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  #1  
Old Jul 20, 2008, 07:37 AM
mike rud mike rud is offline
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Key Realizations

Hey everyone,

Time once again for me to pick your collective brains:

Have you ever had any realization, as a player, listener, or just generally as a human being, that has had a serious effect on your musicianship or enjoyment of music?

I don't by any means think that one's growth can be simply put down to a string of these 'realizations', but I know that the one's I've had have always been super inspiring. I return to them again and again for artistic sustenance.

Here's one from my guitar playing: once in a while, for example, I'll just try to play with my fingers as close to a 90 degree angle as I can get them from them finger board, and I make little note-to-note corrections in the way I hold my (left) hand, to try to make this possible. Then I try to go as light as I possibly can with the touch, while still getting a good clean tone.

I find, too, that if I sit as close to straight as my crooked, spongey body will let me, and breathe right down into my stomach, like the wind instrument people do, everything seems to get better: technique, ideas, musicality, enjoyment, everything.

I remember the first times I took these ideas very seriously, they really seemed to make a strong difference. Even if I don't always manage to remember to play this way, I feel that something about these ideas has influenced all my playing. Perhaps I'm only telling myself this though!

As I think of other such tidbits, I'll post them here. A running catalogue of this type of idea, from the community at large, could form a great and useful "Chicken Soup for the Jazz Musician's Soul."
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  #2  
Old Jul 20, 2008, 09:12 PM
Amanda Tosoff Amanda Tosoff is offline
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I realized that you can use what Cap College or any other institution call "avoid notes" to make very interesting voicings/melodies.. just depends on where you put them:

Also, that two different triads in either hand in all different inversions can make great voicings. Seems simple but it blew my mind and I have been working on them for months. (never used many 6 note voicings before) They are the most beautiful voicings I have practiced..I'll sit down for hours and find the possibilities.

For example CMaj triad and Bdim triad stacked on top of one another sounds off because of the min9th in there.. invert both triads to 2nd inversion and it sounds beautiful (becomes a V/I sound.. classical..). same with G7 with an 11. A great sus voicing.

Then you go through all the scale types and there are a tonne of possibilities.. harmonic minor, melodic min, dim, etc

Still inspired by my discovery.. probably something all other pianists know, but new to me.
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  #3  
Old Jul 20, 2008, 09:15 PM
Amanda Tosoff Amanda Tosoff is offline
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I guessed this influenced my musicianship because it opened up so many new sounds and freed up how I think about harmony or made me think about it in a different way..
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  #4  
Old Jul 20, 2008, 11:42 PM
Fred Stride Fred Stride is offline
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Musical Realization?

Mike -

This is a great question and one I am sure will generate a wide range of responses.

I've told many of my students this before.

By 1976, my graduation year at UBC, I been seriously bitten by the writing bug. That fall I went to Los Angles with 2 friends - trumpet player Roger Owens and drummer/percussionist Graham Boyle. While Roger and Graham were primarily in LA to take private lessons on their instruments, we all took classes at the Dick Grove Music Workshops (this was a few years before Grove got the big school up and running). Temporarily putting aside my trumpet, I was in LA to get some more writing technique so I signed up at the Grove Workshops for 10 writing oriented classes. I took pretty much everything that was available. While we were in LA we would also go to various places in the area to hear music, particularly The Baked Potato, Dontes and King Arthur's, which featured local and touring big bands on the weekends.

By 1976 I had also become quite familiar with all the great players and writers around Vancouver and I knew LA had even more, but what really hit me was how many more great players and more importantly for me, how many great writers there were. Everywhere we went, including the LA AFofM rehearsal hall and in our own classes (I had Sahib Shihab and Sam Most in one of my classes). We continually heard great playing and writing, it was very inspiring. This relatively short time, about 4 months, turned to be one of the most important experiences in my life.

Not long after we arrived back to Vancouver (we all ran out of money) I began to think about the experience. While I knew I had learned a great deal of technical information, what really stood out was that I had now realized what "good" was. Even more importantly, I saw that I was not. I then set my sights on becoming as good, and as well rounded, a writer as I could. My role models became the giants of arranging and composition and I wanted to write like them. I wanted to be as good as Bill Holman or John Williams. I’m still working on it.

An aside:

After about 3 or 4 weeks in LA I finally convinced Dick Grove to listen to some of my “charts.” After listening to 2 or 3 he asked me what I wanted out this listening session. I asked him to critique my work, to comment on my lines, voicings, orchestration, the usual writing stuff. He paused for a moment then said: “You’ll write better when you leave.” He was absolutely right. While Dick’s response was blunt, it did not deter me and I set out become “good.” I am ever grateful for his directness and for his great skill as a teacher (which also played an important role in my development). I am also glad I was able to tell him so many years later.

