Pip Eastop, Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Posts tagged “Locrian mode

2nd jazz lesson

My second lesson with Ken Bartels.

Unsurprisingly, we started where we had left off and this felt like me showing him my homework – a strange feeling as it’s some 25 years since I left school. The homework was playing through the Aebersold book, “Blues in all keys”, firstly sticking exclusively to the blues scale of each key, secondly using only the given chord notes to build the tunes.

I told him I had worked on it for quite hard for a couple of weeks but then had got “sidetracked” by such exotic things as Locrian modes and diminished whole-tone scales. I was crap at my homework – which was a bit embarrassing – and the end result was that the same homework still stands for the next lesson. Groan.

For the second half of the lesson we did some keyboard work which was very interesting and my keyboard homework is to learn my 11-V-1 progressions, in all keys and in both hands. It’s a lot of work. He also recommended a couple of books, which I have ordered – John Mehegan’s “Contemporary Styles for the Jazz Pianist”, and Mark Levine’s “The Jazz Piano Book”.

Valves v. pistons

Having got back from holidays with the cornet I had to check my hornplaying was still working before heading off to Edinburgh with the Britten Sinfonia, to play some stuff by James Macmillan. This would be followed by a week of film sessions (Peter Pan) for Joel McNeely. To my great relief the horn playing seemed hardly changed. Perhaps a little unfocussed in the high register but elsewhere, if anything, improvements had taken place. How completely brilliant! I really didn’t know what sort of damage I might have done so I was very relieved. 

What struck me most of all was the difference of practice technique. With the cornet I had been playing scales and arpeggios and improvising bits of melody and jazz licks. With the horn, on the other hand, I found myself playing long tones with crescendi and diminuendi and bathing in the sheer loveliness of the sound. The cornet is nice but it really doesn’t have that fascinating, hypnotic timbre. I don’t think I could have spent thirty years practicing long notes on a trumpet like I have with the horn.

Another difference which became obvious was that rotary valves sound very different to pistons. I had no idea about this before learning the cornet. It’s not just a left hand versus right hand thing, it’s a different mechanism with a different sound effect. The rotary valves of a horn are capable of giving a very quick change, more like a switch than a valve, whereas the piston can be moved slower if required and the half-valve sounds are more useful and easy to use than those of the horn. I wonder now what a modern piston horn would feel like to play. I must earmark that idea for a future project.

I’m still working at Locrians (Ø), diminished whole-tone scales (C7+9), and Diminished (beginning with the semitone) (C7-9).

Using the QY70 sequencer

The QY70 is great! I’ve learned how to program it to change chords through a specific sequence and I spent about 90 minutes late into the night, cup mute firmly in, playing Locrian modes over all the X flat minor ninth chords.

The Bossanova setting is really nice, but there are loads of different ones I can use. It’s going to be a doddle to use. All I need now is loads of time – the problem is that it’s school holidays right now and it’s very difficult to find time to practice, apart from late into the night.

Holiday practice – half diminished

Yesterday I didn’t do very much blowing and I was worried that I’d burnt myself out with too much practice in the few previous days, but on the other hand my energy might have been low due perhaps to the double dosing of antihistamine I’ve been taking each day because of the close proximity of grass pollen all around our holiday cottage.
Today was better, though. We drove up from Essex to north Norfolk – moving to a different cottage for another week of holiday. On the way I did quite a lot of work in the Locrian mode, trying to familiarise myself with its sound. I had a small breakthrough in discovering that it has both a perfect fourth and a flattened fifth. With this I discovered that if I sung (in my head) the root, then the fourth, then a semitone higher (the flat fifth) I could then sing the scale up or down with all the right notes. Locrian is easy to check as you work on it – simply start on its second note and you should have a major scale. If you don’t then that wasn’t locrian.
Then, when we got to the Norfolk cottage, I tried it out on the cornet and found that with those three notes preceding each scale I could play all my locrians without fumbling around for the notes. All I need to do now is plenty of this, every day for a week or so, and then I should have freedom to improvise in all the locrians, which I believe covers the chords known as half-diminished.