I am working on my phrasing lately a lot. Is anybody interested to share some thoughts?? I know it is difficult to describe this thing but I would like to hear some opinions about it. Thank you guys in advance.
paul's phrasing on this solo (and many others) is, to me, incredible. I love the juxtaposition between silence and a few very well chosen notes.
I don't know who said it, but someone once said the audience doesn't remember what you play, they remember what you don't play.
I think it's ALL about the phrasing. All the greats have amazing phrasing, it's learning to speak in sentences and then elevating those sentences to poetry and story telling etc...I don't think there's a quick answer to this, here's something Sco said in an interview that's pretty funny but also true. You've got to spend years working on it, building your own language your own way of saying things, like a writer or poet, so what does a good writer do, they read and write, take walks, struggle, listen to advice, write more etc...Listen to people who you think have great phrasing.
I know it’s difficult, but can you take a shot at describing some of the fantastic moves you make— whether they are pieces of chords, or chromatic notes—that take your playing beyond the box, but not too far out?
I won’t describe them. I’m not going to oversimplify what has been my life’s work, which is to develop a vocabulary in jazz. You learn licks, phrases, and songs, and then you try to piece together what you’ve learned tastefully so that you don’t sound like you are regurgitating licks......
Sing everything, thats is, play what you sing.
I believe that if you can hear something, and pitch it, and play it it helps tap into everything you've ever heard, learnt, studied, then you assimilate it and communicate it much more effectively.
The up shot is you end up phrasing everything within a breaths length and avoid the problem of playing constant streams of notes without space. Somebody once told me that all of Mozart' motifs fall within a breaths length.
I also worked a lot on 'Question and Answer', 'Tension and Resolution' type exercises which I think helped me a lot and also naturally incorporate space and help you find your own ideas.
Interesting about Mozart, I've got to check that out. In an interview K. Jarrett once said that Mozart taught him everything he knows about playing ballads, I wonder if that's what he was referring to?
For me, the master of phrasing is Bach, really. In terms of phrasing, I look at Metheny and Kurt as my main references, but I have always an eye on Bach, Carulli, even Brouwer. Think about it, the only way to distinguish a classical performance from another is through phrasing, so classical musicians are the best sources to learn phrasing.
I think the real beauty in this approach is that it taps into EVERYTHING you've ever heard. From my own observations you don't really get a say in what comes to mind, you just 'be'. Sometimes you recognise what comes out (maybe a Wes phrase, maybe a variation on a head) but quite often its something I've not heard/played before (to a certain degree). I also think its a lot more honest in its approach.
I remember listening to an interview with Joe Zawinul where he mentioned an event early in his career where a great Bud Powell influenced player told Joe he sounded more like Bud than he did, it was meant as a compliment but Zawinul was horrified! He said he purposefully avoided playing his bop licks and began trying to listen to what he heard in his head, overtime it got stronger and he began to find his own voice.
Of course I'm paraphrasing (I can't remember the exact quote) and of course Zawinul spent years studying the masters but I always take a lot from that. It all comes back to that Clark Terry quote of 'imitation, assimilation, innovation'.
It also puts the importance of checking out a lot of music from all kinds of different places.
@Jazznan, I didn't know Jarret had said that, thats great!
@JorgeRubiales, Bach is ace! I also love Messiaen, Scriabin, Bartok and Stravinsky, not checked out those other guys - will do some listening.
My wife is a classical musician and at her conservatoire they were actively discouraged from listening to recordings of pieces they were performing so they would not be influenced by anthers interpretation, thus forcing them to find their own voice. Its totally contrary to jazz tradition but makes sense and ties in with your well observed point, I guess our way around that same problem would be to check out a lot of different music.
Coltrane is a master of phrasing. His post "sheets of sound" era stuff (Coltrane's Sound, Coltrane plays the blues, Live at the Vanguard) is just so good especially the phrasing of "outside" scale passages. I remember at a Kenny Werner workshop he told us that you can play anything over anything else as long as you believe in it. And he's absolutely right, phrasing can sometimes come down to how much you believe in what you're playing.
Thank you guys for sharing your thoughts. You really helped and inspired me !!!!
My 2 cents:
With regards to Jazz improvisation, I've never felt trying I've gained from trying to analyze phrasing. It seems like one of those things that comes naturally the more you listen.