Fred Stride
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  #5  
Old Jul 21, 2008, 09:26 AM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Key revelations.

Years ago in San Francisco, John Handy and me were on our way to meet a couple of young ladies who we hoped would be beguiled by our looks, wit and obvious sex appeal (smiles all around). Our friendship was on a equal basis although I was fully aware of his brilliance as a player, and deferred to his superior musical knowledge when it came to the art of playing the saxophone. In that respect I was a student and John, the teacher.
On our way to meet the ladies, we stopped in a music store and the owner. of course knew John and said that he had a new line of Selmer student model horns ("Vito" I think) and would he like to try one. Out came the horn and John said to me "you try it first man".....I put in a reed into an unfamiliar mouthpiece and played some runs and scales and sounded pretty good.....considering. The owner smiled and said much the same. John took the horn and played some of the most brilliant shit that I've ever heard for about 15 minutes with his own sound and concept on a horn that he had never played before! It was then and there that I realized the amount of work and practise I had ahead of me to even get to step one of where he was at. It was both a motivating and humbling experience for me. As we left the music store to meet the ladies, our friendship was equal but I was a changed man.
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  #6  
Old Aug 8, 2008, 06:27 PM
mike rud mike rud is offline
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Cool

Thanks you three. Those are all really great contributions. I notice how the conception of the "goal" of learning one's art shifts as one moves ahead. That's really neat.

Keep the accounts coming in! I find this really inspiring.

-Mike
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  #7  
Old Aug 8, 2008, 10:58 PM
Cameron Milligan Cameron Milligan is offline
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One of my big moments in music was when I first heard Clifford Brown's solo over "Cherokee". Having just started trumpet lessons (about 3 years ago), I had an interest in jazz, but had to real exposure to true, pure jazz until this solo. My teacher had given me the recording of Cherokee, and I was speechless after listening to it. I didn't even believe it was humanly possible to play that well, and the fact that it was improvised blew me away even more. At that point I thought "So this is what jazz really is! That's how I want to play and I'll have to do whatever it takes to get there" and so began my interest in jazz... I became the only 15 year old at my school who cared only about jazz trumpet and nothing else mattered.

Other experiences that have all widened my musical awareness include playing under Fred Stride's direction, getting Joe Magnarelli's insights on music, learning from Nicole Mitchell at the jazz intensive, getting a lesson from Jimmy Greene, meeting McCoy Tyner, listening to Enrico Rava, playing awesome gigs, AND playing shitty gigs.

-cm
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  #8  
Old Aug 11, 2008, 06:12 AM
mike rud mike rud is offline
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Brownie

Thanks Cameron,

I remember when I started checking that recording out (from 'Study in Brown', right?) You know, I often (OFTEN) play that opening lick from Clifford Brown's Cherokee solo, as a way of covering a major chord. He just spits that out with the conviction of a freight train.

It took me a while to get it to lay on well the neck, and now I sometimes I even feel trapped by it. But hey, we're all 'trapped' somewhere. Clifford is a good place to be stuck!

If you like that rapid fire, intensely consistent sounding time feel anbd articulation, even if you're not a guitarist, I suggest you check out Pat Martino (which you might already have, I'm sure). He really does that well, to put it mildly.

He's also a good clear example of someone who was practicing a ton from an early age. His earliest solo album (I think) is this masterpiece called El Hombre, on which he's what, 17 years old? From what I've been reading, there looks to be a critical developmental window for this kind of stuff. If you've banked many hours per day for many years of your youth, it may actually cause your brain to grow differently in key, musically relevant areas, souping up your abilities with pitch and finger control.

That lines up well with what Brad Turner told me once (to drop his illustrious name). I hope I'm remembering correctly that he once told me that the key to learning more than one instrument well, is to learn them in youth; the earlier the better. My memory of that conversation may be suspect, as it was a few beers into a gig we did at Hogan's Alley, near China town, back in about '93, when I was living in Victoria, and about to go to New York for a spell.

