[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,
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?
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
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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