Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Cool Nights

Three Days off: 2 for social commitments and one for catch-up.

Ear exercises: I’m working on the same exercises as before: loop a vamp and improvise over it using just ears (up & down one string if you have to). From what I remembered from last time, these weren’t the most exciting exercises and I frequently sucked at them, but after having three days off I found them quite refreshing. Right from the bat I was a little more connected to what I was doing than previous. I spent the most of my time working on phrygian and lydian pieces today was intrigued by the exercises. Because I don’t’ know what key I’m recording the vamp in I have to use my ear to find the tonic, and partly because I’m not familiar with all these modes, sometimes that was hard. In one of the phrygian grooves I felt the b3 at the major root (sort of a dominant 7 or mixo feel). I must not have made the groove dark enough. Either way, I was trying not to consider the notes so it didn’t’ make much difference. It’s tough for me not to relate the notes I’m playing to notes on the staff of as scale tones or chord arpeggio shapes. Part of thinking like that can be a crutch, part of it can be helpful. I did notice that very quickly I would map out in my brain what notes were safe notes in the modal vamps. Not knowing really what mode I was playing helped my ear, because my brain wasn’t thinking flat 3 vs. natural 3. I found it interesting when my brain and my fingers would recognize these patterns. My fingers could find about one new note at a time. If I thought too much about it I usually was wrong. I recognize that I need to work on that. Sometimes when I ask myself: is this next note a half-step or a whole-step away I over-analyze it and screw it up. I need to have those intervals solid so that I have no question.

These exercises and this way of thinking has permeated my life in that I’m thinking about the music that I listen or sing along to in a very different way. It brings up all sorts of jealousy: I wish I knew the intervals of that melody, I wish I knew that chord progression. In some sense I do, in some sense I don’t.

Speed Exercises: I’m still at 90 & 95 bpm and capping out at 95 with sixteenth notes. My descending sixteenth notes is where I need to do most of my work. I played both major scales and dexterity exercises up & down the guitar.

Ear II: I worked on some exercises based from Wayne Krantz, but applied them to my modal and ear studies. I worked with an "A" drone and then sang and played every major mode off it. Now that I think of it, I forgot to do Locrain. It was a neat exercise. Once I could get to the third I pretty much had it. Sometimes my ear had a hard time telling the 2 or b2 apart or the 3 or b3 apart (major/minor). Once I set the basic tonalitly it was easier to hit the #4, b6 or natural 6, b7 and major 7. Singing along helped ground me and feel the weight of each note against the root. After a while I worked on improvising melodies. By the time I got to the end I felt really tired and out of ideas. The general mode of the pieces weren’t compromised though. With a big "A" drone is pretty hard to put anything else as the root.

Transcriptions: I played through my transcriptions like taking medicine today. I wasn’t very good at, but that’s because I haven’t been doing it regularly. I think once it’s in my system I’ll be able to take it another level. The Chrarlie Christian piece I have cleaned up pretty well. The Phillip Johnston & the Paul Desmond need a little work. There are a couple of tough phrases that I just have to sit down and learn.

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