No More Coffee

Finally broke my worst addiction: coffee. For months it has kept me up late, kept my mouth and throat dry, actually worsened my focus, and made me rush tempos. Plus cost me far too much money. Granted these were relatively slightly problems, but problems nonetheless.

 

The short version:

30 Minutes Flute

30 Minutes Bach

1 Hour “I Remember You”

 

Slightly shorter amount of practice again today due to a rehearsal I forgot about until the last minute, so I couldn’t budget any more time in. Additionally I’m getting a lot of homework as the semester nears an end. But it worked out well because I had another 3 hour recording session, and I could barely play another note by the end of it.

 

The flute work is really paying off. My range has expanded nearly a full octave since the first week I began. Today I started with long tones from middle B down to low C. Remembering my discovery yesterday, I deliberately kept count of how many beats I could hold each note at a steady tempo. The deliberate counting naturally makes me take a big breath at the start and focus on air efficiency.

 

Before I played long tones in the high register, I played the overtone series. Higher notes require “faster” air. There are two ways to achieve this; blow more air or make the embouchure tighter. I’m focusing more on the latter because it allows me to play with softer dynamics and a lot more control/nuance.

 

So I played overtones on D, Eb, E, and F, which are essentially the only notes on which it works. I focused intensely on playing softer to be sure I wasn’t carelessly using more air, and that I was in fact making my embouchure tighter.

After long tones, I played a lick (in solfege: do re me fa re te do, aka "the lick" which can be found on Youtube by searching "the lick") in every key.

After flute, I played the Bach exercise again on sax using the Tonal Energy to check my tuning. Some notes on the sax are extremely out of tune, to the point where I can’t even fully adjust them right now. My lips need to become much stronger, which I believe will happen in due time.

 

But it’s also a great ear/brain/finger exercise because of the large and unusual diatonic intervals. Since I normally emphasize dynamics over tuning when I play long tones; I started checking that with the tuner today. Occasionally, when I had a note perfectly in tune, I would test myself by playing it softer/louder and maintaining the tuning. I was pleased to see I could do it easily.

 

I took a break for class, then started to learn “I Remember You”. I first heard this tune earlier in the year when one of our vocalists sang it for her showcase, and I loved it for the lyrics and bossa feel she added to it.

 

The first thing I did was listen to a variety of recordings. Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughn, Charlie Parker, Stanley Turrentine with Milt Jackson, and Ella Fitzgerald. That gave me a great idea of the melody and lots of perspectives on tempo, style, phrasing, etc. Then I put the Chet Baker version in Transcribe to slow it down and repeat it easier.

 

After I learned the melody by ear, I looked up the changes and discovered that it is normally played in a different key. It didn’t’ take me long to transpose the melody, and it actually forced me to learn it in scale degrees, which is ultimately a good thing.

 

Most of the changes I could hear from the beginning, because the down-stepping motion is fairly obvious (down-stepping simply means making a major chord into a minor chord that becomes part of a ii-V progression, such as making Cmaj7 into Cmin7 then moving to F7).

 

I first played through the changes in time, in all chord tones. Some of the interesting harmonies, like F#7 going directly to Gmaj7, would have surprised me 3 months ago but now I view them as part of the jazz language. I have ways of analytically approaching that chord, of hearing it, and of improvising over it, whereas I used to be puzzled by chords that weren’t obvious substitutions of predominant/subdominant/tonic harmony.

 

After I got a handle on the changes, which only took a few minutes, I started voice leading licks and patterns across the harmony. I focused on rhythmic phrasing and tried sounding a little more like Stan Getz in terms of tone.

 

After I ran many choruses of different patterns, I allowed myself a few minutes of freely improvising. The changes were totally memorized at that point, which is the fastest I have ever learned both melody and harmony of a tune. Almost exactly 1 hour.

 

Happy practicing!

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