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Flat Improvisation (Sunshower)

Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
Location
Worcestershire
This evening I've finally got around to looking at 3 pieces that I need to practice for an Improv workshop in Sale at the weekend.

The last of them (Sunshower by Kenny Barron) is particularly challenging for me, not so much for the chord changes which are thankfully very simple, repetitive, and friendly, but just because its in 2 flats on tenor (and so are most of the chordscales) and bad person that I am I haven't been practicing my scales.

I only had a few blows over it as it was very near the neighbour watershed but I thought I'd be fool hardy and post the last of them for everyone's general amusement. It has numerous car crash moments but there are a few bits I'm happier with as well. At least I managed it it one contiguous take which is unusual for me.

It is what it is really, a quick bit of prep highlighting my woeful inadequacy in key sigs with flats. Not much more anyone can feed back I don't imagine but I'll happily take any constructive suggestions on the chin. Enough waffle here she blows...

https://soundcloud.com/profusia/sunshower

PS. Oh and the backing track sounds extra rough as I had so little time I couldn't export it from iRealB to .wav and then transfer it to laptop via Dropbox and still hope to get a blow on it so I just recorded it from speaker to mic to get it done fast and dirty.
 
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BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,930
Location
Manchester, UK
Just had a listen. I think you kept it together rather well. I find difficult to get much variety in when the harmony is so static. I'm sure Mike will have something to say about that on Saturday.

As for flat keys, there's only one answer, as I'm sure you know. I thought I knew my scales pretty well until the Gary Burton course. Now I realise I've hardly scratched the surface. I notice there are quite a few altered dominants on the sheets for Saturday, so I'm trying to get my head (and ears and fingers) round those.
 

Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
Location
Worcestershire
Just had a listen. I think you kept it together rather well. I find difficult to get much variety in when the harmony is so static. I'm sure Mike will have something to say about that on Saturday.

As for flat keys, there's only one answer, as I'm sure you know. I thought I knew my scales pretty well until the Gary Burton course. Now I realise I've hardly scratched the surface. I notice there are quite a few altered dominants on the sheets for Saturday, so I'm trying to get my head (and ears and fingers) round those.

Thanks Martin. Altered Dominants... ah I think you are referring to the bars of rests and semi-breves! Natural pause bars as I'm coming to think of them.

Looking forward to the day. Will try to look at the chords over the next couple of days rather than just blasting through by ear in the key sig. Will be happy to get through the day without looking too much of an idiot.

I'll introduce myself - I suspect I'll recognise you easier than you'll recognise me!
 

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,370
Location
New Zealand and Australia
Nice tone and good feeling in your playing. I think there's a melodic player lurking under the cover of "playing changes". I guess from what you're saying you involved with some sort of exercise that concentrates on playing changes. Unfortunately that results in a very technical approach where what the listener hears are lots of arpeggios that just describe the chord and don't really communicate much else. It's good to learn this stuff and know what all of those chords and scales are about. It's even better to put that knowledge into the back of your mind and use your melodic ear to play what you hear. Knowing how to read a chart gives you clues as to what "fits", but it doesn't give you the creativity to communicate anything beyond running those chord/scales in a variety of rhythmic patters. Sounds OK for a while and can be very satisfying to learn/accomplish, but isn't a final destination in my opinion.
 

Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
Location
Worcestershire
Nice tone and good feeling in your playing. I think there's a melodic player lurking under the cover of "playing changes". I guess from what you're saying you involved with some sort of exercise that concentrates on playing changes. Unfortunately that results in a very technical approach where what the listener hears are lots of arpeggios that just describe the chord and don't really communicate much else. It's good to learn this stuff and know what all of those chords and scales are about. It's even better to put that knowledge into the back of your mind and use your melodic ear to play what you hear. Knowing how to read a chart gives you clues as to what "fits", but it doesn't give you the creativity to communicate anything beyond running those chord/scales in a variety of rhythmic patters. Sounds OK for a while and can be very satisfying to learn/accomplish, but isn't a final destination in my opinion.

Thanks Wade. Yes I'm booked for a one day improv workshop at the weekend.

We sort of had this conversation before and I've also seen your comments regarding this on others' threads etc. I largely subscribe to your view. My goal from day one of picking up the sax was to be able to improvise melodically to make beautiful tuneful improvisations. When I play by ear ("by ear" is a bit of an exaggeration as currently it really means mainly playing a pentatonic or bluescale and is somewhat more mechanical than truly by ear) I'm much more free and melodic. (This tune was largely by ear really to be honest - not that much going on in the way of changes). I am not keen on playing arpeggios as feel they are very limiting. However, as you say, its all good knowledge and I'm only just finding out just how much I have to learn. Along with a number of people on the forum I recently followed Gary Burton's online "Introduction to Improvisation" course, and we now have a thread here for us to continue our learning process amongst ourselves. My medium term goal is to get the chordscales, arpeggios, and knowledge under my fingers so that I can competently play over changes. My LONG term goal though (the real goal) is to incorporate that subconsciously to be able to play over changes melodically by ear. That one will quite possibly never happen but I think its still a worthy goal and where I really want to be. I've read your views about using the sax as one's voice and being able to hear the note you want to play. I don't have that yet but totally agree that its the only way to really be free. If I can sing like that (ok badly buy hey) I want to be able to play like that. I can't currently tell when I play how much is just me deciding to go up or down and the fingers reaching for a note in the right direction, and how much is me really knowing the note I want and sometimes finding it. Its too fast to break down the mental and physical processes (for me at least at the moment). I guess I should do some exercises playing really slowly and thinking the note I want before keying and hitting it to train that. I'll add it to the list. No, seriously I've started a list today of sax things I need to be doing. Its getting long already. There aren't enough hours. Thanks for the feedback.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,930
Location
Manchester, UK
Personally, I love to hear someone playing well (and melodically) over changes. Gives the music a real sense of direction and development. That's why i'm learning to do it. And of course, in the end it all comes down to what you can hear, both in your ears and in your mind. All the technical exercises, scales, chords, licks and so on are (or should be) a method of developing your musical ear. So that , when you get up on the bandstand, you can forget all that and just blow (to paraphrase Charlie Parker --- not my favourite player but I think he had a point here). I wasn't born with a highly developed ear (I doubt if anyone is) and my prgress has been slow but real. I'm hearing, and playing, much better than I was 2 years ago.
 

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