IFR Practice Group/Chat

@mem I certainly hope to. During the second run through I was findings things & developing understandings that I’d missed in the first month. This was especially so in the second week as the constraints are gradually relaxed more each day.

Some things translate more easily from keyboard to fretboard than others, and I’m sure that would be even more so with guitar (I’m using Chapman Stick, so I may play notes with either, or both, hands).

So here is the practice plan I’m following these days, more or less. Again I’m playing piano, and often singing along. I don’t do this in one sitting, but in pieces throughout the day. Yes, I confess that I don’t manage to do all these steps each day. But I get in most of them most days.

Each day I focus on a different musical key: it takes two weeks to go around the keys. One each for Sunday-Friday, and Saturday is a free day or a day to make up a missed day.

I have specific patterns I follow for most of the following, which I can share if there’s an interest in anything in particular.

  1. Get the sound of today’s scale in my ears for 5 minutes or so. Play and sing along. I have an exercise I made up that I call “crawling all over the scale”.

  2. Play chord triads and inversions for the scale. Play the 7th note chords. Sing along.

  3. Play the scale of the day again, along with the Barry Harris scale, and the harmonic minor scale for that key. Play the triads of the derived scales. Sing along.

  4. Play longer arpeggios for the scale of the day, and 251 and 451 cadences in different inversions. Sing along.

  5. Sing improvised melodies while playing the cadences, using mostly chord tones. Go slow. Sing slightly before the piano sounds.

  6. Play through the chords for the scale of the day using left hand roots, and right hand 37 shells. Then again with rootless voicing chords in right hand.

  7. Play the current exercise for the IFR Jazz Workshop. (or a section of whatever other tune I’m learning)

  8. Sight read some simple sheet music that is scored for both hands. (trying to get better at piano sight reading)

  9. Pick a jazz tune from the Real Book or other fake book, regardless of it’s key, and play melody and chord in right hand while playing root of chord in left hand.

  10. Sing simple song (folk song, Christmas carol, children’s song) from sheet music, but sing the IFR numbers as the melody.

  11. Improvise over the Blues progression or the Rhythm Changes progression in the key of the day. This is the “free play” part where I just let go and play where ever the music leads me.

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Wow, that’s some practice plan you have there! Thanks for sharing that. Some good ideas for varying the practice around some themes, like using the key of day.

Had to look up the ‘Barry Harris’ scale, that looks interesting, I’ll have to try it to understand how it sounds.

Are you too mainly playing for yourself, or do you play with others at all?

Who are your favourite jazz players you like to listen too?

I tried but couldn’t really get into jazz. I do listen to some occasionally, piano and guitar mainly, and some jazz singers.

@mem The Barry Harris scale is a piece of a larger system of chords and movements that give a particular sound. The pianist and educator Barry Harris formulated it, and you can hear him playing piano on Youtube videos. I’m just starting to get acquainted with that system, but I like the sound it produces.

I am playing alone, not 100% by choice. But I have family responsibilities that keep me housebound almost all the time. So music is my way to travel to another dimension.

I really love to listen to Duke Ellington, especially when his band plays something by Billy Strayhorn. For piano players, I really like Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones, but there are so many great piano players. And I could listen to Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra all day long.

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FWIW I don’t put jazz high on my listening list, but I do occasionally listen to John Coltrane (e.g. A Love Supreme), MIles Davis, Dave Brubeck & one or two others. I’m quite partial to New Orleans jazz & Swing, and (at least partially due to some of the IFR backing tracks!) over the last few years I’ve developed something of a liking for ‘Smooth Jazz’ (e.g. George Benson).

A number of Chapman Stick players also clasify as Jazz, so you can include them too. Steve Adelson is an example (as of course was Emmett Chapman himself).

+1 to that. :smiley:

As mentioned in ‘Extended exercises for SINGING THE NUMBERS’ I’m experimenting with using abc notation to build an FtN track.

For a first cut I’m taking a ‘standard’ StN track as a strating point. I noted down the number groups for StN 19, typing them into a text file. I then applied a series of regular expression search & replace operations to manipulate the text into abc notation style melody (& ‘lyrics’, i.e. numbers) , then topped & tailed those lines this the appropriate abc markup to produce a ‘proper’ abc file my abc editor can work with (I use EasyABC).

The raw output from the basic conversion process has all notes the same lengths, which is obvioulsy not ideal! I’m currently tweaking the note lengths which is a little tedious but I hope won’t take too long (patterns build up). So far I have a file that can do a reasonable impersonation of the first 24 bars of StN 19, just the ‘piano’ (or any other MIDI instrument I choose) notes, without backing. It feels usable.

My aim isn’t really to reproduce a given StN track as an FtN equivelent. Rather, the exercise is about testing the concept of being able to use abc to produce FtN. By starting with an existing set of number groups from an StN track I’m not needing to come up with those too as part of the exercise.

