Coming from Six Strings

Discussion in 'Jazz / Commercial' started by thehouseofshawn, Jun 23, 2004.

  1. thehouseofshawn

    thehouseofshawn New Friend

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    Jun 23, 2004
    Liberty, Missouri
    Hello all. I have (over the past few months) got heavily into trumpet. I play jazz guitar and have been for a few years now and understand many of the theororetical concepts of jazz improv, but it seems like when I mess around, something just isn't really right. I think that maybe it has something to do with coming from a very visual instrument to something that's all....not visual. Do you have any tips? All that I can really do is figure out some of the solo lines and solos of people to copy and manipulate from. Just wondering if someone else around here has come from the same background.
     
  2. MUSICandCHARACTER

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

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    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    I wonder if it is "visual" or just a better understanding of the progressions on the 6 string. I played string bass for many years. When you have several strings to chose from and can jump from string to string and get the interval you want, it makes sense. It is like playing 6 vertical lines. The trumpet has only one vertical line and the intervals are not quite so obvious.

    Try playing some improv using only one string on the guitar. That would give you the same feel as the trumpet. It limits the range and jumps a bit that can more easily be done going from string to string.

    My 2 cents worth being a string player once upon a time.

    Jim
     
  3. thehouseofshawn

    thehouseofshawn New Friend

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    Jun 23, 2004
    Liberty, Missouri
    Good advice taken. I love the bass. Anyways...You also have those repeated notes all over too that threw me off for a good week or more. I learned improvisation on one string so that I wouldn't get all tied up in 'all those notes' available,and it worked for me. But that was just me as well. Doing that made it much more lyrical. I would have to say one excellent thing about playing any wind instrument and if you were in a situation where you didn't; that is, your sense of phrasing is greatly improved.
     
  4. fleebat

    fleebat New Friend

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    Jun 15, 2004
    Maybe I can help here. Hope so. In any case, I drank a bunch of coffee tonight, and I've already played a bit too much today, so, well, here goes.

    I taught guitar & theory/improv (privately) for about a dozen years, mostly to semi-pro and pro players. I played for my living for a good number of years longer than that. Whenever a gig called for some horns, I would unstick the valves of my ancient Bach and resurect enough chop (yes--"chop," singular!) to make the parts as a doubler. Trumpet had paid my way to college way back when. Now, at 48 (alright you guys, I hear you laughing!) I'm entrenched in a serious comeback. Been gigging in the States and some in Europe, but I have a long, long way to go. Early on in this process, I found it REALLY frustrating to be capable of scooting around on standards, Parker tunes, rock/pop/country stuff, etc. onstage and in the studio on guitar, and yet, with an instrument on which I had an actual, viable grounding in the fundamentals, I struggled to come up with a half-decent chorus on an F blues. Eeesh. So I think I feel your pain. However, I believe that you can (like I did) turn what seems to be a hurdle into a springboard.

    First, let's take a step back and look at the big picture; the manner in which many horn players are introduced to improvising. Often, the first piece of advice they're given is to learn ALL their scales. Subsequently, the tenacious among them will search out seemingly random bits of info like "use this scale on that chord... sounds real 'out,'" or whatever. To me this has always seemed like trying to teach someone to speak English by telling them to memorize the alphabet and shoving them out the door. Now and then you toss 'em a new word ("say 'periodontal' " at parties! It sounds really cool!) Nothing (well, almost nothing) sounds more amature and less musical than a horn player noodling his/her way around a bunch of scales as a carefully-crafted harmonic progression chugs by: Noodlenoodledoodledoodledweedledwadle. That said, you WILL need to know your major scales (at least in theory--you don't have to "burn" on 'em) to make the most of the following.

    My approach to teaching (beginning) improv was/is grouded in diatonic harmony. Once that's down cold, EVERY other situation/tonality/sound can be understood much more easily (and NOT memorized as simply rote, random chunks of info) through comparison.

    As a jazz guitarist, your stock in trade is (or should be) the very thing that people who play only a melodic instrument often have trouble assimilating; HARMONY. Think of all the ways you know to play a Cmaj7 (I can think of 15 fingerings/voicings just sitting here at the computer). There is absolutely a visual component with the guitar, just like there is with the piano, and you're right--this is completely absent with the trumpet. Still, what you know on guitar can be applied directly. To begin, make sure you have the diatonic harmony thing in hand. Write down a C major scale (yup... WRITE it down on staff paper. This is so you CAN have a visual reference). If you don't read music, just write out the names of the notes, from C to C in alphabetical order. Then learn to read music! (Sorry if this is way beneath you... please bear with. Trying to help. If you already have this together, well, maybe someone else will find it useful.)

