Ever since I put this site online, I've been recording my improvisation sessions at least once a week. After just a month of reviewing my playing, I'm already hearing significant improvements in my rhythm, articulation, and phrasing. I wish I had been recording myself this often all along.
I've decided to put up a few of these daily recordings on an ongoing journal entry. This way you can follow along as I (hopefully) improve. Feel free to offer comments or suggestions.
DECEMBER 1, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #108, Mo' Joe by Joe Henderson
I recorded the track above, took a short break and then recorded the track below. When starting the track below, it occurred to me that this tune would make a good note limiting example. In my solo, I think there are only five notes (F, G, Bb, C, D). I guess that's a lot of notes for a note limiting exercise, but here's the twist: I only used first and open valves.
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Mo' Joe - first and open valves
As I've mentioned before, note limiting simplifies the task of searching for notes. This freedom can help you focus more on rhythm and phrasing. It can also help you to discover some new ideas by breaking your normal playing patterns. In this particular session, I think my note limiting solo is better than my *normal* solo...
NOVEMBER 22, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #108, A Shade Of Jade by Joe Henderson
This is one of my favorite tracks from this recent Aebersold play-a-long. I'm not all that happy with my playing on this recording, but it's the best I could come up with.
This was a typical session where I picked up my horn to improvise. I played a solo that I really liked and thought: I should record this! Of course, once I hit the record button, the pressure was on and I struggled to play anything well. That's one of the main reasons that I continue to record myself. Eventually, I hope to play equally well whether I'm recording, playing in front of an audience (doubtful, but you never know...), or just playing for myself at home.
NOVEMBER 9, 2004
I just realized: we're nearly halfway through the fourth quarter and I don't have any new recordings online! I guess I've been more focused on other parts of the site (ear trainer and site redesign). In any case, here are a couple of new clips.
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Down By The Riverside
This clip is an example of the sort of thing you could play while working on simple song ear training. The recording begins as I play the song by ear, starting on a G. After playing the main melody, I improvise a bridge and continue to improvise until the end of the tune.
When practicing simple songs, it's important to remember that you can play anything you like. If you only know one part of the song, just play that. If you feel like improvising the rest... go right ahead!
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Freeform improvisation
After recording the "Down By The Riverside" clip, I thought it would be nice to try and play something unstructured. Naturally, I turned to some freeform improvisation. This clip still has some Dixieland elements to it, as I was still feeling the groove from "Down By The Riverside".
While this clip isn't anything special, I am pleased with the ending. Those octave leaps popped out of nowhere!
SEPTEMBER 27, 2004
I recorded a couple clips tonight, in an attempt to squeeze in some more recordings for the third quarter.
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #56, Well You Needn't by Thelonious Monk
This a fairly long clip (for this site) at two choruses in length. After the first chorus I stopped playing but then got the urge to continue a phrase. Eight bars later, I jump in to complete the second chorus. Those eight bars are a great example of "less is more" ;-)
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #25, Summertime by Hayward & Gershwin
Just a short clip. Nothing fancy. I do like the triplet run in the 5th and 6th bars. I *think* that's the first time I've ever tried something like that.
AUGUST 18, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #44, After You've Gone by Creamer & Layton
This is my first recording on my new flugelhorn! It's just a short clip, but I've been anxious to get something online.
As you may be able to tell from the opening phrases, I'm still having trouble locking in some of the notes on this new horn. A note like an 'F' at the top of the staff is actually easier for me to play on the flugel than on my Bach trumpet (maybe it's the mouthpiece? maybe it's the horn?). Even though the note is easier to play, my embouchure needs to adjust slightly to account for the different setting/tension/etc. It's that adjustment that I'm still getting used to...
JULY 13, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Freeform improvisation... with Spanish flair!
Originally, I was trying to do some freeform improvisation based loosely on the tune "Witchcraft" (I had just listened to Donald Byrd's recording prior to picking up my horn). I was struggling for ideas, however, and I didn't care for anything that I played. Prior to putting down the horn for the day I figured I'd give it one more shot... this time playing whatever came to mind. This track is the result.
In the beginning of the track I was thinking about (and picturing) Miles Davis' "Sketches Of Spain" album and toward the end I was thinking about the "Return To Forever" album, by Chick Corea. I think both influences can be heard in my playing.
If you haven't already, be sure to read my journal entry on Freeform Improvisation to understand my goal/intention with this type of playing. This also happens to be a decent example of thematic development (taking a theme/phrase and developing it throughout the solo).
JUNE 30, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #6, Confirmation by Charlie Parker
Yesterday was my first day playing again, after having my wisdom teeth removed (four days earlier). Everything seems to be working as usual, however it's a bit painful to play for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Perhaps unwisely (get it? hilarious, I know...), I pushed through the pain today to get one more recording in for the second quarter. This is a fairly simple/restrained solo, perhaps due to the painkillers and antibiotics; who knows. I should also mention that I recorded this on my new Shure SM57 microphone. Can you tell? --neither can I...
