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Bird heads

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by afroblue, Jan 15, 2014.


  1. afroblue

    afroblue

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    Oct 25, 2012
    How fast do you practice these? Some of them are impossible to bring up to speed of the recordings. Do you bring it up as far as you can take each tune or settle for a certain tempo?
     
  2. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

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    Make it a journey! If you never get there, no problem; practicing Parker s heads will put you miles ahead of many players, even if you do them half-speed

    Now if you get faster than bird? Good, THEN KEEP GOING


    My main actual advice is to concentrate on playing them as slow as you need to play it perfectly, efficiently, musically and consistently. Don't worry if its 'fast enough' worry if its 'good enough to add speed.'

    As Bruce Lee preached, one can add speed to technique but not technique to speed;
    Ever notice that some guys who can 'play fast' seem like its still not comfortable or convincing ? Its because they are 'successful' at playing fast notes without any components of control technique or comfort. If it sounds hard, you aren't doing it right- a ballerina shouldn't look like she can just barely complete a leap- she should look like its so effortless that she can comfortably use nuance and artistry while doing something 'hard'

    The trick is adding more and more of technique/speed etc to the category of 'simple and relaxed' within your person, rather than learning to be an anxious ticking timebomb at increasing tempos
     
  3. afroblue

    afroblue

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    Oct 25, 2012
    Yes, totally with you on playing it well rather than speed for speed's sake. However, one could spend an unlimited amount of time with diminishing returns on increase of speed on one head, time which could be spent learning another tune? Knowing a dozen bird heads seems to me possibly better than being able to play two really fast. I'm curious as to how other people practice them...
     
  4. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

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    Put them in rotation- spend a week on each one intensively, once you have them all 'up and running' continue rotation of a head-per-week but 'play through' all of them each week besides the one that's on the table for surgery.

    A few little tricks /extensions:
    -focus on the 'bridge' of all of the tunes for a week, or all of the long series of ii-V's.. or even practice one 'A' section with the 'B' of another. This (these ) will bridge the bird language together, causing the common idioms to become more conscious

    -pick hard 'chunks' some days- set a timer (SET A TIMER!) and focus on something for 5/10 minutes, and when you hear the buzzer STOP. This helps to assure goal-oriented progress is occurring without eating hours REMEMBER THAT YOUR BRAIN FORMS PATHWAYS AFTER YOU'VE PRACTICED SOMETHING, not while you're practicing- the timer approach seems counter-productive, but once you've done it a few times your brain hones in on the timing and process. The focus could be one hard line, a difficult transition, or even practicing 'going straight through without stopping'


    Alot of the trick to learning without grubbing up your time is just setting a goal, a timeline, and not distracting yourself with vague statements like 'i want to play bird heads fast'
    Replace those with short-term functional goals-
    'My positional shift on this run needs work'
    'I can't stay in time on this lick'

    By making sure that ANYTHING gets better EVERY TIME, you assure that EVERYTHING is getting better ALL THE TIME. Its a frustrating approach at times, but you have to eat a mountain of **** one bite at a time or it will just sit there, stinking.

    Or like stacking bricks- they're heavy and it seems like the wall is too big, but not only is one brick light and easy to place by itself, but picking up a pile of bricks and trying to place the pile in an organized wall just won't work, and it would take longer harder effort even if you somehow manage to build a crappy unstable wall



    And finally- don't waste time on the quick and cute licks that youre good at already- they feel good and give the illusion of being badass, but if you focus on making the easier/melodic parts convincing, and the harder frustrating parts more effortless, then BAM the fast licks that were more natural are ready and waiting!
     
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  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    I'll reiterate the going slow part. Go slow to go fast. If you can't play it in a completely relaxed state at half or a quarter of the original tempo, you won't be able to play it fast. Any little bit of tension you find yourself in while playing slow will only become a big barrier at tempo. Same goes for technique and time. Any slopiness while playing slow will end up feeling like you glossed over that phrase and the articulation won't be clear.