    Now above each note in the scale, whether in notation or simply "letters," write the same series of notes starting on E just above the first scale you wrote out. You're writing diatonic thirds; these are still just notes from the C scale. Should look like e above c, f above d, g above e, etc. Next write another series (same scale notes; no sharps or flats) above the second. Your result at this stage will be eight triads (seven actually, as the 8th is simply an octave of the first). They'll be CEG, DFA, EGB, FAC, GBD, ACE, BDF, CEG.

    Points to consider:

    1. You now have all the diatonic (seven-tone, think "in the key") triads in the key of C.

    2. All these chords are made up of ONLY the notes in the parent key (C). Compare each to ITS OWN major scale (key), and you'll get:
    I Major (C), ii Minor (Dm), iii Minor (Em), IV Major (F), V Major (G), vi Minor (Am) vii Dim (Bdim--lowered 3rd & 5th).

    3. THIS IS SEMETRICAL WHEN MOVING TO OTHER KEYS. The I, IV & V are always going to end up major, ii, iii, vi always minor, vii always diminished (Again, we are talking ONLY about completely diatonic harmony, and only as a basis for understanding. This would be a boring world if tunes were actually written with only these notes and chords made solely from them.)

    Now record yourself playing a simple 12-bar blues--JUST a three-chord blues for now--in Bflat on the guitar. Do a dozen choruses or so, so you'll be able to work with it for a while without rewinding. Now pick up your horn and play randomly on a C scale over that. Just noodle. Knock yourself out. Sounds kind of "wander-ey," right? None of the notes sound horrible though, because the chords (harmony) you're playing behind them ARE ALL BUILT FROM THE PARENT SCALE.

    Now we're going to slow it WAY down, and you'll sound ten times more like you know what you're doing in about ten minutes (because, well, you WILL!)

    Your first chord is a C (Bflat on the guitar). It's chord tones are CEG. Think of these like the bases in baseball. You can run around all you want on the base path, but you're safe to LAND on the base. And you can stay there as long as you want, at least until the next batter (chord in the progression) hits the ball. So, very slowly, play the ROOT of each chord over your recorded track. JUST THE ROOT. Try quarter notes to start. Four Cs for the first measure, four Fs for the second. 3rd & 4th measure get a total of 8 Cs. Finish out the progression likewise.

    What you've just done--albeit at a painfully simple level--is PLAY THROUGH THE CHANGES of this blues progression. And you've done it purposefully. Now go back to your guitar (remember, you're in Bflat on this), and play the same desperately simple ROOTS ONLY "solo." You will find the notes lie within familiar chord patterns/shapes on the fingerboard.

    What you'll eventually develop is a "virtual visual" mental picture of the triads (and, in time, of 7th chords, 11th chords, 13ths) when you're playing trumpet. (These extended chords, BTW, would be the next step in the process, at least the way I teach it. I eventually have students build & play DIATONIC 13ths, which are simply the scales played in thirds.)

    Okay, grab your horn again, and this time play roots and thirds. Maybe add a bit of rhythmic interest, but stick to the roots and thirds. The reason you want to stick to those is so that you're THINKING the chords. If you can't call up "F, A" when the F chord comes up, slow everything down until you can, then speed it back up. Follow this up by adding your 5ths (ceg, dfa, etc.).

    Now, theoretically (for lack of a better word!) you could BLAZE through a C scale for a couple beats on the C chord, then land on the root and/or 3rd and/or 5th, and you'd sound just fine (not like Carl Saunders, but, well, fine). Blaze again when the chord changes to F, then land on F, A, or C. When the G chord (V) comes around, blaze like your life depends on it, then land on ITS chord tones, G,B,D.

    Of course, good melodic improvising is MUCH more than whizzing around on a group of notes and landing on a memorized "safe" tone. But this little excercise spells out the actual foundation on which good improvising AND GOOD MELODIES are built. Remember, this is ONLY an excercise, a place from which to begin to understand getting around the changes on your horn.

    Once you've played through the excercise in the key of C, play it in EVERY OTHER KEY. You will likely discover some holes in your knowledge base even at this level, some things you did by ear, feel, or sight on the guitar (Quick! What are the chord tones of F sharp minor? D flat dimished? B major? If you can't rattle those off INSTANTLY, you've got some backtracking to do.)

