Hochschule Luzern - Musik, Abteilung Jazz

Picking Notes out of Thin Air?

Contributions from Readers

Steve Newman (newmans@cruzio.com)

Here are a few I've collected:

"The key to the melodic direction in playing solos is to try to think of yourself as a singer. Think almost conversationally- play sentences. Even Bach, whose music seems so linear and continuous, still his music is a conversation. The best music and the best musical statements are just that, they are statements. It has to make sense." --- Kirk Whalum

Improvisation is a gathering together of all the evidence of how to resolve going from here to here to here. -- Dizzy

Q. If you were to play a song that you were unfamiliar with, how do you approach it as a soloist? Do you have a system for analzying the chord changes or melody?
A. No. I just want to see where they go. I think it's important to learn a tune from its melody. It depends n the nature of the tune. If it has a lot of chords, you have to figure out where the chords are going. I just need to know where the plateaus are. I dont like to see a whole bunch of changes, but I like to see where I am and where I'm going. --- Gerry Mulligan.

Q. What do you think about in approaching a new tune?
A. Remember that I'm an ear player. At first I check out the melody and try to figure out where the composer wants it to go. When the composer wrote the melody, he made a satatement, and I’m trying to figure out what that is. Once I find that, I can almost hear how I should solo to remain in the context. It’s like when Mozart wrote a theme and expanded upon it. It was all logical. Technically, that’s what all jazz solos should be, continuations or expansions on the melody. -----Nick Brignola

The legitimate process for improvising is faking it. Yes, its gotten a bad rap, but that is basically what most jazz musicians have known as the secret to improvising. That’s playing by ear. Its another word for playing by ear. We’ve all been faking it. I’ve been faking it for 35 years and I’m just getting to be a better and better faker. Do you really think I "know" what I’m doing when I’m playing? I have no idear what I’m doing. I’m just playing. I’m faking it and hoping it comes out OK. --- Hal Galper.

Tom Wilhelm

"Think of a note, then don't play it." -- Miles Davis on improvisation


Please be encouraged to send in further quotes!

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