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Thread: Jazz Improv Books

  1. #1
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    Jazz Improv Books

    Have any of you guys (people PC) read the Lydian Chromatic Concept?(Russell) Or Intervallic Designs?(Diorio)
    The New version of Lydian Chromatic Concept has come out but it is pricey (130.00 US), before I drop this on it I would like some feedback.
    Also has any one read the Schillinger Method book (A mathematical approach?)
    I had a teacher once that taught me about 4 factors but I still wanted to read the Schillinger book this book is over 200.00 US.
    Not that I am poor or anything I just don't want to piss away my money.

    James

  2. #2
    i Breathe ... Admin Guni's Avatar
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    My flatmate once photo copied the entire Schillinger Book (this was at Berklee a few years ago). I remember that we had a look at this and were facinated by the approach - a purely scientific and mathematical way of approaching music. I gave up after 5 pages

    I mean at this time we were bombarded with information and this was a bit too much by then. Now, I'd like to have another look at it. I guess I'd describe it like "If you are up to throwing all you've ever learned about music overboard then go for it" - well maybe a bit harsh but this is what i do remember.

    My flatmate was more into it and actually worked on some topics but after 2 weeks he gave up too......

    Don't know if that is helpful - just some thoughts ....

    I never had a closer look at the other 2 books .....

    Guni

  3. #3
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    RE: Schillinger, You may also want to browse:

    http://www.wannalearn.com/Reviews/136.html

    Also, I used the google search engine to come up with quite a number of resources that either talk about Schillinger himself, people who studied the method, or the method. Big Berklee connection, interesting history that goes way back.

    There even appears to be a connection (or someone who has created a connection) between Nikola Tesla and Schillinger, and between fractal theory and Schillinger's.

    ..always trying to do my part to provide additional useless information to clutter the internet.
    Last edited by Bongo Boy; 05-31-2002 at 07:25 AM.

  4. #4
    i Breathe ... Admin Guni's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Bongo Boy
    RE: Schillinger, You may also want to browse:
    http://www.wannalearn.com/Reviews/136.html
    Thanks Bongo - this is much appreciated.

    "By refering to "The Schillinger System" as a mathematical approach to music composition you give the reader a sense that your/their site thoroughly understands the work. What that statement really shows is that your/their site did very little research concerning Schillingers system."

    I think he is right. I mean the Schillinger system is a technique for composing music. It takes some serious studies to get into it, as it is with all techniques, ie counterpoint ......

    I think the basic question is always how somone uses such techniques: Where does science start / stop and creativity start / stop. I mention this as I've been asking myself this question a hell of a lot lately. Do I use my knowledge of theory that I have gained throughout the years to my personal musical advantage or do I use it because I know it just works?

    hehe quite a weired question, I know ....

    Guni

  5. #5
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    Not a weird question at all. Did anyone want to read a book?

    For those who are "seat-of-the-pants" musicians, perhaps those who can't even read music, they might wonder why anyone cares about theory at all. To a lesser extreme, folks who simply make their living performing at clubs (doing covers) may not have the need or the time for the theory--they simply need to execute what's already been created.

    Even for those who see how music theory at some level helps them compose better music, there may be the question, "Do I need another method, or do I have the time to invest in learning a comprehensive method? Will as much of 2 more years of study pay off in terms of improved material?"

    Finally, there's the pervasive idea that composing something great isn't at all the same as performing something that stirs the emotions. I'll certainly bet that Schillinger never even hinted that they were the same. I've not read a single word he's written, but he probably assumed without saying it: the artistic creativity is STILL outside the realm of the Method. My analogy would be that fine furniture is outside the realm of fine hand tools.

    These points are each attempts to support the idea that your question will always exist. At this point in my musical adventure, I see that theory has extreme value. Right now I practice the basics on guitar (REALLY basic--how to keep the pick from slipping, how to sit for 30 min so as to not fatigue, how to get a C chord without crippling my fingers). But, I also experiment and play with the instrument. A LITTLE theory will help me save a lot of time in say, finding chords or progressions that are 'fun'.

