Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Moving away from the melody

  1. #1
    Keith
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Northwest Arkansas
    Posts
    123

    Default

    I've been listening and trying to play along with Bill Frisell lately, and trying to play along. #Even on his simpler music (eg traditional country songs off Nashville or The Willies) as opposed to his more complex music with DeJohnette etc, I am losing my place in the melody or chord structure when Bill/featured soloist moves far from the melody during improvisation. #What is blowing me away is when the player suddenly re-enters the melody like it had been being played straight all along. #When I am playing, I feel like I can improvise occasionally, but it is hard for me to maintain connection with the original song. #I find myself either improvising or playing the melody, but it is hard to combine the two so that my improvisation "speaks" to the song itself and not just being notes following the key signature or chord structure of the song. #And, by the way, I am not asking specifically about Mr. Frisell's style, but more about playing jazz in general. #He just happens to be the player I've been noticing this with lately. #

    So, what I am wondering is if these players are: 1. "singing" the melody all along in their heads, 2. using the chord structure as a memory-jogger to know their position in the song and original melody, 3. just experienced enough to maintain musicality regardless of if they can keep up with where they are in the song or not?

    I do realize that everybody has their own methods, and most likely these methods do not translate to written language easily but rather develop as one plays and practices. #And the correct answer to my arbitrary three distinctions above is likely "All of the above." #Regardless, I'd appreciate hearing how other players approach this. #How do you improvise without losing connection to the melody? #I apologize if my question is meandering and vague. #I'll try to clarify myself if needed. #

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    State College, PA
    Posts
    2,427
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    Just go for it, man. You'll find a balance. Start by being very liberal with yoru excursions. You'll find that there's a point where being too liberal results in a mess. Whenyou realize that point, just back off and stick a little closer to the melody.

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Berkley, MI
    Posts
    1,955

    Default

    Q."How do you improvise without losing connection to the melody?"

    When you get to 'know' a song real well you just know where the melody is at any point of the solo. Having said that there are solos by some players that I have to really concentrate to keep track of the 1, let alone where the melody is.

    If you really want to keep close to the melody you might try to use arpegios or scales to string different phrases of the melody together. Especially in the spaces where the melody isn't moving around a lot.

    Just remember, you can spend your whole life learning and growing as a musician. Don't get frustrated and keep at it.

  4. #4
    Registered User mando.player's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Detroit, MI
    Posts
    997

    Default

    If you have the chords charted out you could use that as a map.
    Charlie Jones

    Clark 2-point #39
    Rigel A Natural

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    sparks, nv
    Posts
    791

    Default

    1. "singing" the melody all along in their heads,

    2. using the chord structure as a memory-jogger to know their position in the song and original melody,

    3. just experienced enough to maintain musicality regardless of if they can keep up with where they are in the song or not?


    I use No.1 all the time, tried No.2 but it wasn't as easy as just keeping a melody, albeit altered, goin' in my head. I aspire to use No.3 one of these days. Mostly, knowing where the tune goes tonally is the key for me, then I can wander at will within those guidelines and still be able to come back without getting lost. Does that make sense?
    mandollusional Mike

  6. #6
    Michael Reichenbach
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Freiburg Germany
    Posts
    443

    Default

    I have recently discovered the free jazz handbook by Jamie Aebersold which can be downloaded from Jazz Handbook by Jamie Aebersold

    There you can find some really useful tips for learning a song including its chords. See especially "learning new tunes...". I think if you go on like this, you will be able to switch between melody and chords as free as you describes it. It is mainly intended for learning jazz, but it works for any song.

    I have begun to learn songs like this and I think this is really a good way.

    Michael
    Homepage: www.mandoisland.de / Blog: www.mandoisland.com / Freiburg / Germany

  7. #7
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    3,073

    Default

    Try playing a couple measures of improv, then a couple of melody. Alternate where and length of the melody and improv sections. This forces you to keep the melody in mind.
    -----------
    Pete Martin
    www.PetimarPress.com www.Jazz-Mandolin.com
    Instruction books, videos: Bluegrass, Jazz, improvisation, ergonomics
    Private lessons in Seattle and Issaquah WA, Skype lessons to anywhere
    Pete Martin Plays Wes Montgomery free download
    http://www.jazz-mandolin.com/PetePlaysWes.xht

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Chicago, IL,USA
    Posts
    539

    Default

    It always helps me to have or make a chord chart of whatever tune I'm working on improvising on.As I like to say at workshops, even if you're playing "Happy Birthday", make a
    chart. The goal here is to have a visualization of the form of the tune--how the cadences connect, where the repeats are, how the form works(A-A-B-A, for example).Having that in your "mind's eye" makes it more difficult to lose your spot in the tune,and easier to focus on what notes to feature with specific tonalities.

