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From Bert Ligon's book


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There are basically three approaches to improvising on jazz standards: melodic paraphrasing, improvising with the harmony, and motivic development which may overlap the previous two.

Agreat many jazz musicians approach the harmonic implications in three ways: harmonic specificity, harmonic generalization, or ignoring harmonic implications.

 

Harmonic Specificity: Careful attention to implications of harmony. Reliance on proper thirds, sevenths resolving appropriately. Adhering to alterations called for by the chord symbols or melodic implications of the composition.

 

Harmonic Generalization: Rather than deal with the specifics of the implied harmony, reliance on blues ideas and scales. In the instance of a ii V progression, it is often generalized as a I chord. For example: with the progression

| Dmi7 | G7 | C major 7 |

the C major triad or C major blues is used for the entire phrase.

 

Ignoring the implications: This can be the result of the improvised line following the direction of motivic based improvisation; the improviser choosing to impose alternate harmony over pre-existing harmony; the improviser choosing to create tension by deliberately playing notes foreign to the implied harmony.

 

Experienced jazz plays move in and out of the above areas. They are always able to play harmonically specific, and often after being general or vague they will return to the specifics. When an experienced jazz improviser plays deliberately vague, he does so knowing the harmonic implication and therefore what tones to avoid.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find 700 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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Jazz+,

 

I've read Lignon's book and appreciate you posting how he say people look at the changes but what is this post for. Is it a response to the Offnote classical improv thread? or some other post? Is it the start of a "Bert's thought of the day" thread?

 

Let me add one from the Killer on a dead Elvis on the toilet "I was glad. Just another one out of the way. I mean Elvis this, Elvis that. All we hear is Elvis. What the shit did Elvis do except take dope that I couldn't get ahold of?"

 

Peace,

D

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I had the text copied in my mouse as I had to email it to somebody , I thought it was an interesting way of explaining jazz improvisation, so I pasted it here for no particular reason.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find 700 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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Shoot, I wanted to retread it some other time when I was sober, and now I can't. :(

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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No need to apologize. It just seemed like a random quote with no explanation of why it was posted so I thought it had something to do with Offnote's improvisation thread. The Lignon book is good. I also like Galper's Forward Motion which has a similar vibe.

 

 

Peace,

D

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Well, I thought it was going to be the start of an interesting discussion about jazz. I was holding off on my slightly cynical response so as not to discourage anyone else's enthusiasm.

 

I was going to say that I think I've lost patience for academic descriptions of jazz. :D Still, I think it was an interesting little tidbit you posted, and people might be interested in talking about it- either to trash it or to agree with it ;)

 

Lately I've been a member of the "be aware of the changes, but play whatever the hell you want" school of thought. This is partly in an effort to become more free while playing tunes.

 

But the main reason I'm lately inclined to "play what the hell I want" is because I'm sick of licks, sick of studying the vocabulary of the masters, and respecting the tradition. I'm all grown up, almost 40, and its WAY past time to be playing my own freaking music with my own freaking voice. The jazz gigs have all but dried up in my area, so it's almost a moot point, but I think I've put in enough study to say to myself "I play like I play," and go for it. Go for it like a bodily function, like it's sex or food or even taking a dump. Not like an intellectual exercise.

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Go for it like a bodily function, like it's sex or food or even taking a dump. Not like an intellectual exercise.

 

I like the "taking a dump" analogy. I'm with you FrogMonkey but I still transcribe and work on licks even though I never get to use them playing dinner music, funk, or 70's covers. Here in Phoenix there ain't much of a jazz scene. It's kinda like the BBQ scene here in the Valley all you've really got is the McRib sandwich.

 

Peace,

D

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Well, I thought it was going to be the start of an interesting discussion about jazz. I was holding off on my slightly cynical response so as not to discourage anyone else's enthusiasm.

 

I was going to say that I think I've lost patience for academic descriptions of jazz. :D Still, I think it was an interesting little tidbit you posted, and people might be interested in talking about it- either to trash it or to agree with it ;)

 

Lately I've been a member of the "be aware of the changes, but play whatever the hell you want" school of thought. This is partly in an effort to become more free while playing tunes.

