Did you know? Robert Fripp - The Amazing Guitarist

Robert Fripp, the amazing guitarist (and 8): Fripp’s Musical Legacy

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    Robert Fripp, the amazing guitarist (and 8): Fripp’s Musical Legacy

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    In a sense, Fripp’s musical identity is as elusive as his personality. “Schizoid Man” indeed – for the titan of screaming distorted rock guitar was also the merry prankster of Giles, Giles and Fripp and “Ladies of the Road”; the avant-garde jazz enthusiast of “Groon,” collaborator with Keith Tippett, did double duty as the ambient-music landscape architect of Evening Star, fellow artiste of Eno; the classical British progressive rocker of Lizard and Islands metamorphosed into the new wave savant, with Exposure, Blondie, and the League of Gentlemen; the initiated member of the white brotherhood of soul, closing ranks with Daryl Hall, David Bowie, and David Byrne, found himself feminist fellow-traveler with the Roches; the devoted Les Paul technophile of Frippertronics, the minimalist world music/gamelan conductor of the 1980s King Crimson, became the uncompromising champion of new acoustic guitar music with The League of Crafty Guitarists.

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    Our schizoid man has been continually inventive in his use of what traditional analysts call music’s “elements” or “parameters”: form, rhythm, harmony, timbre, and melody:


    Fripp has always shown a refreshingly empirical approach to problems of unity, diversity, and coherence in musical arguments – concocting novel, unusual forms out of respect for the demands of the unique musical situation, for the specific piece, rather than simply pouring melodic and harmonic content into pre-existing song-form molds, as happens so often in popular music and traditional jazz.

    Though sheer length is in itself certainly no indication of musical virtue, the successful articulation of large-scale forms can be one indication of compositional vision, and here Fripp has been from time to time sufficiently convincing – as in the raga-like melodic elaborations of “No Pussyfooting,” the sonatoid clarity of “Starless,” and the sustained album-length epic musical poetry of Exposure.


    Fripp is among those rare rock musicians – Frank Zappa and Paul Simon also come to mind – who have relentlessly battered away at the tyranny of four: four beats to the measure, and four measures to the phrase, that is. Odd, complex, shifting, and overlapping meters churn and surge through most of his albums, beginning with the first bars of “Schizoid Man.”
    Harmony. Fripp’s relationship to harmony presents itself as a curious mixture of naïveté and sophistication. On the one hand, many of his earlier pieces exhibit ordinary, stock chord progressions – banal if often ingeniously voiced.

    On the other hand, he has explored a variety of linear modal and whole-tone/tritonic tonal structures, and, particularly with King Crimson IV, the kind of block-shifting harmony described in Chapter 9. The fierce linear counterpoint may derive from Bartok; the block-shifting approach to harmony may come straight out of Stravinsky. I am not completely convinced that Fripp has ever come to terms with the gravitational power of functional tonality.

    That is, I’m not sure he really understands harmony in the sense that Bach or Beethoven understood it: as a force of paramount importance in the articulation of phrases, cadences, climaxes, and large forms. On some composed pieces on Red, and in some of his later music, tonality is not so much engaged with as sidestepped, structural articulation being achieved through other harmonic, textural, rhythmic, and orchestrational means.


    From the beginning, Fripp has shown a creative and unpredictable approach to orchestration and texture – witness the variety of sheer sounds in the albums all the way from In the Court of the Crimson King to Get Crafty. Along with this studied concern for timbral interest goes a formidable production control, allied with a concerted effort to make even studio-produced recordings sound as believably live as possible – enormous dynamic range, and, all things considered, an absolute minimum of electronic “tricks” (excessive reverb, compression, overdubbing, sound effects, artificially spread-out stereo mixes, and so on.). Unlike his friend Brian Eno, Fripp emphatically does not use the recording studio as a compositional tool: he uses it in an effort to capture the feeling amongst real musicians playing in real time.


    Even if some elements of Fripp’s guitar style were in place as early as The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp – tasteful chordal punctuations, a capacity to play very fast, and a fascination with the noise potential of electric guitar – his playing has matured and deepened beautifully over the years. There is Fripp the power-chord thrasher (King Crimson III), Fripp the delicate acoustic guitarist (Guitar Craft), Fripp the gamelan pointillist (King Crimson IV), Fripp the colorist (with Andy Summers), Fripp the long-sustained-note modal melodist (Frippertronics), and Fripp the jagged linear contrapuntist (all periods).

    From the outset, you knew Fripp had at his disposal an almost superhuman set of chops. The question with Fripp was never, could he dazzle and stun his audience with amazing displays of speed and virtuosity? Everyone took that for granted from the beginning. The question has always been, rather, how to coax music out of those killer licks, how to put all that athletic technique at the service of a higher inspiration, in a particular band or other music-making situation. Fripp has faced the same dilemma as John McLaughlin: now that I can play anything I want to, just exactly what do I want to play, and why? And I suppose it must be said that at times both musicians have succeeded in answering such questions to the satisfaction of themselves and their audiences, and at other times they have failed.

    In Fripp’s case, the success stories include, for instance, the “Sailor’s Tale” solo on Islands and the twenty-minute rhapsody of “The Heavenly Music Corporation” on No Pussyfooting – both pieces requiring, when you think about it, not so much in the way of technical virtuosity as sheer inspiration and the ability to listen.

    One of the pass defenders on the Cincinnati Bengals, the team that was to play the San Francisco Forty-Niners in the 1989 Super Bowl, bragged to the sports media that he could run the fifty-yard dash significantly faster than the Niners’ star receiver, Jerry Rice. Rice responded to the taunts by saying, “This ain’t no track meet – this is football.” In the game, Rice made a fool of the defender with his subtle maneuvers: speed was no match for artistry. San Francisco won the Super Bowl, and Rice the Most Valuable Player award.

    In his mature years, the eighteenth-century composer Joseph Haydn, speaking ruefully of his youthful compositions, said, “I thought then that everything was all right if only the paper was chock-full of notes.” (Hughes, Haydn, 1970) The twentieth-century Viennese musical revolutionary Arnold Schoenberg was onto something similar: he said, “Rests always sound well!” (Reich, Schoenberg, 1971) Fripp is aware that when you can play anything, the challenge is to know what not to play. One, two, or three notes are often more expressive than ten, twenty, or thirty.

    This is one of the meanings that can be read into his aphorism, “Honor sufficiency.” (GC Aphorisms Monograph) Fripp may have been thinking along these lines when he used an athletic metaphor in a 1989 interview: “It may be that the visual appeal of the Tai Chi master is not equal in appeal to the heavyweight [boxing] contest. But I would prefer to see a Tai Chi master do nothing, superbly. I can see the appeal of two large men attacking each other, but only just.” (Drozdowski 1989, 31)

    Fripp as Composer and Improviser

    I said earlier that music, in a specific sense of the word, can be improvised, whereas composition, in a specific sense, cannot. For reasons I shall now attempt to explain, I have come to regard Fripp as more important for his qualities as a musician than for his talent as a composer. To begin with, Fripp himself has repeatedly complained that his best music has never been put on record – despite, I might add, over twenty years of ample opportunities to do so. What he means, I think, when he says his best music has never been recorded, is that the special quality arising from direct contact between musician and audience in a live performance is inevitably missing from a recorded account of the event. As we have seen, that special quality is for Fripp more important than the sound itself, and may be fully present even if what is happening musically – that is, compositionally – is “a real turkey.”

    For Fripp, that special quality of human contact is the primary substance, is the “music”; the organization of the sounding materials – the “composition” – is a secondary vehicle. This position does not satisfy that part of me which subscribes to the idea that some musical compositions are inherently more interesting, true, valuable, rewarding, and profound than others. This part of me, for better or for worse, is bound to argue that there is more genuine harmonic interest – a deeper revelation of tonal relationships – in almost any short twelve-measure four-part chorale by Bach than in many an extended King Crimson piece; more timbral vitality and nuance in Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun than in many an electronic Fripp soundscape; more rhythmic drive at the service of convincing formal architecture in Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” than in any Fripp piece based on polymetrical procedures, no matter how complicated.

    And if earlier I called Exposure Fripp’s Sergeant Peppers, I am bound to say that in the final analysis it doesn’t quite measure up. Why? Because its control over all the elements of composition is not as complete. Thus one answer to the question of why King Crimson IV, as Fripp put it, never “found a way of putting [their best music] on record,” is that the pieces, as compositions, were simply not good enough. (DeCurtis 1984, 23)

    If it appears fatuous to compare Fripp’s compositional efforts to the canon of Western musical masterpieces, I might respond, polemically, that he asked for it. The historian in me finds some of his remarks about the art music tradition smug, self-serving, ill-informed, and unnecessarily inflammatory – destined, if not quite intentionally, to turn many young musicians away from a careful study of the tradition – a study which, I happen to believe, many young musicians with rock and the contemporary popular music industry as their sole reference point sorely need.

    I might respond, more neutrally, that what I am really after is a clarification of what Fripp is after, and that what he is after is ultimately not the production of compositions as such, but rather the cultivation of a certain set of relationships between music, musicians, and audience. Every now and then he cuts through the obfuscation of his own theorizing and hits the nail on the head: “Whether Orlando Gibbons excites you, Japanese Koto classics make you foam at the mouth, Hendrix bites your bippy or the Sex Pistols had you on your feet gobbing, whatever it is, you know you’re alive for that moment.” (Dery 1985, 56)

    It could be argued that we simply do not need more towering compositional masterpieces so much as we need enlightened instruction as to the inner meaning of music as a human experience: how to be able to use music to come alive. And it is precisely such instruction which Fripp, in his difficult, idiosyncratic way, has over the years endeavored to provide.

    Priest or Pythagoras

    The connections between rock music and the religious impulse are so multifarious that whole books have been written on the subject – see, for instance, Davin Seay and Mary Neely’s Stairway to Heaven: The Spiritual Roots of Rock’n’Roll. African tribal music, New World Christianity, voodoo, blues, gospel, Bible Belt country music, R&B, rock and roll: it’s all a continuous circuit. In a chapter titled “Hear That Long Snake Moan” in his book Shadow Dancing in the U.S.A., Michael Ventura dwells on the voodoo connection. Voodoo, a volatile blending of tribal rites and Christian symbolism, was, in Ventura’s words, “a metaphysical achievement as great as … the building of Chartres or the writing of the Bhagavad-Gita … These people built their cathedrals and wrote their scripture within their bodies, by means of a system that could be passed from one generation to the next. That system was rhythm.” (Ventura, 115) Ventura goes on to portray the rise of rock and roll as the revenge of a spirituality of the body that white mainstream religion had done everything in its power to suppress.

    Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Eric Clapton – the list of major popular performers influenced at one time or another by religious ideas goes on and on. Beyond such clear-cut cases, one could compare the contemporary musical landscape to an ideological geography of tribal affiliations – each tribe with its own slant on the truth, its own icons and heroes, whether it’s the Grateful Dead tribe, the Barry Manilow tribe, the hardcore punk tribe, the New Age tribe, the academic/straight tribe, the jazz tribe, the dance club tribe, the inner city tribe, the Guitar Craft tribe, or any other tribe. Each of these tribes, with their rituals and mythologies, does what any effective religion does: they help give their members an identity, defining their place in the cosmos – against other tribes perhaps inevitably, but most decisively against the ever-present threat of existential meaninglessness, chaos, non-being.

    Fripp strove with his demons through King Crimson, and had himself photographed more or less as a priest for the cover of The League of Crafty Guitarists – Live! He has linked Gurdjieff’s idea of conscious labor and intentional suffering with the Christian Orthodox idea of spiritual pain. (Milkowski 1985, 17) He has called himself a monk of the musical world (Dery 1985, 56), and has written of Indian classical music and European medieval music as attempts to “quieten the mind to render it more susceptible to divine influences.” (Fripp 1981B, 41) And then there is the whole body of Guitar Craft teaching, and Fripp’s central role in the school.

    In Fripp’s case, perhaps more cogent than comparisons to conventional religion would be to go back to a time when the world was, in some ways, very much younger than it is now. Around the sixth century before the birth of Jesus Christ, an historically unparalleled group of spiritual leaders walked the earth, probably unknown to each other, but working as if from a common source of collective energy to transform mankind’s destiny: in Palestine, various prophets communicating the word of God to Israel; in Persia, Zoroaster, founder of the Persian religion; in India, Gautama, the Buddha; in China, Confucius and Lao-Tze; founder of Taoism. And at precisely this time in Greece, classical Western philosophy was being born. It is difficult to regard this uncanny series of upheavals in consciousness as related soley by accidental chronological coincidence.

    Pythagoras (c. 582 – c. 507 B.C.) left no writings that have survived; yet scholars, using secondary sources beginning with Plato, have pieced together a tantalizing image of this seminal figure traditionally regarded as the father of philosophy.

    Pythagoras is best known for two doctrines: the transmigration of souls (a concept with striking similarities to Eastern concepts of reincarnation), and the conviction that all things are numbers (a belief that seems to take on new significance in this age of quantum physics, the genetic code, and the digitization of all information, including music).

    For Pythagoras there was no separation between religion and science, music and number. Applying mathematics to the study of musical intervals, he discovered that the Greek scale could be derived from proportions involving only the numbers 1 to 4. The most fundamental interval of music, the octave, was represented by the most fundamental of all number relationships, 1:2 (a vibrating string and half its length). The perfect fifth turned out to signify the ratio 2:3 (a vibrating string and two-thirds of its length); and archetypal relationship 3:4 translated musically into the perfect fourth. The fifth minus the fourth yielded the whole tone.

    (Anyone with a guitar and tape measure can easily replicate Pythagoras’ epochal experiments. The series continues: 4:5 is a major third, 5:6 and 6:7 are species of minor thirds, then come the seconds. It was not until the early eighteenth century that the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau discovered that the Pythagorean interval ratios corresponded to the acoustical harmonics of vibrating objects.)

    Fripp, as should be evident by this point, fully embraces the idea of connections between numbers and musical relationships, seeing in such connections a sort of objective mathematics revealing a key to the order of the divine cosmos. Pythagoras is reputed to be the first to call the world kosmos, a word which, according to the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for Pythagoras combined “in an untranslatable way the notion of orderly arrangement or structural perfection with that of beauty … By studying this order, we reproduce it in our own souls, and philosophy becomes an assimilation to the divine, as far as that is possible within the limitations imposed by our mortal bodies.” (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 7, p. 38)
    Fripp has mentioned Pythagoras from time to time in interviews. One such occasion was in his Musician account of the League of Gentlemen tour, when he wrote of the Rouens Cathedral that so impressed him: “Here I am again sitting in front of this symphony in architecture, but tone-deaf … In terms of Western culture the mathematics of music were explored by Pythagoras … This cathedral expressed, in mathematical propositions, combinations of proportions and distances of a form of universal order.” (Fripp 1980E, 34)

    Fripp is but one of thousands of Western musicians who have gone back to Pythagoras for the source of their numerological speculations and historical validation of their intuitive insights. Pythagoras did more, however, than work out cosmic mathematics. Having migrated from his native Samos to Crotona, he founded a secret society with aims religious, political, and philosophical. The society’s rites had much in common with the Orphic Mysteries – a cult founded, according to legend, by the celebrated musician Orpheus, devoted follower of Dionysus, god of fertility and wine. Pythagoras’ society had an ascetic element, and his followers performed various purification rites. Believers were bound to strict rules of moral conduct and dietary practice – eating of meat was forbidden, respect for animals cultivated. The belief in the transmigration of souls led to an equal respect for both sexes, rare in the ancient world. It appears that the dearth of writings by Pythagoras himself and his immediate disciples was due to a rule of secrecy: like Gurdjieff, and like Fripp, Pythagoras was wary of freezing a living teaching into mere writ.
    Pythagoreanism, thus, was not primarily an abstract doctrine: it was a school of practice, a group of followers initiated into a certain way of life, a league of adherents to Pythagoras’ ideas – ideas said to have been born of visions bursting into the teachers’ awareness, revelations of the whole cosmic system.

    Although no stranger to phenomena transcending irrational experience (I once fancied I felt the ghost of Gurdjieff floating up near the ceiling in the corner of a room), I scarcely wish to proclaim Robert Fripp a reincarnation of Pythagoras. But in broad terms the parallels between Pythagoreanism and Guitar Craft seem clear enough: philosophy as a way of doing things, a way of life; the emphasis on music and number as purveyors of absolute, objectively existing truth; the suspicion of written (and other recorded) media; the importance of right practice in moral conduct; the esoteric and ascetic atmosphere; the creation of workable channels for the religious impulse, fusing original ideas with elements of tradition – whether the Orphic Mysteries and ancient Greek mythology or the Gurdjieff system and Asian and Indonesian approaches to musicianship.

    Today the word “philosophy,” at least in its academic setting, may carry certain connotations – abstruse ideas detached from life, linguistic research, sheer abstract thought, mere logic, an absence of compelling ethical insight in a world faced with abundant and momentous ethical dilemmas in medicine, international relations, genetic research, women’s rights, global population, ecology, and other areas. Much twentieth-century academic composed music – with its emphasis on formal structure at the expense of sound and accessibility, its tendency to grapple with head rather than soul issues – presents a curious parallel to the way branches of modern philosophy have become increasingly solipsistic.

    In ancient times, philosophy – and tradition grants Pythagoras first use of the term – meant precisely what its roots implied: love (philos) of wisdom (sophia). I suggest, simply, that it makes sense to view Fripp as a philosopher in the original sense of the word.

    As early as 1980, Fripp wrote: “In the West, where we lack the tradition of objective art, those touched by the ‘otherness’ of music are groping intuitively to find and express this in terms of our own cultural traditions, such as jazz, rock and electronic music … It is my conviction that music has the capacity to radically change far more of ourselves and ‘the world’ than we ordinarily believe.” (Fripp 1980D, 33)

    Fripp Discography

    How “popular” is/was the music of Robert Fripp and King Crimson? Not overwhelmingly, to judge from an informal analysis of data in Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums. The only Crimson albums ever to make it into the Billboard Top 40 were In the Court of the Crimson King (highest point reached #28) and In the Wake of Poseidon (highest point #31). In the Court of the Crimson King is the only Fripp or Crimson record to have been certified gold (500,000 units sold) by the RIAA. By way of contrast, eight of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s albums between 1971 and 1978 hit the Top 40 and have been certified gold. (Whitburn’s data reflects of course only the American situation.)
    The discography that follows includes Fripp’s major recorded efforts, but is not to be considered an exhaustive listing.

    King Crimson

    In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson. 1969.
    In the Wake of Poseidon. 1970.
    Lizard. 1970.
    Islands. 1971.
    Earthbound. 1972.
    Larks’ Tongues in Aspic. 1973.
    Starless and Bible Black. 1974.
    Red. 1974.
    U.S.A. 1975.
    The Young Persons’ Guide to King Crimson. 1976.
    Discipline. 1981.
    Beat. 1982.
    Three of a Perfect Pair. 1984.

    Fripp Solo Albums and Primary Collaborations

    Giles, Giles and Fripp: The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp. 1968.
    Fripp and Eno: No Pussyfooting. 1973.
    Fripp and Eno: Evening Star. 1975.
    Fripp: Exposure. 1979.
    Fripp: “Silent Night” a la Frippertronics [Flexi-disk in Praxis 3 (Dec. 1979).]
    Fripp: God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners. 1981.
    Robert Fripp and the League of Gentlemen: Robert Fripp/the League of Gentlemen. 1981.
    Fripp: Let the Power Fall: An Album of Frippertronics. 1981.
    Summers and Fripp: I Advance Masked. 1982.
    Summers and Fripp: Bewitched. 1984.
    Fripp: Network. 1984.
    Robert Fripp and the League of Gentlemen: Robert Fripp and the League of Gentlemen/God Save the King. 1985.
    Fripp: Easter Sunday [Tear-out Soundpage in Guitar Player 20 (Jan. 1986).]

    Guitar Craft

    Robert Fripp and The League of Crafty Guitarists: Live! 1986.
    Toyah and Fripp, featuring the League of Crafty Guitarists: The Lady or the Tiger? 1986.
    The League of Crafty Guitarists: Get Crafty I. 1988.
    Fripp: How I Became a Professional Guitarist. 1988.


    Keith Tippett: Blueprint. 1971.
    Keith Tippett: Ovary Lodge. 1972.
    Matching Mole: Matching Mole’s Little Red Record. 1972.
    Keith Tippett’s Centipede: Septober Energy. 1974.
    John G. Bennett: tapes of various lectures.
    Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel [II]. 1978.
    Daryl Hall: Sacred Songs. 1980.
    The Roches: The Roches. 1980.
    The Roches: Keep On Doing. 1982.
    Elan Sicroff: Journey to Inaccessible Places and Other Music (Music by George Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann.) Produced by R.F. and Tony Arnold. 1985.
    Keith and Julie Tippett: Couple in Spirit. (Mixed by R.F.) 1988.

    Contributions to Other Recordings

    Van der Graaf Generator: H to He Who Am the Only One. 1970.
    Van der Graaf Generator: Pawn Hearts. 1971.
    Colin Scott: Colin Scott. 1971.
    Peter Hammill: Fool’s Mate. 1972.
    Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets. 1973.
    Brian Eno: Another Green World. 1975.
    Brian Eno: Before and After Science. 1977.
    Brian Eno: Music for Films. 1978.
    Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel [I]. 1977.
    David Bowie: “Heroes.” 1977.
    Blondie: Parallel Lines. 1978.
    Talking Heads: Fear of Music. 1979.
    David Bowie: Scary Monsters. 1980.
    Various artists: Miniatures – A Sequence of Fifty-One Tiny Masterpieces Edited by Morgan-Fisher. 1980.
    Flying Lizards: Fourth Wall. 1981.
    Various Artists: Recorder Three. 1981.
    David Sylvian: Alchemy – An Index of Possibilities. 1985.
    David Sylvian: Gone to Earth. 1986.

    Robert Fripp King Crimson and Guitar Craft (Film)

    Did you know? Musical Analysis

    Herbie Hancock: An Analysis of His Improvisional Style (3/3)

    Table of Contents

      Herbie Hancock: An Analysis of His Improvisional Style (2/3)

      Outside Triplet Sequences on “All of You”

      The following examples are from one of Hancock’s greatest recorded solos61 on Cole Porter’s “All of You”. On this particular recording, Hancock plays two complete choruses and then solos over a long “tag” section of iii-VI-ii-V changes in Eb (Gm7, C7, Fm7, Bb7). A few bars into this tag section, Hancock starts to spin triplet sequence after triplet sequence, creating long flowing lines of increasing and decreasing tension. Most of these sequences are based on simple two to four note scalar patterns which weave craftily through (and occasionally outside) the changes.

