Jazz Study Tips

What ho,

Seeing as I’m away from home for an extended period of time with the “Love Story” band, I’ve had to be quite creative with my practice as I only have a finite amount of space & time available to me.

As my show work involves playing the same notes, reading from the same score, 8 shows a week, I’m always aware of the danger of my sight-reading ability atrophying as the weeks go by. Also, as I’m playing purely acoustic-based music, there’s the narrowing focus on stylistic playing that often requires a bit of expanding, just for maintaining my own interest.

So I decided to base a lot of work around Charlie Parker’s Omnibook, an epic tome of be-bop scribblings. My reason for packing this book was two-fold:

1) It’s a marvellous resource as a compendium of Parker’s soloing approach over a large number of standards.

2) The chromatic nature of his soloing makes it superb as a sight-reading text.

As I’m not a be-bopper at heart, I haven’t been as well-versed in Parker’s playing as much as some of my colleagues – something I’m trying to remedy. Besides standards like Au Privav, Anthropology, Ornithology & Donna Lee (which I know fairly well), I’m treating the transcriptions as sight-reading studies.

As I get more comfortable just reading through the book at different tempi, and in a variety of positions (and horizontal & vertical approaches), the patterns & lines cease to be sight-reading studies, and are gradually becoming internalised. I’m noticing, even after only a few days of this, that listening to the original recordings, I’m beginning to ‘decode’ the lines. For someone interested in developing their inner ear for jazz, I’d say this is a hugely useful approach.

Having this sort of time to dedicate to something like this is a tremendous luxury, and hopefully I’m making the most of it. A most satisfying endeavour, indeed!

The always-marvellous chap that is Mike Outram has compiled a Spotify playlist of all of the solos transcribed in the Omnibook – well worth checking out with the book to hand. Many thanks to him for sparing the time to do this.

If you have any thoughts or other tips, do let me know. In the meantime, listen for the changes, and try to keep up!

John.

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