Mark LeVine's The Jazz Theory Book

LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
edited August 2016 in Personal Diaries
As mentioned in the topic Learning to play jazz guitar I bought a Burny RFA-75 archtop from Richard's Guitars and a copy of Mark LeVine's The Jazz Theory Book with the intention of learning jazz guitar. I reckon this book will keep me going at an enjoyable and leisurely pace for a few years.

Okay, first conversation topic: on page 4 it says, "If you can sing an interval accurately, you'll find that the interval is easier to hear when you play it." This has been my weak spot throughout the 40+ years I have been playing guitar and so I want to work on this. A friend tells me that Mozart could not sing, he just heard everything in his head. I suspect that Mozart could have sung intervals accurately. Can you? Should (jazz) guitarists be able to sing and recognise intervals accurately?
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Comments

  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
    I would say yes, work on this stuff although don't get too hung up on it. I'm lucky in a way (didn't feel lucky at the time!) but I was kind of made to go to violin and piano lessons when I was a kid, and also took music theory classes. I can't play the violin now to save my life, can plonk around a bit on the piano, and a lot of the theory has stayed with me... but the ear training stuff I did when young has helped me over the years. I was made to do exactly what that book is talking about e.g. teacher/examiner plays a low C note, I am asked to sing a note above that by interval - maybe a minor 6th above say, so I would hopefully sing an A flat to get that one right. Sometime they would play a high note and ask for a note an interval below it instead.

    I would say that for jazz, you do kind of need to hear in your head what you are going to play, and also the harmonies that you are playing over - I'm talking about improvising here really. So if for example, you are learning some lydian mode shapes to use over major chords, you want to get the sound of the lydian mode into your head plus the major type chords you will play it over. The lydian mode has a sharpened 4th/11th which has a distinctive characteristic sound, compared to the natural 4th of a major scale, so that is a key sound to become familiar with in that example.

    For learning to play jazz, I would say don't get too obsessed with intervals specifically, or ear training - don't let it take over your life - but do keep coming back to it and doing a bit when the mood takes you - you will get better over the coming months (years to be honest!). And when you learn something new - a chord/scale/lick or whatever, don't just learn the geography of where to put your fingers, but also try to get the sound of it in your head. Just try to be sound aware as much as possible I guess. It is more important to be able to hear things accurately in your head, although if you can correctly sing something (never mind the quality of your voice)then I think you must be hearing it right. What a ramble, I'll stop now...
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,214Member
     Originally Posted By: Lester
    "If you can sing an interval accurately, you'll find that the interval is easier to hear when you play it." This has been my weak spot throughout the 40+ years I have been playing guitar and so I want to work on this. A friend tells me that Mozart could not sing, he just heard everything in his head. I suspect that Mozart could have sung intervals accurately. Can you? Should (jazz) guitarists be able to sing and recognise intervals accurately?


    I think any form of music that requires a degree of improv is made easier for the player if they can hear in their head what they are going to play on the fretboard. It's not an essential by any means but it does help.

    I'll admit with the hearing trick I haven't got anywhere near 100% (yet) BUT it has made a HUGE difference to my playing and enjoyment.

    The difficulty is in finding the key that works for you - took me 40 years. In my case it was an intervallic ear training CD from a UK guitar teacher called Rob Chapman. All it involved was listening to intervals and identifying them - no guitar needed. The strange offshoot was it changed the way I listen and suddently I started knowing how to play what was in my head. One of those rare "ahaa" moments. \:\)

    Though I'd add that I can't sing an interval. The neighbourhood dogs start howling if I start singing!
  • elkayelkay Posts: 239Member
    Isn't this what 'playing by ear' is all about, using the ability to 'hear/sing' intervals in your head, and playing the notes you're 'hearing/singing'?
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
     Originally Posted By: elkay
    Isn't this what 'playing by ear' is all about, using the ability to 'hear/sing' intervals in your head, and playing the notes you're 'hearing/singing'?
    I think this is it in a nutshell elkay - to improvise effectively you do have to hear the notes you are playing. Look at the opposite of this - you would just be putting your fingers into various arrangements/shapes/sequences on the fingerboard, in response to the chords, but with no idea what the resulting noise would be like musically. I think this would be pretty near impossible to do anyway, but also how could that possibly constitute improvising? So you have to have something to say/communicate, and that implies that you know what that something sounds like. It has to actually mean something to put it another way.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
    Well now I feel embarrassed! All these years I have got by with a fair (Grade 5) knowledge of music theory and some quick thinking but almost no aural skill whatsoever.