    Next you want to come up with a simple, SIMPLE lick, say, over a C chord, that focuses on the root & 3rd (C, E) but moves between them with other scale tones (say, D, F, etc.) PLAY THIS LICK ON EVERY MAJOR CHORD. Come on, there are only 12. Just do it. You will not believe the little windows this will open. Make up a lick that's a little more complex. Same thing.

    When you get comfortable with this, record (or think) a blues that includes a ii/V/I. Then "backcycle" in the last four bars with iii/vi/ii/V. Every key. In time, you'll come to know the chords intimately. You won't be afraid or confused when they come up. They'll be old friends.

    Final thoughts...

    YES, SCALES ARE IMPORTANT. ESSENTIAL. You gotta know 'em all, and know 'em well enough to HEAR them in your mind, if you really want to be improvising freely over songs. But I don't consider them "building blocks"; I consider them the things the building blocks are made of. Chords are the building blocks of songs. And if you just noodle around on scales without understanding the chords that are built from them, I guarantee you'll end up banging out a big ol' "B" on an F chord in the middle of an otherwise "inside" solo. (MAN, don't you HATE when that happens!) Women will shun you. Guys will laugh. Your life will deteriorate, maybe even to the point where you find yourself wanting to play DRUMS! AAAAGHHH!

    Must say again that this is a way of seeing the FUNDAMENTAL concept. The very minute you start playing this excercise successfully, questions about finer points will arise. That's a good thing. Even without a good teacher, you'll find groovy little things like "3rds resolve to roots/sevenths and vise versa when the chords move a 4th" and all that. It's a wonderful little game of chess, so enjoy.

    Find the simplest, good-sounding solo you can on a CD. Learn it, write it down, and anylize what's happening. You'll find that a lot of what we're doing here will be found in the solo. Take the licks you like from it and OWN them in every key. More little windows.

    I strongly recommend that you keep all of this in a very playable range (trumpet) and, at least for a while, limit yourself to lines/licks/notes that DO NOT PRESENT A PHYSICAL OR TECHNICAL CHALLENGE ON THE HORN. The whole idea is to focus on thinking through the changes. And if you eliminate as much of the challenge of just playing the trumpet as possible, you'll be much more free to think about what you're doing. The two worlds with catch up with each other in time.

    Lastly, USE your guitar playing. It really can be a springboard. Find a cool (simple!) lick on the figerboard, analyze it per key/chord/scale tones (reduce it to numbers/scale steps), and play it on your horn. Then play it in every key (again, the little windows will open up here).

    Really sorry to be so long-winded. I just love to see that "aha" moment happen for people, and maybe this BOOK will help you find a path to one of those moments. All the best, Rusty Russell
     
  5. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Fleebat,

    Great post and great tips

    Regards


    Trevor
     
  6. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

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    Nov 27, 2003
    Denver
    Rusty gave a really great dissertation and I can't add a whole lot.

    I played trumpet for decades, then took up jazz guitar. When I started guitar, I purposely learned some solos without thinking of the notes. Instead, I focused on feels and shapes. You guitar players know what I'm talking about. Using closed chords, any "shape" on the guitar can be moved to any key by just sliding up and down the fretboard. Unfortunately, every key on trumpet has a different shape. You can't use the same minor II, dom7, maj7 shapes in every key on trumpet as you can on guitar. I think that this is very likely the source of your frustration.

    This doesn't mean that trumpeters shouldn't try to get shapes under their fingers; however, for me at least, I think it's wise to start out with the most common keys that you'll be playing in (C, F, G, Bb, Ab) and try to get those working and bouncing. The EVERY KEY rule is too hard when your trying to have fun. Learn a key, then try to apply what you've learned to a song in that key, etc.

    About that "same note trick", of course that works on trumpet and guitar; however, on trumpet, particularly on a blues, I like to use alternate fingering to do what I call a "same note trill". For instance, for top space E finger it open then 1-2 and "trill" it. For top space Eb, the do 2d and 2-3. Sax players do this a lot also. Start an E blues with it just to loosen up. (Just like any other tool or lick, don't overuse it).

    Dave
     
  7. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

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    Nov 27, 2003
    Denver
    Oh, get Chase Sanborn's "Jazz Tactics".

    Dave
     
  8. fleebat

    fleebat New Friend

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    Jun 15, 2004
    'You can always tell a good musician by what he doesn't play'

    Like bagpipes, for instance.

    RR
     
  9. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Or the flute.

    Regards

    Trevor :D
     

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