      Herbie Hancock sheet music

      In Figure 2.29, Hancock starts with a simple three note motif and sequences it upwards. He strays “outside” in beat 3 of bar 4 of this extract, playing an E major triad over the C7 (E major contains a Bnatural – the major seventh of C instead of the flattened or dominant seventh implied by the chord symbol). The clash is not overly offensive or dissonant to the ear due to the strength of the sequenced line in the previous bars.

      Herbie Hancock sheet music

      Later in the same solo, Hancock plays Figure 2.30 above. This extract contains multiple examples of sequences – this time Hancock starts with a simple two-note triplet pattern which he develops and uses to get outside the changes from beat 4 of bar 2. This ascends into the same type of four-note triplet pattern seen in previous examples, which gradually sequences its way down again.

      Once again, Hancock strays outside in the final bar of the extract. Shortly afterwards, Hancock plays Figure 2.31, again making use of a four-note pattern and again using it to get outside the changes in bar 3.

      herbie hancocok sheet music

      Hancock then plays:

      herbie hancocok sheet music

      Here, he starts with a three-note triplet pattern and again uses this concept to get outside the changes in bar 3. The example ends with simple melodic sequence of the type discussed in the previous section – the initial phrase is exactly transposed down a semitone. The type of block chords seen at the end of this example is strongly reminiscent of the technique popularized by pianist Red Garland – Miles Davis’ pianist from the previous decade.

      Extended Outside Triplet Sequences

      Most of the previous examples demonstrate Hancock playing “outside” for only short periods of time, before bringing a melody back in line with the chord changes. However, Hancock will also often spin long, often highly chromatic triplet sequences in which he seemingly disregards the underlying chord changes for an extended length of time.

      At the start of his second chorus on Wayne Shorter’s “Witch Hunt”, Hancock begins to spin a lengthy triplet sequence, using the intervals of a minor second and a fourth to dance in and out of the stagnant harmony of Cm7. This is particularly obvious in the final three bars of the figure, which contains one consistently descending line based on falling and rising fourths and semitones.

      herbie hancocok sheet music

      Hancock uses this same technique again as a sideman in Miles Davis’ quintet – this time he picks up on a triplet figure played by Tony Williams in the last few bars of Hancock’s first chorus, and uses this as a springboard into another long and highly chromatic phrase (see Figure 2.33).

      While not strictly exact melodic sequences, both of the previous examples are long rhythmic sequences and contain several distinct examples of sequenced melodic material – for example bars 3&4 and 7&8 of Figure 2.33 and bars 4 and 8&9 of Figure 2.34.

      Motif Development

      One of the qualities of a great improviser is the ability to develop and extend their melodic ideas. Similar to sequences, motivic development often involves repetition of an initial phrase which is subsequently built on in the following bars – a technique which adds a sense of logical structure to the solo. Hancock is a master at developing his motifs, which often stem from fairly simple starting phrases.

      Figure 2.35 is an example of this. Hancock starts out with a simple one note rhythmic idea and gradually adds further notes to develop the phrase, while still maintaining the original F as a tonal center.

      In the above example, Hancock takes a simple Gm7 arpeggio and repeats it over the course of 4 bars, creating beautiful melodic continuity through the harmony.

      Figure 2.37 on the following page is another example of motivic development – Hancock picks up on a melodic idea played by Miles Davis at the end of his solo and repeats it, maintaining the rhythm and contour but initially sequencing it up minor third.

      Similarly, in Figure 2.38, Hancock picks up on a three note phrase played by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, sequences it upwards for 6 bars before using it to springboard into the start of his second solo on the alternate take of “One Finger Snap”. An interesting point of focus in the first line is that the semibreves at the end of each phrase in bar 4, 6 and 8 are an exact retrograde of the initial phrase Hancock plays in bar 3. The final two bars of this extract also demonstrate another sequence, a pattern of an ascending semitone and a fourth which climbs up chromatically.

      In Figure 2.39, Hancock begins with a simple melodic motif, which he develops through the subsequent 11 bars.

      In Figure 2.40, Hancock starts with a triplet motif of notes grouped in threes, which is then sequenced down a third. He then continues to develop this idea in the subsequent measures by continuing the same three note-triplet theme while ascending through the associated scales of each chord (F melodic minor and Db Lydian dominant). This sort of development is an extremely effective way of building tension in a melodic line.

      Again in Figure 2.41, Hancock starts with a simple three note motif which gradually sequences upwards, before descending, again through the use of sequence. He then continues the motif into the third line of the example, and begins to imply a 3 over 4 cross rhythm in the last four bars – the final
      phrase starting in bar 3 of the third line repeats every 3 beats.

      Here, Hancock starts with a six note motif which he sequences down twice in the subsequent bars, before using the idea as a springboard into the next chorus of his solo. Of particular note here is Hancock’s extended use of chromaticism over the Ebmaj7 chord – he avoids landing on guide tones on the strong beats of the bar, which helps to propel the melodic line forward to its resolution at the start of the next chorus.

      Rhythmic Elements/Technical Virtuosity

      The title of this section refers more specifically to rhythmic devices used by Hancock – with a focus on phrases that display his remarkable technical facility.

      This extract from Hancock’s solo on “All of You” demonstrates his facility with double time.

      Here Hancock dances around the changes in scalar patterns, making extensive use of diminished and altered scales to modify the standard harmony while utilizing both semiquavers and semiquaver-triplets.
      Figure 2.44 is an extract from Hancock’s solo on “Circle”, a tune from Miles Davis’ album Miles Smiles (1966). In this example, Hancock executes another long passage of triplets and uses a triadic motif to quickly extend the phrase through 4 octaves.

      There a few areas of particular interest here: the first is Hancock begins the D major triadic motif in bar 5 of the figure and continues it through the Bbmaj7 in bar 7, reharmonizing the chord to Bbmaj7(#5). The second is the beat that is dropped at the start of the third line of the figure – the rhythm section adjusts immediately to the 2/4 bar, showing the group’s uncanny rapport and adaptation in support of the soloist. Hancock also finishes the long passage of triplets with another simple, scalar melodic sequence.

      Hancock also makes use of complicated rhythmic denominations, as seen in Figure 2.45 below. This example is taken from Hancock’s solo on “The Egg”, a compositional sketch in which the only stipulations are an initial piano ostinato and a melodic line played by the trumpet, before the piece descends into open, free improvisation.

      Miscellaneous Signature Characteristics

      Hancock also has several idiosyncratic phrases which he uses in a variety of different settings. The first of these is Hancock’s signature blues lick:

      This phrase, unique to Hancock, makes an appearance early his recorded output and continues to show up in various manifestations and situations into the late 60s – despite the juxtaposition between the phrase’s fairly blues orientated nature and the more contemporary vein of the music during that period (see Figure 2.47).

      Another signature characteristic of Hancock’s is his tendency to play his melodic lines in octaves. This either occurs in the middle of a phrase:

      Or at the start of a phrase and continuing for an extended period:

      In summary, Hancock’s melodic lines contain a range of signature characteristics, which contain devices that reflect both the wider jazz language and also Hancock’s unique approach to melodic line construction. While all the previous examples were examined taxonomically, Chapter 3 examines them within the context of a single solo.

      This analysis argues is that through the use of a range of signature characteristics, Herbie Hancock emerged in the early 1960s as a truly original artist. Drawing upon and the building on the developments made by his predecessors, Hancock was ones of small group of artists who brought jazz into the modern era, by demonstrating both strong command of the traditional jazz language and a powerfully explorative, individual voice.

      Best site for Jazz sheet music download is right here.

      Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage (Full Album)


      Herbie Hancock — piano

      Freddie Hubbard — trumpet

      George Coleman.

      Track List:

      1: maiden voyage 2: The Eye of the Hurricane 3: Little One 4: Survival of the Fittest 5: Dolphin Dance


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      Coker, J. (1991). Elements of the Jazz Language for the Developing Improvisor. Miami: Belwin, Inc.
      Coolman, T. F. (1997). The Miles Davis Quintet of the mid-1960’s: Synthesis of Improvisational and Compositional
      Elements. New York University.

      Coolman, T. F. (2006). Herbie Hancock & the Miles Davis Rhythm Section. Piano Today(26.1), 30-31.
      Davis, M., & Troupe, Q. (1989). Miles – The Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster.
      DiMartino, D. (1999). Herbie Hancock : He Continues to Lead Where Most Other Artists Are Content to Follow. Billboard – The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment, 111, 2-12.
      Dobbins, B. (1992). Herbie Hancock Classic Jazz Compositions and Piano Solos. Rottenberg: Advance Music.
      Gelfand, A. (2005). Almost Anything Goes: For Herbie Hancock, Jazz is All About Freedom and Personal Expression. JAZZIZ, 22, 36-38.
      Heinrich, D. (2006). Jimmy Smith and Larry Young – Blue Note Records’ Jazz Organ Masters: A Comparison of Style. Unpublished honours thesis, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

      Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2002). How Jazz Musicians Improvise. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19(3).
      Kart, L. (2000). The Avant-Garde, 1949-1967. The Oxford Companion to Jazz, 446-458.
      Levin, E. (1987, January 19). Herbie Hancock. People, 27, 64.
      Levine, M. (1989). The Jazz Piano Book. Petaluma, CA.: Sher Music Co.
      Levine, M. (1995). The Jazz Theory Book. Petaluma, CA.: Sher Music Co.
      Opstad, J. (2009). The Harmonic and Rhythmic Language of Herbie Hancock’s 1970s Fender Rhodes
      Solos. Jazz Perspectives, 3(1), 57-79.

      Perry, J. C. (2006). A comparative analysis of selected piano solos by Red Garland, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock from their recordings with the Miles Davis groups, 1955–1968. University of Miami.
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      Thompson, S., & Lehmann, A. C. (2004). Strategies for Sight Reading and Improvising Music. New York: Oxford University Press.
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      Waters, K. (2011). The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-1968. New York: Oxford University Press.
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      Did you know? Musical Analysis

      Jazz as individual expression: An analysis of The Fabulous Baker Boys soundtrack

      Jazz as individual expression: An analysis of The Fabulous Baker Boys soundtrack

      Table of Contents

        Adam Biggs, Bath Spa University

        Link to the original document.

        The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) by Kloves is a fictional account of a frustrated sibling piano duo who, in order to liven up their act, hire a singer. As well as a portrayal of sibling rivalry, the film is a study of the working jazz musician and the suppression and expression of individual identity. The film’s soundtrack, arranged, composed and performed by jazz pianist Dave Grusin, uses jazz standards and original thematic compositions that work as ‘ambi-diegetic cinemusical moments’ (Holbrook), which provide improvisatory contexts for the main character’s emerging individuality and his relationships with the other characters.

        This article identifies those compositions and using transcriptions, analyses the score in detail, revealing the melodic, harmonic, structural and improvisatory devices Grusin uses to convey the authority of a jazz ‘standard’, particularly by drawing on the work of Bill Evans and Miles Davis; and shows that these improvisational structures enable and act as a form of expression for the main character and his emerging individuality.

        The film takes its premise from The Fabulous Dorseys (1947) by Green, the biopic of the swing-era bandleaders the Dorsey Brothers, allowing this article to also consider the historical context of the film and the question of authenticity in both films, particularly through the parallel use of Art Tatum/Bill Evans as signifiers of ‘real jazz’ and Duke Ellington as a site of articulacy.


        Fabulous Baker Boys
        Dave Grusin

        Although an entirely fictional account of sibling rivalry, The Fabulous Baker Boys (Kloves, 1989) is loosely based on The Fabulous Dorseys (Green, 1947), the first Hollywood biopic of the swing era, and there are a number of parallels between the two films. Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey led a successful orchestra in the late 1920s and through the early to mid-1930s, and had a number of hit records.

        Their band included some of the top musicians of the day including Jack Teagarden (trombone), Eddie Lang (guitar), Glenn Miller (trombone) and Johnny Mercer (vocals). However, the Dorseys were famously argumentative. An article appearing in the Saturday Evening Post in 1946, entitled ‘The Battling Brothers Dorsey’ (English 1946), described the brothers as ‘violently different in their temperaments’, and that ‘the fabulous Dorseys have fought like Kilkenny cats’.

        The article goes on to describe Jimmy, the elder of the two brothers, as a shy individual, yet ‘vastly determined’ and as ‘a quiet perfectionist’, while the younger, Tommy Dorsey, was more aspirational and described by his mother as having the ‘gift o’ the gab’ and ‘always hustling’ (English 1946: 18). Eventually the squabbling and fighting became too much, and the Dorsey brothers famously went their separate ways on 30 May 1935 at the Glen Island Casino, New York.

        While leading the band, Tommy flew into a rage and stormed offstage after a comment from the elder Jimmy about the tempo of the tune ‘I’ll Never Say Never Again’ (English 1946: 18).1 Subsequently, they successfully led their own separate bands and each had a number of hit records. In July 1942, the Dorsey brothers’ father Thomas Dorsey died, and at the funeral the brothers reconciled their differences, according to the article, because their mother, Tess, told them to. Then in 1945, having reunited, they recorded a version of ‘More Than You Know’ for the V-Disc series2 (Sears 1980: 239). And in 1947, with producer Charles R. Rogers (English 1946: 82), they made The Fabulous Dorseys, in which the brothers played themselves.

        The Fabulous Dorseys depicts a Hollywood version of the Dorseys’ lives and careers. The film is a publicity vehicle for the brothers, two of the most highly paid musicians of the late 1940s. The film adheres to all the conventions and prejudices of its time, but today is mostly overlooked because of the successful biopics that followed it, such as The Glenn Miller Story (Mann,1954) and The Benny Goodman Story (Davies,1956).

        The Fabulous Baker Boys, although containing strong performances by the lead actors as lounge/jazz pianists (Vineberg 2004: 25), is even more neglected in jazz scholarship. For example, Gabbard, in his Jammin’ At The Margins: Jazz And The American Cinema, all but ignores the film, stating only that ‘in The Fabulous Baker Boys we know that Jeff Bridges is the more sensitive brother, at least in part because he has a picture of John Coltrane on his wall and because he plays jazz in a cellar with black musicians’ (Gabbard 1996: 228).

        The use of the film here, by Gabbard, to simply illustrate that the use of jazz in film ‘indicates that’ the ‘white protagonist ha[s] character’ (Gabbard 1996: 228), completely overlooks the many parallels between the two films and the ways in which first-time writer/director Steve Kloves and composer Dave Grusin manage to create a modern telling of this traditional jazz narrative. Which is achieved by Grusins’ use of specific melodic, harmonic, structural and improvisatory devices that convey the authority of the jazz tradition. These devices create the improvisational structures that then enable and act as a form of expression for the main character and his emerging individuality.

        The Fabulous Baker Boys are Frank and Jack Baker, a small-time professional piano duo who play mostly background music in venues around Seattle. In fact, the original screenplay states: ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys are a poor man’s version of Ferrante and Teicher’, who were a popular piano duo in the United States that specialized in easy listening music. They were active from the 1950s through until the late 1980s (Ferrante and Teicher 2012). Elder brother Frank (Beau Bridges) runs the business and, like the younger Tommy Dorsey, is the hustler. While younger brother Jack (Jeff Bridges), similar to the elder Jimmy Dorsey, is the quiet one, a talented and brooding musician.

        After the opening shot of two cars at a junction pulling away in opposite directions, suggesting a context of impermanence, the viewer is introduced to Jack Baker through a rather strained conversation with a woman (Terri Treas), still naked in bed, and we learn, as Jack finishes dressing, that even in this intimate situation he is withdrawn. His responses to the woman are monosyllabic, and he is clearly unable to ‘commit to anything, not even a conversation’. The solo piano introduction of the opening theme begins as the conversation draws to a close and Jack leaves the room. As the downbeat of the first chorus of ‘Main Title – Jack’s Theme’ is played, the scene changes to an outside view of the first floor room, which we discover is above a restaurant with a flickering neon sign.

        The familiar stereotypes of jazz are immediately present – odd hours, promiscuity, the juxtaposition of a tuxedo in slightly tarnished surroundings. And these stereotypical associations continue throughout the opening credits – signs for ‘Live Girls’, ‘Freedman’s Loans’, and as Jack passes the ‘Seattle Music’ store, he glances in – but as Sal Marquez on Harmon-muted trumpet begins the melody, it reinforces the modern setting of the opening scenes: this is not the swing era, we are post-1959. The influence of bebop, cool, modal, hard-bop and the dominance of Miles Davis are obvious. In fact, though never stated, the film was set in the present day.

        There are four versions of ‘Jack’s Theme’ throughout The Fabulous Baker Boys, each one providing an improvisatory context for the emerging individuality of the main character of Jack Baker; and in referencing the Miles Davis recording of Kind of Blue (1959), using various melodic, harmonic, structural, textural and improvisatory devices, composer Dave Grusin places the composition within the cool and hard-bop traditions. ‘Jack’s Theme’ has a 34 bar AB form, where A is 16 bars, and B is 18 bars.

        The key signature is D minor/F Major and the time signature is 6/4. And as well as the introduction, there is an interlude section, which is also used after the brief statement of the head out as a vamp for the coda and final fade. There is a fuller and different take on the original soundtrack recording, but the form is essentially the same – the trumpet plays the A section of the head and Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone plays the B section.

        Throughout the opening credits, Jack is alone. He makes his way through various streets capes, initially walking against the flow of traffic. He is an individual going his own way, and the association with the non-diegetic full quintet version of ‘Jack’s Theme’, including improvised solo sections, suggests to the viewer that this is the character of Jack Baker, in control, confident and cool. Of course, we soon discover this is not the case.
        We have already noted the instrumentation of Sal Marquez’s muted trumpet and Ernie Watts’ tenor saxophone. Both take turns playing the melody and swapping solos.

        They are backed by a rhythm section consisting of Dave Grusin on piano, Brian Bromberg on bass and Harvey Mason on drums. These are all stellar jazz musicians, given free rein to improvise, so in that sense the opening track suggests a genuine jazz score. But analysing ‘Jack’s Theme’ in detail reveals the various devices Grusin uses to convey the authority of a jazz ‘standard’ and a sense of the jazz tradition.

        For example, the piano introduction of ‘Jack’s Theme’ in Figure 1 is built on a phrase taken from bars 5 and 6 of the second chorus of the Bill Evans and Miles Davis composition ‘Blue In Green’ from the album Kind of Blue, and uses the opening three chords of ‘Blue in Green’– Gmi7, A7alt, Dmi – as the cadential progression into the top of the first chorus of ‘Jack’s Theme’.

        jazz sheet music
        Figure 1: ‘Main Title (Jack’s Theme)’ – Written by Dave Grusin, taken from Biggs’ The Fabulous Baker Boys Songbook (2007: 3).

        Second, the first four bars of the melody of ‘Jack’s Theme’ are a melodic development of the first four notes of ‘So What’ (Figure 2), and harmonically the opening eight bars of ‘Jack’s Theme’ are on a D minor pedal, following a modal structure also similar to ‘So What’.

        jazz sheet music
        Figure 2: Opening phrase of ‘So What’– by Miles Davis and opening four bars of ‘Jack’s Theme’ – by Dave Grusin.

        Third, the B section of ‘Jack’s Theme’ utilizes a chord progression where the chords function as I – V7sus4, moving through several transpositions – Abmi11 – Eb7sus4 to F#mi11 – C#7sus4, and on through Bmi9 – F#7sus4. This is similar to ‘Flamenco Sketches’, another Evans/Davis composition from Kind of Blue, which was developed from an earlier Bill Evans composition/improvisation ‘Peace Piece’ (1958). Evans took the progression from ‘Some Other Time’ by Leonard Bernstein (Pettinger 1998: 68). The influence of Bill Evans on Miles Davis around the time of the Kind of Blue recording sessions is well documented (Pettinger 1998:71). But Evans is also a major influence on the sound and character of Jack Baker, and Kloves directly references ‘Peace Piece’ in relation to Jack in the screenplay (Kloves 1985). This influence is discussed in more detail later in the article.

        Melodically, harmonically and structurally, it is clear that ‘Jack’s Theme’ is reminiscent of certain aspects of Kind of Blue, but more than that the improvisatory language is very much within the same tradition. Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone takes the first solo and his rhythmic and melodic language includes semi-quavers, triplets, odd groupings, altered notes and unusual interval leaps as well as scalic runs; in contrast, Sal Marquez’s trumpet solo uses more space, blues notes and very strong melodic development, with both soloists stylistically in the tradition of John Coltrane and Miles Davis’ playing on Kind of Blue.

        By using these melodic, harmonic and structural elements, as well as the instrumentation, textures and improvisatory language of Kind of Blue, Grusin is able to contrast ‘Jack’s Theme’ with the music of the Dorsey Brothers and the swing era of the 1940s, and position ‘Jack’s Theme’ clearly within the cool and hard bop tradition. In short, Jack Baker is a jazz musician. But, while the visuals suggest a stereotypical jazz musician and context, Kloves and Grusin challenge those dated Hollywood associations with the non-diegetic music of ‘Main Title – Jack’s Theme’, suggesting a more modern musician and therefore a more modern telling of what Bourjaily calls ‘The Story’ (Gabbard 1996: 67).

        As the ‘Main Title – Jack’s Theme’ fades, we meet older brother Frank Baker. Immediately the tension between the brothers is obvious, and we get our first taste of their musical lives together. Throughout the film, Jack’s piano playing was recorded by composer Dave Grusin, and Frank’s by John F. Hammond, and after a sentimental preamble the brothers begin to play a two-piano version of ‘People’. As Jack/Grusin begins to play the opening chords, the camera focuses in on Jack’s hands, slowly panning out to a wider shot of him and then cutting to Frank’s hands when he begins to play, and again panning out to reveal Frank. This is followed by a wide shot of the two brothers performing. This is one of the particular strengths of The Fabulous Baker Boys that allows it to work as a film about musicians, where so many other films have failed. The Bridges brothers learned the pieces and ‘were filmed playing dummy instruments (which look real but make no sound) – a practice called “sidelining”’ (Stewart 1989). So what the viewer sees and hears is synonymous. Jack, though, is clearly tired of the routine and, we sense, frustrated, perhaps by a lack of creative opportunity.

        The next gig we see is the only time that the brothers perform as a duo with any energy in their playing. They play an up-tempo version of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, the closest the brothers get to playing a jazz standard together. It is the end of a quiet night in a Hawaiian-themed bar and we hear their outro chorus. Any genuine enthusiasm that there was in the music soon disappears as the bar owner, speaking alone to Frank, pays them off and suggests it is time that they have a break from this long-standing gig.

