Solos are more than just notes. How you play those notes matters!
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Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge, I want to welcome you to the confident improviser podcast. This is episode number five. And today, we’re gonna be talking about articulation. And how solos are more than just notes, and how you play those notes matters. All right now before we go too far, let me just tell you, this podcast is a great companion to my competent improviser program, which is found at jazz edge. If you happen to be listening right now in November 2020, we have our black FRIDAY SPECIALS going on. So if you want to become a jazz edge member, now is a great time to get in because you can get in and lock in legacy pricing, just go back to jazz edge comm For more information, there is also going to be a video replay of this. So you can get the replay inside of the confident improviser course at jazz edge, right. And then you can also get the podcast episode over at the confident improviser.com. Alright, so today’s topic, articulation, let’s get right into it. So what is articulation of the piano articulation is basically legato and staccato. That’s pretty much what we have at the piano. So if we play legato, if I just take my C minor five finger pattern, right so legato usually means that we do not play the next note or I’m sorry, legato normally means we don’t lift the note we’re on until we play the next note, right. So you see I’m holding the note down until I play the next note. If I don’t, then I get that kind of say here how there’s a break in between. Now staccato is when we played the, the note short and detached, right. Another way of thinking about legato as well as smooth and connected. staccato is short and detached. So this would be staccato. Now what’s important about when you play staccato like this, is it helps especially when you’re practicing, you know, in a live situation, it’s always going to be different, but when you’re practicing, it helps to really pull out those notes using that grab technique. Right, so you don’t want to just push it down on the notes, you want to actually grab those notes rather than pushing down. Same thing with legato as well. Grabbing the notes. Pull them more toward the first thing you should do is just practice playing legato and playing staccato. So legato
Now, those two articulations are really important for us. Because if we play everything smooth and connected, well, it sounds smooth and connected all the time. What I’m gonna do is I’m going to pull up the I real pro track here, right? And now just listen to what happens if I play like even a simple baseline right that we’ve been doing. And everything is smooth and connected in the right hand.
doesn’t sound bad, but now listen to it this time. sounds a lot better that time sounds at least more interesting to my ears. And that’s because there’s a mix of legato and staccato articulations. Right. So how do we practice this? Well, the first thing is, just try practicing the legato and staccato just on the scale as is. The next thing you could do is try doing that simple baseline that I was just doing in the left hand, right, the C, the E flat, the F, the G, and then using your C minor five finger scale, which is C, D, E flat, F and G, try playing legato and then try playing staccato. Right sometimes there’s a lot of benefit just to you mentally saying, hey, look, this is what I’m going to focus on. And just by focusing your attention on it, you’re able to really increase your skill level on it. Sometimes that’s really all it takes. Sometimes it just takes practice, but you have to focus your energy on that. So we say okay, let me go through it. I’m going to play the bass line and I’m going to think like just playing legato.
Now, you might say well wait a second when you get to those end those phrases like what I do, right? Is it that note that I just ended on isn’t that staccato? No, because I’m not attacking it as a staccato note, this would sound staccato. Right. So if I’m just ending on like an eighth note and there’s an eighth rest after it, well then it just sounds short, but it’s not a staccato articulation. Alright, so that was legato. Now I’ll go through it, I’ll try doing the same thing staccato.
Just try to get
the feel of what it’s like to play all of those notes short and detach. Now I don’t have to play every single note short and detached because then that would sound like
you hear I get some legato notes in there, right. But for the most part, I’m playing most of them
staccato. Most of them are being played short. Now, where do you really want to get to, in your practice, is mixing them together, right? So you have some short notes, and you have some long notes.
Now, when you’re doing that, obviously, rhythm is a piece of that as well, isn’t it? You should definitely take a look at the confident improviser practice guide that I did for rhythm. There is a rhythm practice guide, a scale practice guide and an accompaniment practice guide. Right. So those are three great practice guides to to take a look at. They’re all available within the confident improviser course found the jazz edge.com. Alright, so now that you could do that, what are some other ways in which we can practice legato and staccato? Well, the other thing that you can do is take just a regular scale, like let’s take maybe the C major scale. This is obviously all legato, right. There we go. This is the capo right. content. It makes sure that when you play legato and staccato, you’re also thinking about your dynamics, right? Remember we can play soft, we can play loud, like
so I started staccato, loud, and then staccato, soft, legato, loud, then legato soft. So playing around with those different articulations like that you can get some really interesting sounds. Another great scale to work on is that chromatic scale as well, where you’re just going to each individual note, right, so you can do that.
