Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let's Be Blue

Simple Styling

     I'd like to take the time to point out some simple ways to have a lot of fun with music, especially as an instrumentalist. Starting out with jazz can be quite the undertaking, but there are some cool scales you can try that will get you jamming in no time at all.
     There are a lot of scales and modes in which to play, but I'm going to focus mostly on the blues scales. At one point or another you've probably heard one played. It's a scale used in many genres, not just jazz, so it should be pretty familiar, especially once you hear it. Minor blues is a great and simple key to jam in, and it's pretty universal. You can sit down with a bunch of musicians and start playing blues without much discussion or drafting. The scales are easy to learn, so to get things started, here's a chart to use as a frame of reference:
The rhythm doesn't matter a whole lot. Play them in any way that helps you learn the most effectively. Put these over chords, and even a good beat, and you're on your way to improvising some blues.
     While you can do pretty much whatever you want, some good direction- at least to start -would be to follow a twelve bar blues. Twelve 'bars' are simply twelve measures; the length of the loop in which you play. The chords played change in a way that identifies the twelve bar blues. As a saxophonist, or other soloing instrument, you can play the effective key straight up, or follow the chord changes more strictly: it doesn't matter, depending on what you want. The chord progression looks something like this:
The above example is in the key of G, but the progression can be played according to any of the twelve keys. Following is an example of blues in the key of G (like the chords above), played by myself on my new curved soprano saxophone, as well as my brother Jordan Shack on classic guitar and friend Jordan Jhamb on piano- the two will be playing the shown chords with some variance while I show you how playing over chords can sound:
video
The photo is of my little Opus Soprano
     Once you get the twelve bar going with a pianist playing chords and a skilled drummer, you'll learn a bit more about what you should and should not do while improvising. It's while playing to these tunes that you'll really find out about your own playing as a jazz musician. A shocking amount of young people don't know how to improvise at all, something that I find pretty sad. There are probably many reasons for this, but regardless, I urge everyone who wants to play this sort of thing to get out and do it. It's a lot of fun, and it's entirely your own each time.

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