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Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by fenderlead, Mar 18, 2020.
Okay, that made me laugh out loud.
I have some of Carol Kaye's materials, back when I was learning to play bass guitar. She's not a "Don't learn scales" teacher, to say the least. I didn't get that vibe out of the video either.
It's one thing to know what a scale is and how harmony is built from it.
Picking exercises focused on scales is a different thing to me. I've heard more than my share of players who sound like they're playing scale exercises (and I've heard others who don't sound like that!) when they improvise - that's what she's talking about.
But, I meant how she shifted in up in minor 3rds, resolving it slightly different on each one.
Throughout her various videos, she gives the same type of example. For me, it was helpful, and so was the Joe Pass books.
Ahhh, OK...so we're not talking about academic institutions (even though those were the words being used), we're talking about students self-medicating. Some people are very effective autodidacts, many are not. That comes down to commitment, self-criticism, discipline, a whole bunch of factors that some people have more than others.
Whether we're talking about someone as academically schooled as Igor Stravinsky or as unschooled as Johnny Cash, the common thread is an unshakeable commitment to keep growing, to be deeply critical of your own work, to be constantly be digging deeper within yourself, soaking up as much as you can of what's going on around you. Funny that we never talk about that.
Realistically, I think any good musician is basically self-taught, even if they get a lot of direction from academic training. A school, a teacher, a book, can't do the work for you. There's that commitment thing again.
As John McLaughlin says - "A four-letter word - work..."
Those methods are aimed at the beginner who wants to eventually achieve a professional level. I believe the proof of that method is in its success rate, which is pretty high. Levine and Hal Crook's methods do the same thing...David Baker's...Jerry Coker's...
Now, if you just want to entertain yourself with playing a few tunes maybe you don't need to get under the hood on that level - perfectly fine. But it exists for a good reason.
I wanted a classical education but I took lots of jazz electives (performance, theory, arranging and history). Many of them I couldn't actually get usable credits on my degree, back in those days there tended to be big walls between the jazz and classical departments for the few schools that did both.
That sounds like a good class you were in, of course Aebersold will tell you all over the place his methods and play-along series are not meant to replace live playing experience, especially workshopping with accomplished players
That's because that handbook was a thing he wanted freely and widely distributed as a sort of 'loss leader' for his other books and methods. It's totally a hodgepodge of articles he wrote from various sources with no real effort put into making it flow methodically or even have consistent typefaces
And there's a fair amount of redundancy in it as well - but there's some really great information in there if you hunt around
Which is why that book has listening lists all over the place, why all the Aebersold play-alongs have a listening list, why Baker, Coker, and Crook all have exhaustive listening lists - you're supposed to connect this with actual music!
Decades ago, when I using a my MkIIC+ through a vintage Marshall 4X12" cab (great sound!), I played at a rock club in Jamey's hometown. Somehow (the phone book?) I found out his address, parked in front and walked around the house to the basement door. I knocked and he answered the door, and, explained that he was just a mail-order business. I had to open my wallet and flash some bills before he invited me in.
He had one room with book shelves and another whole room stacked floor to ceiling with vinyl. Remember when he used to have a separate business called 'Double-Time Records'? He's as much a music listening geek as any of us. The latest Zev Feldman Resonance Records release of previously unreleased Wes tracks came from a DAT tape in one of Jamey's shoe boxes.
Jerry Coker was very different to Aebersold IMO.
Jerry Coker had very good basics/examples in both Bop and Modal and there is no real confusion between them.
It would be better IMO if Aebersold removed his chord/scale sections out of Bop player/books/playalongs ie Jimmy Raney and added a few paragraphs about the Bop style.
I don't think Barry Harris is a fan of chord/scale and the way it's taught.
My interpretation of the Carol Kaye clip is that she's saying to play the changes for Bop (I don't think she's talking about Modal) and she does also mention the minor 3rd movement which is 3 frets up from the iim and a further 3 frets up from there, following diminished movement and that's used quite a bit by Benson etc.
Carol Kaye says in the clip that a chord/scale player (more Modal approach) was someone to avoid (in terms of Bop) and the ability to play chord tones/changes is very important (for Bop).
It's not a lot to expect for someone to have these under their fingers. Basic musicianship don't you think?
