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IOTM November 2016: Uncle Mitchell

carburetor

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Hello everyone, and welcome to a new Improv of the Month! The moderators made the mistake of letting me host this one. ;) This is a little song I wrote called Uncle Mitchell. There are two fun things about this: this song is a fairly different style than most of the previous IOTMs (as far as I know), and the backing track is played by human people.

This song is very simple! I would encourage beginners or beginning improvisers to take a whack at, as there is very little you have to think about while playing. I am a beginner myself.

Here is a rough recording of me playing the theme and a little improv, just to give you the idea. I apologize for the bad intonation on the theme; I am not very good at playing written parts.



So if you're still with me, I'll present some (hopefully useful) information:

Warning: All of the following is written with only concert pitch in mind. I only think/speak/write in concert pitch. Perhaps someone can come along and translate for tenor/alto transpositions, or I can transpose the score upon request.


The structure is AAB. Each section is 8 bars. Section A is around 120 BPM and Section B is around 80 (it's slower in the recording). Section A has a straight feel and Section B has a swing 16ths feel.

This is entirely in F dorian (which has the same notes as Eb major). The B section is so simple (just two notes on the bass and one on the guitar) that I did not bother writing any chords. The A section also sparse but suggests a few chords which I wrote in the score. You can completely ignore these chords and just play F minor pentatonic over the whole thing (that's what I do haha). If you're fairly inexperienced like me, I would recommend just playing by ear!

The theme is entirely optional; it's just a bit of a warm-up or introduction. Come up with your own if you'd like.

Here is the score: Uncle Mitchell.pdf

The backing track is something I recorded during a rehearsal with two friends (I'm on the drums). There are plenty of mistakes in it, but it's the best I can do for now. I chopped out the best section of it, but as a result there is no count-in, and no ending -- just a fade-out, which I realize is not ideal. I'm including a long version and a short version.




P.S. I'm fully aware of the possibility that no one will be interested in this. Regardless, I look forward to hearing your recordings if you decide to post, and I hope we have some fun! :)
 

kevgermany

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Thanks. So tenors are using the notes from F major, starting on G, altos are on the notes from C major, starting on D. Exotics like C mels can work it out for themselves.
 

carburetor

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Haha thanks Kev. I could have looked that up and figured it out myself, but I figured it would be easier for someone else to do it. I know tenors are a whole tone off and altos are a fourth or a fifth off but I can never remember which direction. I also have trouble remembering left and right. My brain is strange.
 

Tiberius

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Ok, go number 1. This is absolutely the first time I've ever tried this improve stuff, so don't expect nething remarkable :)

I didn't look at the score, just listened to the music, again, first time I've ever really tried to work something out like that. I had a play to see what notes I thought 'fit', I came up with F,G and Bb, and D was ok. Not sure I used nething else, but wouldn't sware to it. Only 2:30, I ran out of ideas after that.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/97346875/Uncle Mitchell 10-30-16 PT 20161120.mp3

Forgot to add...it has a certain 'Rush' feel to me (the Canadian band), the way the tempo changes, and some of the guitar work in the faster bit.
 
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carburetor

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Hi @Tiberius, thanks for posting! I enjoyed listening to your recording. I'm glad you're getting your feet wet with improvising. I like the simple ideas you're playing with; in the beginning you're using the simple rhythmic structure from the beginning of my theme and then doing some interesting departures from it. Your first B section (slower tempo) is pretty cool - I like the "high part, low part" idea and actually just the melodic feeling itself. I might steal that and play with it haha. :)

So in my opinion you already have plenty of good ideas to work with. If you're looking for any kind of advice on how to move forward from here, I would suggest listening to your recording, picking out the sounds you like, and working on them. Develop your phrases by starting with what you already played and making any kind of changes you feel would improve that. You can do that by improvising (in real-time) or composing (not in real-time).

I think it's cool that you picked this to start out your improvising journey. I think you started out the right way by just playing by ear and not thinking about it. With this song, that's easy to do. If you do want to start thinking about it, the notes you picked out are the 4 notes of Gm7 (Fm7 concert pitch), which is the root chord of the song. Add the 4th and you have the minor pentatonic scale. You might already be using that; my ears aren't good enough to tell by just listening.

I don't know if it's as fancy as Rush haha... but it is basically rock n' roll. Which, on a side note, means you should play louder. :D
 

carburetor

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Pre requisite of café membership

Hardyhar. :)

I realized that what I wrote was wrong anyway - altos are a fourth away from tenor but a third off from their notation. I had to get out the sax fingering chart to figure that out. Learning!
 

