Ear to the Ground
So, I’ve been lifting. I’m doing four major saxophone solos on Monk’s tune “Bye-Ya”. It’s one of my favourite tunes, and one that I’ve listened to since the beginning of my musical career. Then, the last time I was in Chicago I picked up “Reflections” By Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, and “Big Band and Quartet in Concert” by Monk himself. Since Bye-Ya was on both CD’s and both Steve Lacy’s and Phil Woods’ solos knocked me out, I took it as a sign and got started.
The reason for choosing the tune in particular is a bit deeper, however; it doesn’t have an obvious key center. I once had a disagreement with a professional who said to hear the song correctly, you have to pick a key center and stick with it(more on that later). I don’t hold anything against him, but that conversation did make me want to see what makes that tune tick.
I’ll be posting the four lifts in time, but today, I want to talk to you all about lifting.
My final lift is Coltrane from Live at Carnegie Hall. The solo is four choruses of pre-giant steps Trane, where he’s just getting into the whole sheets of sound business. His notes are very precise pitch-wise, but aren’t at all exact rhythm-wise. He plays runs that are something in between 13 and 13.5 notes a bar, things like that.
So as a transcriber, I’m not quite sure how to proceed. Writing it down exactly is not a smart idea, not if I want to keep my sanity. What I usually do when I transcribe is learn how to play it first and then figure out what it is after my fingers have time to soak in it. That way I can figure out how I’m feeling it. However, to play this solo up to speed without flubs, I would have to use two hands and would have to put more time in than I can afford to at this point. At this point my goal is perfection on paper, so that I can learn it correctly later, even if that means some trickery involving approximating rhythms.
The school on transcription is split in this regard. Some people lift with the intent to figure out what the musician is thinking, while others are trying to exactly mirror the sound that is coming out of the recording device. I myself tend to just copy the music that is coming out while using the information to figure out how the person is thinking, but my allegiance to the recording and my attempted exactness isn’t something I think about. I could very well be wasting time, I haven’t really thought about it.
I’m fairly sure that the mistakes or flubs should at least be noted, as it provides(to me at least) an interesting window into what the artist may or may not have been practicing at the time, or how he or she is reacting to the musical situation she’s in.
I’m going to be doing this lift as exactly as I’ve done my others, but I have a feeling that as I get older that will change. I’m sure that once you get less time you just want to amalgamate the desired traits into your music as fast as possible.
“The one coming up tomorrow” -Duke Ellington, on which of his compositions was his favourite