Friday, 13 January 2017

Sapphire Ng | Berklee Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz (Week 13) SPRING 2016 [Class Materials & Concepts]

Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz

Berklee College of Music
SPRING 2016 Semester

Class Teacher: John Baboian

[Week 13]

Class started with us playing "Witch Hunt" by Wayne Shorter, we played through the melody twice, and then we went on our solos. John reminded us that it would be great for us to play the melody at different octaves if we played the form more than once. I was the second to improvise today, and I was so surprised after my solo that John stopped the class to say that the 4ths that I'm adding into my improvisation transforms my solo, and that he thought I played well haha. Then the class continued with the rest of the students improvising, and as some were soloing, John would prompt them for example, "to play more 4ths". 

After everyone got a solo through the form of the tune, we returned to the melody and rounded up the tune by repeating the last 4 bars of the song. The first time we ended the song was probably not too coordinated, so John reminded us that most of the time when ending tunes we would play the last 4 bars of the tune as written in the lead sheet, and then repeat 2 more times. And then we were asked to attempt ending the tune smoothly again together, and yes we did. 

Concepts/content covered in class:

~ John handed us "Upper Structure Triads for Improvisation", as a technique for us to add tension into our solos. He emphasized the importance of resolution, and of the need to balance the "out" sound and the "in" sound. It may not be that a good idea to play the "out" sounds for a full 40 bars in a progression for example.  

[It sounded amazing when John demonstrated all the upper structure triads as notated in the handout. He had us pedal on the "C" note and play a certain rhythm with the pedal tone, while he went about playing and letting us hear the different sounds created from the different combinations. He played the C triad, then the Db triad, D triad and then Eb triad and so on, all the while highlighting interesting things to note. For example, when he played the Gb triad when we pedaled the bass "C" note, it gives an altered tone, and the tensions correspond to a C7(b5,b9) chord sound. And when he played the F triad or the G triad, yes he pointed out that that's the pop sound. 

[One interesting point John made was that as we play through these upper structure triads, it will be great for us to take mental notes and identify to ourselves which triad gives a more "out" sound compared to others, or which gives a subtler "out" sound and label them accordingly. For example, John mentioned that C/C is definitely the standard of the "in" sound, so we can refer to it as tension level 1, whilst Gb/C could be the most "out" sounding amongst all the upper structure triads, thus we can label it as tension level 5. Our task then would be to evaluate and decide for ourselves which ones could sound like maybe they are tension level 4, 3, 2 or even 5 or 1, and then choose accordingly when we are soloing. 

[For the 4-bar II-V-I example in the bottom half of the handout, John demonstrated the lines to us as well by having us play only the root note of each of the chords. And there we go, we have a different sound we can utilize to play over the G7 chord. 

[John went through everything else on that handout, and pointed out that "chord symbols with many tensions can often by written more simply as 'slash' chords." As further elaboration of the first sentence in the handout, John said that we do not necessarily have to use upper structure triads strictly, but we can play around it. Also, he mentioned that pedal tones work excellent in these circumstances.]

~ Next we were given "Upper Structure Triads - II V I", and John as usual demonstrated all the lines in the handout, and pointed out that the diatonic first example in the page is provided as a "reference" point of some sort to let us hear the "out" sounds of the rest of the lines more clearly. 

~ And then we proceed to the handout "Triadic Sequences", with John mentioning that these are "Symmetrical" triadic sequences where there's consistent intervals. We were then "quizzed", or rather asked, on the possible number of "permutations" we can have for Chromatics, Whole Tones, Minor Thirds, Major Thirds, and Tri-Tones. The answers are available on the handout itself haha, and as it turns out, there are 12 permutations for Chromatics, 6 for Whole Tones, 4 for Minor Thirds, 3 for Major Thirds, and 2 for Tri-Tones. And "permutations" in this case does not mean how many, for example, Whole Tone scales exist because a student mentioned 2 for Whole Tones, haha but it's not applicable in this case. 
[John mentioned that often we would hear these in jazz trios, 
without a piano player, and as played by the guitarist. For example, John Scofield, Mike Stern and Pat Metheny in jazz trio situations would be able to incorporate these into improvisations. And John hilariously emphasized the importance of not having pianists in these situations, as the guitarist would then have greater freedom to explore, and in addition to that if the bassist plays a pedal tone, the guitarist would really have all the space he wants to express and explore.] 

~ We were given the lead sheet of "Freedom Jazz Dance" of Eddie Harris. And as this song only has one chord, the Bb7 chord, it is a great song to explore improvising with "out" sounds. 

~ We were given the solo transcriptions of Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny to the tune "All The Things You Are", where both transcriptions are available as options for the final exam. John played the audio of both transcriptions for us, and discussed their differences. John mentioned that it is particularly amazing that the two versions are so different especially when they were actually recorded only a couple of months apart. Whilst it is said that Pat Metheny's solo emphasizes chops, Bill Frisell's solo is not about chops. Bill Frisell utilized the volume pedal and digital delay, and his improvisation has much greater emphasis on melodic and harmonic content in contrast to Pat Metheny's. John commented that though Pat Metheny's solo sounds difficult, it is actually easier than it first sounds, the only thing is that it is fast.

Class Homework:

~ "Freedom Jazz Dance" by Eddie Harris - Melody, comping and improvisation 

Class Materials/Handouts:

"Upper Structure Triads For Improvisation"

"Upper Structure Triads - II V I"

"Triadic Sequences"

"Freedom Jazz Dance" by Eddie Harris

Bill Frisell "All The Things You Are" - Solo Transcription

Pat Metheny "All The Things You Are" - Solo Transcription

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