 

But the main reason I'm lately inclined to "play what the hell I want" is because I'm sick of licks, sick of studying the vocabulary of the masters, and respecting the tradition. I'm all grown up, almost 40, and its WAY past time to be playing my own freaking music with my own freaking voice. The jazz gigs have all but dried up in my area, so it's almost a moot point, but I think I've put in enough study to say to myself "I play like I play," and go for it. Go for it like a bodily function, like it's sex or food or even taking a dump. Not like an intellectual exercise.

 

+1

 

Legend Soul 261, Leslie 251, Yamaha UX1, CP4, CK61, Hammond SK1, Ventilator, Privia PX3, Behringer 2600, Korg Triton LE, VB3M, B3X, various guitars and woodwinds, drum kits …

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But the main reason I'm lately inclined to "play what the hell I want" is because I'm sick of licks, sick of studying the vocabulary of the masters, and respecting the tradition. I'm all grown up, almost 40, and its WAY past time to be playing my own freaking music with my own freaking voice.

 

Wayne Krantz said similar things in talking about how he created his own approach to jazz guitar, and has since remained a unique voice in the jazz guitar world. It felt more natural for him to incorporate elements of funk and other musical styles that evolved after the golden age of swing. The one statement his fans (I guess I'm one too) remember the most is:

 

"Why would a grown man want to sound like somebody else?"

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It's back :

 

"There are basically three approaches to improvising on jazz standards: melodic paraphrasing, improvising with the harmony, and motivic development which may overlap the previous two.

Agreat many jazz musicians approach the harmonic implications in three ways: harmonic specificity, harmonic generalization, or ignoring harmonic implications.

 

Harmonic Specificity: Careful attention to implications of harmony. Reliance on proper thirds, sevenths resolving appropriately. Adhering to alterations called for by the chord symbols or melodic implications of the composition.

 

Harmonic Generalization: Rather than deal with the specifics of the implied harmony, reliance on blues ideas and scales. In the instance of a ii V progression, it is often generalized as a I chord. For example: with the progression

| Dmi7 | G7 | C major 7 |

the C major triad or C major blues is used for the entire phrase.

 

Ignoring the implications: This can be the result of the improvised line following the direction of motivic based improvisation; the improviser choosing to impose alternate harmony over pre-existing harmony; the improviser choosing to create tension by deliberately playing notes foreign to the implied harmony.

 

Experienced jazz plays move in and out of the above areas. They are always able to play harmonically specific, and often after being general or vague they will return to the specifics. When an experienced jazz improviser plays deliberately vague, he does so knowing the harmonic implication and therefore what tones to avoid. "

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find 700 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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Thanks! I think it's interesting and lines up with some jazz improv stuff I've been studying lately.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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It's back :

 

"There are basically three approaches to improvising on jazz standards: melodic paraphrasing, improvising with the harmony, and motivic development which may overlap the previous two.

Agreat many jazz musicians approach the harmonic implications in three ways: harmonic specificity, harmonic generalization, or ignoring harmonic implications.

 

Harmonic Specificity: Careful attention to implications of harmony. Reliance on proper thirds, sevenths resolving appropriately. Adhering to alterations called for by the chord symbols or melodic implications of the composition.

 

Harmonic Generalization: Rather than deal with the specifics of the implied harmony, reliance on blues ideas and scales. In the instance of a ii V progression, it is often generalized as a I chord. For example: with the progression

| Dmi7 | G7 | C major 7 |

the C major triad or C major blues is used for the entire phrase.

 

Ignoring the implications: This can be the result of the improvised line following the direction of motivic based improvisation; the improviser choosing to impose alternate harmony over pre-existing harmony; the improviser choosing to create tension by deliberately playing notes foreign to the implied harmony.

