Why playing exercises and help make them musical...

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by countandduke, Jul 17, 2008.

  1. countandduke

    countandduke Member

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    Okay, so I have a TON of books let's say close to 300 or so. Everything from Ted Green's books, to Herb Ellis' books, SOS books (which are among the best) and lots of other technique, improv books.

    I have started playing bass again and have Ray Brown's bass book which has a lot of different exercises (all in standard bass clef notation) so I am working through them but I can't help but wonder how to try and incorporate those exercises into "music".

    I have similar problems with guitar exercises too because running scales might be good for practice but when it comes time to jam and solo, running scales gets old REAL fast.

    I think later chapters in the Ray Brown book start teaching some blues basslines so I can see how THAT would help solidify things and maybe the exercises are also partly ear training and basic "learning of the fingerboard" but I'm looking for some input from you all.

    I can see playing through some Real Book songs utilizing Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th chord tones being helpful but I didn't see any exercises in Ray's book like that.

    I am also hearing a little voice in my head saying, "Quit making excuses and get to work!!!"

    Chris
     
  2. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

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    quit making excuses,and get to work...
     
  3. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    I think you have to be actively involved in playing music and using the books for supplemental reference along the way to make them really work for you.

    The music isn't going to come from the books...

    So, find yourself some folks to play with, give yourself the indulgence to sound awkward for a while, and just enjoy the process...
     
  4. NR2112

    NR2112 Member

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    Totally agree. It will do Wonders, especially if your using the books too. good luck and have fun
     
  5. countandduke

    countandduke Member

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    I guess I am trying to see the connection between playing "music", playing exercises and how to combine the two. Most of the exercises in Ray's book are patterns of chord tones in fourths, with some exercises in tenths and so on.

    I just want to make sure I am not wasting my time but I guess as long as I am playing it's not a waste right?

    I'll take a closer look at the book and see if I can come up with more specific questions...

    Thanks all...

    Chris
     
  6. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Personally, I don't do a lot of running scales in my practicing for the sake of running scales. I use them to work on other things: visualizing the neck, practicing legato, working on smooth position changes, addressing the right hand (one note per string, two notes per string, three notes per string, four notes . . . ), etc. These are mechanical things that then get out of the way when I'm trying to make music.

    For a lot of the books out there it is very useful to record a backing track or loop and then practice over it. That'll give you some context for the notes you are playing.

    I'm not familiar with Ray Brown's book, so no help from me there.

    Bryan
     
  7. 5E3

    5E3 Member

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    IMO, the exercises are usually good for whatever they are intended (teaching patterns, developing physical movement, etc.) and I would not eliminate them completely. I still perform exercises during warm-ups. However I would definitely focus on learning songs that I liked. While learning songs I have had to master many riffs and techniques that have forced me to advance my playing ability. YMMV :)
     
  8. stucker

    stucker Member

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    The books are great for teaching you the fundamentals and help develop technique. However, you need to play songs to turn these fundamentals into "musical sounding" expressions.
     
  9. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    I can relate to your question.

    I've gotten a lot of things from books over the years. The typical pathway is as follows: I get the book, read thru it, listen to the examples, find something that sounds great and learn it well. THEN, I take that idea and, maybe, rejigger the fingerings so it falls into positions and picking patterns that are cozy and familiar. I experiment with the idea and find a way to make it mesh with what I already do well.

    This is when it becomes a tool of musical expression. Until I actually integrate it, it is just a lick or a concept. It is the physical/mental mastery of new stuff AND its integration with your existing ability that allows you to make music with new material.

    If I get one new thing ingrained by buying a book, it was money well spent. Rarely do I work a book cover to cover.
     
  10. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    When you play music the things you play come from your musical vocabulary. Your vocabulary is made up of things you've heard, things you've figured out on your own, stuff you got out of a book, etc. Some of it is under your fingers and some is just in your head.

    When you're trying to assimilate a new line or idea into your vocabulary you have to work it over and over in different ways. You have to get to the essence of the idea so that you can use it in different contexts. Think of it like learning a new word- you have to know the definition but it's more than that, you have to understand when to use it. You wouldn't want to use a four syllable college word when hanging out in a bar with friends if a common 2 syllable word will work.

    Often with a musical line you've assimilated when you actually use it you're not going to play it verbatim, you're going to alter it a bit to fit the context. That's when you start making music.


    I'll say you're not wasting your time, but you could definitely find ways to get more out of your time. I don't know you or your playing, but from what you're saying my advice is to calmly set the book down and walk away. Ken's advice is best- get in a playing situation. That's what it's all about, right? You'll find out quickly what exactly you need to work on, and which areas of your vocabulary are lacking. If you can't do that, just play by yourself at home. But don't play exercises, play tunes. Sounds like you're playing jazz, just pick a tune and play through it. Imagine there's a full band and play accordingly. Play in half time on the head, walk the solos, maybe hit some double time- whatever might happen in a real situation. You can also play along to a record. Don't try and nail what the other player is doing, try and put yourself in his place and do your own thing. Have fun!
     
