Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jam Stuff June 2012

Here's some new jam recordings. I sense I'm not just pounding the keys randomly now on solos. There's more shape and purpose to what I do. Time was good too. All that metronome and uptempo practice helped.

Red Clay (Freddie Hubbard) - I never played this before. I was still looking for the Leadsheet when the tune started. Sounded great. This is what's great about interacting at the moment. You'll never know what will happen.

Mr PC - Always difficult for me before when the drummer plays it with a rock beat. But no problem this time.

Invitation - I called it as swing but it barely had a swing section. LOL.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Faults - I Heard it! And Other Rhythmic Issues

So I said in my previous post that I need to hear my faults. And darn, I heard it too well!

My main problem right now is rhythmic and is called "rushing". At my last gig, each time my solo started, I started to push the beat. Sounded awful. I was off sync with the rest of the band. It showed up in the recording.

I then compared this recording to other recent recordings and I noticed it's not consistent. Usually I rush only for short phrases and then I'm back in sync. I'm not good enough to maintain an even rhythm perfectly for a whole tune and it's usually difficult for most until you get to the uppermost echelons of jazz.

I noticed that there was something different though at the last gig. Normally, my bass player will establish a walking bass (quarter note pulse). This is the typical swing pulse in 4/4. In modern jazz though, the rhythm section plays in an "open style". Typical of the interaction between Scot La Faro and Bill Evans back in the Vanguard album, each instrument is soloing at the same time. This cacophony of rhythms is very difficult to follow. So each person needs a strong pulse internally to not get lost. The bass will typically mix in 8th notes instead of just quarters and may have gaps with no beat. It can be really confusing.

In my case, I don't think I expected it because my bass player just came back from a Bassist Camp and learned some new stuff (from Victor Wooten). And this is an advanced style of playing that I am not used to yet.

Anyway, I practiced at home and my time is actually getting solid normally. So if I'm aware of it, I can stop the rushing. Sometimes you really see that awareness of a problem means another phase is developing. Today I was comfortably soloing at 230bpm with streams of eighth notes. It wasn't until I got to 240bpm that I had to break it up and do more syncopation because it was getting too much for me.

Looks like 230bpm for me was the old 200.

To get to a comfort level, I had to really focus on on upbeats. If my accents on the upbeat fails, I seem to lose control. Somehow, the upbeats ( 'and' in 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 ), grounds the pace and relaxes the rhythm. It's where you can drag by slightly increasing the length of the upbeats. If I focus on the downbeats, there's a seeming sync problem with the swing.

Beeboss at PW gave me a link to practice my rhythm that was really good. I can practice this away from the piano.


Try it out. It is best to set "Measures Off" to 4. So 4 measures on and 4 measures off. Then you have to supply your own beat. The metronome only clicks on 2 & 4 so you have to subdivide your own 1 & 2.

This is really hard to get accurately at 80bpm and below (at the moment). Feeling a slow pulse requires a different way of sensing time. Maybe I'll blog on this as I watch my progress. But I'm starting to feel a difference in my perception.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hearing Your Faults

As I read comments by new piano students on the internet, I realized that most people cannot hear the faults in their playing. It can be about unneveness, lack of legato, articulation issues, lack of good tone and good sustain, or balance between the voices, or lack of good time.

I can hear these problems in other people's playing. I can hear it in myself. Well, now I can. Then it made me think of the years when I couldn't hear it. Just to prove the point, I listen to some old recordings and just as I thought, I was flabbergasted at how bad I sounded. It sounded ok at the time.

So this is the biggest challenge to any new player. You must try to listen to those faults. If you don't find any, then clearly your development is at a standstill. I'm sure now that there's a whole lot I can't hear yet and I have to work at finding those faults. I'm sure they'll be tied to exactness in time as that's really hardest to hear. Yet I know that when a pro player plays, that tightness in the time is really noticeable.

The good news is that ONCE you hear your faults, you will now be equipped to dispose of those faults so you can't hear them anymore again. This is a neverending process and this is actually the guide on how to practice. It is about making a list of faults and cleaning it off the list.

Until I figure I sound like Keith Jarrett then there is absolutely no chance that I'm doing anything well. It may be good to pat the ego but it does nothing to developing our skills.

Sometimes we can't hear the faults until our teacher brings it up. That's the essential part about a teacher. I think it is often misconstrued what a teacher's role is. I remember my teacher always identifying some fault to work on. He doesn't bring more than 1 or 2 up (though he hears 100 problems). This is good. It keeps one focused.

I'm not actively getting lessons right now so I have to act honest with myself to find my faults. I always post my music on the internet and invite comments of all kinds. If I can't hear a fault, someone can and if they do, I've just made progress. It's foolish to involve the ego.

Then again, I really want to be good. So I'm driven to search for perfection. Anyway, this kind of information would have really been important when I was just starting. No one told me this. So early on my focus was to "sound good". Instead, I should have been actively looking for problems since it has to be there.

Recently, people have posted that I sound "pro". Well, I can hear that that is not the case. So that's good. I will be on my way to improving then.

If you can't hear your faults, you need to worry.

But if you hear TOO MANY faults, then you ought to back up a bit. LOL. You're out of your range.