case. In fact, you may see the opposite effect or nothing gained at all. Except that those mistakes and poor interpretations are being ingrained into your muscle memory. Practice makes permanent, while this may be contrary to the popular saying. “Practice makes perfect.” It is in fact the more accurate observation. The reason being that if you have poor practice habits or do not practice mindfully and intelligently you will gain very little but bad habits. Which is probably going to yield very poor results.
So what does good practice look like?
Here are a few things to consider:
1) Instead of mindlessly blasting through scales, begin with your metronome set at a modest tempo. You should feel relaxed, with no tension in your body as you play. Slowly notch up the tempo as you work through the scales, perhaps play a few scales then notch up the metronome a few clicks. Maintain relaxation. If you begin to feel tension stop. Relax fully and begin again. As the speed builds you should not feel increased tension. This will only hinder you and make progress to true fluidity impossible. Do not try to build speed too quickly. If you use this method as you practice scales and everything else you will find performance is easy, relaxed and your confidence will be increased. You will be able to focus on more important part’s of the music such as interpretation and emotion etc.
2) Use a timer or set a specific time goal for each thing you need to work on or practice. By doing this you will increase your focus and prevent yourself from wasting countless hours which yield little. Focused practice time yields excellent results. Make a goal for scales (and pieces) such as increased clarity or tone quality, increased speed, or ease of execution. Then set a time limit like 15-30 minutes and begin. Apply this principle to all other aspects of your practice time. If you are working on a particular piece set a time limit and focus with presentness of mind and body on that piece.
3) Set a goal for each piece you are working on (this point can be directly linked to the previous one). Such as focusing on a single measure or phrase and then integrating it into the over all section. Or working on accuracy by slowing the piece down substantially. A goal could be making a piece sound more musical through the inclusion of dynamics and quality interpretation.
When playing through pieces or studies, do not simply strive to memorize them as quickly as possible through repetition and then move on. You should integrate them into not only your muscle memory, but your mind and inner ear as well. Some ways to do this include: Singing the melody while accompanying yourself (or just singing the melody). Working on bringing out the most important lines within the piece (sing these lines as well). Harmonic analysis as well as melodic analysis are useful tools on many counts, including interpretation and memorization.
I could continue on for a while so I will leave you with these practice tools on consider. A basic synopsis of the above is:
A. Maintain a thoughtful and relaxed presence (be present) while practicing.
B. FOCUS. Use your time wisely and concisely.
C. Set specific achievable goals for each session, as well as for your overall improvement.
Enjoy and feel free to contact me with questions or anything else!
Good improvising is humming or singing a line in your mind, while you play that line at the same time. The music must come from within, not just be a regurgitation of muscle memory. It should be thoughtful coming from your ear, mind, and hands. Many people mindlessly practice scales thinking that this will lead to playing great solos. While it is true that playing scales provide musicians with the needed technical faculty, this hard-earned technique does not equate good creative soloing.
Soloing is about saying something, about expression, and about conveying something. How do we speak? Is it through the use of technical knowledge of our mother tongue? Or is it through a personal understanding and self-expression? So it is with music. Scales, harmony, and theory are merely the building blocks and foundation. They are tools and not an end unto themselves. Through thorough integration and intimate understanding the improvisers expression flows freely.
Okay sorry about that philosophical rant. Let me get back on point…
One of the best ways to put your scales to good use and good practice is to mindfully practice them. What does this mean? One option you could try is that instead of mindlessly blowing through all the scales, you move through chord progressions in a musical fashion with scales. For example, try starting on notes other than 1. Experiment with 3 or 5. Try playing partially through a scale then switching to a new scale on the closest note possible, using this method play through a few tunes. Try altering the scale to fit chord progressions with altered chords on the fly. Play one scale backwards, and then the next forward. Your options are really limitless and these are just a few ideas. Have fun with it and make your scale practicing musical and practical. In this way, the next time you are on the band stand you will be better equipped and more confident.
For more ideas on how to get the most out of your scales feel free to contact me!
Simply put the guide tones are the 3rd and 7th of any chord. These two notes contain the essence of the chord. All chord’s can be reduced to these notes and still retain their harmonic function. Keep in mind that 9th’s, 11th’s and 13th’s (and their variations) are chord extensions which add color to the chord, but do not effect the chord quality.
Often pianists and guitarist’s will use guide tones in comping for others or themselves. In addition if you analyze any of the great players in jazz you will always find guide tones present in their solo’s.
