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The good and bad of transcribing solos

I was asked a question today by a young man eager to improve his improvisation. He asked for my thoughts regarding solo transcribing.

Coincidentally, I also received a comment last week on my Youtube video in which I talked about transcribing. The commenter wrote that because transcribing is difficult and time-consuming, he prefers reading the transcribed solos created by others. Feel free to check out my response.

So, I figured this was a good excuse to tackle the topic of transcribing jazz solos, but instead of my own pontification, let me share what my Jazz Master Chat AI compiled about it.

I asked, “What are both positives and the negatives of transcribing jazz solos?” The answer it gave me was:

Transcribing solos has both positive and negative aspects as noted in the interviews within the provided dataset. On the positive side, transcribing solos can deepen a musician’s understanding of jazz language, improve technical skills, and enhance one’s ability to internalize various musical styles and expressions. It offers a direct insight into the creative processes of the masters, allowing for a closer study of their phrasing, rhythm, and harmonic choices. This practice can significantly contribute to a musician’s growth by expanding their vocabulary and offering concrete examples of abstract musical concepts.

However, there are potential negatives to consider as well. An overreliance on transcriptions can lead to a lack of originality, where musicians might inadvertently clone the style of others without developing their unique voice. It might also encourage a focus on technical execution over emotional expression and creativity, prioritizing the replication of notes over the development of a personal style that communicates the musician’s individuality and emotional intent.

These insights emphasize the importance of using transcription as a tool for learning and inspiration, rather than an end in itself. It’s crucial for musicians to balance the benefits of studying others’ solos with the need to develop their own voice and creativity.

Continuing the line of thought, I then asked, “What was the story Randy Brecker told of learning Woody Shaw solos?”

The answer it gave me was:

The story about Randy Brecker learning Woody Shaw solos reflected his brother Michael’s reaction after hearing Randy play Woody Shaw solos, remarking that Randy sounded like “watered-down Woody.” 

This anecdote highlights the challenges and intricacies of capturing the essence of another artist’s style. It underlines the importance of developing one’s unique voice, even while drawing inspiration from the masters.

I’ve reached an agreement with a development company to port my Jazz Master Savvt AI to my Music Savvt web site. For thew moment, I will make it free, requiring only a registration. If you are already registered, just sign in and ask it questions about jazz.

I expect it to be on my site sometime around April 1. In the meantime, take a look at another freebee you can access from your account login/registration: Groovz Playground.

I’m getting some good feedback on it so check it out. Here’s another example when I asked how to become a better improviser

Experience the fun and speed of
improving your jazz improvisation!

Groovz Playground
backing tracks (FREE)

Pocket Jazz 60+ lesson
course ($47)

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Michael Lake

Trombonist, author, marketer, & tech guy

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