PPT mouthpieces

Beginner Improv over Mercy mercy mercy

IGoddard

Well-Known Member
Messages
135
Locality
UK
I am a complete novice at improvising so as part of my practise routine I try to learn a new song every week and improvise over it. This has been the only way I’m getting any success at what seems an impossible task of learning to improv for a previously classically trained person .

Mercy mercy mercy in its basic form is a simple tune that I’m more than comfortable with. So why am I finding it so hard to improvise over?! When I try I seem to lose the unique flavour that this song has.

Any advice would be appreciated.

On a further note. IRealPro has the backing track as being in Bb with the majority of the bars being G7 and C7. I haven’t come across a version that utilises Eb or Bb in the song, is this the wrong key?

Many thanks
 
On a further note. IRealPro has the backing track as being in Bb with the majority of the bars being G7 and C7. I haven’t come across a version that utilises Eb or Bb in the song, is this the wrong key?

iReal Pro is saying that the song is in concert Bb, so the tenor sax version is in C.
 
The great thing I find with this song is that you don't need any complex musical theory to sound good - keep it rhythmical and you can happily play the C pentatonic scale over the whole thing.

Once you're happy, then you can explore more complex ideas but the above should give you a solid foundation to build on.
 
sometimes you need to listen to a different version to get into the groove of it


this one's slower and more relaxed


and there's the soul version


it's a blues, keep it simple and play it with feeling

I can't find a version by Cannonball Adderley where he actually takes a solo, so don't feel too bad
 
it's a blues, keep it simple and play it with feeling

just so that folks dont approach this in a certain way, this isnt quite correct.

it isnt a 12 bar bar long sequence, and neither is it a blues in terms of harmony.

But playing with a bluesy vibe, with feeling will go a long way, I agree
 
just so that folks dont approach this in a certain way, this isnt quite correct.

it isnt a 12 bar bar long sequence, and neither is it a blues in terms of harmony.

But playing with a bluesy vibe, with feeling will go a long way, I agree
I think it's a 20 bar structure...
historically speaking, I think the blues only became a 12 bar when white people started writing it down and transcribing it, there are a number of examples of early blues musicians who deviated from what the blues seems to have become - Son House didn't learn the blues from a textbook . When I saw RL Burnside he didn't play the 'turnaround' properly, but who was going to tell a man who's played the blues for decades that he's doing it wrong? Some blues only has one or two chords
Here's something a read recently from jazz pianist and composer Cooper Moore

The Blues
I believe it is my work to express in the Music the pain of loss, and injustice, and to give expression to the victory of outlasting our losses and to our facing down adversity. And in the Music I feel it a duty to remember the struggle and the overcoming, and to express faith, forbearance and hope in a better world.
As a child growing up in the rural South, I went to church on Sunday and heard the choir sing. These old men and women sounded unlike any voices or music that I heard all the previous week on the radio or TV. It was at times music of joy and at other times of pain and suffering with the release of hope for what was possible for the future. These were people not trained in formal ways of creating music. But they were in tune to the ways and experiences of life and often spoke of what they had learned from those who had gone before.
When I asked Ms. Sally Jones about a particular inflected harmony she sang on “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” she said that it was her mother, Ms. Mary's line. When I asked Ms. Mary why she sang it that way, she said, “Honey, it just feels right.”
I often had to accompany the choir on piano. But to do it always seemed wrong. They never sang in pitch with the piano. They had their own internal tonalities going on. What I heard on those Sunday mornings more than 60 years ago was a community with a strong sense of identity and purpose.

For me there is the problem of Blues being defined by nature of form and structure– blue notes, 12 bars, 8 bars, 16 bars, or other structural devices like harmony or melody line. These kinds of analysis come from academic Euro-centric thinking as opposed to “groove,” “swing,” and “emotion” which have for centuries been the underpinnings of the Music we play originating from Africa.
 
Mercy mercy mercy in its basic form is a simple tune that I’m more than comfortable with. So why am I finding it so hard to improvise over?! When I try I seem to lose the unique flavour that this song has.

Is it possible that you're trying too hard? Or overthinking it when playing? Or just getting too far away from the basic melody/rhythm?

My technique and improvisation abilities are both very limited. I know I can't dazzle anyone with either. So whenever I play improvised solo's in a Big Band, I just play something that feels/sounds 'natural' to me in the context of the tune. This is always some mix of variations on the basic melody and rhythm. I never have 'an improvisation' in my head because that's where I keep track of the basic melody/rhythm that I'm improvising on.

I don't know much about improvisation techniques and even less about theory. What seems to work best for me is improvising as a 'second voice' playing (or singing) against the basic rhythm/melody (the 1st voice in my head). Similar to how different voice parts interact. Each voice part may be singing different notes and different ryhthms but they're always interrelated through key, harmony and beat.

My 'improvisations' are some mix of:
- rhythmic variations (playing before/after the beat, adding/subtracting/extending/shortening notes, syncopation, staccato/legato, etc.)
- melodic variations (variations on the basic melody, harmonic variations or new melodies that 'fit' the structure; I often reverse ascending parts of the melody into descending and vice versa)
- embellishments (turns, gliss, etc)

Hope this helps,
Mike
 
It's more soul than blues. Soul is more about the groove than the notes. No clever harmonic runs, it ain't jazz. No dirty phrases, it ain't blues. No hanging back behind the beat, it ain't swing. No bounce, it ain't rock and roll. Just clean on the beat phrases, repeated, increasing in volume/expression/intensity, leading to a crescendo note fading back into the groove.