JUNE 15, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #25, My Funny Valentine by Rodgers & Hart
After recording "On A Misty Night," (see below) I was in the mood for some more ballads. "My Funny Valentine" seemed like a natural choice. The Aebersold version starts slow, then goes into double time, and then ends at the original (slow) tempo. This recording begins right before the double time. I'm not sure what visitors will think of it. You might think it sounds sloppy. I guess it might, but while playing I was totally absorbed in the moment. The fast bits were simply part of the expression. This is probably my favorite recording thus far --even with the 3 failed attempts to hit a G at the top of the staff...
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #99, On A Misty Night by Tadd Dameron.
I bought this play-a-long recently, but I've only had time to use it a couple of times so far. Knowing I was due for a recording (I've got to have something to show for myself in Q2!), I figured I'd try to work the play-a-long into my evening improv routine. I played this tune through once while looking at the changes, to get a roadmap. When soloing, though, I just closed my eyes and let my ear guide me (ok, so I may have remembered some of what I saw...). [Added on June 17, 2004] The more I listen to this recording, the less I like it. I thought about taking it down, but decided it's probably better to just leave it online. This way I can come back to it years from now to see how much I've (hopefully) improved...
I've come to the decision that I MUST buy a new microphone. I'm tired of sounding like I'm playing through an overdrive pedal. I think I'm going to get the Shure SM57.
MAY 27, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #61 (Burnin'), Keep It Up by Mark Levine.
I haven't been too happy with my playing lately. I'd pick up my horn to improvise, but I was having trouble playing the ideas in my head. Sometimes my ear is good, sometimes not so good... lately it's been letting me down. Hoping to get back on track, I skipped most of my normal routine today and instead focused on ear training (simple song playing).
At the end of the day I thought I'd try playing something off of Burnin'. I purchased this play-a-long a few weeks ago, but hadn't yet had a chance to give it a try. I randomly started playing a track and before I even had a chance to get the book out I realized: I know what key this is, and I know what to play. So, without seeing a single chord change, and without ever hearing this tune before, I picked up my horn and this is what I played. There are some rough spots (I got excited and my rhythm slips a bit), and it's not the most musical solo I've ever played (fast solos rarely are musical, at least for me) but overall I'm pleased with what came out, particularly the break that happens right before the cycle begins (about half way through). Anyway, this shows me that I should spend more days focusing on ear training...
APR 14, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #108, Granted, by Joe Henderson.
And, because it's been a while since I've had a chance to record, here's a bonus clip from the same recording session: iwasdoingallright - audio clip --I'm playing too close to the mic, so the sound is a bit distorted.
This is the second track I've recorded with the new Joe Henderson play-a-long (see Mamacita). This is the most energetic play-a-long that I've heard. Its peaks and valleys are similar to those you'd hear from a real band. I highly recommend it.
I think the intensity of the play-a-long can be heard in my solo. Even though my chops were tired, I gave it all I had.
MAR 10, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #56, I Mean You, by Thelonious Monk.
I like this solo, even though toward the end I was struggling to hold on to my idea. I eventually lost it a bar or two before the end of the cycle (I faded out the collapse).
FEB 24, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #108, Mamacita, by Joe Henderson.
This recent Aebersold release has a lot of great tunes, with lively rhythm sections. I especially like 'A Shade Of Jade,' 'Jinriksha,' 'The Kicker,' and this track, 'Mamacita.'
This is the bluesiest (there must be a word for it...) recording I've done thus far. There a few weak spots, but I guess it's ok.
FEB 14, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #40, Days of Wine and Roses
I tried to create continuity in my solo through the use of phrase linking. Where one phrase stops, another begins with a similar melody and/or rhythm. In the end, it should all sound like it goes together. While I try to do this in every solo, I find it's easiest to practice in slower tunes, like "Days Of Wine And Roses."
Another thing worth mentioning is the use of space between phrases. Rather than overwhelm the listener with continual playing, the pauses create a conversational flow. Say something. Let people think about it. Say something else.
FEB 4, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #34, Just Friends
After the lead-in, you'll hear me play a simple phrase, which I repeat towards the end of the solo. This is an example of thematic development: play a phrase, and continually develop it throughout the solo. When done well, the phrase evolves into a new tune, and the solo can stand on its own. My phrase didn't get very far in this example, but hopefully you can hear the attempt ;-)
For some reason, fatigue set in early today and you can hear it in my range. I'm using too much pressure to hit the high notes --in this case, just a G at the top of the staff. *sigh*
JAN 30, 2004
iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #106, Zambia, by Lee Morgan. The tune was originally released on "Delightfulee," but I've never heard it.
I really like the way I played in the beginning of this clip. About half-way through, I started thinking to myself: "Don't mess this up. This is great... and then I messed it up. After cracking a couple of notes, I fell out of the groove and never got back on track.