Jazz Education

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by fenderlead, Mar 18, 2020.

  1. DeadLazy

    DeadLazy Member

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    I feel like you have no idea what studying music at a high level at a University is like.

    Or maybe anything at a University.

    I mean you’re way, way off.

    I learned by ear and was playing professionally when I took earnings from playing to go back to school.

    Nothing I’d done up to that point had prepared me for the musical madness that was to come.

    I’ve no need for any encyclopedia of scales or theory. It was all about getting down to the nitty gritty.

    Right down to studying the physical science of sound.

    I wanted to know why, and there are answers. None of this is “just because it sounds good”. Or your personal opinion. There are reasons.

    And it was madness. The cast of characters I studied under; the unbelievably intense requirements; the countless hours living in an entirely theoretical space in my head.

    It was insane and the players I met on the road were not on the same planet as the musical minds I’ve met through universities.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  2. JonR

    JonR Member

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    You got me there! :)
    I have studied music at post-grad level, but only part time.
    My only music qualification is ATCL in Jazz Performance (Bass guitar) - the lowest of three levels.
    Well, I do have a BA degree (1st class), if that counts. (It doesn't really, as it wasn't in music. Way before the ATCL)
    Sounds cool. I have studied all that sort of thing, but only through my own reading over the last 4 or 5 decades (along with playing in bands for over 50 years). I was never under any pressure, it was all just curiosity. I envy the great time you seem to have had.
    Ah, well now we come down to definitions of terms. ;)
    What would you mean by "a reason why" something sounds good? What kind of explanation did you find satisfying? (Genuinely curious.)

    I know, in all years I've studied music theory and science, I've never found an answer to the "why" question I had when I started. That's fine, I discovered very early on that that wasn't what it was all about. Theory was a fascinating trip all of its own. (History and psychoacoustics did have some interesting answers. Still not a full explanation, but close enough.)
    I don't doubt it. Personally I think I prefer the planet that those on the road are on. I don't claim any more than that. My opinions are all based on my own experience and my own reading, which is obviously not as intense or deep or broad as what you're been through.

    As for jazz education, I'm only talking about my personal experience of that, which is all weekend workshops and summer schools (over a period of maybe 10-15 years). But obviously I'm free to comment on opinions I encounter online, in terms of how they chime with my experience, and as far as I am able to use rational judgement. (Which may not be very far... :D)
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
  3. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Thats your personal opinion, which is fine.

    Oh, so its NOT just your personal opinion?? OK, explain to me why Django "just sounds good" to ME.
    If there is a reason he does not sound good to you, but sounds good to me, what "reason" am I missing. Seriously interested!
     
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  4. DeadLazy

    DeadLazy Member

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    Then your characterization of school was perplexing, at best.

    I guess it’s about perspective.

    And to be frank, I’ve seen errors while lurking here 90% of the time to make me wonder.
     
  5. DeadLazy

    DeadLazy Member

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    Django sounds amazing to me. One of my favorite players. It’s a shame we had such limited recording technology.

    Yes, there are reasons why music sounds good to us and an arc of evolution in music we can track as we become more sophisticated.

    But a discussion about the mechanics of music is big.

    Jazz is very tonal and so of course I’d point to rhythm with Django.

    But there are reasons why a dominant chord functions the way it does and why hear it’s resolution so strongly.

    Those reasons then translate into a driving force in Jazz and that’s the tri-tone.


    The function of the tri-tone and how we hear it, and how those of us born later in the 20th century were conditioned to hear it.

    More importantly, I feel you missed my point.

    The mechanics of music aren’t nebulas or opinionated. They’re concrete and clear.
     
  6. JonR

    JonR Member

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    In my posts? Please correct me when you see them!

    BTW, I didn't mean to characterise "school", my criticisms are based on the various confusions I see arising from a kind of skewed understanding of jazz theory. The theory itself (from what I've read of it) is not at fault, it's the way it gets misapplied - which is (I guess) not the fault of good pro teachers in schools. It's presumably down to people looking for formulas and short cuts and picking up bits of info here and there - then stitching them into this confusing mish-mash that's full of holes.
     
