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Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by Jake, Sep 30, 2010.
I really love Mingus' bass playing. What are some good tunes to transcribe his lines? What albums?
Maybe the first few pages of "Beneath the Underdog". Seriously, Mingus was an original - work on your own music!
Why do you transcribe?
Was that a serious question?
98, yes, that was a serious question.
Jake, why do you transcribe? In other words, what are your reasons for transcribing?
I like his lines on "Blues and Roots" and "Money Jungle" a lot. Going to some of his sources like Koussivitzky solos, Segovia, Bartok, Ives etc. might get you some place more interesting. Even Simandl.
I am not a fan of transcribing but I do think it is more useful in more basic contexts. Mingus would be a great ear training exercise, but copping his licks would be pretty lame.
A more broad transcription: Bass virtuoso, composer, bandleader would get you further.
Write an abstract blues for a sextet or something, dig in on C on the G string until you feel the top of the bass jump, maybe punch a trombonist in the mouth.
Best. Advice. Ever.
Well, I've never really taken jazz lessons; just about all my formal training has been classical. The reason I like to transcribe is so I can hopefully learn something about playing bass lines or soloing and also, because it's one of the only ways I know how to practice jazz.
Thanks for your response, Jake.
Do you ever play along with recordings of your favorite players and try to cop their stuff with your ears only?
Many of us learned to play this music this way.
The phrasing and dynamics can have more information than the pitch.
So you have never played or never currently play something that sounds like something you've heard played by someone else Damon? Impressive, maybe the rest of us do not have the breadth and depth of knowledge of music that you do. Seriously though transcription is an amazing tool. It has a lot less to do with learning licks than it does understanding a player's take on phrasing, voice leading, melodic concept, tone etc. That's why Mozart transcribed Bach's music. That's why its common practice for composers and that's why it is advocated by most master jazz teachers. Man did you really learn to talk without copying your parents? I doubt it. Jazz is a language and player's need to know the vocabulary or else they sound like a jack@$$ when they try to talk to someone. You say work on your own licks. How do you do that without knowing the language. Its like telling someone to write a book without ever reading one and tearing it apart. Copping is part of the human learning process! Yet every transcription thread that comes up you dog people who transcribe. It seems a bit antithetical to just about everything any other person I have ever had the pleasure of talking to about music. Do you think Mingus didn't check out and at least partly transcribe Jimmy Blanton? Duke Ellington? Coleman Hawkins? How the hell did he learn how to swing? Did someone write on a piece of paper and he just figured it out by luck? I don't think so. If nothing else transcribing will help you not be that guy that takes an hour trying to figure out the melody that someone just sang to you on the bandstand. Anyhow, I'll finish my tirade. YMMV IMHO MY 2¢ Blah Blah
I have a transcribed a fair amount and also just ended up playing tons of Dave Holland, Peter Kowald, William Parker, Mingus, Red Mitchell and many others' licks just from having listened so much. A lot of that just happens if you are listening to the music and playing often. I certainly still take the time to figure out ANY musicial idea I hear that interests me, I just don't assign myself random whole solos anymore.
There are a lot of master jazz players who reccomend transcription and a lot who don't. I would say I certainly don't think it is useless, but in my experience it is rarely the most effcient use of limited practice time. Also, I would recommend something more basic than Mingus playing Mingus tunes. I have spent more time working on technique, theory and my own music so I like add an alternate voice to the transcription threads.
Especially in the case of such an original figure like Mingus I think it makes more sense to look into what made him so original and interesting.
Learning some tunes and playing behind a great saxophonist a few hours a day 5 days week at the train station for years did a lot more for my jazz playing than any of the transcription I ever did.
This is certainly a good point, I think it is a lot more useful in terms of ear training.
Also, I won't pretend I didn't figure out PLENTY of Mingus licks, I just don't think it was the most productive use of my time.
P.S. I'm thinking Mozart just analysed Bach's music since the score would be present at any performance and there no recordings back then - more like playing out the Omni book than figuring it out from a recording.
Fair enough you are entitled to your opinion. I still stand by my sentiment and a lot of what you just wrote corroborates that so...
Actually it was standard practice for musicians undergoing training in the classical era to transcribe music as it was being played by their instructor. In the case it started at three and his teacher was his father. In addition to that kind of transcription, it was also common practice to transcribe by, that is copy again, the scores of other composers. To top it off Mozart pretty much could remember things on the first listen so when he heard bach's music he was able to instantly play it on the harpsichord. But thanks for reminding me that there were no recordings around back then.
I gotta' agree . . .
that sounds familiar . . . Mingus WAS famous for his hot temper . . . . . .
VERY good point . . .
Very Good Advice, Paul . . .
Just to clarify my "transcription" stance: I think there are two primary reasons it is done, 1. for ear training and 2. to help build a musical language.
For ear training it is fantastic, and I ALWAYS think it is a great idea to do it enough to make sure you can do it.
For building a musicial language is where it gets more complex. As a composer, as in the Mozart example where you are able to make measured decisions it can really be valuable, if you are writing a tune and it sounds too much like Mingus you can just rewrite a line or two so it doesn't.
As an improvisor even within an idiom it can cause as many problems as it solves - by the time you notice your solo sounds too much like Ray Brown it is over.
In that case an incorrect first impression of the musical idea can often be more valuable, what often happens is you isolate the part of the idea that interests you most.
As Ausberto noted, it is important that you have enough common ground that you can communicate with other musicians and make sense in the contexts you are playing on.
Transcribing can help with that for sure.
However, in creative music of all kinds I think it is very important to work on your own music and your own ideas as soon and as much as possible.
So I guess my point is know when to say when with transcription.
Thanks for clarifying that Damon. You have a way with words that sometimes appears to cast your opinions and stances on subjects as ultimate truths. I have nothing but respect for your playing, hell I have take a few lessons from you after all. I just think that often times the perspective of creative music doesn't always translate over into other idioms. I hope you realize that I am far from trying to pick a fight its just that I feel its important to validate the individual learning styles of all learners. I am just as guilty of resolute opinions especially pedagogically, (I'm a year away from student teaching) So that is where I am coming from calling you out. Cheers and glad to be able to have debate and dissenting opinion. It's why I keep coming back around.
I also think melodic and harmonic note choices are a a matter of innate personal choice - you don't need to try on a pair of Paul Chambers' drawers to find out if you like boxers or briefs.
A basic handle on theory will help a lot more than a transcription - if you can't hear the tension and release and basic types of dissonances and consonances all the notes any great bassist plays are not going to help, and if you can chances are you are going to have your own ideas about it.
You might read every word in a Roland Barthes essay but if you don't look up the ones you don't know it isn't going to tell you much!
Then there is the matter of practice time, if you are one of the chosen few actually carrying out the mythical eight hour a day practice regimens by all means give an hour (or two!) to transcribing.
If you have just an hour before work like most, then it is doubtfully the best use of your time.
Enough time spent with music theory will give you the ability to quickly recognize chromatic and diatonic lines and where the tension and release sits in a line (or whatever other detail you need ) without laboring over every detail.
The most important question to ask yourself is what you are going to do with the information once you get it!
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