So, let's talk about phrasing.

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Sascha Franck, Nov 26, 2017.

  1. The bear

    The bear Member

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    Hi, thanks. It is something that I constantly work on on my own so that when I play gigs I don't have to think of it. Phrasing can always be taken to the next level and made more sophisticated. Articulation and swing feel has been a main focus for me the last few years as well as using rhythmical motifs. Often I just blow over tunes, trying to stay in the moment and not relying on pre-planned licks and ideas. I record myself and listen back later. If there is anything I like, I try to build on it more.
     
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  2. Phletch

    Phletch Member

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    In the famous quote by US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart..."I can't tell you what good or bad phrasing is, but I know it when I hear it."
     
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  3. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    Ok, finally time to get my hands dirty, I suppose (sick kids suck… deserving all your love and attention - which makes things suck even more).

    Alright, as said in the very first post, I wanted to post some examples - hoping to get whatever ball rolling. But basically, what started was a rather long-ish discussion about how phrasing could not be taught, would be too difficult to teach to beginners, could only be aquired by listening and such. That's why I had to record a bunch of different examples in addition to those that I had in mind when writing my intro post.

    So, while I do think that "good" phrasing (whatever that means) can only be aquired over a rather extended period of time, by listening, by experience, etc., most phrasing "techniques" can be applied using very simple material.
    It's really every bit the same as with plain "right" note choices. Scales can be learned right off the bat, but making good use of them usually takes a while (and listening, experience, etc.).

    But (and here goes!): Once you get ahold of certain phrasing techniques, you'll probably be able to beef up some very simple stuff immensely. It'll also raise your awareness of rhythm (and, later on, time) and how things interact in a larger context, such as, say, in a band.

    During the following posts, I'd like to sort of prove that some very simple phrasing techniques can update some very simple basic scales.

    Before I start, I'd like to note that my "rating" of whatever I find to be more "plausible", "elegant" or whatever is going to be highly subjective. As pretty much everything related to music is.


    Enough of the blurb. I'll start a new post with the first examples right now.
     
  4. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    For me, one of *the* single most efficient techniques to establish whatever precious target notes, to give them more weight, to make them sound more "plausible" etc, has got to be using pickups.
    For those not in the knows: A pickup basically is a bunch of notes (or even just one) played before a certain target note. Most typically, pickups might be used to anticipate "big" musical targets, such as whatever notes on (or around) beat one of bar 1, bar 5, bar 9 (given pretty typical 4 bar subdivisions). Think of them as a drummer playing a little fill ending with a crash (*yuck*, but anyway…) on beat one of the next "formal item".

    Musical examples:
    - The notes Bb and G before the D on beat 1 in "Misty" ("Look at" -> "me" in the lyric version).
    - "You could have a" before the "steam train" in Peter Gabriels "Sledgehammer".
    - "Every breath you" before the "take" in The Polices "Every Breath You Take".
    - "I can't" before "get no" in The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" (or "satis" before "faction").

    (These are just very random examples that came to my mind, you will find pickups in pretty much each and every popular song there is, some are sort of hidden, others, such as those above, are very obvious.)

    When you listen to these, you'll most likely instantly notice how they establish the beginning of a new part and the note sitting at that very beginning.

    Using pickups doesn't require anything difficult, just a tiny bit of rhythmic knowledge/awareness.
    I'll try to demonstrate this with my first few examples.

    For these, I'm using what could be considered pretty much the most basic scalar stuff each and every guitar player seems to be learning for a start, namely a few notes of the good old A minor pentatonic (maybe with one or two other notes thrown in later on) over an Amin7 chord vamp. The first vamp you'll hear is at 130 BPM, using an 8th note "grid", which should make up for an very easy to manage note pace. Should anyone with less experience try to play whatever things along these lines, I highly (!) recommend using alternate picking, downstrokes for the on beats, upstrokes for the 8th notes in between.

    As a start I'll be doing something that might sound extremely boring. Sorry, but I really can't save you from that - as said, this is to kinda prove that phrasing techniques are easy to apply.
    I'm chosing the note A as my target note over that Amin7 vamp (there's probably no other note that is more likely to get chosen, at least not for starters).
    1) At first, you'll listen to that A played on beat 1 (two times).
    2) Next, I will play that A twice. The first time will be on beat 4 of the preceeding bar, then on beat 1, hence using the first note as a pickup.
    3) Then, as a contrast (and probably to demonstrate how I would rather not do it), I'll play the A for two times again, this time on beat 1 and 2 of our "target bar".
    4) I'll play all three behind each other.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/xzni3ej1f9svpx6/Phrasing_130BPM_Ex_01.mp3?dl=1

    If you perceive things a little similar to how I do, 1 will make you yawn. In 2 (while still making you yawn) you will probably find the second A a bit more established whereas in 3 you might think "hm, what now?" as it's kind of dragging away. 4 is just for direct comparison.

