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Glamorgan Jazz Course

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Howard K, Aug 4, 2004.

  1. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    How do Steve
    I finally went on the Glamorgan Jazz course this year - the one Bruce attends regularly, it was brilliant...

    I learnt more about playing, creating, learning and understanding music than I imagined possible.

    My group's tutor was a guy called Oren Marshall - with no exageration he was the most inspriational person I've ever met.

    As an example of the kind of guy he was, every other class prepared and played standard jazz stuff for the 'jazz club' each evening. My group play a very fast Ska version of Summertime, a tune called Planet Earth by Sun Ra, a South African tune by some guy who's name I cant spell and a version of 'I only have eyes for you', sung in Japanese by one of the singers on the course with a "free" bass sax and tuba solo in the middle... our group stood out somewhat!

    I was expecting classes learning to read charts, play changes, anticipate and follow through solos, mechanical 'how to play jazz' stuff, etc...
    What I got was the most valuable lessons in music I've ever had.

    If I described what I learnt here most people would say "well, I knew that already" - and they'd be right, I could reel off 'the point in summary' long before I attended this course, but the message was so well taught and so clearly highlighted that it was a truly profound experience.

    We started each day with 30 mins of stretches as a warm up... what an amazing difference it made to my playing! I've been doing them every morning since! :)

    We then did 30 mins of clapping excercises - some flamenco rhythms, or a simple rhythm and improvsing over the top, or each clapping a different meter and 'waiting for the one'. Sounds easy, it isnt.

    Then we'd learn tunes... but not from sheet, or even from notes. We'd learn them entirely by ear. The point being that historically, and in non-classcial traditions, music is passed from person to person, not via a sheet of music, or a book - and that method of learning is genuinley so much better!!
    We spend an hour literally singing a melody (me singing a bass line!), it was like a bad version of the flying pickets.. and to start with was embarassing... but by the time we sat down to play, we were playing a song we'd never heard within minutes. Overall the whole group were playing an entirely new tune brilliantly in about an hour!!!
    I started the course thinking that "it helps to learn stuff if you can sing it".. now I think that if you cant sing it, you cant actually play it.

    Overall, it's difficult to describe everything I learnt.. it just cant be put into words. Suffice to say I met a lot a very very cool people, I learnt a great deal about how important it is to pratice things over and over again, about vocalising lines when learning, about having the right attitude (not being a tosser and slagging people off - something I'm gonna make even more of an effort to do even less than I do already) and about listening and keeping it simple.
    Like I said, all things I "knew" already, but having them reinforced in such a way was immensely valuable.

    I've also got clear sight of a years pratice to improve my jazz playing - and some good contacts for local gigs and classes :)

    ..and, yes, there were more bearded men than you could shake a stick at!!

    I'm not entirely sure why I'm posting this here?? It seemed relevant since I'd taken those lessons with you a while back?!

  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Glad you posted it here - it's always inspiring to read about great teaching! Sounds like a great way to spend your time and money!

    I look forward to seeing you put it all into practice! :)

  3. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well this is the thing, I'm dying to get my students in now and see how I can improve things!! :)

    Really tho, the singing thing - it's amazing how it works so well, when someone sings a melody you're forced to listen, rather than getting drawn in by technique or whatever - and by singing it yourself you internalise it properly.. rather than some half baked version. Clever stuff!

    Anyway, I waffle...
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, as we're here!! ;)

    Oren is an amazing person, from what I've seen and Howard didn't even mentioned his Tuba - one of the most incredible sounds I've ever heard!! And his Berembau playing with the singers was great as well.

    I was in one of the 'ordinary" groups with Martin Speake.....:rolleyes:


    But this was quite stretching- we did a tune by Paul Motian, which was quite interesting, as Martin knows him quite well from them having played in a quartet together.

    My group did a lot of learning stuff by ear and this seemed to be the "theme for the year" - it was noticable change that groups spent a lot of time with this concept - that is transcribing what you hear, singing it , playing it without writing anything down.

    I talked, earlier in the year, to Simon Purcell who runs the course (with Dave Wickens) and teaches at the Guildhall Jazz course in London. Simon was saying that he thinks there has been too much emphasis on chord charts and learning which scales to play over these in Jazz Education and that they wanted to change the emphasis.

    I can see both sides to this - especially as I' ve now been 7 times with various tutors!

    So - get a small group of people who've never met and give them chord charts with melodies, tell them what scales will work and they can play 4 or 5 tunes pretty quickly together and build up their confidence - have fun, learn a bit and feel it's all been worthwhile!

    Take the same group and they might take all that time to really get one tune in their heads, to the point where they can play it confidently. Also - it can me pretty demoralising, if some people get their parts down quickly and others take much longer as they haven't done so much ear work. Boring for some - so stressful for others that they want to leave the group!