    Clearly I need to add aural exercises to my daily routine. A great pointer, guys. Many thanks.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
    Lester - I very much doubt you have "almost no aural skill whatsoever" - if you are a person who loves and responds to music (and I suspect you are... ) then you must have some aural awareness already, so hopefully it's more a case of focusing that ability in a more concrete kind of way.

    As I say, my recommendation would be to try and incorporate the aural stuff as you learn the things you are going to use in jazz. So for e.g. if you are learning a chord shape, also learn where the different chord tones are (root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th etc.) and the sound quality they have in relation to the root (i.e. an interval). Same sort of thing for different scale/mode types. Having grade 5 theory actually is a massive help too - jazz is a different musical area, but you already understand the building blocks of music, a lot of people start on jazz without this - not the best way IMO!

    EDIT: reading back my post, I would add that doing some specific aural training every day is a good thing too.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
    I see that www.musictheory.net has some helpful aural exercises to practice recognising intervals, scales and chords.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
    Hadn't seen that, cheers for the link!
  • DaveBassDaveBass Posts: 3,301Member
    Agreed, ear training is certainly very important, especially for jazz musicians, who mostly play by ear.

    Try learning the sound of different chords, e.g. major chords, minor chords, seventh chords etc. Try "visualising" (auralising?) them in your head. Can you aurally imagine what a major seventh chord sounds like? Work on it till you can.

    The other day I put my fingers randomly on a keyboard and thought, "Hmm, that sounds like a ninth chord...", checked the notes and found it was (much to my surprise).

    The ability to identify chord progressions is very important in jazz, because you can improvise a melody (or a bass line) around the chords.

    Transposition is also a very useful skill, because it reduces the number of chord progressions you need to be familiar with by a factor of (potentially) twelve. I.e. if you know the progression in C, you can transpose it into A, Bb, G, whatever. This means becoming very familiar with the common keys. You need to know instinctively that an F in the key of C is equivalent to a Bb in the key of F or an A in the key of E.

    In jazz, the main keys are flat ones (F, Bb, Eb) rather than sharp ones (E, A, D), because most brass instruments are in Bb. This can be awkward for a guitarist.

    Dave
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,214Member
     Originally Posted By: elkay
    Isn't this what 'playing by ear' is all about, using the ability to 'hear/sing' intervals in your head, and playing the notes you're 'hearing/singing'?

    Absolutely - but, and I guess this is going to sound absolutely dumb - for years I knew that this was something I was wanting to do - but nothing I did made it click. So for me hearing something in my head would not translate into playing the right notes on the fly. Sure - could sit down and work it out in advance but that's as much use as the one legged man in the --ooops naughty word-- kicking contest when it comes to improv. I guess there's a difference between listening passively (as I used to do) and listening with awareness of what I'm hearing on a musical level. General lack of natural musical nous and talent really.

    So - after goodness knows how many years it was an absolute joy to find that this "secret" had been unlocked for me. \:D

    I've always been a bit slow on the uptake. \:\(
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
    Just thought I'd alert the forum's jazz contingent to an offer on Matt Warnock's web site - this is an 83 page, printable ebook he has written called "30 Days to Better Jazz Guitar" - until the 1st of December you can get it for $14.99 which works out to less than 10 quid. Despite the title, there is probably years worth of stuff in it (it's just that it's written in the form of 30 lessons), but full of key stuff we should probably all be aware of. I went for it, and it looks impressive to me, I'm sure it's going to be useful.

