One of the most important aspects of performing is communication. Even though the quality of our performance will mostly depend on how prepared we are musically, communication can help make the performance less stressful while allowing us to put most of our energy into the main thing – the music.
Practicing and performing should not be that different from each other when it comes to our musical approach. I believe that standards for energy, emotion, execution and creativity shouldn’t change that much between our practice room repetitions and the stage. If someone were to eavesdrop on a practice sessions, they should feel like they’re hearing us perform. However, they shouldn’t hear us sounding perfect or even good.
After the post last week about recovering from bad performances, several folks have asked for more information and specifics in regards to the approaches I mentioned. This post will be part of a series on methods we can use to treat each practice session and/or rehearsal as a performance – hopefully making each performance less tense and more rewarding in the process.
The final post in this memorization series is about learning large chunks of music or big pieces/programs quickly and efficiently – without needing the printed music. If you have been following the last few posts on the topic and trying them out, this post should feel like a logical extension.
While a student at University of Miami, I wrote an original jazz tune for one of our ensembles that I was very excited about. I felt the tune captured the vibe of the famous Miles Davis quintet from the ‘60’s… That was the theme of the ensemble. The tune had unpredictable harmonic rhythm, harmony based on modes of melodic minor and a lot of suspended chords, and romantic-influenced melodies. It wasn’t extremely complicated but it wasn’t simple either.
For many students of music, performing without the printed music in front of them can be a stressful venture. Over the years I’ve eliminated the word “memorized” from my teaching vocabulary – at it has helped my students tremendously. However, for the sake of honoring the tradition I’ve included the word “memorize” from time to time in the post – this is the first of a series of posts on playing without the printed page.
I have a new single out on all the major streaming services online. It’s called Love Song From a Montana Boy to a Wyoming Girl He Saw Once Forever. It features my friend from Senegal, Thione Diop, on the talking drum.
Here are the links… Please share on social media and add to your playlists if you’re so inclined.
On Saturday, November 4th, I’ll be presenting a workshop for music teachers and educators in Tacoma from 9:30 am to 3 pm. Then at 4 p.m. I’ll be playing a concert of original and improvised music that is open to the public.
The event is organized by the teacher association in Puyallup and Tacoma. If you have questions about any events during the day, feel free to email Mary Ellen Cavelti at email@example.com.
Several years ago I had an adult student who was a great jazz player. She felt all of her issues in playing music came from not understanding the circle of fifths. She came in with the diagram and explained it to me perfectly. I said that it sounded like she knew the information really well. But she insisted that I help her use the information within the context of a performance/piece, rather than in a theoretical sense – and especially not restricting it to key signatures.
It took me a while to wrap my head around what she was looking for, but I’m glad she was so adamant about this. Because the series of exercises we worked through and I later refined has become a staple for all of my students from and intermediate level and up. It helps with learning and memorizing large volumes of repertoire (in any genre), improvisation, composing, ear training and reading… Just to scratch the surface.
I was excited to be placed in the Miles Davis Ensemble at the beginning of a college semester. Miles was one of my heroes and our leader said we were going to do original music in the style of the famous quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. This made me more excited because I wanted to write music in that style to learn more about it.