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Brent
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2021 8:26 am    Post subject: Changes in Teaching Jazz Reply with quote

Assuming the COVID pandemic will be ending, I wonder whether it will effect how some people study jazz, especially in the college setting.

Here's what I mean:

I do think there's a lot of great college teachers out there. That being said, there are some that, well, are not. From my own experience (for reference, I'm 49), I learned next to nothing about improv from any of the classes I took in college. I ended up doing my own thing, which in hindsight seems pretty consistent with how I see a lot of people teach at this time.

My point is: if I were of that age, I might be more selective regarding taking improv lessons, and not just sign up at the college I'm going to. The options you have now, thanks to the digital age we now live in, are far greater.
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HERMOKIWI
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2021 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Skill in jazz improvisation isn't exactly taught. It is more a process of learning through experience. About all a teacher can say is "Listen to this and play that." You don't learn improvisation out of a book. You learn only concepts from a book. Ultimately skill in improvisation comes from the student actually doing, doing and more doing based on listening, listening and more listening. As Clark Terry said, "Imitate, assimilate, innovate."

Here's a video of Marvin Stamm explaining the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY6CEeVT35M
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Billy B
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HERMOKIWI wrote:
Skill in jazz improvisation isn't exactly taught. It is more a process of learning through experience. About all a teacher can say is "Listen to this and play that." You don't learn improvisation out of a book. You learn only concepts from a book. Ultimately skill in improvisation comes from the student actually doing, doing and more doing based on listening, listening and more listening. As Clark Terry said, "Imitate, assimilate, innovate."

Here's a video of Marvin Stamm explaining the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY6CEeVT35M


I disagree. A good teacher will show you how to practice the fundamentals of improvisation. There is much more involved than "Listen to this and play that."
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mike ansberry
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 7:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like any skill, how well you can learn to improvise is limited by your innate talent level. But good instruction can help you make the most of your ability. I got my bachelors degree at a small local state college. I learned nothing about jazz whatsoever. I grew up listening to big band swing and wanted to be a jazz musician. So I went to North Texas. I played in the lab bands conducted by quality grad assistants. (I never got higher than the 6 O'Clock). I studied improvisation with Rich Matteson and Jack Peterson. I studied big band conducting and management with Leon Breedon.


These people were not able to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, but they gave me the tools to be the best that I can be. I have become a moderately competent improviser, a competent big band section player, and taught some middle school jazz bands that could knock your socks off.

Competent instruction matters.
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Richard III
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HERMOKIWI wrote:
Skill in jazz improvisation isn't exactly taught. It is more a process of learning through experience. About all a teacher can say is "Listen to this and play that." You don't learn improvisation out of a book. You learn only concepts from a book. Ultimately skill in improvisation comes from the student actually doing, doing and more doing based on listening, listening and more listening. As Clark Terry said, "Imitate, assimilate, innovate."

Here's a video of Marvin Stamm explaining the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY6CEeVT35M


So many thoughts, but I'll mention only one. I listened to the example of Mr. Stamm improvising. He sounded quite competent. He also sounded like most players who have studied the chords and rules of improvisation. He placed the notes appropriately. For me it sounded, like most people who know the rules of chords and improvisation, like all the others who follow those rules. I do not enjoy that style. It sounds clinical. But also, I don't enjoy that style of jazz. Yes, there is syncopation. There are chords that progress to resolution. But largely it sounds like just a bunch of "doodly doodly doo."

There is a thread on TB regarding learning all the scales and patterns before starting to improvise. For someone who can't hear, the clinical approach is probably needed. If you can hear and learn from hearing, you don't need that approach.
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HERMOKIWI
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Billy B wrote:
HERMOKIWI wrote:
Skill in jazz improvisation isn't exactly taught. It is more a process of learning through experience. About all a teacher can say is "Listen to this and play that." You don't learn improvisation out of a book. You learn only concepts from a book. Ultimately skill in improvisation comes from the student actually doing, doing and more doing based on listening, listening and more listening. As Clark Terry said, "Imitate, assimilate, innovate."

Here's a video of Marvin Stamm explaining the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY6CEeVT35M


I disagree. A good teacher will show you how to practice the fundamentals of improvisation. There is much more involved than "Listen to this and play that."


No. "Listen to this and play that" is exactly what you've described.

Did you need a grammar coach to teach you how to talk? No. You learned to talk by listening, imitating and assimilating. That's how Shakespeare learned to talk, too, and then Shakespeare did a lot of innovating.

Jazz improvisation is a language. You learn it by listening, imitating and assimilating. A teacher can help you along the way by suggesting things to listen to and things to play but ultimately, if you're going to be proficient, you learn to improvise instinctively by the same process you learned to talk instinctively.
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mm55
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HERMOKIWI wrote:
About all a teacher can say is "Listen to this and play that." You don't learn improvisation out of a book.

Although I can't claim to be a great jazz improviser, I've learned a whole lot from teachers who went well beyond simply, "Listen to this and play that." And I've also learned a bunch about jazz improvisation from books; for instance The Lydian Chromatic Concept by George Russell. Many historically important and influential improvisers learned a great deal from Russell, and it went well beyond "listen to this and play that."

