I've written about being low on time in the past, but today I didn't do anything except attend class, practice, exercise, work on this site, and eat until now (8 P.M.). And I've been up since 6:30 A.M.
The short version:
35 minutes Pentatonics & Neighbor Tones
30 Minutes Corcovado (preparation)
30 Minutes Corcovado
I really enjoyed my first foray into pentatonics yesterday, and since they are a new area for me to master, I believe I will notice a relatively large payoff for relatively little work. By comparison to major scales, for instance, I can already milk my command of major scales for lots of licks and diatonic voice leading, so it would take a lot of work to develop more nuance in that area and only for the small benefit of that nuance. Comparatively, I almost never employ pentatonics, but about 80% of their value will come by simply getting them in my fingers/ear/getting a grasp on their most fundamental uses.
In short, I was very excited to get back into them today.
I began with the major pentatonics. Right now, I have the play them very slowly in order to not make mistakes. I could play them quickly and get them 90% accurate, but I highly value taking it slow and making almost zero mistakes. That's the difference between just knowing them in the practice room and really being able to use them with confidence on stage. Other than notes, I made my next priority to absolutely minimize the motion of my fingers. I do a decent job of this in practice, but I notice my fingers become inefficient when I improvise freely.
As usual, I went through the circle of fifths. As I became more comfortable with pentatonics in general, I added in my breath/tongue articulations. I also went through the minor version in all twelve keys.
After pentatonics, I continued my quest to expand my rhythmic skills with a variation on the neighbor tone exercise. I started on the "and" of beat one and made myself stop when I reached the downbeat of beat one at certain points. This helps develop my ability to not only stay in time but also know exactly where I am at any given point in the measure.
Made it through all twelve keys then took a lunch break. I've read that the brain takes up only 10% of your body mass but consumes 80% of your calories. Don't quote me on those exact numbers but the ratio is definitely huge. Somehow these mental exercises leave me more exhausted than pounding out scales at 170bpm. And I was literally sweating.
I started a new tune today (previously been working on Half Nelson/Lady Bird). In pretty much every post I've made I've referenced Dexter Gordon. I decided now I would pay some attention to another one of my absolute favorite saxophonists; Stan Getz.
While I admire Dexter for his sweet bitchin' licks and incredibly rich tone, Getz has a subtle lyricism (and equally beautiful tone, albeit quite different) along with a stellar sense of time/phrasing.
I chose a classic Samba, Corcovado (I don't actually know if it's technically a Samba; sue me). It's hard to force myself to not play the melody or improvise over the changes or anything at first except go through the chord tones. But I do it.
First I just played the lowest chord tone available on the downbeat of every change. I also went to the highest chord tone after several runs on the lower end, and then tried to stay around the middle range.
Next I tried to always land on the "third" of each chord on the downbeat of every change.
And I went through this pattern landing on the fifth and 7th as well.
Sometimes I used a backing track, but the tempo was a bit fast for me to maintain the accuracy I wanted.
I used this recording of Getz on Corcovado as my guide.
I popped it into Transcribe and played along with Getz for a bit, imitating his style. It's different than Gordon for sure, but I used to idolize Getz in high school so it wasn't too hard to slip back into his style (not that I can do it perfectly, but as far as my skill goes at the moment I did it fairly easily).
I improvised over a few choruses and at this point it was almost 7 P.M. I was tired. But I knew that going through more choruses unfocused wouldn't be good. So I went to Getz's solo and copped his opening lick and several more.
I mentioned in another post that Gordon seems to love 6ths, 9ths, and long streams of 8th notes. Getz seems to love neighbor tone figures, embellishing chord tones, using long melodic lines to lead into chord tones, and using articulation to great effect.
Something about Getz's ideas seem to have a faint air of call-and-response that makes them seem to flow together so well. Perhaps this is why he is considered the greater "storyteller".
I didn't take the Getz licks through all the keys (today), but I used them on the changes in this key, and tried to incorporate some Gordon licks in the style of Getz. After a few more choruses I called it a day.
Happy practicing! Monday will feature another interview from an amazing cellist studying and Indiana University.