I had the honor of doing a masterclass at Casa Valdez Studios while in Portland earlier this month. We talked a lot about singing over droneswhile visualizing the related fingerings on your instrument. Using this method to learn to hear vertical harmony, and horizontal melody can really help one begin to connect with their ear and inner voice and help free them from playing by rote, i.e. using mainly muscle memory habits, chord scale theory and/or other forms of analysis to improvise.
Getting to teach the class and play for a week with David Valdez and some amazing Portland musicians was a huge inspiration. Not only was the music gratifying and challenging, I ate better than I’ve eaten for years; David is both an amazing player and an amazing cook, and knows all the best restaurants in town!
David recorded the whole “lecture” and posted it on his blog, here’s the link:
or download it with the links below:
We sang the root motion to some simple tunes and talked about playing what you hear (the melody you hear note by note in your mind) as opposed to playing what you “think” (using theory and concepts). We also briefly talked about some “thinking based concepts” like playing “outside” the harmony using modulation (playing inside melodies in unrelated keys), as well as a variation of Garzone’s triadic approach, and playing atonal or random intervals over structured harmony.
I’ll be posting some of the gigs that we played together during that week and hopefully you’ll be able to hear some of these concepts put into practice. Here’s short solo from one of our gigs.
Curtis Swift did the Solo Transcription – check out his site here.
The mp3s below feature John Stowell on guitar, Todd Strait on drums, Chris Higgins on bass, David Valdez on Alto sax and myself on Tenor sax and compositions.