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Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this!
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kirk95
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Joined: 28 Jun 2004
Posts: 82
Location: Boulder, CO

PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2004 4:34 pm    Post subject: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

How do you think about improvising over a piece? What are you trying to achieve when improvising? How do you organize your ideas into cogent music?
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mikecornett



Joined: 06 Aug 2004
Posts: 630
Location: Bakersfield,CA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2004 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are a few archived interviews I found:

http://www.caryn.com/friends/kimock/kimock.improv.html

http://ezone.org/interviews/kimock/complete.html
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kirk95
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2004 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Mike!
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craigwright



Joined: 18 Sep 2004
Posts: 230

PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2004 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.caryn.com/friends/kimock//Kimock.JAMMING.html

check out the audio clip.
i'd nevert seen/heard this before.
i like, "and any note's something."
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kimock



Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 441
Location: Lehigh Valley

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 12:52 am    Post subject: Re: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

kirk95 wrote:
How do you think about improvising over a piece? What are you trying to achieve when improvising? How do you organize your ideas into cogent music?


Kirk,
Sorry it's taken me a little while to get around to this thread.

I think it's a lot easier to organize my ideas into music than words. That having been said, let's start with the last question first.

In all seriousness, I don't organize my ideas into cogent music, you do. One analogy I like to make to demonstrate the power of the mind's ability to organize information would be the "driving in the fog" analogy. There you go, cruising down the coast in the fog, and suddenly your brain goes: Bambi! But it's not a deer, it's a mailbox. Your mind is trying so hard to organize its visual information into something it can deal with, that it will tell you stuff is happening that's just not there. How about L T E R T E S.
Do you see LETTERS? How about DIOCSUSISN GRUOP? Anyway, you get the idea. You can't even turn down your brain's ability to organize material whether it's organized or not.

A little closer to home would be the gig that you thought sucked everybody else thought was great. What's happening there? The point I'm trying to make is that the artist is just not in a position to dictate how the information he is organizing will be received. Different people can listen to the same piece of music and have totally different reactions to it. You can listen to a piece of music when you're 16 and completely dismiss it, listen to it again at 40 and love it. And vice versa. So let me conclude this opening shot by just saying it's the listener's ability to organize the material, not the artist's, that ultimately is the effect of the piece. Duh...

From my perspective, the kinds of things that get organized most easily for the listener, are "big dumb ideas" like up and down, back and forth, high middle low, call and response, and possibly gap fill. There are other cliché arrangement devices like dynamic contrast and repetition that you can fit around or into some of these other ideas, but in my thinking about music a good "musical" idea would be one that's not detail-specific. You should be able to hang any note you want on a good idea. The good idea isn't the note itself, it's the shape or the space the note is nested in.

An obvious example of Up and down in my own music would be the opening section of It's Up To You. When I wrote that, I had no specific pitch intent, I was simply going up one interval, it happened to be a fourth, but really it could have been any interval, and then changing direction and playing the next interval descending, whether this interval was above or below the preceding interval or not. So each two-note melodic cell has an opposite direction. The melody just proceeds up and down. You can make your own melody go up and down. I think of it sometimes as objects and details of the motion. The individual pitches themselves are just details. You can use any detail that you want as long as the object is still there. So up and down would be a device that would provide your lines with a change of direction, which obviously adds interest to the melodic line.

Back and forth is a little more of a harmonic concept than a melodic one, but if you just play a one chord to a five chord, or one four, or one two minor, or whatever, and listen to what's happening, it does go back and forth. This is such a basic musical device that it's easy to overlook how effective it can be when you divorce yourself from the pitch specificity of the harmony and simply oscillate between two harmonies, however consonant or dissonant those harmonies may be.

High middle low in any of its inversions in the context of our cultural predisposition to group things metrically in fours, creates a form with resolution by register. One example that players at all levels should be able to grasp would be to apply this register-specific form to a 12-bar blues. In the first 4 bars, you can find yourself in the low register of the instrument, whatever the notes are. You could just make rumbling noises if you wanted to. For the second 4 bars, you could get up on the top 4 strings around the middle of the neck. For the final 4 bars, you could play on the top 2 or 3 strings above the 12th fret and when the one chord comes back around for the next chorus and you drop down to that low register again, it really amplifies the feeling of return. The same techninque would be easily demonstrated on a one chord vamp playing for a bar or two, resting for a bar or two, and then seeing what it feels like going back to low again when you completed the cycle. The high middle low thing is a really powerful device with zero pitch specificity.

Call and response I'm pretty sure everybody's familiar with already and I think is pretty self-explanatory. Another powerful device with no pitch specificity.

Gap fill, if you're not familiar with it by name, I'm sure you've heard the sound, is a device that allows you to take a scale fragment or just an interval space and give it some form. Gap fill says go from you lowest note to the highest note in your phrase or interval, and then fill in the inside in the opposite direction. So you could play up your D string a major scale D E F# G, obviously a scale fragment, or you could apply the gap fill routine and you'd have D up to G down to F# down to E, obviously a melody some of you may have heard before. If there's any Kind of Blue era Miles fans out there on the board, you hear a lot of this gap fill device on that record, check it out.

This would by no means be an exhaustive list of "big dumb ideas", but should get you going in the right direction of discovering some forms for yourself that give shape to lines without being pitch-specific. There's a couple of other ideas, it would be hard to call them rules, but you could use them like that at first, that are a little more pitch-specific.