  7. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Ah! This is more like it - a cultural, historical perspective. Bearing in mind the contentious concept of "sophistication" ;) (let's not apply any cultural chauvinism here :))
    Right. It's about acculturation, about what we're used to hearing. The language of western music, beginning with classical harmony, coloured by 20th century developments. Essentially, all the music we (in our culture) are used to accessing - primarily - on broadcast media and audio recordings, more than live performance.
    Plus, no doubt, something to do with acoustic physics and the biology of hearing.

    "Music theory", though, takes all that for granted. If we want to know why a tritone is experienced as a "driving force", music theory won't tell us. Music theory just assumes perceptions of consonance and dissonance and doesn't seek to explain them. It just deals with how, where and when those sounds are applied.

    As I've said before, music theory is like map of a city. A map doesn't explain anything. It just give you the names of all the places and streets and shows how it's all laid out, to help us get around. A map doesn't say why the city was built where it is, or why the buildings are built the way they are. It doesn't tell us the history of the place, it just shows it as it is now. It doesn't tell us where the cool places are - although sometimes it lets us make inferences.
    The mechanics, yes. There is no "why" in the mechanics though.
    To risk another analogy, a car mechanic can tell you how the engine works. He can't tell you why you might want a car, why you like to drive, or the places you like driving to. He has no better opinion on the mystique and appeal of the automobile than anyone else does. If you want those sort of answers, you go to a cultural historian, or maybe a sociologist or economist.
     
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  8. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Ah! Yes, I agree for the most part.

    Maybe it was a typo in your original post regarding Django? It seemed you did not like him.
     
  9. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Yes, we can't have that on TGP!

    It would be like someone on a fundamentalist Christian site saying "this Jesus guy just doesn't do it for me..."
    :D
     
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  10. Average Joe

    Average Joe Member

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    From the perspective of a beginner/intermediate jazz player

    For a couple of decades I'd try half heatedly to make some headway into it. Never did. I was always confused by CST and explanations that went "over chord X play mode Y of scale Z starting on degree such-n-such". What made me make some inroads finally in the last year or so, was learning songs and learning from solos to those songs, and THEN using educational material to figure out why players play what they do.

    In retrospect it seems that a lot of books/resources put the cart before the horse, the rules before the application. At least for my needs. It seems to me that a lot of teaching resources are good at the why but less so at the how. Maybe a good tutor can correct that, but by themselves a lot of books fail at being application first and then rules and principles later
     
  11. JonR

    JonR Member

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    You're talking my language!

    For me, the way I started was "learning songs and learning from solos to those songs". I didn't have much interest in improvisation as such at that point - I was having a good time playing songs, learning guitar - but in the folk-blues-jug band I was in (as a teenager) we naturally messed around with the songs we were learning. We heard people taking solos in the records, so just did something like that. Made up stuff that sounded right.
    I never actually learned solos note for note from records (not until I was in a Django band some years later), but it was a no-brainer to just mess around with chord tones, blues scale, or notes from the tune. IOW, you take the notes that are in the song, and make new phrases out of them. Absolutely no theory was required. An idiot could do it. So we were perfectly qualified! :D

    IOW, if you learn tunes, and learn chords, AND have a creative attitude - understanding that the tune and the chords are yours to mess around with - then I really don't see why so many people have problems improvising. How does anyone get the idea that there are "rules" you need to learn and follow? Concepts that are not there in the music? It baffles me. Why read books about it? It's all there in the music. Even my crap ears knew that.

    Obviously, the more advanced the music gets, the harder it is to pick up the language from the records alone (or from lead sheets). I guess I had a natural learning curve in that respect - it was a very long and slow process for me working my way up to bebop and modal jazz. I began with jug band music, acoustic blues, and 3-chord folk songs (improvising, crudely, from the start). I moved up to rock'n'roll and electric blues. After 7 or 8 years I joined the Hot Club band and faked my way through Django Reinhardt tunes - not copying his solos: transcribing one or two, but mainly just using the melodies and chord tones, and chromatic approaches, and making it sound (roughly) like Django. The chords were all simple and it was good-time stuff. No rocket science involved. Then 15 more years in rock'n'roll and mainstream rock bands (no prog). Then finally (around age 40) signing up for jazz workshops, where I discovered all this crazy CST business. It bemused me, and I just carried on improvising the way I had before: working from (a) the melody, (b) the chord tones, (c) chromatic passing notes. The jazz theory I was learning made me think (at first) that I must be missing something - but it turns out I wasn't.