        Later as Frank drives them home he suggests they hire a singer. The ensuing auditions are painful and hilarious, but, arriving late, Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) performs ‘More Than You Know’ (an obvious reference to the Dorsey brothers and their 1945 V-Disc release, and in a further reference to the Dorseys she tells Jack to play it ‘real slow’.) Susie can sing, an obvious ‘torch singer’ (Jones 2007: 24) in the mold of so many that have gone before. Not simply because of the song choices – ‘More Than You Know’, ‘My Funny Valentine’ – and their themes of ‘unrequited love’ (Jones 2007: 16), but also because of her physicality. Susie doesn’t dance so much as channel the music through her body, a complete contrast to the static, rather hidden performance style of the two pianos. Susie joins the act and, after an initial gig, the new act looks promising. But after this glimpse of something better, we find Jack at ‘Henry’s’, a basement jazz club, which features a trio with a young pianist who bears a striking resemblance to Art Tatum, playing an up-tempo improvised chorus on ‘Lullaby Of Birdland’.

        Henry’s is used as a site of authenticity, by referencing the ‘basement-like club’ scene in The Fabulous Dorseys where ‘the revered black pianist’ Art Tatum improvises (his only appearance in a feature film). Though Gabbard discusses the Tatum scene in terms of its inherent racism, Jack’s race at Henry’s is not an issue. Rather, the relevance of the Tatum scene is in its use of a ‘real musician’ improvising, and as such its representation of the jazz tradition.

        The conversation between Jack and the bar owner Henry (Albert Hall) during the first scene at Henry’s suggests that Jack is indeed frustrated working with Frank, and is not being true to himself or honest with those around him. There is an interesting resonance here to what Williams wrote about in The Jazz Tradition (1993: 254–55).

        He said, The music represents important aspects of our lives, … aspects that are associated with all our unresolved problems, with our unrecognized lack of self-knowledge, with all the truths about ourselves which we refuse to admit to or face up to… Those things, however, are positive as well as negative in that they involve a fundamental redemption if we could acknowledge them. (Williams 1993)

        Throughout the film there are tacit acknowledgements from others that Jack Baker is an exceptional musician, – ‘you’re brilliant’, says Frank Baker in a late night drunken moment of candour; and, ‘you’re good, aren’t you?’ Susie asks. The screenplay describes Jack’s reverie when playing: ‘his face is suddenly calm. Peaceful’ (Kloves 1985). Often jazz histories and books focus on the negative aspects of musicians’ lives (Foster 2013: 1). The music’s revelatory and contradictory qualities of the individual are less emphasized. Here though, through the development of the character of Jack Baker, we see this ‘redemptive’ perspective explored. And the use of improvisation within the character’s development is crucial.

        Later in the film, Susie finds Jack playing alone in the hotel ballroom where the three are staying while playing a series of dates at a resort. This is the first time we have seen Jack playing solo and Susie is uncomfortable to begin with. Glancing around, she is aware that she is glimpsing something private as Jack works through a solo piano version of ‘Jack’s Theme’. But she moves towards the piano – in fact, she is almost drawn to it – and taking a drag on Jack’s cigarette says, referring to his playing, ‘It’s nice’, which of course is an understatement, as she is clearly absorbed in the music almost as much as Jack is.

        Later Frank comes to the door, yet he remains outside the ballroom, in a sense excluded from the musical exchange between Jack and Susie. As such, this seemingly private practice session becomes a public declaration of Jack’s individuality.

        The diegetic solo version of ‘Jack’s Theme’ (Figure 3) is a slower, stripped-down version. Essentially, it has a thoughtful half-time feel in a 3/4 time signature. But Grusin cleverly suggests the possibility of double time by using a dotted crotchet pattern in the left hand, allowing the melody to float in three over the top of the implied two feel,4, but the playing never feels rushed. Neither is it tentative; there is an assurance to the playing. The key signature has been dropped down a tone from the ‘Main Title’ version in D minor to C minor, which has a more mellow quality than D minor. There is no introduction, interludes or coda on this version and the whole performance is only one chorus with no improvisation. It is as though Jack is thinking carefully about what he wants to say, with the statement of the melody being predominantly a single note line and with little in the way of pianistic flourishes. Harmonically this solo version is exactly the same as the ‘Main Title’ version, and the chord voicings are standard Bill Evans rootless voicings, placing this version of the tune also firmly in the cool or hard bop styles.

        Figure 3: Opening four bars of ‘Jack’s Theme’ – by Dave Grusin, taken from Biggs’ The Fabulous Baker Boys Songbook (2007: 60).

        What makes this performance such a powerful statement of intent is, first, that throughout the film Jack says very little, rarely does he initiate a conversation, particularly with Frank; and second, that the diegetic music which Jack/Grusin are playing is integral to the main character’s development and expression. As such, the restatement here of ‘Jack’s Theme’ suggests to the viewer that Jack is being honest with himself and acknowledging the possibility of a different life for himself and, by extension, a better relationship with those around him. Perhaps this is the real power and resonance of ‘Jack’s Theme’ in particular and of jazz more generally, that ‘the music reaches beyond its immediate circumstances… and tells all men something about themselves which they do not know and have never heard before’ (Williams 1993: 255).

        The fact that Jack does not improvise on this solo version provides a stark contrast to the opening ‘Main Title’ version. In the audience’s mind, the true character of Jack Baker improvises. His frustration at the piano during the duo scenes with Frank has been palpable, and this hotel scene has provided the first glimpse of him playing in a relaxed and attentive manner. That he does not improvise here is telling – perhaps this is a new composition that he is working through, or he is not able to express himself, or both.

        The use of improvisation in this film is key to the development of the characters and their relationships to one another. The song choices for the film help to illustrate this point. Throughout, the Baker Boys’ repertoire (like that of Ferrante and Teicher) consists almost entirely of easy listening classics, for example ‘Feelings’, ‘The Look of Love’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. These songs contain no improvisation, either during the film, or more generally in performative contexts. Whereas the songs played by Jack and Susie – ‘More Than You Know’, ‘Makin’ Whoopee’; other musicians – ‘Lullaby of Birdland’; other diegetic music – ‘Perdido’, ‘Moonglow’; and non-diegetic songs – ‘Do Nothin’ ‘Til You Hear From Me’, ‘My Funny Valentine’ are all jazz standards.

        These jazz standards provide improvisatory contexts for the respective soloists and the emerging individuality of the main characters. There is then a sense in which Jack feels as though he is on the outside of the jazz tradition, because when he is performing with Frank they ‘play the same… songs the same… way every night’. So the choice of repertoire that the brothers play puts a barrier between them, with Frank on the one hand playing it safe with set arrangements of easy listening classics, and Jack on the other, for the most part, surrounded by other people listening, playing and improvising on standards.

        Interestingly, as if to emphasize the point that the improvisatory contexts of the soundtrack songs are acting as a narrative tool to the development of the main character’s individuality, several of the song choices are of Duke Ellington compositions – ‘Perdido’, ‘Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me’, ‘Prelude to a Kiss’, ‘Solitude’ – Ellington’s music is used, like Tatum and Evans/Davis, as representative of authenticity and articulacy.

        Ellington placed a lot of importance on the soloists in his bands and he would often compose with a specific individual in mind, because of their unique sound (Hodeir 1956: 88; Williams 1993: 108). For example, the opening melodic phrase of ‘Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me’ references Ellington’s earlier orchestral work ‘Concerto For Cootie’ written for the trumpeter Charles ‘Cootie’ Williams. Jack reinforces Ellington’s authority when, during an argument, Frank asserts ‘She’s got the Harry James orchestra in there!’ To which Jack mutters ‘Ellington’.

        As a result of Frank being called away, Susie and Jack are left alone at the hotel over New Year’s Eve to complete their run of gigs. During the evening they attempt to avoid acknowledging the obvious attraction both feel towards one another. The ambi-diegetic version of ‘Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me’ performed by the Mercer Ellington Orchestra plays out, and there is no dialogue (Holbrook considers it is played ‘on the same portable boom-box’ as ‘Perdido’ was (Holbrook 2012: 132) and there are other instances throughout the film where the source of the music is uncertain – for example ‘Moonglow’).

        As the solo builds the tension, the two characters, sharing adjoining rooms, indulge their mutual attraction by secretly taking it in turns to go through the others’ personal belongings. The narrative of the solo is the narrative of the characters’ flirtations. However, the song is ended abruptly when the phone rings, leaving this dance between Susie and Jack unresolved. And so, then, in the famous ‘Makin’ Whoopee’ scene that follows, when Susie and Jack improvise (both musically and physically) we recognize the whole performance as the inevitable consummation that it is. Allowing the two central characters, paraphrasing Williams, to face up to the truths about themselves and in so doing, glimpse redemption.

        Over the course of the film, composer Dave Grusin also uses a recurring ascending theme to underscore the tender moments between Susie and Jack. A non-diegetic ballad, called variously ‘Soft on Me’ or ‘Susie and Jack’, it is played by the same quintet that plays the ‘Main Title’ version of ‘Jack’s Theme’. The ‘Susie and Jack’ version has an ABCA structure where each section is ten bars. Throughout the harmonies are rich, extended chords. Each time it occurs, the melodic embellishment is increased, and the improvisatory nature of the piece grows as the relationship between the two develops. At the end of the ‘Makin’ Whoopee’ scene, when Susie kisses Jack, we hear the improvised C section of ‘Susie and Jack’. A harmon-muted trumpet (referencing Miles Davis) conveys the tenderness of the moment.

        The scene cuts to the deserted ballroom, while the solo continues. Susie walks through the remnants of New Year’s Eve towards Jack and, as the music fades, Susie and Jack are alone and Susie begins to talk. Susie is open and honest, while Jack listens, but says very little. A ‘sad, plaintive’ improvised solo piano version of ‘Susie and Jack’ begins to play (Kloves 1985), and the inevitable seduction occurs. For the viewer, the consistency of Grusin’s playing, his phrasing and unique sound on Jack’s performances means we associate this non-diegetic solo piano performance directly with Jack, and realize this improvisation on ‘Susie and Jack’ is an expression of his tenderness.

        After returning from the run of nights at the resort, Susie goes to look for Jack. Trying Jack’s apartment first, she comes face to face with Nina, the child of an upstairs neighbour from Jack’s apartment, whom he takes care of, and there is no dialogue between Susie and Nina (in The Fabulous Dorseys, Jane – the girl next door – and Jane – the adult singer – are the same person!); Susie then visits Henry’s. The ensuing diegetic version of Jack playing with the house band on ‘Jack’s Theme’ is longer than the solo version because, crucially, Jack improvises and he does so in public.

        This is the first time that Jack Baker has played something of his own volition in a public setting, and it is not just another standard; he is playing his own composition and as such this performance is a statement of the character’s identity. The trio provides the stability, supporting the rhythmic ambiguity of the two against three comping patterns, leaving Jack space to develop and build the melody. Susie is uncomfortable when she arrives at the club, but as she orders a drink at the bar, she recognizes the music. Slowly she peers around the pillar at the band, the camera takes her point of view and reveals to Susie (and the audience) that it is indeed Jack playing.

        His solo (Figure 4) is only half a chorus, but it is full of rhythmic and melodic invention, using the same improvisatory language of the ‘Main Title’ version.

        Figure 4: Opening four bars of improvisation on ‘Jack’s Theme’ – Trio Version – by Dave Grusin, taken from Biggs’ The Fabulous Baker Boys Songbook (2007: 72). The
        original screenplay is also revealing – ‘Turning slowly, Susie discovers Jack, hunched over the piano onstage, playing with the trio’ (Kloves 1989a).

        The importance in this direction is in the description of Jack’s posture – ‘hunched over the piano’. If Art Tatum was a ‘revered’ pianist of the swing era and throughout the career of the Dorsey Brothers, then Bill Evans is similarly revered in the modern era, and his is the hunched posture that Kloves alludes to, and Jack emulates.

        Bill Evans was a profoundly introspective musician. It has already been mentioned above the influence Evans had on Miles Davis, and the connection of his composition ‘Peace Piece’ to The Fabulous Baker Boys, and particularly ‘Jack’s Theme’. But there are further references to Bill Evans in the different versions of the original screenplay, and, despite what Gabbard claims, there is actually a picture of Bill Evans on the wall in Jack’s apartment. And Holbrook has also noted the ‘Bill Evans-inspired’ solos on ‘Jack’s Theme’ (Holbrook, 2012: 133). Therefore, just as Art Tatum lent an authority to The Fabulous Dorseys, so too, the influence of Bill Evans, though never explicitly stated, provides an authenticity to The Fabulous Baker Boys.

        As the solo fades on the last two bars of the A section of ‘Jack’s Theme’ at Henry’s bar, an unresolved altered dominant chord is left hanging, questioning the potential of this moment when Jack Baker publicly improvises. The tension, implied by the hanging Eb7b9#11 at the end of the trio version, is played out in the following scenes as Jack argues with and shuts out those around him, eventually admitting to Frank, after a vicious argument, that he ‘can’t do it anymore’, that he is ‘through’ playing with Frank.

        The culmination of this section of the film (the antithesis of the large-stage endings of the swing era biopics) is played out in a short scene where Jack is alone, again at Henry’s bar. He plays a fully improvised piece in C minor of Imi7 – V7sus4. ‘Jack’s Theme – Reprise’ (Figure 5), abandoning the structure of ‘Jack’s Theme’ and playing with the ‘Peace Piece’ progression on which the B section of ‘Jack’s Theme’ is based. Demonstrating all the technical fluency and versatility of the opening ‘Main Title’ version, Jack plays syncopated semi quaver runs with articulations that wrong-foot the listener and include odd groupings that effortlessly cross the beat.

        The improvisation confirms that Jack ‘can’t play the same songs the same way’ anymore. His life performing with Frank is over. On finishing the piece, Henry appears and says to Jack ‘I’ve got Tuesdays and Thursdays open, they are yours if you want them?’

        Figure 5: Opening five bars of improvisation on ‘Jack’s Theme – Reprise’ – by Dave Grusin, taken from Biggs’ The Fabulous Baker Boys Songbook (2007: 80).

        The resolution of the film takes place in the street, outside Susie’s apartment, during the day. It is played out with the same non-diegetic solo piano version of the theme ‘Susie and Jack’ that was used for the New Year’s Eve seduction scene. Jack is visibly emotional in this scene as he reaches out to Susie. The improvised piano of the soundtrack reinforces the vulnerability of Jack in that moment. The two never touch, and their future is left uncertain. The final dialogue is followed by a solo piano introduction to ‘My Funny Valentine’ (Figure 6), Susie’s voice humming in unison with the piano’s melodic line. The camera cuts to a long shot as Susie walks away, and the final credits begin.

        This performance is similar to ‘Makin Whoopee’ in that Jack’s piano supports Susie’s vocal throughout. Musically, there is lots of interaction, and the piano responds after every vocal phrase. All of Grusin’s melodic invention and phrasing, as well as the rhythmic variety that we have associated with Jack throughout the film, is apparent. This version is in the key of G minor/Bb Major, rather than the traditional C minor/Eb Major it is usually performed in, and has a 12/8 time signature instead of the written 4/4. The form, though, is the standard 32 bar AABA, with the four bar introduction and a rallentando on the last phrase and a 4 bar ending.

        The lyrics of the classic ‘torch song’, ‘My Funny Valentine’, which refer to the imperfect nature of the singer’s lover and yet the fact that she loves him anyway, are, of course, entirely appropriate. More than that though, this song is a further reference to the jazz tradition because it has a strong association with some venerable jazz musicians, particularly Chet Baker (1956). And it was a standard that Miles Davis (1964) played regularly.

        Figure 6: Introduction to ‘My Funny Valentine’ – by Dave Grusin, taken from Biggs’ The Fabulous Baker Boys Songbook (2007: 91).

        Except for Holbrook (2012), The Fabulous Baker Boys is a largely overlooked film in scholarship, and this article argues that it is an important film in the cannon, worthy of consideration. Indeed, it is argued that through a close analysis of the film’s soundtrack, the improvisatory structures, and the nature of those improvisations, are integral to the development of the main character Jack Baker (Jeff Bridges) and to his relationships with the other characters.

        The ‘Main Title – Jack’s Theme’ has been examined and is seen to contain a number of elements that allow it to work as a narrative tool, including melodic, harmonic and structural elements, as well as instrumentation, textures and improvisatory language that imply the cool/modal and hard bop styles of jazz and aspects of the album Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, and the influence of Bill Evans in particular. More than that, ‘Jack’s Theme’ provides an important site of authenticity, as does the music of Ellington, within the film’s narrative, just as Art Tatum was a site of authenticity for The Fabulous Dorseys approximately 40 years earlier.

        The development of ‘Jack’s Theme’, through four different versions, in relation to the character development of Jack has been considered in detail, and close analysis has shown that the use of ‘Jack’s Theme’ as an improvisatory context has allowed for Jack’s individuality to emerge. Similarly, other compositions as improvisatory contexts are also identified – ‘Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me’, ‘Makin Whoopee’, ‘Susie and Jack’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’ – each of which is used to articulate the developing relationship between the characters of Susie and Jack.

        Ultimately, then, The Fabulous Baker Boys explores and articulates thepositive redemptive nature of the music.


        Biggs, Adam (2007), The Fabulous Baker Boys Songbook, United Kingdom: Biggsound.
        Davies, Valentine (1956), The Benny Goodman Story, Los Angeles: Universal International Pictures
        Emmenegger, Claudia and Olivier, Senn (2011), Five Perspectives on ‘Body and Soul’: And Other Contributions to Music Performance Studies, Zurich: Chronos Publications.
        English, Richard (1946), ‘The Battling Brothers Dorsey’, The Saturday Evening Post, 218:31, 2 February, pp. 18–19, 81–82.

        Evans, Bill (1958), ‘Peace Piece’, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, New York City: Riverside, CD.
        Ferrante and Teicher (2012), ‘Home Page’, The official site, Accessed 1 April 2014.
        Foster, Rob (2013), Accentuate the Negative? On Teaching Biographical Details in Jazz History, Accessed 1 April 2014.

        Gabbard, Krin (1996), Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
        Green, Alfred E. (1947), The Fabulous Dorseys, USA: United Artists.
        Grusin, Dave (1999), The Fabulous Baker Boys: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, New York: Decca (UMO).
        Hodeir, André (1956), Jazz, It’s Evolution and Essence, New York: Grove Press.

        Holbrook, Morris (2012), Music, Movies, Meanings, and Markets: Cinemajazzamatazz, London :Routledge
        Jones, Stacy Holman (2007), Torch Singing: Performing Resistance and Desire from Billie Holiday To Edith Piaf, Plymouth: AltaMira Press.
        Kernfeld, Barry (1994), The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, London: Macmillan Publishers Limited.

        Kloves, Steve (1985), ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys script’, . Accessed 24 May 2013.
        _ (1989a), ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys script’, Accessed 1 April 2013. _ (1989b), The Fabulous Baker Boys, USA: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
        Mann, Anthony (1954), The Glenn Miller Story, Los Angeles:Universal Studios

        Pettinger, Peter (1998), Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings, New Haven: Yale University Press.
        Sears, Richard (1980), V-Discs A History and Discography, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

        Stewart, Zan (1989), ‘The pianist who taught The Bridges Boys’, 08 November, Los Angeles Times. Accessed 2 August 2014.
        Vineberg, Steve (2004), ‘The natural’, The Threepenny Review, no. 99, Fall 2004, pp. 23–25.
        Williams, Martin (1993), The Jazz Tradition, New York: Oxford University Press.

        Author details

        Australian-born Adam Biggs is a pianist and music educator. He is head of jazz studies at Bath Spa University, and holds a Masters degree in jazz piano performance (2011). Adam trained at Elder Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, graduating in 1994 with a B.Mus.

        After many years working internationally, he released his first solo recording When Lights Are Low in 2003. He has played and worked with many musicians including Iain Ballamy, Derek Nash, Andy Sheppard, Clare Teal, Jamie Cullum and Geoff Simkins. He leads the jazz trio Adam’s Apple and they released their first CD Love Unknown, a collection of hymn tunes arranged for jazz trio, in 2007.

        Also in 2007 he published the Circle of Fifths, a unique learning tool for students, and The Fabulous Baker Boys Songbook, a collection of transcriptions of the music from the film The Fabulous Baker Boys written by Dave Grusin. In 2009 Adam’s Apple released their second CD, Be Still. In 2010 Adam became a Roland endorsed artist. Adam completed his Master’s degree in 2011. His research focused on new repertoire and contemporary performative practice techniques. He is currently preparing his Ph.D. project.

        Jazz transcriptions and sheet music download.

        Did you know? Musical Analysis

        Herbie Hancock: An Analysis of His Improvisional Style (2/3)

        Analysis Hancock’s Melodic Line

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        Herbie has a great linear harmonic sense, in that his phrases are elongated in a very beautiful way – they not only come out of something, they automatically lead back into something else.

        Oscar Peterson

        Following on from the material discussed in the previous chapter (1/3), this part examines the other side of Herbie Hancock’s musical coin – it focuses on the characteristics unique to Hancock’s style.

        One of the most notable ways Hancock achieves the manner of phrase described by Oscar Peterson above is through his use of musical sequence, and as such a large proportion of this chapter is dedicated to examining the variety of methods in which Hancock employs this device.

        While the previous chapter discussed the fundamental technical elements of the jazz language, the following analysis does not delve into the core melodic or harmonic construction of each sequence; it instead provides a contextual overview of the device. To continue the jazz language metaphor, Coker states “items such as digital patterns, 7-3 resolutions, 3-b9, enclosures, etc., are like the letters and words of the language, whereas sequences are more like complete thoughts, sentences and chains of thought”.

        herbie hancock free sheet music & scores pdf


        A sequence occurs when a melodic fragment is immediately followed by one or more variations on that same fragment. It is a device used extensively across most genres of music, as the repetition of musical idea gives a strong sense of structure to a piece – thus providing much needed communication with the listener, who perceives, even anticipates, such occurrences.

        Jazz music is no different – improvising musicians will frequently utilize sequences to give their solos structure, and to reinforce a musical idea. One of the most prominent signature characteristics of Hancock’s style is his mastery of the sequence, and he uses the device through a variety of contexts in a variety of different ways.

        The first of these involves straight melodic repetition – Hancock will often develop his ideas through direct transposition or thematic development as seen in Figure 2.1 below.

        herbie hancock sheet music

        Cliché blues phrases like core, the motif in this example, are used extensively in Hancock’s vocabulary in the early 1960s – a reflection of the influence of hard-bop pianists such as Horace Silver, Bobby Timmons and Wynton Kelly. In this example, the phrase in bar 2 is then sequenced down a tone, following the shift in harmony.

        Similarly, in Figure 2.2, Hancock transposes the initial two-beat motif in bar 2 down four consecutive semitones before resolving the phrase.