One could listen to a solo, and make note of where the questions/answers are, where the tension/release points are, etc. But I think transcribing a solo and playing/singing along with it is the best way to ingrain things. Being able to sing along with a great horn solo is a great way to start to get a feel for the lyrical nature of this music, even if you really can't sing it in pitch like me ;-). For more lyrical guitarists, I could recommend transcribing some Scofield, Kurt, Pat, Lage Lund, Moreno...I don't know where you're at as a player, but if you haven't done much transcribing, I'd even start with Sco's "A GoGo". No chord changes for you to worry about, just a ton of question/answer, and space.
But if you are working on/thinking about phrasing, you should try to practice playing with rhythmic and melodic motives (repetition of anything is a good way to construct a coherent solo statement). Because of their visual nature, I think the guitar and the piano have an upper hand to horn players when it comes to playing a solo with melodic motives.
Here's something I do, has the air of a Mick Goodrick thing but I'm not sure if it's in his book:
- Choose some sort of melodic sequence, can be really simple, for example: [3 note sequence, Up 4th from the 1st note, then down a 3rd]
- For a simple motive like this, pick 2 strings and play it up and down the neck in whatever key, but staying diatonic. That will leave you with tritones for the 4th sometimes, and minor/major thirds. (I really like simple 2 string motives like this, piano players do this kind of thing all the time in the right hand)
- After you can do that, pick a tune and play the sequence through the changes, matching the harmony. All the Things is a good one to do this one on, and Stella, or even a blues.
- Also, this is a good way to start to incorporate some odd groupings of notes into your playing to create some rhythmic interest. That little motive I just gave you can easily be adapted to 3/4: "1 & 2 (3)". Now just play that same rhythm over All the things in 4/4 and you've got some hip sounding shit, providing you can follow the key centers.
That may be a beneficial exercise to some, but again I think the question of "What is Jazz Phrasing?" (except for the dissection of some of the more mathematical/thematic elements) is something better left to the music to describe for us.
I think that we're talking about two different things, phrasing and motivic/line development.
As useful as silverwater's exercises are, they will help to improve your motivic development.
However, as I see it, phrasing is not about the notes at all. It has to do with rhythm, dynamics, accents, tone...to sum up, the direction of the phrase. To improve this area, I think its crucial to listen actively to music, and to have a critic view at the passages (improvised or composed) that we're playing, and what kind of phrasing they demand.
The easiest way to see different concepts about phrasing is to watch in youtube various performances of the same work on the same instrument by different musicians. This is easier to see with classical music, as everything else remains the same.
When we learn what is the phrasing, and in which ways it can affect a performance, then we can translate this to the jazz idiom. And I can tell you, I've been exploring this subject a short time, but my heads already sound a lot better than before, and if the harmonic rhythm is not too fast I can apply this concept to my improvisation too. It really works, you only have to listen very closely until you learn what you're looking for!
Well, when someone speaks a "phrase", there are two things to consider as a listener: What they say (what notes), and How they say it (the articulation).
So Jorge I'm not really getting what you're saying...you say that phasing as all about articulation, rhythm, and tone, and has nothing to do with motivic development. That's well and good, but yet you also say "it's about the direction of the phrase"...and you cite JS Bach as one of your main sources of inspiration for phrasing, a man whose music was 99% about motivic development and 1% articulation (most of the instruments of time his allowed for almost no dymanic range), and also was very rhythmically repetitive...
I think if "question and answer" are part of phrasing, then motivic development certainly is. But maybe this is why I said before that all discussions about "what is jazz phrasing" are useless...
well it isn't useless at all, cause as you said to make a list of the elements that make the phrase to happen could help us by thinking on what particular studio exercises we can practice and create for ourselves. i'm working in pacing right now, so i define from what beat of the measure the phrase starts to what beat in the next measure it ends. im working with phrases no longer than 2 measures still. i'm really bad doing this but i think is the path to have freedom and break the measure chains. thanks for sharing your thoughts everybody, cheers.
Well, it's true that harpsichords don't have any dynamic range, but there were a lot of stringed instruments that did have it. What I meant with the direction is the sum of all of the factors I talked previusly combined to take a phrase to its resolution point. Writing about this is like writing about driving a car, but I hope you get the idea...
I would see the motivic development more in the field of harmony, because it needs the elements I group into phrasing to become meaningful, but has to notice the underlying harmony to develop properly.
Anyway, what I wanted to express is that I think there's not a "jazz phrasing", as there's not a "jazz technique". An instrument is an instrument and music is music. The differences between styles come through the rhythm, harmony, timbre....but not phrasing to me.
That's why I recommend listening to classical, you can't develop a motive because everything is written (with some exceptions), so the only way you have to give life to the music is to phrase it properly.
my .02$. See you all!
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