    This was tending to happen in several groups this year and I heard a lot of this.

    But on the other hand, the tunes I learnt last week, I feel will always stay with me and I won't ever need a part, to play them, - I also feel I really know those songs "inside out" - how they were constructed, where there are chord substitutions I could apply and why ...etc. etc.
    Whereas I might have played 50 songs in the last few months from lead sheets, which I couldn't tell you anything about, let alone play them unseen !

    Maybe it wasn't so much fun, as playing 4 or 5 tunes that "sounded" impressive, with a happy band - but I feel I got a lot out of it and it's probably exactly what I need to be doing more of.
  5. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well, after the 1st day I was questioning whether I was in the right group.. since I've learnt pretty much everything I know by ear. I learnt how to play listening and copying (same ways I learnt how to speak proper innit).. and the thing I really need to work on (to get gigs) is the "from sheet" mechanical stuff.
    Anyway, I spoke to Simon and mentioned that I wasnt sure the class was what I needed, and he said he'd have a think.
    By the next morning I'd thought it through properly and I'd enjoyed the class so much that I decided to stick where I was. I'm glad I did so.

    On reflection, I think the only reason I mentoned it was because the tutors said first thing on the first day "come to use ASAP if you feel you're in the wrong class", so I did.
    Realiistically tho, how stupid of me to second guess!?!?!

    I think, generally speaking, many of the players there were classically trained - the viola player for example - so learning by ear is something they've never really done. Whereas the dots and symbols are my weak point... it's just a contrast.
    I'm convinced that 'by ear' is by far the more natural way to learn how to play music and I'm positive it's the method more tuned to improvising and creating music...

    like i said, i can waffle.. i learnt loads.. i feel a renewed drive for playing.. which i really needed!! :)
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - I think I got what I needed as well - but it was still fun in the evenings and as a social thing - although my small group was a bit 'serious' ! ;)
  7. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Maybe next year they'll have a "tab" section.... :bassist:

  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    ...or even better "tapping by tab"... you RULE dUDe!!
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Next year, maybe you could teach Oren how to Tab out his Tuba impersonations of Slap Bass and then go on to "how to impress the kids in music stores" !! ;)
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Gee, what a unique perspective. It's strange we haven't heard more about it, hear at talkbass.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well yeah - that exactly why I've been interested - there is a big shift this year and some Jazz teachers are going with it and others aren't - which makes it confusing as a student, when you're with one type of teacher banging on about chord-scale relationships for several years and the next, with another, who says don't bother with all that!! :meh:
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Are you allowed to post over this side Ed? :D
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think you might have been in a group of 'un-known quantities' , people who hadn't been before - it's one of the big difficulties of running a course like this and it was something they mentioned in the feedback meeting.

    That is, many of the classes were too varied in terms of : levels of ability, exposure to Jazz etc. - due to the fact that a lot of people had answered their self-assessment questionnaires "ambiguously"! ;)

    They were suggesting that the Sunday afternoon would be a period for the course leaders to get together with everybody, go through a more detailed assessment form and assign people to groups then - so that if people didn't know how to answer a question, they could ask and clarify how they should answer. The aim being that people would be in more 'homegenous' small groups and work better together.
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Yeah, that makes sense. The two sax players in my group cold read well (far beter than me anyway), but neither recognised chord symbols, or generally had a any chord/scale theory under their belft or had even heard of the Co5ths, so it was quite a contrast.

    This years group was perfect, just want I needed, but I think I'd rather be in a more experienced group next time, if that' spossible/ viable? Who knows? I defo be going back tho!
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, next time you can rate yourself more highly, based on what you've seen of the level - it seems to work OK for bass players, as you are not expected to read bass lines, generally!

    Although, I was in Pete Saberton's group last year and found I'd risen too far ;) , as every tune was an original, completely written out and was hard stuff - changing time signatures etc. etc. :meh:

    The only thing that saved me was that the trumpet player was even slower than me at reading and so I had time to work on it !! ;)

    I was really encouraged the first time I went and have always been
    put in groups with slightly better players each year - up until this year, which was a strange mixture.....I felt we really didn't get the best out of our group?? :meh:
  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well this is it. I probably will rate myself a bit higher next time, not too much tho, my reading aint good :rolleyes:
  17. How much money do such courses cost?
  18. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Depends on the course... this one was just under £400 including accomodation...the aebersold one in london was closer to £800 without accomodation I believe.

    This really was a worth while experience, I would challenge anyone to attend and not learn something, or at the very least really enjoy themselves.
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Oh Yes ..very enjoyable - I got some photos back ...making music in the Welsh sun - Oren Marshall to the extreme left!!
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    And here's Howard himself enjoying the sunshine and explaining the art of bass playing.....;)