Superchops In Exile

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by stevebo, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    There are a handful of good threads on the Howard Roberts Superchops concept. I still find it extremely valuable when I want a deep dive into something.

    The basic idea is to record yourself playing the chords to a set of changes for 10 minutes, then improvise over the recording 4 times with a few minutes break between each repetition. The whole thing takes an hour or so. The original book uses standards and specific voicings for the chords, but it travels well to just about any progression.

    Your improvisation should be steady, uninterrupted 8th notes. This could really be any subdivision but start with 8th notes.

    One of my Covid projects is a return to Giant Steps, mentioned in the COVID-19 Practice Club thread.

    https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?posts/30222921/

    Here's what it looks like Superchops stye:



    I cut the clip down to 5 mins because it's fairly mind numbing to watch. :) There are plenty of places where I get distracted by whoknowswhat and have to reorient myself. As it should be. The goal here isn't to play something you'd want to sit and listen to. The goal is to force yourself to make the changes, whatever they are, and to build stamina and focus. If you drift off, just like in meditation, begin again. Also, speed is a component but not the primary one. Find a comfortable tempo and gradually increase. As you get more comfortable push things just to the edge of where you can nail the changes.

    If you decide to give this a go, you might start with a single key or very simple standard that you're really comfortable with. Doesn't need to be extremely challenging changes to be extremely rewarding. The minor blues jam that @Tag started a few days ago is a great example of something very doable for most players. Just record yourself playing the changes for 10 minutes, warts and all. Don't stop unless you completely crater.

    Feel free to ask questions if you're interested. Also, do a search for the previous Superchops threads to get a feel for the original program.
     
  2. DanH8482

    DanH8482 Supporting Member

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    I’ve been waiting for the right time to finally commit to this for an extended time. I’ll join you!
     
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  3. doc

    doc Member

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    Is there a cheap or free version of the Superchops program easily available?
     
  4. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    Excellent! Post a little something if you'd like.
     
  5. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    The book in pdf is here.

    https://pdfslide.net/documents/howard-roberts-super-chops.html

    This is a monster thread started by Kappy 10 years ago. It'll give you an idea of the program.

    https://www.thegearpage.net/board/i...hops-thread-course-started-02-01-2010.650169/

    Following the original Howard Roberts book is not for the faint of heart. It's a huge commitment. But it can do amazing things for your playing. If you just want to dip your toe in, fire up the metronome and improvise steady eighth notes in any major scale for 10 minutes. Pay attention to right and left hand tension, arms, back, etc. Don't want to end up with a visit to the PT. :)
     
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  6. The bear

    The bear Member

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    Doing this might help for technique but not for phrasing. I prefer practicing scales and etudes, then when I improvise I try to create something. I do work on high tempos too, you play those for a long enough period of time you get plenty of technical practice while you actually improvise for real. Not leaving any pauses is not good IMO.
     
  7. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    I hear ya. It's not about phrasing, per se, though I feel really wide open and creative after doing this for a few days. It seems easier to get to 'the place'.

    The whole concept is a little counter intuitive. All I can tell you is in my personal experience it's been extremely valuable. It's really not about building technique so much as really getting the fingerboard to open up and to force you out of some boxes. It can be tweaked to focus on rhythmic variety by doing the entire play through using a specific phrase or phrases. I think this kind of practice 'prepares' your hands and ears for whatever creative spark comes your way.

    Again, just my personal experience. Btw, always dug your Giant Steps vids. :)
     
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  8. macrofor

    macrofor Macro Silver Supporting Member

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    I did SC a short while back, but struggled to complete the last couple weeks because of all the repeating of earlier lessons. But I got a lot out of it, and my finger dexterity increased as did my ability to work thru changes.

    and now when I work on soloing for a new tune, I’ll do the SC method from time to time. Right now I’m also working on Giant steps, but I’m doing arpeggios of each chord in different positions- and it takes several passes to get something acceptable. Solo lines or scale fragments with cont 1/8th notes will be next , but it’s gonna have to be much slower, if I can even get thru it, Stevebo, you make it look easy.
     
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  9. doc

    doc Member

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    Thanks stevebo!
     
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  10. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    Thanks macrofor, appreciate that! Yup, the last part of the book is tough. I think I got about half way through. As you know, easy it ain't. I spent countless hours in school drilling this stuff. There's some nostalgia for me revisiting this.

    As I'm sure you know, this sort of practice on its own isn't a method for learning to improvise. Studying the masters, transcribing, being on the bandstand...all essential. Listen, listen, listen.

