support Tutorials CDs PPT mouthpieces

Dying At A Jam

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,559
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
Last night at my favourite jam it has to be said that, while everyone else played well, I certainly didn't.

There were some positives - I'm getting much happier playing in loud situations and I'm finding that I have no reservations about trying anything that comes to mind while improvising, rather than playing it safe. The downside, though, is I obviously have a serious lack of rhythmic variation that I must address immediately and I'm still so easily thrown if I make a mistake. It doesn't stop me trying new ideas etc. but I find my fingers lose their fluidity and that, obviously, affects everything else.

I also find jumping straight into a fast song remains hard work. I'm still at that stage where I need to ease myself into the gig, something of a problem at jams (the two songs I played last night were about an hour apart). Regarding the video, I've not included any solos by the other musicians because I didn't get the chance last night to ask their permission. Poor Marco had problems with his trumpet's valves sticking, too.

I'm really, really not happy with my playing but hopefully the vid will show how much fun you can have at a jam, even on a bad night. Especially at a jam as friendly as this one.

View: https://youtu.be/KBY8SMoawNg
 
Last edited:

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
27,055
Locality
Cheshire UK
@Veggie Dave thank you for continuing to share your sax journey with us. It's been great to follow :)


Still can't get over what a small world this is....

Jx
 

Zugzwang

Member
Messages
678
Locality
United Kingdom
Was that a favourite of Phil Mead's, or the kind of tune he liked? What's it called?
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,559
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
The first song is a very quick version of Birk's Works (Dizzy Gillespie). If it had been played at its more usual tempo, it would've been a lot easier to play something varied but part of the fun of jams is that you never know what's going to happen. Unfortunately I came up short this time. I'll be back in a couple of weeks, hopefully playing songs I've chosen and put up a better fight.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FZa3Nr0Jsg


The second song is Tenor Madness by Sonny Rollins. Although it's quicker than the original, it's not that much quicker:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MkUvZUTFUc


I'm not sure if Phil had a favourite jam song - as long as you pushed yourself, pushed the tempo and took risks he seemed to be happy.
 

Zugzwang

Member
Messages
678
Locality
United Kingdom
Nice. If it wasn’t your choice, your speed, you should stick with reflecting the positive, or I am never going to have the guts to post my paltry efforts when I make them. How did you play it - by memory because you know the song (different from expecting to play it)? Phil’d be happy.
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,559
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
you should stick with reflecting the positive, or I am never going to have the guts to post my paltry efforts when I make them.

There are no paltry efforts. There's what you can do today, which is better than what you did yesterday but not as good as what you will do tomorrow.

Six months ago I would have been ecstatic to have not looked a complete idiot playing two songs I hadn't spent the entire previous month practising, especially at that sort of speed. In fact, I probably wouldn't even have been able to play the heads at that tempo six months ago. But that was yesterday and I'm looking at tomorrow. Watching how the other tenor player handled the same situation showed me just how much more there is to do. I'm hoping he turns up every time because having your arse kicked is an excellent motivator. ;)

How did you play it - by memory because you know the song

From memory. I learned Birk's Works about two years ago but it's not a song I play any more. Tenor Madness, I only learned the head for that a couple of weeks ago.
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,559
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
It's now a few days later and I've had chance to study the video and analyse what went wrong. Hopefully, by pulling my playing apart someone else may benefit, too.

The first problem is obviously rhythm. Yes, you have to swing (assuming it's a swing song, of course ;) ) but you have to support the rhythm, too. The over riding rhythmical pattern I played that night was certainly a swing one, but one that contained no off-beats or accents - dah de dah de dah de dah de dah. There's nothing wrong with it per se, it just lacks any colour, precision or, if we're honest, imagination. It certainly doesn't add anything to either the rhythm section or the swing of the song.

The main problem, however, is that I failed utterly to outline the chord changes. The lack of rhythmical diversity would have been (greatly) lessened if there had been clear chord changes in the soloing. It doesn't matter how 'clever' anything else within the solo may have been because the most basic melodic requirement wasn't met. It doesn't matter if you actually play the chord changes either if no one, including you, can hear them.

I suppose the conclusion of this story is 'don't ignore the fundamentals' and always scrutinise and critique your playing. Don't ignore the advances you've made because being wholly negative is not going to help, but don't rest on your laurels, either. I'm now taking a step backwards and practising outlining simple chords changes until they're second nature. Something I should have done a long time ago.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
Messages
2,419
Locality
Hampshire
Sounds good to me, Dave. Good job and I think you've identified what you need to improve on.

I'm nowhere near you're proficiency, so not really qualified to comment from a playing perspective. I'll just add from a listening perspective that maybe giving yourself a bit more space to say "more with less" at points might have added some texture to your soloing.

