Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Pastorius43, Mar 14, 2006.

  1. After my lesson today my teacher told me I need to work on my phrasing. I asked him what he meant, and he said "You're playing everything in tune, all your fingering is correct, but you're having trouble playing the etudes how they're supposed to sound." I think he's being a little vauge, but I didn't really have a chance to discuss the matter with him as I had to go get a pizza...So, my question is, what's your advice on this subject? If it helps, I'm working from Simandl. The etude I'm having trouble with is the one where he introduces 8th notes extensivly, I don't have the book on me so I can't say the exact page number.

    Sorry if this isn't the place to ask this:meh:

  2. Well, I will take a whack at 'de-vague-ifying' this one...

    As your tech said, you are getting all the technical aspects down but you still are not presenting it as musically as it you should. This is rather similar to someone who knows full well the right letters to use, the way to pronounce the words, but speaks in a monotonous way with no inflection or 'interesting' qualities to his speaking. Technically, the person is speaking properly, but is it interesting to listen to? Hmmmm....
  3. VTDB


    Oct 19, 2004
    When I was first working through Simandl and I got the same feedback you just did we started working on the structure of whatever it was that was giving me trouble trying to see what was actually going on ("Oh, this is all leading up to that Ab") which can help with how something is supposed to sound. And also just the articulation of the notes. Making sure legato phrases sound legato and staccato phrases sound staccato. A lot of times I wouldn't be "enunciating" my eighth notes so I worked on making each note speak clearly. It's always a good idea to record yourself playing these things so you can listen back to them and figure what doesn't sound right to you.
  4. tZer: I like how you explained that! Thanks, it cleared things up for me :).

    VTDB: Tomorrow, when I get a chance to play, I'll try to enunciate each note and go slower.

    With you saying enunciate and tZer saying the thing about speech, I guess I'll try to "say" each note more clearly.

    Thanks a bunch to the both of you :)
  5. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    I remember Segovia saying once thatwhenever you play, even if you're practicing, someone might be listening- so you must always strive to make it as musical as possible. Even a scale should be played as if it is a piece of music.
  6. My first bass teacher required me to sing the entire etude before I even took the bass out of the case. What's more, he made me do it in a goofy pseudo-operatic voice.

    Embarrassing as hell to a teenager, but it helped not only with developing phrasing, but with intonation, sight reading, etc.
  7. Another thing to keep in mind is that music IS a language. It has an alphabet, proper 'sentence' structure, punctuation and so on. So try not to separate it in your mind as if it is something OTHER then a communication tool. You can communicate complex concepts, visual imagery, emotions, and more with music - sometime MORE effectively than with the spoken word.

    I have seen first hand how music is a powerful universal language. I used to work at a weekend camp with people who had severe mental disabilities. Many of these people were "non-verbal" so you had to learn to 'read the signs' to understand what they needed or wanted (so the spoken word was NOT our primary means of communication). We would spend the entire day working with our campers trying to get them into projects and games that stimulated them. In the evenings we would try to find ONE group activity that they all could participate in. We could never find ONE game or activity that would engage ALL participants. Playing with balls, singing, doing crafts... nothing. We had campers with severe mental retardation, Downs Syndrome, Autism, severe behavioral disorders and so on, so with the broad spectrum of different disabilities it was not surprising that ONE activity could not get them all ‘going in the same direction’. What worked for the kids who had autism did not resonate with the kids who had behavioral issues and so on...

    That was until I brought my band there. For one of the evening activities I had the guys in my band come out to the camp for an evening of 'unplugged' music. We assembled the group in the gym (about 30 or so campers and counselors) and after everyone settled in, we began to play.

    The minute the music hit the air EVERY SINGLE CAMPER TUNED IN. All of them! They expressed obvious joy and happiness! All of them! We played for 45 minutes and they ‘stayed with us’ the whole time! It was the first, and I would venture to say the only group activity that had the same effect on everyone. Campers and counselors alike were all in the same boat, enjoying the same thing and apparently feeling the same way - happy. It clearly ‘got through’ and demonstrated to me that music was far more then just pretty sounds. And being a musician meant being someone who could use this amazing language to communicate with the rest of the world on a higher, more universal level.

    Ok. That was a very long story. But my point is that music communicates on a wavelength that is far more complex and broad reaching than any other form of language. You can be English, Chinese, have mental retardation or sever behavioral disorders, and music can still get through. So every time you are playing a musical phrase, remember you are doing more then just making pretty tones in a sequence, you are using a very complex and effective communication devise that the whole world understands.

  8. DickMcgilicutty


    Mar 9, 2006
    I want to add a little to the other folk's responses (which were all great responses, by the way). Phrasing is something that can be broken down into very technical terms. In other words, you can examine a phrase in terms of its harmonic structure, melodic form, or rhythmic placement, and these can help you to understand how a smaller phrase is supposed to work in the larger context of the music. Sometimes, however, knowing all of these does not help you to play it correctly. When I think of phrasing, I think of the human qualities of a sung vocal line in a soulful blues. There are a million blues tunes with the same exact vocal melodies, but the things that set one apart from another are the subtleties of rhythmic placement, dynamic ebb and flow, and the little twists, turns, and bends in the note choice. Your ear is your strongest ally, pay attention to every aspect of how you are saying something on your instrument.
  9. Hey everyone. Thanks for the responeses once again! I think I finally got the piece down. After i tried singing it, i noticed what I was doing wrong and got it :).

    Thanks once again!
  10. sibass89


    Jan 29, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    Here is my advice.

    There is a difference between being able to play a piece and actually playing a piece. Singing is a great tool. This creates phrasing and breathing but can also break phrases for somebody who isnt an experienced singer. Look at your music.

    Simandl is based mainly upon scales and arpeggios. In passages like these you want to "carry" the passage to the top note. I suggest playing it slow and gradually getting louder and more apparent vibrato up to the top note.

    Also, if you're bored practicing it then you're probably not playing musically. If you play musically, you won't be playing an etude you would be playing a piece of music. So beforhand sing the etude the way you would want to hear it played. After that work slowly on creating phrases from the bottom note up to the top note. Emphasize the top with more energy then the bottom

    Good Luck!!