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#2909007 - 02/12/18 11:24 AM Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo?
cedar Offline
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A number of us have observed that some well-regarded musicians have been known, on occasion at least, to perform prepared solos. But I don't think any of us discussed whether we have done that ourselves. And I am thinking of a somewhat more particular situation.

Specifically, it occurs to me that it might be a useful exercise to plan a solo and even go to the trouble of transcribing it note by note. It sounds pretty tedious, I admit. But I bet one would come away with a deeper understanding of the changes. And maybe this would also generate ideas for an entirely new composition.

Anyone ever do anything like this?

edited: just to make title a bit more accurate


Edited by cedar (02/12/18 11:29 AM)

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#2909015 - 02/12/18 12:04 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: cedar]
Dave Ferris Offline
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I've never transcribed any of my solos. I can see the benefit of doing it at a certain level of development though. I wouldn't discourage anyone from doing it. I would pick something you felt really good about though. smile

It can be a little like recording yourself on a live gig -- which I did quite a bit of in my younger years. I think I would prefer the listening feedback to see how it fits/ sits in the tune/group context as a whole, as opposed to analytical piece of paper.

When I do a reharms that I've posted here and on my SC in the past, most of those are written out - as in "composed"- close to note for note. If I perform them I will change things up.

Like I've often posted- I do write out my own lines, 1 -4 bars - on a daily basis . Mainly for analyzing how they work over different changes and transposing to all 12 keys. Also like I've posted a zillion times - for me that is the basis for expanding my linear vocabulary. That along with taking 1-4 structures from other people's solos that I found an interesting shape, structure or melody and using the same process.

But I never actually approach a solo like -- ok I'm gonna play this exact line I wrote today over Groovin' High or Boliva or whatever. When I'm soloing I just forget everything and just play.

Basically I'm for anything that someone feels will help them be a better Jazz player and overall improviser. smile It's a vast universe out there and always developing - harmonically, rhythmically melodically.


Edited by Dave Ferris (02/12/18 12:08 PM)
Edit Reason: more thoughts
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#2909018 - 02/12/18 12:10 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Dave Ferris]
cedar Offline
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Originally Posted By: Dave Ferris
I've never transcribed any of my solos. I can see the benefit of doing it at a certain level of development though. I wouldn't discourage anyone from doing it. I would pick something you felt really good about though. smile


I wasn't really referring to transcribing a performed solo; rather, I had in mind working out a solo alone, and transcribing it as you go. So the idea would be to compose a solo, without time constraints, and without any influence of other musicians.

Quote:

Like I've often posted- I do write out my own lines, 1 -4 bars - on a daily basis . Mainly for analyzing how they work over different changes and transposing to all 12 keys. Also like I've posted a zillion times - for me that is the basis for expanding my linear vocabulary. That along with taking 1-4 structures from other people's solos that I found an interesting shape, structure or melody and using the same process.


That's more like I had in mind. Except my question wasn't about writing out isolated phrases, but an entire solo.

Quote:
But I never actually approach a solo like -- ok I'm gonna play this exact line I wrote today over Groovin' High or Boliva or whatever. When I'm soloing I just forget everything and just play.


Absolutely. This exercise would not be intended to create something for performance, but really just as a method for learning and getting deeper into a tune.

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#2909040 - 02/12/18 01:14 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: cedar]
Bobadohshe Offline
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When it comes to cutting solos in the studio in a more commercial setting, sometimes I will do a few takes where I've kind of planned the cadence and general shape of the solo. Sometimes I'll plan at least the beginning of the solo in a rough way and then let it develop from there.

In a jazz setting (especially live) anytime I have tried this approach the solo has always been quickly stillborn within a couple measures. It just doesn't work that way. It's like trying to have a conversation with someone where you've literally planned every word. Impossible.
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#2909047 - 02/12/18 01:21 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Bobadohshe]
timwat Offline
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I have not.

FWIW, I have been told by two unrelated sources that Pat Metheny has for a while followed the process of:

1) recording his solo in the moment, totally improvised, going for it, then,
2) taking the track home, transcribe the entire thing
3) re-record it exactly as he wanted to play it

Which sort of walks the line between total improvisation and polished perfection (after all, it's the same notes, intended articulation, etc. as he originally played when blowing...sort of).

Of course, it goes without saying the Metheny has always been a gifted melodic soloist (at least, IMHO), and that undoubtedly helps to having great material to polish.

And admittedly this could all be apocryphal nonsense, and that Pat doesn't do anything of the sort, or that he stopped doing this years ago, or whatever. At the very least, though, it got me thinking about another way to approach the process when you're laying it down for all posterity.
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#2909051 - 02/12/18 01:27 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: timwat]
cedar Offline
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I recognize that many may refine solos for the purpose of recordings. But I was really just wondering whether this process was something people might do solely as some kind of exercise in learning. And curious whether it strikes anyone as a decent use of time.

