Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

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ArbanRubank
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Sat Mar 20, 2021 6:18 pm

The ones who suck at it have never practiced it. We really shouldn't expect to be good at something we don't practice at on any level. I've been practicing it for a couple of months now. I suck a little less at it.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by FOSSIL » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:19 am

I've been working at it for a year now and I'm without doubt better....whether that equates to publicly better is another matter🙄🙄 but even if I never play an improvised note in public it has been well worth it . I have developed my listening skills and can hear everything in the backing band so much more clearly and am able to get out through the bell, what is in my head... the quality of that thought is not for me to judge but it is at least mine and aural awareness is a good skill to develop. I could improvise before this but not as intuitively or as comfortably as now.
I understand improvisation better and understand improvisers better and that has been a lockdown positive for me.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Doug Elliott » Sun Mar 21, 2021 9:04 am

:good: :good: :good: :good: :good:
:clever: :clever: :clever: :clever: :clever:
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:31 am

That sound fantastic! Non-beginner/non-children who start improvising are really interesting to observe and study. I have a lot of tools I use when I teach improvisation to classical musicians (something I've done a fair bit), so it's a topic of great interest to me. I'd love to hear how you approached it - if you developed your awareness and ears to that extent, you must have been doing something right!
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by imsevimse » Sun Mar 21, 2021 1:35 pm

FOSSIL wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:19 am
I've been working at it for a year now and I'm without doubt better....whether that equates to publicly better is another matter🙄🙄 but even if I never play an improvised note in public it has been well worth it . I have developed my listening skills and can hear everything in the backing band so much more clearly and am able to get out through the bell, what is in my head... the quality of that thought is not for me to judge but it is at least mine and aural awareness is a good skill to develop. I could improvise before this but not as intuitively or as comfortably as now.
I understand improvisation better and understand improvisers better and that has been a lockdown positive for me.
Chris
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by FOSSIL » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:53 pm

PaulTdot wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:31 am
That sound fantastic! Non-beginner/non-children who start improvising are really interesting to observe and study. I have a lot of tools I use when I teach improvisation to classical musicians (something I've done a fair bit), so it's a topic of great interest to me. I'd love to hear how you approached it - if you developed your awareness and ears to that extent, you must have been doing something right!
Well, I started out with my scales and technique and experience, but also with a lifelong focus on written notation to hold me back... basically, backing tracks and doing and listening....a lot of doing every day. Like everything in music, practise is central. Sonic information in, playing out....you just have to do a LOT of playing, and be patient but persistent. Putting a priority on non written playing is like entering a different world but in a good way. I have found the whole experience very positive and beneficial to my general playing. More than anything, it's been fun !!

Chris
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Sun Mar 21, 2021 5:28 pm

Wonderful! Good for you. I dig that!
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Sun Mar 21, 2021 8:09 pm

Grah wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 5:05 pm
...I would also recommend that you get the Band-in-a-Box software, so that you can practice at home with a good rhythm section and listen to their jazz improvisers...
I have been wondering why sometimes chord notes I play don't work very well with a BiaB accompaniment. Apparently, there is a setting in preferences where BiaB will either play the chord as notated, or modify it on-the-fly for a jazz style. For instance, if a chord is notated as a C7, it might get interpreted by BiaB as a C9 or C13. So it may be wise to set the preference for BiaB to play the chord as notated and I believe they refer to that as "natural"!
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by baileyman » Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:57 am

That's funny. Guys used to lean over to the piano and say, "Just give me the plain chords." All those extensions take up your space. Dave McKenna was brilliant at that.

Here's an exercise, if interested:

Do ii7 V7 IM in this way. Eb is easy to illustrate. In quarters,
F Ab C Eb | D Bb Ab F | Eb Eb Eb Eb | (maybe rest) |

Cycle through until it's fully in you. Then go around the circle, Ab, Db, Gb, etc. back to Eb. Go around again and again.

Listen for additional notes to play above and below the pattern but still getting back to IM. Find ways to move the notes higher and lower with the same chord sound result. Eventually all sorts of chromatic notes will suggest themselves. It takes time to hear. Months. You may find some of these notes becoming iii7 VI7 instead of IM, then it turns around to go again. Go around again and again.

Expand your horizons, after a good long while, and brick some other small patterns the same way. Pretty soon it all adds up.

Oh, and make those quarters swing.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Mon Mar 22, 2021 9:55 am

LOL! That's why I like pop tunes written by someone who isn't a big-time, big-name composer. The chords are simple! If I can't ad lib my way through Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black", then I must be having an exceedingly bad day. She could sing, but could only play the guitar this side of just a little bit.

Ad lib! I wonder what - if any - is the dif between that term and "improv". My instructor tells me (I love this guy) that I play an obbligato part to my music. Grrrrrr.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by baileyman » Tue Mar 23, 2021 7:57 am

The point I should state more clearly.

This note sequence F Ab C Eb | D Bb Ab F | Eb is really a melody. You get it in your head. From every starting note. Then after a while you hear differences that "rhyme" with it. Then when it's time to play, you may hear the rhymes and you're on your way.

