Play & Rest

Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge. Welcome to the confident improviser. This is podcast episode number four. Today we’re going to be talking about play and rest, and how to add space in your solos to make them sound more interesting. Now, this podcast is best used as a companion to my confident improviser program. Of course, it’s optional, you don’t have to you like, you could just, you know, listen to the podcast as it is and get a lot of great information out of it. But if you really want to see the replay video, and be able to get the rest of the sheet music and all of that, just go back to the confident for more information on that program, okay, so playing and resting. First of all, let me do this, I’m going to pull up the the sheet music from exercise four. And let me just play the baseline for you Just so you can hear it again. Alright, so this is our baseline, it’s much more active right now. I’m playing it maybe a little bit faster than you would play it. Don’t worry about the speed right now. It will make sense, you know, when we start talking about playing and resting, okay, so I’m gonna play an example for you right now. And just kind of like, just listen to it, and see how it feels. Right? Here we go.

So now, there’s the first example. Let me play the next example now. And you tell me which one you like better, here we go.

I said which one sounded better to you to your ears? If you said number two, I would agree with you. Because number one, I was just playing and playing and playing and playing and playing a lot of notes without any rest. And it gets very difficult for the listener to pay attention to that and listen to that. Now, a little side example here, in our everyday lives, we’ve all met somebody who just talks and like somehow able to talk without ever taking a breath, right? Just you know, and it’s very difficult to like really listen to them, and absorb the information because they’re throwing so much information at you so fast. Okay, so same thing happens with improvisation. So now, playing and resting comes in. Okay, so now let’s talk about this play. Rest concept. I’m going to improvise again. And I’m going to utilize the play rest concept in my right hand. But now I want you to listen to the left hand and tell me what happens with the left hand. Okay, here we go.

So, you hear in the right hand, I would play a little phrase or a little lick a little mode of motif, whatever. Okay. And then I would pause a little bit, but the left hand did what did it stop? Or did it keep going? If you answered that it kept going, you’re absolutely right, it kept going. So that left hand is steady, steady, cornets, keep the baseline moving, the left hand does not stop. So when we’re talking about playing and resting, we’re talking about the right hand resting, not the left hand. Now, you might wonder, oh, whoa, wait a sec, you’re doing you know, baseline down there. What if you were, you know, playing along with the band track. Alright, so let me put the band track on here. Let’s Let’s play along with the I real pro track and let’s use rootless chords in the left hand. Whoops, let me put the bass track on so you can hear some bass as well. Okay. All right. So let’s do that again. And let’s bump this up. I’m going to right now to 80. I’m going to bring it up to 100 beats per minute.

Alright, so you here in the left hand, comping chords, while the band The bass in the drum track keeps going on. And then the right hand, I’m adding in some space to my solo, right. So again, when we play in rest, the left hand can keep going. The left hand can keep playing. It’s the right hand. What we’re talking about. Alright, so now let’s dig into this play rest idea a little bit more and really talk about what does it mean to play into rest, right. So first of all, the typical way of resting is literally just take your right hand off of the piano. So if you’re just take your hand out right

off the piano.

So I’m just moving my hand right off the piano, and I’m literally not touching the keyboard, the piano keys anymore, and I am providing some space there. Another way of resting is to hold a note out. So now listen, this.

Should you hear him holding out those notes. Right? Right, I’ll hold that note out. Right, that provides some rest as well. Again, what we’re trying to achieve here is we’re trying to give the listener a break for their ears, right, that’s really all that’s going on, you’re trying to give them a break, then you’re trying to separate the improvisational ideas, okay, another way of thinking about is you’re separating out the sentences, right, so you put a little bit of pot, you say something, you get to the end of a sentence, there’s a period there, you have some space, and then you say something else, okay? Otherwise, you get to the end of the sentence, and then you go right on to the next sentence, and then you go right on to the next sentence, and it becomes just overbearing, and too much. Now, where most students have difficulty is resting enough, for some reason, that space, just like creates this anxiety and nervousness for a lot of students. So one way of getting accustomed to that is to really force yourself to rest for a while, right, so you do something like this, let’s go back to playing the baseline. Okay, and I’m literally, I’m just literally gonna go right up the five finger blue skin, and I’m just gonna hold that note out.

And then what I’m going to do is, I’m going to hold that out for two times through the baseline. So I’ll play the bass line again, all by itself.

