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improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.

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Rick Fielding 07 Oct 99 - 10:29 AM
Brad Sondahl 07 Oct 99 - 10:34 AM
Rick Fielding 07 Oct 99 - 10:38 AM
Frank Hamilton 07 Oct 99 - 10:42 AM
Art Thieme 07 Oct 99 - 02:35 PM
Lady McMoo 07 Oct 99 - 03:06 PM
MMario 07 Oct 99 - 03:24 PM
j0_77 07 Oct 99 - 09:30 PM
WyoWoman 07 Oct 99 - 09:42 PM
Brad Sondahl 07 Oct 99 - 10:19 PM
Cap't Bob 08 Oct 99 - 12:42 AM
Rick Fielding 08 Oct 99 - 10:50 AM
Peter T. 08 Oct 99 - 11:08 AM
Neil Lowe 08 Oct 99 - 12:09 PM
j0_77 08 Oct 99 - 12:30 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 08 Oct 99 - 01:09 PM
Neil Lowe 08 Oct 99 - 01:29 PM
j0_77 08 Oct 99 - 02:04 PM
JedMarum 08 Oct 99 - 03:33 PM
Cap't Bob 08 Oct 99 - 05:58 PM
Rick Fielding 08 Oct 99 - 10:43 PM
Neil Lowe 09 Oct 99 - 11:29 AM
JedMarum 09 Oct 99 - 12:22 PM
Rick Fielding 09 Oct 99 - 12:37 PM
Rick Fielding 10 Oct 99 - 11:13 AM
Frank Hamilton 10 Oct 99 - 06:01 PM
Paul S 10 Oct 99 - 08:21 PM
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Subject: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 10:29 AM

I can't tell you how glad I am that the "three chord songs" thread has hung in for a few days, but in fairness to the original thread, it's gotten into some fairly technical stuff that may not help it's original aim. As much as I love deeply the simplest forms of music, I'm also fascinated by folks' approach to improvising, chord structure, scale variations etc. Although I'm a terrible sight reader (my parents were bad disciplinarians and I loved baseball much more than practicing piano) I think it's very valuable to learn the BASICS of theory if you want to jam with others. I've encountered both great readers who couldn't play a note without sheet music and pretty decent improvisers who barely knew what key they were in.

I also appreciate that some folks in the 3 chord thread found the scale and chord stuff interesting even if they were new to it.

Rick


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Brad Sondahl
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 10:34 AM

I'm not note literate, but my approach to an instrument is to learn to pick out tunes on it. After learning hundreds of tunes, one learns to play whatever one is thinking. Then improvising is merely a matter of thinking the music. I think Jazz musicians frequently come to this place through lots of scales practice, but I much prefer just learning lots of tunes. Now I play harmonica, guitar, keyboards, and tin whistle, of which only guitar and keyboards need a knowledge of chords. Brad http://www.camasnet.com/~asondahl/music.html


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 10:38 AM

"THINKING THE MUSIC"!!! Love it! Thank you Brad.

Rick


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 10:42 AM

Hi Rick, Rick, I believe that to learn anything about music is helpful. It's a matter of what it is that's important to you to learn. I found that the more I learned about music theory: chord construction, jazz harmony, four-part writing with figured bass, counterpoint, arranging and orchestrating, the better I was able to appreciate the artful simple communication of folk songs. The more I learned, the more I learned to appreciate.

The language for jazz is different than for classical music. I think that this is true when it comes to folk music as well. It's rare that a minor seven flat five chord would fit in a folk song accompaniment without stretching the borders of taste. It's a matter of familiarity with the idiom. Sometimes three chords can be the most effective form of communication. There has been a direction in so-called "serious" music to minimalism. It's a tool like any other approach.

Improvisation, in my view, is a communal expression. You gotta' speak the same language to improvise together.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 02:35 PM

Well, folks, take it from one who never played with folks---improvise is all I ever did. Mostly with 3 (maybe 4 or 5) chords down below the 5th fret. I even improvised my set lists. Rarely planned anything.

Is that what improvise means?

