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Analyzing Transcriptions of Solos?

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Leroy La Qua, Mar 9, 2008.


  1. Leroy La Qua

    Leroy La Qua

    Nov 6, 2005
    I am curious as to how you guys go about analyzing your transcriptions of various solos or even if you do so?

    Do you sit down and analyse how the notes that comprise the solo relate to the harmony ( thinking in terms of concepts such as intervals, chord tones, modes, guide tones ets) or do you just learn solos to connect the sound of the solo to the fretboard without giving too much thought to the underlying harmony putting more of an emphasis on the ear and muscle memory side of things rather than the theoretical approach?
     
  2. PocketGroove82

    PocketGroove82

    Oct 18, 2006
    Chicago
    After I'm already familiar with the harmony and melody, I begin the solo by learning it at the instrument, phrase by phrase, and notating it accordingly. After it's all written down, it's easy to label all the notes in relation to the chords, which can be helpful, and you can see how a lot of things that sound great are actually theoretically incorrect, yet they work and sound fine.

    It can be informative to really pin down every note of a solo or tune, like they do in every issue of my fav. music mag, "Jazz Improv", and really understanding how melody and harmony relate is crucial. But I find that when I'm soloing, over thinking is a distraction.

    It's like doing your homework and studying for a test, so when you're taking the exam, you're in the zone...or something.
     
  3. HaVIC5

    HaVIC5

    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    One thing that is VERY important to take into consideration when "analyzing" a solo performed by a jazz musician is that you HAVE to think melodically as opposed to harmonically. When you are analyzing a note's relationship to the chord of the moment, very often a jazz improviser will go off and play notes which have absolutely no particularly strong relationship to the chord of the moment. If you're doing a harmonic analysis of these notes, like analyzing a stressed Gb on an Fmaj7 chord, you'll find that a lot of them "don't fit" (b9 on major 7?!). You wouldn't be taking into account the linear aspect of it, though, like maybe the improviser was superimposing a contrasting harmony, or sequencing something , or sideslipping, or whatever device that might give you something that wouldn't make sense vertically, but totally make sense linearly. Take into consideration what's happening in the melodic shape first and foremost when analyzing solo transcriptions, and then figure out how it relates to the harmony.
     
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Since my instrument doesn't HAVE a fingerboard, I tend not to think about it.

    I generally don't transcribe to analyze what's going on. If there's something I'm having a hard time hearing, I'll pull it apart to see if I can get at what the player was hearing or thinking about when he played that. But that's where listening to what everybody else was doing can come in handy. It may be that the last time through the chorus the piano player played something that caught the soloist's ear and sent them off in another direction. It may be that they aren't really hearing the change or that the comp instrument isn't playing the change that they are hearing. Or it could just be something they heard on the radio or a record before the gig that inspired a certain direction and it came out in their line.

    But the bottom line is - trying to figure out WHAT something is really isn't the point of the exercise. As PICKETGROVE points out, when you're in the heat of the moment, you shouldn't be thinking about trying something or what so and so did or how you can be more out or more inside or whatever. You should only be trying to keep your conscious mind out of the way of your ear. The more I play, the more I come to the realization that jazz isn't about playing, it's about listening.
     
  5. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    "jazz isn't about playing, it's about listening"

    No kidding. I'd love a matching T-shirt and bumpersticker with that on it. :)
     
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The one that I'd like is a NY/subway street sign that denotes 'No Music Playing"; it's an eighth note with the international NO (red circle with a line through it) sign, so it's REALLY "No eighth notes".

    The inside flap cover foto of the book of Lee Konitz interviews, Lee's wearing a black t-shirt with big white block letters that says LISTEN
     
  7. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I think this varies. Around here, sometimes people sit around "listening" so much you want to charge them admission!
    Peter Kowald once said, "Listeners should sit in the audience - listen while you play."
    The real point is there are extremes to both sides of that coin.
     
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Continue to embrace whatever belief system makes you feel most comfortable....
     
  9. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Well, I am just pointing out that in some cases that over-emphasis on "listening" can have a negative affect. Listening is important but not at the expense of not bringing anything to the table.
    We have an equal responsibility to listen as well as to provide material to be listened to - otherwise we are just taking.
     
