Sunday, September 26, 2010

A List of Bands that Feature Good Horns by Jackson

Early Bird Jazz guitarist Jackson S. (an 8th grader in the Early Bird Jazz Band class of 2009-2010) gave me a handwritten list of what he deemed bands with "good horns."  He wrote it on a little piece of paper in front of me, in about a minute, every band named exactly correct.  I've had his list for some months now and before I archive the paper, I want to transcribe it as it seems very interesting and worthy of exploration:

Good horns:
Good rhythm section Ska (per Jackson, "many edge towards punk"):
I had the sense that Jackson was merely scratching the surface of the bands he could have named.  I won't be surprised when I add his own band to the list someday.

Jackson's love of Ska music was one of the main inspirations for my tune Freeway Ska.

Rob Birdwell

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big 12 Major Scales

I love scales - not so much the scales themselves but the world of melodies they opened up for me.  Having them under my fingers makes many things much easier - like sight reading, improvising and even composing!

But I recognize that not everyone likes scales - they can be viewed as tedious and boring.  But once we recognize that scales serve as the fundamental building blocks of melodies, chords and other great musical things, we begin to get to know them and see them for what they are:  cool!

So take some time in your daily routine to befriend these 12 major scales on your instrument - each one has a  unique character.  Some have a few more flats and sharps than others, but they will be there for you someday so get to know them well!  Good things start to happen once you have these under your fingers!

The Big 12 Scales - Alto Sax
The Big 12 Scales - Baritone Sax
The Big 12 Scales - Bass
The Big 12 Scales - Clarinet
The Big 12 Scales - Flute
The Big 12 Scales - Guitar
The Big 12 Scales - Horn in F
The Big 12 Scales - Piano
The Big 12 Scales - Tenor Sax
The Big 12 Scales - Trombone
The Big 12 Scales - Trumpet
The Big 12 Scales - Tuba
The Big 12 Scales - Vibes-Drums

My junior high music director, Bill Wicker, introduced me and all the students to the big 12.  He had posters on the wall that said things like:  "Practice makes perfect?  Phooey!  But perfect practice makes better!" and other helpful quotes.  He had a challenge that very few students took him up on called the "Super Big 12" - which was to play all 12 major scales in two octaves, including the arpeggios!

The beauty of learning your major scales is that the minor scales are included, for free!  A couple examples:
  • Play a C scale but start on A - that will give you the relative minor scale (A minor)
  • Play a C scale but start on D - that will give you a dorian mode minor scale
  • Play a C scale but start on B - that will give you a very cool locrian mode minor scale
Most of all, have fun and enjoy playing your instrument!

Rob Birdwell