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The Unique Jazz Pedagogy of Dennis Sandole

Thomas Scott McGill

Biographical Information
Born and Died in Philadelphia P.A. (1913-2000) Autodidact-He starts playing the Guitar sometime in his late teens and quickly moves on to Piano, Theory, Composition, and Arranging. Moves from Philadelphia to Hollywood C.A. in the late 1930s. Shortly thereafter he begins playing and recording with Name Bands such as Ray McKinley (1942) Tommy Dorsey (1943-44), Boyd Raeburn (1944), Charlie Barnet (1946). (Moon, T. Oct. 2000, Dennis Sandole, Educator Who Taught Giants of Jazz, (online), 2000, Coltranes Mentor Was Legendary Jazz Teacher Last Post (online),

Works in Hollywood C.A. as Guitarist/Composer/Arranger for MGM Studios and as a freelance session and live musician. It is here that he works with musical luminaries such as Billie Holliday and Frank Sinatra. Begins teaching and working on an overall concept of his teaching literature.

He returns to South Philly and begins teaching as his primary occupation at The Granoff Studios. It was here that John Coltrane became one of his pupils from 1946 until the early 1950s and they remained close. (Porter, L. 1999. John Coltrane, His Life and Music, Ann Arbor, MA., U.S.A: The University of Michigan Press. pp. 52.) Word spreads about his unique abilities as a teacher and he becomes sough after by many Philadelphian and East Coast based musicians. He conducts workshops in N.Y.C. with names such as Herbie Hancock attending, but remains based in Philadelphia as a teacher permanently. Authors influential guitar method book Guitar Lore first published in 1976. Another book Scale Lore based primarily on his tetrachordal scale principles remains unpublished. His students include Horn players James Moody, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Michael Brecker, Michael Pedicin Jr., Rob Brown, and Bobby Zankel, Pianists Matthew Shipp, and Sumi Tonooka, bassist Stanley Clarke, Jazz Bagpipist Rufus Harley, and Guitarists Jim Hall, Joe Diorio, and Pat Martino. (Ratliff, B. and Moon, T. 2000

Teaching Outline and Approach

Lessons are bespoke original compositions based on modern harmonic and melodic concepts written specifically for each student. Primary emphasis on harmony and melody with rhythmic aspects as part of an overall compositional concern. Accepted virtually all instruments and vocal students as material is conceptual and lessons are written with each instrument in mind. Mr. Sandole rarely if ever played during lessons. Lesson plans consisted of four designated weeks labelled A, B, C, and D broken down into three subsections (A1, A2, A3 etc.)

Some General Topics of Study-Compositional Devices

Compositional Device on Bass Line Compositional Device on Substitution of Note Compositional Device on Alteration of Note Modes Development of Augmented and Diminished Triad Substitute Chords Bitonal Scales Synthetic Scales Polychords Alternate Triads (Maj, Min Aug, Dim.) Deceptive Resolutions Two Augmented Scales Simultaneously Two Diminished Scales Simultaneously Harmonisation of Exotic Scales Neapolitan on each Chromatic Note (Major, Minor, Aug, Dim.) Doubly Chromatic Chords and Scales 1st Four, 2nd Four, and 3rd Four bars of Blues

Monthly Lesson Plan

A Week: 1. Compositional Device Piano, Horns, Vocals-All Keys Guitar and Bass-Every String/Every Finger on starting pitch(s) 2. Arpeggio- Verticalisation of Scales (exotic or synthetic) 3. Voicing of Chords-Reduction of A1. All instruments-Melody in every voice of chord B Week: D Week: C Week: 1. Compositional Device 2. Extended Phrase-Transcription 3. Sight Singing-Fixed Do, Moveable Do, Neutral Syllable. One line a day, sing the line of that particular day.

1. Compositional Device
2. Ear Training -Singing of exotic or synthetic scales at fixed intervals. (Fixed Do, Moveable Do, Neutral Syllable). 3. Rhythm Studies-2 bar Rhythm Study-largely African or Latin American Rhythms applied to 8 or 9 consecutive notes from A1 harmonised with A1 chords in any order.

