JAZZ THEORY (BeBop Drills)
graduation from Boston's Berklee College of Music, I had the good
fortune to study jazz improvisation with pianist Charlie Banacos.
Many fine jazz musicians have passed through
his teaching studio doors, including Mike Stern, John Novello,
Jerry Bergonzi, Bruce Gertz and Les Arbuckle. Charlie taught me
my favorite ear training exercise, and I would like
to share it with you here.
Those with access
to a piano follow the steps labeled [A], guitar [B], and single
pitch instruments (horns, etc.) [C]. Those at the keyboard [A]
will use the eraser side of a pencil to strike the keys with
eyes closed. Others [B, C] will need to tape record and document
a set number of examples (50-100), and repeat this for several
days until you have many ready for use. The exercise begins by
sounding a cadence in C major. This should be repeated [A] or
recorded [B, C] before each example. Play the chords C - F - G7
- C [A, B] or arpeggiate them [C] as in c-e-g, f-a-c, g-b-d-f,
c-e-g. The purpose here is to fix the tonality of "C"
firmly in your mind. All other pitches will then be heard
relative to C.
Once the tonality
is established, sound a note. The note may be repeated in a
slow, steady rhythm until an attempt is made to identify it.
When striking a note with the eraser side of a pencil [A], try
to do so in a way that will keep the pencil from slipping off of
a black key. Make sure you aim towards the middle or back of the
keyboard area to allow for the sounding of all 12 notes. For
those recording [B, C], 5-10 soundings should be sufficient,
since examples can be replayed if needed. If you can correctly
identify the pitch, move on to another. If you find this easy
(75-90% correct), move to 2, then 3, then 4 notes. Pianists [A]
may use 2 pencils in each hand. After this, everybody [A, B, C]
is either recording examples or working with a partner (highly
recommended and fun).
The real benefits
of this exercise actually occur when pitches are incorrectly
identified. By executing the following procedure, your ability
to hear and name pitches in relation to tonal centers and
intervals will steadily improve. First, re-sound the cadence
until the tonality is fixed. Next sound the pitch(es) you named,
and move back and forth between the cadence and the note(s)
until you feel you have clarified the way the two interact. Then
repeat this process with the pitch(es) originally sounded until
the same clarity occurs. Ear training can be very subjective, so
you may find impressions or relationships not apparently logical
which help solidify the sound for you. Musicians have associated
sound with many personalized characteristics, including color,
emotion, memories, and suggestions of certain melodies or
harmonies. These tend to be the impressions that stick with you,
so be open to them.
works by learning from our 'mistakes', which are always
excellent teachers if we listen carefully. Just like in
practicing your instrument, consistency is the key to
advancement. Try to incorporate ear training into your practice
routine 3 - 5 times a week, and don't wait for a 100% correct
rate before moving to a higher level of difficulty. This
progressive approach will keep your learning pace more steady.
Especially now, use your ears, and happy drilling!
- Frank Singer ©2002
I originally learned these concepts from Charlie Banacos, private
This article is also featured at http://www.miles.be/ - a great website with much more on ear training, and
free ear training software.
TO THEORY DEN
Language of BeBop
Use of Tensions 1
Use of Tensions 2
Use of Tensions 3
Sub-Dominant Chord - II-7
The Jazz Dominant Chord - V7
The II-7 V7 Progression - II V series
The Key of the Moment
"Watch out for