Soul comes from gospel. Your woman didn't do you wrong, You ain't out on the pull Saturday night, She ain't sixteen in a tight red dress. You ain't pining away for an impossible romance. You're in love. She's in love with you. God's in his Heaven and all is right with the world. Lord have mercy.
 
If the concert pitch is Bb and you are playing tenor the main chords throughout are C7 and F7. Here are some scales that work:

C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C
F-G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb-F

The bulk of the melody is harmonized with what is often called the "Amen" or Plagal cadence which is IV - I
Notice that the only note that changes is the E which becomes Eb in the F7 chord. It can also be noted that the most important notes harmonically in each chord are the 3rd and 7th. An improvisation that centers around these tones can be simple but effective.
 
Is it possible that you're trying too hard? Or overthinking it when playing? Or just getting too far away from the basic melody/rhythm?

My technique and improvisation abilities are both very limited. I know I can't dazzle anyone with either. So whenever I play improvised solo's in a Big Band, I just play something that feels/sounds 'natural' to me in the context of the tune. This is always some mix of variations on the basic melody and rhythm. I never have 'an improvisation' in my head because that's where I keep track of the basic melody/rhythm that I'm improvising on.

I don't know much about improvisation techniques and even less about theory. What seems to work best for me is improvising as a 'second voice' playing (or singing) against the basic rhythm/melody (the 1st voice in my head). Similar to how different voice parts interact. Each voice part may be singing different notes and different ryhthms but they're always interrelated through key, harmony and beat.

My 'improvisations' are some mix of:
- rhythmic variations (playing before/after the beat, adding/subtracting/extending/shortening notes, syncopation, staccato/legato, etc.)
- melodic variations (variations on the basic melody, harmonic variations or new melodies that 'fit' the structure; I often reverse ascending parts of the melody into descending and vice versa)
- embellishments (turns, gliss, etc)

Hope this helps,
Mike

There is no doubt that I’m trying too hard. Coming from a piano and violin I’m a strong sight reader, and a competent player. But I rely far too much on having those dots to tell me what to do, when it comes to improv all those rhythmic ideas seem to go into hiding!
I’ve only been exposed to jazz and the sax for 8 months so I don’t expect to have a library of ideas to pull from when improvising. But I seem to be struggling with having anything rhythmic.
Are there are books that provide a good foundation of ideas? Or a method of improving this aspect of my playing?

Give a me any common scale and I can play it or appegiate it fluently, ask me to make it interesting and I’m stumped!
 
If the concert pitch is Bb and you are playing tenor the main chords throughout are C7 and F7. Here are some scales that work:

C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C
F-G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb-F

The bulk of the melody is harmonized with what is often called the "Amen" or Plagal cadence which is IV - I
Notice that the only note that changes is the E which becomes Eb in the F7 chord. It can also be noted that the most important notes harmonically in each chord are the 3rd and 7th. An improvisation that centers around these tones can be simple but effective.

Sorry I mustn’t have been clear, I’m playing alto. However I understand your point.
 
For me there is the problem of Blues being defined by nature of form and structure– blue notes, 12 bars, 8 bars, 16 bars, or other structural devices like harmony or melody line. These kinds of analysis come from academic Euro-centric thinking as opposed to “groove,” “swing,” and “emotion” which have for centuries been the underpinnings of the Music we play originating from Africa.
+1 agree
 
I play this on tenor in a big band and it's a popular piece with us and fairly easy. There's a 32 bar solo section of which the first 16 are C6, F6/ G7, C6, F6/ G7 (repeated), C/F, C7/F, C/F, C7/F, C/C/Dmin, G7, C/F7, G7. The folllowing 16 are similar . However, I find it easier to use C pentatonic over the whole section, like Dave suggests . The bigger problem I find is that as it's quite a choppy piece with straight 8s, is getting out of that feel in a solo. So I tend to start on a held note, perhaps a dotted minim, often on middle or upper C and build round that.

Our arrangement goes twice round the 32 bar solos, with backing, but as the structure is not complicated it's easy to run out of ideas so we split it up around the saxes and take 16 each.
 
So on alto it will be in the of G Major, using a G pentatonic, correct?

When you solo you try to lose the feel of the song? Do you try to hit certain notes at specific points to keep the solo recognisably mercy mercy mercy or go completely different?
 
Sorry I mustn’t have been clear, I’m playing alto. However I understand your point.
In that case:

If the concert pitch is Bb and you are playing alto the main chords throughout are G7 and C7. Here are some scales that work:

G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G
C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C

The bulk of the melody is harmonized with what is often called the "Amen" or Plagal cadence which is IV - I
Notice that the only note that changes is the B which becomes Bb in the C7 chord. It can also be noted that the most important notes harmonically in each chord are the 3rd and 7th. An improvisation that centers around these tones can be simple but effective.
 
Yes, you're in G then.
No, I don't like to lose the feel of a song. It's just that Mercy.... is based on straight quavers and I just think that it's easy to get trapped into improvising over it in a similar way. Thinking about the rhythm in a slightly different way helps me to get out of that and hopefully makes for a more interesting solo. There are lyrics written to the theme and I sometimes like to end with the rhythm of the "have mercy on me" motif. I very much subscribe to Lester Young's suggestion that musicians should know the words to the numbers they are playing as this will help their interpretation.
 

Similar threads

Back
Top Bottom