Were you mic'd up?
 

BUMNOTE

Senior Member
Messages
678
Locality
Wolverhampton West Midlands
Well done Dave,i enjoyed it,looked great fun,you are doing what I guess a great many want to do,bit its all sbout taking that big STEP.Well done again.Bumnote.
 

Ivan

Undecided
Café Supporter
Messages
8,155
Locality
Peeblesshire
You didnae die oot there

But I agree that going back to a recording to see what you do well and what can improve is worthwhile. I have just started doing this for uploads to Wikiloops which can only help draw my attention to intonation, moving with the chord changes and identifying repetition

Then it's back to long notes and exercises
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,384
Locality
Just north of Munich
I suppose the conclusion of this story is 'don't ignore the fundamentals' and always scrutinise and critique your playing. Don't ignore the advances you've made because being wholly negative is not going to help, but don't rest on your laurels, either. I'm now taking a step backwards and practising outlining simple chords changes until they're second nature. Something I should have done a long time ago
What you're showing here is incredible. Hard personal criticism, without beating yourself up, but in a constructive way that will only advance your playing. Hat off to you. Shows massive maturity.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,320
Locality
leicester
stop being so self critical about it, you played the head fine, the solo could've been better, but it could've been a lot worse - the next one will be different... most great improvisers are never happy with what they play - Coltrane, Allan Holdsworth, Thelonious Monk - it's the mistakes that make it human, if you could play the perfect improvisation it'd probably sound really sterile and characterless
Rhythmic variation is useful, but not essential - I've heard great players go diddly, diddly, diiddly all the way through a solo...
You don't have to swing, the rhythm section are doing that so you're free to do what you want - you can play all over the bar lines as long as you end in the right place. you can create tension and release by playing against and with their rhythms. The main thing is to create a sense of forward momentum, it's like riding a bike, don't falter and look back if you go over a bump, focus on the road ahead. If you get lost use that as an opportunity to explore where you think you are. Don't be afraid to play something simple, let the melody be your guide and use it to make new melodies...
If you want to create rhythmic diversity, play a long note and a succession of short ones like morse code, listen to speech patterns - many great improvisers aspire to making their instrument talk so try mimicking speech like those Mingus and Dolphy duets where they laugh and swear at each other. Speaking of Dolphy he used to play along to birdsong as a child..
These things may not be directly useful in a solo but they help free you up and break out of personal habits.
Most of my improvising consists of me thinking "Oh no,I've done too much of that already, where can I go now, I wonder what happens if I do this, Argh, no, quick, go somewhere else, phew, no don't play that lick again you've done that a thousand times, did I lock the front door, I need another beer, oh ****, what happened there pretend it's meant to be part of the improvisation, ooh she's nice, damn she's got a boyfriend, I wish those people at the back would stop talking so loudly, oh good the drummers taking it down a notch let's mellow it out a bit, ok I'll let him do some atmospheric stuff on the cymbals while I have a quick drink and let my lip recover a bit, ah back in let's get moody and build it back up again, hmm multiphonics, wider intervals, oh yeah where did that come from, lets give it some more..." etc.

I play completely improvised music - sometimes solo, often with just a drummer and I let the music play me as much as I can, it's never let me down, you just have to trust in yourself and try not to be judgemental when you're playing, there's nothing that will hinder creativity more than your own self criticism. If you've got anything to say about life, say it through your instrument
Above all don't worry, we're our own worst critics, no one else notices the mistakes the way we do. You can be atrocious and people will come up to afterwards and say how much they liked it.
 
Last edited:

Chilli

Barista
Messages
396
Locality
Southwest of France
Well, I've heard (and done) way worse than that. Seems like you have nailed what needs to be improved and worked on. I agree that listening back to our performances, as unpleasant as it may be, can be very helpful to identify our weaknesses, but also the good stuff. And there is good stuff there :)

It's been interesting to read this thread today for me as I have my first paid gig ever tonight... I was given a list of 8 tunes, half of which I quite dislike and the other half I have seldom played, so it won't be any better than a jam session, I guess.
I'll try to keep these posts in mind and keep it simple :) Hopefully, I'll be less critical of myself tonight but I very much doubt it ;)
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,320
Locality
leicester
It's been interesting to read this thread today for me as I have my first paid gig ever tonight... I was given a list of 8 tunes, half of which I quite dislike and the other half I have seldom played, so it won't be any better than a jam session, I guess.
I'll try to keep these posts in mind and keep it simple :) Hopefully, I'll be less critical of myself tonight but I very much doubt it ;)

just play the tunes and try to have fun, the solos will take care of themselves. As long as you start and stop in the right places what happens in between doesn't really matter too much, it's not like the audience is full of sax players with their arms folded waiting for you to impress them... one of my friends observed that people don't really know what they want from a sax solo, they just like the sound it makes.
Sonny Rollins has said a few times that he can't think and improvise at the same time, the music's going past too fast to think about it...
try to relax and enjoy it,.. close your eyes and listen to the band and add something to what they're doing..
For me it's like there's this big abstract painting going past and everyone's adding to it - little squiggles and dabs of paint, splashes of colours, angular lines and patterns etc and you just have to add what you think works best to what's going past.