    I had a really hard time with Confirmation until I had this realization. Spot fixed all my problems and now the entire head flows alot more smoothly and I can keep up with playing against the recording. Only when you can play all the passages without flubbing it does it make sense to slowly amp up the speed until you can get to the original tempo. In that second process, if you encounter another area where you're bogging down, it's likely a technique deficiency and will then have to slow it down to smooth out that kink.
     
  7. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

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    Perfect point right there ^



    Learning the measures one by one in reverse (start with bar 16) adding one on each time (15-16, then 14-15-16) allows your work done to be immediately useful, because each measure you learn you have whatever comes next already down. It also makes sure you're not one of those guys who sounds great for the first two bars then tumbles to the end
     
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'll waste no time in implementing this helpful tip.
     
  9. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

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    HEY EVERYONE ED FUQUA LIKED MY IDEA!
     
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    Yup, nothing worst than flubbing the last few notes and giving the audience a final reminder of how much you suck.

    One thing I've done and has helped alot if to sequence the phrases and be able to sequence them from any point in the melody. If you practice in a way that an error can only be fixed by starting from the beginning of the melody, you're going to reinforce that part you know well.

    i.e. using the above example
    For example, I'll break it down even further if I start to run into problem playing it smoothly. For 14-15-16, I'll practice the following 3 "patterns" and then add them all back together.
    13-14
    14-15
    15-16
    I'll take that idea and run with it, 2 phrase sequences, 3 phrase sequences. Maybe even practice them out of order. 14-15, 13-14, 15-16. As long as practicing in this way feels "new" and "uncomfortable". Once it feels "comfortable" time to move on to the next weak spot.

    Again, Confirmation gave me a lot of problems, esp in the bridge - even just to do a basic execution of it at half tempo. I had to chunk it down into shorter phrased chunks and transition from phrase to the next in a number of ways. I struggled a lot with the one particular phrase that goes very fast, broke it down, practiced it at quarter of the original tempo and I feel pretty good about it now.
     
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    I'm sure your cookie will be arriving shortly. ;)
     
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I also like your ear for nuance.
     
  13. Kragnorak

    Kragnorak

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    Sep 20, 2008
    Analogy of the day - that is my entire poop-eating approach to music in a nutty shell, er nutshell!

    What I've noticed is that most instrumentalists learn these melodies based upon Real Book heads, or from the Charlie Parker omnibus. There's actually a large difference between the way that sounds compared to how Bird played those melodies. His rhythms are not as symmetrical and many of the phrasing tags are these lilting flourishes.

    I haven't studied this stuff in a while, but when I do my plan is to focus more on the way these melodies sound in the recordings because my goal is to get closer to that fluidity. Some ideas I've toyed with to get that effect include playing more legato and tapping the passages. Believe it or not I find the legato approach to be much more difficult!
     
  14. Kragnorak

    Kragnorak

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    Haha, just noticed that this is in the double-bass forum! I'm not good enough to play bop heads on upright beyond the simpler ones such as Oleo, Now's the Time, etc. and certainly my comments on two-hand tapping don't apply...
     
  15. afroblue

    afroblue

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    Oct 25, 2012
    I've been learning them off a slowed down recording. It is interesting checking it against the omnibook, all sorts of mistakes in there.
     
  16. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    Yeah this is a peeve from living in the age of the RealBook. It's annoying that someone bothers to learn the melody but doesn't even bother to check that they're playing it right according to the recordings, not the RB. One can only notate the timing so well and never catch the exact moment Bird played a particular note.

    Of course when it comes out wrong on stage, they look at you as if you ****ed it up when you're pretty damn sure you have it down right because you learned it by ear and practiced against the recording. And then comes their insecurity that they don't have it right on the 2nd go around on the melody because they know you caught them with their pants down.

    One time I was playing with a pianist gal who had a strong classical background. She played everything square and treated the RB as if it's always correct, just like any other classical text. God that was excruciating.

    Same goes with other tunes that have multiple versions and a player you're with is stuck on one particular version and refuses to accept any other way. Tricotism comes to mind. Even Pettiford played it all sorts of ways apparently.
     

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