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Old 01-01-2013, 10:14 PM   #1
primusfan
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Resolve to transcribe! January Edition: Louis Armstrong

hey guys!

i had trouble coming up with a resolution; however, i just decided a way i could challenge myself, improve my playing and get back into fighting shape. and you guys can too!

basically i'm going to attempt to do more transcriptions. and i'm going to do it from the ground up to try to get a better grasp in the vocabulary. so each month i'm going to focus on one guy and transcribe a few of his solos. i'm aiming for one a week, but that is give or take depending on the artist.

so basically throughout the month, do some transcriptions (or just one) and post them here with your analysis. not only will we all get exposure to a lot of different solos, but we'll be able to get a look at the unique ways we understand the underlying theory in the solos.

so i figured there is really no better place to start than louis.



"He's the father of us all, regardless of style or how modern we get. His influence is inescapable. Some of the things he was doing in the 20's and 30's, people still haven't dealt with."
-Nicholas Payton

"If anybody was Mr. Jazz it was Louis Armstrong. He was the epitome of jazz and always will be. He is what I call an American standard, an American original."
- Duke Ellington

"You can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played."
- Miles Davis



so there you go. i'm going to pick my tunes as they come to me. i'll just be listening to a lot of louis on spotify. and when something speaks to me, i'll do it. here are the only rules:

- post the transcription in concert pitch
- put the changes on your transcription
- aim for standards, but as long as you have the changes it should be fine

something to keep in mind. you might want to transcribe the melody louis plays. 1) to learn the melody (duh) 2) to see how he phrases it 3) to see if and how it's being referenced in the solo.

this isn't anything you have to "sign up" for or any deadline to meet (other than the end of the month anyway ... but i imagine people who come late to the party could still use this thread and post new stuff).

so if you want to participate ... participate!

and if not, i guess this thread will just become my transcription blog until someone closes it due to lack of interest.
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Old 01-01-2013, 10:20 PM   #2
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I like this idea a lot. I should make my new year resolution to do more transcription and ear training.
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:46 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by primusfan



funnily enough, this was the face i made when i saw this thread
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Old 01-02-2013, 10:50 AM   #4
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If you're going to transcribe Louis Armstrong solos, make sure you get as much detail as possible, (get as much articulation and dynamics written down ect.). And don't you think you should set yourself a higher goal? I mean I get it if you were transcribing a Bird or Trane solo, but Louis Armstrong? 1 a week?
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:29 PM   #5
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^

Quote:
Originally Posted by OP
i'm aiming for one a week, but that is give or take depending on the artist.


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Old 01-03-2013, 10:54 PM   #6
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alrighty, guys! got my first louis transcription done. did it last night. recorded it tonight. here she is!



hope it's not too big. anyway. much to the chagrin of goldenguitar, i didn't include many articulations and no dynamics. this is jazz, bruh. ain't nobody got no time for that. you can just look at it and listen to the record. some of the rhythms are approximations (i think one is just plain wrong haha). the first A section is actually the trombone solo by trummy young, but i decided to do it too for the sake of having a full chorus. i will say i think looking at it that in the seventh measure (not counting the pickup into the chorus) the note on the + of 2 should be a D instead of C ... but that's not even louis' solo so it doesn't count as an error. MOVING ON!

i recorded me playing it just for reference. decided to just do the first take to keep myself honest. until i upload it here's the actual (and way better than mine, haha) solo (at 2:04) ...



the one thing i ask is to keep the conversation focused on the ideas presented in the solo more than nitpicking my transcription effort.

but if you feel like it's necessary to point out some egregious error, that's welcome. just be nice. i'm very sensitive.

EDIT: and for anyone curious, my cut of this solo is in my profile's mp3s now.
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Old 01-04-2013, 01:37 AM   #7
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Really emphasizes the importance of anticipating the upcoming change. That's something I really struggle with.
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Old 01-04-2013, 01:44 AM   #8
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uh well I transcribed that Sonny Rollins St. Thomas solo not too long ago. Does that count?


Nice one btw. Imma play through this when I get a chance.