        Hancock has an impeccable taste for melody, and will often build his melodic ideas from very simple initial motifs. Figure 2.3 is an example of a basic melodic sequence – the following extract shows him playing a down-a-fourth-up-a-third pattern which is repeated three times.

        This use of simple motifs is a major part of Hancock’s style and can be found frequently in a variety of settings throughout the 1960s – in Figure 2.4 below, Hancock sequences the original motif in bar 1 through the following 7 bars, slightly altering the line’s rhythmic shape each time.

        Similarly, Figure 2.5 below shows another simple melodic sequence played by Hancock – the initial phrase is transposed roughly three times over the shifting harmony.

        Hancock frequently draws out his short initial melodic ideas into long sequenced patterns. In Figure 2.6, Hancock begins with a three-note scalar pattern which ascends the chord scale of F7sus (F mixolydian) before falling off to a B natural to compensate for the change of chord to D7sus (D mixolydian) in bar 4.

        Similarly, Figure 2.7 shows Hancock developing another three-note scalar pattern. Here, Hancock plays a continuous ascending scale through the underlying shifts in harmony.

        Figure 2.7 “The Sorcerer”

        Figure 2.8 shows two consecutive motifs from Hancock’s solo on “The Sorcerer”. The first involves simple melodic development, the top note of each 1 bar phrase remaining the same while the second note changes underneath. The second (beginning in bar 5) shows Hancock sequencing a four note shape down in 3rds – first a direct transposition at a major 3rd, then an slightly altered major 3rd (a C# in bar 3 instead of a Cnatural) and a further sequence down a minor third to finish the line.

        Later in the same solo, Hancock plays the line in Figure 2.9 below. In this extract, he develops another initial four-note melodic idea over the course of 5 bars, nearly exactly transposing it to accommodate for the underlying shifts in harmony.

        Similarly, in Figure 2.10, Hancock takes an initial up/down triadic pattern and then sequences it through the subsequent four bars. The phrase starts on an Ab triad and passes through G, Fm, Em, and Eb, before finishing on the conclusive tonic triad of Dm.

        Hancock uses this concept of triads in a variety of situations; Figure 2.11 shows a simple triadic pattern played by Hancock to beautifully navigate the changes to Donald Byrd’s “Night Flower”.

        Similarly, Hancock uses triads to reharmonise to an altered sound in bars 2 and 3 of Figure 2.12 below. Note Hancock’s use of a 9-7-6-5 (or 5-3-2-1 in Fm) digital pattern in bar 1 and the enclosure leading into beat 1 of bar 2.

        Many of Hancock’s sequences are also constructed through the use of rising or falling fourths, which can be either diatonic or chromatic. Figure 2.13 is another example of a simple melodic sequence – this time, Hancock uses the intervals of a perfect fourth and fifth to develop the original motif.

        Hancock uses a similar device with shorter note values in 2.14 below.

        Again, Hancock uses an up-a-third, down-a-fourth pattern to start the long sequence in Figure 2.15 above.

        Herbie Hancock will also often execute complex sequences in the middle of a melodic line with no prior development. In Figure 2.16, Hancock sequences the arpeggio shape on beats 1&2 of bar 1 through the subsequent iii-bIII- ii-V-I progression. In doing so, he reharmonizes each chord symbol to an altered sound (where every non-harmonically-essential degree of the conventional scale is raised or flattened by a semitone).

        Similarly, in Figure 2.17, the motif on beats 1&2 of the first bar is sequenced on beats 3&4, and then beats 1&2 of the following bar, before the line is resolved.

        All the above examples identify Hancock’s use of sequence using simple rhythmic denominations of the beat, such as crotchets, quavers and semiquavers (1/4, 1/8 and 1/16 notes). The following examples examine Hancock’s extensive use of triplets in his melodic lines.

        Triplet Sequences

        Hancock makes extensive use of triplets in his improvisations – often in long, flowing, sequenced passages – and his recorded output from the 1960s contains countless examples of this.

        Similarly to the examples discussed previously, Hancock will also use triplets to play simple melodic sequences, as seen in Figure 2.18. Of particular note in this example is Hancock’s use of contrary motion – he plays an ascending phrase in the treble stave while chromatically descending the chords in the bass stave.

        Hancock plays another simple melodic sequence in Figure 2.19 below.

        However, immediately after this, Hancock plays the complicated melody in Figure 2.20:

        Here, Hancock starts with a fairly generic four-note shape and sequences it down in thirds through the associated chord scale of each chord. The combination of the triplets, the four-note pattern (which crosses the natural fall of the beat in each bar) and the strength of the melodic line in its harmonic relationship makes this a very effective passage.

        Figure 2.21 below shows another example of this type of pattern – this time a similar four-note shape is sequenced up in semitones and ventures outside the chord changes. Hancock starts with a Gm7 arpeggio played in reverse which then ascends through G#m7, Am7, Bbm7, Bm7 and Cm7 – it is the constant structure of this line that makes it acceptable to the ear even though it is largely outside the changes.

        Hancock uses a different kind of four-note pattern in Figure 2.22.

        Figure 2.23 shows Hancock playing another four-note triplet pattern. This time he starts with basic triadic motif and ascends the chord scales of each chord (F melodic minor and Db half/whole diminished respectively), before releasing tension by descending the line.

        In Figure 2.24, Hancock again starts with a four note triadic pattern, which he sequences down through five bars.

        In Figure 2.25, Hancock plays another rapid sequence based on falling diatonic fourths. He also uses a bar-line shift, anticipating the chord change to Db7(#11) by playing the chord scale for this chord (Db lydian dominant) a bar early.

        Hancock uses this idea often, and in a variety of manifestations, such as in Figure 2.26;

        And also Figure 2.27:

        Hancock will also often use triplets to get “outside” the written changes of a tune – a jazz musician is said to be playing “outside” when their melodic line strays from the conventional chord scale associated with a given chord.

        Figure 2.28 is a perfect example of this. Hancock picks up where Freddie Hubbard finishes his solo and introduces the same type of simple melodic sequence discussed previously – this time a three note pattern seen in bar 3. He sequences this three times before returning to the original motif and
        repeating it up five consecutive minor 3rds – a line which weaves outside then back inside the changes – before releasing the tension in the final few bars.

        Jazz Sheet Music download here.

        Head Hunters | Herbie Hancock | 1973 | Full Album

        Track List:

        1. Chameleon 0:00 2. Watermelon Man 15:40 3. Sly 22:14 4. Vein Melter 32:35


        Herbie Hancock – Fender Rhodes electric piano, Hohner D-6 Clavinet, ARP Odyssey, ARP Soloist, ARP 2600, ARP String Ensemble Bennie Maupin – soprano and tenor saxophone, saxello, bass clarinet, alto flute Paul Jackson – electric bass Harvey Mason – drums Bill Summers – percussion


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        to Follow. Billboard – The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment, 111, 2-12.
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        Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2002). How Jazz Musicians Improvise. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19(3).
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        Opstad, J. (2009). The Harmonic and Rhythmic Language of Herbie Hancock’s 1970s Fender Rhodes
        Solos. Jazz Perspectives, 3(1), 57-79.

        Perry, J. C. (2006). A comparative analysis of selected piano solos by Red Garland, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and
        Herbie Hancock from their recordings with the Miles Davis groups, 1955–1968. University of Miami.
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        Rose, J. (2006). White Light, Black Vibrations: The Music of John Coltrane and his Spiritual Quest. Unpublished honours thesis, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

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        of Spontaneity. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 58(2), 149-161.
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        Thompson, S., & Lehmann, A. C. (2004). Strategies for Sight Reading and Improvising Music. New York: Oxford University Press.
        Wallmann, J. P. (2010). The Music of Herbie Hancock: Composition and Improvisation in the Blue Note years. New York University.
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        Waters, K. (2011). The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-1968. New York: Oxford University Press.
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        Did you know? Jazz & Blues Music

        Miles Davis (1926-1991): the greatest jazz artist?

        Table of Contents

          Miles Davis, the trumpeter whose lyrical playing and ever-changing style made him a touchstone of 20th Century music, has been voted the greatest jazz artist of all time in 2015

          The musician beat the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday – all of whom made the top 10.

          Votes were cast by listeners of BBC Radio and Jazz FM, and revealed on pop-up radio station BBC Music Jazz.

          Miles Davis: the greatest jazz artist?

          Since its beginnings in the early 1900s, jazz music has evolved under the influence of musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery, Lester Young, Count Basie, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Bill Evans, and Dave Brubeck; to name a few. Jazz aficionados and musicians alike often debate the level of influence of one or another jazz artist on the genre as a whole. Many are deserving of consideration, but only Miles Davis can claim the title of “most influential” outright.

          miles davis free sheet music & pdf scores download
          Miles Davis Jazz Play Along Vol. 2

          One writer called Miles Davis “the single most successful crossover artist in jazz history” (Gabbard). Davis’ status in rock and roll certainly supports that assertion. He is the only predominantly jazz artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame explicitly for his direct contribution to rock and roll, although that decision was not without controversy (Ratliff).

          That fact alone could effectively serve to demonstrate the extent to which Davis pushed the boundaries of jazz. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “Davis never played rock or rhythm & blues, though he experimented with funk grooves on 1972’s On the Corner and in some of his later bands. However, his work intrigued a sizable segment of rock’s more ambitious fans in a way that no other serious jazz figure had ever done” (“Miles Davis Biography”).

          While that acknowledgement is significant, Davis’ contribution to rock and roll pales in comparison to the influence he had on jazz. His recording career spanned nearly 45 years (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame., “Miles Davis Timeline”), including such pivotal recordings as The Birth of the Cool, Bitch’s Brew (Rolf and Watts), and arguably Davis’ best and most influential recording, his 1959 record, Kind of Blue.

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          Renowned jazz pianist, Herbie Hancock recalled that Kind of Blue “turned the jazz world on its ear, with improvisation using scales and modes instead of chords” (`Miles followed his heart.’). Musicians and aficionados alike now know that type of improvisation as modal jazz, and Davis cemented its popularity with Kind of Blue. Reviewer, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, called Kind of Blue “the Citizen Kane of jazz,” and “a universally acknowledged standard of excellence” (Erlewine). NPR broadcaster, Murray Horwitz went so far as to claim that Kind of Blue is “everything that jazz should be, and it’s everything America should be” (“Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’.”).

          Jimmy Cobb, Davis’ drummer on Kind of Blue, said that “it must have been made in heaven” (qtd. in Ward and Burns 408). In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a jazz musician who doesn’t hold Davis’ Kind of Blue in high regard or a jazz fan who doesn’t gush with superlatives when describing it. Given the abundant admiration for Davis’ Kind of Blue, it’s no surprise that it is the “best-selling jazz record of all time” (Rolling Stone).

          The success of Kind of Blue can rightfully be attributed to Davis’ productive creativity, which extended beyond his musical compositions and his understated elegance on the trumpet. Possibly of equal importance was how Davis’ creative vision was displayed in his selection of sidemen.

          Throughout his career, Davis had a knack for recognizing talent, and he “launched the careers” (Rolf and Watts 203) of many notable jazz musicians. As writer, Francis Davis put it, “his [Davis’] favorite strategy involved bringing together sidemen who were fundamentally different from one another in temperament and musical sensibility, and leaving the rest to chemistry” (F. Davis n. pag).

          Kind of Blue was no exception. Davis’ carefully selected sextet at the time included John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, and while it is true that each of these musicians had already achieved some level of esteem in jazz circles, it wasn’t until Davis brought out the best of each musician’s unique creative individuality that the careers of each began to take off. Davis also brought in pianist Bill Evans, who took the place of Wynton Kelly on all but one of the tracks on Kind of Blue (F. Davis).

          There’s no doubt that the experience playing and recording with Davis had a positive impact on the careers of Evans, Cobb, Chambers, Kelly, Adderley, and Coltrane. All but the newest jazz fan has some familiarity with the work of all of these musicians, and they each have earned respect and admiration from musicians, fans, and critics. Another of Davis’ works that spawned several successful careers is his 1970 record, Bitches Brew (Rolf and Watts).

          The liner notes for Bitches Brew make an extraordinary but true claim about Davis; “What is so incredible about what Miles does is whoever comes after him, whenever, wherever, they have to take him into consideration” (Gleason). In the first year of its release, Bitches Brew sold 400,000 copies, a feat that no Miles Davis record had ever done at the time (Ward and Burns). With its extensive use of electric instruments, Bitches Brew is considered the foundation of jazz-rock fusion (Rolf and Watts) as well as a launch pad for some of the most successful musicians to emerge in the genre.

          For example, the highly revered fusion group, Weather Report was cofounded the same year as the release of Bitches Brew by two of Davis’ sidemen, saxophonist, Wayne Shorter, and pianist, Joe Zawinul (Ward and Burns). Guitarist, John McLaughlin, drummer, Jack DeJohnette, and pianist Chick Corea would all go on to have productive careers in various forms of fusion and other forms of jazz after their involvement in Bitches Brew (Rolf and Watts).

          Bitches Brew and the jazz-rock fusion that it inspired is not without controversy. As Veal astutely pointed out; musicians, critics, and scholars still debate whether it is “possible to take the small-band jazz conception as it existed in 1968, reconcile it with the influences of musicians such as James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Ravi Shankar, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and arrive at a result that can still be considered part of the jazz tradition” (158). As that debate rages on, Davis’ innovative approach on Bitches Brew continues to influence and entertain. Many credit the album with a resurgence in jazz popularity and commercial sales throughout the ‘70s (Segell).

          It was certified platinum (1 million copies sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2003 (RIAA), and upon completion of this research, March 27, 2016 Bitches Brew ranked 1st in jazz fusion CD sales on Amazon (

          Davis’ career began to take off in the mid-1940s when he played alongside two giants of jazz; saxophonist, Charlie Parker, and trumpet player, Dizzy Gillespie (Rolf and Watts). Parker and Gillespie were heralded for playing with speed and virtuosity on their respective instruments, an improvisation-centric style the two created known as bebop; but Davis brought a more mellowed and introspective element to the music (“Miles Davis: Miles’ Styles”).

          Following his stint with Parker and Gillespie, Davis formed an ensemble, and in collaboration with Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan produced a groundbreaking new style that combined elements of bebop with orchestral-like arrangements. Their three recording sessions in 1949 and 1950 resulted in The Birth of the Cool (Rolf and Watts). This new style became known as “cool jazz,” and is sometimes referred to as “west coast jazz”; indicative of where its popularity took hold (“Miles Davis: Miles’ Styles”; Rolf and Watts).

          While the west coast was becoming dominated by the “school of cool,” Davis did what he was so good at doing; he moved on to develop new and influential forms of jazz. Excluding a period of seclusion between 1975 and 1981, Davis recorded, performed, and evolved jazz with consistent regularity during the five decades preceding his death on September 28, 1991 (“Biography”).

          History provides us with several examples of jazz artists with a great deal of musical influence. Arguments can be made — and have been — on behalf of a few of these artists to be named the most influential jazz musician in history.

          For example, many consider cornetist, trumpet player, and vocalist, Louis Armstrong to deserve this title. That claim is not without merit. According to esteemed contemporary trumpet player, Wynton Marsalis, “Louis Armstrong invented a new style of playing. He created the coherent solo, fused the sound of the blues with the American popular song, [and] extended the range of the trumpet. . . . created the melodic and rhythmic vocabulary that all the big bands wrote music out of” (Ward and Burns).

          Armstrong’s music in the 1920s, in particular on his Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings from 1925-1929, is considered by some to be “the most exciting and influential in jazz music” (Rolf and Watts 46). While Armstrong continued to play jazz trumpet with masterful skill after the ‘20s, he turned his productive efforts to being a singer and entertainer for which he gained enormous international popularity and even appeared in several movies (George and Baker).

          While Armstrong is considered “jazz’s first great soloist” (George and Baker), and his 1920s recordings had a profound impact on jazz, he didn’t exhibit the diverse creative vision of Miles Davis. Armstrong did, however, pave the way for Davis to do what he did, and for that reason one might argue that Armstrong deserves even more credit as a great influencer.
          Another one of many musicians who picked up the musical torch lit by Armstrong was saxophonist, Charlie Parker.

          Prior to Parker’s bebop explosion in the early 1940s, jazz soloists emphasized swing and melody, and they stuck to a straight-forward rhythm while being strong adherents to blues traditions (Considine). The short life of Parker, who died at 34 years old, was like a bolt of lightning breaching a cloud cover of jazz and igniting a fire of instrumental virtuosos. But like Armstrong, Parker’s influence is not obvious to the casual listener because it has become engrained into the jazz language over time.

          As London’s Daily Telegraph published in a 2005 article commemorating the 50th anniversary of Parker’s death, “like some trace element in the atmosphere, Parker’s sound is almost everywhere and, for the same reason, virtually invisible” (Gayford). Rather than a devaluation of Parker’s influence, this should serve as proof that he, and likewise, Armstrong, have permeated the fabric of what we consider to be jazz today.

          No discussion of influential jazz musicians would be complete without inclusion of another Armstrong inspired figure, Duke Ellington. American historian and music critic, Nat Hentoff, referred to Ellington as “the most original and wide-ranging composer in American history” (Hentoff). Known to loathe the idea of being categorized by the term, “jazz,” Ellington preferred, instead, to refer to innovative and influential musicians as individualists (Hentoff).

          In that regard, Ellington was perhaps the quintessential individualist as his creative strength lied not in his instrumental prowess, but in his compositional talents. He, like Davis, was also a keen observer of the unique talents of his musicians, and he masterfully integrated that skill into his compositions (Rolf and Watts). Some of Ellington’s most well-known compositions include “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (Rolf and Watts).

          Volumes have been written about each, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington, and each is deserving of admiration, respect, and recognition for his significant contribution to jazz. But only one can claim the designation, “most influential,” and that belongs solely to Miles Davis. Davis influenced, innovated, and instigated multiple styles of jazz during his lifetime.

          Beginning with the personal introspective touch he brought to bebop, to igniting the west coast jazz scene with The Birth of the Cool; his explorations in modal jazz and its eventual rise to prominence with Kind of Blue followed more than a decade later by the creation and popularization of jazz fusion with Bitches Brew; Davis was consistently branching jazz in directions it had not yet traveled. There are musicians who have devoted an entire career following the influence of Davis down only one of the multitude of roads that he paved.

          It is true that Davis credited other musicians for their contributions. For example, Davis said of Armstrong, “You can’t play anything on your horn that Louis hasn’t already played” (qtd. In Rolf and Watts 44), and of Ellington, “I think all the musicians in jazz should get together on one certain day and get down on their knees to thank Duke” (qtd. in Hentoff). It has also been acknowledged that Davis was very much inspired by Parker, whom he began his career playing with (Ward and Burns).

          These acknowledgements do not serve, however, as proof that Davis is undeserving of the “most influential” moniker. There are those who will make an argument against Davis based on primacy; Davis was influenced by musicians that came before him and thus owes any credit of influencing others to his own influences. By that theory only Buddy Bolden, the cornetist credited with inventing jazz (Perry), can be given the title, “most influential,” and no argument — short of proof that Bolden wasn’t the first jazz musician — can be made.

          Whether or not it applies justice to the legacies of Armstrong, Parker, Ellington, and others, the fact of reality is that for many musicians and listeners, both casual and avid, the music of Miles Davis provides a welcoming introduction to the enriching world of jazz. While it’s true that popularity does not necessarily equate to influence, in Davis’ case his influence is matched by his popularity.

          There are no parallels in other genres of music to the degree of influence Davis has had on jazz. Imagine if one artist had single-handedly popularized or created the rock and roll styles of folk-rock, pop-rock, and alternative. He would be heralded as the most influential musician in rock and roll. He would be to rock and roll what Miles Davis is to jazz.

          Works Cited

 Product page – Miles Davis – Bitches Brew – 13 March 2016: Web. 13 March 2016.
          “Biography.” 2016. Web. 20 March 2016
          Considine, J. D. “A Fine Jazz Legend in His Own Right Bebop: In a New Eight-Disc Compilation, You’ll Hear Loud and Clear Why Charlie Parker is such a Revered Jazz Legend.” The Sun 24 Oct. 2000: 1F. Web. 25 Mar. 2016
          Davis, Francis. Liner notes. Davis, Miles. Kind Of Blue [Legacy Edition]. Legacy/Columbia/Legacy, 2009. CD.
          Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. “Miles Davis: Kind of Blue.” 2016. All Music. Web. 01 March 2016.
          Gabbard, Krin. “Miles Passed, Miles Ahead.” Chronicle of Higher Education 47.36 (2001): B17. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

          Gayford, Martin. “He Blew them all Away: The Great Jazz Saxophonist Charlie Parker Died 50 Years Ago, but His Influence is Still Reverberating around the World of Music.” The Daily Telegraph 12 Mar. 2005: Web. 25 Mar. 2016.
          Gleason, Ralph J. Liner notes. Davis, Miles. Bitches Brew [Digitally remastered from the original analog tapes]. Columbia, 1987. CD.
          Hentoff, Nat. “Duke Ellington’s Legacy.” The Village Voice 10 Nov. 1998: 30. Web. 27 Mar. 2016
          “Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’.” NPR Basic Jazz Record Library. Narr. Spellman, A. B. and Murray Horwitz. NPR. 01 Aug. 2001. Web. 01 March 2016.

          “Miles Davis: Miles’ Styles.” NPR’s Jazz Profiles. Host. Wilson, Nancy. NPR. 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 March 2016.
          “`Miles Followed His Heart.’.” Newsweek 118.16 (1991): 77. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
          Ratliff, Ben. “A Jazz Legend Enshrined as a Rock Star?” New York Times 13 March 2006: Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
          RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America]. Gold & Platinum – RIAA. 2016. Web. 12 March 2016.
          Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Miles Davis Biography. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

          —. “Miles Davis Timeline.” 2016. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.
          Rolf, Julia and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. Jazz & Blues: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia. London: Flame Tree Publishing, 2007. Print.
          Rolling Stone. “Miles Davis Biography.” Rolling Stone 2016: Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
          Segell, Michael. “The Children of ‘Bitches Brew’.” Rolling Stone 28 Dec. 1978: Web. 12 Mar. 2016.
          Seymour, Gene. “Charlie Parker’s Passionate Music Lives on.” Emerge Sep. 1995: 68. Web. 25 Mar. 2016 .

