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Questions and conversation with Music Savvy Chat

I’ve recently built a custom GPT artificial intelligence using transcriptions of all my interviews, books, and videos with some of the greatest jazz master players and teachers in the world. You can read all about it here.

I took it for a spin and here is a small sampling of the results.

Question: How can I become a better jazz musician?

A: Becoming a better jazz musician involves a multitude of factors, as revealed by the Jazz Master interviews. It encompasses not just the mastery of your instrument, but also a deep understanding of the music’s history, an appreciation for the genre’s cultural roots, and a dedication to continuous learning and growth.

Firstly, understanding the history and culture of jazz is crucial. Jazz is not just a genre of music; it’s a reflection of a rich cultural heritage. Engaging with the history of jazz, learning about its origins, and the masters who shaped it is fundamental. As Lenny White pointed out, jazz is a heritage, and understanding this heritage is essential to becoming not just a musician but a jazz musician.

Secondly, developing a unique voice is important. As discussed by Joe Lovano, the influence of his father and other jazz greats helped him understand that jazz is not just about technical proficiency on an instrument but about creating a unique sound. This sound, or voice, is what sets one musician apart from another. It’s about expressing yourself and your view of the world through your music.

Thirdly, constant learning and growth are key. As highlighted by Lenny White, even if certain aspects of music come naturally to you, there’s always room for improvement and new things to learn. He stresses the importance of not being afraid to fail, as failure is often the best teacher. Taking chances and stepping out of your comfort zone leads to growth and new discoveries in your musical journey.

In summary, becoming a better jazz musician is not just about improving your technical skills but also about immersing yourself in the culture and history of jazz, developing your unique voice, and maintaining a mindset of continuous learning and improvement. It’s a journey of not only honing your craft but also of personal and artistic discovery.

Question: What are some other considerations I should keep in mind in order to stand out?

Standing out as a jazz player goes beyond just mastering the technical aspects of your instrument. The Jazz Master interviews highlight several key considerations that can help you distinguish yourself:

  1. Cultivating Your Own Sound: Developing a unique sound is paramount. As Joe Lovano stressed, your sound is your identity in the world of jazz. It’s not about just playing notes; it’s about how you play them, your phrasing, your tone, and your approach to rhythm and melody. Listen to a variety of artists and styles, but always work on refining what makes your playing unique.
  2. Understanding the Language of Jazz: Jazz is a language with its own vocabulary, idioms, and grammar. Mastery of this language involves not just playing your instrument but understanding the nuances of jazz harmony, rhythm, and melody. It’s about being able to converse musically with others, to respond and contribute in a way that’s both individual and complementary to the ensemble.
  3. Developing a Deep Repertoire: Knowing a wide range of songs, or standards, is crucial. This doesn’t mean just memorizing the head (the main theme) of a tune, but understanding its structure, its chord changes, and being able to improvise over those changes. The deeper your repertoire, the more versatile and ready you are to engage in any jazz setting.
  4. Connecting with the Audience: Jazz is not just played; it’s performed. How you connect with your audience, your stage presence, and your ability to convey the emotion and story of the music is vital. Jazz is a conversation not just among musicians but with the audience as well.
  5. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: The jazz world is ever-evolving, and staying curious and open to learning is crucial. As highlighted by Lenny White, even seasoned musicians have room to grow and new things to discover. Be open to feedback, willing to experiment, and ready to adapt. Learning from failures and being resilient is part of the journey.
  6. Networking and Collaboration: Jazz is inherently collaborative. Building relationships with other musicians, engaging in jam sessions, and being a part of the jazz community can open up opportunities for growth and exposure. It’s not just about solo practice; it’s about being an active part of the jazz scene, sharing, and learning from others.

By focusing on these areas, you can work towards not just being a proficient player, but a standout jazz musician with a unique voice and a deep connection to the rich tradition and community of jazz.

Question: What is the best way to transcribe a jazz solo?

