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Playing jazz/swing lines and vocabulary above 220bpm.
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JakeJew



Joined: 30 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 9:36 pm    Post subject: Playing jazz/swing lines and vocabulary above 220bpm. Reply with quote

...and sounding good!

It's hard, I think (hope) it's hard for everybody to play vocabulary at tempos above 220 or so and still sound good, have good time, articulation, and play ideas that make sense.

I used to think technique was what was holding me back, but I've come to realize it's more than technique, it's hearing and vocabulary. My technique does need a lot of work to be where I want it to be, but I realized recently that I don't have as awesome conception and hearing as I might have once thought I did.

So let's talk...8th note-based vocabulary, faster tempos...even getting up there to 300, can you do it? How do you manage? Is it an issue that even comes up often for you?

What can the jazz guitarist practice in order to be better prepared to improvise articulate and sensible melodies over jazz standards at these faster tempos?

Does anybody have any particular books that they've found helpful for this specific subject?
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M



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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 4:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Playing jazz/swing lines and vocabulary above 220bpm. Reply with quote

JakeJew wrote:
... I've come to realize it's more than technique, it's hearing and vocabulary.

The reality captured in this single statement is mind boggling, when you think about it. And I think you left out "and creativity."

When I'm forced to confront myself, I conclude that my technique, hearing, vocabulary, and creativity all suck. D*mn!
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Jazzy



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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you checked out the book "Forward Motion" by Hal Galper?
You can read more about it here: http://www.forwardmotionpdf.com/

One of the things in this book I found very useful, was thinking in half-time. So f. ex. if you play a tune in 220 bpm, you think and feel it in 110. For me personally this helps a lot. I find it a lot easier to play double time lines in a ballad, than playing eight notes on a bop tune, allthough the lines are in the same tempo. A poor explanation, but I hope you get my point Smile But check out the book!
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jazzy wrote:
Have you checked out the book "Forward Motion" by Hal Galper?
You can read more about it here: http://www.forwardmotionpdf.com/

One of the things in this book I found very useful, was thinking in half-time. So f. ex. if you play a tune in 220 bpm, you think and feel it in 110. For me personally this helps a lot. I find it a lot easier to play double time lines in a ballad, than playing eight notes on a bop tune, allthough the lines are in the same tempo. A poor explanation, but I hope you get my point Smile But check out the book!


Thanks guys...and Michael this seems to be a book that's mentioned so often and with such positivity it might be time to check it out!

You're definitely right...it's a different head trip to play double time lines at 110 then 220. A funny thing I've found is that when playing double time lines I feel more comfortable being "soupy" and loose - more slurs, more sweeps, maybe a quieter attack, and then with 8ths at 220 I find myself trying to pick almost all of the notes and play louder

I guess that makes sense as a GROOVE at 220 is more energetic, usually, then a groove at 110, but I guess it doesn't have to be that way. There can be chill up tempo things and hard swinging slower performances...

I've played with this idea a little bit...ex playing giant steps in "half time" at a mid tempo - giving each chord one beat rather than half a measure...

Good food for thought!
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Jens



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PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 7:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

How much time do you spend with the metronome on 2&4 in those tempos?
For me it helped when I made sure to take some time to play daily in up tempos over a longer period of time.

And indeed feel the bar in 2 or in 1 if it gets really fast Smile

Jens
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jens wrote:
How much time do you spend with the metronome on 2&4 in those tempos?
For me it helped when I made sure to take some time to play daily in up tempos over a longer period of time.

And indeed feel the bar in 2 or in 1 if it gets really fast Smile

Jens


Jens I have spent some time practicing with the "swing click" at these tempos, but I suppose not a ton...

I think a problem I run into is that when i get to a certain bpm I 'test' myself by trying to play fancy lines and it usually sounds like s***. I feel like I can hear the pulse ok so I can play motivic, rhythmic stuff that doesn't require the same kind of technical chops, but at the end of the solo I always want to hear (and play) some 8ths. Listening to bird play at these tempos is depressing...he can burn at twice the speed...

What happens for me is my 8ths just start to break up - to some extent it's conception, but technique really is a huge factor. So I usually don't bother spending time practicing at tempos I can't really hang at. Again, I could play some ideas that can sound ok, but here I'm talking about really playing bebop and jazz vocabulary at these tempos.