Art


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Lady McMoo
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 03:06 PM

I quite agree with Brad. I have never bothered to learn from music and through 35 years picking out tunes now find I can more or less think of a tune and play it like Brad. Also like Art I rarely plan a set in advance. As a scientist I have to be very organized at work ...perhaps I am kicking against it in my hobby?

mcmoo


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: MMario
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 03:24 PM

I have great sympathy for those poor teachers who tried and tried and tried to teach me how to read music. I could answer the quizes and everything,(at that time. Didn't retain much) but I cannot make head not tail of written music unless I already KNOW the piece. And even then it is more "oh yeah, that's the little piece where it goes wonkers then goes back" rather then knowing what note . It is NOT from lack of trying. I have attempted to learn during several periods of my life, including while my nieces and nephews were learning. You want total frustration? sit down to study with an eight year old who can "hear" the music on a score she's never seen before, when you CAN'T read music. {walked away from that session with bruises ALL over my ego....}

I'm rambling, but what I meant to say was I DO find the technical aspects intersting. I even UNDERSTAND some of it, or at least understand enough to make sense of the conversations. But put it to any kind of use? uh-uh.


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: j0_77
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 09:30 PM

Enjoyed this thread - Art's comments are familiar to me there was a time when I played by what I heard and knew not a lick or tune.- Do we have to have a schooling to know how to play well, hmmmm don't know the answer.

Learned to read music from folk song books :) I could not afford the records but people would give away their old song books .

Now that I occasionaly transcribe folk fiddle recordings into some kind of notation, I know very well why it is better to learn by ear and from an expert. This applies to folk more than any other music I can think of except I suppose Jazz. So it is not enough to learn just the notes like a wind player might. While at this point, need to add a wind player may need more data as well as little black dots 'but' they can still sound very convincing without, a fiddler on the other hand cannot. Tommy Jarrel the N Carolina old time fiddler, once said he had a friend who knew thousands of fiddle tunes but could not play one. Any one familiar with old time/celtic etc fiddling if asked will show you why. There is but one way to bow a tune and if you don't get it from some one who already knows it can take years to make. Go listen to contemporary celtic fiddle recordings ( made by people who want to make some money since celtic is sooo popular NO BOWING AT ALL) now go listen to the elder Hunter's of the -Scottish Isles, or Dennis Muprhy and Julia -Clifford Kerry (Sliabh Luchra) Ireland, Tommy Jarrel N Carolina USA ( who played because it was handed down to them and they loved it. ALL BOWING ) The skill these folk have is gathered over centuries, like the best folk it takes a lot of people/time to make 'mountain fiddle music'.

Playing classical music does not gaurantee a person skill in folk. How many times have I heard a classical player and wondered why they miss the whole point of a folk tune. Bowing's? I also find the short bow Bluegrass fiddle style a little tiresome, it has hardly a tie/slur in, perhaps I am biased or something.


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: WyoWoman
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 09:42 PM

As a singer who's been more or less trained, and has sung "classical" choral music off and on for years, I'm a pretty good sight reader, albeit rusty right now. But it's such a different ballgame to sing traditional music or rock and not be able to rely on that "cheat sheet" of the music all nicely printed out in front of you.

One of the reasons I've taken up guitar at this late stage is to try to understand the structure of the music in this genre better, so I can begin to "think the music" with my voice more than the instrument, I suppose, but so I can think it in concert with musicians who are playing their own instruments.

WW


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Brad Sondahl
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 10:19 PM

I also seemed to be musically impaired for sight reading: took piano lessons for 3 years and could never read more than the melody line with any semblance of speed. At the same time I was able to work out tunes like Tiajuana taxi by ear...

By the way, my first instrument was whistling, which is a strictly "thought" instrument. Actually it's probably right brain stuff-- one can whistle pretty well while doing or thinking about other things. I sort of have a radio going in my head a lot of the time, whether I'm whistling or not.

When improvising with others, the trick is to listen and react to what you hear immediately, coming from the others and yourself. When you dive in on a harmonica, you don't necessarily know what the first sound will be that emerges, but if you want to sound good you have to figure how to get to the good notes in a hurry...