As I mentioned, this does seem pretty tedious - especially when there is no anticipated recording where a composed solo might be used. But I think I'm going to give it a shot once of these days.

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#2909052 - 02/12/18 01:29 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Bobadohshe]
marino Offline
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When I did the Berklee arrangement course, it was required that periodically, I would write an "improvisation" on a given chord progression. In retrospect, I'd say that it has been incredibly useful to start developing some melodic fluidity, both in solos and in composition/arrangement.
Of course, I have transcribed some solos or fragments by other musicians - but not nearly as many as I would have needed. After all, there's only one life... smile

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#2909053 - 02/12/18 01:38 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: marino]
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When I'm doing solos on my own stuff in the studio, I often "close in" on what becomes a written solo, because at that point I'm thinking like an arranger/composer, and start to get a sense of what the "finished solo" should look like. To be sure, that process is one of improvisation, but the result ends up something closer to composition.

Live....I usually give myself a challenge at the beginning of a solo and see if I'm up to it as I go. Once or twice a night I rise to it. The rest of time it's Me And My Riffs: A Love Story.
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#2909054 - 02/12/18 01:46 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: marino]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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I find Melodyne to be an awesome tool for this.

Obviously, I prefer the solo to come from the moment, even though most of my actual composing is done in my head, and I usually have a good framework for the solo before I launch into it, but surprises happen and they're usually wonderful. :-)

Nevertheless, a glitch or two might happen, or if using a digital instrument. the patch may not have handled a transition all that well. So then I can clean it up a bit and re-track.

That's not quite the same thing as "writing it out" though, as these aren't pieces that I intend (at this point in time) to perform live.

Sometimes though, notating a solo after a first try, allows me to analyze it for flaws, if I find it is not uniformly inspiring or doesn't have a proper "story" to tell in its energy ebb and flow.

Also, I do not feel compelled to do an exact match of the harmonic theory of the main piece during the solo. I sometimes like the solo to be more of a Bridge, where it's a complete departure from the main arrangement.

If I try to write out a solo quite accurately, more likely it is to provide a blueprint for someone else to run with, who has more advanced physical technique than I do and is thus likely to throw in way more expressive nuances than I would.

What I do NOT try to do, is to match the timing EXACTLY, as that is pretty much a lost cause with jazz. If one does this, the notation may be impossible for mere mortals to read and to play off of. I simplify it, knowing that a player will know what to do.

This doesn't JUST apply to jazz, but most of my world music, ambient material, and other instrumental-oriented stuff, shows heavy jazz influences and approaches (even some of my pop as well).

As a final note, I rarely write out chords. I feel like my live playing revolves enough around riff-oriented music or chordal theory, and that anything new that I write, should focus more on parallel melodies, counterpoint, and fugue, than to add to the huge existing pile of chord-oriented music (organ, guitar, etc.).

I would like to point out though, that EXKeys has the ability to analyze MIDI that you feed it, and come up with likely chord possibilities, which you can cycle through.

For pieces where I didn't have any chord theory in mind at the outset (often I do, but I just don't want to do block chords or rhythm guitar strums), I am starting to experiment with feeding grouped parts to EZKeys to see what it comes up with.

If I already have a dense arrangement, and am struggling to come up with a solo that doesn't clash, doing this after-the-fact chord theory, directly or via EZKeys, can help me decide what to edit or delete to make way for the solo to have enough freedom, while also helping it to relate better to the existing melodies.
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#2909057 - 02/12/18 01:50 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Mark Schmieder]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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Regarding what Tim said about Pat Metheny, it reminds me of something someone else of stature has said a few times (I forget who it was; maybe composer John Adams?), that jazz improvisation is just composing under an excrutiatingly severe deadline. :-)

If you go back to the early 20th century, when classical composers (especially the Impressionists, but then the Russian experimenters) were listening to early jazz and being influenced by it, many of their attempts to meld the two were awkward and missed the point.

Stravinsky, however, truly "got it". A few others as well. But my recollection is that those composers may have instructed the players to not treat the printed scores as the 100% truth of the timing needed to convey the jazz feel. Most modern conductors are adept at covering both classical and jazz, pop, etc.
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#2909058 - 02/12/18 01:51 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Mark Schmieder]
Legatoboy Offline
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It's not technically really a jazz solo then, just saying! It's a Jazz composition or more to the point a jazz 'Line' if you wrote the solo over changes, which is a very valid thing to do BTW. Jazz solos are always improvised . . .I know the modern concepts and terms have changed in regard to that.