    This is just a practical example, at the kindergarten level, of how practical theory is--I KNOW beforehand why a chord will have a particular character (because it's a minor, say). As long as I don't equate facts with Rules, I'm still free to discover things--maybe even things that 'shouldn't be'.

    Here's another analogy--beermaking. As a beginning brewer many years ago, I took extreme care with measurements (temperatures are very, very important) and with logging each and every aspect of the process. Many of my fellow brewers were even more rigorous, more instumented in the brewhouse, and even more analytical. But, we always had debates and lively dialog with the 'seat-of-the-pants' brewer (that's where that phrase originally came from). These are brewers who see brewing more like making stew (or Jello) than like chemistry and biology.

    Each group gets the results they need--which in one case is something other than simply the finished beer. We all approach an endeavor in a way that's the very definition of who we are.

    For some it's a problem to be solved, and for some it's just making a nice bowl of chili. Both are absolutely wonderful perspectives, and thank goodness we have folks who live in each of these worlds. Zappa and Hendrix come to mind as guitar guys who both brought tears to my eyes with their creations, and I think they MAY fall somewhat into the two camps.

  6. #6
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
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    Hey Guni,

    IMHO it matters how you use theory to create music. Or rather:

    YOU SHOULD USE THEORY TO IMPROVE YOUR MUSIC OR WORK ON IT... DONīT WRITE MUSIC JUST AS A VEHICLE TO APPLY OR SHOW OFF YOUR THEORY-KNOWLEDGE.

    What I mean is, there have been quite a few ( guitar- ) records that had some songs on it which to me sounded as if they were just written for the sake of showing off a certain technique or scale or chord or anything.

    Like, a song where... I dunno, the guitarist used a guitar with a different scale-temperature ( like 19 frets in an octave ), jamming on a synthetic scale over chords based on stacking fourths, written in a 17/8 time signature ( no pun intended, just trying to show an exagerated example )
    I mean, there might be musicians who write that kind of stuff from the heart and really mean it. But often, itīßs just an experiment or some kind of "Look what I can do !"
    And I usually donīt enjoy listening to that kind of stuff. I mean, itīs sometimes cool to see where you can go with your music, but to me, it matters whether it comes from the heart and whether there really is a song in there.
    On the contrary, I love to listen to guys like Vai or Morse when they take a certain song and use their theory knowledge to arrange huge string parts behind it, or come up with counterpoint-stuff... when you hear itīs just a tool to enhance the song...

    Does this make sense ?
    Well, thatīs just my opinion
    Warm regards
    Eric

    NP: Mattias IA Eklundh- Time To Breathe ( track )

  7. #7
    i Breathe ... Admin Guni's Avatar
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    Hi Eric - all 100% cool with me ...... ya got my vote

    Maybe I should be a bit more clear in what I mean. Let's not even take theory as an example - let's take playing a solo as an example: Say you throw everything overboard: your scales, rational analyses of the chords, licks, most of your technique, etc...... now what do you have left?

    In my case what's left are a hell of a lot of rhythmic ideas, melodic phrases and motives. And this is what I started out with when I began this entire music quest. For sure this is different from person to person (thank god).

    Now, my point is that I am really trying to focus on getting out this music within. That's why I have to watch closely where theory starts and music begins in my playing. This is a development in very tiny little steps........

    I hope this makes more sense

    Guni

  8. #8
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
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    Ok...

    with me, itīs a different case. I do believe that when I play, I do get the music out that I really mean to get out.
    That means, when I i.e. play "Canyon" or the new songs ( which is a ballad where I take a LOT more freedom with soloing, and actually go a bit more "through the roof " ), I think I am actually playing what I want to play, or feel like playing.
    The theory ( knowing patterns, scales, arps ) helps me to find and translate it faster on the guitar. Itīs like a filter, where I look at the fretboard and itīs like "K, these notes sound nice in that key, those are a bit more off..." etc.
    So I kinda let go when playing and knowing this stuff helps me to find the right notes and filter out the ones that donīt fit or the ones I donīt wanna play.
    "Filter" is a good definition.
    So thatīs my approach to it... I donīt really feel trapped or limited by it.
    Warm regards
    Eric

  9. #9
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    mindlessness

    It has alway been a tight rope for me to walk, thinking vs mindlessness when improvising, I try to use the brain only when the inspiration is on hold. To fill in the gaps between inspired moments.

  10. #10
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    Well, okay, all good points. But the phenomenon of 'overkill' on a particular style, technique, sound whatever is to be expected. We're all little kids...thank goodness. We're going to learn some new thing and work it to death, probably. Hopefully, the more seasoned artist will remember how it feels to recognize that he/she himself has made this mistake, and won't make it too many times in the future or in a recording.

    Two analogies from the computer world--when fonts first became available for word processing software, geeeeezus you'd think everyone was a flipping graphic artist suddenly. Everything that got printed on paper had at least 4 different silly fonts in it. It was horrible. Now, no one I know EVER uses more than two or three fonts in anyting but the most massive documents.

    Then came color. Oh my god. Some theory might say repetition of color and visual balance are good things. Don't waste that speech on the early users of color graphics printers. Suddenly every flippin' memo had to have a dozen vibrant, nauseating colors in it. Now, not so much. Only the neophyte PowerPoint user uses scads of colors for the average business presentation.

    I'm not an artist, I'm not a musician. I'm an idiot. But, expect to see the same thing in music you see elsewhere--the musical equivalent of a Nagel, if you will. Commercial or demonstrative "art" vs something you'd actually want to hang on your wall or...listen to. Just go ahead an appreciate it for what it is..or what you feel it is..but don't compare it to the Real Thing. If you happen to think Nagel (for example) is the Real Thing, then I'm also behind you 100%.

    I personally always thought 80% of Zappa was more designed to demonstrate, have fun and experiment. A very serious lab exercise, if you will. I'm actually surprised at his comment quoted by EV in his sig.

  11. #11
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    Hello all,

    I've got an idea for those interested in the Russell and Schillinger books that could save you $300+... Go find a local public university!!! I know that the Uni I recently graduated from had both books, as well as some of the other "standards" of jazz theory, from Russo to Slonimsky. I would worry that the Russell especially would be useless to someone who has a thorough knowledge of modes. While it was groundbreaking at the time, most people are now familiar with the most useful parts of his theory.

    As for Schillinger, yikes! I'd think that there are many other "esoteric" books that would be more useful both practically and theoretically. Hindemith's books on composition are real hoots. Even Schoenberg's Harmony treatise is a more interesting read than Schilly. I'd just go find your local public U, sit down in the library for 3 hours and see which ones you're actually interested in. There's just so much stuff out there, good and bad...

  12. #12
    Registered User pianoMan's Avatar
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    The topic is jazz improv books, the schillinger method, the lydian chromatic concept. Not such a strange collection, I reckon, but let me say a couple of things: I have a masters degree in music theory, been playing jazz since I learned the blues (I guess), and all that . . . if that gives me any credibility. I ran across S's book in my undergrad U library (good reccomendation that, go to a library), and couldn't get past the first chapter of it. Tried several times. I believe George Gershwin studied with Schillenger, so I suppose milage varies greatly here. I've only had a glimpse at a photo copy of the lydian chromatic method, but it made much more sense, what I glossed of it. Plus, I've heard the mans music, and it's interesting music.

    As for the topic in general, jazz improv books, long before I tried Shillinger, Russell, or even Hindemith (very interest writing there, worth the reading) I'd have to recommend first to get a good grounding in the basics of music, intervals, chords, all that. Till you can do that stuff in your sleep. The 'rudiments' of music are not really the 'theory' of music. The basics are often confused with theory, no, the basics are the basics. Theory starts with a study of harmony . . . . . A good teacher is virtually indespensable.