A: Transcribing a jazz solo is a highly beneficial exercise for any jazz musician, as it not only improves your technical skills but also deepens your understanding of the jazz language and style. Based on insights from the Jazz Master interviews, here are some steps and tips to effectively transcribe a jazz solo:

  1. Choose a Solo That Resonates with You: Pick a solo that speaks to you musically. It should be challenging enough to push your limits but not so difficult that it becomes discouraging. Starting with solos by artists you admire can provide motivation and a deeper connection to the learning process.
  2. Listen Repeatedly: Immerse yourself in the solo. Listen to it multiple times to internalize the rhythm, phrasing, and nuances of the soloist. Before even picking up your instrument, be familiar with how the solo sounds.
  3. Slow Down the Recording: Use tools or software that can slow down the recording without changing the pitch. This will help you hear fast passages more clearly and make it easier to pick out individual notes and articulations.
  4. Transcribe Small Sections at a Time: Break the solo down into manageable sections. Work on transcribing a few bars or even a single phrase at a time. Master each section before moving on to the next.
  5. Write It Down: Use staff paper or transcription software to notate the solo. Start with the notes and rhythms, and then add articulations and dynamics. It’s important to not just learn to play the solo, but also to see and understand how it’s constructed musically.
  6. Sing the Solo: Try to sing the phrases before you play them. This can help internalize the solo and improve your ear. If you can sing it, you’re more likely to be able to play it.
  7. Play Along with the Recording: Once you’ve transcribed a section, play it along with the recording. This will help you match the timing, articulation, and feel of the original soloist.
  8. Analyze the Solo: Look at the solo from a theoretical perspective. Understand the chord progressions over which the solo is played and how the notes of the solo relate to those chords. This analysis will help you understand the soloist’s musical decisions and improve your own improvisational skills.
  9. Memorize the Solo: Commit the solo to memory. This will help internalize the language and style of the soloist, allowing you to incorporate elements of their style into your own playing.
  10. Apply What You’ve Learned: Use the licks, phrases, and concepts from the solo in your own improvisation. Experiment with them over different chord progressions and in different keys. The goal is to absorb the language and feel of the jazz solo, not just to replicate it.

Remember, transcribing is not just about learning a solo note for note; it’s about getting inside the music and understanding the deeper elements of phrasing, rhythm, and harmonic language. It’s a meticulous process but one that is immensely rewarding for your growth as a jazz musician.

Question: What are some ways to improve my ear for improvisation?

A: Improving your ear for improvisation is crucial for developing as a jazz musician. One effective exercise derived from the insights of the Jazz Master interviews is “Transcription and Variation.” This exercise not only hones your listening skills but also enhances your ability to create and manipulate musical ideas. Here’s how you can approach it:

  1. Start with a Simple Melody: Choose a simple melody that you know well. This could be a jazz standard, a folk tune, or even a children’s song. The simplicity allows you to focus more on the exercise rather than the complexity of the melody.
  2. Transcribe the Melody by Ear: Listen to the melody and try to play it back by ear on your instrument. Don’t write it down; the goal is to connect your ear directly to your instrument. If you’re struggling, break the melody down into smaller phrases or even note by note.
  3. Sing the Melody: Before playing the melody on your instrument, sing it. This step reinforces the melody in your memory and strengthens the connection between your ear and your musical expression.
  4. Improvise Variations on the Melody: Once you’re comfortable playing the melody, start to improvise variations on it. You can start with simple variations, like changing the rhythm or adding a few notes. As you become more comfortable, you can try more complex variations, like altering the harmony, playing the melody in a different mode or key, or creating a completely new melody based on the original.
  5. Use Call and Response: Play a phrase of the melody and then answer it with an improvised variation. This mimics the conversational nature of jazz and helps develop your ability to think ahead and plan your improvisational lines.
  6. Record and Analyze: If possible, record your improvisation. Listen back to your playing and analyze what you liked and what you could improve. Pay attention to your phrasing, rhythm, and how your improvised lines fit over the chord progression.
  7. Practice Regularly: Like any skill, improving your ear for improvisation takes regular practice. Incorporate this exercise into your daily practice routine, experimenting with different melodies and styles.

This exercise not only improves your ear but also develops your improvisational vocabulary and your ability to create and develop musical ideas spontaneously. It bridges the gap between what you hear in your head and what you can express on your instrument, which is at the heart of jazz improvisation.

Question: What are some other things I can do?