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Cap't Bob
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 12:42 AM

I usually get into trouble if I start trying to remember the words to a song or how a particular tune goes. Most of the thinking goes into learning the song/tune in the first place, however after that is accomplished the mechanical part of playing seems to flow. If I havn't played a song in some time and start worrying about the words I will most likely forget them.

For quite a few years our band would make a "play list", consisting of the songs we planned to play and the order in which they would be played. Sometimes we would get about half way through the list before we started skipping around. Currently we just use a song list picking tunes that seem to fit the moment. The only planned selections are the opening and closing songs.

I love to improvise and it seems that if I can whistle a tune/variation/or an impromptu melodie, I can usually play it with little effort once I find a comfortable key. It's fun to go out in the woods with the penny whistle and just play away.

Years ago I began playing the guitar combining cords and melody. This seems to have come about because there was no one else around to play cords. I play way up and down the neck, however, I'm usually not aware of the name of the cord that's being played.

Cap't Bob


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 10:50 AM

Jo, have you heard Blountville Tennessee longbow fiddler Ralph Blizzard. Discovering him was my big musical thrill of 1998! Ummmm that bowing arm!

Rick


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Peter T.
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 11:08 AM

I was totally stuck musically for about 20 years until 3 years ago -- I had played for years without having anything stick in my head, or getting much out of it -- when I finally decided to sit down and learn some rudimentary music theory (really because I love Mozart). No one had ever told me the simple key patterns/structures/tonics,dominants, etc., discussed in the "three chord" thread. If someone had just given me 5 minutes instruction in that when I was 13, I wouldn't have wasted all those years without some kind of structure to hang all the stuff I was listening to on, and plonking away on on the guitar. The basics are so simple, and I curse everyone involved, including myself, for not giving me that. I would make it a condition of getting a driver's licence that you learn the basics of music theory.
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Neil Lowe
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 12:09 PM

...I could envisions all kinds of new twists on the line, "Sir/Ma'am, do you know why I pulled you over?"

"Sorry officer, I changed from Mixolydian to Aeolian mode without signalling first - it won't happen again, I promise."


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: j0_77
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 12:30 PM

Hey Rick :0) ... I heard of Ralph Blizzard thankx for reminding me, I must get a CD, also heard some mighty old timey fiddlers at Mountain View Arkansas. Some of these guys an gals live up in them mountains and come out to pick at the festivals.


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 01:09 PM

I want to echo PeterT's comment--Although from a slightly different perspective--In school,I studied instrumental music parallel to learning folk music and rock and roll from friends, but never found a way, or actually even thought of looking for a way to bridge the two--

I made a mess out of both for years, til I began to play with an old time jazz/club musician who understood guitar technique and music theory really well, and could explain them simply--

The most important thing I learned was to think about what I was doing, rather than just trying to imitate what I thought I heard---it straighted a lot of things out for me, but made me do a lot of work that I didn't know I needed to do--

Still, I regret many years spent running around in circles and learning things half way, often from people who didn't understand them much better than I did--


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Neil Lowe
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 01:29 PM

j0 77...and can pick phenomenally, too. I relish seeing the visible transformation of someone - thinking only Itzhak Perlman types can play violin - who for the first time hears a fiddler in overalls and workboots who looks like he just finished plowing forty acres of red clay (and probably just did) play "Orange Blossom Special" at breakneck speed. Whatever false perceptions of mountain folk they held are lost and irretrievable.

Regards, Neil (with a nod to that "Dueling Banjos" scene in "Deliverance")


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: j0_77
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 02:04 PM

Now you got me in a tizzy Neil - I am so lazy - but i will make up for it. I did hear a fiddler from Nashville once who played the long bow ...it was amzing. BTW Any one really into Old timey should look out for Brad Leftwich - Brad is an Okie who plays all kinds of stuff and I believe he is in N Carolina these days.


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: JedMarum
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 03:33 PM

Pete Seeger is credited with saying, when asked if he could read music; "Not enough to hurt my playin'!"