          Veal, Michael E. “Miles Davis’s Unfinished Electric Revolution.” Raritan 22.1 (2002): 153. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.
          Ward, Geoffrey C. and Ken Burns. Jazz: A History of America’s Music. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Print.
          Zwerin, Mike. “Listening to Bird, Still Flying Charlie Parker and the Essence of Life.” International Herald Tribune 09 Mar 2005: Web. 25 Mar. 2016. View publication

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          The Best Of Miles Davis

          00:00 – So What 02 – 09:21 – Ascenseur pour l’échaffaud 03 – 12:04 – Summertime 04 – 15:22 – Blue in Green 05 – 21:01 – Bird of Paradise 06 – 24:21 – Boplicity 07 – 27:14 – Embreacable You 08 – 31:03 – Flamenco Scetches 09 – 40:29 – Freddie Freeloader 10 – 50:09 – Godchild 11 –

          53:20 – Half Nelson 12 – 56:09 – Hallucinations 13 – 58:44 – A Night in Tunisia 14 – 01:01:50 – Israel 15 – 01:04:08 – It Never Entered My Mind 16 – 01:09:34 – Miles Ahead 17 – 01:14:04 – Ornitholgy 18 – 01:17:05 – Rouge 19 – 01:20:20 – Round Midnight 20 – 01:22:51 – Venus de Milo

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          Did you know? Robert Fripp - The Amazing Guitarist

          Robert Fripp, the amazing guitarist (7): Guitar Craft

          Robert Fripp, the amazing guitarist (7): Guitar Craft

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          Birth of Guitar Craft

          One day in late 1984 Robert Fripp sat in a room signing a stack of posters of the Bewitched cover for use in the record’s publicity campaign. In the room were Andy Summers and Vic Garbarini, who had been dispatched from Musician magazine to do a joint interview with the two guitarists. Fripp was in a good mood, wryly reflecting on his work as a professional musician, saying that he hadn’t thought being a musician involved sitting around signing posters. When the last of the hundred posters was signed, Fripp looked up with a beatific smile and announced, “I’m off to clean latrines in West Virginia!” (Garbarini 1984, 38).

          It had been seven years since he had leaked back into the music industry in 1977, and Fripp, who with the posters and interview was completing his last official obligations, was ready for another sabbatical. He was about to enroll in a three-month residential course at the American Society for Continuous Education at Claymont Court, the 369-acre property of forest and farmland near Charles Town, West Virginia where Bennett had established the ASCE as a permanent community and school shortly before his death. As an early-1980s pamphlet outlining the ASCE’s objectives explained, “The focus is on helping to restore an ecological balance to the environment and on creating conditions favorable for man’s development in harmony with nature.”

          In addition to carrying on work in agriculture, horticulture, cottage industries, building, and alternative energy sources, the ASCE offered residential programs of up to nine months based on Gurdjieff’s, Ouspensky’s, and Bennett’s methods as outlined in Chapter 7 of this book. Formal meetings, manual labor, spiritual exercises, work on the Gurdjieff movements, and study themes combined to place the student in a situation of personal growth and awareness of others.

          As the pamphlet said, “Every experience can be used to develop presence, intention, and balance between the inner and outer life. The Residential Program creates conditions which can lead to the threshold of genuine work beyond which the significance of life and one’s own purpose become manifest.” (The ASCE has recently been renamed the CSCE – Claymont Society for Continuous Education – and as of this writing no longer offers long-term residential courses.)

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          In late 1984, with King Crimson IV behind him, Fripp had no further plans for working in bands; like ten years before, he had no specific plans at all, other than to go on his Claymont retreat and then to “let the future present itself.” (Garbarini 1984, 38) As it turned out, the future presented itself with crystal clarity. Fripp had been involved with the operation of the ASCE since 1978, and had been on its board of directors since 1982. After his three-month retreat, Fripp was elected president of the ASCE, and was asked if he would give a few seminars based on music. (A regular feature of life at Claymont was then, as it is now, a variety of educational seminars led by permanent residents and also by outside speakers.)

          As Bob Gerber, current Chairman of the CSCE, who was in continuous contact with Fripp at this time, put it to me, Fripp said “no” to the idea of guitar seminars twice, then the third time realized this was something he was meant to do. Thus was Guitar Craft born.

          (By 1990, Fripp was no longer officially involved with the CSCE; although Guitar Craft continues to offer seminars on the Claymont property, it is purely a business arrangement, Fripp renting space to house students and hold classes.)

          Robert Fripp had been thinking about teaching for many years, however. As far back as 1974, immediately after the breakup of King Crimson III, Fripp had spoken to Rolling Stone writer Ian Dove of his interest “in creating a new kind of guitar technique that is really working on three levels of being, heart, hands, and head. A way of life. More akin to yoga than formal guitar technique, actually an approach to living.” He had gone on to speak with admiration of Pablo Casals, Yehudi Menuhin, and Ravi Shankar – musicians who through personal discipline had been able to achieve contact with higher energies. Most rock musicians, by way of contrast, Fripp had seen as “hopelessly inadequate, rooted to the earth … thrashing around on stage using a very low-grade energy [which] comes from a very nasty quarter.” (Dove 1974, 14)

          In an interview with Guitar Player’s Steve Rosen, also from 1974, Fripp had talked about the importance of relaxation, of establishing a relationship between one’s head and one’s hands, of practicing “like hell” in order that the limitations of one’s technique not get in the way of the free expression of ideas. “I suggest,” he had said, “that guitar playing, in one sense, can be a way of uniting the body with the personality, with the soul and the spirit.” (Rosen 1974, 38) All of these ideas would turn up much later in the context of Guitar Craft.

          Long fascinated with both the mechanics of playing the plectrum guitar and with systematic means of coaxing the Muse out of hiding, Fripp had been searching for a teaching method, and he would press the musicians he came into contact with for their insights into their craft. When in 1982 Fripp interviewed his peer in picking, John McLaughlin, for Musician magazine, he repeatedly tried to get him to be more concrete about the way he worked on music. Both guitarists readily agreed on the importance of getting the ego out of the way in order to let music in, but Fripp wanted more details: “How do you get out of the way? Do you have specific techniques or regimens that you use? Can you just get yourself out of the way without thinking about it?” (Fripp 1982B, 54) McLaughlin’s responses, although colorful and suggestive, were on the vague side.

          robert fripp guitar sheet music pdf

          From conversations like this, Fripp had to be realizing that even the greatest musicians often operate intuitively, that is, using those parts of the mind which mere language does not easily penetrate – thus a musical genius may find himself or herself unable to articulate exactly what his or her inner processes consist of.

          This may all be commonplace, but the position did not satisfy Fripp. If he were to have students, he had to be able to conceptualize, to concretize, to verbalize his relationship with music in order to pass it along. The method he came up with is the subject of the remainder of this chapter.

          Elements of Guitar Craft

          First, a few facts. The first Guitar Craft course was given at Claymont in March 1985. The original idea was to give three seminars of five-and-a-half days each, but due to unexpected demand, the number of seminars was soon augmented to eight. At a certain point Fripp decided to make Guitar Craft a continuous, ongoing process, and as of this writing, without any signs of slowing up, there have been some thirty courses in the United States (mostly at Claymont but also in other locations), plus others in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and Norway. More than six hundred guitarists have participated in seminars, and the latest GC Directory, which serves to facilitate networking among active Crafties (the colloquial name for one who has attended a seminar and keeps in touch), lists the addresses and phone numbers of over one hundred and sixty musicians. Fripp is the primary Guitar Craft teacher, but he is assisted by a number of experienced guitarists intimately familiar with his methods, and by non-musical teachers whose function will be explained in due course. The League of Crafty Guitarists, which represents the performing presence of Guitar Craft in the world, has played concerts in America, Europe, and Israel, and has released three albums, with plans for a fourth in the works.

          As Guitar Craft has grown in size it has generated its own organizational infrastructure, complete with its own newsletter, literature (the Guitar Craft Monograph series), folklore, mythology, advertising, and merchandising (guitar accessories, decals, cassettes, bumper stickers, T-shirts, logos, and posters). For the seriously committed Crafty, Guitar Craft is indeed a whole way of life, centered on the discipline and practice of music.

          Like all such groups which have passed beyond initial groping stages into existence as more or less streamlined organizations with a more or less strictly defined protocol, Guitar Craft has had its inner conflicts, and Fripp’s control over the diffusion of his ideas has been less than total – on occasion he has had to chastise those enterprising yet unauthorized disciples who, after taking a seminar, have had the gall to bill themselves as bona fide Guitar Craft teachers for the sake of attracting private guitar students. Not that Fripp rules out any possibility of his students being teachers – to the contrary, as we shall see, he views teaching as its own genuine form of apprenticeship, a logical step for the committed musician. What he objects to is superficial students who greedily apply the imprimatur “Guitar Craft” to their own feeble methods, tapping into the iconic source without the requisite preparation.

          It’s an age-old story – disciples bringing grief to their teacher on account of having only dimly understood the teaching, and going out and telling the world all about it. It is a dilemma facing the discoverer of any great idea which is right for the times. Carl Jung disliked the idea of “Jungians,” and dreaded the inevitable institutionalization of his insights: on the wall of the lobby at the Jung Institute of Los Angeles hangs a plaque quoting Jung which reads, “If you must have a Jung institute, for God’s sake make it as disorganized as possible!”

          In 1989 the forty-two-year-old Fripp called Guitar Craft his “life’s work now.” (Drozdowski 1989, 29) After a grueling public career battling the fickleness of public taste, critical fashion, and the music industry, and after harrowing experiences in bands which just could not seem to stay together but inexorably degenerated into yapping egos, Fripp could say, “Within Guitar Craft is the first time I’ve been able to live in a sane world.” (Drozdowski 1989, 32) Fripp has always formed mental constructs and systems through which to channel his energies – King Crimson, the Drive to 1981, Frippertronics – and Guitar Craft is the grandest and most systematized of them all. Aside from his role as a teacher, Fripp personally gets a charge out of playing with students in his seminars: he says it “can be as good as King Crimson, playing in front of thousands of people.” (Milano 1985, 34)

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          The goals and ideals of Guitar Craft are lofty enough. Fripp aims at no less than inaugurating a tradition of pedagogy for the flat-picked steel-stringed guitar. He believes that there is one best way to approach the mechanics of guitar playing, and that he has found it. He is quite uncompromising on this point: although sincere in his admiration for the likes of Hendrix, Beck, and Clapton as musicians, he is quick to find fault with the mechanics of their technique. Just examine any photograph of guitar heroes in action, he will say: right hands sloppily and inefficiently disported, left thumbs craning over the top of the fretboard. (Personally, I really doubt we would see so many of these wayward thumbs if there weren’t some good reason for it. Fripp himself, though he’ll bend a note here and there, doesn’t use a whole lot of string-bending vibrato in his playing; if he did, he might find cradling the neck between the thumb and first finger more effective than planting the thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, which is his recommended position.)

          Along with the dissemination of a scientifically precise method of playing goes the creation of a new repertoire of exercises, etudes, compositions, and improvisational formats, all of which have grown and are continuing to grow organically out of Fripp’s and his students’ engagement with the playing technique, the new tuning Fripp invented and teaches to all Guitar Craft students, and the whole mind-set that goes along with Guitar Craft. The new repertoire is conceived as fulfilling more than a merely aesthetic function in the sense of new music for its own sake: it also fulfills a social purpose, bringing Crafties into a special relationship with each other through creating and practicing the music. As Fripp put it in 1987, “You can construct music in such a way on a purely structural and technical level that it pulls musicians together.” (Diliberto 1987, 52)

          Guitar Craft, like King Crimson before it, is conceived as a microcosm of society at large, or, perhaps more accurately, as one possible model blueprint of the inter-relationships in an ideal society. To put it somewhat less grandiosely, Guitar Craft music works by give-and-take, communal effort, selflessness, cooperation, and listening to others. Fripp has said, “If you wish to draw people together, get some of them playing in five and some of them playing in seven in a certain kind of way and it will inevitably draw them together while they’re playing it. If when they leave that room they have been together in a certain kind of way, if only for a moment on the outside meshing together, perhaps they go back in and perform it again, and maybe something can come together on the inside.

          Well, that begins to be very interesting stuff. Now imagine, just as a possibility, an idea of a repertoire of music which will guarantee, by its performance, to unify the people playing it. Even as an idea that’s worth shooting for. I’ve seen it happen here [in Guitar Craft].” (Diliberto 1987, 52) This sounds very Platonic – Plato with his musical modes that had certain definite, inevitable effects on the human soul – and also echoes Gurdjieff’s ideal of objective art.

          In a recent interview, Fripp compared himself to thirteenth-century English carpenters who took large numbers of apprentices into their homes. Extending the analogy, he likened Crafties to anonymous cathedral builders of the late middle ages: “They didn’t carve their names in the stones and leave testimonials to who they were because it would have gotten in the way.” (Diliberto 1987, 52) Once again, the selfless and humble devotion to one’s craft, the idea of working in the service of a purpose unimaginably greater than oneself.

          Jung had a similar idea, which he relates in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections: he dreamed of the men and women of today working for consciousness as the myriad builders of an immense new cathedral of human fulfillment – each builder playing perhaps only a small, anonymous part, but nonetheless contributing significantly to the realization of the overall design. How long would the construction of this vast symbolic cathedral take? In Jung’s view, about six hundred years.

          In Guitar Craft courses, Fripp and his students use acoustic guitars exclusively. This is partly due to purely practical considerations – the prospect of fifteen, twenty, or more electric guitars simultaneously playing raises possibly insurmountable balance problems and equipment hassles. But there was more to the choice of acoustic instruments than that. Fripp’s first guitar had been an acoustic, but in the early King Crimson years he had switched over to electric almost completely. In 1974, while allowing that the acoustic had a potentially lovely tone if properly played, he called acoustic guitar “an anachronism … As a form of contemporary expression, the electric guitar is the only hope for the guitar at the moment as a creative instrument.” (Rosen 1974, 34)

          In the early 1980s, particularly in his work with King Crimson and Andy Summers, Fripp delved into the latest effects and guitar synthesizer technology. Like many guitarists, though, he was frustrated with the slight tracking delay of even the best guitar synths – and like many musicians, after initial flirtations with the awesome sound capabilities of MIDI rigs, Fripp seemed to come around to the conclusion that music is more important than sound – and that good music could not be purchased at the local electronics hardware/software store but was every bit as elusive as it had ever been. (Even Milton Babbitt, twelve-tone guru of the early RCA synthesizers of the 1950s and early 1960s, had concluded that “nothing gets boring so quickly as a new sound.”)

          Fripp also spoke of the disturbing distance, in playing an electric guitar, between the sound (coming out of an amplifier speaker somewhere) and its source (at the fingers of the guitarist). He said, “As soon as you plug in you have a state of ‘schizophrenia.’” (Diliberto 1987, 52) This distance or schizophrenia was something a professional player could learn to work with, but only at some cost in terms of a sense of intimacy with the music.
          In playing the acoustic guitar, the sound emanates directly from its source, and both are held close to the body, so that a certain direct proximity to the music inheres which is intrinsically impossible with an electric guitar.

          For the type of group playing practiced in Guitar Craft, it is vitally important for each player to be able to hear what everyone else is doing, for there to be no ambiguity between the sound and its source. Fripp settled on the acoustic Ovation Legend 1867, which features a gently rounded super-shallow body design that may be about as close to the shape and depth of an electric guitar as is possible without an intolerable loss of tone quality. Fripp liked the way the Ovation 1867 fitted against his body, which made it possible for him to assume the right-arm picking position he had developed using electric guitars over the years; on deeper-bodied guitars, the Frippian arm position is impossible without uncomfortable contortions, as I found out with my beloved Yamaha dreadnought.

          The Ovation 1867 also features a built-in pickup and graphic equalizer for use in performance situations where amplification is necessary; of course, the moment it is plugged in, the guitar no longer sounds like the guitar itself, but like the speakers it is running through, and the source/sound schizophrenia rears its head again. But – shall we say – life is full of compromises, and the Ovation 1867 has become the officially recommended Guitar Craft model.

          So what is Guitar Craft? Perhaps I should have begun with the concise definition given in the 1989 Guitar Craft Services Brochure. “Guitar Craft,” it is therein written, “is three things: 1) a way to develop a relationship with the guitar; 2) a way to develop a relationship with music; 3) a way to develop a relationship with oneself.” The name Guitar Craft itself implies a certain concentration on the attainment of a level of competency in very practical terms.

          Competency may then pass into fluency, and fluency into mastery. But the emphasis in Guitar Craft is on concrete methods, not speculative metaphysics or “bright ideas” as they are known in Crafty folklore: as the Brochure goes on to say, “We approach the intangible by working on the tangible. At a certain point of application, of concentrated effort, craft becomes an art.”

          The League of Crafty Guitarists

          Live Guitar Craft music has been heard by audiences under a variety of circumstances. Even Level One student’s have been thrust into public to display their craft, as at the Iron Rail gig described in the previous chapter. On other occasions, Fripp has had students at particular seminars mount more formal concerts and make radio station appearances. In early 1987 Fripp took a six-week Level Three/Four group on a performance tour in Holland and Israel. Various local groups of Crafties, with names like the New York Chapter and the Potomac Working Group, have organized themselves and given performances without Fripp, sometimes with his blessing and sometimes without. Fripp has talked about Guitar Craft in terms of an image of “one guitarist in many bodies”: at least in theory, wherever two or more Crafties are gathered in the name of that metaphysical guitarist, there is professional-quality music.

          But the League of Crafty Guitarists proper is Guitar Craft’s primary performance vehicle, and over the past few years Fripp and various incarnations of the LCG have toured extensively, particularly in the United States. As the League is envisioned as a visible presence of Guitar Craft in the world, Fripp is concerned to put his best foot forward, and only the most committed Crafties are admitted to this exclusive group. Guitar playing is only part of it; among other things, to become a performing member of the League of Crafty Guitarists you must be able to look Fripp in the eye and say you have not taken any kind of drugs during the past year.

          In the Guitar Craft Newsletter of May 3, 1988, Fripp announced, “There will be a Special Project in California during the second half of January 1989. This will require a high level of performance skill. Should any Crafty be considering this, begin your preparation now.” In time, a team coalesced, and, billed as Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists, presented concerts in five cities from San Diego to San Francisco in the week of January 14-21.

          The venue for the two sold-out appearances in San Francisco on January 15 was the Great American Music Hall – maximum occupancy 470 persons. A handwritten notice on the door read: “NO cameras or recording devices permitted at this performance. Persons found in possession of cameras or recorders – in use or not! – will be asked (then told) to leave. No refunds will be issued. Ya wanna tape – go to a Grateful Dead concert.”

          No longer an active Crafty (not that I ever really had been, save for my week at Claymont), I came as a member of the audience for the early show. I squeezed into a chair at a front-row table and contemplated the Music Hall’s strange baroque architecture and the audience – mostly white males in their twenties and thirties, a few young women, lots of beards and intelligent-looking faces.

          Fripp and company made a grand entrance, walking in single file from the door at the left of the stage to the back of the hall, then up the central aisle to the stage. Standing in neat semicircular formation, the League suddenly looked at the audience, with exaggerated expressions of curiosity – as the audience looked back and giggled. This seemed to be a gesture in the direction of breaking down the barrier between audience and performers, or even reversing their roles entirely. Someone from the balcony yelled out, “Starless!” and Fripp threw a mock-peevish glance up in the offender’s direction.

          The music was mostly memorized, with portions of some pieces possibly improvised. The fifteen Level Six guitarists sat on their chairs with perfect poise and concentration, almost expressionless, occasionally looking around the hall with an air of slightly self-conscious bemusement. The League performed on amplified acoustic Ovations with built-in pickups.
          What the League of Crafty Guitarists lacks in visible passion it makes up for in an awesomely understated display of discipline and technique. At the San Francisco concert the overall musical impression was one of a smoothly-functioning V-8 cruising along comfortably at ninety miles an hour, sometimes downshifting into low gear with a tremendous release of energy.

          The music – a carefully planned sequence of full ensemble playing, duets, trios, quartets, and larger combinations – whether fast or slow, intricate or thrashing, was almost uniformly difficult, impressive, and peerless executed. The audience, almost throughout, seemed quiet, attentive, blown away, responding to almost every piece with thunderous applause. There is nothing like it – a virtuoso acoustic guitar orchestra playing all original material in styles that blend rock and minimalism, Bartok and blues, gamelan and extended tonalities.

          The only real negative criticism I could muster was to the effect that most of the pieces were on the allegro side, structurally static and non-developmental, somewhat at the expense of expressive shifts of dynamics and tempo. But even this seemed perhaps less a critique of whom the League were than a concept of what I would fancy doing, compositionally, with such an extraordinary ensemble at my command.
          After the first fifty-minute set, Fripp stood up and, in that smiling gentlemanly way of his, asked the audience if they had any questions about Guitar Craft “or what we do.” Someone said, “Well – what exactly is it that you do?” Laughter.
          Fripp eyed the questioner with feigned exasperation and said, “Where have you “been” for the past fifty minutes?” Gesturing gracefully to his ensemble, he added, “This is what we do.”

          Someone else asked how he would classify the music. “I wouldn’t,” he said, and, after a pause, “‘Contemporary music for guitar ensemble,’ but that doesn’t really tell you much.” In general, Fripp’s manner of fielding audience questions resembled the way he interacted with students from the head table at Claymont: confident, cheerful, ironic, and witty – rather like an impish fount of wisdom.

          The second set was considerably shorter than the first, and after six pieces – the final one a big loud polymetrical chordal thrasher – the League rose from their chairs to a standing ovation, took their bows, and filed neatly back out the way they had come in, following a beaming Fripp, who nodded to acknowledge the acclaim.

          The League of Crafty Guitarists: Recordings

          Fripp has always considered most of his music difficult if not impossible to record properly, and the problem of conveying the sense behind the sound is particularly sticky when it comes to the Guitar Craft repertoire. The ideal way to hear Guitar Craft music is live and unamplified; live and amplified – as at the concert just described – is second best; and on the home stereo a distant third.

          Live and unamplified, the sound of the guitar orchestra evokes a feeling of immense depth and spaciousness: a circle or semi-circle of five, ten, fifteen, or twenty guitars playing concerted polyphony can be a marvel of acoustics, presenting a thrilling experience of translucent three-dimensional musical space. Quite aside from the philosophical issue of live versus canned music, there is simply no way that this music will sound the same coming out of loudspeakers, no matter how immaculate the mixing, no matter how sophisticated the playback and/or amplification equipment, no matter how well-engineered the recording.

          Live and unamplified, the sound of a fifteen-piece guitar ensemble is emanating from fifteen distinct points in space, animated by subtle acoustic harmonics and reverberations reinforcing each other and canceling each other out in a fantastically complex way that speakers cannot physically duplicate. In live, unamplified situations, the Guitar Craft sound surrounds the listener or participant with a tangible yet chaotic, turbulent yet oceanic expanse.