    Here's a "chart". Let's do Cole Porter's "Night and Day", which never ceases to amaze. I just heard a beautiful version on the radio by trumpeter Bobby Shew...

    Dm7b5 / G7b9 / C / C / Dm7b5 / G7b9 / C / C /

    F#m7b5 / Fm7 / Em7 / Eb dim / Dm7 / G7 / C / C /

    Bridge or B section

    Eb / Eb / C / C / Eb / Eb / C / C /

    F#m7b5 / Fm7 / Em7 / Ebdim / Dm7 / G7 / C / C /

    Each slash-marked "box" equals a four-beat measure. Form is A-A-B.

    The melody might run through your head as you play over these changes, but the goal for improvising is to come up with ANOTHER melody. Embellishing the original melody is fair game when initially stating the melody("playing the head, as the jazzers say..)or when re-stating the melody to close the tune's performance(sometimes called "taking it out").

    Here's a chart for another really cool tune, The Cherokee Shuffle:

    A / A / A / F#m / A / A / A E7 / A /

    bridge or B section:

    D / A / D / A / D / A / A / F#m / E7 / A //

    form here is A-A- B-B.


    You'll undoubtedly find different versions of these tunes and cats will definitely jump all over whether these changes are right. The point here is the process, and I think making a chart and memorizing the tune's(harmonic) form are essential to improvising.

    All the best and please have fun going for the good notes.

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Madrid, Spain
    Posts
    119

    Default

    Feel slightly redundant adding to Don Stiernberg's comments, but as a beginner improviser, I find it useful to have a bass line, or a guitar line in my head rather than the melody. It gives me an anchor and seems to help me figure out where I am if I 'wig out' too much, whilst freeing up the possibility of melodic ideas. This seems to be true even if there is someone playing that line! I can't keep all those chords in my head as I don't know them well enough yet to picture the sound of them!
    Best
    Robin
    No. No es una bandurria ni una guitarra muy pequeñita

  10. #10
    Registered User groveland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Minnesota
    Posts
    1,535

    Default

    It's pretty clear that you are well acquainted with analyzing chord progressions and deciding what the options are in a tune. I am a little confused with the notion "using the chord structure as a memory-jogger to know their position in the song and original melody..." That chord structure IS the tune!

    The melody is merely one possibility selected from that pool of possibilities defined by the chord structure. But I respect the challenge of staying close to or alluding to the prescribed melody as an exercise, but being that the chords provide a myriad of valid alternatives, it's a lot of fun (more fun?) to discover and try them ALL out!




  11. #11
    Keith
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Northwest Arkansas
    Posts
    123

    Default

    Wow, what great feedback! #Thanks to all for your input(as is expected with this great mandolin community, of course).

    I think that I am discovering, as especially stimulated by Mr. Stiernberg and Groveland's comments, is that what I am missing is not the "melody", but rather I am missing creating a more musical/expressive melody as I improvise. #Thanks for the reminder that the "melody" is actually what I am playing at the moment. #As I play more and more, I am sure that I will improve. #Probably the root of what I originally was asking comes from my perception of losing "melodicity" or musicality or actually saying something during my improvisations. #Despite living in Vermont (aka jam-band heaven), I get frustrated by music/musicians that seem to be improvising for the sake of simply playing notes. #I very much enjoy improvisations in music, even in jam bands, that create or extend the artistic experience. #So, I'm searching for ways to make sure that I am playing something "useful", not just simply music that kinda follows the general chord structure. #

    Whew, not an easy thing to do (or even write moderately clearly). #I guess I'll get back to playing...

    Oh, I am finding that as I find more people to play with, it does become easier. #Like RobinG said, having the bass or guitar line in my head is more freeing .

  12. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Berkley, MI
    Posts
    1,955

    Default

    When you're soloing try to write a story with a beginning motif, the middle that builds on that motif and an ending that may or may not bring you back to the original motif. Depending on the song I kind of like to save the flashy stuff for the end and try to make it blend in with what follows.

  13. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    119

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by (Don Stiernberg @ May 05 2008, 16:48)
    It always helps me to have or make a chord chart of whatever tune I'm working on improvising on.As I like to say at workshops, even if you're playing "Happy Birthday", make a
    chart. The goal here is to have a visualization of the form of the tune--how the cadences connect, where the repeats are, how the form works(A-A-B-A, for example).Having that in your "mind's eye" makes it more difficult to lose your spot in the tune,and easier to focus on what notes to feature with specific tonalities.