    Note: Feel free to laugh about these examples, but I find them to be unavoidable for a start.

    I'll stop for now (picking up the kids), but hopefully, things will get slightly more interesting with the next examples.
     
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  5. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I heard Wayne Shorter tell a story about meeting Miles many years after they'd last played together. Shorter was with Weather Report, sometime in the early 70s, and was surprised and delighted to bump into Miles backstage.
    "Hey Miles, how are you doing?"
    Miles took one look at Shorter's fashionable low-waisted flares, and muttered: "Pull your pants up, motherf*****"
     
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  6. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!
    :spit
    :roll:roll:roll
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
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  7. The bear

    The bear Member

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    Peter Bernstein is an example of someone that has great phrasing.
     
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  8. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Jon Scofield said after one of Miles Davis's layoffs, he was at some show and ran ino Miles. He said "Hey Miles, its so great having you back on the scene again!!". Miles looked him straight in the face and said ....."Who gives a F :CK what you think???"

    :facepalm:facepalm:facepalm
     
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  9. IGuitUpIGuitDown

    IGuitUpIGuitDown Member

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    Miles Of Smiles. Apparently not for everyone, though.
     
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  10. JonnyQ

    JonnyQ Silver Supporting Member

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    I am considering for this wondrous holiday season as making this my sig worthy sig thing. :idea
     
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  11. clayt0n

    clayt0n Member

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    the miles davis quote bombs are one of my favorite things about TGP
     
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  12. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Did you read the Miles book?? You would love it!
     
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  13. clayt0n

    clayt0n Member

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    No but I will!
     
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  14. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Some REALLY crazy $hit in there!
     
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  15. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    Let's face it, Mr. Davis would be banned from TGP straight after his first posting.
     
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  16. ReaGeorge

    ReaGeorge Member

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    This is an interesting thread, phrasing is of course an inherent part of music and definitely needs exploring, studying and discussing, but I don't feel like the thread has come to an agreement as to what it actually is :p and therefore what we're actually discussing here.

    I think the reason is because it's actually a very broad term and I don't think it's particularly productive to try and narrow it down but rather to work on and discuss aspects of phrasing.

    But I also think there is confusion here between a musical "phrase" and the "phrasing" of and already decided upon "phrase", lick, riff, or melody.

    A "phrase" is a portion of music that makes complete musical sense on its own. So learning to compose a musical phrase comprises basically all aspects of music (theory).

    Whereas, "phrasing" refers to the way a musician expresses a sequence of notes to evoke and emotion or feeling. This comprises any and all performance related characteristics such as but not limited to tone, tempo, dynamics, inflection and articulation.

    On a side note articulation seems to have also been misdefined, as it was mentioned that pianos or organs do not have articulation. To clarify in music(theory) articulation could be any performance technique which affects the transition or continuity on a single note or between multiple notes or sounds. Which includes but is not limited to staccatos and accents which are of course performable on percussive instruments such as piano and keyed instruments like an organ.
     
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  17. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    The definitions you're posting are all fine and dandy, @ReaGeorge, but articulation can not be used in the same way on all instruments, whereas phrasing largely can (with the exception of a few non melodic or otherwise limited instruments). In other words, a phrase that can be played on an organ can as well be played on a guitar - and vice versa. Whereas an articulation cannot be transformed between the two - other's than, say, staccato, which is only called an articulation in music theory, but basically belongs to phrasing (phrasing = note pitch and time, articulation = pretty much anything else). And yes, in music notation, the term articulation is used somewhat differently.
     
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  18. BriSol

    BriSol Member

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    Right, and my point in reaction to that a few pages back is that, by that very broad definition, you would think/hope that basically any musician with half an idea of what they are doing has phrasing. The alternative to having phrasing is just playing random BS or just going straight up and down scales in uninterrupted 16th notes. Which might be a problem for some shredders I guess. But, basically, when we talk about phrasing it would seem like people have something more specific in mind, a specific kind of phrasing, or certain new ideas for inspiration.
     
  19. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    Basically anything you play "has phrasing". But as far as having an idea goes, *many* people just don't seem to have any.
     
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  20. russ6100

    russ6100 Member

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    Functioning in the jazz world (doing my best Pat Martino impression ;) ), "phrasing" has mostly been about when you start and stop playing, especially in relation to bar lines (of course phrasing exists when playing rubato), and the rhythms employed within the phrase.

    Note choice, not so much as you can have the same "phrasing" with completely different note choice.

    Articulation seems to be referenced separately.

    If I was talking with another jazz head and he mentioned that he was "working on his phrasing", I would assume he meant primarily the "stopping & starting". (with emphasis on the "stopping"!), basically creating more interest rhythmically, breaking up the "8th-note streams", and usually playing LESS.
     
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