There are many paths to learning improvisation. It makes no sense me, to deny the validity of a path just because I have not taken it.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mm55 wrote:
HERMOKIWI wrote:
About all a teacher can say is "Listen to this and play that." You don't learn improvisation out of a book.

Although I can't claim to be a great jazz improviser, I've learned a whole lot from teachers who went well beyond simply, "Listen to this and play that." And I've also learned a bunch about jazz improvisation from books; for instance The Lydian Chromatic Concept by George Russell. Many historically important and influential improvisers learned a great deal from Russell, and it went well beyond "listen to this and play that."

There are many paths to learning improvisation. It makes no sense me, to deny the validity of a path just because I have not taken it.


If you "learned a whole lot from teachers who went well beyond simply, 'Listen to this and play that'" and, as you say, you "can't claim to be a great jazz improvisor" then what they taught you was just concepts. They didn't teach you to improvise.

Improvising is doing, not knowing or talking about concepts. The musical world is filled with people who can explain theory and concepts who can't improvise with any degree of fluency. Book knowledge doesn't automatically translate to doing. You can be fluent in improvisation without knowing the technical aspects of chords or structure or even knowing the names of notes. Knowing the technicalities can be beneficial to players but "knowing" and "doing" are two separate things.

I'm not discounting the value of education. I'm just defining education as "education" and defining doing as "doing." You learn about improvisation through education. You learn to improvise by doing.
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mm55
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HERMOKIWI wrote:

If you "learned a whole lot from teachers who went well beyond simply, 'Listen to this and play that'" and, as you say, you "can't claim to be a great jazz improvisor" then what they taught you was just concepts.

Do you claim to be a great jazz improviser? Maybe I just set my standards of "greatness" high enough that my reach exceeds my grasp, and I consider a bit of self-effacing humility to be useful. Others may have lower standards, of course; their choice.
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Brent
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 1:21 pm    Post subject: improv Reply with quote

This debate often seems to delve into the idea of either learning improvisation via learning music theory (chords, scales, etc) or just learning by ear.

I don't think they're mutually exclusive. The masters can play what they hear, but also hear what they play. They all seem to start the same way, which is listening to a ton of records, playing along, and learning solos. The masters, like Chet Baker, somehow have an ability to not only hear chord changes, but also have an ability to hear how players are able to navigate those chord changes. Chet famously claimed to have absolutely no idea what the chord changes were, and also claimed to know nothing about theory. I've transcribed his solos, and looked at a ton of them: his solos completely reflected the chord changes. He knew the bop language, albeit in a more simplified way (that's NOT a criticism of Chet's playing, by the way).

The vast majority of players do not have that level ear playing. They still listened all the time, and used their ear to maybe figure out melodies, and figure out solos. This is where I think having a good teacher would be helpful: if their student starts transcribing solos, they can help them analyze the language of the that solo, and how those students can apply that to their own playing. That being said, transcribing solos is also helpful, it helps develop your ear, and helps you understand the harmonic language of jazz.

The best book that helped me learn was this: https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Jazz-Language-Developing-Improvisor/dp/157623875X

It teaches jazz as a language, and not just learning scales or licks.
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Billy B
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Changes in Teaching Jazz Reply with quote

Brent wrote:
Assuming the COVID pandemic will be ending, I wonder whether it will effect how some people study jazz, especially in the college setting.

Here's what I mean:

I do think there's a lot of great college teachers out there. That being said, there are some that, well, are not. From my own experience (for reference, I'm 49), I learned next to nothing about improv from any of the classes I took in college. I ended up doing my own thing, which in hindsight seems pretty consistent with how I see a lot of people teach at this time.

My point is: if I were of that age, I might be more selective regarding taking improv lessons, and not just sign up at the college I'm going to. The options you have now, thanks to the digital age we now live in, are far greater.


It's a two sided coin. If a student is attending a college with incompetent faculty, he may be ahead to seek out competent help, either in person or virtually, provided the student even knows the difference.

However, the internet has also allowed any idiot to be an expert.
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Billy B
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There have been many great Jazz improvisation teachers over the years who have produced some great players. If you are a young student reading this thread, remember the legacy of teachers such as David Baker, Jerry Coker, Dan Haerle, and Jamey Aebersold just to name a few. Their students are a who's who of great Jazz artists. They didn't become that way by just listening to great players. They studied and practiced long hours in a manner prescribed by their mentors. Ask Randy Brecker if David Baker made a difference in his life. To poo poo a structured Jazz education is ignorant, short sighted, and not only a great disservice to the craft but an insult to the afore mentioned pioneers in Jazz education.
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Richard III
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pred·i·cate nom·i·na·tive
nounGRAMMAR
a word in the nominative case that completes a copulative verb, such as son in the sentence Charlie is my son.

I never studied English to include predicate nominative. It is amazing that I can even construct a sentence with such a deficient education.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard III wrote:
HERMOKIWI wrote:
Skill in jazz improvisation isn't exactly taught. It is more a process of learning through experience. About all a teacher can say is "Listen to this and play that." You don't learn improvisation out of a book. You learn only concepts from a book. Ultimately skill in improvisation comes from the student actually doing, doing and more doing based on listening, listening and more listening. As Clark Terry said, "Imitate, assimilate, innovate."