Prolly works just the same on Amy Winehouse.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:31 am

Thanks! I should have responded to this progression you posted earlier. Sorry. Yes, that is a nice progression and it makes a melody. Someone stated once that if we are stuck for melody notes in a song improv attempt, chord notes will suffice nicely. I like to use scale notes in-between chords if the chords are easy enough and the tempo is slow.

That's a pretty standard progression, so it ought to work in any key. For practice, we could put one chord in a measure, or one chord for multiple measures, with lots of combinations.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Bach5G » Tue Mar 23, 2021 1:58 pm

“This note sequence F Ab C Eb | D Bb Ab F | Eb is really a melody.”

ii7 - V7 (Fm7 - Bb7).
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by grafemberg » Fri Apr 02, 2021 8:24 am

ExZacLee wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 8:48 am
...a visit to the repair store lead to the discovery of a massive obstruction in my leadpipe (a pencil) and the horn got easier.
A PENCIL!?!
LOL

to answer the topic I 'd say we have to think different because we can't hide in a note swarm
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:26 am

grafemberg wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 8:24 am
to answer the topic I 'd say we have to think different because we can't hide in a note swarm
True that!

I have found the Charlie Parker method - as I rudimentarily understand it - a bit useful. In the PBS special "Jazz", it was mentioned that he used scale notes to navigate between chord notes, always resolving into the chord.

Two outstanding trombone players remarked once: "I can't play melodically, so I play fast". The other said, "I can't play fast, so I play melodically".
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:52 am

Yeah, that's solid.

I remember it being a bit of a light bulb moment for me when I was reading the Miles Davis autobiography, and he talks about "learning to play the chords" rather than the typical "learn the scales" approach we tend to see in improvisation instruction these days.

Another light bulb moment was learning that great players, when they play "fast", are also playing just as melodically as ever. Take a blistering 32nd-note run played by Charlie Parker, slow it down, and see just how powerfully melodic it is.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Bach5G » Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:03 am

Yes, but which chords and which “in between” notes?
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Doug Elliott » Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:39 am

Bach5G wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:03 am
Yes, but which chords and which “in between” notes?
The right ones
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:54 am

Try playing the same songs over and over again for a few months. That's what they do. No wonder they get good at it.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri Apr 02, 2021 11:06 am

Yeah, Doug's got it.

The "right" chords are the chords of the tune, usually. The "right" in-between notes are generally going to be diatonic to the key (that's a good easy starting point), but jazz musicians will also use a variety of chromaticism and other devices to navigate from chord tone to chord tone. I have a variety of exercises I do with my students around this kind of practice, and the rest is listening and imitation.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri Apr 02, 2021 11:20 am

PaulTdot wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:52 am
Yeah, that's solid.

I remember it being a bit of a light bulb moment for me when I was reading the Miles Davis autobiography, and he talks about "learning to play the chords" rather than the typical "learn the scales" approach we tend to see in improvisation instruction these days.

Another light bulb moment was learning that great players, when they play "fast", are also playing just as melodically as ever. Take a blistering 32nd-note run played by Charlie Parker, slow it down, and see just how powerfully melodic it is.
I'm not wishing to seem like a smarty-pants, but I do believe it is how broadly you wish to define the term "melodic". When I listen to Charlie Parker's "Bird" album, I don't hear out-of-tune notes, in relationship to the composition. And yet I have a very difficult time keeping the true melody line running through my head as he improvs off it. So either I need more training or he needed to stick a little closer to the actual melody (lol). So then, what exactly IS "melodic"? One definition is "pleasant sounding". By that standard, Charlie Parker was melodious, even when he didn't stick to the melody - - and it sounds contradictory, but that's jazz!

Edit: If someone is said to be a "melodic" player, then that just really means they don't hit "sour" or weird-sounding notes. However, if one states that they play more melodically than someone else, then I believe they mean they stick closer to the actual melody line and the more someone deviates from the true melody line, the less "melodic" they are playing. So there are a few different ways to look at it.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by PaulTdot » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:32 pm

I invite you to investigate for yourself. :)

It's not easy to define what is a "good melody", but lots of theorists have tried. Voice leading, interval structure, balance of consonance and dissonance, motivic incorporation, thematic development, use of the Golden Mean, and so forth. You'll find a lot of these elements in the playing of the great jazz improvisers, no matter what tempo they're playing.

For whatever your standard of a good melody, transcribe some melodies played by great jazz musicians - perhaps Parker or Clifford Brown or Artie Shaw - and see if they satisfy those standards. You might be surprised... very surprised. I once transcribed a running 8th-note melody improvisation over a simplified rhythm changes progression by Hank Mobley, and, to this day, playing through it slowly gives me the same kind of melodic appreciation and thrill (oh, the voice leading! glorious) as any masterpiece by Bach.