Part of the appeal to me of this approach is the ease & flexibility of editing text files (it can be done anywhere, even if well away from any instruments or recordng equipment).

Having experienced the ‘real’ FtN produced by @MireiaClua & David (@ImproviseForReal) as part of Ear Training for Musical Creativity I know that they are anything but random, and nor are the reproductions of the equivalent StN tracks.

Nominally StN 19 ‘matches’ FtN 22, i.e. same level (‘week 10’ with notes, same key, same backing track and approximately the same length. However, FtN 22 does not just parrot StN19, there are some of the same sequiences, but much of it is different. Like all the ‘real’ FtN tracks it is instead a carefully constructed sequence of measures. FtN 22 makes much more use of 2 & 3 notes patterns than StN19. The patterns often run in planned groups ( e.g, 1,3 | 1,2,3 | 2,4 | 2,3,4 ), but there can also be ‘curve balls’ (e.g. reversals or jumps) within those groups (to keep you on yout toes?). I feel this helps keep the whole exercise ‘musical’, since music itself progresses in these sorts of ways rather than just randomly. The sequences also help the ear absrob the similarities & differences between groups, e.g. 5,6,7 might be followed by 1,2,3, or 1,3 by 5,7, or (ocatve)1, 6, 4 by 5,3,(root)1.

With an abc it ought to be quite easy to take one file & produce several variations in which various ‘planned sequences’ could be carefully moved about to reduce familiarity but without loosing the musical flow.

Similarly transposing to a different key would not be a big job.

Time will tell what comes of this, but I’ve made a start…

That’s quite a project! I experimented a bit with EasyABC to create a transposible FtN track, but did it manually in the editor with just one track. Your programmed version sounds a lot more useful.

I figured that abc notation is “just text” really, so it made sense to do most of the changes in the full feature text editor I use for many other purposes. A text editor is possibly my most used piece of software? Over the years I’ve used various programmers text editors. Nowadays I mainly use Notepad++.

Today I decided to switch my work in progress from being based on 1/4 notes to 1/8 notes. For me the quickest route was to copy the block from EasyABC to Notepad++, do some regex search & replace, then paste it back.

Haven’t been very good at posting here! Will try harder.

I’ve been focussing my practice on the flute, as it’s the instrument I’d really like to get really comfortable with. So, putting aside the guitar for now, and not spending much time on piano, but will endeavour to do another Campfire Challenge, just a few minutes a day to post a recording, trying out the key of C this time.

My practice is mainly on tunes I’m trying to memorise, to be able to play without sheet music, in sessions and for informal performances.

So, playing by ear is really being practiced a lot. I’m using recordings to get familiar with tunes, and referring to the music only if I need to clarify. Breaking them down into phrases and creating little maps of the tune structure. This I find useful to help create a mental map if a tune and hope it will lodge in my brain.

Reviewing lots of Sing and Feel Numbers material to help with the ear training. I’m finding this more useful when I stick to one instrument, as I’m starting to get more of a feeling of the quality of each note, I guess the timbre produced.

I’m finding it really difficult staying away from the music, but it’s so much more fun playing with others when you are able to interact.

@mem ditto, but substitute Chapman Stick for flute.

However as to what I’m playing, I’m taking an almost opposite tack.
popMATICS Camp Fire has reminded me that my real aim is improvisation, and by improvisation I don’t mean improvising over/to/with an existing tune, I mean playing what feels right just now, without reference.
The usual Jazz (etc.,) definition of improvisation is perfectly good & I’m not knocking it. It just doesn’t happen to be the thing that really appeals to me. My ‘Big Picture Vision’ aim is more like the approach Steve Lawson (aka solobasssteve) takes. I’m barely even in the foot hills, but that’s the Everest I glimpse in the far distance.

A few weeks ago the phrase “Playing to explore, rather than to entertain (or impress)” came into my head as a distillation of ideas.

So, for part of my practice sessions I’m now giving myself permission to ‘just explore’. And I record those parts of my practice. As with Camp Fire (which is where this started from) the recordings are not intended for sharing, they are just a part of making it a distinct ‘process’, separate from the rest of practice.

I’m not even obliged to listen to them myself (but I generally do listen through once, sometimes twice), nor am I obliged to keep them (but I do, so far, since modern disks are huge & they provide an element of ‘accountability’).

Maybe some day some of these recordings will be shared, but that’s not the aim or expectation of the process. If it happens it will be a separate choice, after that particular experiment is complete

There are many types of musician. There are even many types of improvisation. A fascinating part of this journey is discovering which type of musician it is that’s inside each of us - and trying to help them express themselves.

Each to their own… :smiley:

Along side (but at a different time of day) I’m also keeping on at the Sing the Numbers/Feel the Numbers based ear training too.

Interesting, thanks for sharing @DavidW

I’m not familar, I’ll have s listen.