Using the guide tones within a solo is an excellent way to help propel your solo forward and give it a real sense of movement. In fact J.S. Bach used guide tones to great effect in his unaccompanied music for violin and cello. Even though there is no harmonic accompaniment in these works the strength of the melodic writing and the use of guide tones outlines implied harmonies and creates harmonic movement via the melody.
1) To help your understanding of guide tones pick a solo from a player such as Charlie Parker and analyze his solo. Then select one of Bach’s unaccompanied pieces for violin and compare how the guide tones are used in each (I would recommend also playing the solo and singing it).
2) Next, begin to implement guide tones into your playing. You can begin by playing one or both guide tones per measure in a 12 bar blues and then go on to some of your favorite tunes.
1) An excellent way to improve your ear is to play the guide tones at the piano and sing the root of the chords through a progression such as a blues. Or any progression from any tune. However, I would start with the blues.
2) Next begin to work on playing the root and singing the guide tones in a arpeggiated fashion. If you do this daily you will find that your ability to hear the inner-workings of a tune and to aurally navigate them will become much more fluid. In addition your musical confidence will increase.
3) A more advanced kind of ear training is to play the guide tones at the piano and sing lines over them. Do this and all exercises through all the keys.
Now that I have covered the ideas of pitch and rhythm as they relate to the Korean music perspective, the next topics to be covered are modes, tonal centers, and cadential phrases. In general, it is understood that traditional Korean music is pentatonic in nature. There are notes outside of the pentatonic scale in some pieces. However, these notes are not consistent enough to justify the production of a true hexatonic or heptatonic scale. There are two modes that are most common in the Korean repertoire. The first being a do-mode known as p’yonbjo, and containing the tones: do (c), re (d), fa (f), sol (g), and la (a). This mode is perceived in the western ear as being major in character. The second is a re-mode and is known as kyemyonjo. This second mode contains the notes: re (c), fa (e flat), sol (f), la (g), and do (b flat). It is minor in its character, as perceived by western ears. I use the phrase “as perceived by western ears,” because in the Korean conception of tonal center and mode characteristics there is not necessarily a major or minor. At least not in the western sense.
Although there are two primary modes in the Korean tradition, there is a third mode which is in common use and is Chinese in origin. This mode is a heptatonic fa-mode with the inclusion of two auxiliary notes. This scale is actually the primary scale of Chinese musical theory. In addition, this scale along with many songs and musical ideas were adapted by the Koreans. Even though they are Chinese in origin they became thoroughly integrated into the Korean idiom of music.
Cadences in music of the Korean traditional repertoire are quite simple. Especially, when compared with the European classical theory of musical cadences. In western music there are many possible cadences, some of which are more common and others more remote. In traditional Korean music, however, there is only one standard cadence. The standard Korean cadence is simply a descending stepwise motion ending on the tonic note of the mode. Because Korean musicians have imported and adapted many Chinese pieces of music, one might assume that they have also adapted the Chinese cadences as well. Chinese cadences are more widely varied than that of the Korean tradition, and you might expect to find this reflected in the Korean adaptation of Chinese music. In all actuality, what you find is that all Chinese cadences, except for one, have been altered to better fit the Korean vernacular. The single exception to this would be found in the previously discussed heptatonic fa-mode of Chinese origins.
Having now covered the most basic principles of traditional Korean music theory, now would be a great time to recap beginning with the Korean idea of pitch. To a Korean musician, pitch is a dynamic part of the musical expression which encompasses ornamentation in the forms of vibrato, slides, appoggiaturas, and other means. Um, which means sound, is pitch and can be thought of as a gesture rather than a single note. Rhythm to a Korean musician is thought of as patterns of long and short rhythmic phrases which combine to make larger rhythmic phrases. Some as long as 24 beats. Compound rhythms are commonly found.
The Korean sense of tonality is one that centers on a pentatonic frame work with two primary modes. One being “major” in character and the other “minor.” The ending of a melody or a cadence is one of a simple step wise line with the final note being the tonic of the mode. The only exception to these principles would be the fa-mode of Chinese decent.
In conclusion, Korean music has a deep and long tradition. The sounds we hear seem strange to western ears. It is my hope that this wonderful art form will gain more appreciation through this exploration. Often people cannot enjoy something because they feel the cannot understand it and it is somehow wrong because it is different from what they normally hear. Instead, I encourage you the reader to embrace this difference and enjoy the great variety that is available to us.