Finally we are approaching the end if this great course review, Here are the quick links
to Part 1 and Part 2
Theme and Variations,
Logic and Construction of Musical Statement.
Song Form Analysis
In his final lecture Gary Burton talks about importance of the very basic composition method; theme and variations.
Let's think - what improvisation really is?
It's composing the music in real time!
The Method of theme and variations was mastered in classical music in time of J.S. Bach. Unfortunately it is not taught enough in contemporary jazz education comparing to "scales" or "licks" thinking.
Gaining fluency in playing a single motive during longer solos is the easiest way of communication with the audience.
What is a motive? It's a simple musical idea - 3 or 4 notes usually. In order to be noticed by listeners, who are rarely professional musicians, we should play it at least 3 times in a row.
Then we can and we should change something in the motive - make a variation.
The motiv is the subject of our solo. Here we come back to the first lecture where music and spoken language analogy. What happens when we speak to people and after 2 sentences we change the subject of our speech. Two more sentences and we change the subject again...? Will our audience be interested in listening further on? Or they get rather bored and start thinking about other things? So besides correct rhythm and nice sound quality (which this course in not about) the motives we play are the essence of our music.
Any good story - doesn't matter spoken or played - has some common features:
Theme and variations is our basic tool for making good stories which keeps attention of the listeners. This is very important because when in the 3rd chorus we will have our greatest moment and play something really amazing - they will notice that!. Because their attention was with us and not elsewhere. This is our chance to be remembered as the player who moves them.
Basic features of the motive:
How to practice motivic work? Simply - play over and over again your motives during longer parts. A good start is the good old blues. Try to play the motive over all 12 bars, adjusting it only as little as necessary to fit in the harmony changes.
Then play it through 2 or 3 choruses. As simple as it is. You will see how much inner discipline it takes. I was myself far from that in 2013:)
At the end of the course Gary Burton takes us with him in analyzing the song form. We notice harmony, melody, rhythm pulse and tempo. We need to set up the mood and feel of the composition. We analyze the form - how many and what parts the song is built form.
All these elements shall be present in our improvisation, we chodse the song for a reason, we like the song so we should follow the composer's or original performer's thought.
Learning improvisation is like learning a language. It's long and complex process and it's actually a lifetime process. Lucky for us a huge part of the process happening in improviser's brain can be automated. Then it's being moved to subconsciousness and works intuitively. We become free to tell the most beautiful musical story: motivic developments, taking our audience to fascinating travels through our favorite songs. We shall use the information presented in this course over months and years after.
Songs used during the course: What Is This Thing Called Love (C. Porter); 500 Miles High (Chick Corea); Memories of Tomorrow (K. Jarret) Olhos de Gatto (Carla Bley).
Here's a video of similar, off-line lecture by Gary Burton: