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Published by jamesyu

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Published by: jamesyu on Aug 16, 2007
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A Jazz Improvisation PrimerMarc SabatellaSecond Edition: Last Revised 3/7/94Copyright (C) 1992, 1993 by Marc Sabatella0. PrefaceThis primer began as an attempt to put together some answers to questions commonlyasked by beginnin improvisers in the rec.music.bluenote newsgroup on the Internetcomputer network. In the process ofputting the text together, however, itgradually grew into a more comprehensive treatise hopefully sitable as a beginningguide to the self-study of jazz improvisation.As I expanded the scope of this work from the simple question and answer sheet towhat it is now, on of my objectives was to make it also useful to people who haveno intention of becoming jazz perforers, but who wish to increase theirunderstanding of the music in order to gain a better appreciatio for it. Somelisteners delight in not knowing what goes into the music, considering it in thesame ein as sausages in that respect, but I sincerely believe that one's enjoymentof music can almost alays be enhanced by a better understanding of it.This primer assumes the reader has a certain familiarity with basic concepts ofterminology and notaion, but no more than one might have learned in a few musiclessons as a child. From this foundation the primer gradually delves intorelatively advanced theory. The amount of information presented hee may appearoverwhelming to all but the most ambitious of non-performing listeners, but Ibelieve te study is well worth the effort.The theory discussed in this primer could easily take hundreds of pages to coveradequately, and shold be accompanied by transcriptions of musical examples andexcerpts from actual solos. However, it s not my intention here to write the GreatAmerican "How To Play Jazz" Manual. Think of this primer ore as an introduction tothe subject, or as a survey of the various topics to be covered by other txts. Ialso feel that jazz improvisation cannot be understood or mastered without a feelfor the hisory of jazz, so I have included a section on history. Again, mytreatment is rather cursory, and shold be considered only an introductory survey.One could argue that instead of reading this primer, one would be better off justreading a history ext and a theory text. There is probably some truth to this.However, this primer tries to relate thse approaches in a manner that cannot bedone with separate texts, to give you a broad idea of what azz improvisation isall about. It also takes a less pedantic approach than most improvisation textsencouraging you to find your own voice rather than merely teaching you how to playthe "right" note. I think you will find that the history, theories, and techniquesdiscussed here go a long way towad explaining what is behind most of the jazz youhear, but are not necessarily enough on its own to llow you to reproduce it oreven fully analyze it. If it points anyone in the right direction, encouages themto check out more comprehensive texts, or motivates them to take some lessons or aclass, hen it has succeeded.I still consider this primer to be a work in progress. Since it is currentlydistributed through theInternet, and there is no standard way to create and
transmit documents that include integrated textand graphics over that network,this primer is all text. This is unfortunate, since it makes the secions onchords, scales, and voicings much more confusing than they deserve to be. It alsomakes for n overly technical and dry discussion of such a free and creative artform as jazz. However, the reaership of the Internet tends to be made up ofcollege educated engineer types who are expected to beable to read dry technicalpapers, so this is perhaps not as big a problem as it might otherwise be.It wouldbe nice to be able to target this primer at the more typical beginning improviser,the highschool or college student who is not necessarily especially technicallyinclined. Musical examples ould undoubtedly help me make some of my points thatare probably being lost now in the bewildering erbiage. Also, I think streamliningsome of the more tedious explanations would help me focus the prmer a littlebetter. Once I allow for musical examples, I might not be able to employ theInternet a a distribution mechanism, but I could use any of the available computertypesetting packages to getan expanded edition of this primer printed andpublished.If any readers have any suggestions for improvements, or wish to contributeanything to future editins, or have any other comments or feedback for me, pleaselet me know. My electronic mail address iscurrently marc@fc.sde.hp.com. A noteposted to rec.music.bluenote will generally get my attention aswell if you havedifficulties in reaching me. I can also be reached by telephone at (303)493-4856,o by mail at 511 East Myrtle Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524.I would like to thank some people who contributed to this primer. Solomon Douglas,Jonathan Cohen, ad Sue Raul reviewed the early drafts and gave me lots of goodsuggestions, most of which were incorprated into the first edition. Jonathan alsocontributed some material for the discussions on modal msic. Since the firstedition