Now come down,

hold the baseline out again. Now in that example, right there, the three examples that I just played, right, they notice I played over the C minor measure the first measure, but the second measure that has the F minor and the G seven, I didn’t play there, again, I still kept baseline going, right. So what you want to try to do when you’re practicing your improvisation, keep the left hand steady, whether you’re playing a baseline, or you’re playing chords, in the right hand, try to add in some of that rest. Now, this podcast is not going to be the complete be all end all on this subject, I have a lot more lessons at the jazz edge site. I’m playing and resting so you can if you want some more examples, but this just kind of like hopefully gets the idea percolating in your brain that, Okay, I need to rest a little bit and not just keep playing stuff. Okay. All right. So let’s put the play rest stuff off to one side for a second. And let’s talk about some other stuff that’s kind of wrapped around the play and rest. One thing I want to go back to is what we talked about in the last episode about target notes, starting targets and ending targets. But I also want to talk to you a little bit about motif development, right? And we’ll get into this in another episode, right, but something for you to just kind of start to think about, and and this plays into the play rest as well, is taking the same idea and playing it more than once.

Typically, what

students will do when they’re improvising is you’ll get something like this. Maybe there should be some rest. Right? So all of that’s fine, right? There’s this kind of some rest in there. Maybe it’s a little bit busy. But there’s some rest in there. There’s some ideas that are going on. But the challenge is there are too many ideas, and we never come back to an idea and repeat the idea. So something that I want to do Kind of like slip in right now so that you could start thinking about it. And we can talk about it later in more detail is the idea of playing something, and then repeating the exact same phrase again. So sounds like this.

So you see how I had that phrase? And I repeated that three times. And then the third time that I add, added something to the end of it, right? Okay. So I could take that phrase, repeat it three times. Can I repeat it more than three times? Sure. But it starts to sound like a little starts to sound boring, starts to sound a little too much. Okay? Can I repeat it less than three times? Sure, you can do that as well. But sometimes if you just repeat it twice, right? Or repeat it once, I guess, if you play it twice, sometimes it doesn’t really like, you know, latch into the ear of the listener. So sometimes it’s good to play it like three times, right? So if I do.

So now, do you hear there how I repeated a phrase, sometimes I repeated it more than three times. But sometimes I’ll also take just a piece of a phrase.

So this right here, I’m playing F sharp and G and crushing them together. So that little idea right there in the beginning of my lick, I repeat that, but the rest of the lick is different. Okay? So it’s not like you’re going to take exactly the same notes and play the same notes every single time three times in a row. No, you could take like the first part of a lick. Repeat that, and then change the rest of the lick. Now, what I’d like you to do is listen to some improvisation, right? Listen to Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Brad mehldau, Keith Jarrett, any of these great improvisers, or pick your own pianos that you like to listen to, and listen for repetition, in their improvisation listen for when they play an idea. And when they play it again, but they kind of morphed it a little bit. Keith Jarrett is a great example that he loves to do that we’ll take an idea and it just kind of builds and builds and builds on that idea. And it just morphs and builds, it’s kind of like a snowball, you know, you know, at the top of the mountain, but then turns into like this giant snowball, by the time it gets down to the end of the mountain. All right, so that building, building, building, building, really, really cool to listen to, and a great technique in your improvisation to really make your improvisation sound much more sophisticated. These are the techniques that make you go from student improviser to semi professional improviser to professional improviser, right. So that Semi Pro improviser or the the better sounding improviser knows to add space into their solo, they know to repeat an idea and to utilize that repetition in their solo so that it really just kind of like locks in the idea for the listener. Okay, so the last thing I just want to talk about, is that idea that we talked about in the last podcast, sorry, podcast episode of starting notes and ending notes. So when I have a phrase, okay, when I improvise, okay, I’ll play this bass line. Again, I’m going to improvise. There are multiple phrases that I’ll play, right, so I’ll just count them out as I do them. So here we go. 1234 for.

Right, so I had four

different ideas there that I played, or four different licks that I played for phrases, for motifs, for motives, whatever definition you want to have for whatever you want to call it. The idea is that I played four separate ideas. Okay, four separate licks, four lines as I like to look at it. Each one of those lines has a starting note and an ending note. You could also So think of them like sentences. That was like four different sentences. One after another, there’s a, the first word in the sentence. And there’s the last word in the sentence. And just like in grammar, we know that, right? Like, we’re not going to end the sentence, right? Like, we got to finish it out for it to make sense. So, like with our sentence structure, and with language, and with grammar, we know there are certain ways in which we have to start a sentence and in which we have to end the sentence. And we know that good grammar tells us what those rules are. Well, the same thing happens with improvisation as well, the starting note, and the ending note for right now is very important. For right now, this does not have to be forever as you get better than you could change that around. You could use your ears and all of that in theory and all that good stuff. But for right now, if you’re a beginning improviser, it helps if you start on a chord tone, and end on a chord tone. Okay, the starting chord tone is wherever you’re starting. So if I don’t start until I get to the F minor chord, well, now the starting chord tones should be part of that F minor chord, right? f a flat, C, E flat. So right, so here, when I got to the F, I started on E flat. And then when I ended on the C, I ended on G in the right hand, okay, so E flat is the seventh of F minor. g is the fifth of C minor. Okay, so I start on a chord tone, whatever chord I’m on for that moment. That’s the important thing, right? So if I started the beginning on C minor, well, then I’m talking to C minor chord tones, I’m not talking the G seven chord tones. Because I haven’t gotten to G seven yet. I’m talking about C minor, which is C, E flat, G and B flat. Okay. So I start on one of those chord tones, I play and let’s say I’m going to end my line on the F chord. Alright, well, then I’m going to end on one of those F chord tones, or if I ended on G, and then one of the G chord tones. Now, at first, this seems like a lot of work and a lot of attention to detail, doesn’t it? But it does get easier. And I also will tell you this, just try to keep it in mind. But if you don’t hit those chord tones, it’s not going to be the end of the world. It’s not like the entire improvisation is going to sound completely terrible. It might sound a little bit weird, right? But it will, it will work. If you just keep going. I will also tell you this, the ending chord tone is more important than the starting core tone. I’m going to start my improvisation on a B natural on a C minor chord, obviously, a bad choice, right? I mean, it’s just like, it’s not going to sound good. But I’m going to end it on a G, okay, and then I’m going to end another g when I get to the G chord, so it’s like that, that’s gonna sound good. So take a listen.