I think a few of the rhythms might be slightly off, but the thing you should pay most attention to is rhythmic spacing and stem groupings in your notation.

Ex:
3rd bar, E7: separate the dotted quarter rest. It's bad practice and obscures the metric division.

A-7 after he hits the high C with 16ths up, separate the beam group at the last 2 8th notes

A": separate the group at the 3rd 8th note. The way you have it now looks too much like a triplet 8th which shows up a lot.
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:04 AM   #9
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yeah, some of the rhythms are approximated (read: wrong ). i remember there's one triplet in A' that i kept going back and forth on between triplet and eighth note with two sixteenths. and good call on that dotted quarter rest. i usually try to make the beats very obvious. don't know what happened there.

also, you bring up a good point about the eighth note confusion with the triplet. that's the number one complaint i get from guys i write for. i haven't figured out how to fix that in musescore. that's just how it shows up by default. i'll have to check it out in more detail.

food, good observation. has time progresses it's more obvious in later swing and bebop, but you should be able to hear the changes in the solo without anyone comping them. that's the mark of a good solo i think. to hear the tune in the solo itself.

EDIT: and some of the rhythms notes in the recording i did are, in turn, off from the transcription. the recording was just what i was hearing it as in my head. even though some spots are wrong, it's interesting to go back and hear the way my brain remembered it vs the way it was on the record. i guess that's the whole "my own voice" thing. or just a shitty memory.
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:46 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by primusfan
yeah, some of the rhythms are approximated (read: wrong ). i remember there's one triplet in A' that i kept going back and forth on between triplet and eighth note with two sixteenths. and good call on that dotted quarter rest. i usually try to make the beats very obvious. don't know what happened there.

also, you bring up a good point about the eighth note confusion with the triplet. that's the number one complaint i get from guys i write for. i haven't figured out how to fix that in musescore. that's just how it shows up by default. i'll have to check it out in more detail.
Check this out. If this thing works as promised, I'm gonna jizz in my pants.

Quote:
EDIT: and some of the rhythms notes in the recording i did are, in turn, off from the transcription. the recording was just what i was hearing it as in my head. even though some spots are wrong, it's interesting to go back and hear the way my brain remembered it vs the way it was on the record. i guess that's the whole "my own voice" thing. or just a shitty memory.
That happens to me all the time too with these solos.
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:53 PM   #11
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mmmkay. i'm gonna get to the meat and potatoes, or at least what occurred to me while reflecting on this. i'm just going to assume people have no background in jazz.

this is an improvised solo, or at least mostly, on "sunny side of the street." the B section i actually found in practically all louis versions of this tune. along with that ritard ending. but for all intents and purposes, it is an improvised solo.

so let's analyze what makes it great. starting with rhythm.

rhythm is the most important part of jazz. i heard dizzy gillespie (the successor to louis, really) once went around with a group of his students for a week. think they were playing with him. anyway, these guys are waiting for these crazy insights into the right notes and soloing. and dizzy spent the entire week talking about rhythm. talked about notes once. likewise, i'm going to spend this whole post talking about rhythm.

rhythm is what makes jazz "jazzy". the swung eighth note. the triplets. the syncopation and offbeats. here's what we can learn about rhythm from this solo:

1. space/phrasing

the time where the soloist is not playing is almost more important than the time he/she is. horn players have a distinct advantage here in that their need to breathe creates somewhat of a natural phrasing. i've heard a lot of guys still suck at phrasing on horns. but they definitely get the grasp of it a lot quicker than non-horn players. guitarists/bassists/pianists tend to just play a crap ton of notes when they first start out. those are good. but they need to be in the right places to add emphasis and really mean something. one thing i notice in the A, somewhat the A' and in the B section is that the soloist phrases generally in concert with the melody. now i'm not saying that the rhythms or notes are the same as the melody. obviously not. but the phrases are placed generally where the melody's phrases are.

for example, in A and A' the soloists resolve their phrases and either hold their note or break for most of the measure of E7. then resume their phrases as the melody does. in A the bone ends his second phrase where the second phrase of the melody resolves in measure 4 (we're not counting the pickup measure as measure 1). to see what i'm talking about listen to the beginning of the tune (the head/melody/theme/whatever) but follow along on the transcription.

the motif in the B section lines up with the melody's phrasing as well in almost every instance. you could basically sing the B section lyrics to the tune of the solo and it would sound right even though it's not the same notes or rhythms. always be thinking about the melody even when you're not playing it! as louis said (paraphrasing), "first i play the melody, then i play the melody around the melody [...]"