was made available, over six hundred people have downloaded it, and manothers have obtained copies by other means as well. I have received many morecomments and have trid to incorporate as many of the suggestions as possible.While it would be difficult to list everyon who gave me feedback, I would like toespecially acknowledge Russ Evans, Jos Groot, Jason Martin Leitt, Scott Gordon,Jim Franzen, and David Geiser.Finally, I would like to say a few words about the copyright. The first editioncontained no copyrigt notice, but was covered anyhow under United States copyrightlaw and under the international Berneconvention. This second edition carries anexplicit copyright notice. I grant you the right to printthis primer and makecopies to distribute if you wish. I do plan to publish this some day, however, oplease do not get carried away. For persons on the Internet, the latest version ofthis primer canbe obtained via anonymous ftp from ftp.njit.edu, in the directory/pub/jazz-primer. Postscript, DVI,troff -me, and ASCII versions are available. Theprimer can also be accessed via the World Wide Web sing a web client such as NCSAMosaic. The primer is listed in the Jazz Web at http://www.acns.nwu.eu/jazz/.1. GoalsFor the purposes of this primer, we are all musicians. Some of us may beperforming musicians, whilemost of us are listening musicians. Most of the formerare also the latter. I will try to use the tem performer and listenerrespectively, rather than the terms musician or nonmusician, when addressin myaudience. This primer is intended primarily for performers who wish to learn jazzimprovisation.It is also intended for listeners who wish to increase theirunderstanding of the music. I believe tat all musicians can benefit from a fullerunderstanding of jazz, as this can lead to an enhanced enoyment of the music.Some basic knowledge of music, including familiarity with standard music notation,
is assumed in man places throughout the primer. I highly recommend that you haveaccess to a piano and the ability toplay simple examples on it. Performers shouldalready possess basic technical proficiency on your intruments in order to gainthe most from this primer. Listeners should try to bear with the more techicaldiscussions and not get too bogged down with the details where it seems too farover your head.There are three main goals of this primer. They are to teach you the language ofjazz, to increase yur understanding of jazz as performed by others, and, forperformers, to get you started on improvisng. The language of jazz is mostly alanguage of styles, history, and music theory. It is the languae of liner notes,interviews, and textbooks, and contains terms such as "bebop", "Trane", and "lydiadominant". Learning this language will also provide a framework for understandingthe music itself.While it is certainly possible to enjoy John Coltrane withoutunderstanding anything about music thery, a working knowledge of harmony canprovide a new basis for appreciation. It is also possible to mprovise without muchtheoretic background, but stories of famous musicians who were unable to read usicare generally greatly exaggerated, and I believe any musician's playing can beimproved by learing more theory.1.1. OutlineThis primer is organized as a series of steps toward becoming a jazz musician,either as a performeror as a more informed listener. Most of the steps are gearedfor the performer, but the non-performig listener is encouraged to try out as manyof the playing examples as possible. This should help braden your ear and help yourecognize aspects of the music you might not have otherwise.The steps outlined in this primer are:1. listen to many different styles of jazz 2. understand jazz fundamentals 3.learn chord/scale relaionships 4. learn how to apply the theory to jazzimprovisation 5. learn how to accompany other solosts 6. play with others 7.listen analytically 8. break the rulesThese will each be described in some detail later.Some of the material presented here is very basic, and some of it is ratheradvanced. Those of you wo have listened to a lot of jazz but are not performersyourselves will probably find the history dicussions to be simplistic, but findthe theoretical discussions overwhelming. Others may grow impatint at theexplanations of such basic concepts as the major scale, but will be bewildered atthe numbr and variety of musicians discussed. You may wonder why such a broadarray of information has been queezed into this one primer. I believe that, inorder to understand jazz improvisation, it is necesary to understand the history,the theory, and the techniques of jazz. I feel that it is important t merge theseavenues if one is to develop a broad understanding.1.2. Other ResourcesThis primer is not the only source of information you can or should be using inlearning jazz improvsation. There are books by Jerry Coker, David Baker, andothers that can be used as an aid to learnig jazz improvisation. Some of these arerelatively basic and do not cover much more material than ths primer. Others arequite advanced, and this primer will hopefully provide the necessary backgroundtotackle these texts.In addition to textbooks, another important resource for performers is thefakebook. A fakebook typially contains music for hundreds of songs, but it

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