Jazz Challenge — 10 Days in
After flapping about, it feels like I'm getting ahold of something
My high level plan had been to break down progress in terms of soloing and accompaniment (comping), but it turns out that the goals were a bit too vague to precisely guide practice each day. I ended up spending many hours:
Trying memorize all the 2-5-1 progressions (hoping this would allow me to rapidly be able to comp for new songs)
Playing the walking bass rhythm with a metronome while trying to beat box at the same time
Learning licks from Bill Evans that I couldn’t integrate with my own solos
Composing a fugue
This was okay, but it didn’t really connect with my goals and much of the time it felt like wheels were spinning in midair and that I wasn’t properly progressing.
Here are two examples of my comping so far. I’m not particularly proud of them.
First example is me comping with the walking bass (~100bpm). I’d do this for faster tempo cover with no bassist. Second example is just chords with left hand bass note — in the style of a ballad with e.g. a singer.
What I like about my comping:
(Mostly) in time
Adding little ornaments
Things I want to improve:
More confident playing
Alternate chord voicing
Playing with rhythm more
Things are inclining upward
In the last couple of days there’s been a subtle shift, and it feels like I know how to do better quality practice. I’ve also come in contact with a local Jazz musician. He’s going to give me a lesson on Wednesday that I’m hoping will better ground my practice.
Goals for day 20:
Upload recording of a solo that I composed for Autumn Leaves (at the least, Section A)
Record a Triste solo
Intermediate comping for Autumn Leaves (both with and without walking bass)
Beginner comping for Triste, Blue Bossa
Reflection on meta-learning
So far, this has been an excellent exercise in general skill acquisition. I now get the compounding returns to total immersion. Spending 5 hours a day thinking about jazz is qualitatively different than 5 days of 1 hour of practice.
Learning to structure the feedback loops around my own goals has been immensely productive. Unlike an electricity and magnetism class, or any undergraduate class for that matter, ‘getting proficient at jazz’ is ill-defined. Feedback is vague (whether I’m improving as a musician is hard to evaluate) and I have to decide the type of improvement I want. (Perhaps: improving musicianship is a “wicked” game while improving marks on an exam is a “kind” game).
In building and discarding my daily learning plans, I’ve gotten better at making systems to help me learn things. This challenge has been rewarding also.
Hour 1: I spent the first hour making the learning plan for this month. Format is inspired by Scott Young’s 30 day portrait drawing challenge and Max Deutsch’s Blues Solo challenge article
Hour 2-3: After recording myself soloing over iReal Autumn Leaves backing track (120 bpm x 3), I then took a closer look at the Bill Evans Autumn Leaves intro and finally figured out why my version of Evans’ improvised melody over the last chord wasn’t working. Noodled around trying to copy a gypsy jazz rendition of Autumn Leaves then discarded it.
Hour 4: Practicing comping with the iReal backing track. Noticing that I can’t sing the melody and do the full comp at the same time (plus the melody is very hard to sing in general)
Felt like my solo didn’t sound bad, but there was no sense of development, and I didn’t keep track of the line in my head. At one point it faded for a bar or two as I lost inspiration. Also rhythm off in some sections clearly
Tomorrow, I want to:
- Get Bill Evans intro in his style
- Find my favorite snippet of Autumn Leaves (probably Ryo Fukui, Oscar Peterson)
- Sing melody over the solo
- Find a way to practice quick chord formations
- Proposed system:
- Make flashcards for all the chords and their variations
- 13 keys x (major, minor, m7, minor/maj7)
- Have a shuffled slideshow
- Techniques I like:
- Little Tigran rapid downward three notes
- Ryo Fukui’s turns ending Autumn Leaves
- Ryo Fukui’s blues chord slam beginning
- How to do that blues chord
- Find my favorite snippet of Autumn Leaves (probably Ryo Fukui, Oscar Peterson)
- Sing melody over the solo
Practiced comping to metronome. Learning from Ryo Fukui and Tigran. Still figuring chord recognition routine. Ear training app. Rhythm training app. Probably did 2.5 hours of actual practice
Ear training progress so slow. Waking at odd hours to call messes up my rhythm
Tomorrow I want to set up chord practice routine by playing through chords of a new tune. I want to record my comping. Maybe turn to Triste also
Also want to send email out announcing my challenge
Practiced 2-5-1 chords in CFG. Plan to do D and two others tomorrow. Three more days until all the 2-5-1s leaned
Practiced reading Train Samba and put together dataset of songs I’d want to learn.
Recorded myself comping and tried to solo over. Uninspired. 2.5 hrs again.
Tomorrow more chord practice. Maybe blues exercises for soloing. Need to get midi cable
Note: traveling between Kyoto and Tokyo and the tumult of the previous week made it quite difficult to sustain the practice. Tomorrow I will be flying to Taipei where I will settle for next few weeks, so I skipped these days and am going to resume consecutive practice today (where I also have access to a piano)
Peter finger technique
Practice 2-5-1 in the six keys I’ve learned so far,
Play the keys over 2-5-1
Record autumn leaves comp while mouth rhythm
Learn Triste comp
Recall others’ techniques
I did the plan. Incorporating more beat boxing. Noticing Tigran heavily beatboxing on his records that’s a good sign. Did some rhythmic practice while seeing the live jazz at Pit Inn. Didn’t record myself because phone was occupied trying to get ahold of Air NZ.