    After that, I'd highly recommend The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine from Sher Music, ISBN 1-8832217-04-0 for general jazz theory, and for pianist, Levine's The Jazz Piano Book Sher Music, ISBN 0-9614701-5-1. For superb book on 'classical' theory, it's Harmony and Voice Leading by Aldwell/Schacter, ISBN 0-15-531519-6. Theirs is a Schenkerian approach, but they don't hit you over the head with that fact; the book is filled with illustrations of concepts taken from the literature Bach to Brahms (give or take), and is clearly written, even if seemingly hard going. Music theory is not a thing you learn in a day.

    Schenker (Heinrich) will be remembered for his mark on music theory much longer (and very much deeper) than Schillenger will be. (You might want to check out books by and about him, there are many) There are other books, other paths to the mountain top, but those are some concrete examples, very workable IF YOU:

    Practice the material, play as much as you can wherever you can, whatever the venue, (live in the woodshed, come out to play a gig, go back to the woodshed. . ) nice work if you can get it . . .

    Jim

  13. #13
    i Breathe ... Admin Guni's Avatar
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    The basics are often confused with theory, no, the basics are the basics. Theory starts with a study of harmony . . . . . A good teacher is virtually indespensable.
    Hi Jim,

    I couldn't agree more.

    Thanx for your great recommendations regarding music theory books - I will definitely check 'em out. Because I studied a lot of music theory before going to the States I pretty much only know books that are written in German

    I also think it's time to finally have a look at the Hindemith book.

    Welcome to iBreathe

    Guni

  14. #14
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    Been Studying Music theory for 30+ years

    I have a pretty good handle on classical music theory, I am interested in modern methods for improvisation, 12 tone or otherwise. I know all the Major Melodic and Harmonic scales and their modes and use as they apply to improvising over a given chord in a given context, I have studied 'Patterns for Jazz' (Coker), and several David Baker and Abersold books, I know tertiatry and quartal harmoy concepts very well.

    So far the best things I have found for playing jazz are Cycle Exercises, since most chord movment is Cycle 4 (and modifying these can get you to any other key by skipping over some). To me 'patterns for jazz' is just a collection of pretty LICKS( I guess cycle exercises are as well). I want to rip over jazz changes, not be an encyclopedia of licks. I thought that the above books might give me some insight into alternative methods to do this.

    I have read some of the Schillinger stuff, it is very mathematical, which is not a problem for me since I am an engineer.

    What I am interested in is making interesting ( hopefully pleasing) music, I have not heard enough tone row stuff to know if I like it. So the jury is out on whether or not it would or can be pleasing.
    Someone suggested that the Russell book is not very useful for those who are already well versed in modal music.

  15. #15
    IbreatheMusic Author
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    Szulc mentions the Schillinger books. Bill Leavitt, the founder of the Berklee guitar dept., (my boss for many years, but also my friend) was a fan of the Schillinger books. He attended "Berklee" when it was "Schillinger House." We had some interesting converstions about theory and jazz improv. But Bill would say, "Scales don't make music for you."

    Somewhere Gunharth has my "Chord-Scale Syllabus", which he may post on this site. (Hint to Gunharth :-)) I based it on Bill's approach. But, as you've said, you want to do more than run scales.

    I think the study of classical theory helps. What you want to do when you "burn over changes" is create a melody, just like Beethoven did. So ask yourself: what are the elements that make a melody beautiful to me? How can I build on that?

    I like to hear a melody developed, so I work on interpolation, extrapolation, inversion -- things like that. I start with a phrase that sounds like jazz to me and then I try to build a long line out of it. Since I know what the available scales are, I know what my note choices are, so I concentrate on the arrangement of the notes.
    ________
    Roll A Joint
    Last edited by S.Carter; 09-17-2011 at 12:03 PM.

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