Today was a weird day for practicing.
The short version:
20 Minutes Long Tones
30 Minutes Peacocks
20 Minutes Flute
Yeah that’s right. Not much time today. But I had an hour lesson and 2.5 hours of rehearsal.
With long tones, I have continued to alternate between starting in the middle and going up, and starting in the middle and going down first. I used to always go down first, and my lips would be tired when I got to the upper range of the horn. But my upper range has improved much more rapidly since I started alternating.
One of the best benefits of having better tone has come in my improvisation. When I sound better, I notice lately that I don’t feel the need to play as much. I feel more at liberty to simply “make a statement” and give some space instead of filling up every beat. And I’ve also noticed that since physically creating sound is much easier, and less mental energy is worried about being in tune, that extra cognitive space makes a significant difference in how much I can think about other aspects of my improvisation.
Anyway, I have a long gig this weekend and had to learn a bunch of tunes for it in a week. So mostly all I’ve done the past few days is learn the tunes by ear. Round Midnight, Body and Soul, The Peacocks, Your Heart is as Black as Night, and Big Band Handsome Man.
Transcribe has been my best friend for this. I’ve been learning using Dexter Gordon’s recordings, and the liberties he takes with the melodies are inventive and incredibly cool.
I also downloaded iReal Pro, an app that has over a thousand jazz standards’ chord changes in all keys. It’s a commonly held belief that it’s best to learn everything by ear, including changes, but in a time crunch and based on my current ability to decipher changes by ear I opted to look at them.
And finally, I got new over-ear headphones. Koss PortaPro for just $35, extremely good. Verified as extremely good by some friends I had test them out.
So with my awesome headphones, Transcribe, and iReal Pro I set to work. Round Midnight was hard for me to learn the Dexter melody by ear. Body and Soul was easier. And Peacocks today I almost got down entirely in 30 minutes. I guess my ear is improving a lot since I started learning everything by ear a few weeks ago.
In my lesson today we worked on improvisation over tri-tone subs (ex: in a Gm – C7 – FMaj – D7 progression, substituting Gb7 for C7). Mostly it was developing an altered chord language. An altered chord would basically be taking that C7 and call “C” the 7th scale degree of a melodic minor (as in C# melodic minor), and using that scale as a way to improvise over that chord.
He also helped me hear, understand, and improvise over a fully diminished chord going to a minor7 chord a half step below. For example, Fo7 going to E-7.
But most exciting was finally getting a flute! I am borrowing one from the Roosevelt, going to learn some fundamentals, then purchase my own. Today my teacher spent a few minutes extra. My teacher Jim Gailloreto is a great double on flute and he taught me the basics of how to make a sound. Below is one technique I learned; just using the head joint at first. Putting my lips in the hole, and rolling the join over so that the hole is beneath my bottom lip.
The flute was very difficult today. After a short time I felt dizzy and my hands were cramped. The proper way of holding it hurts like hell right now, and my air is inefficient so I have to use a lot of breath to make a small sound. And yet I still made progress. I went from 0 to 1.
If you haven’t already, be sure to listen to my interview with percussionist/pianist Jake Victor from Lawrence University. I already stole 2 ideas from him today and noticed improvement.