My current mandolin: Williamson F5 #5
1) Listening to a recording, working out a solo on your instrument, not writing it down;
2) Listening to a recording while checking notes on your instrument, writing it down;
3) Listening to a recording, writing it down without reference to an instrument.
I favor 2) because it helps me to learn quicker and remember longer. And it helps with analysis, to understand what's going on harmonically.
I learned about the importance of transcribing from my first teacher and mentor, David Baker, a great jazz historian and teacher who came from the Indianapolis scene that produced Freddie Hubbard and Wes Montgomery. He made me aware of the benefits of transcribing, including learning the little details of articulation and phrasing that reveal themselves on close listening. I think of transcribing as a form of learning by ear, just slower!
My impression is that transcription entered the informal world of jazz education with the need to keep up with Charlie Parker. Berklee caught on to it early too, they began in 1945. I still emphasize the value of transcription, and wish even 1% of my students would take it as seriously as this one has:
I don't think more than 10% of incoming students are jazz musicians, but today there are many coexisting approaches to learning jazz, such as the ones you mention. I agree Berklee was most associated with the chord/scale method (Aebersold) that dominated jazz education for a couple of decades. As a student I became part of the reaction against that, which was the arpeggio-and-voice-leading method that emulated the intuitive thought process of earlier generations of jazz musicians. I still believe that's a more direct approach, and equally useful for triadic music. As a player and teacher both, I use this approach for soloing on jazz, and improvising melodic variations on fiddle tunes.
I am trying to imagine transcribing Charley Parker before the advent of slow down programs...
Nope--can't imagine it.
I have been running into the voice leading approach a lot. I haven't seen much in the way of materials for learning to do it. My kids do Skype lessons with Christian Howes, and he starts them off playing arpeggios in ascending and decending, three-note sequences:
R 3 5, 3 5 7, 5 7 R, 7 R 5, etc., for various chord tones.
Next you combine two chords. So you would start on G and play R 3 5, and then go to the closest C note, 3 5 R, and so on.
Are there other good exercises for being able to use chord tones and voice leading?
1 3 5 1 7 5 4 2 3 5 1 3 4 2 7 5 5 1 3 5 5 4 2 7 1
Sorry, let me separate the alternating I and V7 chords:
1 3 5 1 - 7 5 4 2 - 3 5 1 3 - 4 2 7 5 - 5 1 3 5 - 5 4 2 7 - 1
I chord (triad) contains 1 3 5 of the key
V7 chord contains 5 7 2 4 of the key
Work it out and pretty soon you won't have to think about it -- you'll just have the most common connections between chords under your fingers!
Thanks. I could never hack it as a code breaker.
Last edited by JonZ; Jun-26-2012 at 6:25pm.
I still don't understand it!
Are all of the 1s 1s, or are some of them 8s. Is this all one octave?
One thing strikes me about transcription is that when people talk about how the greats developed their great technique by transcribing others, it seems like shooting an arrow and drawing a target around where it lands.
Most jazz greats were forward thinking, and used whatever was available to understand other people's techniques. If they had the opportunity to watch someone, they would go and watch their fingers to get that extra information. They wouldn't close their eyes to get the benefits of listening closely. When record players came along, they used various techniques to slow them down. Later, when half speed tape players came out, they used those. I am sure that they are using slow down programs now, and studying published transcriptions when they are accurate and available.
I am not saying there is no benefit to listening and imitating. But correlation is not the same as causation. Sometimes I wonder if it is romanticizing the past, or a form of egotism (I learned this way, and I'm great; you should learn how I did).
Last edited by JonZ; Jun-27-2012 at 12:47pm.
It seems to me that jazz improv is not about technique, if you are going to play jazz , the technical ability is a given. It is about creating melodies spontaneously to express the emotional content of the song/tune as you are feeling it at the moment. if one doesn't understand that little arpeggio exercise and can't tell the 1 chord tones from the 5 chord tones then it would appear to me that a lot more basic learning needs to take place before thinking about playing jazz.
"Take me back to 1953."
Gibson A Jr.
Last edited by JonZ; Jun-27-2012 at 6:07pm.