Having these down will sure make the language come easier.
Who in the world is saying 'learn these scales and you'll be able play really cool ideas that supersede all the language passed down in the jazz tradition?'. I think the answer is 'nobody'.
Carol Kaye calls those scales (scale notes) traveling notes probably because someone has to track the changes and just can't waltz off on a scale having a good time with it for 40 seconds in Bop.
The scale notes are more like flavors around the chord notes (harmony notes).
Its not either this or that....its one big soup!!
Harmony and chord progressions are heard by the human ear in the context of notes under and above those chords...tada...those add up to a scale. Add tention notes under and above those notes and where back to chromatic scale.
The chord is the skeleton, the scale and passing notes the flesh around it. Understanding and ability to play / hear both give your brain a way to file/store melodies in a way that enable you to reproduce them.
For anyone starting jazz...I’d recommend studying the skeleton of tunes first....chord notes. But fool around with playing into chord notes quickly, from below and above...and find out what scale that gives you.
You could learn the structure of those in a day...and everything I can think of can land in the structure of those scales.
Hearing and reproduce on the instrument is where the challenge is....not the theory itself.
Well seeing that melodic and harmonic minor are altered major scale it really comes down to major, diminished and while tone....
Then, at some point, I began taking private lessons from David Baker.
I’d drive up to Indianapolis for that and that was when he was studying with George Russell and played with the George Russell Sextet.
So David Baker passed on the information to me and I’d try it out and come back. I was like a guinea pig for him.
JAZZed: The books are known for using the chord scale system that was getting developed back then. How did you first pick that up?
JA: I first picked it up from David Baker. He was stressing learning each scale and each chord.
I’d never really thought that way before. When I played, it was kind of by the seat of my pants.
I’d look at the chord symbol and if it said “G,” I kind of knew the G chord and so forth and I’d listen to the sounds on the piano or bass and it was kind of hit or miss for a long time.
Back in the ‘60s, if someone wanted to play jazz, you’d have them play the blues right off the bat.
But if you play the blues scale, it’s got a couple minor thirds in there and if you’ve only gone up and down major and minor scales, to play the blues scale is kind of difficult, especially if you haven’t listened to any records.
So you don’t even know what this scale sounds like.
But I tried it, and it wasn’t until I got them to play on one normal scale that it was easy and they felt some confidence. That’s how I got it going and that’s why on the Play-A-Longs Volume 1, several of the tracks are on Dorian minor scales as opposed to starting out with the blues or with “Just Friends,” or “Have You Met Miss Jones” or something like that, you know.
JAZZed: That must have felt like a revelation.
JA: Once I started centering in my saxophone on the scales and the chords – ah, there were many more possibilities.
When you’re playing music that’s based on harmony and standards and blues and “I Got Rhythm” and “Cherokee” and so forth, the melodies that come to your mind are based on bits and pieces of scales and chords.
Then you intersperse chromaticism, rests, leaps, held notes, repetitions – things like that to give variety to your solo. When people are just singing in their head, they’re going up and down bits and pieces of scales and chords. You can’t avoid it.
JAZZed: So right around then, you decided to make play-along records for your students to practice this method over.
JA: Yeah, it was around 1962. The Play-A-Longs came along because the students needed something to practice with at home. So I made the first record, then I said, “Oh my gosh, if someone buys this LP, they won’t know of solos and so forth where he realized that Charlie Parker and Dizzy and Monk and Bud Powell were playing bits and pieces of scales.
He got things started. That was like kindergarten.
David Baker came along with his interpretation of it and gave it to me and then various other people picked up on it and next thing you know, we’re all kind of teaching similarly.
So from the above it's pretty obvious where the emphasis on the chord/scale playing approach originated from and when.
It wasn't around like that in the Bebop era from what I can make out.
Carol Kaye and Barry Harris and no doubt others, don't seem to think much of the chord/scale approach from what I can make out and Barry was playing before it started and Carol was probably playing before it as well.
More modern players have grown up with the chord/scale approach or at least have heard of it.
So, David Baker comes up with the chord/scale approach in the 50s (probably from studying with George Russell) and then pushes it onto his students, one of which was Aebersold who then pushes it through his books/playalongs.
It was also retrofitted to Bop.
