Friday, November 30, 2012

I have more on Barry Harris and 6th diminished chords/scales coming,  but before that I wanted to write a bit more about transcriptions. Nearly every player and teacher will tell you to transcribe, and I can see why. I use the Transcribe! software--inexpensive and powerful. What you are "discovering" is a musical idiom in practice, and that, of course, is what you are trying to play in the first place. Yet I find the process of transcribing becoming an end in itself. Once I start one, I really just want to finish it. And then I want to start a new one. The process of putting down solos, note-by-note, rhythm-by-rhythm really is enlightening. It clarifies, and in many cases, demystifies, the process of improvisation (at least in the bop and post-bop idioms). But the real value, I am realizing, is the process of incorporating material from the solo into my real-time playing. So I went back to Hall and Stella to see what is there. So what did I find? Here are two small ideas that I want to fully integrate into my improvisational toolbox:

In measures 15–16, Hall plays a nice altered arpeggio over a minor ii-V (F#min7b5 to B7b9). You can see a larger version either by clicking on the image or checking out the full transcription below. It is a simple but hip phrase--Hall anticipates the dominant chord by starting the arpeggio-like figure on the last beat of the previous measure. The figure is pretty simple, basically an arpeggio of the B7 chord but with the addition at the beginning of the b9 (thus the altered sound): 1-b9-3-5-b7. It reaches its highest point at D (b3 or #9 of the B7) and then descends a C harmonic minor tonic triad. (B-G-Eb-C). Sounds much cooler and "intervallic" than a straightfoward arpeggio of the dominant chord. So now I am going to learn the phrase through the cycle of 5ths in at least two positions.

This is just the beginning. I also want to get under my fingers the nice pedal-like figures he plays in measures 21–23. Sounds very modern, but with a clear reference back to Charlie Christian, a guitarist who often played these kind of intervallic-pedal type figures.

Back to the woodshed.

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