Sunday, September 15, 2019

Connie Crothers Practice Method for Melodic Improvisation

 The below was posted to the Audiobus forum by another forum member:

Here is the technique Connie Crothers taught me on how to improvise on the piano. Connie's and her teacher Lennie Tristano's, method of teaching jazz improvisation (something many jazz musicians do just to supplement gigs and studio dates to the detriment of many talented players) is indeed a well thought out system of learning to do something that seems to defy understanding by mere words, chord progressions, or played examples. At least for me. The basic requirement is the pushing aside of the judgemental mind (good and bad) but maybe in another discussion.
Lennie's system was based on melody and not harmony. Singing along with the jazz greats was a primary part of this melody based technique. So it is logical that his guidance on improvising was melody based at well. It begins with ingraining the melody in its most accurate note by note construction.
You should, of course, experiment with playing the melody as expressively as possible, change dynamics, accenting notes and even changing the phrasing by adding the first note of the next phrase to the end of the last, for example.
With that in mind, pick a favorite melody. In my time I used jazz standards, which I recommend because they are often more melodically deep compared with today's tunes. Play it straight as much as possible in left and right hands separately. Yes, your left hand! You will find there are two distinct feelings and "voices" in each of your hands. Traditional jazz playing reduces the left hand at its worst to comping a chord accompaniment or the famous "walking bass" so many of us like. Rarely do you hear melodies in the left with comping in the right, or two melodies at once. But even a walking bass line is at heart a melody. Limiting your left hand to the status of solely being an accompanist is perhaps a poor use of musical resources at hand (ouch).
So pick a melody, and play the melody as deeply as possible in each hand. DO NOT IMPROVISE NOTES! Do this for a week as little as fifteen minutes a day. Don't try to improvise during that time. This will ingrain the melody in your head and make you wring the most "improvised" expression from the exact melody notes.
The next week play the melody first with exact melody notes in an improvised way as explained above. Then play the next round with the melody playing in your head like a tape recording. Play any notes you care to. They can even be random, just keep the recording going so your improvisation takes place in real time with the melody (as though you are taking a solo chorus with a band) then play the exact melody notes, then improvise a chorus and so on and so forth. Do this in both hands separately. Try this for another week fifteen minutes a day.
Then the third week record what you are doing.
Do the whole week without listening to what you recorded. Skip a couple of days, have yourself a drink or two, or at least pick a quiet time late at night and listen to what you recorded. The rest is for you to decide. I am reasonably sure that you will see a significant evolution in your playing. For many the change will be quite dramatic. Playing off tunes is great. Playing totally free can be even more satisfying. This melodic immersion will help with your free playing but requires other resources as well. All that for another time. May the melody be with you!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Some Qi Exercises with commentary from Mike Sigman

 Mike Sigman's comment:

this movement is the essence of power store and release in Chinese Martial Arts. He's basically using a reverse breath to pull up the elasticity from the Huiyin/Perineum, pull it up to the Mingmen, and then release with an exhale as the store area at the mingmen drops forward into the abdomen. 

Hun Yuan Qigong from Mike Sigman on Vimeo

Stepping Exercise
I learned this stepping exercise from Chen Xiaowang back in the 1990's, but I didn't understand it very well and therefore didn't do it very much. Now I do it a lot more. I assume it's a fairly standard Chen Village exercise because Chen Bing showed it to me, also, and I saw a video once of someone else from Chen Village doing it.
It looks fairly simple and I don't want to over-describe it, making it seem complicated, so let me just say a couple of things:
As in all the Chinese martial-arts, you should constantly keep your weight and the weight of anything you hold or lift in the sole of your foot/feet ... without ever letting the forces rise above the soles of your foot/feet. If you're just standing, always allow your complete weight to rest in the soles of your feet. If you're holding something, feel the weight of that something always resting in the soles of your feet. If you lift a leg for a step, feel the rising leg's weight rest in the sole of the other foot. And so on. If someone put their hand on your rising leg, they should feel the sole of the grounded foot.
As you lower the raised foot, let your weight first sink into the grounded foot, going into the other foot only when it is positioned properly.
This exercise will stabilize your walk and balance very well. It's the first exercise I do in the mornings.
I like to inhale as put my weight onto the new foot, pretending that my leg is a suction-hose pulling my foot down and tight into the floor. The inhale also pulls up the tissues that are lifting the other leg. FWIW 
Stepping Exercise from Mike Sigman on Vimeo