          I felt this directly at the GC XII seminar in February 1986 as we sat around the circle in the ballroom and played. When the first Guitar Craft album came out a few months later, I was inevitably disappointed at the sound, which seemed to be completely lacking in depth. But Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists – Live! is an affecting, impressive record nonetheless – the more so given the facts surrounding its recording. The “challenge” of GC XII, the reader will recall, was to present an evening of original music at the Iron Rail.

          Two months previously, Fripp had given the two-week GC IX group of seventeen guitarists a set of challenges: preparing music for a live radio broadcast, a recording session in the Claymont mansion ballroom (with a mobile twenty-four track studio parked outside), and three concerts at George Washington University.

          Of the eleven pieces on Live!, eight were recorded at the University concerts. One (“Crafty March”) was a take from the sound check at the University. Another (“The Chords That Bind”) was recorded in the mansion ballroom. “The New World” consists of solo Frippertronics recorded live, overlaid with a linear studio solo (the liner notes don’t clarify exactly what this piece is doing on a Guitar Craft album). Eight of the pieces are by Fripp, two are by Fripp and the League, and one is by Andrew Essex, one of the Crafties.

          Most of what I have already said about Guitar Craft music applies to Live!: it’s relentlessly intellectual and rhythmically difficult, stimulating and challenging to the listener; its sources are Indonesian gamelan textures, Bartokian counterpoint, Stravinskian tonality and meter, and rock rhythms; it’s predominantly polyphonic and linear, even the slow pieces; it’s admirably executed for the most part. And it is almost literally unbelievable, a vivid testimony to the power of an idea (Guitar Craft) – that the intricate, precise, and altogether coherent and accomplished music on the album was whipped into shape in such a short space of time.
          “Guitar Craft Themes I and II” (subtitled “Invocation” and “Aspiration”) are the foundation of the entire repertoire: an introduction to the new tuning, the style of group playing, and the characteristic picking and fingering patterns in Fripp’s method. Every Level One Crafty learns the “Themes”; they are the same pieces my seminar played in our final “concert” described in the previous chapter.

          Live! was released with a “companion” album, Toyah and Fripp, Featuring the League of Crafty Guitarists – The Lady or the Tiger? The premise of the album consists of Toyah Wilcox reading, to the accompaniment of gentle modal music by Fripp alone (Side One) and by Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists (Side Two), a pair of allegorical stories by a certain Frank R. Stockton (1834-1902). Stockton, Fripp explains in the liner notes, was a wood engraver and writer who bought Claymont Court in 1899 and lived in the mansion until his death; the room on the second floor he made his study is the room Fripp uses for private guitar lessons at Guitar Craft seminars.

          Stockton’s stories, “The Lady or the Tiger?” and “The Discourager of Hesitancy,” beguilingly recited by Wilcox, are metaphorical fairy tales set in a mythical kingdom, written in a studied, deliberately archaic, romantic style; little more can be said about them without depriving the reader of this book the opportunity to be drawn into their special paradoxical magic in as it were a virginal state. I shall thus refrain from further explication except to point out that unless you are exceptionally fond of fairy tales, it is unlikely you will find yourself wanting to play through the album more than once or twice.

          The Guitar Craft music that accompanies “The Discourager of Hesitancy” was recorded in the mansion ballroom by GC IX, the same group that made Live! It is unclear whether the evocative music – a long piece titled “The Encourager of Precipitation” – was conceived with the intent of using it as the soundtrack to Wilcox’s reading, or whether it was originally a long independent instrumental; it could easily stand on its own.

          The third GC album, Get Crafty I, was recorded by Fripp and a twenty-six-member incarnation of the League of Crafty Guitarists in October 1988, in Wessex. Some of the selections were taped at concerts, others during rehearsals. To the best of my knowledge, Get Crafty was never distributed to record stores, but exists solely as a cassette available by mail order through Guitar Craft Services. Which is too bad, because it is far and away the best of the three Guitar Craft recordings to date.

          The album represents a quantitative, if not quite a qualitative evolution within Guitar Craft in the three years that had elapsed since Live! The music on Get Crafty is much more difficult and complex, the playing of a uniformly polished and virtuosic character, as opposed to Live!’s occasional lapses. If Live! can be compared to the eight-year-old Mozart’s valiant and inspired if somewhat raw and naive attempts at symphonic composition, then Get Crafty is Mozart in his early twenties, in total command of a sparkling idiom he has completely assimilated.

          Get Crafty also represents a maturing Guitar Craft in the sense that the sixteen pieces were written by a total of ten Crafty composers: Fripp, Tony Geballe, Ralph Gorga, Curt Golden, Trey Gunn, Steve Ball, Burt Lams, P. Walker, Spazzo Ray, and Juanita. In other words, by late 1988 the ongoing creation of the Guitar Craft repertoire had become a collective enterprise; although Fripp composed five of the tunes (more than any other individual), his students at this point were eminently capable of tapping into the creative source and producing from their own imagination music in certain immediately apparent respects equal to Fripp’s own efforts in the genre.

          Now, this brings up some interesting issues. On the one hand, I find it hard to write about Get Crafty without lapsing into breathless superlatives – awesome, incredible, intense, sans pareil, fantastic, incomparable, musicians’ music. On the other hand, viewing the music dispassionately (which I am honestly unable to do), one might comment that in spite of having ten different composers, Get Crafty sounds rather as though it came out of a single mind, a single fount of style and inspiration. A cynic might say that Fripp had finally succeeded in finding a way of cloning himself, growing experimental cultures of his musico-genetic code and devilishly standing back to observe the resulting mutations.

          A musicologist might point out that the greatest composition teachers (Bach, Schoenberg, Nadia Boulanger, Olivier Messiaen) have historically been those who have guided their students to their personal voices rather than imposing their own style upon them. In a paradoxical formulation, Fripp himself has said that in the early stages of King Crimson IV individual egotism – the urge for self-expression at the expense of a higher-level musical organism – was not a problem … because he himself was “emanating” to the other members of the band what the music should sound like.

          There are a couple of pieces that strike me as being more individuated. Ball’s “The Breathing Field” uses graded dynamic swells and contrasting textural planes to good effect; Lams and Walker’s “Chiara” is a lovely, slow, almost achingly hesitant harmonic essay. Fripp’s own compositions on Get Crafty stand well above those of his imitators – they have real shape, real contour, real inner motion and line as opposed to a mere illusion of motion produced by a lot of fast notes. The juxtaposed textures of “Intergalactic Boogie Express,” the exploitation of open-string resonance on “The Moving Force,” and many other touches, show that Fripp is still (or was still in 1988) Guitar Craft’s master composer.

          But for the most part, the approach to rhythm, texture, harmony, and melody is interchangeable from piece to piece, with slight variations on the overriding stylistic theme. Why aren’t there slower and medium-tempo Guitar Craft compositions? Why so little true harmonic variety? Why so many dazzling ostinati and so little melodic lyricism? Why so few structural crescendi and diminuendi? So few real contrasts of mood and texture within individual pieces?

          Complicated stuff, this. Even though one can point to the relative lack of compositional differentiation in an artifact like Get Crafty, there is something uncanny precisely about the way all the music seems to be flowing from a single group mind – a mind seemingly so much greater than the sum of its individual parts. And I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with an artistic movement wherein unity of stylistic language is stressed at the expense of self-expression. When I was a graduate student, we used to have a little game where someone would play obscure compositions by Mozart and Haydn and see if the others could guess which composer it was – the point being that the idioms of the Viennese masters were so very similar.

          Rather than accuse Fripp of cultivating clones in Petri dishes, I am disposed to remind the reader that the whole Western concept of the composer as an individual Artist with a capital A is a phenomenon that dates back only roughly to Beethoven (1770-1827), successor to Haydn and Mozart in the classical tradition. It is probably safe to say that before Beethoven’s time, the composer, though he may have enjoyed a certain privileged status on account of being affiliated with specific prestigious institutions of church or aristocracy, was inclined to view himself – and was apt to be viewed by the society he moved in – more as a craftsman than as a prophet, a more skilled worker than a genius.

          And thus we come full circle to the idea of Guitar Craft as such. Across the horizon rises a new, or renewed concept of art: not individualistic but wholistic, not personally confessional art set apart from life on a podium but communally experienced craft which blends into life itself; not designated musicians entertaining designated audiences, but rather crafts manlike musicians participating with fellow human beings in the universal drama of time, tone, music, rhythm; not the “me generation” but spaceship Earth.

          New communities that embody such insights in their everyday activities, productivity, nurturing spirit, craft, and art – maybe Guitar Craft, for all its very human weaknesses, is one such community.

          Toyah & Robert Fripp Vs King Crimson – Heroes for #VEDay2020

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          Be creative at the Piano (Part 5)

          Be creative at the Piano (Part 4)

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            Avoid These 3 Common Mistakes When Improvising

            Mistake #1 -Thinking about what you’re going to play A lot of students think there should be some kind of preparation before improvising on the piano. They are right! There should be some thought as to the sound, tonality, and key but once these choices are made the thinking should stop
            and the playing should begin.

            Mistake #2 -Worrying about whether it’s good or not are you concerned with how your music sounds? Many students are. This mistake is prevalent among newbies at improvisation. They play a key or two and then think it stinks. Nothing will stop the creative fl ow more than thinking that what’s coming out of you is not good enough! Good is in the ear of the beholder. That beholder is you, so stop judging the product and focus on enjoying the process of being at the moment. This is why people learn to improvise in the first place. Let go and let the music tell you where it wants to go!

            Mistake #3 -Thinking that you don’t know enough to improvise. This mistake is really an oxymoron because the more you know, the more likely it is that you will experience blocks. If you do not have a lot of formal music knowledge, don’t let that stop you. All you need to know in order to improvise is chords and the scale the chords came from. That’s it. And the
            good news is this is easily learned.

            Some students create unnecessary problems for themselves because they believe they need to know this or that before they can begin. This is just an excuse to avoid jumping in the water. It’s also a way to avoid the act itself because once you begin to play you may tell yourself you really don’t
            know what you’re doing. Trust me. You know enough, and you know enough to begin now.

            creative at the piano sheet music

            Create A Fantastic Sounding Piano Improvisation Using Just One Chord!

            You’d be amazed to find out that some of the most complex sounding pieces of music are actually simple to create. Take the piano lesson, “Caverns,” for example. Here, we use just one chord in the left hand to create a harmonic foundation for the right-hand improvisation.

            The right hand plays both melody and bass notes, but the left is just playing one chord. The sound that is created is full and rich! But how can this be? After all, only one chord is used. The secret is in how the chord is played. We use a simple ostinato pattern to create the backdrop.

            This backdrop is the key to the whole piece. It quietly goes on in the background while the right hand is busy playing melody. Bass notes are also called into play with the right hand crossing over the left . Back and forth the right hand goes, and we end up with 2 minutes of music using just one chord!

            This is an excellent example of the power of limits. We know what the chord will be – in this case, D minor. We know that we will be playing melody notes from the D Dorian mode. Now we can relax and enjoy the act of making music. With the decisions of what to play out of the way, it makes the act of creating all that easier.

            Creating a Broken Chord Piano Improvisation

            There are really only two ways you can play chords on the piano – solid or broken. While solid chords are nice, it’s the arpeggio or broken chord that students love to play! Cascading notes shimmer and glide up and down the piano keyboard to create a waterfall of sound!

            Creating a broken chord piano improvisation need not be difficult. All that you need to know is what chords to play and how to create the broken chord sound. Knowing the chords you will play is the easy part. Creating the broken chord sound can present some with problems.

            These problems can be easily overcome if we start out by using a special
            chord structure known as the open position chord. Here, both hands are used to create a modern sounding seventh chord. The left hand gets the root, fifth, and seventh of the chord, while the right takes care of the third and seventh as well. With this chord structure, the beginner can create
            that beautiful lush sound right away!

            We can begin in the left hand and go up to play what is called an ascending piano run, or we can begin in the right and go down. We can alternate fingers back and forth to create different textures and use the notes under our fingers to explore a whole new world of broken chord possibilities.

            For example, in the lesson, “Forest’s Edge,” we use open position chords in the Key of B Major to create an ascending broken chord run. Both hands are used to create it. The right plays melody notes as well. The amazing thing about this lesson is that it sounds a lot more difficult than it actually is to play.

            Of course, broken chords can be played using triads, closed position chords, and any number of infinite chord varieties. But by using the open position chord first, students can quickly create a modern broken chord sound right away!

            Creating a Free-Form Piano Improvisation

            So many piano students wonder, how can they improvise? They just don’t understand how someone can sit down at the piano and play off the top of their head. What they don’t know is, there is some method or system behind the pianist’s approach. One of the best methods is to just pick a few chords from a key and play.

            For example, imagine you’re sitting down at your piano, and you just want to play what you feel. What do you do? For starters, you could place your fingers on the first chord that calls out to you. Perhaps a minor chord is what you feel like playing. Or maybe you’re in a Major mood. The key is to not think about it and allow the fingers to move towards what it wants.

            Let’s start out by playing a C Major 7 open position chord. This chord choice really determines the way the whole improvisation is approached. By using this chord structure, you’ve already determined what the sound will be. Now, all you have to do to create your free-form improvisation is to play around with this chord and a few others from the Key of C.

            You can relax and play around with the possibilities and come up with your own unique improvisations. By using this template, you
            begin to understand that the way pianists can sound so professional
            when sitting down to play, is by using chords.

            Creating a Timed Piano Improvisation!

            Have you ever heard of a “writing prompt?” That’s a tool creative writing instructors use to give students focus. For example, a writing prompt could be a photo of a beautiful nature scene. The instructor will then create an exercise where students write 1000 words or so about the picture.

            The beauty of exercises like this is that it gives you focus! Focus to think of nothing but writing about and describing what’s seen in the photo.
            We musicians can do the same thing. We can use pictures, a descriptive phrase, or as in the lesson below, just a few chords. While the medium is different (music) the method is the same – get students to stop thinking and start creating!

            The reason this works so well is you don’t have to think about what materials to use. When we have four chords to play around with, we know the names of the chords, and we know the chord type (open position.) Now all that’s required is to sit down and just play. We’re not worrying if the music is “good” or “bad.” We just play. And the more involved we get with this exercise, the more the music “loosens up.” No thinking is required here. Just the ability to play around with chords and melody.

            When the allotted time is up, we can either stop or continue playing. I advise students to stop playing when they feel themselves growing disinterested or bored with their playing. The more you work with the power of limits, the freer your music will become. Why? Simply because you are not concerned with the outcome! Instead, your focus is on the process. And from this comes a music that is never forced or willed into being, but one that is inspired right from the start!

            Creative Piano Playing 101

            So many piano students worry about playing notes correctly. Th ey think about timing, dynamics, velocity, and so on.

            Yet these same students are dying for the ability to feel something real. That spark of creative energy that enervates and refreshes the spirit.

            Poets know of this feeling, as do painters and other creative people working in their respective fields. But what about music? Surely, we’re not meant to spend months and sometimes years learning how to play other people’s music. Yet, this is exactly what is being done in schools and universities around the world.

            The piano is a marvelous instrument full of wonder. It sits waiting to be played. And you can play it! Not like traditional schools. You can sit down and let your fingers reach for a chord that calls to you. You gently rest your hands on this chord and music; beautiful, wondrous music comes forth! How different this is than trying to play something someone
            else has written.

            Your music is alive! It’s unique and fresh and born of originality! Each note perfumes the air with delicate fragrance, and you feel alive with this. Your heart and mind work together as the ideal music – YOUR MUSIC – fl oats into the air. The notes surround your heart and the hearts of others as they hear it. Gone is the need to recreate yet another dead composer’s music. In its place, a feeling of quiet joy as you let go and let the music tell you where it wants to go.

            Deep Piano – How To Go Beyond Surface Playing

            All of us have our “special” times at the piano. You know what I’m talking about. Those times when every note sounds like it was meant to be and everything comes together. Body, mind, and spirit are aligned and the music that flows out of us seems to come from a limitless source.

            Then there are times when nothing comes. These periods are frustrating yet essential to our growth. We may not like them, but unless we go down in the valley, so to speak, we will never see the next peak on the horizon.
            I’ve found that it’s best not to try and bypass this back and forth scenario. Some students get so frustrated that they try and force the music. This is a mistake and will only lead to further frustration.

            The key to getting “back in flow” is to listen. Listening is essential for without it, we will only be playing on the surface. But if we tune in to what’s going on inside us – or more accurately, if we just let go and let the music itself speak through us, we’re following our intuition and going with the fl ow rather than against it.

            As you might have surmised, this is similar to meditation. Not the mantra chanting kind of meditation, but the kind where you just sit and allow thoughts to come and go… watching them go by as an impartial observer.

            Soon, thoughts slow down, and we are left contemplating nothing. From this place can come your deepest piano playing. To get to this place, it’s a good idea to not have a goal when sitting down at the piano. You simply allow yourself to be and explore using the materials of music – chords, notes, etc.

            Perhaps the key of G Major calls to you. Then, that is what you must play. Your intuition will never fail you and will reward you with some of the “best” music possible. You must release your grasp on what you want and allow for the unexpected to develop.

            Easy Piano Improvisation: Learn to Express Yourself!

            Have you ever wanted to just sit down at the piano and play what you feel? Without worrying if it’s good enough or if you have enough “talent?” You can when you learn how to play piano using the amazing open position
            piano chord!

            This chord structure allows the complete beginner to create modern sounds at the piano FASTER THAN ANY OTHER METHOD! After teaching piano for 14 years, I can safely say that I’ve never seen students progress as fast as they do when working with this chord position. Let’s examine how one can improvise right away using the open position chord.

            First, you must learn how to use it. The easiest way to do this is to simply learn the chords in the key of C Major. We take the entire 6-note chord and move it up step by step. First, we play C Major 7, then D minor 7, E minor 7, F Major 7, G 7, and A minor 7 and finally, B half-diminished. We play the chords first as solid chords (all tones together) then we break
            them up.

            Once we’ve got this very large chord structure down in our hands, we can then use it to create music. Improvisation simply means spontaneous expression – learning how to create at the moment. Improvising does not have to be hard!

            Once you get the chords down, you’re left with the melody creation aspect, and this is easy to because all you use are the notes from the C Major scale.
            We use our chords much the same way a painter uses a palette of colors. We create using chords and the element of time.

            Sheet Music Download

            Easy Piano Improvisation Strategy Lets You Play With Freedom and Confidence

            When I first started playing piano, I looked everywhere for information to help me play what I felt. And, much to my disappointment, I was left floundering in the library aisles.

            One of the things I’m good at is just knowing if something works or not. In fact, I can look at a book and, within a few minutes, determine if it has anything useful in it. It just so happens that during my library visit, I ran across a small book, barely 60 pages or so. This book contained nothing but chord progressions laid out over small 4 and 8-bar phrases. The goal of the book was to get you to play these chord changes and develop a sense of structure.

            Well, it was brilliant. They say good things come in small packages, and this was pure gold to me. I took the book home and started to play through the chord changes. After all, here was something that was pretty easy to do. And it didn’t require a lot of experience. Just knowledge of a few chords.
            So what’s the easy piano improvisation strategy here? Simple. You have to find the right kind of limits that will set your playing free. You see, the problem for most students is not that they can’t improvise. It’s that there are way too many choices to begin with. By playing a few chords within a set framework, I learned that I didn’t need a lot of material to begin creating my own music.

            Free To Be Creative at the Piano

            I sometimes wonder why people even bother taking piano lessons. I suppose the hope is that one day, with a lot of practice, they too will be able to play Beethoven, Mozart, etc.

            The idea of creating one’s own music seems to be a foreign notion to most piano students. They believe it is beyond their ability. And with this belief they limit themselves. In fact, I think music may be the only area where students are not encouraged to be creative. Not only that, but the majority of piano teachers want you to learn how to note read before you learn how to play chords – that is, if they teach you chords at all.

            You see, classical piano teachers can stretch their curriculum out forever. You could literally spend 10 years learning how to play other people’s music. And while there’s no denying this music is “good,” it’s also been played and recorded by people who have dedicated their entire life to getting it right.

            Contrast this with visual artists. Do you think someone studying watercolor will spend years learning how to create another artist’s picture? It’s ridiculous right? Yet this is what is done in the music world over and over again.

            A student interested in learning how to paint in watercolor does not want to spend time learning how to paint the “masters.” They want to be able to create their own beautiful paintings. So why should music be any different? It certainly isn’t any more difficult than learning how to paint.

            Personally, I have nothing against people who just want to play from fake books or learn the classics to perform for family and friends. I just wonder why the desire to create one’s own music is so distant for most. It doesn’t have to be this way. Finding the right teacher or books is a start.

            How To Quickly And Easily Improvise Your Own Unique Piano Music!

            Improvisation… the word alone conjures images of free expression. It also intimidates those who have thought about actually trying it, but stopped because of self-doubt. It doesn’t have to be this way.

            The ability to improvise music at the piano is a skill that, like most others, can be taught. Try having just a basic piano improvisation using just two
            chords. The left hand plays a repeating pattern, while the right improvises melody. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than this.

            The problem most newbies make is they want to play sophisticated chords and elaborate melodies before they can play simply. They want to run before they can walk. And they soon talk themselves out of playing piano because it’s just too hard or difficult.

            The solution here is to just relax and play slowly. Then, you can play an ostinato pattern and improvise your own unique melodies in the right hand. This is a perfect exercise for those new to improvisation because your task is so well-defined.

            You see, when you have too many choices, you can get lost rather quickly. But if I were to give you an improvisation exercise that tells you to play these chords and this scale for a certain time frame, it frees you up! How? Because you now are no longer thinking of what to play. You know what to play. Now, your only concern is with self-expression. And once students get a taste of this, they always want more!

            It’s very freeing, this ability to spontaneously create music. And the more one plays, the more one grows in this art. Not by constantly learning new techniques (although there’s nothing wrong with this) but by turning within and listening.

            How to Be at the moment When Playing Piano

            Your best music will always come when you are at the moment and just playing the piano. Why is this? Because you have forgotten about trying to make music. Instead, you are now “making” music. A subtle but crucial difference that can be detected by most careful listeners.

            The key to being at the moment when playing piano comes when the technical aspects are mastered and the player can just play. Think of sports as an example. Michael Jordan didn’t have to think about how to drive the basketball to the hoop. He had done it thousands of times. Now he could allow his intuition to guide him in making the best shot.

            If Andre Agassi had to think about how to hit the tennis ball, he never would be able to get it to where he wanted it. The good thing about New Age piano playing is that technique is easily learned. Once the technical aspects of playing the chords is down, you are free to allow your feeling to guide you in making music. Now you are “at the moment” and can let the music tell you where it wants to go -not the other way around.

