All this talk of 16 bar tunes like My Babe is great, but how do you play over them? How do you solo or improvise over a form like this that is unfamiliar to you?
Grant took some time last night to approach this using the standard 16 bar song, When The Saints Go Marching In. With the form charted on the board we listened to Papa Lightfoot and Dennis Gruenling versions.
So where to begin? First, if it's a tune with a melody as strong as this, be sure you know and can play the melody. Hearing Dennis play gave a clear sense of starting from the melody and moving away from it by making improvisational changes to the melody. The advantage to this is that it sounds good and makes sense to the listener. And as you're learning to navigate a new form, the melody will also serve you well in keeping you on track and nodding correctly to the chord changes.
The next way Grant showed to ingrain a new form in your head is to get a play-along track going and play just the root notes over the changes. You can't be playing over a song form without knowing the root notes - that is harp 101. (Dennis' jam trax are great and cover When the Saints)
Recalling Shoji's past talks on the importance of navigating and phrasing back and forth between the root and the fifth of the scale, our next step was to chart the fifths of each chord change as well and we took turns playing over the song focusing just on those two scale degrees. (Not sure about this root to fifth phrasing? Take a look at the scale degrees in the melody of When the Saints.)
Time spent doing this will teach you the form and also give you the framework within which to work once you venture out into phrasing. It should also call your attention to rhythm - work at trying to make something interesting out of just those two notes. RickEy's suggestion might be to just play the rhythm of the melody with the root notes. Give it a try!
Remember to spend time at this during the week, and spend time just listening to Papa John and Dennis (from his Live Bootleg CD) - we'll return to it and give people a chance to continue working at this next week.
- Remember Joe is on tour in Europe the next three Mondays. Group classes proceed as normal though with the able teaching of Zoe, Grant, Shoji and RickEy, so don't miss 'em!