(And it's basically because once you develop your melodic tools, you don't - can't - simply "throw them out the window" when playing at a faster tempo. A musician like that has the same sense of melody and the same standards they set for themselves, as well as the same technical devices they have practiced, regardless of the performance situation. Practice beautiful melodies slowly, and when you play at a faster tempo, you'll still be drawn to the same melodic tools, both by your ear and by your muscle memory.)
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:50 pm

ArbanRubank wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:26 am
I have found the Charlie Parker method - as I rudimentarily understand it - a bit useful. In the PBS special "Jazz", it was mentioned that he used scale notes to navigate between chord notes, always resolving into the chord.
Bach5G wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:03 am
Yes, but which chords and which “in between” notes?
I presume it's the chords that either the composer or the arranger used in the piece. Or else it becomes the chords the lead player (keyboard, guitar, etc) is playing in the moment - which you may not see on the page because either there is no page or they aren't marked in on your part (usually).

Any note "in-between" any two chord notes within a chord or in-between the ending and beginning notes of adjacent chords - if they are being played laterally, or otherwise in-between stacked chord notes from one chord to the next, is how I interpreted it.

I have found that it is useful but not drop-dead imperative to have access to those chords. Someone with a nicely trained ear can determine which notes will sound good, even if he can't exactly alphanumerically identify the chords he is hearing.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by Bach5G » Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:48 pm

Hmmmmm.

Gershwin’s original changes to the bridge of I Got Rhythm are:

D7 | G7 | C7 | F7 |

I have a list of 25 different versions of the bridge.

Which is the “right” one?
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:01 pm

The one you deem at the moment.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:24 pm

PaulTdot wrote:
Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:32 pm
I invite you to investigate for yourself. :)

It's not easy to define what is a "good melody", but lots of theorists have tried. Voice leading, interval structure, balance of consonance and dissonance, motivic incorporation, thematic development, use of the Golden Mean, and so forth. You'll find a lot of these elements in the playing of the great jazz improvisers, no matter what tempo they're playing.

For whatever your standard of a good melody, transcribe some melodies played by great jazz musicians - perhaps Parker or Clifford Brown or Artie Shaw - and see if they satisfy those standards. You might be surprised... very surprised. I once transcribed a running 8th-note melody improvisation over a simplified rhythm changes progression by Hank Mobley, and, to this day, playing through it slowly gives me the same kind of melodic appreciation and thrill (oh, the voice leading! glorious) as any masterpiece by Bach.

(And it's basically because once you develop your melodic tools, you don't - can't - simply "throw them out the window" when playing at a faster tempo. A musician like that has the same sense of melody and the same standards they set for themselves, as well as the same technical devices they have practiced, regardless of the performance situation. Practice beautiful melodies slowly, and when you play at a faster tempo, you'll still be drawn to the same melodic tools, both by your ear and by your muscle memory.)
Thanks. That's what I've been doing a while now, investigating via listening and playing. I acquired the top 10 (by sales) jazz albums of all time. I'm listening and trying to determine why they have been deemed so great. That Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue"!!!

I've done my share of transcriptions. They are tedious for me to do and sometimes quite odd. Sometimes some notes seem to defy transcription. I think maybe they were "mistake" notes that were lipped into tune. I also think some were purposely lipped sharp of flat. Then there seems to be places where all the notes from everyone on a given phrase lie in-between intervals - as though the producer slowed the tape down momentarily for a desired effect. Whew! The things I have run into transcribing. And sometimes I can only approximate note values. So on those transcribed charts, I have written a note to self. "Self, the pitches are good. Ad lib the note durations and put them in sync with the backing". After all, printed notes are just a guide; roadmap if you will.

Per my listening to Diana Krall, I do like to slow some melodies down. Interesting how a typical pop tune can be turned into a sappy, sentimental ballad! The thing I want to avoid is taking a cheerful song and turning it into a dirge - the way the Lennon Sisters used to do on the Lawrence Welk show! :shuffle:

Another interesting thing to do is to give a song a Bossa style.

I previewed TomPlay (I think). It's nice, but I'm not a fan of Karaoke playing and that's basically what it is. With my backing software running, I will sometimes abandon the melody line altogether and just improv off the chords if I think I can get away with it. For my money, a song is well composed if the melody line leaps out of the chord changes.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:44 am

So how's everybody doing at this task?

I'm finding it hard NOT to embellish or improvise off a melody line! Lol. I feel a little like Kirk Douglas in "Young Man With A Horn", sitting there taking off in places where maybe he shouldn't and getting kicked out of the group for it. Nice problem to have, I think.

I have also found I tend to do better when I do two things:

1) Modulate the piece into a key into which I can feel the music better

2) Keep the chords simplified (for now)

3) Play with either a bucket or a Harmon mute. I don't know why, but it just feels more jazzy - a Dizzy Gillespie kinda thing, I guess.

Oops. Three things.

Anyway, I hope everyone is still at this and doing well, or at least having fun, if nothing else.
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Re: Why Do Trombonists Suck At Improvising?

Post by ArbanRubank » Wed Apr 14, 2021 8:22 am



RIP to those who find this just isn't for them. :weep: You tried!
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