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K.Rosenwinkel's composing technique

(25 posts)
  1. blueingreen
    Member

    Hi. I'm new to the forum, read couple of topics, discussions and frankly it's very nice of Kurt creating this environment for music enthusiast to come together. the reason why i open this topic is, i've read Kurt's interview on Berklee website and one thing particularly draw my attention. and that is Kurt's approach to composing. This is the part that i'm interested in:
    "My songs have forced me to grow as a player and helped me develop my style. When you're writing, what you hear is not limited by what you can play. If people thought about it, they'd realize that they can hear beyond their abilities on their instrument."
    Now i know that everyone has got his/her own way of learning the instrument, developing their sense of melody/harmony/rhythm and maybe composing. And that's also do change with time as you grow as a musician. so the way i see it is to completely rely on sound (that is to play every note that you hear and avoid all the visual patterns that you inevitably develop while learning and so to keep it fresh and progressive ).
    so my question to Kurt and all of you in this forum, is how exactly do you compose? how come the melody and the underlying harmony that you hear is beyond things that you have previously played? or is it related to listening to other musicians, so that it accumulates by time and ends up with compositions?
    any input would be highly appreciated. Thanks
    Cavid

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  2. JorgeRubiales
    Member

    It has happened to me before, when writing songs just with pen and paper, and maybe a piano just to check the sounds. If you compose with your guitar, you'll end up sounding more or less the same, so composing away from your instrument is an easy way to get yourself into the unknown.

    Of course, the problem comes when you compose a great phrase, but is very difficult (or almost impossible) to reproduce on your instrument. Then comes your learning curve...


  3. docbop
    Member

    Also good to not to compose on your main instrument because you tend to use familiar patterns. Many composers write with other instrument because they focus more on sounds. I remember reading Jimmy Page would randomly detune a guitar and play with a slide. If he came up with something he liked he'd record it, tune up and figure out what he played.

  4. jorgemg1984
    Member

    This topic is very interesting. I've focused a lot on improvisation and have finally dedicated more time to composition. I do like to use the piano to compose mainly because I don't even know the notes well so it's perfect (also for ear training).

    But I can compose on the guitar... and in a way everyone should. If when you compose you cannot get rid of patterns what happens when you improvise - which is in real-time?

    PS - Docbop Kurt also used that technique on "The Next Step" phase,

    PS 2 - My main difficulty with composition is making something that makes sense from the beginning to the end. I can compose tons of small stuff I like but it's hard to me to connect them and make an entire piece... aby tips?


  5. blueingreen
    Member

    @JorgeRubiales
    i guess for that to happen you've got to have a perfect pitch. cause you've got to able to identify not only single line melody that you hear but also a harmony in relation with it, so you would be able to notate it. frankly i don't have that. i'm working on it, but i haven't succeeded it yet. i guess Kurt also doesn't have a perfect pitch (read it somewhere). so how do you exactly manage it? like, could you perhaps expand little bit on your composing process? and i would love to listen to your compositions
    all the best

  6. blueingreen
    Member

    @guitarguy77
    well it's an instument, so it's supposed to be used as an instrument to make a music. the reason why "saying the word guitar player seems to have a negative feeling about it" is that, there are too many guitar players that focus on technique rather than the music itself. you rarely find let's say a trumpet player claiming to be the fastest player in the world.

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  7. jorgemg1984
    Member

    @blueingreen You don't need perfect pitch. You can have a tonic reference given by an instrument or a pitch pipe or even assume it's in C and just use relative pitch.

    Maybe that's true for trumpets, certainly not true for sax players.

    @guitarguy77 I agree with everything you said, the guitar is the only instrument their own players are ashamed and constantly trying to make it sound like other instruments.


  8. mrzzajjazz
    Member

    The whole discussion of guitarplayers beeing ashamed of their instruments is kind of misunderstood I think. As guitarist we all love the guitar, hey, we picked it up for a reason did'nt we? But let's face it, it's a HARD instrument to get really good at. At least in jazz and in terms of what is required of a modern player regarding the language. So let's say I'm hearing this crazy line being played by a sax-player, and I go, wow, I'd just love to be abel to do that on the guitar too! Well, as it turns out many such lines can be really hard to execute on the guitar, that is, however, until someone comes up with some new technique or whatever, and just play them.. I don't see this as beeing "unfaithful" towards the guitar or "ashamed", but just a really healthy way of expanding the possibilitys of the instrument. It's just evolution. I'm pretty sure when Hendrix came around, a lot of people thought he did'nt sound like a guitarplayer at the time. And before that again nobody even knew what a guitarsolo was! So it's just how things evolve, broadening the horizons of what's possible on the instrument.

