[Harp-L] offlist conversation given permission to post on the "L"

In a message dated 6/1/2007 8:27:33 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
rmcgraw@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:

wouldn't  the best way to really
understand LWs [or Toots orStevie's, etc] mindset be  to at least
study--not neccesarily memorize--his solos? After all, a  musical
statement is a kind of thought; really understanding someone's  thought
is a key to their mindset, etc?
WVa  Bob

All I'm trying to do is switch the focus from "memorize solos" (a la  Filisko 
and just about every other teacher) to exploring and understanding  
creativity. It is a broader subject than any artist's creative mindset - it  is the 
ability to create itself, of which Little Walter would be a subset, as is  Big 
Walter, Sonny Boy, Kim Wilson, etc. My approach is new. I've found that,  since 
everyone else spent years memorizing solos, there is resistance to the  idea 
that an alternative approach is faster and/or valid.
Basically, it is done through three steps:
1. Understand a groove and be able to "attach" yourself to it. (The old  
Church of the Sacred Hut-tah Hut-tah concept)
2. Understand your instrument and know how to breathe life into the notes  
and know where they live (this includes my minimilist approach to muscle tension 
 and relaxation - no excess use of any body part or muscle to create the 
sound).  Here is repetition and muscle memory.
3. Understand the form of the music - in blues, this begins with 12 bar -  
and starts with separating the turn-around from the rest of the form, dealing  
with the turnaround first  and then filling in the first 8 bars with simple  
ideas of notes and space.
Once again, it is very difficult to reveal everything by typing words, but  
this will give you an outline of what I do. Then, I deal with the individual 
and  work around removing old habits, slowing them down, teaching them to listen 
as  they play, and giving them the confidence to trust in the groove and 
follow the  melody - one note does suggest the next one, which suggests the next 
one,  etc.
Then, one can listen to Little Walter and start to understand how he dealt  
with, say, a turnaround, a motif with variations, an intro, working an idea 
out.  This is different than memorizing his notes. Of course, most students will 
find  pieces or parts of solos that really excite them. At this point, it 
becomes  easier for the student to transcribe, because they can actually 
understand how  the notes played (by Little Walter) connect with the groove, depart 
from the  groove, echo a previous idea, spin out in a long line, etc. The 
students begin  to create their own voice within 6 months and gain the confidence to 
use it to  speak their simple (at first) sentences. This is, by far, different 
than  memorizing a solo and all the angst that goes with trying to mimic and 
recreate  it - note for note - in front of others, with the scary possibility 
looming that  at any given moment the attachment to this cut and paste job can 
snap and they  will be left standing naked in front of the audience.
So you see, I'm not discounting the value in studying the solos of others.  
I'm merely suggesting that, rather than spending so much time memorizing solo  
after solo, change the focus towards building confidence through  
understanding the creative process as it applies to each student, no matter what  their 
level, and then let them create.

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