Chen Bing reportedly using the same stepping movement as part of a form
Master Chen Bing’s 13 Energies Form from Embrace The Moon on Vimeo.

Stepping Exercise: Part 2
I said that I did the slow stepping exercise, just about every day, as a warmup, but I usually transition into another forward and backward stepping exercise that is taken from the Oblique Walk and the Step Back Whirl Arms (Repulse Monkey) of the Laojia Yilu. I'll put a brief clip of Zhu Tiancai showing the movements from the form; mine look slightly different, but it's the same natural winding of the body. The idea is to do the stepping while including the whole-body winding and unwinding (Open and Close) as it moves.
When you're moving forward, as an example, think of your molecules as all moving forward as one group, but imagine/feel that there are elastic spider webs attached to each molecule, slightly resisting your forward movement. Same idea as imagining moving through water, more or less, but I like this particular visualization sometimes.
BTW, a lot of people forget the imagined resistance to the legs (like "Mud Walking" in Bagua). It's important, though.

windinggong from Mike Sigman on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Maiden Voyage Notes

Here is a chart of the chord changes:

Fareed Haque teaches Maiden Voyage as modal progression rather than a chord progression.  Thus for the chords in the above chart, the corresponding modes would be:

A-/D = D Mixolydian
C-/F = F Mixolydian
Bb/Eb = Eb Mixolydian
C#- = C# Dorian

For smoother transitions from one mode to the next, I thought it would be useful to work out which notes do not change - these notes could be targeted to anticipate the change in modes.

D Mixolydian to F Mixolydian = D, G, A, C
F Mixolydian to Eb Mixolydian = D, D#/Eb, G, A#/Bb, C
Eb Mixolydian to C# Dorian = D#/Eb, G, G#/Ab, A#/Bb
C# Dorian to D Mixolydian = E, F#, B

Cleaning up the enharmonic equivalents, which I used above during my analysis, this should be an easier to read repeat of the above note sets:

D Mixolydian to F Mixolydian = D, G, A, C
F Mixolydian to Eb Mixolydian = Eb, F, G, Bb, C
Eb Mixolydian to C# Dorian = Eb,  Ab,  Bb
C# Dorian to D Mixolydian = E, F#, B

Random Jazz Notes (no pun intended)

From Tim Miller - arpeggios ideas for jazz-blues song form.

F9 - 1-2-5-7-1-3 (scale degrees) arpeggio in the 2121 format
Bb13 - Bb Mixolydian arpeggio or Dmin7b5 2121 arpeggio
F7#9 - F# min/Maj7 arpeggio (transpose up one step 1-b3-5-7
Gmin11 - Gmin pentatonic or G Dorian arpeggios or

Songs to learn (source long forgotten):

Song for my father
Maiden Voyage
Scrapple from the apple
Blues heads in Bb,F
Rhythm changes in the same keys
All the things you are
Stella by starlight

From my own experience, the jazz songs that get called frequently in jam sessions are Blue Monk, Autumn Leaves, Take the A Train, Well You Needn't, and so on.

The songs that vocalists call a lot are Bye Bye Blackbird, God Bless the Child, Blues in the Night, etc.