    As far as sound is concerned, I definately think Kurt sounds like a guitarplayer, guitarguy77. His guitartone is the core of his sound. But some of the things he does on the guitar is really innovating of course, but that's why were all fans isn't it?

  9. jorgemg1984
    Member

    I agree Kurt really sounds like a guitar player and does not fall in the category I mentioned. No doubt about that!

    But I have read too much stuff that over the years really pisses me off to tell you the truth. Stuff like "I never listened to guitar players, just horns" or "those guitar player chords are amazing, it sounds like a piano" or "I wanted to sound like a horn" are really weird to me. Can you imagine a sax player saying "you know, I never listened much to horns my thing is guitar"? Or a piano player saying "I want my chords to sound like a guitar"? I have read stuff like this over and over in guitar players interviews. When a friend or a student tells me "I want to sound like a sax player" I always tell them: learn the sax!

    Anyway sorry for all the bad vibe, let's get back to the OT it's much more interesting :)

  10. jazzacast55
    Member

    I've found the only time I hear the whole "he sounds to guitary" or "he sounds too much like a guitarist" is usually by other guitar players. I've found that horn, bass, and drummer like guitar, I know tons of horn players who have checked out guitar and love guitarists.
    Unless you plan on sitting around talking shit with your guitar friends, playing a bunch of two guitar duo gigs or play in a jazz band with another guitarist I wouldn't worry about it. Guitarists are bitchy and usually because there is an abundance of guitar players and not enough gigs for all of them, I also think when we invite people to our gigs we invite our friends who are guitarists and it's just an endless cycle.
    Try hanging out with a drummer and bass player, play lots and talk little about guitar or music, I avoid conversations at time because it's gonna lead down the track of something like "have you heard that kurt solo on the remedy" or "what?! you haven'y heard all of ascension without interruption??"
    If you find yourself hearing people saying "he's to guitary" or some shit, it's more than likely a guitarist so stop hanging with guitar players, and if they are your friends then talk to them about other things, I like bringing up movies or comedians and things.
    I would never be ashamed of being a guitarist but I will be honest and say that kinda vibe has only happened ever since I got into jazz, there is such a heavy vibe to become original and innovative especially when in school, it's kinda like a mild brain wash and puts so much pressure on everyone that they forget about just playing and evolving naturally instead procrastinate on what there first big move will be and hope that it will be huge and influential like Kurt.
    I believe some (some,not all) jazz musicians suffer from delusions of grandeur, guys come out of school (or older cats), studied, listened to all the greats (Parker,Train Monk etc.) and feel they are somebody without doing ANYTHING, just handing out some Kurt licks at some jazz gig to be "Killin" making a recording straight away of originals that are almost a direct rip off of all the modern cats. I swear if I hear another guitarist copying Kurt's sound(you know what I'm talking about, standing there playing your rat+time factor into a twin singing along with your lines, you ain't foolin' anyone), clothes (yes this happens) I will stab myself in the leg with a fork!
    In short don't feel ashamed of playing guitar, I miss the days of people wanting to be Hendrix, now everyone wants to be a modern jazz guitar master and I think everyone needs to lay off the KURT even for composition, there's enough Kurt clones and we don't need anymore.

  11. guitar1025
    Member

    Can you imagine a sax player saying "you know, I never listened much to horns my thing is guitar"?

    It's funny you mention that because I have a very good sax player friend of mine who is doing just that; strictly transcribing guitar players.

  12. jorgemg1984
    Member

    But is he trying to sound like a guitar? And I guess he did check most relevant jazz sax players in the past right?

  13. blueingreen
    Member

    i see the topic is really has gone out of hand. it's pretty much useless to worry about what others might think of your instrument of choice. every instrument has it's ups and downs. guitar is most likely to be in between melody instruments and piano. it all depends on your creativity and yes you are bound to limits of your instruments. just like your inherited limits of intelligence, you'll probably never reach to that limit let alone to feel that you need more means to reach to a certain level of intellectual productivity. that said, please share your opinions, examples of work, techniques related to the topic.

  14. blueingreen
    Member

    @jorgemg1984
    "My main difficulty with composition is making something that makes sense from the beginning to the end. I can compose tons of small stuff I like but it's hard to me to connect them and make an entire piece"
    i guess everyone has it to a degree. have you tried, let's say take one of those small compositions and change it. maybe the key, harmony a bit add different rhythms. even without the reharmonization, but just simple altering of dynamics, rhythm, articulation does change the feel substantially. so you might hear it rest, open up new possibilities.