            Wynton Marsalis LIVE Wynton Marsalis Sextet plays the Music of Sidney Bechet at Jazz in Marciac 2009

            Wynton and his Sextet (with Bob Wilber and Olivier Franc) performed the Music of Sidney Bechet.

            Set list: 0:01 – Sheik of Araby 7:25 – Bechet’s fantasy 15:08 – Cake walking babies 18:58 – Summertime 23:23 – Promenade aux Champs-Élysées 32:20 – Petit fleur 38:00 – Way I ride 48:42 – Sweet Louisiana

            Personnel Wycliffe Gordon – trombone Dan Nimmer – piano Carlos Henriquez – bass Ali Jackson – drums, tambourine Bob Wilber – soprano sax Olivier Franc – soprano sax Victor Goines – tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet

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            Be creative at the Piano (Part 4)

            Table of Contents

              Be creative at the Piano (Part 4)

              Paint Your Own Musical Landscapes!

              I don’t know why, but I find the idea of interpreting nature musically to be very appealing. Maybe it’s because I’m attracted to nature’s beauty, but the notion of communicating that beauty musically has always intrigued me.
              Not being a very patient person, I wanted to find a way to capture a musical idea very quickly and sketch out an entire piece all at once. Visual artists do something called a thumbnail sketch, and I wanted to do the same thing for music.

              It then occurred to me that if I just sketch out the first 8-bars of the piece, and write in the first 2-bars of melody, I could capture an idea that would be remembered weeks or even years later. It’s amazing, but this actually works! The secret is the melody.

              creative at the piano free sheet music & scores pdf download
              This book is available in our Library.

              If you can’t read music and want to do this, just do what I do. I write down the note values (quarter notes, half notes., etc.) and write the letter name of the note beside the note value. One of the most important things I’ve discovered over the years is that the note value (its time length) is what really captures the idea. Just think of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for a good example. Da Da Da Duh… These notes mark the whole composition.

              Piano Journeys -Create Your Own Unique Music!

              Have you ever marveled at how artists can quickly sketch out a beautiful landscape scene and convert it into a full-fl edged painting? I have and I’ve always been jealous of their ability to do so. I’ve oft en wondered why music couldn’t be more like this.

              Of course, composers know how to create a complete piece of music, but I didn’t want to spend years learning theory and harmonic analysis. I didn’t want to study form and compositional technique. Not because I was lazy or unmotivated, but because there had to be a simpler way of taking what I felt inside and turning it into a piano improvisation or composition.

              Fortunately for me, I discovered my own unique method for quickly creating what I love to create, and that is New Age piano music. A few chords and a key in which to play are all I needed to begin quickly creating my own unique piano journeys.

              You see, the problem most aspiring composers have is that they think they need to learn everything that was ever written about how to compose music. This isn’t necessary, and only serves to delay the experience of jumping in the water and trying it first hand. My method is really simple – improvise first and let the music tell you where it wants to go. That is, let go and allow the music to fl ow through you.

              I ALWAYS START WITH IMPROVISATION because this is where the raw creative energy is. If something strikes me as particularly nice, I’ll draw out 8-bars on a sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be notation paper either. I just use a blank composition journal I bought at a bookstore to do this.

              After the 8-bars is drawn, I’ll write in the first 2-bars of the melody to remember the initial idea. I then use the chords from the key I’m working in to complete this small 8-bar section. Working within 8-bar sections is, I think, the best way a beginner can actually complete a musical phrase.
              It’s a very attainable goal and works very well.

              Piano Lessons: Creating an Impressionistic Soundscape

              Ah… the Soundscape. That indefinable rush of notes that envelopes and soothes. The first classical composer to really embrace this type of music was Claude Debussy.

              In fact, a whole style of music, Impressionism, was coined based on his music alone. It’s a lush style that tries to steer clear of too definable a melody line. Instead, textures and rhythms are explored.

              Some students think this style is the hardest to learn, but I think it’s actually easier to play this style than the straight melodic style embraced in the classical period. For the improvising pianist, creating an impressionist
              Soundscape requires nothing more than learning a few chords and playing them.

              Debussy based much of his music on something called the whole-tone scale. This scale basically takes out any “tension” that can be found in our major and minor scales. The Chinese and Japanese use pentatonic scales frequently, and this is also similar. But, we don’t have to use these scales to create our Soundscape.

              The C Major scale will work just fine. For instance, in the lesson “Reflections in Water,” we use open position chords to create with. It’s HOW we use them that gives us the feeling of a Soundscape. We play slowly and allow the notes to ring out. No rushing is involved here. Instead, we adapt an attitude of exploration.

              The music is created by allowing our fingers to play with the tones in the C Major scale. Chord changes come every few bars or so. The music is repeated a few times, and then we stop.

              You see, you don’t need fancy materials to create beautiful Soundscapes with. You can use just a few chords from the C Major scale and improvise a beautiful piece of music! We play with the textures and allow the music to appear – without forcing or willing it into being.

              Piano Songs – Create Them Yourself With Just a Few Chords!

              Most people play other people’s music. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. The classical repertoire is fantastic and worthy of playing.

              But what if you want to just sit down at the piano and create on your own? Piano songs can come out of you as easily as drinking a glass of water. Think not? It’s true. All you need to realize is it can be done -if you start using a chord based approach!

              For example, in the lesson “Reflections in Water” (available at, a few chords and a simple technique is used to create a very nice little piano song. Nothing complicated or sophisticated here. Just some simple chords in open position and a framework upon which to hang it.

              But, and this is important, it’s an original piece of music. No note-reading was used. No attempt to “come up” with material. You see, when you’re able to freely improvise, piano songs can spill out of you as easy as words do when speaking.

              So what’s the trick? It’s being able to let go of the need to control the outcome and allow the music to unfold on its own. This is actually an intuitive approach to playing the piano, and one that’s served me well over the past 15 years. Look, the goal for most piano players is to be able to
              either play the classics, or play from lead sheets or fake books. Creating one’s own piano music is a foreign notion to most.

              That’s why I’m a big fan of the New Age piano style! It focuses mainly on improvisation and “free play” and requires very little in the way of technical know how. What is required is the ability to suspend judgment and allow for the unexpected.

              Th is can be very threatening to some. In fact, people come up with all kinds of excuses as to why this music is “inferior” to other types. I always laugh when I hear that argument because I know there’s nothing more these people want then just to “be” at the piano.

              Piano Songs – Create Them Yourself!

              Have you ever wanted to create your own unique piano songs? Just simple pieces that express how you feel? You can if you learn how to improvise first and then learn how to compose. Here’s why.

              Improvising allows you to express what you feel without constraint. In essence, it’s like free writing because the goal here is to free your own unique voice without having to worry about right or wrong, good or bad. It is a skill that students should learn before any other and is foundational for further success at composing. Once you are able to sit down at the piano and can trust your intuition to guide you, you’re ready to compose.

              Composition is really just slowed down improvisation. We take the initial inspirational gem we’ve discovered through improve and flush it out using the tools of repetition and contrast. For example, in the lesson “Waiting for Spring,” we learn how to create a simple ABA form in the Key of C.

              The key here is that we already know the piece will be an ABA form, so how do we proceed? Easily! The way I do it is I write out the first 8-bars and then improvise to see what will come up. Once I’m onto something, I write out the first 2-bars of the melody, so I can remember it. Then I use chords from the Key of C Major to finish the first 8-bars; my (A) section.
              Another 8-bars or so for my (B) section, and I’m done!

              The arrangement of this easy piano song usually works itself out to be play the (A) section twice, (B) section once, back to the (A) section, and I’m done. Most of the time, this comes out to about 2-3 minutes of music.

              The important thing for creating your own piano songs is that you must be able to move forward and complete sections of music. This is best accomplished when you can improvise freely first!

              Play and Compose New Age Piano Now – Even if You’ve Never Touched a Keyboard!

              You love the sound of New Age piano. You may have wondered how certain people can just sit down at the piano and start playing from scratch. It’s not magic! It’s called knowing what you’re doing, and you can do the same! To begin, you need to know a few chords. I suggest complete
              beginners start out with something called the open position chord. This chord structure has many, many benefits for the beginner (and advanced student!)

              First, it’s a modern sounding chord. Forget about triads and scales. The open position chord allows you to play seventh chords right away. This chord structure is used by most jazz and contemporary piano players.
              Second, it uses both hands right away! When you first finger this chord structure, it will stretch your hands out completely. In fact, you will be playing more than 2 octaves of the piano keyboard. This is something beginners want to do right away, and it can be done with a minimum of practice.

              Let’s look at how we can use this chord structure to create music with. In the lesson, “Reflections in Water,” we have 4 chords to play. The chords are in the Key of C major, which means they are all located on the white keys. We finger the first chord (C Major 7) with both hands and notice the sound. How open it is! The sound you get from this chord is perfect
              for the New Age sound. In fact, once we finger this chord, we only have to move our fingers around a little and music comes out. It’s really an amazing thing.

              We switch chords using the same fingering and play around with the notes from the C major scale. This is all that is required to create New Age piano music, or Jazz music for that matter. The amazing thing about this chord type is the amount of music you can create right from the start. If you’re into New Age piano and want to immediately play in this style, I highly recommend you learn how to play the open position piano chord!

              Relaxing Piano Music – Create It Yourself With These Easy to Follow Piano Lessons

              You love the soothing sounds of relaxing piano music. But have you ever thought about actually going to your piano and creating it yourself?
              There are many piano courses, that teach beginning adult students how to play piano using a chord-based approach. Usually, the lessons are designed in an easy step by step fashion that shows you what chords to play and how to improvise and create your own music. (Check our Library Catalog).

              You already know how therapeutic listening to solo piano music is. Creating it on your own is much better because you’re actually involved in the process. Making music forces you to be in the present. Once you get a taste of how good this feels, you’ll want more and more.

              For instance, take the free lesson “Winter Scene.” Here we have a relaxing piano lesson that teaches you to play 2 chords in your left hand while your right improvises melody. To the complete beginner, this may seem like a lot. And it is until you actually try it. Once you start to play the chords in
              your left hand and get the pattern down, it becomes quite simple to jump in with the right and begin improvising a melody. I always advise students to go as slow as they need to at first. Speed is not important at all. Playing with sensitivity is.

              If all you can do is play one note in the right hand while your left is busy playing, then you’ve accomplished quite a lot. It won’t take long for you to freely improvise and create your own relaxing piano music!

              Simple ABA Form – Creating Your Own Piano Compositions!

              Form… to give shape to something. Yes, form is about giving music shape. Odd as this sounds (because we can’t see music), there can be a definable shape to our creations. One of the more frequently used forms is called ABA.

              This means we play a section of music 1 or 2 times, we play another (B) and then we return to our first section. Seems simple enough, right? Yet, many students have trouble creating their own piano compositions using this simple form. Most likely, this has to do with thinking too much.

              Many students overthink things and make their job of music creation that much harder. It doesn’t have to be that way. Not if you think in phrases! For example, take the lesson, “Rainforest Revisited.” Here we return to Lesson 3: “Rainforest” which is basically an extended improvisation. In “Rainforest Revisited,” you’re shown how to add another section of music – a contrasting (B) section, to create a new piece of music in ABA form.

              Now, most of you have no trouble when it comes to improvising and just playing the piano. Your music flows out of you, and this is how it should be. The problem comes when students try and think about what comes next. Wrong approach! Don’t think! Continue your next section the same
              way – by using your intuition.

              Here’s how I came up with the (B) section for “Rainforest Revisited.” I simply sat down at the piano, played the original “Rainforest” piece and allowed my intuition to guide me to the next section. I didn’t ask, “what should come next?” No. Furthermore, I felt my way through. I knew the (B) section would be 8-bars or so long and just came up with something contrasting to the original “Rainforest.” I now had a (B) section and could
              turn the entire thing into an ABA form piece of music!

              The Secret to Composition

              When I first started out playing piano and trying to compose, I couldn’t figure out how someone could get his or her inspiration down on paper.
              It was very frustrating to look at and listen to other artists who seemed to know the “secret” to composition. Little did I know that the big secret really isn’t about composing, it’s about being able to trust your own intuition and let it lead you instead of the other way around. It took a long
              while before, I was able to just let go and allow the music to fl ow out. But once I could do this, the idea of capturing an idea didn’t seem to matter so much. No. It was more important for me to let it all go.

              It also occurred to me that the more I tried to “capture” an idea, the harder it was to get down. Another artistic irony that’s proved itself over the years. Many people who want to compose their own music have
              problems because they believe that the musical idea they are working on is holy. They don’t understand that there are literally millions of ideas waiting to be born. If they loosened their grip slightly, they would be able to gently notate that idea and see where it would lead them.

              An entirely different approach and one that allows for so-called errors, mistakes, etc. For me, the secret to composing is not knowing how to
              capture a musical idea. It’s being able to open up to the limitless ideas within and allowing them to express naturally through improvisation.

              To Learn How to Compose, Learn How to Improvise

              As I sit here writing this, listening to Mozart, I can’t help but think of musical form. That sometimes, but oft en not, discernible quality to music that makes it art. And when I say art, I’m not talking about improvisation
              or free form.

              I’m talking about composition. Most students are baffled as to how a piece of music is constructed. It’s as if learning how to compose is something only gift ed individuals do. And while the intuitive sense
              behind creating melody itself can not be taught, the craft can!

              Form is to music what flower arranging is to the florist. You see, it’s all about creating a structure. In flower arranging, the goal is to create something pleasing to the eye. This is accomplished by how the florist places the flowers. He’s not going to stack them all to one side. No. He wants to create something that allows the eye to go back and forth.

              Something that the viewer can take as a complete experience. Music is much the same way. If we played the same thing over and over, we get monotony. If we vary the music too much, we get incoherence. The
              solution? Go back and forth between sections! Now, this is easy to grasp intellectually. The difficulty comes when students attempt to create their first composition and end up with something less than satisfactory. And this is because most students haven’t learned to trust their intuition.

              You see, to be able to compose, you must have the ability to move forward without criticizing yourself. This is THE most important skill and one that can be developed through learning how to improvise. I always suggest students learn how to improvise first. Then, when the internal critic is gone, they can move forward with their ideas. It seems strange that
              improvisation should come before composition, but if you want to develop quickly you do really need to free yourself from judging the product and have the ability to move forward. Then, when you learn how to compose by using sections, you won’t be as daunted and stuck at every little detail.

              You Can Compose Your Own Music!

              Whenever someone uses the word composer, inevitably, the names of Beethoven, Bach, and other classical personages come to mind. This can be very intimidating to those who want to record their musical thoughts and ideas down.

              In fact, comparing yourself to ANY composer will be detrimental to you. Why? Because you will always have to live up to someone’s expectations of what is good music or what is not good music. This comparison trap will lead you nowhere and will result in a drying up of the creative spirit.

              The solution to this trap is to begin where you are, and for most of us that means begin EASY!

              I’ll never forget the first time I tried to “compose” something. It was for classical guitar. I tried to create something original, and it took me 2 hours just to write out 4-bars of melody. Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing. There has to be some kind of method that works for you. Now, the
              method I use today has been very easy to work with because it gives me the freedom to compose AND improvise at the same time. I “compose” using 8-bar phrases.

              To do this, all one has to do is write out 8-bars on a sheet of paper. Any paper will do. It doesn’t have to be music paper or manuscript. In fact, I just use a spiral bound journal with ruled lines on it. Whenever I want to memorialize an idea, I draw out 8-bars very quickly. I then improvise and allow myself the freedom to play anything that comes out of me. If I try and think something up, the music will usually wind up sounding forced or contrived – qualities that music is better off not having.

              Once the idea (either melodic or textural) appears, I write out the first 2-bars, so I remember what it is and use chords to quickly fill in the 8-bar section. After this is completed, I may draw another 8-bars and see what else comes. If nothing more is coming at this particular point, I put the journal away and come back to it later on. This method has served me well over the years and is an excellent starting method for beginning composers.

              Keith Jarrett – The Art of Improvisation Part 1/10 remastered

              Did you know?

              Be creative at the Piano (Part 3)

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                Be creative at the Piano (Part 3)

                How To Use Piano Chords To Create Complete Sections Of Music

                Everyone wants to learn the “secret shortcuts” that will make
                improvising/composing music easier. And why not? Do you think professional composers don’t use them? They do.

                What I’m about to show you will have you blocking out sections of music in no time. If you’ve been reading my articles about composition, you no doubt have heard me say that a composition is the art of repetition and contrast. And it’s true! But before we get to the contrast part, we have to start somewhere. And that’s where “sections” come in.

                For example, in Lesson 4: “Morning Mist,” we use a crossover pattern in the left hand while the right hand improvises a melody. In fact, this is a perfect combination of improvisation and composition because what we have here is a 12 bar phrase repeated twice.

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                Now, in the lesson itself, I don’t tell you it’s a 12 bar phrase because I just wanted you to learn how to improvise. But, the fact is that’s what this lesson is compositionally. Here’s what it looks like when charted out – chart for Morning Mist (PDF file) Notice that only three chords are used here. But three chords are all we need to create this section of music. Essentially,
                this is a harmonic loop. We use the chords to create a background upon which we improvise our melodies. Now, aft er improvising our melody, we may like what we hear and want to memorialize it, thus turning this into a fullfledged composition.

                The easiest way to create these harmonic loops is to simply pick a key, then a few chords from the key and start improvising with them. Then, when you feel like you’re on to something you like, simply chart out when the chords change and that’s that. You’ve created a harmonic loop.

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                How to Arrange Music for Piano

                So, how does one go about arranging piano music? That’s a good question. And one that can get confusing for most students. They sometimes confuse composing with arranging, and with good reason – they’re closely connected.

                Let’s look at how to arrange a piece of music for piano. Specifically, we’ll look at the lesson piece “Fall Sunrise.” Fall Sunrise is a contemporary/new age piano piece I wrote to illustrate how ABA form works. The first section comprises 4-bars, which is repeated twice. The next section
                (B) is an 8-bar phrase repeated twice, and then we come back to our (A) section, which again is repeated twice. So, if we were to “arrange” this, so we can see what it would look like, we’d end up with something like this:


                This is a shorthand way of seeing the arrangement. It simply tells us how many times to repeat a section. Now, this arrangement by itself is sufficient for about 3-4 minutes of music, however, if we wanted to, we could add another section and lengthen it even more. The e reason why we need another section (if we wanted more music) is that if we keep repeating this, it gets monotonous and boring.

                We introduce a new section for contrast purposes. The ear hears this new music and is refreshed. But before we introduce a new section, we need something to lead us into it. We need what is called a transitional phrase. Two bars is usually enough to accomplish this. The transition prepares
                the listener to receive something new. It’s a connective device that bridges the sections. After the transition is introduced, we can bring in a new section of music and call it C.

                Now, if we were to write out what this might look like, we can come up with something like this:


                Where T= transition and C= a new section of music. By adding in a new section, we can now repeat the other sections more because we’ve introduced contrast into the mix.

                How to Capture a Mood Using a Few Chords

                When a landscape artist wants to get the essence of a beautiful scene, they make a quick pencil sketch of it.

                The artist doesn’t want to represent the entire landscape as it is, but as they feel it to be. A few lines scribbled here and there indicate the feelings the artist wishes to convey. We musicians can do the same thing! We can quickly sketch out our ideas on paper by using chords and a chord chart.
                A chord chart is just a way to notate when chords change through time. You can write out 8-bars to begin with (as I do). Now, let us suppose you have the urge to capture something musically. What do you do? Well, for starters, you can pick a key to compose with.

                For example, let’s choose the Key of C. Now after deciding that, we know that the piece will have a Major sound to it. We also know that we have 6 chords to create with from the C Major scale. With these primary decisions out of the way, we now can focus on notating our musical ideas and capturing a mood. Here’s how I do it:

                I start by just improvising and letting the music come out naturally. For example, I play a C Maj. 7 chord and I like what I hear. I’ll write down the first 2-bars of the melody, then place a chord symbol on top of the chart, so I now have the musical idea in place. My goal is to finish charting the 8-bar phrase with chords all the way through. Once this is accomplished, I have the first section of music. If more is to come, I simply write out another 8-bar phrase and keep adding more music.

                How to Compose Using ABA Form

                ABA form is like a musical sandwich. You have the 2 slices of bread with the contrasting meat and cheese on the inside. Instead of bread and meat, you use musical materials. Perhaps an 8-bar phrase for the A section
                followed by a 4 or 8-bar phrase for the B section. A nice little musical sandwich.

                A piece of music made from ABA form can last anywhere from 45 seconds to 5-6 minutes or longer DEPENDING ON HOW THE COMPOSER UTILIZES THE TOOLS OF REPETITION AND CONTRAST! For example, I can take an 8-bar phrase, repeat that twice,
                play another 8 bars for the B section, then back to the A section again for another repeat (with variations, of course).

                Now, how long will that last? It depends on tempo or how fast the piece moves through time. Most small ABA sections don’t last longer than 2-3 minutes. Why? Because if they were repeated for longer periods of time, the music would become dull and repetitious.

                BUT, if we create another section of music -the C section, it provides the relief the ear is searching for, and we can then repeat the entire thing again, so the form would look like this:


                This form extends ABA and provides the necessary
                contrast to create longer pieces.

                How to Compose Your Own Music Using 8-bar Phrases

                Some people think composing is this miraculous thing that only geniuses do. What a myth! It’s a skill that can be learned. What can’t be learned is the intuition that guides the creative force. What can be learned is the technique. And the most important part of composing technique has to do with THINKING IN PHRASES.

                A musical phrase can be 2-bars long. It can be from 4 to 8-bars long as well. It is a unit of music that composers use, along with repetition and contrast, to create ENTIRE SECTIONS OF MUSIC. There is no secret here, people. It’s like building up a structure. That’s why music is oft en referred to as frozen architecture. It is built up. The building up creates
                FORM. A structure such as ABA form can be composed of the A section (8-measures) B section (4 or more measures) then back to the A section.

                Now you may be thinking, it looks logical, but how does it transfer into actual music? Ah, this is where you get your feet wet and actually try composing a piece. We start from simple means and learn the principles of repetition and contrast first. We start with an 8-bar phrase for the A section. Now a problem arises.

                How do I fill up this section? You can either start with the melody or with the chords. If you’ve had a chance to look at my free lesson, you’ll see that by improvising, MATERIAL IS INSTANTLY CREATED! This solves your problem, doesn’t it? Now, you may be thinking, how do I get this material into the 8-bar framework you’ve been talking about? First, you need to be able to count in 3/4 or 4/4 time. Not very difficult, but if you can’t do this now, there are many sites on the web that can teach you this.

                Now it’s just a matter of transferring this raw improvisational material into the 8-bars. Most likely, you will be jotting down your chord changes. I explain this in a lot more detail in my online class. It’s a quick sketch method. You have the raw uncensored germ coming from your improvisations -you then write down what chords you are playing and perhaps the first 2-bars of melody, so you remember what the initial impulse was.