How to slow down Amazon Music Player tracks in iPhone:
1. Use IOS' built-in screen recording feature to record myself pressing Play on Amazon Music Player and let it record the song as a video.
2. Use the BeatTime app to open the video directly from Camera Roll (in the Photos app).
3. Use BeatTime to slow down the video

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Tips for tweaking your amp for playing live vs. tweaking your amp at home

 Posted on the Boss Katana FB group by Alse Elseth

A tip to those who find their sound lacking bottom going on a stage after tweaking your amp at home (I take it for granted that you tweak at stage levels):
Scenario 1
- if it's s in a corner you get approximately 9 db added to your low/mid frequencies.
Scenario 2
- if it's against a wall approx. 6 db is added to your low/mid frequencies.
Scenario 3
- if it's standing free on the floor with around 6 feet from walls you get approx. 3 db added to your low/mid frequencies.
Scenario 4
- if you lift it of the floor nothing is added to your low/mid frequencies.
If you tweak in Scenario 1 and move to a stage with Scenario 4, you're down 9 dbs in the low/mid frequencies and your amp will sound shrill and lacking bottom end.
If you tweak at home in Scenario 4, and move to a crammed stage forcing Scenario 1 placement, your amp will sound bass heavy and dull due to 9dbs added to your low/mid frequencies.
So, the trick is to tweak for the expected scenario to get optimal sound transition from practice to stage.
PS. If you tweak a big fat bottom end to your sound at low levels you'll get an amp that "farts out" at higher level settings.
PPS. Some reading from Universal Audio's blog:

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Xynthesizr: How one guy used it to play MoogFest

Tips posted in one of video comments:

Xynthesizr tips:

Conway’s Game of Life is just one type of Life. You can select other rules, and even cooler, you can create your own with custom birth and survival rules! That said, Life in the morph section is fun, but more in an academic way than in a purely musical one (IMO)

However, the “Rand” setting between Off and Life, is truly musically useful. Here you set the “Chance” of a random change (between 0.00, aka no change; and 1.00, where things change on each cycle through the pattern. So 0.50 means 50% of the time on a new cycle there will be a change.)

What’s really cool is that you can change the amount of change for X and Y axis independently. The numbers go from 0 (no change) to 16 (meaning the note will move up to 16 steps away in that axis) Since you can set different amounts to the X and Y axis you can control the type of randomization you get. E.g. if you set X to some value, but Y to zero, you will keep the same pitches in your pattern, but the rhythm will change. If you set X to zero, but Y to some value, the rhythm stays the same, but the pitch will change.

What I find works best is to select a small Custom area for the randomization (usually in an upper octave) and set the Chance to a low value and either the X or Y to a small value, while the other remains zero. What you get is a pattern that mostly repeats, but every once in a while a subtle change happens. IMO subtlety in random events is what makes them magical.

 The coolest features of Xynthesizr however are the transposition options.

1- you can create your own scales by setting the number of semitones between steps. Because you set the number of steps and transpositions between steps you can create complex, possibly non-repeating scales (based on 12TET). It’s not microtonal, you can’t shift notes off of 12TET (unless you set a receiving synth to a microtonal scale), but it allows for complex transpositions. E.g. create a custom scale where step 1 (the interval up from your root) is set to 1 semitone. Step 2 is up 2 semitones. Step 3, 3; step 4, 4; and step 5, 5. If your root was C0 you would have a scale that goes: C0, C#0, D#0, F#0, A#0. Then the next grouping would be D#1, E1, F#1, A1, C#2, and so on.

2- each repeating grouping (an octave in a traditional scale, but anything in a custom scale) can be routed to a separate MIDI output channel. Each grouping is individually addressable, so you could have most set to Ch1, but the second grouping set to Ch 3 and the 5th to Ch2.

3- Pressing the Key button (D0 in what’s shown in the video) brings you to the transpositions page. Here you can set the root note and octave. But best of all, you can adjust the scale mode to musically transpose your pattern to that related scale mode. Since you can create those scales, you can create very interesting transpositions, but even using traditional scales, you get very musical results. This transposition can be controlled by incoming MIDI notes, so you can have Xynthesizr follow another sequencer. Add in some subtle randomization and route the outputting notes to various MIDI channels and you get a very sophisticated sequencing system.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Things I've Learned From Barry Harris Episode 2: Scales for I Got Rhythm

I've started working on the exercise taught in Episode 2.  I will continue practicing the blues changes exercise in Episode 1 as the execution isn't quite there.  Anyway, here's the 2nd episode:

For my own convenience I typed down the scales to practice for the 32-bar rhythm changes exercise.

