Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Sapphire Ng | Berklee Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz (Week 15) SPRING 2016 [Class Materials & Concepts]

Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz

Berklee College of Music
SPRING 2016 Semester

Class Teacher: John Baboian

[Week 15]

Today we will be jamming over "Freddie The Freeloader" by Miles Davis. And John posed us a question: Since the melody of the tune is really simple, what could we do to make it more interesting. One of the answers was harmonization, yes we could harmonize the melody; or even play the melody in different octaves. And the goal for this tune is to play the "out" sounds.

We played the melody through the form of the tune, and then every student in the class got 2 choruses to solo over. John's feedback for me, after our first round of improvisations was that I needed to play more "out" sounds. For another student, John also gave the feedback that it seemed the student appeared a little hesitant to go into playing "out" sounds, and the student replied by saying that he did not want to play "out" sounds just randomly, he wanted to "practice more" before he did it.

And then we were asked to attempt a second round of solos, each of us getting only one chorus of the tune this time. Haha after our first solos, I heard a student say that he just moved a half step up or down to get the "out" sounds, so this time round I tried that method instead of the one I was using. To get the "out" sounds, I would play using the dominant 7th arpeggio fingering for B7 instead of Bb7 in order to get the "out" sounds, and then only returning and "resolving" back into the sound of Bb7. 

After our second attempts at soloing to "Freddie The Freeloader," John told me that I sort of started playing the "out" sounds a little too early in my solo. Haha so apparently I over-compensated, because I wanted to play more "out" sounds, I ended up started playing them too early even before I really established the diatonic sound for the Bb7 chord in the progression. Next time I should dwell on the diatonic sound longer before I start playing using, for example, the B7 arpeggio. There was an upside to my second improvisation though, John said the "last four bars" of my solo was really nice hahaha LOL.

It was interesting to hear other students solo over the same tune and using their own unique ways to create "out" sounds. John later highlighted a student who did something really interesting: In order to magnify the degree of "out"ness, not only the student played out-sounding notes, he combined those notes with rhythms that created an effect of rhythmic polyrhythm against the groove of the accompaniment rhythm that further emphasized the "out"ness of the sound. It was really cool.  

John actually used an analogy that is pretty fun and funny to illustrate the degree of "out" sounds we are comfortable with and want to incorporate into our solos. He compared it to how much salt you want to add into your food, certain people prefer more, others prefer less. It is up to us to decide the amount and degree of "out" sounds we want in our solos, our freedom and our choice. 

Concepts/content covered in class:

~ We were given the handout "Stella By Sustain," which is actually a title spin from the tune "Stella by Starlight" composed by Victor Young. "Stella By Sustain" contains rhythm slashes to the progression of the tune. John mentioned as well that for any chords we see here, we are free to add any tensions we want to embellish the chords, though we would have to ensure the tensions work well with the melody of the tune. For this case however, we are not working with melodies, so we may not need to consider the melody when considering tensions. Immediately, we were asked to play the rhythms as notated together as a class. 

[An interesting thing John mentioned was that we could use an exercise like this to practice specific chord types or voicings. To practice specific chord voicings systematically, we could set rules for ourselves, for example:
—We would play through all the notated rhythms in the handout using only drop 2 voicings occupying the first four strings of the guitar, i.e. the 1st string to the 4th string.
—We could play using only drop 2 voicings in the middle set of strings of the guitar, i.e. the 2nd string to the 5th string.
—We could also choose to practice drop 3 voicings, and force ourselves to only play the voicings that have a bass note on the 6th string of the guitar, and the rest of the notes on the 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings. 
This practice method will allow us to discover and play voicings that otherwise we would not play on a routine basis. 

[John also drew our attention to the F13(b9) chord found on bar 30 in the lead sheet. He immediately held the chord at the 1st fret of the guitar, and then every student in the class followed. We may choose to omit the bass note on the 6th string if we prefer, and just play the voicing on the first 4 strings of the guitar. Play the "Gb" note equivalent to the b9 on the 2nd fret of the 1st string, "D" note which is the 13th of the chord on the 3rd fret on the 2nd string, the "A" note which is the 3rd of the chord on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, and then the "Eb" note which is the b7th on the 1st fret on the 4th string of the guitar. Otherwise, we can also choose to insert the bass and root note of the chord, the "F" note on the 1st fret of the 6th string.]

~ "Large Intervals & Important Notes - Stella By Starlight." John said that apart from two instances within the notation (in bar 2 where the "D" note comes after a "C" note, and in bar 5 where the "C" note comes after a "Bb" note), all other intervals written are greater than the minor 3rd interval. Again John refreshed our minds that when we practice scales, we merely become good at playing intervals of 2nds, and when we play arpeggios we practice playing intervals of 3rds. Along with a previous lesson where John focused us on practicing intervals of 4ths, he said this exercise is an augmentation to that and covers a range of greater intervals that we otherwise might not play so often. 

[John asked the class to just play a simple bassline over which he will demonstrate playing what was notated, and we can focus on the sound of the notes. I really love the sound, it is rather unusual and I think the unusual is really cool. After that John drew our attention to the interesting triplets in bar 14 which contains the chords E-7(b5) and A7(b9).

[Moving onto the "Important Notes" part of the handout, John very swiftly called out notes from the bars and asked us to identify the tensions relative to the respective chords. At the second bar, the "D" not is the 11th of A7b9; In bar 3, the "D" note is the 9th of C-7; In bar 4, the "D" note is the 13th of F7, and the "G" note is the 9th; In bar 5, similarly the "G" note is the 9th of F-7, while the "Bb" note is the 11th of F-7; Moving onto bar 6, the "G" note is the 13th of Bb7, the "C" note the 9th, and so on.]

Class Homework:

Final exams on the following Tuesday:
~Prepare a solo transcription; 
~Practice improvisation to a tune (that is not a blues—John initially said that since "Freddie The Freeloader" is a blues tune, it will not be allowed to be chosen as an option. He however changed his mind and said that if we highlighted very clearly the Ab7 chord that stands out in the tune, we can play that tune.)

Class Materials/Handouts:

~ "Stella By Sustain"

"Large Intervals & Important Notes - Stella By Starlight"

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