This critical window of development might be a drag if you're 25 and want to take up piano full time, with no previous experience. But then again, maybe there are other ways to express oneself musically, which don't entail the kind of technical mastery that you find in Clifford Brown or Par Martino. I just saw Leonard Cohen play one of the best concerts I've ever seen, and though I'm sure he has a lot of hard-earned verbal ability in his history, it just goes to show you that there is more than one way to skin the cat of expressivity.
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  #9  
Old Aug 12, 2008, 02:22 AM
Cameron Milligan Cameron Milligan is offline
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Clifford is definitely a good place to be stuck (for now at least!). I've shamelessly quoted that solo many times when I need some serious rapid-fire licks! Of course, I still transcribe other things to vary my vocabulary.

I honestly haven't really checked out Martino - I've heard the name before but never had any inclination to delve any further. Now I do though and I'll definitely take a look at some of his recordings. Which albums do you recommend?

As for youth and music, I think there is some relation perhaps, but maybe not to the extreme that some believe. It takes a certain amount of mental maturity before the analytical mind can really wrap itself around the concepts of improv. Simply practicing isn't going to get a kid anywhere unless they can think properly about what they're doing. If you look at a lot of great jazz musicians, they either didn't start or didn't take their playing seriously until their teens (there are exceptions, of course). Clifford started when he was 15, same with Lee Morgan and they improved exponentially over the next few years. I think that it's around this age where a person is developed enough to be able to take it seriously just like they would with any kind of academic subject. There are so many parents that go with "the younger the better" theory and think that exposing their young children to music will develop their musical minds - I've seen many of these kids (much of them pianists) who end up learning the RCM repertoire but nothing else (barely any sight reading ability, NO improv skills, cannot put emotion into music, cannot apply their technique to anything else, cannot HEAR the music before playing it...). I think that's because at a very early age music often becomes a drill and not a form of expression. So to sum it up, I don't think the earlier is always the better. The right time is the better. I can't debate the fact that there are prodigies who are able to seriously practice and understand music at a very early age, but this doesn't mean that someone starting later in life has any less potential.

I was also just reading about Oliver Gannon, and apparently he was getting his engineering degree when he bought an electric guitar. Within months he was gigging and then went on to study music. I've heard similar stories of people not playing at all and then discovering music later in life. So I guess it is possible for an adult to learn jazz right off the bat as long as they have the time and drive to work at it without forming any mental blocks (although this is pretty impractical for an adult who has to work for a living as well). It's much more common for adults to pick up a guitar and learn some rock or folk tunes and that's the limit of their virtuosity. If they have individuality and the ability to connect with others (like Leonard Cohen does), and the ability to create music, then their music can become much more real and much less of a hobby.

Definitely some thoughtful stuff you're putting out there, Mr. Rud.

-cm
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  #10  
Old Aug 12, 2008, 05:13 PM
mike rud mike rud is offline
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Hey Cameron,

Thanks for your kind words!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Milligan View Post
Which albums do you recommend?
I like 'El Hombre' a lot; 'Strings', 'East', and 'Consciousness' are great as well.

As for youth and practicing, I don't think you and I are in disagreement. There are so many ways to be a good musician. Improvising is an interesting twist on the whole thing, that's for sure. A little more whimsical and global. Not purely a technical problem.

I notice though, that we musicians tend to have a great 'reach for the stars' attitude which pays off in the practice room, and while this is important, I think there could also be evidence that learning some skills at some times in life is just plain easier than learning those skills at other times.

Why do I get the feeling that Jared is about to chime in?

Still, the number of directions music could go in is so vast. Also on any given day, music is just a great thing in that moment. It doesn't necessarily need to be headed somewhere death defying or virtuosic, in order to be worthwhile.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Milligan View Post
I was also just reading about Oliver Gannon,
Man, now whatever THAT guy did, THAT was clearly a great developmental pathway.
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  #11  
Old Aug 13, 2008, 11:09 AM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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I don't have any particular understanding of brain development, so I can't comment one way or another on the pros and cons of starting early or late. I do know my own personal observations have shown the issue to be pretty complex. For instance a bass player friend of mine was once strongly discouraged (by his teacher, who plays bass in a symphony orchestra) of entertaining notions of a symphonic career because he was "starting too late" in addressing that repertoire. Symphony bass-player-guy insisted that you needed to be playing this kind of stuff from an early age (as he had) to stand a chance of mastering it to the level needed to have a shot at an orchestra job. Now on the one hand, my friend was a damn good bass player, just a newbie in the classical style. On the other, I've had players on the level on Alan Matheson tell me they felt at a disadvantage when auditioning for orchestra jobs by not having spent a lifetime with the repertoire. Still, in this case I can't help thinking that the real obstacle to getting an orchestra job is that there ain't any. The standard advice is "wait till somebody dies." And Symphony-bass-guy really had zero contemporary experience in job hunting, having gotten his gig 30 years ago straight out of Julliard.