    Mind you, I have to say that advanced jazz never held much appeal for me, any more than flashy technique did or does. Coltrane went way over my head, and still does. A whole lot of players that excite folks here mean little to me. I can recognise greatness without wishing to emulate it. So I don't mean to knock the principles and processes that more advanced players feel they need to go through to get to those heights. In a mountaineering analogy, I'm quite happy with the kind of peaks where you don't need breathing equipment, or even ice axes and crampons. I'm a hill walker. I have no interest in Everest.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  12. fenderlead

    fenderlead Member

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    The tritone.

    The tritone might not be in some Modal things, but someone can superimpose them in, which a lot of players do by using some Bebop iim V7 (I) licks in a Modal piece like "So What" or whatever.

    I read something where in some of Django's later playing post Bebop, Django was introducing into his playing some Parker like tritone sub licks, the tritone sub of Coleman Hawkins changed things.

    Players have different styles and things they like.

    Django's Blues scale was basically a minor 6th arpeggio played over major harmony, still Minor/Major just a bit of a different way.

    Django used 6ths and 9ths (minor 6th and major 6th arpeggios often with the 9th added) a lot to generate those great sounding melodies and lines in general and of course his own talent and ear.

    Tritone's resolve and chord tones on stronger beats are all over the place in Django's playing and also enclosures especially arpeggio based enclosures and also chromatics, chromatic passing notes etc.

    There is great forward motion in Django's playing.
     
  13. fenderlead

    fenderlead Member

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    I've been saying that CST can be confusing to beginners.

    Scales are still very useful, it's just how a player wants to use them.

    Most melodies contain a fair bit of chord tones (of the underlying harmony) on the stronger beats and various scale notes (other than the chord tone notes of the underlying harmony) are often on weaker beats and so are chromatic passing notes.

    I've said that Modal and Blues can be a bit different and also probably some Fusion.

    It's just a rough guide from what I've seen and experienced, nothing is set in stone and players do what they want.
     
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  14. Neer

    Neer Supporting Member

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    Lennie Tristano was one of the first and most effective teachers of Jazz improvisation. He had a lot of musicians come to him wanting to learn how to improvise and he didn't have any clue as to how to teach, so students who wanted to learn taught him how to teach. His primary goal was get musicians to connect to the music through deep listening and by mastering the basics of their instruments so they could the most important thing: "to feel". He said the essence of jazz was "the feeling, it's not the notes, but it's the feeling behind." Singing was a huge part of the lessons. All of his students who went on to be teachers themselves pretty much followed the same path.
     
  15. fenderlead

    fenderlead Member

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    Players with strong styles (where you know it's them after a few bars) often have set ideas on what they like to use (they are not generic players) and they tend to use the same things over and over again (that's one of the reasons that they sound recognizable) but they are creative with them in their own way, they don't live in a musical doubt and confused world, they do what they want to do, sort of like a dictator lol.

    Charlie Parker said that he could play all he knew in 8 bars (or something like that), probably meaning that he mainly generated ideas off of basic things that could all be contained in 8 bars, using them over and over again in ideas but varying them in his way.

    Miles called Parker and Coltrane selfish and said it probably goes along with being a genius in their cases.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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  16. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    There's also the simple fact that Django was an extremely intelligent and dynamic artist. His art was always evolving.

    Discussions about Django are often like the parable of the blind men describing the elephant; talking about his writing and playing of "Minor Swing" with the Quintet in the 30s is like using the trunk alone to picture the whole animal.
     
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  17. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    :beer


     
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  18. JonR

    JonR Member

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    The words "pot" and "kettle" spring to mind...
     
  19. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    That's also Bird being self-effacing as a way of dodging people who cornered him to explain everything.

    Ha! "Takes one to know one"?
     
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  20. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    He also wrote symphonic works, music for theater, and a mass, famously dictating the parts to all the other instruments using the guitar since he didn't do notation. As a result, no "scores" survive, that I know of. But apparently Django's ear was so flawless he would complain when the intonation was slightly off among members of the orchestra.

    At the end of his life he was known to say among those close to him that he was growing bored of the guitar, and was noticeably becoming more irritated with the demands of his celebrity. He apparently started painting heavily and seriously in his last few years. He was only 43 when he died...the mind boggles at what could have been ahead had he lived even another decade
     

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