Sunday, October 18, 2009

Whole Tone and Diminished Studies

Take a listen to these scales. You hear them all the time in a variety of music in one form or another - for example, a dreamy moment (whole tone) often played by a harp, or a suspenseful chord played as the villain in a drama attempts some dastardly deed (diminished arpeggio).  Just knowing a bit about these scales and how to play them on your instrument will really add to your "tool kit" of skills. 

(Hint:  click the "Noteflight" logo to view the whole page and text - it's a bit crunched in this view. You can also click the Play button and hear what these scales sound like!)

Note that both of these scale types (whole tone and diminished) are known as "symmetric" scales - in other words, each note is equidistant to the next.  The result is a unique sound.  Any note can be the starting point for a new scale, since there's no half-step interval to provide the sense of  "leading tone" weight.

When you listen to music, you'll recognize these elements (whole tone sounds and/or diminished scales) as the funcitonal devices they often are. In classical music, composers often used the diminished scale/chord to provide a sense of suspense and/or harmonic ambiguity. Hence, they are perfect for development sections and/or as a means of transitioning to a new key center. In Jazz (especially), the diminished scale is closely related to a "dominiant"chord . In fact any diminished scale is really a dominant 7 with a flat 9. For example, if you play a D7(b9) chord (piano/guitar), a C diminished scale will contain all those notes. Sounds a bit complex, but only at first. Your ear knows all this already, it's just a matter of putting a name on some of these things. Happy playing!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tequila - Wes Mongomery Version

This is the version I'll play in class. If you listen carefully, you'll here the solo bass entrance and then the percussion entrances.  There's a feeling of syncopation, but your sense of "one" (if you're like me, following the bass) will be a bit offset. You think you feel the groove, you were lulled into the feel, thenWes makes his entrance with a pickup to "one" - wow, we've been tricked it seems.  But only musically.  And that's a nice way to be tricked.  Enjoy the performance! 

And here's the bass line notated, so you can see how it dances by the bar lines...we'll also discuss the approach to the percussion, but listen to the tune and see if you can find other versions of the song.  I like this one because it's a small group, yet the sounds and rhythms they create are very rich.

Tequila - Bigband of the Euregio-Gymnasium Bocholt

Researching this famous Chuck Rio number, I came across this rendition performed by The  Bigband of the Euregio-Gymnasium Bocholt, which is pretty much the same arrangement we have in our book. The band sounds pretty tight - can't tell if they are middle school or perhaps a young high school group. They chose a very fast tempo, but it feels like they have it all under control. And the hats - well, that's another story!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is there Early Bird Jazz during a No-School or Canceled School Day?

Just a reminder to parents & students that a no-school day at Linus Pauling (due to teacher days, weather, or any other reason) automatically cancels our Early Bird Jazz Band class.  We don't have reliable access to the facility during those no-school days.

When in doubt, please refer to the Linus Pauling Middle School's calendar or the Corvallis School District calendar.  And of course you can always contact me directly.

Thanks for your understanding!