Instrumentalists Language……..

As seen from a vocalist’s perspective
‘Double time’, rhythm bridge and ‘then do fours’ take the head and ‘vamp’….

….lets go through a few standard terms.

Bars – Measures of time. Most tunes have an intro and may be 32 bars long.
Blues – Style of music. Often meaning a harmonic 12 bar form that many tunes are based on.
Changes – The song’s harmony…Chord changes.
Double Time – Everything is twice as fast.
Head – Melody of the tune.
Form – Construction of the song typically AABA (Stormy Weather, with a two bar
intro) or AB (Autumn Leaves – 8 bar intro then 32 bar form)
1st 8 bars = A
2nd 8 bars = A
3rd 8 bars = B (different harmony & melody than the A sections)
4th 8 bars = A ( same as the first A section.
Intro – usually 4 bars and may be 8 bars A Night In Tunisia has six bars, followed by a 16 bar AABA form with a 16 bar interlude thrown in…
Style or Groove of tune
Vamp – Measures that repeat over and over.

All love Ebonyrose x

Some listening references

Autumn Leaves (Bill Evans)

Stormy Weather: Ella Fitzgerald with the incomparable Joe Pass Listen for the tricky little 4 bar extra turn around at 1.20 (which she scats)

A Night in Tunisia, Charlie Parker. Shows what musicians like to get up to when the vocalist is away getting a drink…


Looking for some increasingly edgy scales to play over that D7 chord?

John Curtis

It can be helpful to think in this case in terms of the C lydian mode as the basic scale (instead of the conventional major scale) and then look at its increasingly altered cousins as improvisory substitutes. All of these contain a #11 from the tonic (i.e. a F# based on a tonic C for the scale). These show themselves as a 3rd and b7th in a D7 chord.

Why the lydian mode I hear you ask? Continue reading →

France : The Jazz Summer School Experience

By John Curtis, pianist

In August 2009 I was fortunate enough to participate in the Advanced Improviser’s Course with the Mediterranean Jazz Summer School held at a beautiful old chateau (Chateau du Bijou) near Chomerac in the Ardeche department in southern France about midway between Lyon and Marseille just to the left of the Rhone River. There was a singers’ course running in parallel and we all lived at the chateau for the week of the courses. In the food department we were exceedingly well looked after by a French family who normally ran a small restaurant in Chomerac I think. Whatever, it was great French fare with wine on tap. Breakfast of course included coffee and croissants. Dinner was usually quite comprehensive.

The school was run by Clive Fenner, an excellent drummer from East London and a very nice person. He has been running the course every year for quite a few years now as well as a sister course in Havana for Cuban music. He was ably assisted by a number of excellent musicians from the UK working as tutors on the course including two pianists, a saxophonist, a bass player and two singers. The students included about twenty singers, two pianists, two drummers, three saxophonists and two guitarists. We had people from the UK, Holland, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and, of course, Australia.

As part of the selection process you were asked to outline your jazz experience including the instruments played, length of time playing jazz, music qualifications, individual lessons taken, courses/workshops attended, band experience, reading ability, improvisational ability, how easily you were able to learn new material, repertoire, strengths as a musician plus what areas you thought you needed to develop in your playing and what particular things you were hoping to learn or get from the course.

Each day first thing after breakfast we started with some physical movement exercises which sometimes included timing-related activities. Then typically during the day we would participate in small group workshops learning to perform assigned pieces as a group, choir workshops (which included the instrumentalists), listening workshops designed to facilitate transcription and learning by ear, specialist workshops (for example the two pianists had specialists sessions with the principal piano tutor Simon Purcell), big band workshops and, in the afternoon after lunch, rehearsals with individual singers. The pianists were in demand for these rehearsals, so the afternoons were a lot busier than I expected. They were nominally for individual practice but who’s complaining.

After dinner each evening, we had a jam session which, as often as not, went well beyond midnight. The tutors also participated and there were some great performances helped along by a liberal supply of beer and wine. The catch was we had to get up quite early in the morning so by the end of the week you can imagine we were all a bit ragged.To round out the course we put on a concert for the Chomerac locals. The audience was fortunately very appreciative and the jam session afterwards concluded a great week. We all parted company the next morning and I took the train back to Paris to meet Lynne who was arriving there that day.

I have to thank Ray Hood for putting me onto the course. Some will know Ray as a regular attendee of our jam sessions in the past. As I recall Agus Batara has also attended the course. Unfortunately, Clive Fenner has been sick (1) and I don’t know whether the course will continue to be offered. I would certainly be happy to recommend it if it is. The one-week immersion was a very enjoyable experience and it definitely helped me to further my jazz objectives.

John Curtis

The debonair Curtis returned from this course a different piano player, bursting with new ideas and I had to steal all his hottest licks all over again…

(1) Clive Fenner died in 2019 but the courses in France continue.


Clive Fenner 1949 to 2019

Tales from the Pantry and other Jam Sessions

Along time ago before ISO, there were two chooks who would free range the local pub scenes.

One was known as Henrietta. This afternoon she was hoping to lubricate her vocal chords and strut her stuff on the stage.
The other, Cordelia, loved to display her talents on the guitar. She was a mean plucker and picker with a plectrum.

Both smart chicks would always come early to the venue and set up their equipment.

This particular Sunday the talent scouts were out and the house was packed with music lovers and jammers.
The chicks did a quick sound check and then launched into a well -known country/blues song called “Chickens in the Barnyard” They were singin’ an pickin’ an’ the whole room were jiggin’ along.

Suddenly out of no -where, the sound equipment failed: but, the band, bein’ a roost of ole time troopers, kept a mimin’ a strummin’ and a drummin’.