A: Another beneficial exercise for improving your ear and your improvisational skills is the “Chord Tone Solfege” exercise. This exercise focuses on internalizing the sound of chord tones and their relationships within chord progressions, which is essential for improvising effectively in jazz. Here’s how to approach the Chord Tone Solfege exercise:

  1. Learn to Hear Chord Tones: Begin by familiarizing yourself with the chord tones of the chords commonly used in jazz (major 7th, minor 7th, dominant 7th, etc.). Chord tones are the root, third, fifth, and seventh of each chord.
  2. Use Solfege: Assign solfege syllables to each chord tone (e.g., Do for the root, Mi for the third, Sol for the fifth, and Ti for the seventh). Solfege helps in vocalizing and internalizing the pitch relationships.
  3. Sing Chord Tones Over Chord Progressions: Play a chord progression on a piano or a backing track. As the chords change, sing the chord tones using solfege syllables. Start with root movement (Do of each chord) and then proceed to thirds, fifths, and sevenths.
  4. Focus on Voice Leading: Pay attention to how the chord tones lead into each other as the chords change. Aim for smooth transitions, moving to the nearest chord tone of the next chord whenever possible. This practice helps in understanding and hearing voice leading, which is crucial for creating coherent and melodic solos.
  5. Apply to Instrument: After you are comfortable with singing the chord tones, start playing them on your instrument. Begin slowly, ensuring you are hitting the correct chord tones as the chords change.
  6. Improvise Using Only Chord Tones: Once you are comfortable with playing chord tones over the progression, start improvising using only the chord tones. This constraint forces you to be melodic and rhythmic while strictly adhering to the chordal structure.
  7. Gradually Add Non-Chord Tones: As you gain confidence, start adding non-chord tones (passing tones, approach notes, etc.) to your improvisation. The solid foundation in chord tones will ensure that these added notes still relate harmonically to the underlying chords.
  8. Record and Analyze: Record your practice sessions. Listen to how you are using chord tones in your improvisation and how effectively you are integrating non-chord tones. Identify areas for improvement and focus on them in your subsequent practice sessions.

The Chord Tone Solfege exercise enhances your ability to hear and outline chord changes, a skill that’s essential for creating compelling solos that clearly reflect the harmonic structure of the piece. It’s a fundamental exercise that helps bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical musicianship in the realm of jazz improvisation.

Question: What can a trombone player do who is having difficulty with Doodle tonguing?

A: Doodle tonguing is a technique used by trombone players to articulate notes smoothly and quickly, particularly in jazz settings. If someone is having difficulty with doodle tonguing on the trombone, they might consider the following steps, based on the principles and learning methods shared in the Jazz Master interviews:

  1. Understand the Technique: Doodle tonguing involves a legato articulation, where the tongue moves in a ‘doodle’ or ‘doo-dle’ motion, lightly touching the roof of the mouth. It’s used to execute fast, smooth passages that would be difficult with traditional tonguing. Ensure you understand the mechanics of the technique before attempting it.
  2. Start Slow: Begin practicing doodle tonguing at a slow tempo. It’s crucial to get the coordination right before speeding up. Use a metronome and gradually increase the tempo as you become more comfortable.
  3. Consistency in Airflow: Maintain steady and consistent airflow throughout the exercise. The motion of the tongue should not interrupt or stagger the airflow. Think of your air as the constant, and your tongue as the variable that lightly articulates the notes.
  4. Practice the ‘Doodle’ Sound: Isolate the ‘doodle’ or ‘doo-dle’ syllable without the instrument. Practice saying it rhythmically and evenly. Once comfortable, practice this motion while blowing air through the trombone, without pressing the slide. Focus on the consistency and clarity of the sound.
  5. Incorporate the Slide: Once you’re comfortable with the tongue motion and airflow, start incorporating the slide movements. Begin with simple, slow slide movements, ensuring that the slide motion is in sync with your ‘doodle’ articulation.
  6. Use Simple Exercises: Practice doodle tonguing with simple exercises or scales. This allows you to focus on the technique without the added complexity of challenging music. Scale patterns, arpeggios, or simple melodies work well for this.
  7. Listen and Imitate: Listen to recordings of proficient trombone players who use doodle tonguing. Pay attention to the smoothness and precision of their articulation. Try to imitate their sound and style.
  8. Seek Feedback: If possible, work with a teacher or a more experienced player who can provide guidance and feedback. Sometimes, having an external ear can pinpoint issues that you might not notice yourself.
  9. Regular, Focused Practice: Like any technical skill on a musical instrument, mastering doodle tonguing requires regular, focused practice. Dedicate a portion of your practice time specifically to this technique.
  10. Be Patient and Persistent: Mastery of any technique takes time and patience. If you don’t get it right immediately, don’t get discouraged. Persistence is key.

