I’ve been practising pretty regularly and, I feel, steadily improving but increasingly feeling myself to be in a musical vacuum. What I need now is fresh air, not my own stale stuff to breathe; so with that in mind I’ve arranged to have a lesson with Martin Shaw, who has been enthusiastically recommended by both John Barclay and Derek Watkins.
I’m taking a trumpet and a flugelhorn but no books or printed stuff of any kind – jazz is supposed to improvised – plus I don’t want to be telling Martin the way I want the lesson to go.
What do I want? Not sure, but I’d like him to get me to loosen up my playing and then guide me towards better ways of doing it. The fact is I don’t know if I’m any good at any aspect of it. John Barclay has been vey encouraging, even flattering, as have Valentin and Dan Newall, but I don’t really know if I’m heading in the right direction, hence the need for a lesson …or several.
Well, that was amazing. Martin Shaw is a terrific teacher, and very generous with his time. He gave me two hours! It felt like half an hour. It seems that I’m basically on the right track and he was very encouraging about my attempts – after hearing me struggling through All The Things You Are, although several things came up which I’m writing down now to remind myself about.
1. General articulation: I’m doing it too softly! My tonguing needs to be more positive, or harder, less “classical” – this surprised me but he demonstrated the difference and convinced me. It’s part of coming from my highly classical horn technique and rounding the starts of the notes. “It’s a beautiful sound but not right for jazz trumpet”, I think he said… So I must try to remember that.
2. Learning the modal flavours: Up and down scales thinking in terms of raised and lowered 2nds, 3rds, 6ths etc.. Make cards or use Psion… Go to the ninth and back down each time. Then learn them from the ninth down then up. Then in broken thirds, fourths etc…
3. Playing Aebersolds using only the chord notes. Up, then up and down the scale notes.
4. Playing Aebersolds up and down the straight simple scales notes – so, for example, when encountering the altered scale Calt, just stick to C7 (for now).
5. Same as above but improvising using only the scale notes first in minims, then in triplet minims, then crotchets, then triplet crotchets then quavers, then, triplet quevers etc…
6. Don’t use double tonguing in the fast stuff – it’s almost never done in jazz. The fast licks seem to all be slurred pairs or threes, across the main beats.
7. Learn the closed-tongue Clifford Brown thingy sound. Like muting the sound by putting the toungue against the teeth so the air has to squeeze around the teeth to get through. This is a new departure – something unheard of in classical technique and I don’t think it’s been analyzed much by jazz trumpet players. They just seem do it. I don’t know what it’s called, even.
8. The timbre can be less bright – Martin’s was considerably smokier, or more lush than mine. No idea how to do this.
9. Chromatic scales: very useful and need to be clean and accurate and fast. Good for warming up. Use a more postive finger action – slam the valves down a bit more !
Long gap since the last post here. Still practising, though!
Here’s an excersise I’m working on a bit now. The idea of it is to get me right into the feel, into the nitty-gritty, of the melodic minor by getting used to some awkward angular intervals contained within it. The melodic minor (up) or MinorMajor scale is so useful because its modes yield a lot of common jazz scales, such as the altered “Alt” scale (7th mode) or the half-diminished scale with a raised 2nd (Locrian #2).
I’m going to try to learn this in all twelve mM scales. It’s very awkward, particularly in the keys furthest away from C.
But where has this urge to learn jazz come from? I think it’s been there, just below the surface, for a very long time. It’s come to the surface now partly because it’s now or never – I’m 43. I have a slight sense of urgency and a feeling that at last I’m doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time.
It’s also a fascinating learning process and to a large extent it’s uncharted territory for someone like me, already possessing a certain amount of technique from a parallel discipline but not the language itself.
Another aspect of this is that I’m finding the study extremely satisfying, musically. The way I’m practicing the cornet is completely different from any way I’ve ever practiced the horn. Yesterday, for example, I spent part of the evening going through all the modes in all keys, first saying the name (i.e. Db Mixolydian) then trying to play them by ear but also picturing the geography, as if written down, so that I’m aware of which notes I’m playing, this being the hardest part because I’m not used to holding the visual map in my mind while playing.
I’ve noticed a fingering difficulty emerging: during the modes practice it happened quite a lot that when going from 2+3 to 1 the 2nd finger would come up slightly later that the 3rd making quite a messy transition. I need to isolate this problem and work out some specific finger exercises to clear problem. I wonder why I find this compelling – exciting even.