I kind of hit the G when I get back to the C. But anyway, you get the point like it sounds. Now what’s interesting, I’m going to tell you that that’s kind of interesting. And this that be natural kind of works with that with that C minor because it really is kind of like from your harmonic minor melodic minor, I don’t want to get into all of that theory. But it kind of gives it that interesting, almost a Middle Eastern kind of flavor to it, right? Kind of like, you can kind of have that that soundscape going on. Right? So it’s kind of cool. I love playing that in my play. So let me pick a different note. All right, let’s pick one that’s not gonna work. Let’s say F sharp. So when I play F sharp on that C minor, right, it doesn’t sound all that good. But now listen to what happens if I resolve it to G a little a little ways down down the road here.

So I went up to Jean and I went down to see so you hear the F sharp that sounds tense in the beginning. But eventually, I end the line on a note that’s going to sound less tense and it sounds like it fits better with the chord. That’s really what’s going on with those starting and ending target notes. So the ending target note is really the most important one listen to what happens now if I end my line on an F sharp.

Whoops, sorry. It just doesn’t sound all that good constantly ending on that F sharp. Listen now. When I had that baseline going, you kind of covered up a little bit, let me play it with the with the band.

Right. So if I just keep playing that F sharp over and over like it is really tense. And if I end on that F sharp, it sounds really tense. Now I’m going to start on the F sharp again with the band, and I’m going to end on a chord tone. That’s going to sound nice. So hear me on the F sharp.

So I’m playing F sharp, G, B flat, C, E flat, right? So I’m just kind of walking up that C minor chord, but starting on the F sharp, which again, sounds really tense. So the ending note is the one that really has the most power, the starting one, you can get away with it being more tense than the ending one. Okay? So again, just something else to consider when you’re practicing. And when you’re improvising. Now, I want to leave you with this this last thought, and that is, when you practice, this is like you slowed down, you think about these things. You say, Okay, let me do play rest. Okay, let me think about my starting notes. My target notes, let me think about my core does that data, right, there’s all of this theory and work that you’re doing because it’s practice, it should be work. But when you actually go to just improvise, just play. Don’t worry about all of that other stuff, okay. And that, in and of itself is a skill to learn to like step away from the practice room. And now you’re just simply playing, it’s just like, okay, just play. And then whatever happens, happens, just let it go. If you make a mistake, you just keep going. And literally, it’s only a half step away. If you play F sharp and it’s a good, it’s a little too tense, go down to effort up to G. And guess what, it’s gonna sound good. Alright. So just remember when you’re playing, play, when you’re practicing, practice, a lot of times students get into thing in which what they’ll be practicing or quote, unquote, practicing, only to be actually playing. So when you’re practicing, make sure you’re practicing and when you’re actually playing. Just have fun playing. Alright, so anyway, that’s it for me. Thank you guys for joining me today. Remember, every Thursday, I answer questions in my confident improviser live training. Okay, the link is right on the jazz edge site, you do need to be a member of jazz edge in order to join in. If you happen to be catching this before Black Friday, it’s this episode would be coming out before Black Friday, just know that we are going to be having some black friday specials, which if you’re interested in getting into jazz, that really will be the the best time I like to be completely upfront and honest with students. The pricing for Black Friday will not be any lower right? You will not find any lower pricing for jazz edge, right? So the Black Friday pricing, we’re going to be going back to our legacy pricing. If you want to get in that will be the time to get in. So be sure to get in. You will not see pricing any lower than that, right. So if you’re looking for the absolute lowest price to become a jazz edge member, Black Friday is going to be the time to grab that. Alright, so anyway, thank you all very much. And I’ll see you guys in the next lesson.

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Willie Myette

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