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  • Listening better when jamming.

    Hey guys. To be brief, I suck at listening on the bandstand. And when I'm trying to listen, I wind up listening to one thing so hard I lose sight of the other members of the band. Like yesterday, I was so focused on landing in a pocket with organ player, I didn't notice that on the blues we were playing on everyone took 3 choruses, so when I took four and went on my fifth, it was clear that I wasn't aware of the situation (all the other musicians noticed lol). How did you guys get better at listening? I bet some things are, you know the tunes. songs better as well as chords all that. Also, you become more confident so you are less worried about how you are sounding and all. What else did you guys do to listen better? I have faith that its something that can be fixed.

    Thanks a ton y'all!

  • #2
    I learn how things sit in phrases. One of the tunes that schooled me was So What. Because it ends with 8 bars of Dm then starts over with 16 bars of Dm a whole band can get lost and turn it into 24 bars of Dm and then completely get lost If they are not listening/internalizing in phrases of 8 bars they are not going to where the hell they are. I can't tell you how many times I've played that tune with rockers and they are all looking around wonder where they are between the last 8 bars and the first 16 bars of Dm. Personally, I got it down and know exactly where the changes are and get even play my lines directly to the 8 bar phrases.

    I also teach this idea for blues and rock students too as "just listen to the singers phrasing, or where he takes a breath". That is usually one focuses section, and they are just stringing phrases together to make a verse. Then what's the phrasing for the chorus? etc...

    This helps you in many many ways. But in the end it show you how to converse musically in the inherent phrase length of the song. I't like talking in sentences, but when the sentences tie together phrase wise to have a complete thought.

    How I might handle a "three pass" blues solo is make a definite break between the first and second pass but then play through where the second and third pass meet up to the end of the third pass. That way I keep things in context between the first and second pass but stretch out the second pass directly into the third pass making it one long stream of thought. Plus it keeps the last long thought in a group of two, meaning two passes, or an even group of passes.

    Another thing...

    I play on stage a lot with a great sax play who really messes with the rhythm of his lines during extended solo's, not so much the inherent phrase, but chopping the rhythm against the phrase. I just follow him with my rhythms. I've work with him steady for 4 years now so I can tell where he's going a lot of the time, or at least I know i'm going to match almost verbatim with. I know this is a bit different than you post but I have seen many a bassist and drummer tune into me bringing my playing in step with the the rhythm the sax player is playing and when they get what's going they start jumping on the musical game too. It ends up being very reminiscent of the Wes Montgomery record of Impressions live...no not so much the song itself but how Jimmy Cobb plays catch up on a bunch of Wes's phrases in this cut and everyone laughing because we made a musical connection...

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    • #3
      Getting to know your band mates helps a lot, learning what they usually do, and body movements they make when they are going to start or end something. Knowing the song obviously. It really helps to have an understanding of what's going on with the different instruments, almost to the point of knowing their part of the song, and knowing what those instruments are capable of as far as playing around with the melody and chord progression.

      In a jam situation, i think you want to be so comfortable with what's going on that you can either zone out and get into your own part, or forget about thinking about what you have to play and pay attention to what everyone else is doing, and be able to transition between the two seamlessly. When you have to start focusing too much on what you need to play next, or maintaining the tempo on a particular part of the song, you lose that mojo that lends itself to the overall jam. I usually play drums though, so what i am listening to, and trying to complement is going to be a completely different approach from what everyone else is doing, except for maybe the bass player.

      Personally, i like to play along with different recordings of the same song, so i can be prepared for what everyone else may do, and to get super comfortable with different versions of the same song. That way you can zone out on your own playing, or get in the zone, and focus on the overall.

      (i feel like i sound like an acid casualty from the 70s)
      <div class="signaturecontainer">&quot;Don't bother about being modern. Unfortunately it is the one thing that, whatever you do, you cannot avoid&quot;<br />
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      • #4

        How did you guys get better at listening? I bet some things are, you know the tunes. songs better as well as chords all that. Also, you become more confident so you are less worried about how you are sounding and all. What else did you guys do to listen better? I have faith that its something that can be fixed.
        Sure. You're already doing the right thing. You just get a little carried away with a single idea (locking in with the organist in that case).
        The answer is to try and stay aware of the bigger picture. IOW, there's a consciousness not only of what the other musicians are doing, moment to moment, but of a bigger sense of the temporal structure of the piece (how many verses, where the bridge comes if there is one, how many lines per verse, bars per line, etc).