Alright, so what I did there was I played one octave staccato one octave, legato, right, so here we go, we start staccato. Right, there we go. legato. staccato, legato, right, I can keep going and going and going and go. Alright, so you can move in between the scale, legato and staccato. So really, the, as you just kind of pay attention to this and you do a little bit of practice on this, it’s going to start to get into your playing naturally, I don’t want you to really try and force this into your playing, I really want you to just kind of like practice it and let it organically get into your playing. Now, let’s put on the play along track. I have the play along the real pro track up here for exercise number four. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to put the bass line on as well, right, so the bass player is going to play and in this time in the left hand, I’m going to use those rootless chords that I’ve talked about the rootless chord for C minor, which is playing a three note chord. Sometimes we could do a four note but in this case, I’m just doing three notes and playing a flat, B flat and D that’s the third the seventh and the ninth. For F minor. It’s E flat, a flat and C. That’s the seventh, the third and the fifth. g seven I’m playing f, b and d sharp or E flat, that’s the seventh, the third and the flat 13th. Right. So for first of all, let’s just, in fact, let me move this down a little bit slower. I’ll put it down to 80 beats. Oops, there we go. First thing, you just start with the chords, right? Just hold the now
then I can bring in my minor five finger scale, and then think what Gods price the cost. Oh, we got legato, we’ve done staccato. Now let’s mix between them. So again, utilizing legato and staccato, it’s just one more way that we can create a little bit more expression with what it is that we’re playing. Ultimately, that’s what we’re looking for. Right, we’re looking to be able to express ourselves fully at the instruments. Now how I like to think about articulation is it’s really kind of like enunciation. So you know how some people they’ll talk and it was like, like, the tongue might be kind of lazy and whatnot. And it’s just, it just, it’s kind of hard to understand what it is that they’re saying and everything because there are their enunciation of their words is not very good. Whereas sometimes you can get somebody who’s going to talk like this, and it’s there really enunciating every word. And that’s a little bit too much as well. So you want to find that balance, right? You want to make sure that when you are quote, unquote, speaking at your instrument, that you’re not being lazy with what it is that you’re playing, you know, in your improvisation, but that you’re also not overdoing it with the articulation. Remember this, your scales, your at piano essentials, all of that is really important, like working on that technique is really important, because that’s what builds up the strength and dexterity in your fingers for you to be able to do all of this articulation work. Okay, so now, we’ve talked about playing rest and other stuff in the podcast. Now we’re just kind of bringing in articulation. So hopefully what you’re realizing is that, okay, here’s another concept. Let me bring this concept back to the piano. But then even before you bring it back to the piano, if you happen to be listening in the car right now, throw on some jazz, you know, listen to another jazz pianist. How does Keith Jarrett articulate versus Bill Evans versus online Jamal versus Thelonious Monk versus been Paul, like, you know, you’ll hear that the articulation that players will have, some of them will be a little bit smoother, some of them be a little bit more aggressive, right, you know, you might find that that the, it’s a little bit more short and detached and, you know, in one player, whereas another player, it’s a little bit more smooth, and they’re like, play a little bit more legato, and, and connected. Remember this as well, is that rhythm really kind of plays a big part of this as well, we never really take out one, you know, one concept, you know, we could focus on a concept when we’re practicing. But, you know, we don’t really just take out a, you know, a concept like, okay, now it’s articulation. Okay, now, it’s like your chords, like when we improvise, it’s all being put together, you know, the rhythm, the articulation, the notes, you’re choosing the accompaniment, all of it is, you know, playing and resting. All of those elements are combined together in improvisation at the spur of the moment, right. But we want to obviously practice them separately, so that we get better at them. Right. So anyway, now, I want to remind you that if you have questions, members can join me on Thursdays at 1pm. Eastern, while the competent improviser courses active again, this is November 2020. I’m not sure when you might be taking a listen to this. But the course is going to be active for well over a year. So we’ll be well into you know 20 21 The course will be active all through 2021 we got a lot of stuff to talk about a lot of, you know, a lot of lessons to, you know, to to go through, right. So be sure to join me on Thursdays. If you are a member. Remember the link is just right in the menu area where it says live training. Alright, so anyway, that’s it for me. Thanks, guys for joining me and I will see you in the next podcast episode.