    Best of luck on Giant Steps! Love to hear something if you'd like to post.
     
  11. macrofor

    macrofor Macro Silver Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I use the arp drills as one of my warm ups, mostly to get nimble fingers but also to gain fretboard knowledge. I do lean on the arps for improvising, because I’m still relatively new to it, but I’m starting to fill in scale tones and lines, play with color tones. I work from line games, Bear’s and others, but I need to grab lines from recordings

    I do most of the recommended stuff, and play in an ensemble/workshop, but I just don’t do transcriptions with any regularity, hard to motivate.

    I think the SC method helped steady my 1/8th notes swing but also forced me to explore different routes, positions through the changes. With 10 min marathons you gotta go somewhere else. Someday I’ll try his chord voicings

    in video, are you focused only on the nearest scale fragment or is there more going on?
     
  12. dsimon665

    dsimon665 Supporting Member

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    I found the comping part of the course difficult - at least at first. The voicings have a lot of strings...and then to play it for an extended amount of time.
     
  13. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    Had to go back and listen. :) Just trying to nail the changes by any means. Lots of standard V-I stuff, chord tones on downbeats, approach notes, enclosure, all the usual suspects. About half the time, at that tempo, I'm able to play by 'feel' and just hear the line going to the next chord and resolving. To me that's when things start to feel stable and I can break away from so much focus on the form. 4 notes isn't a lot of time to resolve a V chord. Not a ton of options, which is why even the best players return to similar vocabulary.

    Bebop vocab is essential here. Understanding those basic resolutions to chord tones. Transcribing really is the path. Not just for the vocab but for the ear training. Keep at it!
     
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  14. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    My goal is to take the freedom and thoughtfulness from slow stuff gradually up to tempo. The speedier stuff in the clip starts around 1:45, playing all triplets for a bit, then just playing. Truly a work in progress!

     
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  15. macrofor

    macrofor Macro Silver Supporting Member

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    That's really cool to see how you work on a tune like this in different ways. But a couple of observations; you either have reached a point where your ear is so good you just know where to go (or a few places to go) next, based on years of experience OR you have done this tune and these changes to death and know where to go. You don't appear to be reading a chart and the changes are hardly conventional, so how did you get to a point where the next change just rolls off your fingers into the next?

    Doing the arps for me has ingrained certain changes, 2-5, 1-4, 5-1 and i can navigate by ear to some degree, so i can see the future. But i need to move into doing this with lines. Maybe the same exercise on scalar level?

    The other observation is that you comping is something that sounds familiar. I'm trying to play the chords on the top four strings only using inversions and minimal movement, then i'll try strings 5432 and those inversions. Is that what you're doing?
     
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  16. macrofor

    macrofor Macro Silver Supporting Member

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    yeah, my fingers couldn't make that work, but i'd like to come back to that someday. Good on you for trying. when i did focus on chord voicings, i learned some beautiful ones.
     
  17. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    The answer to the first question is a bit of both. When I was in school I was doing this stuff 8-10 hours a day and transcribing like crazy. Total immersion. I've been playing this tune for years.

    Not doing anything fancy on the chords. Stock V-I and ii-V-I stuff. If I were comping in a group setting I'd make different choices but for this practice they just need to be solid. Sounds like you have the right approach.

    My advice would be to start working some traditional bop language into your practice here. Take one idea and play it over every V-I. A few thousand times should do it. :) Then pick another and repeat. Pull the ideas from recordings rather than a book.
     
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  18. Duffy Pratt

    Duffy Pratt Member

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    I did the full superchops program recently. I went in with the same idea about phrasing, but at the same time I was reading some Bach solo violin works, which were also nothing but a string of uninterrupted notes. I listened to violinists playing these, and they are loaded with exquisite phrasing. So I took it upon myself to come up with ways to invent phrasing by trying to mimic some of Bach’s tricks (repeated melodic material, typically descending). When I was done, I thought it had helped my phrasing at least as much as the other parts of my techniques - it was just another layer of the challenge.
     
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  19. amstrtatnut

    amstrtatnut Member

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    Ill try this with basic ii Vs thanks.
     
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  20. stevebo

    stevebo Member

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    That's a great observation. I think we get locked to the idea that phrasing refers exclusively to 'a phrase' when it more commonly addresses 'how' something is played. You can have an uninterrupted stream of melody that's full of amazing phrasing. One of my favorite examples:



    More than sixty seconds of SRV bliss with nary a pause.

    My personal bias in improvising is towards narrative. It can be in a stream of sound or a handful of sparsely played notes.
     
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