First, lines that proceed by step tend to keep going in whatever direction they're going. Lines that proceed be skip tend to turn around. This next bit might sound a little tricky but try it and decide for yourself if it works. Lines that proceed by skip and step should always step first, as if gathering energy then leaping, just like you would do if you were running and jumping over a puddle. So, for example, I'm saying that in the space of a fourth from E to A, that E to F# to A is a stronger ascending melody line than E G# A. Likewise, A G# E would be a stronger descending line that A F# E. This seems to be true more often than not for lines proceeding by skip and step, and you can see how this idea could start to dovetail with gap fill or up and down, to start creating some shapes with the lines, again without telling you specifically what notes to play.

Sorry for this long and somewhat rambling response. I've dealt with these concepts myself over the years so much that I tend not to think about them anymore, they're pretty internalized. So I'm gonna try and wrap it up here without letting this get too confusing, by pointing out a phenomenon that will become obvious to you when you try to apply this stuff. When you use any of these devices, say up and down, after you apply the device a few times, you've created a line that will no longer respond to manipulation by that device, it will be too big. In other words, by the time you've gone up and down a couple of times, you will have created a melody that may not be satisfactorily resolved by application of up and down. So in my own playing, I may use some device to direct my activity. The device doesn't tell you where the activity is gonna go, you siomply apply it a few times and see where it goes, and provide your own resolution. So the improvisation becomes kind of a game where you're using ideas to create lines that are bigger than the ideas that create the lines, listening to the result, and responding with a specifically musical resolution in the moment that doesn't have anyting to do with the formalized technique of spontaneously generating the line.

So to tie this back into the first question that I answered, I think the subtext of the question "How do you organize the material into cogent ideas" might be something like how do I know where I'm going with my playing, or how do you know where you're going with your playing. If you're playing and you're trying to figure out where you're going, as if you needed to know, please remember nobody else knows where you're going. Not another living person on earth knows what you're going to play, why should you? The whole idea that there's some specific musical place that the line needs to resolve and that you should know that going in, and that there's some nameable musical destination to the resolution of your idea, is a totally bogus idea. The individual pitches themselves in their proper intonation are the destination. The destination pitches for the resolution of any of these lines are simply any pitch that's actually in tune, which will be the subject of our next discussion. But until then, you might start thinking in terms of "musical ideas don't require pitch specificity". You don't have to follow D with E or F# or anything else for that matter, pitch specificity only comes into play with the specific intonation of the individual pitches themselves.
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kimock



Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 441
Location: Lehigh Valley

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 12:55 am    Post subject: Re: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

kirk95 wrote:
What are you trying to achieve when improvising?


A flow state, that's all.

What did the buddhist monk say when he left the monastery in Tibet for the first time, got on a plane, flew to New York, landed at Laguardia, went down into the subway, and came up in front of the hot dog stand?
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kirk95
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Joined: 28 Jun 2004
Posts: 82
Location: Boulder, CO

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 3:35 am    Post subject: Re: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

kimock wrote:
kirk95 wrote:
What are you trying to achieve when improvising?


A flow state, that's all.

What did the buddhist monk say when he left the monastery in Tibet for the first time, got on a plane, flew to New York, landed at Laguardia, went down into the subway, and came up in front of the hot dog stand?


What?

Steve that was a really great answer above! Thank you for taking the time to write all that! Can't wait to implement.... Gotta go play now!
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kimock



Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 441
Location: Lehigh Valley

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:12 am    Post subject: Re: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

kirk95 wrote:
kimock wrote:

What did the buddhist monk say when he left the monastery in Tibet for the first time, got on a plane, flew to New York, landed at Laguardia, went down into the subway, and came up in front of the hot dog stand?

What?

No, not what.
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kimock



Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 441
Location: Lehigh Valley

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:14 am    Post subject: Re: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

kimock wrote:
kirk95 wrote:
kimock wrote:

What did the buddhist monk say when he left the monastery in Tibet for the first time, got on a plane, flew to New York, landed at Laguardia, went down into the subway, and came up in front of the hot dog stand?

What?

No, not what.

Know? Knot!
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kimock



Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 441
Location: Lehigh Valley

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:15 am    Post subject: Re: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

kimock wrote:
kimock wrote:
kirk95 wrote:
kimock wrote:

What did the buddhist monk say when he left the monastery in Tibet for the first time, got on a plane, flew to New York, landed at Laguardia, went down into the subway, and came up in front of the hot dog stand?

What?

No, not what.

Know? Knot!

Watt??
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BK



Joined: 10 Nov 2004
Posts: 9
Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:33 am    Post subject: Re: Would love to hear Steve's thoughts on this! Reply with quote

kimock wrote:
kirk95 wrote:
What are you trying to achieve when improvising?


A flow state, that's all.

What did the buddhist monk say when he left the monastery in Tibet for the first time, got on a plane, flew to New York, landed at Laguardia, went down into the subway, and came up in front of the hot dog stand?



"Make me one with everything"?
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Jacob Van Noy



Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Posts: 49

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"Make me one with everything"?


I thought that was the pizza one.
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BK



Joined: 10 Nov 2004
Posts: 9
Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jacob Van Noy wrote:
Quote:
"Make me one with everything"?


I thought that was the pizza one.


Can't remember. Anyway, still works, don't you think?
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teakwoodbetz



Joined: 19 Oct 2004
Posts: 150
Location: Horse Country, Maryland

PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:14 pm    Post subject: oh my Reply with quote

Great answer! As far as the monk in New York...
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dms8md



Joined: 17 Dec 2004
Posts: 34
Location: Mahopac or Geneseo, NY

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Not another living person on earth knows what you're going to play, why should you?"

great quote!

Thanks for the free lesson... Steve, you should really write a guitar book.
or maybe you shouldn't , so we could get great advice on the internet...
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