Here's a video of Marvin Stamm explaining the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY6CEeVT35M


So many thoughts, but I'll mention only one. I listened to the example of Mr. Stamm improvising. He sounded quite competent. He also sounded like most players who have studied the chords and rules of improvisation. He placed the notes appropriately. For me it sounded, like most people who know the rules of chords and improvisation, like all the others who follow those rules. I do not enjoy that style. It sounds clinical. But also, I don't enjoy that style of jazz. Yes, there is syncopation. There are chords that progress to resolution. But largely it sounds like just a bunch of "doodly doodly doo."

There is a thread on TB regarding learning all the scales and patterns before starting to improvise. For someone who can't hear, the clinical approach is probably needed. If you can hear and learn from hearing, you don't need that approach.


You are dissing Marvin Stamm? Seriously?
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Richard III
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
You are dissing Marvin Stamm? Seriously?


What part of I don't like that style of music or improv wasn't clear? He is playing that style fine.

Jazz that is structured as chord progressions with improv based on the chords is what I find lacking.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 5:46 pm    Post subject: jazz Reply with quote

I was hoping this wouldn't turn negative.

I do think there's players that can improvise by just using their. I brought up Chet Baker. Marvin Stamm apparently did that as well. I heard him in a master class in 1995. He admitted early on, he had no idea about harmony in the context of jazz improv, but he was good enough to play in Stan Kenton's band, as well as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. He obviously has an incredible ear.

I do think, though, that people who can do that are exceedingly rare. I've checked out interview after interview with pros, who talk about using their ear to learn melodies, or learn solos. They were using their, but they still eventually moved onto transcribing and studying solos. Tom Harrell immediately comes to mind: in a recent interview, he talked about spending his 8th grade transcribing solos, scouring music store to find books about theory and harmony, and was arranging charts for his 8th grade band. (Side note: that don't sound my 8th grade years!)

As I said earlier: they can play what they hear, and hear what they play.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many of the most innovative giants of the idiom put considerable thought and effort into understanding and internalizing theory. We do the music and the players a great disservice if we ignore the study, effort, and intellect from which so much of this music comes. It’s learned like a language but it’s also studied like a language. Great speakers or writers are often, but not always, well educated in the things that makes language tick. Likewise, great jazz players are often, but not always, well educated in the building blocks of jazz.

Many (most?) of the great players of the current and previous generation are a product of the jazz education system that has built up. We interact with music so differently than we did in the golden age of jazz, so comparisons are difficult, but the number of great and innovative players today is astounding and a testament to jazz education.

To the OP’s original framework, the pandemic has forced us to become comfortable with remote interactions. Students and teachers might feel more free to continue this practice. On the other hand, music, particularly improvised music, is so communal and interactive that I think the changes will mostly be on the margins. Teachers and players are no doubt more open to remote work, but we’re still a product of our musical community and that doesn’t fully translate over the screen. You can learn a lot from a remote teacher, but the application needs live people communicating like real people. The virtual ensemble trend has been an education, but it has its limitations.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:28 pm    Post subject: jazz Reply with quote

JoseLindE4:

Thanks you bringing it back to my original focus!


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Online teaching is very effective at conveying information. There is a lot of information one needs to internalize (which is different than merely “knowing”) to be a fluent jazz improviser in modern idioms. So, online learning does this well. However, a large part of learning to improvise jazz is an experiential learning process. This is far less effective online, although some people are starting to figure it out.

The final stages of musical growth need to be experiential. This includes jamming as well as being in a band playing alongside an elder mentor. Unfortunately, even before the pandemic this traditional way of learning jazz was not easy to fit in the academic culture and structure of most music schools. Would Wayne Shorter have learned the same things from Blakey or Miles if they had stood in front of him and told him about his playing?
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HERMOKIWI wrote:


Did you need a grammar coach to teach you how to talk? No. You learned to talk by listening, imitating and assimilating. That's how Shakespeare learned to talk, too, and then Shakespeare did a lot of innovating.


You don't learn music or jazz as you learn your mother tongue, that is mainly while you're growing up, ages 0-6. Ok, a few do, but those are really rare birds.

It's more appropriate to compare the learning of jazz improvisation to how you learn a second language. By start you're the same age, as when you're supposed to learn or study jazz.

Now, talking about grammar studies and me being a second language teacher, the main thing to remember is that students learn the best DIFFERENTLY. Some need to study grammar so that they have fundamentals they can work from, consciously. Those learn almost nothing from listening only. Others learn from listening and talking only and just get confused by grammar and the study of grammar even stops them from evolving. Most people are somewhere inbetween. One cannot say that any of the extremes are more talented, they may both reach fluency and even equilibrism equally fast.

If the pandemic and the growing opportunity to find online teaching can help students to get the teaching that helps them the best... Well, I really hope so! If jazz students are allowed to learn differently they will reach different aspects of virtuosity. That will make listening to them much more fun!
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