 

Experienced jazz plays move in and out of the above areas. They are always able to play harmonically specific, and often after being general or vague they will return to the specifics. When an experienced jazz improviser plays deliberately vague, he does so knowing the harmonic implication and therefore what tones to avoid. "

 

I was just discussing this with my teacher today and there's an element missing here.

 

This paragraph talks about "melodic paraphrasing" as somehow connected to something else (I presume the original melody). But certainly, it is evident even in Keith Jarrett's playing that he switches from harmonic embellishments of various sorts (agreeing to all the sub-categories here), then he'll go into a pure melodic context and holds to a different character altogether. And perhaps it's difficult to clearly define what "melodic" is in this context but we all know it when we hear it.

 

This is the piece missing in all these theoretical discussions. And without it, much of jazz improvisation sounds sterile.

 

At least for myself, I'm becoming more conscious about the mix between harmonic embellishment and melody making and the tension and release created by this mix.

 

One can listen to Keith Jarrett. Can you tell when he switches from one mode to the other? I was paying attention to that last night.

 

Although melody often follows the harmony, there's something in the phrasing that makes it more like a human singing IMHO. I've never seen this discussed in any jazz improvisation book.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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It's back :

And perhaps it's difficult to clearly define what "melodic" is in this context but we all know it when we hear it.......................

 

I've never seen this discussed in any jazz improvisation book.

 

Discussing melody in particular has to be next to impossible. Perhaps some sensitive-to-music, genius teacher will come along and do so. But for me melody is the creme de la creme, the Ultimate... towering far above harmony.

Or idea of harmony as it is taught.

Melody is a gift that few have, few musicians.

But we all know it when we hear it.

Best to not use words much, and mostly listen to melody, absorb melody. Then in turn, PLAY melody more. Listening to the best at it, Getz, Miles, Chet Baker, Desmond, - ??? It is personal opinion of course; but this brings up the idea of cultivating a sensitivity to great melodic interpreters, what about Bird?

I recall early on, playing melody on stage, and feeling like something was lacking. Decades later, I no longer feel that way. I have the following situation.. with my take on jazz, funk, pop, blues aka modern Amer music, I feel the groove is number one- ok melody is king, but when I accompany, groove is king.

Since I am not fortunate enough to play with the groovinest bands, here is my reaction to that situation when it is time for me to solo, to improvise...

I go back 50 or more years ( not to Kenny G Lord no ) , to playing the melody for my solo. It is scary thing to do, but since there is no appreciable groove anyway, I don't really have a lot of choice. So for the past decade or so, I find myself playing the melody and variations on it. Guess what, though it started out as a kind of negative, where I was backed in a stiff rhythmic corner, and I felt I had little choice, and I feared I was being judged for "just" playing the melody, 10 years later I feel it is a brilliant thing to do.

melody and melodic variations are such a deep thing, not so much to be discussed ( intellect seems to be closer to harmony than melody ) as to be practiced and absorbed and dwelt upon.

Melody is a GIFT folks. I do not have it to the degree that the greatest artists have had it, but I am slowly getting there, just by respecting melodic ness. And of course subtle variations , naturally.

A GIFT cannot be forced, it cannot be studied too much.

It mainly has to be internalized, made unconscious; when the mad desire for the egos satisfaction dies down, perhaps this Gift will come knocking on your door.

I have tried to empathize with Wagner when he wrote Tristan... he said it just came to him.. he heard it aka A GIFT.

Ditto for Stan Getz

Whatever your opinons about these melodic masters is, i invite you to empathize, try to imagine yourself being that melodic. Today? I highly highly doubt it... it won't happen... it is a Gift.. I know I said that 10 times now, but no one else says it. And Gift happens to be much closer to the reality or truth as it is in a composers mind ot a great soloist.

You cannot study to end up like Chick or Herbie or other melodic giants ( see my hero list- though some even there are more Gifted for melody than other- eg Beethoven struggled with melody where Peter Tchaikovsky seemed to have an easier time - though Beethoven is easily as great as Peter, maybe greater, the melodic element is a serendipitous gift that cannot be forced)

The reason I am bothering to risk being criticized is because if you are thinking studying using intellect will get you there, I believe that is not entirely accurate.