        IOW, you have to spot that those before you each take 3 choruses (because if you're on rhythm, or not playing at all at that point, that's a big thing to listen for), so you plan for yours to be the same length, ideally with a development from chorus to chorus to give it shape and make it end logically after 3.

        (Or you can just pretend you're John Coltrane, and - dammit - you NEED more than 3 choruses to work out a proper finale to your Great Solo... hell, if it takes 5 choruses, well that's just what your Art demands...... anything less would be selling your fans short, bowing to the petty demands of earthly time constraints... yeah who cares if the bar actually closed half an hour ago, and the drummer's gone home... you gotta let your Solo take its true course! )

        Seriously, there may well be times when it would be RIGHT for your solo to be longer than the others. But they would be pretty rare. You (and the band) would need to be on a roll, with everyone getting to their feet... You can't just cut it dead at that point.
        Here's the archetypal example of the jazz solo that just goes on and on, because it just damn well HAS to... (because history is being created)
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vnrNWyvI-U
        - if the hairs on your neck don't stand on end by the end of that, you're dead, man...
        (It cuts out at the end of the sax solo, btw, so you miss the final 5 minutes of the 15-minute performance.)
        Now you can tell your band; "hey, you think 5 choruses is overdoing it? Paul Gonsalves played 27 choruses on that tune..."
        (They'll probably point out that you ain't Paul Gonsalves; but then they ain't Duke Ellington either...)

        Another description of the event here:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNBpMRPfw0A&feature=related

        Anyway, seriously again...

        Of course you want to listen to the rhythm too, be in the pocket - not always as intuitive a thing as we sometimes imagine, because it can be easy to drift off into one's own sense of time or tempo.
        Ie, the time structure - the horizontal dimension if you like - has a compound structure, from smallest to biggest: fractions of a beat (16ths, triplets, 8ths) - beats - bars - lines - verses - quantity of verses per soloist - quantity of verses in the whole. Within that - usually around the bar/line level - you create phrases, placing them in that time structure where they feel right.
        You need to have a comfortable enough consciousness of the structure to play phrases against it - to contrast with the basic metre without losing it.
        It can be hard to keep track of this in the heat and adrenalin of performance, where you often feel you need to listen to just one thing, as something to hang on to. If I get into that kind of "tunnel vision" thing, I just stop for a bar or two to kind of re-initialize myself, feel the bigger picture again. That kind of breathing space in a solo rarely sounds wrong, and often creates an element of suspense. You can leave whole acres of space, maybe dotted with occasional single notes, while you plan your next aural onslaught .
        ...

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        • #5
          It's really in knowing the songs well. Also being able to "sense" the length of a chorus. You should work on instinctively FEELING 4, 8, 12, 16 bar lengths. You should really FEEL that a section is ending. If you can't then start here. Also listen for cues.... typically drummers like to 'fill' there way out of parts and into a new part. Use your eyes too... not to stare at your neck but to see the other players faces. A little nod or blink is all it takes to telegraph a change.

          Listening is DEFINITELY part of it. But it won't help you all that much if what you hear comes as a surprise. KNOW the tunes.
          <div class="signaturecontainer"><br>Blog: <a href="http://sixstringobsession.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">http://sixstringobsession.blogspot.com/</a><br><br><a href="http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyostY3l4lrJ_t-gbFNEsrw?feature=mhee" target="_blank">Subscribe to my YouTube channel</a></div>

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          • #6
            I'm not particularly good at this either, but I always listen to the drummer's cues - they almost always lead into the changes. Really, most of the players will do this to some extent, but it's easier to hear with the drummer.

