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A question to all the Music Majors/College students studying music.

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by James Gibson, Sep 22, 2008.

  1. How does your school teach solo improvisation? Do you study a codified method or something else? Also, what school do you go to?
  2. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    My school was talking about common tones that were shared between chords, and we talked about modes a little too, but honestly, I've found "textbook-type" methods of how to solo to not be very helpful, as they merely echoed or described what I was hearing as a listener to recordings and was trying to do as a player before I ever took the Jazz class. They didn't really advance the ball for me. But they might for you.

    If that approach works for you, then kudos to you. I won't knock it. But I was just as well, or perhaps even better served by jumping in Jazz music and trying my hand at soloing than being very academic about it, as even if you know the theory behind it, does not necessarily mean you'd be a good soloist. Sure, you might play the "right" notes so to speak, but a good solo is about more than that.

  3. I have a very helpful, thorough teacher for improvisation right now. He's going through a handful of different approaches to practicing soloing and talking about the pros and cons. We've worked so far on what he called melodic gradients, guide tone lines, transcription, diatonic chord scales, and chord sequences. Probably the coolest thing we went over was the Lee Konitz 10 step method, which can be fond here: http://www.melmartin.com/html_pages/Interviews/konitz.html I go to school just at a small college in BC.
  4. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    James, your question is interesting, but you are barking up the wrong tree.
    You can learn all the "Jazz Improvisation Techniques" that pros, teachers, and colleges have to offer but the truth is that no one can ever teach you how to improvise. You can master all these wonderful cheats, licks, melodies, solos, and patterns but guess what.
    No one can ever teach anyone anything, ever.

    I spent 4 years at Berklee and I'm headed to North Texas.

  5. Whoah, you've peaked my interest.

    if you have this attitude towards towards learning how to play jazz, why are you spending so much time at university?

    Do you feel this way about other aspects of playing as well? or is it just improvisation that no on can teach anyone anything about ever?
  6. vision

    vision It's all about the groove! Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Endorsing Artist: MTD Basses, La Bella Strings, and 64 Audio IEMs
    I have a degree in Jazz Studies and Improvisation from University of Michigan.

    At my school the focus was on listening and transcribing, and playing as much as possible. You learn some basic techniques as far as the modes and scales, but that's not going to "teach" you how to solo.

    The scales and modes and excercises and transcriptions are just there to give you the facility and chops that you will use as tools to get the actual music out of your head through your hands into the instrument.
  7. At SUNY Purchase improv is taught mostly through ear training and transcription. Ear training focuses on modes of major, melodic, and harmonic, and well as symmetrical scales like diminished whole tone augmented, and hearing the tensions etc of those scales. Our improv class was mostly about transcription, as well as harmony based improvisation. Senior year there is a class completely focused on transcription.
    No one here "tellls" anyone here how to improvise. There are lick players, and people trying to get to a point of true improvisation. I agree that improv is not best taught by a book or method, as different people learn in different ways.
  8. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Here at Texas State, we do A LOT of transcribing and ear training, with theory lectured as a guide, as well as encouraging students to go out and play. Do they listen? That's another thing.
  9. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    Heyya Shoehorn,
    I'm taking the academic route because it serves a purpose in the attainment of my goals. I've had some teachers in my life, musical and not, who have really inspired me and shown me that I have a nack for explaining things. I'd really enjoy doing this on a college level, and today most schools want their professors to have advanced degrees, along with a boatload of experience.

    We could take lessons in improvisation for 50 years, but ultimately no one can teach you the sound of your own voice. It's not something you develop in a lesson or a class on chord scale theory. There are so many different things happening all in one instant when you improvise. Your ear is engaged, your body is relying on the technique you've acquired through practice, meanwhile your mind is processing everything from the form of the song too the cup size of the cute blonde in the second row. You can be taught to master the fundamentals of music, harmony, theory, ear training, and your instrument, but putting it all together, coherently, is something you can only learn on your own.

    Take reading music for example. Someone can teach you what all the symbols and ink blobs mean, but the only way you will become a great reader is by doing it.

    Sorry if I got all preachy but what I meant by my earlier statement is that learning and mastering any skill comes down to one's own personal commitment. The best improvisers I know, at one point and time, all had a frightening commitment bordering terrible obsession.


    p.s. keep your eye on the guy who practices during set breaks. :bassist:
  10. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Truer words have ne'er been spoken.
  11. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I don't see a separation between improvisation and composition. So study as much composition as you can. Listen. Find out what sounds you like, what your palette is. Listen to what is going on and find out how to add what you think should be there.
    The ear leads us to consonance pretty well, so dissonance is a good place to start.
    Understanding dissonance can really unlock a lot of things for improvisation.
    In the end you have to train yourself to respond with these things naturally.
    You don't think it through - through study and practice you train yourself to hear the sounds that interest you as options.
    Ed Fuqua has a lot of great things to say about it if you search his posts.
  12. aceshigh


    Nov 6, 2006
    I agree with you, Matt. You DO have a thing for explaining stuff.
  13. BassplayerBrian


    Apr 23, 2008
    While I don't take an improv class, I've found a helpful of learning to solo, is to limit what your using, say, pick a chord or two, pick a note or two, and see what comes out, as you can start making it sound good doing things like that, start giving yourself more room, also, sing while you play, singing is a key part of music(tone is not so important if your not a vocalist, but pitch is), when you when you limit yourself in one area, all of a sudden you're expanding yourself in another(in the case of note restriction, rhythm and dynamics), when you finally open up your possibilities, at the very least you should have killer rhythms, and if you practice, theoretically you should be able to play the notes you hear in your head as well. But like he said, its all about how you learn, not everything works for everybody.
  14. Will Yager

    Will Yager Supporting Member

    May 7, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    My school doesn't even have a real jazz program. I'm pretty much the only one of my kind here. I have a private lesson with one of my professors who happens to be a badass pianist.

  15. cbarosky


    Jun 7, 2008
    Burlington, VT
    i'm in jazz improv II at the university of vermont, we got a tenor player who is the jazz studies director teaching the class. we go over a different tune each week (this week is dolphin dance) and do scale/lick/pattern outlines of the tune. this may seem pretty contrived but it functions in 2 ways - we never write things down (or at least we're not supposed to...) so learning new patterns that the professor makes up comes from the ear. what intervals are we hearing? what voice leading? what texture is it, major, minor, augmented, dominant, etc. the second way it helps is to learn the changes of the tune and have a small repertoire of ways to blow over them. it helps take your mind off "what's the next change? am i swinging? what should i play here?" if it's all in the hands and the ear already, you shouldn't stress over that stuff. this all happens in conjunction with learning ways of playing through scales... we just were tested on playing descending 7th arpeggios down each interval of the melodic minor scale through the circle, and we always work on scales with chromaticism. but ultimately, we can figure all this out, the trick is to shed it and know it.

    i wish our program was bigger here and perhaps had a class on transcribing. everyone should be doing that as much as possible though. like everyone here has been saying, don't over-intellectualize, but in my experience, intellectualize until your ear has it then just feel it. different for everyone...

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