As one who learned most of my music by ear, and from playing with others, I get a kick out of this comment. BUt I also took lessons, and read music for three years as a youngster, and this music background gave me a great base. Music theory is understood by all good blues, jazz and folk players who improvize - whether or not they can express the theory in the same language as the great classically trained musicians. If you get with a bunch of good blues jammers, for instance, they may or may not discuss the type of scales they are using or detail the chord patterns, but they'll have no problem telling the harp player the tune is a 12 bar, 1,4,5 progression in the key of E. The harp player will know he needs an A harmonica, and will already have the basics of the tune in head before they start.

I have heard many excellent, untrained musicians, who have learned theory well, by doing ... and some who can talk the same language as the trained players. The more complex the music, the more neccessary the language of theory.

I believe music theory gives players he best base for learning new music by ear.


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Cap't Bob
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 05:58 PM

Is there a cord progression pattern that would halp with a song like "Always" or "Smile". I worked these out by sound, however it took me quite a while to get it right. If there is some cord pattern for songs like the above I would really appreciate someone passing it along.

Cap't Bob


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 10:43 PM

Hi Liam. Actually Pete Seeger is a very skilled music reader and writer. He credits that saying to an old timer and I can tell you that I've heard it said many times myself. Once again I'll reiterate, if you can count from one to eight, remember your Do re mi, and do C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C....you'll have one hell of a lot of theory that can help you play much more easily with other people.
Learn to play one song and you've learned one song, learn three or four basic song formulae and you can play thousands almost instantly (after you learn the words) That's why I try so hard to get my students NOT to use tablature. In three or four weeks you can train your ear to recognise these formulae, and it's worth five years of tab. 'Course you've got to put in the three or four weeks - and you'd be amazed at the number of folks who say they want to play better, but just can't break their "tab" habit.

Rick


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Neil Lowe
Date: 09 Oct 99 - 11:29 AM

I have a friend who pushes Tab on me all the time. My reasoning is, if you can take the time to learn Tab, why not just learn to read music instead? To me Tab is an inferior form of music notation. It's not all that much harder to learn All Cows Eat Grass and Every Good Boy Does Fine, plus a little bit about quarters and eighths and sixteenths, and then there's no need for Tab. IMHO

Regards, Neil


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: JedMarum
Date: 09 Oct 99 - 12:22 PM

Rick - Pete is a skilled musician and I am sure he understands theory well. That's why I get such a kick out of his comment (or him using that quote). I agree also that knowing the do, re, me's and the chord patterns for a few songs is already a wealth of music theory. Again, my comments re: the blues musicians (very commonly playing the 3 chord songs) who may not be able to talk the same language as the trained musicians, but they understand much of the theory.


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 Oct 99 - 12:37 PM

Good point Liam. A couple of days ago one of my advanced students used the term "Gospel chords". It slipped by before I asked him to explain what that meant to him. Cause "White gospel" and "Black Gospel" share some harmonic structures, but also have some distinctly separate ones. One example might be: A folksinger might play the last line of this song this way:

"when the saints go marchin' in". with the chords: C//G7//C////

Wheras a black accompanist (might) play it as:

C/A7/D7/G7/C////

Rick


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 10 Oct 99 - 11:13 AM

Wow! Just heard a 1937 recording of the "Sons of the Pioneers" singing a Gospel song (who's name I didn't get) on CBC radio this morning. Great Harmony, wonderful lead guitar. Great band!

Rick


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 10 Oct 99 - 06:01 PM

How to improvise? Make up a melody and play it on your instrument. Keep doing that until you're thinking musical lines and can find them on the instrument quickly. Want to improvise with others? Learn chord progressions. (Harmonic line). Then learn the scales and arpeggios that go with each chord. Want to learn harmonic lines? Transpose each chord progression into every key. Want to get better at it? Study all the music you can in the style in which you want to improvise. Want to be a great ensemble musician? 1. Play the right notes at the right time. 2. Make everyone else sound good.

Sounds simpler than it is.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: improvising folk, blues, jazz etc.
From: Paul S
Date: 10 Oct 99 - 08:21 PM

I used to be a blues musician (more of a folkie now), and it always pissed me off when people told me that the piano lessons I took as a kid were a handicap. They insisted that improv should be some sort of free form expression of emotion.

I don't disagree with that. However, how can you express your emotions in poetry, if you don't speak the language?

Paul


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