The Sound guys tried a fiddlin’ and a pokin’ but still they could not get electrified. There were cries of it’s not “our” equipment, it’s not “our” fault, why don’t you check yours? Hey!

The two chicks muttered and apologized. They were not used to having their feathers ruffled. Wildly embarrassed they packed up their stuff and retired to the bar.

Moral of the Tale:

Hens should never leave home without extra batteries.

Signed: “Cookin”. Classes from the Pantry.

Drummers Lies


Hello fellow jammers,

Mr Hirsh here,

It has come to my attention that the Jammers news backroom copy boy, (thrice removed), has been struggling to find credible contributions due to the pressure of this wretched pandemic.

So to lighten the load, here is for your enjoyment are the top 20 lies that aspiring drummers may tell you, in an effort to get some urgent attention.

Top 20 Lies Told By Drummers

  1. I can play that
  2. Metronomes hurt your “Feel”
  3. I wasn’t fired; the producer just likes to work with his own people.
  4. The album/CD is doing really well
  5. I practice 5 hours per day
  6. I never practice
  7. I’m doing tons of sessions
  8. I played on the record, but I wasn’t credited
  9. I never play Top 40
  10. It’s not what you play, it’s what you don’t play that counts
  11. Your girlfriend/partner is really cool
  12. I’ll put you on the guest list
  13. Sure, I know that tune
  14. I’m really good friends with him
  15. He’s totally cool
  16. We are huge in Japan
  17. I recorded every track on the 1st take
  18. The drum sounds were amazing, but the engineer screwed up the mix
  19. He really likes my playing
  20. I’m gonna be in Modern Drummer next month

Working with Musicians…..

We have all experienced embarrassing performances with members of a band due to lack of communication.
If you are lucky enough to be a Vocalist who has studied theory you should know a great deal about music and how to convey what you require.
Rather than just theory, other Vocalists may have spent time practising and perfecting Vocal skills – learning by ear – and expect the members of the band to figure out everything for you. (ie. key of song and the feel you want). This can be a recipe for trouble……a bit like speaking a dialect of a language and hoping the musicians will work it out on stage for you!

Here are some tips to help.
Prepare...this includes attending with a chart; and
Practise counting the song in….

Many problems are encountered because the Vocalist is not aware of the complexity of music and then not able to convey this to the band – such as the feel of a song….bossa etc.

You should be aware that some band members really prefer a melody line and chords and others will be ok with chords…..

Even if you do not get everything right you will gain the respect of musicians because you have made an effort to prepare.

All Love

Ebonyrose xx

The Vocal Chords

One of a series of articles on singing, from Ebony Rose


The vocal chords are two pearly white folds on either side of the larynx or voice box. These are usually described as vocal folds. When you are breathing they form two long sides of a triangular shape around the glottis through which the air reaches your lungs.


When you speak the muscles in your neck pull on the vocal chords and they move inwards almost touching the larynx. Air passes through and it vibrates on your vocal chords therefore making sound so we can understand each other! Or in this instance, sing. Singing, like talking, is a complex mechanism that we really do not even think about.


Vocalising higher pitch sounds involves the larynx muscles pulling on the chords to make a higher pitched sound. The sound vibrates at a higher frequency similar to the way a guitar plays a higher note when its strings are tightened during tuning.


To increase volume you need to speed up the pressure of air being released.


Not surprisingly, your voice reflects any energy, tension or nervousness.


In order to be a good Singer we need to control breath, communicate and relax! There is nothing between you and the audience…nothing to hide behind….the voice reveals all and the Singer must be able to comfortably express themselves and tell the story through emotion and feeling.


Stay tuned for RELAXATION…


All love Ebonyrose xx

Recording Tips For Vocalists…(Before Your Session)

Article by Mike Hirsh (Esq) who runs MCS Recording Studio



Having had experience as an ex full time touring player, session player (record companies) and full time studio engineer, I thought I might share some of my studio experiences.

These tips of course will differ for each musician depending on their experience and expertise and are purely for those who are about to book their session.

  1. Money: When people ring a studio they usually only ask about the price. If you are worried about money, don’t record as it’s always better to wait till you have more than you budgeted for.
  2. Lyrics: Most people want their recording/s to sound like the latest Sony release. Problem is, they don’t want to learn their lyrics. Seriously.
    Don’t ever think you can record a meaningful song whilst reading your lyrics from a piece of paper, phone or tablet. If you insist on this preposterous undertaking, you will never ever sound like a real pro and only end up insulting the listener, that’s if you can get one.
  3. The Mix: Never assume engineers can fix it in the mix. Yes, we can edit certain things, and have auto tune at the ready. However, wouldn’t you feel much better that you did a really good take of the vocals, eg; in tune, in tempo and from the heart?
  4. Rehearsing: Assuming you have rehearsed with your band or backing track, there is no such thing as being over rehearsed for a recording. Yes I know, for all you experts out there, one can be over rehearsed for a live performance, and for obvious reasons, like spontaneous audience combustion.
  5. The Recording Process: However, we are talking about the recording process and because there is no audience, it’s a totally different experience. If you take my advice, rehearse lots (and you will thank me for it later.) Get a good night’s sleep before the session, and please don’t forget to bring a copy of your lyrics for the engineer, his cat or dog. This cunning plan will save on recording time and consequently your money.

So that’s it, short and sweet. If I’ve missed any other points, consider yourself lucky. Next article: I might delve into the actual recording process, which I can assure you seems simple enough, but is in fact, quite complicated.

“May Your Efforts Achieve The Success They Deserve”. Max Abrams

MCS Recording Studio,

tel (03)9312 7391     mob 0417 383 585