There is nothing I can find where Bird, Dizzy etc were thinking in a chord/scale like approach, the chord scale approach was coming from David Baker/Jamey Aebersold after the fact and being retrofitted to Bop.
The chord/scale approach seems like a better fit for Modal and comes from that period.
That explains how I had the Jimmy Raney Aebersold book and obviously Jimmy Raney was playing before the chord/scale approach of Baker/Aebersold and Jimmy Raney was not using it, but at the same time Aebersold is saying to solo over the Jimmy Raney progressions using the Baker/Aebersold chord/scale approach but I bought the book for Jimmy Raney's approach and not the Baker/Aebersold's chord/scale approach, confusion resulted.
That's why I'm not a huge fan of chord/scale for Bop, it's a Modal approach IMO and Bop is different but they were pushing chord/scale for Modal and Bop.
Yes, I liked what I saw of Coker's books: plenty of nice practical phrasing tips. I think it was in one of his where I first saw "enclosure" described.
I hear some chords as modes of melodic minor...so that scale is written in stone in my mind.
But...its just how you want to look at the world...whatever suits the filing system in your brain works best ...we probably all organize that chromatic soup a tad different
My Jimmy Raney Aebersold album came with a smaller vinyl of Jimmy playing the solos. Those are what you were supposed to study. The book even delved into Jimmy’s ‘across the bar’ phrasing.
Maybe it did, I can't remember.
All I remember is Aebersold's recommended chord scales.
The chord scales are ok if someone also knows about playing the changes, which no doubt Baker and Aebersold knew.
It was the info in the Aebersold books that seemed to prioritize the chord scale approach that I thought was inadequate.
But Baker and Aebersold were successful with the chord scale approach I suppose, I just find that it's for Modal rather than Bop.
I got more info about Jimmy Raney from an article that I think his son did, now that article was very good.
Don't forget that I was coming from Blues/Rock and 100 watt Marshalls trying to learn some Jazz things.
Even back then I knew from the transcriptions that Jimmy Raney was using a lot of ascending descending arpeggios and enclosures and some scale notes, and if that has anything in common with listing chord scales over the progressions then I can't see it.
I already knew about chord tones and enclosures etc from other sources like Django books etc, so I knew basically what Jimmy Raney was doing but I also thought that the chord scale recommendations were pretty useless, to me anyway.
If there was Dorian recommended for "So What" fine, then that makes sense.
Players with some Jazz experience might have not needed info, but what's the point of releasing a book for experienced Jazz players and listing chord scales which they would have known anyway.
I only bought one Aebersold book/playalong, I moved onto other things.
I really appreciate that you're putting a lot of thought into this. My concern is a beginning student of jazz would read this thread and, by your advice, decide that there's no need to learn scales to play bebop. You simply learn some phrases corresponding to the chord changes and you're done. That would seem to be doing them a disservice. To have any understanding of harmonic structure, even something as basic as the movement from V-I, requires some knowledge of a Major Scale. And any motivated student should be able to lock down a few scale shapes in the space of a few weeks. The scales provide the structure, the phrases are the vocabulary. Or, the scales are the alphabet, the phrases are the words and sentences. Not speaking of you personally, but guitar players are good at finding excuses to not learn the most basic things that every other instrument is grounded in. We're a funny bunch. "Quick, play me the Eb on the third string", "Uh, remind me, which is the third?"
I interpret the Carol Kaye criticism to be more about someone not actually learning the vocabulary. That same critique would apply to any genre. Chord/scale vs chord tones/changes seems like a non-issue.
If you love this music and you're excited to play it and you listen to it constantly you'll know how it's supposed to sound, and you'll act accordingly. If you're thinking about 'adding some jazz to your bag of tricks' you'll never get there, no matter the approach.
For what it's worth, I had a class with Jerry Coker and he never demonstrated an allergy to scales re: Bebop. If anything he was very particular about the correct way to treat certain chords, ie V-i using Harm Minor.
What worked for me? Learn all the scales and arps all over the fretboard, transcribe a ton, perform a ton. Listen, learn, repeat.
I realize btw, that you're not advocating not learning scales. This whole thing just feels like a distraction.
Again, I really do appreciate all your contributions here. This could just be the coffee kicking in.