Study, of course, but make room for the melody itself, which is less intellectual than some x factor. I am critical of the educators who do not emphasize melody or rhythm for that matter.

As far as Bert Ligon, I found his books ( I have 3 of them ) attractive to me.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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Scary Jazzwee Can I tell when Keith switches? Perhaps.

I think you have to remember harmony and melody are different aspects of each other.

The only reason Spud Murphy accepted me as a student was when he asked me in my first interview to be accepted- I gave the right answer.

I did NOT say- 'I want to learn cool harmonies' Instead I said, I want to learn lines

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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Hey missRT, I feel it's not that hard to distinguish. I see it as two different styles of playing over changes:

 

1. Harmonic Embellishment

2. Melodic (and I don't mean the original melody here, I mean melodic phrasing).

 

First of all, it should be no surprise that if he plays 16ths that I would not feel that that is not a melodic statement. Or if you play a continuous stream of eighths -- same deal.

 

But you'll hear him switch over to just a singing line and I literally mean is sounds like a person singing and then you say, "wow - KJ is really melodic". Close study though shows he doesn't do this all the time.

 

So I've observed stylings and some players are 99% Harmony/1% Melody, and then maybe KJ is on the other side of that scale. Maybe 60% Harmony/40% Melody.

 

It seems that this distinguishes players one type of player from another. This is neither a good or bad thing. It's just that each one has a different voice and expresses their line differently.

 

KJ though brings a nice balance between Harmonic Embellishment and Melody, I think, because he uses the combination of both for tension and release. Harmonic for tensiona and melody for release.

 

I'm trying to understand this and integrate this into my own playing. It's hard to decide though how much of each to be deliberate with since this is a personal choice.

 

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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BTW MissRT, my point about the Bert Login post was that it assumes that "melody" is limited to some restatement of the original melody. As if there's no structure to what creates a good melody.

 

I've tried before to conceptualize it and there are obviously a lot of chord tones in something melodic. There's a shape to the line causing tension and release "stay in place, common-tones" vs. "leap". Maybe more rubato and containing longer notes. This is just an observation.

 

I would imagine, even just a couple of notes could be melodic if phrased a certain way. Hard to qualify a rule so I just viaually imagine a person singing the phrase and if it's quite singable that it's probably melodic.

 

Perhaps the phrasing is a significant part of this, not just the notes. Just a theory. But we all know it when we hear it :)

 

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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random thoughts -

 

I have these moments when I practice that I say to myself that I've found the keys to the city. It's when I find a new avenue that works after song has started. Cause once the song has started you don't have time to put your thoughts together. You have to have worked out all these avenues before hand and develop short cuts that you can access as quick a blinking your eye. Not everyone reaches that genesis of hearing and playing without thinking. For me, it happens once in a while but eludes me other times.

 

I just have been listening to my solo on Solar and it starts devoid of the melody and not sure if it's making any sense, then at like the 4th or 5th chorus I hit the first 4 notes of the melody and it's at that moment that I realize now that it's that moment that has solidified every thing I did before that moment. So there's an example of how a few notes of the melody glued it all together.

 

I like Bert Ligon cause he states things that are very useful. Most great players don't share the avenues that got them to just hear and play. They must of gone through the same issues we all go through but so few of them can go back to those moments that helped them leapfrog their mind to catch up with their technique and give the student their secret avenues.

 

Maybe I'm not making any sense, which could be what some of my solos probably sound like to other people.

 

Back to the woodshed...

AvantGrand N2 | ES520 | Gallien-Krueger MK & MP | https://soundcloud.com/pete36251

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Funny, I was woodshedding Solar right this moment too. BTW it's when I just let habits take over that I just lose the melodic content, especially as I go faster.

 

So the harmonic embellishment probably goes on autopilot somewhat but melody creation needs conscious control I think. Maybe that's why it's hard to sustain. If I am not listening to myself then the lines have no connection.

 

And the funny part is that the melodic lines are the SLOW parts.

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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