  11. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    It's always useful to learn how to play the patterns musically themselves. Or is it 'themselves musically'? In any case, I must've spent thousands of hours back in the day mindlessly repeating all these scales and arpeggios in all kinds of patterns and variations, often while my mind was occupied with something else - TV, yelling at the cats, conversation. And certainly *something* came out of all that; greater dexterity, muscle memorization of positions, etc. But then one day my piano teacher suggested trying to play my exercises more musically, and that opened up a whole new world. Musically, as in paying close attention to tone, touch, smoothness, dynamics, phraseness (well, it's a word now), and so on. Pretty basic, but it escaped me for a long time.
     
  12. Sadhaka

    Sadhaka Member

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    KaBlammo!!!!!!!

    That is the truth. Just because these things are labeled exercises doesn't mean that they aren't actually music itself and shouldn't be treated with the respect that you may reserve for your wife/husband (hopefully)

    Like with the spoken voice, a lot of the expression in music comes from the subtle variations in dynamics that we may refer to as phrasing. A mono tone voice is a bore, but an expressive voice is enthralling. What is expression? The use of pitch and dynamics to enhance a subject.

    With scales try this simple exercise: on the ascending scale crescendo and on the descending scale decrescendo. Same with arpeggios. Reverse the dynamic approach. Try random accents through the scale or arpeggio. Try picking close to the bridge and moving forward towards the neck through the scale and vice - versa. If you have a large intervallic leap, play the first note quieter than the second etc.

    Don't practice with distortion and don't use a compressor. Better still, practice the guitar unplugged (if you play electric)

    If phrasing techniques aren't developed to be second nature, they'll never come out in your playing. And it will change the way that your playing effects the listener radically.
     
  13. JonR

    JonR Member

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    So, make your own!

    You clearly understand enough to be able to do it.

    Eg,
    1. take a chord sequence from any Real Book tune, and do just as you say: one particular chord tone for each chord (starting with roots).

    2. Then try and get voice-leading links - from one chord tone to the closest tone on the next chord.
    Might be 5th, b5 or 3rd to next root, as in a typical bass line; might be 3rd to 7th or 7th to 3rd (guide tones); might be some interaction of 9ths and 13ths, 11ths and 5ths, whatever. Point is just finding melodic paths through the chords.
    (Oh yes: learn the melody of the song too. BEFORE you work on a chord sequence. Think of the chords as a support structure for the melody. If you're going to start adding chord extensions and alterations, don't add any that conflict with the melody. Eg, if the melody is on a 9th, don't put a b9 on the chord! Otherwise, feel free to alter tones - or substitute chords - to get better movements. That leads into reharmonization... a whole other ball game...)

    Another exercise you can work out yourself (to make scale practice more musical) is breaking the scale up in some way:

    1. Skip the odd note. Stagger the up and down movement. There are almost infinite combinations of this.
    Eg: 1-3,2-4,3-5, etc; 1-3-5,2-4-6,3-5-7, etc; 1-2-3,2-3-4,3-4-5, etc.
    (Of course, you do this down the scale as well as up.)

    2. Vary the length of notes. Don't just play 8ths, triplets or 16ths all the time! Play a quarter followed by 2 8ths; 8th followed by 2 16ths; again, there's an infinite number of possible permutations. Combined with #1, this will give you lots of melodic solo ideas, and maybe even inspire composition.

    3. Pay attention to ap1's teacher's advice (above): focus on articulation of each note. These exercises are NOT about speed; make each note "speak" (think about tone); vary your dynamics; add a little vibrato to the longer notes. (Yes, make some notes long enough to get some vibrato in there!)
     
  14. Seegs

    Seegs Member

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    I think excercises and musicality are mutually exclusive...I sometimes use the mindless running of scales to gain familiarity with the neck...to practice new fingerings...timing and phrasing and fluidity...build hand strength...left to right hand coordination and other mechanical or technical pursuits...things that will help you be musical but by themselves aren't really musical sounding...kinda like tools to help you create music...

    one way to make them musical requires editing...take a couple of notes or a sequence built from said scale and practive being musical with small portions of the scale and see how it relates to the underlying harmony...

    I did this a lot during my studies but rarely practice or run scales anymore except to warm up...

    Chow,
    Seegs
     
  15. Gene

    Gene Member

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    Why not?

    Seriously, books are okay but as I've said over and over, make your own book by transcribing a solo/tune/music you like a week for 5 years. Learn to play them. I mean REALLY learn to play them.

    After that, you can check out all the books you want.
     
  16. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    Well you might if you're going for a particular effect. But I think you get my point.
     

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