Did rhythm and ear training on the way to live jazz
All in all 2.5 hours of real practice.
Tomorrow I would like to try simple comp with a song I haven’t seen before eg Fly Me To the Moon. Also to announce my 30 day challenge. Continue learning 2-5-1
Did a bit of walking bass practice. Spent most of the time making a fugue and listening to different Jazz tracks on the plane from Tokyo to Taipei. An hour of ear training and rhythm practice.
Tomorrow want to do
practice AL walking bass with melody
try the exercise of voicing the 7th chords mentioned in this video
Learn two bars of the Peterson version of Autumn Leaves
Day 6 (Nov 22nd)
Walking bass over iReal Pro AL backing track until timing is solid (30 min) Do this with basic comping, but also with the melody Try to beat box on 2 and 4 Continue learning 2-5-1 chord progressions (20 min) Give yourself 20 mins then record trying to play Fly Me To the Moon comp and melody (30 min)
Learn part of the Oscar Peterson AL solo bars
Blues chord slam (Ryo Fukui style?)
Rhythmic eighth notes over backing track of your choice. Try a different key
Learned the Bill Evans solo lick from 2:00 within the Jazz portraits song
Tried to make up an Autumn Leaves solo by first thinking of melody in head
It’s harder than I thought to read the sheet and be able to play the chords because you don’t want to play the chords straight… instead you need to change the voicings on the fly
I did a good
I played probably around 4.5 hours today but I did bad by not time boxing and let it drag on. I think I benefit immensely from setting myself the thirty minutes, enforcing a break etc
2-5-1s. Do 10/12 progressions
Try Autumn Leaves in a different key; just playing the chords
Rhythmic: backing track, play through the whole thing with few mistakes.
Try switching up the comp style; jabbing chords to walking bass and back
Ryo Fukui inspired style
Oscar Peterson style
Do this exercise: right hand going through the voicings
Did 2-5-1s but am feeling a little overwhelmed/lost when it gets to the more obscure keys eg F#. Trying to find a way to tie it back into normal playing
Made flash cards for 30 jazz chords. Will try those tomorrow.
Am definitely more solid with walking bass rhythm. Also found myself unconsciously doing beat boxing while playing — a good sign. It’s tricky because ultimately you want to be able both to beat box to keep track of rhythm and also to hold the melody in your head.
Tried for a bit to learn the Peterson riff but it was quite fast and I soon moved on
The exercise of playing right notes of the chords in left hand feels very fruitful and I want to keep doing it.
Learned the chords for Blue Bossa and also practiced the comping for Triste.
Right now it feels quite slow to learn the bassline for triste and I want to see if there’s a faster way to learn sequences of chords in general.
Guess right now is that I should just listen to the song multiple times with ear intent on bass notes.
Next couple days going to be without a proper piano and in a foreign place so it is important to have plan beforehand
Chord flash cards
Listen to Triste intently for 10 mins focused on bass
Triste chords learn
Look at the Brazilian comping course?
Chord voicing exercise
Look up different
Practiced 2-5-1s at tiny keyboard at Amy’s place, practiced walking bass with rhythm in the kid’s classroom, did the chord voicing exercise. Listened to Triste and identified the chords a bit better.
Then played loosely the other stuff in my repertoire. I was reminded of the importance of reading sheet music when I had a chance to play accompaniment to the children singing and was unable to because I can’t read sheet music. I think I want to add that back again as a priority; reading sheet music (though lesser to the original goals. Maybe as the third hour of practice in the day).
2-5-1s. Get to 10/12
Try chord flashcards
Triste comping memorize
Try soloing over Autumn Leaves walking bass
Different comping styles
Practiced 2-5-1s. Slow progress. Doesn’t feel like it’s ‘clicking’ yet
Did chord recognition practice. That seemed helpful
Did the chord exercise
A little bit of progress towards the Triste bassline
Generally practice felt a bit stale. Didn’t feel like I was progressing towards something — kind of felt like spinning wheels in the same place
I want to practice sight reading
Record comping in different styles
How do I learn to comp on the spot?
Come up with a comping exercise to read chords continuously
Send email update
What solo exercises can I do?
Compose my own solo
Comp different styles [record]
Chord flashcards X
Try to play through comp of Blue Bossa
Challenge: change key of autumn leaves and attempt to play
Listened to nice video on mastering Jazz standards that changed my approach a bit. Probably did only 1.5 hours of practice.
Did chord flashcards, recorded videos of slow comping, and walking bass comping (that took a while)
Went to see a live band and listened very closely to a pianist that I didn’t consider very good but was very experienced.
(In order of highest value activity)
Compose and record solo for Autumn Leaves A section
Can bring in Blues lick
Also look to Major II V I turnarounds
(see videos linked yesterday)
Listen back to comping from yesterday and note the things I like and the things I can improve
Progress update email
Reflect broadly on progress so far, and what I want to do differently going forward
Rhythm: beat boxing while doing eighth solo notes and playing chords. Start slow. Record and listen to myself
Do chord flashcards
Make flashcards for Triste / Blue Bossa chords
Sheet music reading
Revisit your other compositions