    Here's a "chart". Let's do Cole Porter's "Night and Day", which never ceases to amaze. I just heard a beautiful version on the radio by trumpeter Bobby Shew...

    #Dm7b5 / G7b9 / C / C / Dm7b5 / G7b9 / C / C /

    #F#m7b5 / Fm7 / Em7 / Eb dim / Dm7 / G7 / C / C /

    Bridge or B section

    # #Eb / Eb / C / C / Eb / Eb / C / C /

    # F#m7b5 / Fm7 / Em7 / Ebdim / Dm7 / G7 / C / C /

    Each slash-marked "box" equals a four-beat measure. Form is A-A-B.

    The melody might run through your head as you play over these changes, but the goal for improvising is to come up with ANOTHER melody. Embellishing the original melody is fair game when initially stating the melody("playing the head, as the jazzers say..)or when re-stating the melody to close the tune's performance(sometimes called "taking it out"). #

    Here's a chart for another really cool tune, The Cherokee Shuffle:

    #A / A / A / F#m / A / A / A E7 / A /

    bridge or B section:

    # D / A / D / A / D / A / A / F#m / E7 / A //

    #form here is A-A- B-B.


    You'll undoubtedly find different versions of these tunes and cats will definitely jump all over whether these changes are right. The point here is the process, and I think making a chart and memorizing the tune's(harmonic) form are essential to improvising.

    All the best and please have fun going for the good notes.
    That's a watered down version of Cherokee Shuffle. The B section is a ii-V-I over four different keys before returning to the A. And your A section isn't exactly right either. Clifford Brown played it in Bb, besides.
    Maybe you're talking about some bluegrass fiddle tune version or something, but this is the Jazz and Blues forum, in which case your version is wrong.
    Without Love in the Dream it will never come true.

  14. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Southern WI
    Posts
    61

    Default

    All Right! Thank you Evan! I think you've given Jethro a laugh, wherever he may be.

    All the best,
    John

  15. #15

    Default

    Don's take is a great way, and to add to that, I try, as a beginning to improvising, to take the chart and just play with arpeggios for each chord, trying, slowly, to understand where the melody fits into the flow of the chords, how it interconnects the chords between measures, and then play around with how I can creatively come up with something beyond a melody line. My band's banjo player, who teaches music, always tells me to "start with the melody" which I did take to heart. A good example would be "Blue Skies". Radim Z. also starts folks out with I Got Rhythm. Good chord changes there and the melody is simple. Have fun! (Don, guess you got to hire Evan to work with you in your workshops!)
    Al in PT

  16. #16

    Default

    As a traditional type player, I don't take long trips away from the melody....I can....but I don't. My suggestion...start taking short excursions from the melody and come back......and build on that to see just how "free" you want to get. I think you will develop a style that you like (and the audience likes) and feel comfortable with.

    For me.....I don't read music, nor do I use chord sheets. I play entirely by feeling...but have played long enough that I don't have to hunt positions etc....I suppose....knowing the melody and the fretboard is more important to me than chords etc. I suppose I play by feeling....does that make sense?

  17. #17
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    3,073

    Default

    "Cherokee" and "Cherokee Shuffle" are two different pieces...

    Or maybe that's why my playing sounds so bad when I play them
    -----------
    Pete Martin
    www.PetimarPress.com www.Jazz-Mandolin.com
    Instruction books, videos: Bluegrass, Jazz, improvisation, ergonomics
    Private lessons in Seattle and Issaquah WA, Skype lessons to anywhere
    Pete Martin Plays Wes Montgomery free download
    http://www.jazz-mandolin.com/PetePlaysWes.xht

Similar Threads

  1. Moving to nh
    By swampy in forum Jams, Workshops, Camps, Places To Meet Others
    Replies: 26
    Last: Aug-17-2007, 9:14am
  2. Moving up from collings mt but to what?
    By Jonas A in forum General Mandolin Discussions
    Replies: 13
    Last: May-05-2007, 2:01pm
  3. I'm moving to Greensboro NC
    By Flowerpot in forum General Mandolin Discussions
    Replies: 28
    Last: Jun-02-2005, 7:41pm
  4. Melody
    By Toby in forum Bluegrass, Newgrass, Country, Gospel Variants
    Replies: 4
    Last: Feb-08-2005, 2:57pm
  5. How far from the melody?
    By Givensman in forum Bluegrass, Newgrass, Country, Gospel Variants
    Replies: 30
    Last: May-20-2004, 10:52am

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •