Jazz Theory: Insights In Jazz & A New Guide To Harmony With Lego Bricks

kevgermany

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Some feedback so far.

I built a career in computers. Started way to long ago when BIG mainframes were puny compared to todays pcs. Way before the sinclair series... and the Apples.... And as for the now ubiquitous pc, I was going grey before that was released. This career in computers has put me into a very analytical way of thinking, I NEED to know how something works before I can use it. I need to know in detail. I need to understand. I really question doctors... And any other experts/specialists. Learning the sax has been a revelation, because for years I've been listening to music (rock, folk, classical and many other genres) without knowinghow music was built - or how it worked. About all I could say was that some things worked for me, others didn't. But why.... That was nearly impossible to answer. As I started playing, so I started learning about music, books, web resources, asking my wife (who's an excellent musician).... But it didn't really gel. I'd listen to music and recognise bits from one tune in another. I'd get confused between tunes. And not really know why, apart from a vague - they sound similar. Gradually things have been falling together. I'm recognising why some phrases excite - and others terminate.

And I was looking for the next step.

With Insights I've found it. Suddenly the boring chord notation is starting to mean something. And the different joins are shown plain and clear. It's not a rules book, like a traditional theory book - but a construction manual. Built around showing how so many of those super tunes are put together. And it's by exposing the constructions used by the great writers, that the learning becomes simplified. And the transposition. Brilliant concept. I'm well sold. Not on it just as a clear and understandable way to memorise (without learning the dots), but as a way to understand the tunes and so improvise. And as an expandable handbook of methods for building musical ideas into tunes/works. And at half the printed price as a download, it's really good value. There's also a good roadmap through the book, meaning that the learning can be mostly concentrated on what's used in the tunes you're working on. And then re-used in later ones. There's an excellent roadmap through the process included in the book.

A caveat - pre-knowledge of keys, chords, chord notation is assumed. It's not going to work if you're not playing an instrument. And you are going to have to do some work, but... And if you don't have a theory book - budget for that as well.....

And as for computers - they realised a long time ago that programs contain very little original code. Well I've just found out that tunes contain very little original music, either.
 

stefank

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Kev, you might enjoy a book that's been around for years: "Gödel, Escher, Bach, an Eternal Golden Braid", by Douglas Hofstader. It's in no way a book designed to teach music theory, but it offers fascinating insights and perhaps links into your areas of professional interest/expertise.

Stefan
 

half diminished

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Hi Chris

Conrad's approach is based on hearing and that is the right one for everyone. So he introduces the sounds of the main events by directing readers to listen to songs where they occur and using the words of songs to make sure you are in the right place.

He uses terms like "straight" and "sad" to mean major and minor to that those without training are not excluded from hearing the events. He describes the three parts of a cadence (II-7 V7 IM7) as "far away", "nearly there" and "there" or "home". The idea is to focus on how it feels, rather than the abstract language of music theory.

However, you are right, if you aim is to play and improvise, there is no point in avoiding these terms. I like the look of Jazzology recommended on this thread as a basic primer. Whereas, the Berklee text by Nettles and Graf is a mind stretcher, not for the faint hearted!

My book is aimed at those who know the basics and want to save time working out which tunes to learn and how to analyse them. I introduce all the bricks in terms of Roman numeral chords and then use them in 238 standards to fully map them out. Then the reader can easily see the power of each brick and which songs they appear in.

My podcasts are free and introduce the concepts in the method. Sometimes they focus on one song, sometimes on one brick.

J

www.dropback.co.uk
John

In a fit of rash retail therapy, I ordered your book and '....Lego Bricks'. They both seem to have a lot to offer but I was alarmed to read that to use 'Lego Bricks' I need to acquire some 160+ tracks most of which I do not have.

I'd warn anyone contemplating 'Lego Bricks' that the author suggests "Without the Companion Recordings to hand, you won't know the sounds the text is referring to. And if you don't know them, you won't learn them. And if you don't learn them you won't be able to use them". The playalong CD is also missing, though that may be a Jazzwise error.

So a £25 books suddenly adds hundreds of £ of cost to acquire CD or at least certain tracks before you can use the damn thing!:mad:

Is it really necessary to have access to all of these in order to make use of the book?
 

Pete Thomas

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Is it really necessary to have access to all of these in order to make use of the book?
No, but it's useful to have access to quite a few of them. It's also useful to learn as many standards as you can if you intend to continue on the journey of learning jazz impro.

I have the Lego bricks book, and a lot of it makes sense not because I have the exact recordings, but because I know many of the tunes from other sources or have learnt them myself by ear from other players or from sheet music.

So it can work well if your knowledge of the repertoire is reasonable, but not necessarily 100% and not necessarily all from the sources that Conrad quotes. That is a sort of ideal and the way it would be done if it was a formal college course, but as with any self teaching, you dip in and out and glean bits of stuff here and there. The good thing is there is no exam at the end!

For example, you might learn from Conrad Cork that many tunes have an "I Got Rhythm" type bridge. The first thing to learn is sound of the harmonic jump from the home key/chord of Bb to the start of the bridge D7 (up a third). Now you can actually learn that sound in several ways:

  1. From the quoted track (easiest if you happen to have it because Conrad tells you the words to listen out for at the start of the bridge)
  2. Any other recording. If it's an instrumental version (e.g. Lester Leaps In), you may need to could the bars so you know when the bridge starts. This way has it's own advantages in that very soon you will pick up a "feel" for 8 bar sections and form without necesssarily sitting there counting the bars.
  3. From playing the chords Bb to D7 on a keyboard. Again, not as simple as listening to the CD with the book, but again it has its own advantage of making you learn some basic chords at the pianoforte.

The above is an example off the top of my head, I haven't read the book for a while so don't remember if I Got Rhythm is actually on the list of tunes, if not then it should be!

So it cuts several ways.
 

jaelliott

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Edinburgh, UK
John

The playalong CD is also missing, though that may be a Jazzwise error.

So a £25 books suddenly adds hundreds of £ of cost to acquire CD or at least certain tracks before you can use the damn thing!:mad:

Is it really necessary to have access to all of these in order to make use of the book?
Hi Chris

First, thanks for buying my book. And sorry if you've been waiting for a reply, but I only get notified about one reply since I last visited and so I was not aware of your post. If you need help, best to join the Google Group and post there. I am unlikely to keep checking this thread over the next few weeks unless I get an email alert.

Regarding your questions about Conrad's book:
  • Don't panic, it is not as bad as it seems
  • Any recording of the songs he refers to should be OK to listen to, though ones with singers are best since he often uses the words to show where he means. He does refer to some specific recordings, but these days it is easy to locate most stuff online. You do not need to buy it all (see next bullet)
  • Use Spotify (or similar) to access thousands of examples of the songs for free (in Europe only, unfortunately, though there may be equivalent elsewhere)
  • The author (Conrad) might help you locate the recordings if you contact him directly
  • If you join the Google Group and read the FAQ, there is more advice about this aspect and you can discuss all aspect of LEGO Harmony as you go.
  • My book comes with free audio of all the bricks so you can hear them that way. And my free podcasts also help put them in the context of songs. I'd start with the podcasts.
  • Conrad is very generous and will often send you his bricks playalong CD for free which Jazzwize has started to charge for, unfortunately. If you buy the book from his direct, he sends the CD for free. Jazzwise does not.

i hope that helps.

J

www.dropback.co.uk
 

jaelliott

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if I Got Rhythm is actually on the list of tunes, if not then it should be!

So it cuts several ways.
Hi Pete

It seems we posted almost at the same time! I agree with what you say.

In Conrad's book, he has large bricks for the I Got Rhyth opening (A section) as well as the bridge (B Section).

In my book, I have an IGR roadmap using different chords from Conrad's, but the ones that I believe are most common these days. But the lesson becomes that the IGR A Section has variants and they are pretty much all made up of the following brick families (each takng 2 bars):

Turnaround + Turnaround + "To IV n Back" + Turnaround.

Once one realises this, the power of the LEGO approach is unleashed and the player is no longer phased by substitutions.

J
 

half diminished

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Pete

Thanks for the reassurance/advice as always.



John

I'm not Chris :w00t:

Thanks for the fast reply. I see your book is available as a download from you for half the price I paid via Jazzwise! Typical. I have already subscribed to your pod casts and am looking forward to working though both books and the podcasts.

I have found Jazzology interesting but too advanced in itself as I never read music before Autumn 2007, never played sax until the same time and only decided to start playing jazz in Spring 2008 (I attended the Abersold jazz course in July 2008). So for me the learning curve has been steep to say the least. I have however had one stroke of luck, my sax/jazz teacher is Karen Sharp who lives near me and she has been an enormous help.

Thanks for the extra info/input above and I'm sure we will be conversing regularly. As you suggest, I'll be in touch with Conrad for further advice/playalongs.
 
OP
Chris98

Chris98

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Hi Ian,

It is true you are not me and I am not you but we do seem to be on the same journey. I too purchased a copy of John's book and I'm in the process of getting a copy of Mr. Cork's book as well.

Slowly I feel the pieces are coming together for the next stage in my musical Journey. I feel I've been drifting aimlessly for a few months but have decided on a more dedicated approach to expand my Jazz music knowledge. I want to develop an understanding of song structure and cord professions and hopefully this will lead into more informed decisions when it comes to improvisation. I'm just into my thirties and a lot of the 'standards' are unknown to me, so I'm also looking forward to seeing a list of tunes and discovering a lot of this music.

Best wishes,

Chris
 

Thaumaturge

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My copy of Conrad's book states that one is free to copy and distribute the Lego Brick tracks and therefore if anyone has bought his book and would like a copy of the tracks they can be downloaded free from 4shared.com. Just do a search for 'lego bricks' and the 77 tracks are contained in four zip files which are easily downloaded.

Regards,
Colin
 

kiwi simon

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chch, nz
Hello fellow saxers and g'day John!

The 4 main ideas I got from the Lego Bricks approach were:

1. hear and play the cycle of fifths
2. hear and play major and minor ii-V7-I changes, using the cycle too
3. build a bit of a collection of songs (repetoire)
4. get into listening for specific changes in those songs (and all new ones)

Lego Bricks is full of Conrad Cork's enthusiasm for jazz and this sorta propels you forward through what is some fairly heavy (and mildly eccentric) ideas; ways of visualising what you're hearing. He puts in advice about practising, why stuff isn't as complicated as those who analyse music make it seem, etc.

Should point out that in HWLB talks about two different sets of tracks - #1. playalong tracks (which you can download or buy) and #2. the repetoire tracks (which are listed in an appendix in HWLB.)

However you don't need #1. to use the book (if you use band in a box or have a couple of aebersold instructional volumes like 21 or 16 you'll have them covered) and sure you could assembly the exact tune list as recommended for #2. BUT I found that I got more mileage out of using the music that was relevant to me (eg ones I liked first, mixed up with the hard to remember ones, using fakebooks or a band chart) ... so that what I was workin hard on was 1. going to pay off and 2. if not enjoyable, at least slightly more understandable as a result.

I think you'd need to play a chordal instrument (esp piano) to get the most out of them. I find chords easiest to distinguish on guitar, but easier to 'see' on piano.

Where both books are very relevant to saxophonists is the 12-keys approach to things. It's a massive challenge (can many of us confidently play a 12-bar blues in each of the 12 keys??) BUT it is definitely worth it when you consider we play transposing instruments and some of those vocalists are definitely worth accompanying ;)

Simon
 
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jaelliott

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Edinburgh, UK
Hi chaps

In the latest podcast about this method, I talk with UK saxophone player, Phil Clark, about his use of the method in order to learn to play without music. Phil explains his approach to learning tunes using "Brick walls" built using MS Excel.

There is some microphone noise in some of this podcast that we could not eliminate, but we decided to publish anyway since we think the conversation can all be understood.

http://tinyurl.com/yyhcrot

John

www.dropback.co.uk
 

kevgermany

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My copy of Conrad's book states that one is free to copy and distribute the Lego Brick tracks and therefore if anyone has bought his book and would like a copy of the tracks they can be downloaded free from 4shared.com. Just do a search for 'lego bricks' and the 77 tracks are contained in four zip files which are easily downloaded.

Regards,
Colin
Hi Colin, any chance of you posting these again?
 

Eoe

Member
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343
Wonder if the New Orleans and the early blues (and quite often later) guys knew that there were blues scales let alone pentatonic? If they didn't, wasn't it intuitive? Both the blues cats new pentonic and rhythm the classical new theory together they had the jazz. I always am thinking theory while I solo took me years to get to that place though
Both The blues guy new Pentatonix the classical guys knew their Theory. Together their music was the Jazz. I always think about Theory while I'm improving but it took me years to get there
 
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