            Also, if I'm not comfortable with a piece or going in blind or without rehearsal, I'll find someone in the band (usually bassist in my case) and let him know I'd like to lean on him for cues. It's easier to try to follow one person, and it's easier if they know you're trying to follow them so they can help out.
            <div class="signaturecontainer">Multiple award winning blues/rock/country at <a target="_blank" href="http://www.zeyerband.com">http://www.zeyerband.com</a> or <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer">http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer</a>.<br>Check my solo (instrumental rock) projects at: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson">http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson</a><br><br><br>&quot;Music is like the English language - it's just full of rules that need to be broken or you aren't hip.&quot;</div><br>&quot;It doesn't take talent to upgrade your playing. It takes patience&quot; - Kenny Werner

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            • #7
              Jam with noobs. It's a continuous master class.
              Originally posted by Unconfigured Static HTML Widget...
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              • #8
                Jam with noobs. It's a continuous master class.


                i think I get the sentiment... but the actual advice is bad. Noobs are completely unpredictable and it certainly doesn't help you learn the song structure, from, good time, & predictability that comes with playing with a real band. Noobs also don't listen and react well... or they OVER react. You wanna get better? Be the worst player in every project you are in!
                <div class="signaturecontainer"><br>Blog: <a href="http://sixstringobsession.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">http://sixstringobsession.blogspot.com/</a><br><br><a href="http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyostY3l4lrJ_t-gbFNEsrw?feature=mhee" target="_blank">Subscribe to my YouTube channel</a></div>

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                • #9
                  i think I get the sentiment... but the actual advice is bad. Noobs are completely unpredictable and it certainly doesn't help you learn the song structure, from, good time, & predictability that comes with playing with a real band. Noobs also don't listen and react well... or they OVER react. You wanna get better? Be the worst player in every project you are in!


                  Not real specific perhaps but the idea is thinking on the fly. Not talking free jazz noobs of course but you do get monotonous vamps, lousy changes, clunky rhythms, and no opportunity to get lost or carried away lol. It's what you make of it.
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                  • #10
                    Another great listening skill I picked up from the Miles Davis albums was...

                    how he would mimic the last soloist's last notes as the first notes of his own solo. Straight No Chaser on the Milestone album is a prime example of this.

                    It happens around the 1:48 mark in this vid...(another special note is the open line of the the first sax solo (Cannonball's solo), @ :30, learn that bad ass lick!!!)


                    Also the stories Herbie Hancock tells of the 1965 Quintet where he says something to the effect of....We'd play the head of the tune then Miles would walk off stage while I solo'ed, then Wayne would solo, then Tony, and then Ron. Then Miles would walk back onto the stage for his solo and he would play a solo that would sum up all four solo's that were just played before his!

                    That's a KILLER story!
                    <div class="signaturecontainer">PM me about Online One-on-One Guitar Lessons, via Skype and Paypal<br />
                    <a href="http://lessons.mikedodge.com" target="_blank">http://lessons.mikedodge.com</a><br />
                    <a href="http://www.mikedodge.com" target="_blank">http://www.mikedodge.com</a><br />
                    <a href="http://forum.mikedodge.com" target="_blank">http://forum.mikedodge.com</a><br />
                    <br />
                    Hint for online instructors...play the example in it's entirety, THEN talk about it for 5 minutes.<br />
                    <br />
                    The only good liberal is a...well, we're still trying to figure out the answer to that one.<br />
                    <br />
                    Uma is a motorik.</div>

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                    • #11
                      Also the stories Herbie Hancock tells of the 1965 Quintet where he says something to the effect of....We'd play the head of the tune then Miles would walk off stage while I solo'ed, then Wayne would solo, then Tony, and then Ron. Then Miles would walk back onto the stage for his solo and he would play a solo that would sum up all four solo's that were just played before his!
                      That's pretty badass!
                      <div class="signaturecontainer">Multiple award winning blues/rock/country at <a target="_blank" href="http://www.zeyerband.com">http://www.zeyerband.com</a> or <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer">http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer</a>.<br>Check my solo (instrumental rock) projects at: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson">http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson</a><br><br><br>&quot;Music is like the English language - it's just full of rules that need to be broken or you aren't hip.&quot;</div><br>&quot;It doesn't take talent to upgrade your playing. It takes patience&quot; - Kenny Werner

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