You'll be fine :)
 
Last edited:

Ivan

Undecided
Café Supporter
Messages
8,155
Locality
Peeblesshire
Well, I've heard (and done) way worse than that. Seems like you have nailed what needs to be improved and worked on. I agree that listening back to our performances, as unpleasant as it may be, can be very helpful to identify our weaknesses, but also the good stuff. And there is good stuff there :)

It's been interesting to read this thread today for me as I have my first paid gig ever tonight... I was given a list of 8 tunes, half of which I quite dislike and the other half I have seldom played, so it won't be any better than a jam session, I guess.
I'll try to keep these posts in mind and keep it simple :) Hopefully, I'll be less critical of myself tonight but I very much doubt it ;)
Good luck @Chilli
 

Ivan

Undecided
Café Supporter
Messages
8,155
Locality
Peeblesshire
...one of my friends observed that people don't really know what they want from a sax solo, they just like the sound it makes....
Exactly my experience

I listen back, agonise over what I should have done and no-one who was there took a blind but of notice whether I was on fire or blundering
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
27,055
Locality
Cheshire UK
Well, I've heard (and done) way worse than that. Seems like you have nailed what needs to be improved and worked on. I agree that listening back to our performances, as unpleasant as it may be, can be very helpful to identify our weaknesses, but also the good stuff. And there is good stuff there :)

It's been interesting to read this thread today for me as I have my first paid gig ever tonight... I was given a list of 8 tunes, half of which I quite dislike and the other half I have seldom played, so it won't be any better than a jam session, I guess.
I'll try to keep these posts in mind and keep it simple :) Hopefully, I'll be less critical of myself tonight but I very much doubt it ;)
Thinking of you hope it goes well, try and relax and enjoy it :sax:

Jx
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,151
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Congratulations on your openness and dedication to becoming a better player. Here I am parroting what my teacher keeps suggesting that I do. That is transcribing solos by your favorite players. This not only helps to internalize notes and rhythms, but it is also the best way to learn style---those nuances of articulation and phrasing that allow the good amateur player to begin to sound more like a professional.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,320
Locality
leicester
Exactly my experience

I listen back, agonise over what I should have done and no-one who was there took a blind but of notice whether I was on fire or blundering
it depends on the kind of gigs you play, usually there's someone listening, but they perceive what you play differently to you, so your 'blunders' might sound interesting to them because they were unexpected and not cliched..
I've played gigs that felt like a complete disaster from beginning to end and come home feeling like throwing the accursed instrument in the bin, but months later listened to a recording and found that it'd been really quite good and all the struggle had made me dig deeper and play something worthwhile. Similarly I've come home from rehearsals feeling like I'd played really well and the recordings showed that I'd been complacent and facile...
This is why I say don't be too judgemental while you're doing it or expect that just because you're feeling unhappy with what you're playing that it's going to end up being bad.
View every mistake as an opportunity to go somewhere new, or as Brian Eno put it in his Oblique Strategies "honour your error as a hidden intention" - it's the imperfections that reveal your humanity

Some people seem to make out that improvisation is this great thing that you can only learn after years of dedicated practice, but in reality you've been improvising since the day you were born. I'm improvising on a theme right now, writing this stuff.
Let your life influence your art.
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,559
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
I'll just add from a listening perspective that maybe giving yourself a bit more space to say "more with less" at points might have added some texture to your soloing.

I think having a solid grasp of the chord changes makes backing off a lot easier. An example would be playing simple guide tones while you catch your breath and calm yourself down.

Were you mic'd up?

Nope, 100% acoustic. I know I've banged on numerous times before about practising playing at volume but this is why.

you are doing what I guess a great many want to do,bit its all sbout taking that big STEP.

I wouldn't have taken the step if a certain keyboard player hadn't refused to let me leave until I'd got on the stage. :D

Shows massive maturity.

You didn't see all the childish faces I was making at the other tenor player as he blew me out of the club. :D


Some rather excellent words of wisdom there. :thumb:

It's been interesting to read this thread today for me as I have my first paid gig ever tonight...

Looc ! Good Luck! Break A Leg! Merde !
 
Top Bottom