What would you suggest working on/playing when the bpm is set faster than I can really blow?
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Jens



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PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My experience is that it did not get better untill I spent some time practicing at that tempo, adn it is no use to start making the metronome easier etc. because you need to have a strong sense of time. at 300 bpm if you make a timing mistake you turn the beat quite easy since they are very close Smile

Sometimes I'll be playing a line and I cannot keep it in time. The 2&4 metronome punishes that better.

In my experience, if you have an idea how fast you can play 8th notes in scale exercises etc. then somewhere just below that is within range to practice tunes in. If you cannot do scales at bpm 300 then don't expect to be able to play at bpm 300 (That is how it worked for me, I know it is not like that for everyone..)

I do try to keep it together and not play technique stuff but also try to keep it musical in the same way I would at a slower tempo.

I think an important factor is also to practice to think/hear further ahead. Since the tempo is higher you have to be a bit further. Here feeling in half-notes and whole bars help.

Make sure to choose good tunes for up tempos. Cherokee is played up for a reason, and is a good tune to practice on. Giant Steps is a lot less practical.

It's a just a few loose ideas or thoughts on the subject, sorry if its long and disorganized...

Playing tempo's where you cannot play 8th's is a completely different story since you have to use other ideas. Jim Hall with Rollins anyone?

Jens
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great points Jens, I really appreciate your input.

Quote:
Sometimes I'll be playing a line and I cannot keep it in time. The 2&4 metronome punishes that better.


yes!

Quote:
If you cannot do scales at bpm 300 then don't expect to be able to play at bpm 300 (That is how it worked for me, I know it is not like that for everyone..)


I think I agree with this except to add that it depends on the technique used. For example, with certain fingerings, or if I add some slurs, I can play scales at that tempo (8ths), but I can't straight alternate pick a conventional scale fingering at that tempo. Metheny lines lay easily on the guitar - I'd actually probably find a Metheny lick to be easier to play uptempo than alt picking a scale, you know what I mean?

The problem I run into is that I really like the sound of alt picking, but it's not where I'd like it to be. To play with slurs I can get by, but I don't like the sound as much.

Quote:
Make sure to choose good tunes for up tempos. Cherokee is played up for a reason, and is a good tune to practice on. Giant Steps is a lot less practical.


Yeah, true...i sometimes overlook this and might try a harder tune. I suppose, going along with your idea, is to just double time a normal tune...ex play Beautiful love at 150 but hear it like 300 with a harmonic rhythm that's twice as long. That way the changes aren't going by any faster, but the groove is uptempo. Basically the same thing Jazzy was saying about working on double time.


Quote:
Playing tempo's where you cannot play 8th's is a completely different story since you have to use other ideas. Jim Hall with Rollins anyone?


Honestly, I'd rather be sick at this than burning 8ths...but as has been said, it can be much harder. Rather than relying on bebop licks, you actually have to be musical, creative, and really feel the form and tempo going by but not have a need to fill up all the space.

I've heard Bill Frisell do some amazing things with this concept...play on a burning tune without using any 8th notes but still keep the energy just as high.

I have some stuff I want to work on for this concept...the way I see it, if at 300bpm you can clearly hear and feel all the upbeats, Q note triplets, Q note triplet upbeats, dotted Qs, groups of 5...you could do some very interesting and beautiful stuff without ever challenging your picking technique.
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Jens



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PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Great points Jens, I really appreciate your input.

Don't forget I'll be stealing all of your ideas too!!! Laughing

Quote:
I think I agree with this except to add that it depends on the technique used. For example, with certain fingerings, or if I add some slurs, I can play scales at that tempo (8ths), but I can't straight alternate pick a conventional scale fingering at that tempo. Metheny lines lay easily on the guitar - I'd actually probably find a Metheny lick to be easier to play uptempo than alt picking a scale, you know what I mean?

The problem I run into is that I really like the sound of alt picking, but it's not where I'd like it to be. To play with slurs I can get by, but I don't like the sound as much.


It might often be like that. I had a period where I really worked hard on technique and did not pay attention to playing up tempos tunes but suddenly (well, suddenly... a year or two later, but still... Smile ) was in a position to play up tempos.