  10. All to often cats "trying to bring something to the table," are playing bullsh!t. Those players who you say listen too much and don't bring anything probably have nothing to bring but enough sense to realize that. If you can play, just listen, and the rest will take care of itself.
     
  11. Interestingly, I've never been in a situation where people "listened too much". I've been in situations where people liked to listen to THEMSELVES (and wouldn't shut up) plenty of times though.

    mark
     
  12. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    This older freejazz guy that used to be in Chicago and taught me a bit always used to say "there is a difference between listening and hearing."
     
  13. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Anyone who doesn't feel they have something to bring to the table needs to not be at the table.
    Listening is important and fantastic. However, Jazz and related musics do not boil down to any one catch phrase.
    Except in the most abstract situations it very often our responsibility as bassists to be providing important musical information for the other musicians.
     
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I don't know. The guys I play with rely on me to let them know if the hottie at table 3 has a boyfriend in tow or if they should hit on her during the break.
     
  15. milomo

    milomo

    Aug 5, 2007
    Bloomfield, NJ
    In any improvisational music, listening is always the most important thing because you're doing it all the time, whether you're playing or not. What you play is dictated by what you hear happening around you, and that can mean anything from four on the floor to complete freedom, or even not playing (It can also mean going with the flow of the music or contrary to it). And the only way to make the information we're providing "important" is for it to relate to what's happening in the music going on around us at any given moment. And that takes - you guessed it - listening. And I agree, you can't boil down jazz to a catch-phrase. By catchphrase, do you mean something like "Listeners should sit in the audience - listen while you play."?
     
  16. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I don't think that phrase sums everything up but it can be extremely valuable.
    I don't want to simplify things too much, but I think it is fair enough to say on the east coast you are going to have more trouble with players who won't stop playing and out here you can just as often run in to the other extreme - pseudo-newage, post-Cage Machismo ("My silence is bigger than yours!") and such.

    Listening is AN important activity not the most or only important activity.
    I am way into Cage and I will argue the value of "4'33" forever.
    Outside of a context like that musical content is the most important thing.
    For listening to have any real value in music making there needs to be first something to be listened to.
    If you just stand there and wait to respond to the other musicians content you are not really contributing much.
    Also, musical phrases that boil down to you basically saying "Yes! I am listening!" rarely add much to the music either.

    Listening is a great way to get your content into the music. The fact remains that for instrumental music to exist outside of a post-cage conceptual realm someone needs to play something.
     
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    All of that basically ignores listening to YOUR voice in the context of what you're playing. LISTENING isn't just what you do to other people. You should be listening for whatever line is suggesting itself in your imagination/ear/conception. It's not REACTION, it's RESPONSE.

    You see listening as passive, I contend that it's active.
     
  18. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I wouldn't argue with this and I would agree that is my personal general mode of operation, although putting in a fully formed idea that follows it's own predetermined logic can be a good contrast to other ways of doing things.

    I should qualify all these statements by saying I have been in a few ensembles that had an "Active Listener" who just sat on stage in a chair and listened. I have been in large groups where the leader wanted to "Experience the power of 15 musicians playing silence", interestingly, he has gone on to make very poorly done indie-pop.
     
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Sigh.
    "putting in a fully formed idea that follows it's own predetermined logic " sounds like a million tenor players I've had the "pleasure" of playing against, they generally are playing with the band in their head rather than the one on the stand. I also have "enjoyed" playing with the musicians that have decided 5 days (or 5 years) ago what they were going to play on the gig I ended up on, it generally has as much cogent to say as masturbating to a picture of Marilyn Monroe has to actually enjoying an intimate moment with the person you have some emotional involvement with. If what you have to say, musically, is no different if I am IN the room as it does if I am OUT of the room, then you're not playing with me; we're not having a conversation. If we aren't having a conversation, then we are not involved in a musical endeavor in which I wish to participate.

    The difference is, I understand that this is MY concern, not everyone else's. You seem to think that this is your concern and SHOULD be everyone else's.
     
  20. You guys are funny. Damon appears to be talking about free music from a classical perspective which has almost nothing to do with jazz on any level while Ed is articulating a higher concept of jazz. A concept that is probably difficult to understand for those who haven't played jazz above a wedding band level. You're both either being obstinate or neither of you realize that you are arguing entirely different points. But keep going, this is entertaining.

    mark
     

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