First 8 bars:

BbMaj7 up
F7 up
BbMaj7 up
F7 up
Bb7 up
Eb7 up
BbMaj7 up
F7 up

2nd 8 bars:

BbMaj7 up
F7 up
BbMaj7 up
F7 up
Bb7 up
Eb7 up
BbMaj7 up
BbMaj7 down

3rd 8 bars (bridge):

D7 up
D7 down
G7 up
G7 down
C7 up
C7 down
F7 up
F7 down

BbMaj7 up
F7 up
BbMaj7 up
F7 up
Bb7 up
Eb7 up
BbMaj7 up
F7 up

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Things I've Learned From Barry Harris Episode 1 Scales on the Blues

Barry Harris is a respected music educator, particularly in the realm of bebop jazz.  While reading discussions on the Internet about his workshops, I stumbled upon a video series called Things I've Learned From Barry Harris, recorded by a student of Harris' weekly class.  This is the first episode:

The instruction on the video is quite clear and well demonstrated.  But for my own study I decided to write down the scales for the 12-bar blues scale exercise, so that I can just refer back to this page, instead of having to rewind the video a bunch of times or look at the comment by one Youtube viewer - he got a couple of scales wrong by the way.  So here are the scales for 12-bar blues in the key of C, listed in groups of 4 (a total of 12 bar) for easier reading:

C7 up
F7 up
C7 up
C7 down

F7 up
F7 down
CMaj7 up
CMaj7 down to 3rd of A (C#)

G7 up
G7 down
CMaj7 up
G7 up

Pitches of each scale:

C7 = C D E F G A Bb
F7 = F G A Bb C D Eb
CMaj7 = C D E F G A B ascending, A G F E D C# descending
G7  = G A B C D E Fb

While the exercise is good for practicing picking technique, the main emphasis is to drill the sounds of the blues changes into one's head, in relation to rhythm.  I believe that is why the scales are named in relation to chords. Note also that the scales are never played tonic to tonic.

Note that the metronome click is on the 2 and 4.  So in a 4/4 bar, the metronome is silent on beats 1 and 3, and is clicking on 2 and 4, just like a snare in a basic drum beat.

Introductions to Functional Harmony

This video introduces Roman numeral analysis, then functional harmony, which is the categorization of chords into tonic, dominant, and subdominant functions. 

This video explains the how functional harmony can be used for jazz improvisation.  Mainly for guitar players but I think other musicians can benefit.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Tips on using reverb for Mixing/Recording from Audiobus forum

Source:  Audiobus forum thread

Here is an excerpt from a guide I wrote for this studios blog
The farther something is from you, the smaller the difference is between any left or right signals. Image a room 20 meter long room. You are facing the drums. The low tom is on the left, hi hat on the right. If you are at the far end, the angles to your ears may only be a few degrees. If you move the drums to a meter in front of you, they may be at 45 degree angles to your ears, making it much more obvious which is to the left and right.
So anything intended to be far away should be panned more to the center. Close items can be panned anywhere, those are just perceived as being to your left or right.
Imagine again you are in the back of a room, a singer is in the middle. When they sing, the sound of their voice will go straight to your head. That is the ‘dry’ signal. Their voice is also radiating in multiple directions, off the walls, the ceiling, and the bass player’s vinyl pants.
The pre-delay parameter adjusts the delay between the dry signal hitting you and the wall or ceiling reflections. If the singer is farther back in the room, some of the reflections would hit you much closer in time to the dry signal. If a guitar amp intended to be at the far wall, you might use a pre-delay of near zero.
If you are trying to match overdubs or a specific hypothetical room, note that three milliseconds is about 1 meter.
Reverb Mix or Wet/Dry- Far away sources tend to have more reverb overall. There is more opportunity for more reflections on the way from the source to you. In some scenarios it can even mask the dry signal - remember the way it sounded when you locked your accordion player in the basement? Raise the reverb mix to move items farther away.
Equalization or Damping- High frequencies get absorbed more easily than low frequencies. So things that are farther away will have a high frequency cut or added dampening. It is difficult to give a default starting point here. I may use anything from 1000Hz to 6000Hz, but that is as much subjective taste as near-far positioning as different surfaces absorb frequencies at different rates.
At the other end of the frequency spectrum, you tend to have a tighter window of what is cut. A roll off up to 200Hz is not unusual.
Decay Time or Room Size - Things will tend to be perceived as farther away if the virtual room is larger. This one is more obvious, but note that if you are trying to ‘glue’ your mix, having a long decay on some tracks and a short one on another will sound unnatural. A slight variation though just makes the room sound irregularly shaped. Remembering regarding pre-delay that three milliseconds is about a meter, note that big concert halls may have just 2 seconds of decay.