You could spend time speeding up songs I guess, play a very full chorus of 8ths on a tune. Set the metronome a bit higher do another chorus. And then making sure to pick/phrase in the way you want to. Never tried it, it might work though.

Quote:
Yeah, true...i sometimes overlook this and might try a harder tune. I suppose, going along with your idea, is to just double time a normal tune...ex play Beautiful love at 150 but hear it like 300 with a harmonic rhythm that's twice as long. That way the changes aren't going by any faster, but the groove is uptempo. Basically the same thing Jazzy was saying about working on double time.


To me it is harder to keep the form in double time than in normal time, because I hear the melody as a reference I think. So I would probably find it difficult to play a tune like that, never did it much though. I just look for tunes that mostly have one chord per bar or less then I play them fast.

Which Frisell recording was that?

Jens
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 3:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jens wrote:

Which Frisell recording was that?

Jens


I wish I took note - I think I may have been listening to Pandora at the time. I believe it was something with the electric bebop band.
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 4:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So tonight I went to (and played at) the Wally's Jam for the first time...in Boston the Wally's jam session is, as I understand it, the sort of big-deal straight ahead session in town, a lot of the Berklee kids go to it...

Anyway luckily there weren't any other guitarists except the host, and he let me play quite a few tunes...it was a treat..

but literally all the guests besides me were drummers and literally each one of them wanted to play a tune up around 300! Quite a challenge...I quickly gave up on trying to play any 8th note stuff, which I guess can be cool, but the bag of tricks technique only works for so long/so many tunes.

I've been working on pick technique a lot, but while that's great in the sense that maybe in 10 years I'll be able to pick every note of well crafted bebop 8th note lines at 300...I realize I've just got to find something more immediate.

I think I'm going to take Jens advice of just playing with the nome every day at these high tempos and just learning to hear them and finding things I can do that are coherent that can get me through the tunes...
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Jens



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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well that's what works the best for me anyway. I do it in periods though.

Funny thing with sessions that they bring out so much nonsense in people. Playing fast a whole evening is just as boring as playing medium or slow-bossa the whole evening. That's just not where the music is, and I would doubt that there are a lot of people who can make interesting solos for too long in a situation like that. Try to imagine a cd like that Rolling Eyes

Jens
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jens wrote:
Well that's what works the best for me anyway. I do it in periods though.

Funny thing with sessions that they bring out so much nonsense in people. Playing fast a whole evening is just as boring as playing medium or slow-bossa the whole evening. That's just not where the music is, and I would doubt that there are a lot of people who can make interesting solos for too long in a situation like that. Try to imagine a cd like that Rolling Eyes

Jens


Thanks Jens, that gives me a little esteem boost.

I'd still like to hang there - if anything, just to network, get involved in more jams or possibly gigs...
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Jens



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess the only way to approach jam sessions is to go with the flow and leave you ego at the door (or at least as much as you can...).

Just keep at it (like the rest of us Wink )

FWIW I recorded myself playing up tempo today, sometimes that can be so depressing... Shocked

Jens
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jens wrote:
I guess the only way to approach jam sessions is to go with the flow and leave you ego at the door (or at least as much as you can...).

Just keep at it (like the rest of us Wink )

FWIW I recorded myself playing up tempo today, sometimes that can be so depressing... Shocked

Jens


The best advice I ever got about going to jam sessions was "you're going for you." I go there to improve my playing, maybe find more people to play with, that's it...I have nothing to prove...just improve...hey look at that.

re: uptempo, I'd like to hear it!

here's a funny thing I've noticed about most of the guitar players I've heard who can really burn:

It's all they do.

The handful of guitarist I've heard that can really shred consistent bebop vocabulary at ~300 don't really seem to go into any other mode, so to speak. On slower tunes they double time them...and I rarely ever hear them play any odd rhythmic figures or particularly syncopated phrasing, or more modern harmony.

I mean, that's cool, I'm not knocking it - if they don't want that as part of their vocabulary then more power to them for pursuing a vision.

I just have to keep that in mind because I'd like to handle these tempos better, but I don't want that to be the only thing I do.

A funny thing I've noticed is that most of my vocabulary at slower tempos seems somewhat angular to me...it's hard to get that kind of vocabulary faster, but something like a Pat Martino line is simpler to play fast (not easy, but easier than something with big interval leaps, odd rhythm groups, etc)
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