Practicing is something else! Nothing works without practice. We have to do it or to put it straight: we have to want it! If we’re forcing ourself to practicing we won’t reach our true potential.
A very important thing about practice is learning. I think that we don’t understand learning entirely. We do know that you have to practice for learning something but how exactly it works and what the precise result will be is unknown. So we have to trust our body and our mind that there will be a proper progress if we practicing.
When I practice I try to be very calm and aware of the situation. I make mistakes, I recognize them, I react (f.e. by repeating till it works) but I don’t judge them. Of course I do judge them, otherwise there won’t be mistakes. But I don’t judge them morally, like: this was bad! You are an idiot! This is not going to work!
The next important thing is that I have a timeframe to all my exercises. I don’t go beyond the frame because there are several things that I want to practice and I won’t screw up my schedule. Trust is the key. Someday it’ll work or not. We’ll see.
Breaks! Very, very, very crucial element to practicing. Let’s give ourselfs a break! I use to meditate in my practicing breaks even in very short ones, because it is the best way to cool down my mind.
To straighten it out, I practice in a routine like that:
1. Playing the exercise, recognizing the mistakes.
2. 3 minutes break (Calm down! Practicing is stirring up the mind, especially mistakes.).
3. Playing the exercise again, recognizing mistakes, if there are no flaws I repeat the exercise up to three times (depends on how long it is).
4. 3 minutes break
5. repeat the exercise on the previous tempo + 20, recognizing mistakes
6. 3 minutes break
7. like 3. or 5.
8. 3 minutes break
9. like 3 or. 5.
10. 10 minutes break
11. changing exercise
If I practice something in up-tempo (240+) I like to play It first three times slow (like 180-200), than in the fastest tempo I can play it and get some notes right. Then again slow and so on.
I also recommend mental training. Especially if we have just a little amount of time to practice with our instrument.
I’m going to write more about practicing but that’s it for now.
Bebop is THE fundamental language of Jazz and creates a lot if not most of the musical vocabulary in this music. Even in Modern Jazz and Fusion or Free with all of its pentatonics, hexatonics, intervallic and symmetrical structures you can hear bebop material connecting everything. All the major players like Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Mark Turner, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Roy Hargrove are exceptional good bebop players.
In the lessons part I want to point out some ideas of my teachers and myself how to develop a solid Bebop language. It’s a step-by-step system which starts with always a little amount of exercises and then gently adding new things to that.
The centre is focussed mainly on three scales. WHAT? ONLY three scales? Yes, but it’s true and it was such a relief for me, when my teacher showed me, how it works and it instantly felt like: YEAH MAN, that’s what I’m always hearing in my favorite solos!!!
The next thing I asked him was: „There are tons of books about Jazz improvisation, why is nobody writing about it?!?“ He said something like: „It’s not in the books, it’s on the records.“ This comes straight from transcribing and analyzing a huge amount of jazz and bebop solos. I got it from my teacher, Finn Wiesner at the Hochschule für Musik Dresden and he got it from his, Ferdinand Povel.
The next important thing is practicing. Sometimes we have to stay on an exercise for a very long time. Sometimes we don’t know when to move on to the next exercise. My experience: practice till it feels good and comfortable. Let’s say that the eight note line should be playable in tempo 200 in all keys is a good start.
I have two current formations: BLINDEAF and ZiegE 87. There are some videos of BLINDEAF on vimeo under the channel TAKE-1 TNG.
I’m so thankful to play with these guys. Everyone of them is a very unique individual, musically and as a person. Because they are so young they gained a lot of awards. I’m not that kind of a guy. We play some improvised new music concepts of mine. At the moment this band is a bit on hold, because I have to book further gigs and I just got the time to do this… and it’s not easy.
The second ensemble is called „ZiegE 87“ and it’s a duo with beat machine and me on sax and other instruments with effects. We recorded one long improvisation recently and we are very happy with it, so there’s a CD coming out soon.
I really like the way of making music in this setting, because there are no limits, just our imagination and what is appropriate in the very moment.
I have several other working projects like duos with bassists and two Jazz trios but I need to shape them in the future. The playing is always special, but there is also a lack of group identity because I don’t write music for these formations.
In my opinion there are two main approaches to jazz improvisation. The first one is the good old and natural thing: play what someone played before. Phrases tend to be one or two measures long. Than combine them in a new fashion
The second, also my favorite, is: analyze what someone played before and then „derivate“ your own exercises from it. It should be reduced to four-tone phrases.
The first approach was mainly used by jazz musicians in the tradition of swing and bebop, like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt. Because the instrument’s physics require a very exact prehearing of your phrases most of the serious trumpet players used and actually using this approach. I like the traditional sound of this thing and the fact that you have to listen to all these cats and play very hip shit. With this comes a good feeling for bounce and sound. The fact I don’t like is the more repetitive sound and less freedom what to play.
The second approach is a more intellectual one. It’s based mostly on four-tone phrases. This approach was used f.e. by Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and is used by many modern players today. A very popular version of this approach is Coltrane’s set of four-tone pattern in the range of a fifth which he used very extensively over tunes like Giant Steps.
Most of today’s jazz players using various mixes of these two approaches. In the following posts I will write mainly about the second approach because it’s the way I practice.
At the moment I play a SML Gold Medal tenor saxophone, an Otto Link NY 9* I guess from the ’70s and Alexander Superial Reeds 3.
I played a Martin Handcraft from 1926/27, but it is now in such a bad playing condition and I have no money for an overhaul. I think about selling it, because I need new equipment.
I’m very happy with the SML because it was very cheap but came with a huge sound. The Otto Link was a lucky shot and I can’t stop to thank the generous person who gave it to me. These new Otto Links are just a bunch of badly crafted tubes. Before that I played a Vandoren T97. It had a very big sound but didn’t work with my current horn.
I’m looking forward to buy a RC-300 Loop Station for a start in my own electronic equipment.
That’s a strong word! There are two very interesting words in it and they are somehow contrary to each other, but also related.
In the future I’d like to talk about my concept of Jazz improvisation and my opinion about improvement and a bit about my improvement as a jazz instrumentalist.
Maybe someday I’m going to merge this in a book.
I write this blog in English because I’m not very good at it but for me this language is somehow related to Jazz.