@Max23 said:
panning and reverb in this context are a little tricky because most reverbs are not true stereo and or the aux send is mono ...
so you most likely get a sound panned to a side with a reverb that just sits in the middle - but the reflections are supposed to come from the other side ...
Good points. Good things to check. My comments I should note are in the context, I dont mix on iOS. Ive never seen a mono send in a desktop DAW, but yes that would be an issue for the near verb. I often have almost no pan on the far anyway. A true stero reverb helps, but as long as things are panned, it just sounds like a very regular room, you still get a sense of depth.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tim Lerch - Counterpoint Musings

Youtube description:

Here is a bit of a discussion of melodic counterpoint in a jazz context.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Making music using OP-1 and iPad together

Article on how to use a Teenage Engineering OP-1 and iPad together.  The article mentions a popular workaround for the inability use an iPad to browse and move files on the OP-1, which is to use a wireless storage device for OP-1 file management. 

A list of wireless storage devices for IOS, which I may update time to time:

RAVPower FileHub
SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive
Kingston Mobilite Wireless (needs SD card, sold separately)
Western Digital My Passport

Apologies for not publishing direct links to the above products, but the product names and links change frequently, so it's better to just copy-and-paste a product brand/name into your favorite search engine and find it yourself.

Monday, March 11, 2019

K-On! An unexpectedly beautiful moment

This is a brief clip from Season 1, Episode 4 (Training Camp!).  Mio the bassist has been frustrated by the rest of the band's seeming lack of enthusiasm for practice.  Then her bandmates put on this show for her.  There is so much left unsaid in this scene - very little explanation other than a reference to the club's "Budokan or Bust!" goal.  The viewers hear next to nothing of Yui's actual guitar playing here - instead we hear a soft, instrumental ballad kick in, perhaps reflecting Mio's emotional reaction.

There's just something about how the animation, the joy on Yui's face, Mio's reaction, and the music all come together for a few seconds of extraordinary beauty:

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Today's Music Discoveries

Nice recording of Holdsworth/Warleigh Quintet -begins with amazing violin solo by Holdsworth.  Check out the other 3 tunes as well.

Other lovely discoveries...

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Simple And Sinister - First session

Yesterday was my first session under the Simple & Sinister kettlebell exercise program.  My introduction to the kettlebell as an exercise tool was via Pavel Tsatsouline's Russian Kettlebell Challenge VHS videotape and book of the same name.  I still have the same 16kg kettlebell (KB) that I ordered from Dragondoor, back when that company was the only source in the US for KBs and KB training books and videos.   

