I Compose The Way I Play - I Play the Way I FeelJul 27, 2000 (Updated Dec 30, 2001) Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in Musical InstrumentsThe Bottom Line So, for me, for jazz, it can be a fairly simple process. It's wonderfully satisfying and expressive for me. But I wouldn't describe it as easy at all.
I play jazz. It's a highly improvisational music form. Much of jazz music and much of what I play consists of a chorus or two of melody and then improvised solos by the members of the band. Another way to look at jazz is that the improvised solos are spontaneous, real-time composition.
I perform and compose as a means of self-expression. Certainly, when I perform, I want the audience to enjoy the playing of myself and my band. But I am the primary audience. The way I feel when I am playing well, in flow, and expressing myself is an unbelievable feeling. So, I'm not out to write the great American song - I am out to express myself.
That being said, my favorite compositions are ones that enable satisfying solos by myself and my colleagues - and there are a number of different ways that I use to do so.
One quick and fun way is to choose a particular progression of chords like blues, a vamp, rhythm changes or one that I select myself. Then, I set up a background music program (I use Band In A Box but there are others) with the chords and the tempo and style and then I improvise over it for awhile and see if a melody pops out. It's as simple as that. It can happen immediately, over a matter of days or over a longer period. One recent composition was a lament, using the chords from a hymn I'd performed with the choir I was in at the time. Or, a melody might come to me and then I fiddle around with different chord sequences until a composition pops out. These two ways lead to the majority of my compositions - anything from a simple blues head to much more involved pieces.
The most elusive way that I compose is what I call "getting the ideas out of my head". One of the nicest things for me about being musical is the internal soundtrack I have - the "music in the head". It can be my own music or something I've listened to a lot or recently and I can turn it on and off sometimes. Sometimes, it's just there. Three of my compositions have come from my own "music in the head", all three from the same musical idea, though each was manifested separately and sounds much different. I recognized when I first got the idea that I did not have the capabilities to play the music I was hearing. So, I kept playing the music in my mind and worked at developing my capabilities. The first composition of the three, I started with an elusive melody and put some chord changes to it. On the second, I tried to focus a little more on the harmony of what I was hearing and then wrote a melody to go with it. For the third, I felt more capable and got pretty close in terms of melody and harmony to what I was hearing in my head. I'm not sure I have it all, but I'm pretty close. However, all 3 compositions are satisfying ones for myself and my band and are different enough so that I can perform them on the same gig, although usually not in the same set.
So that's how I do it. it runs hot and cold - I tend to be a little more motivated when there are big impending concerts, but it can happen at any time. I don't necessary do anything to induce it. I do, however, work on improving my musical technique and also on developing my intuition and removing barriers to self-expression. I've found meditation and prayer and some of the exercises in "The Artist's Way" to be helpful. I also listen to a lot of music and that helps me become a better musician and composer in general.
So, for me, for jazz, it can be a fairly simple process. It's wonderfully satisfying and expressive for me. But I wouldn't describe it as easy at all.
Thanks for reading. God bless!
If you like mainstream and fusion jazz, check out my web site, www.jazzobsession.com. You’ll find information on my newly-released CD, The Power of Two by John Temmerman's Jazz Obsession Quartet. It is available through Amazon.com and www.cdbaby.com. However, I have a special discount available on sales through my web site. Come on by!
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