Some of the most difficult students I've had have been adults, but I think this has less to do with brain development than with ego. Adults, particularly adults who are very successful and skilled in other areas, sometimes resent having to do "baby" work on the instrument and yet it is absolutely necessary for beginners (of any age) to approach the process with the open-ness and enthusiasm of a child. Some adults have trouble with this and are constantly looking for short-cuts and ways to get to 'the good stuff' ie. more sophisticated, less embarrassingly beginnerish levels of playing. Many professional players, myself among them, also fall prey to this mindset.

On the other hand, I currently have a 58 year old student, a prof in Tulane's bioengineering faculty, who's making rapid progress. He does everything I tell him to do and approaches the process with the same thoroughness and work ethic he brings to his research.

So, yeah. There's the child prodogies, and there's the Ollie Gannons (late bloomers). Who knows?
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  #12  
Old Aug 13, 2008, 07:39 PM
mike rud mike rud is offline
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Child Prodigies

That's interesting John, thanks. Yeah, you know advice about when you should start an instrument seems to me to be a little bit hard to know what to do with. Telling someone who is learning to play "well, you need to have started ten years earlier" is a little bit like saying to a Dickens fan "well you need to have been born in 19th Century London."

People are going to follow their bliss, and the neurology of it be damned, and I think that's probably as it should be.

And then when you consider what you could do with knowledge about developmental oportunities, something in me buckles against that too. Consider the parent who has determined that their kid must become a world class concert pianist. I've seen those kind of parents, and for good reasons I don't always like them. People ask if we've got our kids signed up for music lessons, and so far we haven't. It's nothing we ever want to push on them. I'm behind my kids no matter what they are interested in. Although the 7-year old, Kelly, is displaying a bit too much facility with that sacherine, Disneyesque vocal style for my liking.

But I want to take us back to the opening theme of this thread:

I had a key realization about groove at one point. I was really getting in to Charlie Christian (in fact I lifted all of it, mostly just into a notebook, but some onto my horn) and I realized that the quarter note is the center of the whole thing. That quarter note is, for me, the Joyspring (if you will) that drives and sells every phrase. Good eighth notes can only be carved out of good solid quarter notes, and the more intricate the phrase you are playing becomes, the easier it is to lose touch with that quarter note. I like to feel it, right in my gut, chest and neck, a steady euphoric bounce. Hearing and feeling it, as the main thought in my head as I played, really invigorated my playing. I really felt a change in my basic musicianship at that point.
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  #13  
Old Aug 14, 2008, 11:38 AM
Steve Kaldestad Steve Kaldestad is offline
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Key Realisations

Hi Mike. It's funny, my development has trundled along at various paces, but one lesson keeps coming back to mind where I noticed a crazy difference in my playing almost immediately afterward. I traveled from Montreal to Toronto for a lesson with Pat LaBarbera in 92, and Pat, noticing I was playing some passing tones, but a bit willy-nilly, gave me some exercises to hammer out the kinks and solidify my understanding of all the possibilities. I'd been told about the passing 7th on a dominant a couple years before, but had never really 'shedded' all the permutations and combinations in a methodical way, or done much over the major/minor/dominant scales. I remember practising from Pat's sheets for about a week and that's about all it took. It just clicked, and I couldn't imagine how I was getting around without them before. (Although I'm still working on them!)

Thanks Pat!
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  #14  
Old Aug 15, 2008, 01:03 AM
Morgan Childs Morgan Childs is offline
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The skip beat is eternal. Where do you put it? Close to the next note, or further away? Somewhere in between? All of the above and then some?
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  #15  
Old Aug 15, 2008, 07:20 AM
mike rud mike rud is offline
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Morgan and Steve

Hi Steve,

Yeah, I love that passing tone stuff. It's endless and it probably makes up the bulk of my practicing. I love checking out the out-of-the way options, like one student of mine about 10 years ago pointed out that you could play altered and 5th mode of harmonic minor scales with passing tones between 7 and 8. Very cool.

Morgan, yeah that skip beat seems pretty closely related to the swing 8th note question, which there are many different opinions on. It really didn't occur to me until a few of years ago, that there could be different eighth note feels depending on context detail like the tempo, and whether the figure was a intervalic vs scalar.

This post had a bit of jargon in it. I promise to use less of these shop terms from here on in, for the sake of the non-musicians whom I hope are reading.
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