Saturday, 12 October 2013

[Improvisation Workshop] Jazz & Bebop (By Mariano E. Abello)

Hello guys, so I attended a workshop at my school, International College Of Music (ICOM) just yesterday 11 Oct 2013. Our school invited Mariano E. Abello, who is the founder of the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory and Nepal Music Educators' Society and who also holds a MA in Music from Florida Atlantic University, specializing in Woodwind performance & pedagogy. He plays the saxophone, flute, clarinet and the oboe.

Well the workshop started off in a relatively serious note whereby apart from introducing himself, his main message was that "IT IS GOING TO BE HARD" if you plan to be a performing musician. And seriously he was just warning students that they have to be really really REALLY good in order to feed themselves by performing. And of course that came from his experience trying to make a living out of performing (and educating).

Disclaimer: Note that none of the images included here are owned by me, all credits to notes given out by my school for the purposes of the workshop I attended.
In this post, I will walk you through the content of the workshop bit by bit :) And I hope you guys benefit from what I'll be sharing here.

*The content included here will get progressively harder, so for those of you who already knows the easier stuff, by all means just skip them.

*For this post I assume all of you guys read music notation, but if there are some of you out there who want me to tab these instead you can let me know, I'll tab them and put the whole workshop up in another separate blog post. Just drop me a message or comment below. If I don't receive any requests for tabs for content in this post, I'll just assume that all of you guys are fine reading music notation :)

So the workshop officially started off by Mariano saying that for any progression that he is given, he would encourage students to sing the root motion first. For instrumentalists, you can play the root motion on your instrument and sing along. A really simple example is given - Blues !

So, that is to help students hear the root motion in their heads.
Of course he was testing students on their knowledge of scales and chord tones. For example, what are the chord tones of F7 ? It is F A C Eb. 
Chord tones of Dbmaj7 ? It is Db F Ab C. 
A-7(b5) ? It's A C Eb G.

He kept repeating the importance of knowing chord tones and scales inside out. So of course I have studied the class that is related to this topic a few semesters ago, so for me, it is just a repetition of things I already know. But for those of you who find the information here new, I hope they help you :D

Anyways he gave us examples on how to proceed with the practice. Students could approach each chord with a scale. For example, it will be F mixolydian for the F7 chord in bar 1, 3, 4 and so on. Bb mixolydian for Bb7 chord in bar 2, 5, 7 and so on. So the idea is to just play the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale for each chord like this:

For the F7 chord, it will be the notes F G A C.
For Bb7 chord, it is Bb C D F.
C7, C D E G.

Once you are familiar with that, you could practice something that is of a slight variation. Add the 4th note into the 4 notes already there and you have the notes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 from the scales of each chord.

Another simple one would be just playing the 1, 3 & 5 of the notes of the arpeggios from the chord. Of course you can vary the note values in any way you like and are comfortable with, but the material illustrated it in really simple terms, in just quarter note, quarter note, half note:

Then, you can practice playing the entire mixolydian scales for every chord, just like this:

Yay, ok now finally to the actual arpeggios of the chords, it would be the root, 3rd, 5th and b7th of every chord.

Alright, just in case you might need a recap. I'll list the chord tones of the chords here again, so it can help you learn better :)
F7 = F A C Eb
Bb7 = Bb D F Ab
C7 = C E G Bb

Okay, finally ! To more interesting stuff. The Be-Bop Scale.

The formula for the Bebop Scale would be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 7. There are many other variations of the Bebop scale, but this would be the most basic. So you would have 3-note chromatics within the scale itself. Just like how the Blues scale has a 3-note chromatic within the scale due to the b5, 'blue' note that connects the 4th and 5th notes of the scale.

Now, a lick.

What you can do to bring this to the next level is that you can come up with your own 1-bar lick, and then transpose it across the other chords within the progression and there you have it. The same lick played in different chords/arpeggios just like how it is shown above.

More variations & ideas to show you how you can play around with these stuff yourself :D

You get the idea ?

Just in case you guys are wondering, tensions are usually labeled 9th, 11ths or 13ths, instead of 2nds, 4ths or 6ths. So the 9th of F7 chord would be the G note that functions as a tension of the F7 chord. For Bb7, it will be the C note; and for C7, it will be the D note.
For the example right above, there is a 5-note chromatic in the lick from the 9th of the chord all the way 5 semitones to the b7 of the chord.

Here is another example of what you can do, but the entire 15-bar example applies for the F7 chord only, not the blues progression.

Okay, now take a look at this following example:

If you're wondering why are the notes bracketed in groups of 3, know that they are not part of the scale of the individual chords. Notice also that for every 3rd note of the group, it will be a chord tone of the prevailing chord, in the above example, it is the root of each chord. That root note is called the target note. Then the 2 notes before the target note is called the approach note, and it is used to approach the target note by surrounding it or by 'enclosure' of the note. 

Let's say, the target note = Bb. Thus you would play Bnatural which comes a semitone after Bb, and then play the A note which comes a half step before the Bb note before hitting Bb. It is a very common bebop sound. Adding it into your phrasing would immediately jazz up your lines :D

Similarly, to target F, you can play F# E F.
Target note = C, just play C# B C.
Hahahah simple & straightforward ?

This concept of course can be applied to other notes other than the root of the chord.

So in this illustration above, it shows that you can do the same thing for the 5th or 3rd of the chord. Thus for F7, you would target the C note which is the 5th note, by playing C# B C.
Just play the examples provided here to get a clear picture for yourself.

Okay, now here are other song examples whereby the same concepts are applied. Instead of dominant chord after dominant chord. We shall have something different - major triads and minor 7th chords.
A simple approach:

Combining all you learnt into one:

More examples:

Like this:

Or like this:

Okay, are you guys familiar with guide tones ? They are the 3rd and 7th of a chord, and people call them the most important notes of a chord, that is the most essential in defining the chord sound.
Here's an exercise that lets you practice playing the guide tones of all the chords of a progression:

Okay, more homework time !
1. Go and practice the concepts discussed in this post by playing along to your favorite songs, or just grab any song that you like to apply the concepts learnt.
2. Pick any song from the Real Book and practice to it.
3. Here is a progression for you that came as part of the learning material for this workshop:

More homework to keep you busy :D :D

Chromatics yay, I love chromatics. Let's go crazy with chromatics !

A poignant message from Mariano to end this post of mine:
One thing Mariano said that really caught my attention is that if you want to make music that can change the face of music, you have to dare to go out of your comfort zone and experiment. If everyone else is going to play or sing the root note of chords or progressions just so it sounds the best, the most melodious (or most commercial for that matter), chances are it's hard for you to stand out because everyone else is doing it. And it is by breaking new grounds and doing what others don't that new things are discovered. In Mariano's own words, "Try a b9 instead of the root".

Big thanks to ICOM and Mariano for the great workshop.

Okay guys, hope all of you benefited from this.
I'll be off to practice :D :D

Catch you again & Love ya,
Sapphire Ng <3 <3 <3

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