Anyone who has studied with me privately or In a master class situation. Whether advanced or not are aware of my feelings about transcribing solos. My DVD on the subject, The Improviser’s Guide To Transcription (Saris Music Services), provides a step by step analysis of the how and why of this process. In my opinion, it is the most efficient and productive technique for learning to Improvise In the Jazz tradition, or In any tradition for that matter. It is the closest one can come to the age old master apprenticeship system which existed for centuries as the accepted method for earning the arts and crafts.
In a contemporary sense, transcribing a master is the next best thing to having an accomplished Improviser In front of a student as a model to copy and Inspire. Another positive aspect of this process Is that one’s progress can be measured without the aid of an institution or system. Transcription is an unbeatable tool as a means to an end. The end being artistic creation, musical freedom and hopefully, a recognizable style of playing. Knowing what came before Is the only way to realize what there Is left to do. Imitation as a stage of learning Is timeless and inevitable.
This mode of thought holds especially true in Jazz because outside of the specific notes and rhythms, the Intangible essence of this music cannot be notated exactly. This Includes but Is not limited to the subtleties of rhythmic feel and how the artist interprets the beat as well as the use of expressive nuance in one’s sound, aspects of which are usually lumped under the word “phrasing. ” In transcribing, a musician is forced to hear and duplicate everything-even the intangibles. Finally, with the notes written out on paper, It becomes possible to analyze the thought process of the Improviser.
This can help the student Initiate his or her own Ideas and Inspire one to go further in their own research. In summary, transcription involves three basic areas of our musical faculties: 1. Notation through saturated listening to the selected solo, the student Internalizes (by singing at first) the notes and undertakes the painstaking, necessary craft of notating the rhythms and pitches of the solo. 2. Playing – with repeated instrumental practice, the solo is exactly imitated in every way, including dynamics, articulation, nuance, time feel, tone coloring and of course, the rhythms and pitches. . Analysis – using the classic methods of theme and variation study, mitotic analysis and form structure concepts, etc. , the student deduces to the best of his ability the thought processes represented in the work. By Isolating passages and phrases, learning them in different keys and tempos, creating variations and using them In other comparable harmonic situations, the student begins to transform the transcription process from imitation to creation. Specific Tools For Practicing Transcriptions Playing and duplicating the solo 1 . SE half speed for practicing synchronization with the original as well as for study offer to the “Definition of Symbols”. 2. Eventually, try to play the solo along with the original at regular speed. 3. After playing with the original, play without using a metronome, with an accompanist, or a play-along of the same track to check how well you know it. You can even make your own playing on a cassette. 4. Play the solo in different keys and tempos. 5. Use the solo as a point of departure to improvise on your own within the chord progression.
Stay close to the style and feel of the original but initiate your own thoughts. Creating your own ideas 1. Extract a line, pattern, motif and transpose it to other keys and tempos. 2. Categorizing, transposing and composing original lines. Put all the lines that are from the same progression or chord change type on one page. This is to see the similarities and differences when a soloist encounters a specific chord or progression. With the help of an experienced musician choose the “best” lines using criteria of choice of notes, rhythmic interest and overall shape. See “John Chlorate’s l- VI-it-V Sequences… As well as “Coloration ii-V Lines – Blue Train. ” A. Transpose it to other keys and play/memorize it at different tempos. Put the line into a tune at the same harmonic place. B. Place it at the top of a page and write variations using typical theme and variation techniques (augmentation, diminution, syncopation, sequence change, displacement both melodically and rhythmically, neighboring tones, etc. ). Do these “new lines” in other keys and at other tempos. Try to place them in other contexts where the same progression appears. See “it-V Variations – Shorter and Longer. 3. Use a graph of the solo written out horizontally with all the same bars lined up vertically from the top of the page down. In this manner, you can see what was laded on each chorus in a particular bar. By skipping around between choruses, you can create new and unique combinations from what the soloist did. See “Transcription Graph. ” Example A #1-6 – This represents Charlie Parkers first 4 bars from his original solo on confirmation (6 choruses). Example B – These are possible lines made up off bar of different choruses with original bars interjected by the student.
Example B #1 – Bar 1 from Charlie Parkers (Birds) chorus. Bar 2 is taken from bar 2 of Bird’s 3rd chorus (B. C. 3 = Bird Chorus 3). Bar 3 is also taken from Birds 3rd chorus, hill the 4th bar is an original idea from the student. Example B #2 – This time there are no original ideas from the student, but bars 1 and 2 are taken from Bird’s 5th chorus, and bars 3 and 4 are taken from Bird’s 4th chorus. Example B #3 – Here bars 1 and 3 are taken from Bird’s 4th chorus, while bars 2 and 4 are original ideas from the student.
Example B #4- Bar 1 is taken from Bird’s 2nd chorus and bar 4 is taken from Bird’s 5th chorus. Bars 2 and 3 are original ideas from the student. 4. Compose an original solo. By the time you are done with all of the above, not only will everything be naturally memorize, but the process of internalizing will have begun. This means that what the near future. Depending upon the material, its difficulty and your ability to absorb the information, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but you can be sure that eventually it will occur if you have done the work.