Edited by Legatoboy (02/12/18 01:56 PM)
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#2909061 - 02/12/18 01:56 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Legatoboy]
cedar Offline
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These comments are encouraging.

A somewhat different tact: rather than try to compose a solo in advance, I could see a variation of what Dave mentioned above. Specifically, maybe I'll try listening to a recording of myself (during an impromptu jam session), with the goal of identifying segments where I got myself into a "musical corner" and then taking some time to try to figure a way out of it.

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#2909062 - 02/12/18 01:58 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: cedar]
Legatoboy Offline
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I'm in the process of writing a jazz 'Line' over 'Body and Soul' changes.. it may even sound improvised like a solo in the final version...but technically it's not!
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#2909064 - 02/12/18 02:08 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: cedar]
TAdorno Offline
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Originally Posted By: cedar
I recognize that many may refine solos for the purpose of recordings. But I was really just wondering whether this process was something people might do solely as some kind of exercise in learning. And curious whether it strikes anyone as a decent use of time.


yes. its a good way to start learning how to improvise. both writing out solos and also just writing out licks to play over different changes. (like ii-V-I patterns. or just blues scale licks if improv is totally new)
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#2909068 - 02/12/18 02:16 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: cedar]
Floyd Tatum Offline
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Originally Posted By: cedar
A number of us have observed that some well-regarded musicians have been known, on occasion at least, to perform prepared solos. But I don't think any of us discussed whether we have done that ourselves. And I am thinking of a somewhat more particular situation.

Specifically, it occurs to me that it might be a useful exercise to plan a solo and even go to the trouble of transcribing it note by note. It sounds pretty tedious, I admit. But I bet one would come away with a deeper understanding of the changes. And maybe this would also generate ideas for an entirely new composition.

Anyone ever do anything like this?

I've never done that, in the way that you describe. But, I see nothing wrong with it - what have you got to lose? Whether you 'should' do it, or whether it's 'immoral', or whether everyone else does it - screw that stuff! If it's something you want to try, I say go ahead and try it. If it helps you 'get there', then great. If it doesn't, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I say go for it, and please let us know how it turned out.
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#2909098 - 02/12/18 04:13 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: cedar]
woodtus Offline
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Originally Posted By: cedar


Specifically, it occurs to me that it might be a useful exercise to plan a solo and even go to the trouble of transcribing it note by note. It sounds pretty tedious, I admit. But I bet one would come away with a deeper understanding of the changes. And maybe this would also generate ideas for an entirely new composition.

Anyone ever do anything like this?


Zawinul used to transcribe his improvisations and then play them with the band, tunes like A remark you made he said were fully improvised (that blows my mind) and many others. When I used to experiment with different ways of composing I used to try to do this a lot, start off with an idea (couple of chords or whatever) and then improvise over it for ages, record it then listen back and take a few good bits and turn that gradually into a composition. I don’t care if what is being played is a melody or an improvised melody or a previously improvised melody replayed, as long as it sounds good.
I am not really intereted in licks and wish I could unlearn all the licks I have ever known. The trouble with them is they are easy to learn but then very hard to forget.


Edited by woodtus (02/12/18 04:14 PM)

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#2909104 - 02/12/18 04:40 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: woodtus]
Wastrel Offline
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Originally Posted By: woodtus
I am not really intereted in licks and wish I could unlearn all the licks I have ever known. The trouble with them is they are easy to learn but then very hard to forget.

Very true. But they sure come in handy when you've run out of ideas and still have 16 bars to go...
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#2909151 - 02/12/18 07:50 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Wastrel]
Al Quinn Offline
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I pretty regularly write out short melodic structures that appeal to me. They're usually four or five notes long. I practice these melodic structures in all keys until fluid and assimilated, and figure out how to apply each melodic structure over as many different chords as possible. This sounds very similar to what Dave is doing. I think of these short melodic structures as words, whereas licks are more like sentences and solos are more like stories.

Less often I'll write an etude that has language I want to assimilate. Eight measure seems to be about the right length. I'll practice these etudes in all keys until fluid and assimilated. I suppose these etudes are kind of along the lines of what Cedar is asking in that they are composed with the intention of improving vocabulary for improvisation.

When I was first learning jazz, my teacher (Bill O'Connell) had me write out a solo. The point of this exercise was to get on paper my own ideas -- kind of like a solo I wish I could have improvised. After doing so were able to talk about my written out solo. He gave helpful thoughts about phrasing, melodic development, and probably more that I can't remember right now because it was so long ago (i.e., early 80's). Cedar, is this the type of thing you're asking about? If so, yes it was a helpful development exercise for me.
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#2909160 - 02/12/18 09:02 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Al Quinn]
Dave Ferris Offline
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Originally Posted By: Al Quinn
I think of these short melodic structures as words, whereas licks are more like sentences and solos are more like stories.