Simple & Sinister is, I believe, Pavel's latest book on KB training.  It describes a simple training program focusing on just two exercises to  - in a general sense, not for a specific sport.  The program looks ideal for those of us who desire an exercise program to improve our strength, stamina, mobility, and athleticism but have to conserve time and energy for other activities.  The program appears to be an improved version of the minimum training program described in the Russian Kettlebell Challenge book, and kind of a return to the minimalist approach espoused in Pavel's Power To The People book (the two barbell exercises that Pavel thought that regular folks only really need), and his Naked Warrior book (only two bodyweight exercises regular folks need to focus on for maximum strength).  The two exercises of choice in Simple & Sinister are the Swing and the Turkish Get-Up.  As with Pavel's other books, all I can say is read the book to see why Pavel thinks these are the only two must-have KB exercises for people who aren't training for some specialized purpose, like a competitive sport.

I love the warmup routine for Simple & Sinister.  Only 3 warmup exercises to do, and they're done in 3 circuits.

I did the 5 sets of  10 2-handed swings with a 24kg KB as recommended in the book.  They got my heart rate up, but I was able get through this portion of the program without much trouble.  I'm not going to try to jump to the next weight level (32kg) yet, as I need the leftover energy to focus on prepping myself for the Turkish Get-Up.

The Turkish Get-Up (TGU) with the 16kg KB was a different story.  When I first heard about this exercise, there was some instruction given to start the movement, but not much detail was given on how to progress from lying on one's back with the KB held perpendicular to the ground, to standing with the KB held overhead.   My form in this movement was never particularly good, even when I was regularly training with KBs.   My form was pretty bad in that I nearly lost my balance and felt close to dropping the the KB.

Simple & Sinister teaches a much more detailed version of the TGU, broken down into specific positions.  It is different from the version taught by Pavel in the Enter The Kettlebell video, in which Pavel transitioned from the prone position into the bottom of a sort of overhead squat, then stood up.  In the book, the TGU instruction has the trainee gradually transitioning into a lunge position, then standing up from there.  I can only suppose that he refined this movement over the years.  I'm sure the book explains better than I can why he arrived at the present form of the TGU.

The book recommends practice of the TGU while balancing a shoe on one's fist instead of holding the KB.  Not only does it recommend practicing the TGU in its entirety with the shoe; it also recommends practicing the TGU in segments, as transitions between the prescribed positions.  The idea is that if you can do the TGU with the shoe in this manner in your sleep, without dropping the shoe, you will be ready to start practicing it with a KB.

So I'm going to practice the "shoe TGU" after the prescribed warmup and before the swing portion of the program.  After the swing portion, I will replace the TGU portion with a mini-circuit of KB presses and reverse-lunges with a racked KB.  Control of the body while going into and out of the lunge was a weakness of my Turkish Get-Up, so practicing the reverse lunge should help with that.  The presses would be just a way to keep strengthening the shoulders and practicing locking out the arm with the KB overhead without losing the shoulder pack.  I don't care about how many reverse lunges and presses I can do - these are just exercises I can use for strength training until I'm ready to do KB TGUs.  Perfect form with the shoe TGU will determine my readiness for it.  I'm guessing it will take at least a week of shoe TGU practice before I can take on the KB TGU with less risk of an accident.  One key element of the movement that was causing me trouble was placing the heel of my bent leg too close to my butt.  The heel has to be further out to create the necessary leverage to drive the body up onto the elbow.

The cooldown portion of the program is short and sweet, just like the warmup - a circuit of the 90/90 and QL stretches, optionally followed by brachial hanging from a pullup bar.

Today, I feel quite sore in the glutes and hamstrings, which was not unexpected given this was the first KB training session I'd done in years.

A TGU tutorial by Karen Smith, who is shown demonstrating the TGU in the book - she mentions the use of the hip hinge as part of the transition into the lunge:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Octatrack Tutorials by Kenny Zhao and Ezbot

Kenny Zhao's tutorials are focused on Octatrack Mk2 but they should apply, for the most part, to the original model.

I'm feeling kind of lazy so just navigate via the video to his Youtube channel to see his other Octatrack tutorial videos.

Ezbot's Youtube playlist.  He might have other videos that he forgot to add to it.

Random tip seen on Elektronauts:
Like on all Elektrons there’s a test mode. Hold Function + power on.