1. Compose original melody and chords arrangement based on 8 bars of a standard of your choice + composition based on 8 or 9 consecutive tones from A1, B1, and C1 forwards or in retrograde (a possible total of 27 tones for the melody) harmonised with chords from standard tune All instrumentsMelody in every voice
2. Composed Accompaniment and Solo 3. Exotic and synthetic scales and harmonisations to be used for compositions and to be played on instrument and sung

A Week Lesson

B Week Lesson

C Week Lesson

Similarities with Olivier Messiaen, Post War American Twelve Tone Practice, and Vincent Persichetti
Concept of fixed register of assigned pitches (Canteyodjaya1949 and Mode de Valeures et dIntensites-1949-50) Johnson, J. S. , 1989, Messiaen, London: Omnibus Press pp. 103, 105.) Use of 9, 10, 11, and 12 tone aggregates as modes rather than as a serial unit. (Richard S. Hill, Ernst Krenek, George Perle.)
New scales may be so built with similar or dissimilar tetrachords that the tonic is not repeated at the first octave. When the tonic is missed and the tetrachords are continued, a two octave scale or multi-octave scale may evolve. (Persichetti, V. 1961, Twentieth Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice, New York, N.Y. U.S.A.: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. pp. 48.)

Scale Lore--Tetrachords

Scale Lore-Polytonal Scales

D Week Lesson

Substitute Chords

Modes and Alternate Triads

Harmonisation of Exotic Scales

Bitonal Scales


Doubly Chromatic Chords

Innovations in Jazz Guitar Pedagogy

Every String-Every Finger. The concept of being able to begin all scales, arpeggios, phrases, etc. from every finger starting on every string. Consecutive or Directional Picking. System of Chord Families or permutations of groups of string sets of four strings from which to base a systematic method for chordal playing. (1234, 2345, 3456, 1235 ,2346, etc.). Slawek, S. 2009, Hindustani Sitar and Jazz Guitar Music: A Foray Into Comparative Improvology in Solis, G., & Nettl, B. (eds) Musical Improvisation; Art, Education, and Society. Chicago, IL. U.S.A.: University of Illinois Press, pp. 207-208, 211). Using every voice within a chord to play melody, not just the top voice.

Writing for guitar in a role other than full chords and single line soloing only.

Influence on Coltranes Work

By 1951 or 1952, John Coltrane was familiar with Nicholas Slonimskys Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns which he had learned about from his theory teacher Dennis Sandole, who was interested in scalar approaches to music. (Collier, J. 1978, The Making of Jazz : A Comprehensive History, Boston, U.S.A.: Houghton Mifflin Co. pp. 432) Sandole also exposed Coltrane to what the former called exotic scalesscales from every ethnic culture. Coltrane absorbed the principles of Nicholas Slonimskys influential Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns, but he also partook of Sandoles Scale Lore, an unpublished book that differed from Slonimskys in that it was less analytical and more aural in approach; It embodied an open and eclectic outlook, which enhanced Coltranes own searching inclinations, his constant pursuit of new sounds, form, and technique. Coltrane hand-copied the books useful pages and evidently remained close to Sandole for many years. (Whaley Jr. P. 2004, Blows Like a Horn: Beat Writing , Jazz, Style, and Markets in the Transformation of U.S. Culture, Boston, U.S.A.: Harvard University Press. pp. 187.)

Sandole, a legendary figure, and teacher, became a mentor to Coltrane. Sandole remembers Coltrane fondly He used to take two legitimate (classical) lessons per week, not one. He was superbly prepared for each one. He was superlatively gifted, you know. I mostly teach a maturing of concepts, and it involves advanced harmonic techniques you can apply to any instrument. Coltrane went through eight years of my literature in four years. And we became excellent friendswe had dinner together once a week. (In reference to thirds relationships of chords eg. Giant Steps, Countdown, etc.)

Suspecting that Coltranes teacher at the Granoff School, Dennis Sandole, may have been interested in thirds relationships, David Demsey wrote to him and received the written response that Coltrane and I had probed into third relationships also... deceptive resolution, chromatic root movement, (equal) divisions of the octave and other extended harmonic devices. So Sandole had started Coltrane along this road. (Porter, L. 1999. John Coltrane, His Life and Music, Ann Arbor, MA, U.S.A: The University of Michigan Press. pp. 51, 146-147.)

Coltrane was theory-mad. He had studied thirdrelated harmonic relationships with Dennis Sandole at the Granoff School, and, as we have seen, there was a hint of the device in his composition Nita, recorded on Paul Chambers Whims of Chambers three years earlier. Meanwhile, Coltrane was making his lines faster, more complex, drawing more on his early lessons in scales from Dennis Sandole, and possibly from his conversations with the Chicago saxophonist John Gilmore. (Ratliff, B. 2007, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, London, Faber & Faber pp. 51-52, 129).

Thank you
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