Less often I'll write an etude that has language I want to assimilate. Eight measure seems to be about the right length. I'll practice these etudes in all keys until fluid and assimilated.


A bit OT but Jazz players play phrases and melodies. Rock players play licks, the more tasty ones ones play melodies. It sounds like a knock but in reality it's more the way the two musics differ rhythmically.

Licks can fit better in rock, blues , RnB and some fusiony contexts. Generally the music is more quarter note and non-swinging 8th note based. Exclusions -- the Pocaro half time shuffle on Rosanna, which came from the Purdie shuffle. Of course most RnB and funk is 16th note based.

Licks in Jazz sound contrived and instantly tell a discerning listener the player is not very mature. Often referred to as "jiving".

Conversely a long flowing, swinging be-bop line - modern or Bird language - can't have the same impact in rock or 16th note Funk/ RnB as a "lick". Plus it simply sounds out of place. Generally speaking. Although Michael Brecker made all that an exception. wink The more high level and refined players combine a Jazz language with licks.

Back on topic -- I write extended bars occasionally that I guess can also be looked at as a Jazz Etude. If I'm in the middle of working on blowing on tunes and I hit on something that I like, I'll stop and slow it WAY down and then write it out.

I've written extended stuff on the bridge to Stablemates - I like the chromatic 2/5s or Altered Dominants. That's a great study.

As is the E Maj 7 | DbMaj7 | D Maj 7| BMaj 7| etc. section on Inner Urge. I watched Kenny Barron in the studio on my friend's CD use this as a warmup . He started very slowly just on that section and very gradually picked up his speed. After about 10 minutes he stopped and didn't touch the piano again till they started recording. Really an eye opening experience in the way a Master got ready for a session.

The bridge on Miss Jones is a great study to write stuff out. The first four bars of Giant Steps. The bridge on Black Nile. The first 4 on I hear a Rhapsody. The 2/5s on Moments Notice. The whole first A section on Lazy Bird. The descending half step Maj.7s on Humpty Dumpty. The ascending Maj 7s on You Stepped out of a dream. The minor 7 to half step up Dominant 7b5 on Night in Tunisia. The Maj 7 to half step up Dominant 7 b5 on Lush Life at Ballad tempo.

The list is endless if you really slow things down and put sections under a microscope - and then do the mental heavy lifting of transposing to all keys.


Edited by Dave Ferris (02/12/18 09:47 PM)
Edit Reason: more added thoughts
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#2909170 - 02/12/18 11:02 PM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Dave Ferris]
Bobadohshe Offline
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At home I also write out licks and bits that I've 'worked out' on tunes. I will blow and blow over the changes to a song I'm trying to get under my fingers. Often I'll shed 2 or 4 measures from a song. When I play something cool or unexpected that I like I stop and write it down. I have pages of phrases for the first 4 measures of 'Humpty Dumpty' that I've worked out in this way. Also a page for different sections of stuff I worked out over 'Wave', 'Inner Urge', lots of tunes. I'll then shed these bits and they work their way back into my improvising on that tune in a more permanent way.
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#2909212 - 02/13/18 06:08 AM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: Al Quinn]
cedar Offline
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Originally Posted By: Al Quinn

When I was first learning jazz, my teacher (Bill O'Connell) had me write out a solo. The point of this exercise was to get on paper my own ideas -- kind of like a solo I wish I could have improvised. After doing so were able to talk about my written out solo. He gave helpful thoughts about phrasing, melodic development, and probably more that I can't remember right now because it was so long ago (i.e., early 80's). Cedar, is this the type of thing you're asking about? If so, yes it was a helpful development exercise for me.


Yep, that is basically what I was contemplating.

I did not go to music school and had just minimal jazz lessons. (Studied with Sal Mosca briefly). I can see that this might be a basic approach with some teachers.

I must say it is pretty fascinating to learn of the different approaches being discussed here. I am definitely going to try to find the time to incorporate some of the things you guys apparently have been doing for years.

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#2909257 - 02/13/18 08:42 AM Re: Anyone here ever write out your own jazz solo? [Re: cedar]
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Thank you to the experienced players who have shared. I've noticed a consistency among you, as well as other jazz instrumentalists, regarding composing musical phrases for the sake of exercising the imagination, rather than rote note-for-note reproduction on the gig, as well as saving phrases one likes in a notebook, for further reference/analysis.


Edited by GovernorSilver (02/13/18 08:46 AM)
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