  15. Ben
    Member

    Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate.

    -Clark Terry

  16. jorgemg1984
    Member

    Thanks for the tip blueingreen. I remember Kurt talking about precisely that topic, saying a lot of young composers can compose a great section but not a great piece... I will try some of the things you mention!

  17. aramaya
    Member

    "My songs have forced me to grow as a player and helped me develop my style. When you're writing, what you hear is not limited by what you can play. If people thought about it, they'd realize that they can hear beyond their abilities on their instrument."

    I agree with this fully. The music I am working on now, I wrote 6 or more years ago and can finally improvise on the level I was composing then. My ear showed me a direction and I later realized how thoroughly it had adapted all I was taking in. the intuition functions on a much broader arc than the intellect. One of my teachers once reminded me that Berlioz was a guitar player and that guitar is a natural instrument for orchestration because of the voicings we play. Composing more requires that one has vision rather than perfect pitch; your Passion and persistence will make great art (assuming you have the Will to be yourself).

  18. Sandemose
    Member

    Blueingreen: thats a great tip. I like that. I used to compose working with different systems serialism just to get out of the box. Then I alter the material after what I think sounds good, but the hard thing is to get started I guess. I came of with this chord sequence:

    G9#11 - F#9/F# - Dmaj/A - Absus4/Ab13

    ---x-----4------2-----4-----4--
    ---2-----4------2-----2-----1----
    ---2-----2------2-----3-----3---
    ---3-----3------0-----4-----4----
    ---5-----x------0-----x-----x----
    ---3-----2------x-----4-----4---

    It was derived from a 12 tone system, but obviously isnt now. I love the sequnece but I could never reverse the process from a twelve tone row to the result above. My two cents.

    Best, Sandemose

  19. blueingreen
    Member

    @aramaya
    that's quite interesting; the philosophy behind your work. i guess that is changing by time as you grow as a musician. could you perhaps share your work or maybe walk us through your composition process?

  20. blueingreen
    Member

    @Sandemose
    yeah that's a very nice progression. do you mostly play by yourself? well i noticed how people's playing style changes when there is no much people around to play with. you kind a start getting into more chordal playing.
    one other thing that i find very useful in terms of composing and hearing nice melodies is to copy piano players. well i have done it with only Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett so far. what i do is; learn one tune, let's say "person i knew" by Evans, trying to get as close as i can in terms of voicings, bass notes and melodies. and then let couple they past, so that i kind a forget about it. after this semi-refreshment i listen to the tune again over and over so that i start hearing new melodies and minor changes in harmony, rhythm just 1 or 2 bars before Evans plays it. and i try to play those minor differences on my instrument. it's very useful in terms of playing chordally and spontenously landing on a very weird voicings. almost like thinking as piano player. i heard once Kurt saying that he hears some melodies, but when he plays them they don't really sound the way he heard them. and that's because of harmony; if that relation is left out, it won't sound good and full.

  21. aramaya
    Member

    @blueingreen

    My process is pretty simple and intuitive. I have the tendency to hear pieces in full and then transcribe them from my ear.
    I take concepts, whether musical or non-musical, and then allow the subconscious to mill through them and produce.
    I like Debussy and other impressionist's use of images. I also see a lot of similarity between various forms of meditation and music. Composing music in a sense is a form of direct knowledge if you allow it to be. You can evoke scenes of experience.

    Here are some of my tunes:

    http://philschurgermusicofessence.wordpress.com/music/

    Scorpio is one that took me several years to get to the point I could improvise in the manner of the melody. I understand
    how to link these harmonies intellectually and physically (the slower parts of yourself), and can execute passages of this sort. Also, I am far enough away from having composed this music that I am now editing and refining, and making it better. I also have better skills as a band leader, and part of composing is helping others understand how to play your music so you can free up all the players in your group. The Agni set of tunes on my page has been edited thoroughly and I will be debuting them in Chicago in a couple of weeks. I will post some of those recordings in a couple of weeks if you are interested in hearing the difference (the ones posted now are from 5 years ago).

  22. aramaya
    Member

    if you are interested in checking it out, here are some of those recordings.
    check out aire of the forest, it is one of those pieces that i feel invokes a
    scene of an experience. The tunes in the 2nd set were mostly chamber works originally that
    have been adapted for an improvised setting.

    http://philschurgermusicofessence.wordpress.com/music/


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