Tiberius

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... the notes you picked out are the 4 notes of Gm7 (Fm7 concert pitch), which is the root chord of the song. Add the 4th and you have the minor pentatonic scale.
A bit more exploration shows that the C fits as well, I have absolutely no idea what scale that gives me (F,G,Bb,C and D), but I'll look it up, cant yet get any other notes to fit :)

I'll give it a day or 2 of practice then see if I have nething else worth posting.
 

carburetor

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Sorry, Minor third, if you ignore octaves. But you're right about tenor/alto.

Minor third is what I meant. I mean, minor thirds are thirds, I just wasn't being specific. :)

As for note names, I guess I will learn to translate myself into saxophone-speak solely for the sake of communicating on this forum.
 

aldevis

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Minor third is what I meant. I mean, minor thirds are thirds, I just wasn't being specific. :)
You cannot polish a third
As for note names, I guess I will learn to translate myself into saxophone-speak solely for the sake of communicating on this forum.
Actually transposition is very useful beyond saxophone speak.
Saxophone players should always speak concert when communicating with other musicians, but on the forum calling concert/Bb/Eb instrument notes is a good exercise.
 

carburetor

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A bit more exploration shows that the C fits as well, I have absolutely no idea what scale that gives me (F,G,Bb,C and D), but I'll look it up, cant yet get any other notes to fit :)

C is the fourth scale tone I was talking about. And as aldevis already said, that gives you G minor pentatonic. Two other notes that will fit nicely are E and A, but these will really change the feeling, and you might have to be more careful with when you play them.
 

Tiberius

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G is "home" so it is G Bb C D F
"G minor pentatonic", if you really want to know...

Thanks, yes, I did want to know. Actually I'm somewhat amazed that I kinda managed to work out a few notes that 'fit' (and a few that didn't) with the backing. Wow, maybe some of this is coming together :)

Sure, I'm not trying to say that my improv had any musical merits whatsoever, but simply to be able to listen to a backing track and work out notes that might be used (without reading the notes, or having my teacher tell me), is something quite new for me...sorry, I'll stop rambling, I'm sure you guys do this all the time.
 

carburetor

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You cannot polish a third

Hmm...

(It took so long for me to figure out that this was a joke... shame shame)

Actually transposition is very useful beyond saxophone speak.
Saxophone players should always speak concert when communicating with other musicians, but on the forum calling concert/Bb/Eb instrument notes is a good exercise.

How is it useful? I am asking genuinely. For myself, I have found no use for it, and presently I dislike the concept of transposing instruments. As a composer, it makes sense to me to have just one name for every note so I can easily relate all the instruments I'm writing parts for. I very often write parts for a particular instrument using a different instrument, and I can effortlessly move between one and the other because I'm thinking in concert pitch. I can "see" notes on the keyboard as I play them on sax and vice versa. As far as I can tell, the purpose of transposing the sax was so that every fingering would have one name, rather than every note having one name.
 

aldevis

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How is it useful? I am asking genuinely. For myself, I have found no use for it, and presently I dislike the concept of transposing instruments. As a composer, it makes sense to me to have just one name for every note so I can easily relate all the instruments I'm writing parts for. I very often write parts for a particular instrument using a different instrument, and I can effortlessly move between one and the other because I'm thinking in concert pitch. I can "see" notes on the keyboard as I play them on sax and vice versa. As far as I can tell, the purpose of transposing the sax was so that every fingering would have one name, rather than every note having one name.

Real life example.
Yesterday's gig: singer sings "Blue moon" in Bb, rather than Eb, like in the Real Book.

I play tenor reading the Eb concert chart like an alto would to in the original key (minor third down) and I am done. Not the most comfortable thing to do, but it's part of the job.
In the good old days, conductors had to call written notes, rather than concert pitch. An interesting exercise.

Referring everything to concert pitch is a way, but not the only one.
Exercise: play a Bb major scale on piano calling the notes for G major scale for your alto student.
 

kevgermany

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As far as I can tell, the purpose of transposing the sax was so that every fingering would have one name, rather than every note having one name.
Yes, but also means the player can switch between saxes without learning different fingerings. Makes life easier for some of us.
 

kevgermany

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Reminds me of a member who doesn't post any more. He's got perfect pitch. We had some in depth and heated discussions about transposing instruments, cos he couldn't stand the transposition. But it works for the majority of us.
 

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