2. jazz vocab

in the 70s this guy wrote a dissertation on charlie parker. i found it in our library in a little nondescript grey book jacket. the guy basically transcribed a metric ton of bird, analyzed his solos to get in his head and had a whole other book as an index of bird's favorite licks to use as reference in his dissertation. and they were ranked in terms of prominence. the number one lick was one which has some variations and you can see it here. it was generally an ascending (1)-3-5-7-9 arpeggio that went "and two-puh-let three and four and" descending on the last four eighth notes. or "and two-puh-let three four" with quarters at the end rather than eighths (sorry for the crude presentation here ). and he'd have it starting on different beats. on measure 5 of the A section, you can see a variation on this "and two-puh-let three and four-puh-let". in the pickup to A' another variation, this time without the offbeat pickup. "two-puh-let three four". then over the next D7 "two-puh-let three four and". this one is textbook too because it's that ascending 3-5-7-9 arpeggio i was talking about then it descends after the quarter with the R-7.

it might sound like i'm crazy, high or nitpicking at things that aren't there. but i assure you this little rhythm figure is the start of many a phrase in jazz. i remember some record where i swear every one of paul chambers' solo phrases began with "and two-puh-let three and four and".

3. use of motifs

this is probably the most obvious one, but almost deceptively difficult. when soloing, especially for strings/keys/drums, the tendency is to play a ton of notes. hence the fascination with scales and altered modes. the more notes the better. but really the point of a solo is not to show off your chops, but to make a melody. so it's important to actually use the same tools you'd use writing a real melody.

in the B section louis establishes a little motif (that i believe might be a quote from another tune) which is somewhat reminiscent of the first phrase he plays in A'. combined with the high register, this tonal sequence brings a lot of contrast and build to the B section which ultimately culminates in the climax at the end of the tune. again in A'', louis has repeating patterns throughout the first few measures.

in soloing, you shouldn't be playing "scales" or even just "notes" per se. you should be playing ideas. even though this is just a one chorus solo, you can see how these figures develop into intentional ideas. it adds a lot of cohesion to the solo as a melody and makes it memorable and singable. all improvising a solo is is improvising a melody.

EDIT: if no one responds to this post with that picture of colin powell, i'm going to be thoroughly disappointed.
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Last edited by primusfan : 01-05-2013 at 12:16 AM.
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Old 01-05-2013, 03:37 PM   #12
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One thing I've noticed is his sort of "squeaky" vibrato seems to reflect the unique warbling nature of his voice, though perhaps unconsciously.
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Old 01-06-2013, 02:50 AM   #13
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I noticed that "and-tri-puh-let" pattern looking at A Night in Tunisia almost immediately before coming into this thread and reading your post. I'm definitely going to start watching out for that more.
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Old 01-29-2013, 06:58 PM   #14
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man, did i fail hard at this. i'm going to finish this transcription i started a bit of in the second week and post it later tonight or tomorrow.

we'll just move on to the next artist in february. maybe come back to louis at some point in the year if i can't think of anyone else.

sorry, guys.

right now i'm down to two artists for feburary: chet baker and benny carter. we'll cover both eventually, but which of the two would make you guys more likely to participate? or do you prefer me just posting stuff and you guys reading it?

or does anyone care?
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Old 01-30-2013, 01:01 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by primusfan
right now i'm down to two artists for feburary: chet baker and benny carter. we'll cover both eventually, but which of the two would make you guys more likely to participate? or do you prefer me just posting stuff and you guys reading it?

or does anyone care?


I think I would love to read some about either, but would rather read Chet Baker first. Sorry I can't contribute too much. I'm not that great at this. But it certainly makes for an interesting read and interesting listen.
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