Remember, mastering doodle tonguing or any other advanced technique is a journey. Celebrate the small victories along the way, and gradually, you’ll see improvement in your playing.

One last question I asked was if a metronome is a good tool for developing musical time. Now, I know that this is an issue with multiple opinions expressed within the interviews and other materials. 

The first answer it gave was basically a recommendation for using the metronome, stating the benefits of using one.

But I then asked, didn’t Richie Beirach disagree? I know full well how much Richie hates the metronome and that he made no secret of it. The GPT answered that with:

Is a metronome is a good tool for developing musical time?

Richie Beirach indeed expressed a unique perspective on the use of a metronome. He emphasized the importance of developing internal time and cautioned against becoming overly dependent on a metronome. Beirach’s viewpoint is a valuable reminder of the balance needed in practice routines. While a metronome can be a fantastic tool for developing precise timing, it’s crucial for musicians to also cultivate their own internal sense of pulse to ensure their musical expression is not mechanically tied to an external device but flows naturally and expressively.

Even that correction didn’t fully express Richie’s distain for the metronome. I would have preferred it to explain Richie’s reasons why he believes a metronome kills human time in the musicians who practice with one. The answer was not strong enough in favor of Richie’s opinion, so I still need to tweak it more. Keep in mind that this is a work in progress.

Hopefully, however, you can start to see the value in a tool like this in allowing for conversations on the thousands of topics covered within the enormous collection of interviews, books, and videos I’ve amassed with these jazz masters.

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Inception
Cinematic @ 68 bpm
Inception
Cinematic @ 68 bpm
Milky Way
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
Milky Way
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
I-VI-II-V
Jazz @ 140 bpm
I-VI-II-V
Jazz @ 140 bpm
Caribbean Express
Salsa @ 165 bpm
Caribbean Express
Salsa @ 165 bpm
Dawn of a New Day
Soul @ 85 bpm
Dawn of a New Day
Soul @ 85 bpm
Spinning Top
Jazz Waltz @ 140 bpm
Spinning Top
Jazz Waltz @ 140 bpm
Sails Full Open
Contemporary @ 120 bpm
Sails Full Open
Contemporary @ 120 bpm
Summer's Dawn
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
Summer's Dawn
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
The Benji Pad
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
The Benji Pad
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
St. Thomas Block Party
Calypso @ 114 bpm
St. Thomas Block Party
Calypso @ 114 bpm
Island Mines
World Music @ 112 bpm
Island Mines
World Music @ 112 bpm
Disco Marley
Reggae-ish @ 110 bpm
Disco Marley
Reggae-ish @ 110 bpm
Earthen Choir
Ethereal @ 92 bpm
Earthen Choir
Ethereal @ 92 bpm
Jungle Dance
Cinematic @ 130 bpm
Jungle Dance
Cinematic @ 130 bpm
Bailey's Waltz
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
Bailey's Waltz
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
Afternoon Daydreaming
Samba @ 90 bpm
Afternoon Daydreaming
Samba @ 90 bpm
Galactica
Epic @ 100 bpm
Galactica
Epic @ 100 bpm
Lush Life
Funk @ 90 bpm
Lush Life
Funk @ 90 bpm
Eleuthera
Bolero @ 90 bpm
Eleuthera
Bolero @ 90 bpm
Good Bye
Ethereal @ 90 bpm
Good Bye
Ethereal @ 90 bpm
Southside Strut
Funk @ 100 bpm
Southside Strut
Funk @ 100 bpm
Standing outside
Bossa @ 150 bpm
Standing outside
Bossa @ 150 bpm
Groovy Jazzy
Jazz funk @ 112 bpm
Groovy Jazzy
Jazz funk @ 112 bpm
Sound Refuge
Eclectic - no temp
Sound Refuge
Eclectic - no temp
Dreaming of Mars
Static harmony without a tempo
Dreaming of Mars
Static harmony without a tempo
Beat Sweeper
Jazz @ 180 bpm
Beat Sweeper
Jazz @ 180bpm
Cruisin'
Fast Americana @ 224 bpm
Cruisin'
Fast Americana @ 224 bpm
Contemplation
Smooth @ 120 bpm
Contemplation
Smooth @ 120 bpm

This is just a fake book example for the type of website I can build for you. Just trying to use a little humor here!