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Author Topic: Improvising to Swinging from Barren Branches  (Read 880 times)


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Improvising to Swinging from Barren Branches
« on: November 11, 2014, 11:47:28 PM »
Every year I put up Autumn Leaves and this year I wanted to play it more like a jazz musician.  Unfortunately that didn't happen, but here's what I tried.

I'm sure there are many ways to improvise.  Most of the suggestions I found for this song said to play the C major scale for the first four bars, then the A harmonic minor scale for the next four.  Repeat.  Then switch, stay on the A harmonic minor scale for four measures, then go to C Major.  The last eight bars, I didn't understand what anyone was saying about them.  Some said there were several quick key changes.  I just decided I'd have to play the pentatonic scale there.  But it didn't matter, because nothing I played sounded good.  I still don't know why.

I ended up doing what I normally do - just play what sounds good to me on a C chromatic.  However I'm sure I played a fair amount of 'wrong' notes.  Sometimes I improvise using the chord tones.  I saw a vid with guitarist Mike Stearn and he showed how just the chord tones alone work pretty well on Autumn Leaves.  To do this, I have to use Tinus' web site and make charts.  Then I have to practice a lot.  People say just using the chord tones doesn't usually sound good, but I feel like it works for me.  But I never retain any of the chord knowledge, I don't end up with something to build on, so it seems like too much work for too little gain.

The two scales here are pretty similar, but they are supposed to sound quite different.  I always think of harmonic minor for Middle Eastern music, Bulgarian folk, and heavy metal solos.  But apparently it is used often in jazz.

I think AL usually is played in Em (G).  I put it up in Am to make it easy for a C chromatic harp.

Hopefully Ed will come along and have some words of wisdom.

Blue boy

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Re: Improvising to Swinging from Barren Branches
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2014, 06:20:45 AM »
BZB. This is such a good topic for me. The biggest question for me is: Where and how do I invest my time for: 1)building technique and 2)  practicing enough that I feel a growing freedom to express myself musically through improvisation with the technique I have built and refined. I love the diatonic harmonica because it can be played so expressively and feels so immediate and personal. I enjoy playing the chromatic in third position, like third position on the diatonic, because I can transfer what I learned on the diatonic with relative ease, and build from there. Playing the chromatic only in third position limits what I will do musically with the chromatic, but I know I will not give the chromatic enough practice time to develop the fluency necessary for improvisation using scales other than what is available in the third position. I love how William Clarke played the chromatic, and I believe he used third position much of the time. Rod Piazza is also a good model for me, and the model that both used was George Smith, a very fine blues chromatic player. Responding to your post has helped me clarify my goals for the chromatic. Thanks.