Friday, July 13, 2012

Free Jazz Piano Lesson #21: Bud Powell Solo Break Analysis and Performance

 As a teacher and a student I have always struggled to find the "best" ways to practice.  The older and more experienced I get, the more I learn what works best for me.  A professor once told me a story about about Oscar Peterson's intense practice routine.  He would work out 4-5 fingerings for technically troublesome passages.  That way he was sure not to get tripped up in any situation when trying to implement it.

Lennie Tristano has a similar method while teaching scales.  He would have students learn the traditional fingering followed by up to six other variations of fingering.  He would then have the students play all the different fingerings with implementing complex polyrhythmic variations.  I guess the point that I'm trying to make is, sometimes it's best not to be so single minded in our approach to practice.  The more ways we approach the problems of playing, the more options we have to fall back on if we happen to fail.

Here are some suggestions for practice when working with new melodic material:

1)  Scientifically approach analyzing the material to the best of your ability.  Try to be thorough but not overly so.  Once you've analyzed the material, beginning taking snippets of it through all twelve keys.  This method is most effective when combined with an ear (aural) based approach.  

2)  Use an aural approach.  In previous lessons we've talked about singing melodies at and away from our instruments.  Don't worry if you're having trouble at first.  The goal isn't to become the next Frank Sinatra, it's to sing as accurately as possible the pitches you are hearing in your head.  

3)  Try various technical approaches to the material.  Varied fingerings, using both hands, changing octaves, changes in phrasing, ghosting random notes, leaving out notes, playing as fast as possible, playing as slow as possible...

I hope you've enjoyed these past two lessons.  They took some time to make and edit.  If people seem interested, I will continue to make more.  Although, they likely will be a little less detailed then these have been.

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Lesson #21- Solo Break Analysis

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