I’m also enjoying the Campfire Challenge way of just messing around, but using the guideline as a basis. I’d be interested to hear how you structure your improving. Do you use chord progressions at all, or a background drone or drum rhythm to play over, or do you just give yourself complete freedom to play whatever you fancy?

I’ve always been tied to sheet music, until now, probably why I’m finding it so difficult to get away from it. And improvising (in the jazz sense) seems to be another step away. What you are describing seems yet another step, with even less underlying/given structure.

How is the Sing/Feel the Numbers helping you? Is it allowing you to play (more immediately) the sounds and phrases you make up in your head? Or is it even less “thinky” than this, and you’re just playing in the moment?

@mem Steve doesn’t regard the album as a ‘product’, rather as part of a ‘process’, representing the current state of where he’s at with the musical journey.

Here’s a more ‘bite size’ version of “just sit down & play”: Journ​é​es de la Culture CD01
That’s one of a pair of albums did where he was playing background music for a ‘life drawing’ class. Each track represents what he played (made up in the moment) for each model/sitter for the class.

Or here’s a 23m spontaneous improvisation by Greg Howard

Complete freedom. Any notes, any rhythm, any tempo. I sometimes bring in a drone, but if so it’s not a ‘backing track’ drone it’s a played & sustained note from a synth that’s within in reach and that can be stopped or changed at will.

I may try making use of a drum machine, or looped rhythm of some other sort, or layering of what I play, at some point - these are explorations, so anything goes.

At present two hands on the Stick are more than enough to confuse me. LOL!

StN/FtN are there to give me a better appreciation of tone. They aren’t directly related to the improv, but in music everything is part of the mix & I’m sure the ear training is having an effect of sorts. :smiley:

Just been listening to this, it’s great, quiet relaxing to have in the background, but not boring if you pay attention to it, really changes shape throughout.

You’ve shared some great stuff for me to listen to, I thought I’d share some back. Have you come across Hamish Napier, wonderful musician/flute player, composer Hamish on bandcamp

I’m not big on genre labels, but quite a lot of this sort of thing might be labelled as ‘ambient’ by some?

For an example that I’m sure would not be classed as ‘ambient’ try another Greg Howard piece “Water on the Moon” (warning, it’s an hour long). To quote the bandcamp page “No “loops”, samples or synthesizers were used, and no edits were made of the recording. What you hear is what it was.

No I haven’t. Interesting stuff. I have however come across (at least) one of his collaborators, fiddler Duncan Chisholm.

A little more pre-prepared and produced, I guess, but he does have some tracks where he’s just taken his flute to a river say, or out in nature and recorded there. His sound tracks to videos are also worth listen, also on Bandcamp I think.

@mem Yes, I listened to a couple of those (from An t-Each Uisge), but I wasn’t clear if he was making it up on the spot or just doing the recording in the place that inspired the tune.

Yes, I suspect it was the latter, being inspired by nature and his surroundings and taking his playing and recording out but playing either his own tunes or other traditional stuff.

This may be more up your street, you have maybe come across piobaireachd/pibroch or ceòl mòr, now played mostly on bagpipes, but in the past was played on fiddle, harp and probably others as well.

Fraser Fifield (on Bandcamp) is exploring this. He has a couple of improvised tracks on this album, Piobaireachd/Pipe Music. These are both improvising over something as opposed to completely solo.

I’ve been exploring ceòl mòr and the idea that, back in the day, pipers improvised their music. Playing solo, maybe using some motif or something based on a song, is interesting stuff.

From his notes on the album,
“I have a theory that improvisation is simply inherent to the human musical experience and I would posit an improvisatory route to the music we now call piobaireachd,“ he says. “I suppose it might be impossible to prove but it makes sense to me and I’m happiest when creating afresh – that interesting mix of performer and composer at the same time.”

I’m quite interested in exploring the contrast/differences between improvising and playing “pre-planned” music. When we are playing some music from memory, I guess we are hearing the music/notes in our heads and that is being taken up by our fingers/bodies/breath to produce the sounds on our instruments (which could also be our voice). How does this relate to improvising a completely new piece of music? Re-creation or re-presentation ad opposed to creation or innovation.

I see it like this.

When you are playing a score, it’s like driving a car while reading a map, or taking directions from a gps device. Just follow the directions.

When playing from memory, it’s like driving to the few spots you know after visiting a new city for a few days. You know how to get there, but you only know one way.

Improvisation is driving around your hometown, where you know every twist and turn intimately. You no longer think of the map. You know several ways to get to any location, and you can create interesting itineraries spontaneously. You can drive the fastest way, the scenic way, a way that takes you past the post office, a way that goes past a gas station.

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Nice analogy @hender99 and I guess the map could me a written score/sheet music or a memorised tune. You can follow a route and try to be exact, or put in a few variations, deviations on the way.

What if you are new to an area, have no map or clue of what’s there? I guess you could use improvisation to find a way, it may not be pretty, or direct, but is a learning opportunity in itself.