                The reason I use the 8-bar phrase is that it is a nice unit of time to work with. I don’t try and reinvent the wheel here. It’s been used for centuries and can be used in New Age music as well. Once you have this 8-bar phrase, you can repeat it and add in another section (B) to add contrast.
                This may be hard to understand by just reading about it. You have to do it in order to really understand.

                How to Create Interesting Textures

                A lot of new age piano music consists of repeating patterns, or textures in the left hand while the right hand improvises a melody. This approach is really a good one! It frees you up to create at the moment. First, you decide what chord or chords you’ll be using in the left hand. You
                then create an ostinato or arpeggio that lays the foundation for the entire piece.

                It’s like the background a painter uses before the foreground is drawn in. In the case of music, the background would be the textural patterns in the left hand. Then the right hand comes in “to paint” in the rest of the picture – in this case, the improvised melody.

                George Winston used this approach in the piece “Rain.” First, you get this beautiful textural background created exclusively by the left hand. He covers more than an octave with the left hand, using the thumb to reach past and make the music sound fuller. Now, in this piece he uses only a few
                chords, but interest is maintained through the improvised melody. In my piece, Flashfl ood, from Anza-Borrego Desert Suite, I use the same technique.

                I start by playing an ostinato in the left, then add in the melody in the right. I keep playing the ostinato for as long as my intuition says, “this sounds good,” then add in some contrast, either by changing chords, or by adding in new material. It’s important to realize that complete textural backgrounds can be created using the left hand alone. In fact, entire pieces of music can and have been created using this very versatile approach. It’s especially suited for new age music. So, here’s a step-by-step procedure for creating textures:

                Choose your chords – These can be triads, or Open Position Chords, or any chord structure

                Create a pattern for your left hand

                Improvise a melody with your right hand

                How to Create Your Own Beautiful Piano Compositions

                You want to create your own music. Something you can put your name on and show off to friends and family. Why not? It’s an amazing thing when you think about it. Where there was once nothing, now exists a piece of music authored by you. Let’s examine how we might go about creating
                a complete piece of music.

                Your initial idea is an important step. Why? Because the initial idea is the foundation for the entire piece! For example, let’s say you get a certain melody in mind. You go to the piano and play it. But then you’re stopped cold and don’t know how or where to proceed next. What to do? You need to first draw out 8-bars on a piece of paper.

                Working with an 8-bar phrase is the best way I know of capturing musical ideas and turning them into full-fl edged compositions. You can write out as much of the melody as you can, or you can do what I do – write in the first 2-bars (the initial idea) and then use chords to quickly fill in the entire 8-bars. This example is if you work with melody first. You can also “compose” working exclusively with chords.

                That is, you can take a few chords (like you have in the lesson, “Reflections in Water”) and play around with them creating a few minutes of music. These chordal improvisations are a great way to get your ideas out. If you wanted to develop “Reflections in Water” or “compose” it, you’d have to put it on a chart and write out the chord symbols on top.

                Then, you’d have something you could go back to and play again if you
                wanted. You’d have a complete piece of music. A long time ago, I read a book on musical composition where the author suggests you must work with either the melody or the chords and not both at once. This is an excellent suggestion because you simply cannot do both at once! It is far easier to either write out the melody for 8-bars or block out a chord arrangement than it is to do both at once.

                How to Create Your Own Piano Compositions Quickly and Easily!

                Here’s one of my favorite methods for quickly blocking out entire sections of music and creating a complete piano composition.

                First, you need to draw out 8-bars on a piece of paper. I use 8-bars first because it’s a relatively small space to “fill up” quickly. You don’t have to use notation paper. Any paper will do. In fact, I use a spiral bound notebook with blank pages. I just write out 8-bars and voilà, I’ve jotted down what will become a section of music.

                Now, here’s the interesting part. Most composers start with the melody line first. Nothing wrong with this, but if you really want to zap out a section quickly, start with the chord changes. Why? Because you can block out bars of music faster. Here’s what I mean. Say you want to create something in the Key of F Major. Great. Now we know that we have at least six chords to work with. By using just three chords, we can block out our 8-bars.

                How? Look… Say we have the F Major 7 chord for the first 4 bars, then comes B fl at Major for 2-bars and C 7 for the last 2-bars. We have now created a chord progression and charted it out. You can do this in under a minute. I swear it! It’s that easy. Now all you have to do is decide upon the kind of arrangement you’ll create for these chords. It might be arpeggios, block chords, open position chords… whatever. The point here is that by using chords, you can map out a harmonic territory. Now you can either
                create a melody using these chords, or keep it entirely textural. It’s up to you! Try it.

                How to Create a Theme and Variations for Piano!

                There are many ways to compose a piece of music. ABA forms, sonata allegro form, and so on. But the humble theme and variations has been around for centuries. While not used nearly as much as it was during the classical period, it still can be used to create artistic and attractive
                contemporary piano pieces. Let’s get started!

                First, we need a theme! Eight bars are the perfect size to contain your theme. I work within this framework all the time, and it has proven to be a workhorse when it comes to capturing musical ideas. Now, we can either begin with chords or melody. For theme and variations, I like to start
                with the melody (as do most composers.) This is because it’s a lot easier to create variations for a simple melody than it is to create different textures for chord changes.

                The melody does not (and should not) be sophisticated for theme and variations. Why? Because we want to change the melody. It’s a lot easier to vary a simple theme than it is a complex one, although I’m sure it’s been done successfully. Look at “Pachelbel’s Canon in D” as an example. Th e theme is simple yet beautiful – exactly what we want. Once the first 8-bars is complete, we harmonize it, and we have the complete theme. Now we create variation one.

                Most theme and variations composed by the “masters” start their initial variations with just a little change and gradually vary the theme to where it may be unrecognizable towards the end. We don’t have to do this here. In fact, I suggest beginners only create 3 variations at the most. Look at it as an arc. You start out with something, let’s say something andante, or slow. Now we want to add some contrast to the whole thing, so around variations 2 or 3 we speed it up a little. Eventually, we close the theme and variations by returning to the original theme. Take a look at the author’s lesson #54 for a good example of how to do this.

                How to Create an Original Melody

                Here’s a method I use that works. First, sit down at your piano or keyboard and just improvise. I suggest improvising first because music that is created in this way is at its freshest. It’s not adulterated or thought up. It is pure inspiration. Now, there will come times during improvisation where you may say to yourself, “this is nice, and I’d like to develop it.” You see, now you have an original melody to develop.

                The trick is, you don’t need a lot of material to begin with. JUST TWO BARS IS ENOUGH to start you on your way. I usually work within 8-bar phrases, so I know that the melody will usually end or repeat itself after 8-bars. I usually say because sometimes, the melody does not want to fit nice and neat into a predefined 8-bar phrase. But more times than not,
                the 8-bar phrase will serve you well Now, to be able to grow the initial 2-bars of inspired melody into 8, you can either harmonize the melody with a few chords or just write out the rest of the melody as it comes.

                Once I have the first 2-bars, I usually have already identified what Key the piece will be in. It then becomes a matter of choosing a few chords from the Key, and the rest of the material is easily flushed out into 8-bars. In the piece “Rainforest,” I use 2 chords for an entire 8-bar phrase ( 4-bars for G Maj. and 4 for E-minor) and improvise the melody on top.

                How to Find Musical Ideas

                The Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky once said: “A good composer does not imitate; he steals.” I think what he meant by this is that it’s OK to use
                a technique developed by another and make it your own.

                To imitate is to steal a technique or style and, somehow, not incorporate your own voice and energy into it. We all get our ideas from somewhere, whether by accidentally listening to a piece of music and subconsciously storing it away, or by a conscious act where we say to ourselves: “This
                sounds great, and I want to use it in my own music.”

                Some people have the idea that everything created must be original with no outside influences -but this is unrealistic. Haydn taught Beethoven. Italian composers influenced Bach and so on. All past and present composers on this planet have their influences, whether they admit them or not. Now, most of you know that I have two major influences:

                George Winston and John Herberman. You may or may not know of these people. The point is, I admit that they shaped my own style. How? Because I liked listening to them. It’s that simple. When I sit down to play, I inevitably gravitate towards one style or the other. I’m fine with that. It doesn’t mean that I’m unoriginal. It just means that I acknowledge reality and don’t try to come up with “something original.” What sounds new
                is 99.9 times out of 100, a modification of what came before.

                The whole point I’m trying to make is this: Don’t try to be original. Instead, focus on what you like and love, and your own voice will come through in the end. The music may be modified to an extreme (innovation) or just a little (homage). Just don’t imitate.

                How to Get Past Creative Blocks

                When I first began playing the piano and improvising, there were times when the music just wouldn’t fl ow. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make it go any further. Blocked and frustrated, I wondered why this happened. One minute, I would be in fl ow and enjoying the process of playing the piano. The next, I would find myself trying to come up with material.

                I soon realized that the more I tried to “come up” with something, the more blocked I became. The solution to this particular problem is simple, yet many find it to be frustrating in itself.

                The answer is simply to walk away. That’s right! If you’re playing the piano, and it just won’t come anymore, I suggest getting up and finding something else to do. Why? Because you can not force play! It’s that simple. And that difficult because we want to get back into the “groove.” But getting back to this place requires you to ease up a bit. You see, the creative process is somewhat similar to meditation. Meditation can’t be forced or willed into working. It must be allowed to work. So, too, the creative process. There are times when I won’t touch the piano for weeks on end.

                This used to bother me until I saw that I needed time away – a regenerative period so to speak. Natalie Goldberg of “Writing Down the Bones” fame describes this lackluster period as composting. Don’t worry about losing your creative ability. You never lost it. Just give it time to compost and when you return to the music, you will hear something new and wonderful!

                How to Quickly and Easily Block out Entire Sections of Music

                Most of you don’t want to go to college and learn theory, harmony, and composition techniques. Not only is it tedious and for the most part boring, but it’s also unnecessary.

                That is, if you want to compose atonal music or whatever the latest fad in academia is, go to college. If you want to capture your ideas and quickly put them down on paper, you only need to learn how to think in phrases!
                This is what most improvisers/composers do anyway. For example, many of you have heard me speak of using 8-bar phrases as a cornerstone to both improv and composition. Why? Because it’s a very easy space to work in! You can very quickly complete 8-bars and have both your theme and the first section of music.

                By working this way, you don’t have to worry about what the final form of the piece will be. Many composition books suggest you block out the entire structure of the piece first, including harmony, climax, etc. This is one way of working with music. It’s not the only way. Especially for beginners, it can be daunting to say the least to have no idea where you’re going and what to do next. But, and here’s the fantastic part, by working with 8-bar phrases, you learn how smaller sections are built into larger
                sections and so on. In other words, you learn how composers think.

                Here’s how I do it. I start by improvising and see what comes up. If I feel like I’m on to something, I just write out 8-bars on a sheet of paper (any paper will do) notate what key I’m playing in and the time and write out the first 2-bars of the melodic idea. Next, I’ll play through and write out the chord changes. For example, if the piece is in the key of F Major, the first 2-bars may be an F Major chord, the next 2-bars, B fl at Major and so on. By working this way, you can quickly complete an 8-bar section of music, and you’re ready to add more sections working the same way!

                How to Use Chord Changes to Learn the Art of Musical Composition

                When I first started getting interested in composing, it dumbfounded me. So many questions. The number one question I had was how did they do
                it? How do you create something and build a complete piece of music?
                Intrigued, I searched every book on the subject of music composition I could find. Living in San Diego as I do, the libraries aren’t the best. I found books on harmony, theory, and composition. But they all were over my head, AND they all gave examples that seemed antiquated and dull.

                Eventually though, if you persist, you’ll always fi nd at least one or two books that will be helpful and I did. I found this one book that had chord changes mapped out in 8-bar sections. Now here was something I could understand! No note reading was required here. All I needed to do was play a few chords on the piano and be able to keep time -both of which I could do. Aft er playing the chord changes for a while, I started to feel what musical form was. It no longer was an academic exercise. Not at all.

                You see, when I played through the chord changes in 4/4 time, I actually
                felt the form! Th at is, aft er the 8-bars was played, I knew that I could either repeat them again, or play new material (another new 8-bar phrase.) And that’s all there is really to musical composition. Composition is the art of repetition and contrast.

                Now, just saying this won’t teach you anything. Th at’s why when I read this in a book, I understood it, but didn’t really know how to do it. By following simple chord changes, the body actually takes in the rhythm and you start to feel what an 8-bar phrase is. By doing this, you intuitively begin
                to understand what form is all about.

                For instance, in the lesson piece “Fall Sunrise,” we have something called an ABA form. We have 4-bars repeated twice for the fi rst section (A), then an 8-bar phrase repeated twice for the (B) section. When we use the art of repetition and contrast, we get the common ABA form used so much in musical composition.

                Musical Composition – How To Listen To Music Like A Composer

                Did you know that there is more than one way to listen to music? I first read about this from a small book by composer Aaron Copeland.

                You see most people listen to music as if something were washing over them. Th ey listen to the oncoming barrage of notes and chords and never wonder or understand how it achieves the eff ect it does. Not composers. Th ey listen diff erently. While most people enjoy music for music’s sake -a composer listens for sections or how the music is constructed. I’m not saying that composers never listen to music for pure enjoyment. Th at would be terrible. No. What I’m saying is that a composer or anyone who takes the time to learn, can begin to hear how music is put together.

                Most music created today is composed of sections. More specifically, we have A and B sections, introductions, transitions and endings and so on.
                All these “pieces” go into creating a piece of music. Even spontaneously improvised pieces of music have been given a name by composers. They call it “through composed” which means that there are no distinctly repeating sections. For example, take the lesson “Cirrus.” (You can listen to this lesson at It starts out with a few notes that, by themselves, seem to go nowhere. But, if you listen to the entire piece of music, you’ll begin to hear sections.

                Musical composition is the art of repetition and contrast. This is what composers listen for. They listen to see how the songwriter uses these two qualities. The piece “Cirrus” was actually an improvised piece, but it turns out that even with this, you can hear that repetition and contrast was used.
                This can be done consciously, as many composers do as they create a piece, or simply generated spontaneously, as in the case of “Cirrus.”

                New Age Pianist Shows You How To Compose Your Own Music

                This New Age pianist has been playing piano for over 15 years now, and while I’m constantly learning new things, the one thing that’s helped me out -as far as composing goes – is looking at music as sections. I’m always telling my students to work within an 8-bar framework. Why 8-bars? Because it’s a nice, neat time space to work in. And, more importantly, it doesn’t overwhelm beginning students who feel they must come up with 100 bars at their first attempt.

                The beauty of working within this framework is that it teaches you about phrases. Music has been compared to writing in the sense that it’s made up of small phrases (like sentences) in bigger sections.. periods of music (like paragraphs) and, finally, complete movements (chapters).

                Composers always think in sections because they know this is how music is constructed, in at least 99% of the music in the western world. When you master the 8-bar phrase, you learn how to complete a section of music. You learn that the art of composition has everything to do with repetition and contrast.

                There’s only so many times you can repeat an 8-bar phrase before it gets stagnant. Here is where we introduce new material – a contrasting section. Perhaps another 8-bars or so.

                Another thing I have my students do is learn how to create a complete ABA form. This musical form is the most common one used, and it’s also quite easy to create. Once the first 8-bar phrase is complete (the A section) it’s time for some contrast. Maybe 4-bars… perhaps eight or more will do the trick here. Finally, the first A section is repeated (with some variation) and that’s that – a small ABA form is finished. It’s a good idea to master these small sections of music before delving into 400 bar compositions.

                New Age Piano Tricks

                One of the things that makes New Age piano so enjoyable is that it’s easy to get started. One of the “tricks” of the trade is to play an ostinato pattern in the left -hand while the right improvises a melody. Just listen to George Winston’s lovely piece, “Colors/ Dance,” to hear an excellent example of this technique.

                He uses just two chords in the beginning. But just look what he does with them! He maintains interest for a good couple of minutes before any contrast is introduced. Remarkable! And not as easy to do as many people think!

                The artistry in this is how he maintains interest. The improvised right-hand melody carries the music through and propels listener attention forward. The left -hand, however, is just playing the same ostinato pattern. Complicated? Hardly. A beautiful piece of music? Absolutely. And all that’s required is the ability to trust your intuition. Trusting intuition is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING A TEACHER CAN HELP YOU LEARN! Why? Because when you trust yourself, you allow the music to
                come as it should – naturally and easily.

                Technique can be taught by almost anyone and can be learned readily. However, the ability to trust yourself is something that takes a bit of introspection. Most of us have an internal critic that tries to condemn any creative effort. We must learn to listen to what we say to ourselves and allow for the creative impulse.

                More in the next chapters….And, remember, this site is the best place for sheet music download.

                Chick Corea, Noon song, album Piano improvisations vol. 1, 1971

                Did you know? Musical Analysis

                The Bach Chaconne: a practice guide to play and compose

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                The Bach Chaconne: a concise analysis

                What is a chaconne?

                A chaconne is a set of melodic variations that occurs over a repeating chord progression. There are several famous examples of pieces that are chaconnes (even if they are not actually called that). You may know the Pachelbel Canon, which is a 3-part canon built on top of a chaconne. It’s one of the most famous pieces of classical music, and there are lots of performances of it on YouTube you can listen to; here’s a nice one by the London Symphony Orchestra:

                In the world of classic rock, there’s a well-known tune by Ray Charles called “Hit the Road, Jack” that repeats the same four chords (A minor, G, Major, F Major, and E Major) over and over again. In case you don’t know it, you can hear it at:

                The chaconne is not just a piece of instrumental music, but is also a Baroque courtly dance! It was usually performed as a stately procession to enter or exit a ballroom.

                In the French court of Versailles, you probably would have entered the grand salon to greet King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette to the strains of a chaconne. Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor Bach wrote a famous chaconne—the Mother of all chaconnes—as the final movement of his Partita in D minor for solo violin.

                No one would be able to dance to this one! In performance, it usually lasts over 14 minutes! Violinist Joshua Bell said this about the chaconne: “it is not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect.” Some music historians and performers believe that it is actually a sacred work because of hidden references to the Passion story. There are many performances of it on YouTube; here’s a good one by Bella Hristova, a student at the Curtis Institute of Music:

                As you listen to it, you can hear the violinist playing an unbroken succession of melodic variations that follow the chord progression laid out in the first nine bars.

                Here’s the chord progression of the Bach chaconne:

                Bach Chaconne sheet music

                Now, some of you may have had a little music theory already in school or perhaps as part of your private lessons. Some of you may actually enjoy music theory; others of you may not know much about it yet, and possibly a few of you may hate it and wish it would go away. For those of you in the second or third group, the good news is that you don’t have to know any music theory in order to write excellent variations on the chaconne chord progression.

                But just for you music, theory fans, I’ve reprinted the chaconne progression below with a Roman numeral analysis and lead sheet notation. But again, it’s not necessary to understand the symbols above and below the staff in order to create a successful variation.

                Bach Chaconne sheet music

                So, how do you go about writing your own variations above this chord progression?

                There are several different ways. We’ll try one way that we can call “connect the dots” (except in this case, the dots are actually notes.)

                Let’s look at the chord progression again. If we consider the same chords but now put the notes in many registers, it would look like this:

                (Depending on your instrument, you might not be able to play all those notes, or possibly you might be able to play notes that are even higher or lower than the ones shown.)

                Step one

                Now, we’re going to connect the dots by drawing a line connecting one note in one chord to any other note in the next chord. Obviously, there are countless possibilities, depending on whether you draw your lines up, down, or straight across. Here’s an example, in which I use a dotted line to connect my notes, which I selected somewhat randomly:

                Bach Chaconne sheet music

                Step two

                Next, I’ve taken the notes that I connected with the lines and put them on a staff by themselves. You can do this with your own notes using manuscript paper or a music software program. Here are my notes:

                This by itself would sound a little weird—kind of leap-y and not very tuneful. But now comes the fun (and most challenging) part.

                Step three

                I can now create a melody by filling in the space between ny notes with other notes of various rhythms. This means, in most cases, changing the original note values to shorter notes. There are, of course, an endless number of possibilities. You can use any combination of 16ths, 8ths, quarters, etc., and move by step, by leap, or by a combination of steps and leaps. Here’s an example, based on the notes above.

                You’ll notice that my original pitches are in their original positions in the measure (though in most cases I’ve changed their rhythmic values to shorter notes). I’ve marked them with an asterisk, so they’re easy to see.

                Here’s another example, based on the same asterisk notes. In this one, I use fewer 16th notes, and I also take some of my asterisk notes up an octave so that the melodic line goes higher.

                Obviously, there are an infinite number of possibilities, and some will sound better than others. Remember, the “connect the dots” method is only meant to be a guide—a way to start. There is no rule that says you have to stick with it throughout your melody, or even use it at all. You could use it as a rough guide from which you can depart at any point.

                As you begin to experiment with your melody (and this will take some trial and error), keep in mind that there are certain conventions that Bach and other Baroque composers followed to make their music sound good:

                • Most of the “filler” notes should fit into the chords. Notes that do not fit are called “non-chord tones” and they usually occur on weak beats (2 and 3), weak parts of beats (the “and” of the beat, as in 1-and, 2-and, 3-and), and notes of short duration. Certainly, it is possible to have non-chord tones on strong beats and parts of beats, such as suspensions, and these can sound very beautiful. But they need to be used with care, and rather sparingly.
                • Melodies usually have a single high point. In the examples above, the highest notes (C in the first example and E in the second) occur only once.
                • The 7th scale degree (C# in our key of D minor) usually moves to the first scale degree (D), either immediately or within a beat.
                • Melodies often have repeating rhythmic patterns to give a sense of
                  cohesiveness. In the examples above, the eighth-and-two-sixteenths figure
                  occurs eight times in the first example and twice in the second. And in the
                  second example, the pattern of two eighth—quarter—two eighths within one measure occurs three times. We call these patterns “unifying devices,”
                  because they help to unify the melody.
                • Your melody should be fairly easy to perform. After all, you’ll be playing it, so you’ll want to make sure it fits within the range of your instrument and stays within your comfort zone as a performer. Of course, if you want to write some really challenging lines that will push your limits as a performer, then go right ahead! There is certainly a long tradition of composers writing virtuosic variations for themselves as a means of featuring their own prodigious performing skills.

                Of course, you can also try writing melodies without using the “connect the dots” method, simply by listening to the chord progression (or playing it on the piano if you can) and then just freely inventing a melody to go along with it. Whatever method you use, you will still want to adhere to the bullet points above.

                And, remember, our Library is best site to sheet music download.