Learning music

An article by Alan West, saxophonist

 

I would like to pass on what was impressed upon me. I learnt from a double bass player, Murray Wall, who learnt from Lenny Tristano – a well known NYC music teacher who used to play piano with Charlie Parker.

 

The Lenny Tristano method,

Lenny was blind (there is ear work involved.)

 

Starters: Learn the diatonic system, scales in major and minors (natural, harmonic and melodic) in all keys. Play them slowly and try to hear the next note before you play it. Play arpeggios (including 7th) from each step on all those scales. First in root position, once mastered that move on to 1st, then 2nd and then 3rd inversions, again slowly and trying to hear the next note before you play it. Make all scales sound musical. Pick solos you like, start with easier ones, sing the solo and learn it on your

instrument from your singing (likewise melodies). Sing as much as possible, your ear is like a muscle and improves with use. Know the melody well to every tune you play. You don’t deserve to solo on a tune if you can’t play the melody.

 

For the more serious players. The above is about 6 months work with 4 hours a day regimen. Here comes the hard part. Tristano said if you can’t play a tune in all 12 keys, then you don’t really know it, all you got is finger memory. Start with nursery rhymes (hopefully your momma sang them to you as a child) pick them up by ear and take them through all keys. With standards, start to think of the chords in degrees i.e. III VI II V7 1, instead of Em7 Am7 Dm7 G7 C. You will start to hear in degrees more quickly and playing in all keys is much easier that way.

 

In a nutshell that is the basics. From here you can venture forth with a solid foundation. Remember the important thing about technique: It is only important when the lack of it inhibits music coming out. Just having a blistering technique and not much else is meaningless. Good luck, see you at the jams, whenever.

 

Alan and regular jammer Malcolm Hornby play on these. They are good: check them out!

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iso remote recordings, written by Alan West

 

Gypsy Jam – Demo

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cof7w1dfjhdql3o/gypsy%20jam%20demo.mp3?dl=0

Cha Cha Fransesca

https://www.dropbox.com/s/d8z51qfqgw4uu76/cha%20cha%20fransesca.wav?dl=0

Hot Luck

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gm4k3pj47zrrpld/Hot%20Luck.wav?dl=0

Josephine

https://www.dropbox.com/s/4uo37retj9wl9l6/Josephine.wav?dl=0

 

Alan West – sax, Malcolm Hornby — Piano, Denis Toner – bass and Mark Voogd – drums.

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