    Here is the link: 30 Days to Better Jazz Guitar e-book

    I'm not affiliated to Matt Warnock in any way I promise - I just think this is a great deal and worth knowing about.
  • Blue DogBlue Dog Posts: 53Member
    I've flirted with Jazz guitar from time to time, I like all those comping progressions, but I should really try a little more theory and training my ear better. Might have a go at that book Megi.

    Gypsy Jazz is another variation of course (Django and co) that excites me whenever I hear it.
    It sort of looks quite easy in one way - fast picked down strokes, slides and triads...but there's that feel that I can never master, just comes out too simplistically - difficult to explain.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
    Hi BD - I have to confess I've not really got around to working on any of the stuff in that e-book yet! I always seem to have so many things that need working on... But it did seem pretty good to me when I got it, and I notice he still seems to be offering it at $14.99, so why not give it a go. Jazz guitar ain't easy I think, but it is fascinating and I love the sounds - one day in the far future I like to think I'll have mastered it.

    That Gypsy stuff ain't at all easy either - I've tried too, and I know exactly what you're saying. But I think if you hear something that just grabs you, you've got to go for it really, so I'd say keep at it. Cheers for reviving the jazz corner too!
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
    I thought the web site looked interesting but I don't have internet in my music room I bought the e-book to have on my iPad. Unfortunately, it is full of links that point to web pages so I have become frustrated with it and have yet to get beyond page 1. Take this as a warning, not as suggestion that the book is no good.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
     Originally Posted By: Lester
    I thought the web site looked interesting but I don't have internet in my music room I bought the e-book to have on my iPad. Unfortunately, it is full of links that point to web pages so I have become frustrated with it and have yet to get beyond page 1. Take this as a warning, not as suggestion that the book is no good.

    Apologies Lester, not my intention to cause you difficulties.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
    edited August 2016
     Originally Posted By: Megi
    Apologies Lester, not my intention to cause you difficulties.

    You haven't, and you couldn't have known my reason for choosing to buy the e-book rather than just using the web site. I think Matthew Warnock knows his stuff and presents it clearly so I don't want to put anyone off his work, just to point out my experience of using the e-book. I was not trying to be negative.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
    Understood, and it's absolutely a good point to make as well - I didn't take your comment as negative I assure you. Still, sorry it didn't turn out to be a very useful resource for you though.
  • Oooooh this an interesting one but I have no time to reply right now!!!

    Basically intervals are CRUCIAL to a better understanding of melody and improvisation.

    I would totally agree with the book.

    I will give just one basic example...

    Tuning your guitar

    All the strings are tuned to a 4th which I recognise as the start of star wars or APACHE by the Shadows. Once you recognise the interval of a 4th as a song you recognise you can literally never ignore it again!

    Just like for example the tuning between g & b strings is a major 3rd. 1st 2 notes of --ooops naughty word---by-yar!

    Hearing intervals and getting an undertanding of how they make you feel or how they feel in a song will enable you to recognise their use time and time again when you listen to music such as jazz.

    A 9th for example I hear as "sweet tension" and whenever you want "sweet tension" you throw it in.

    This vocalising technique they refer to is something I think really helps blues players too - If you can hear it in your head, you can vocalise it, you can play it!
  • I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS!!!

    Chillijam will never be forgotten with his overactive imagination for finding swear words for the swear word filter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bless him!
  • OldjonoOldjono Posts: 608Member
    E to A = 'Here comes the bride' ala dum da dada. That's a fourth interval too as is A to D and D to G.
  • Options
    Yeah....but if you wos a bass player you'd probably invert it and see root and 5th - alla 872'524 Country songs, and Sabre Dance
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
    Just thought I'd highlight one absolutely free and great online resource for the aspiring jazz guitarist. A chap who took lessons with the great Emily Remler over 5 years or so, has made his lesson tapes and notes all available here: http://www.allthingsemily.com/lessons/ - it's fantastic to be able to listen, and a real insight into how a top player works and thinks.
  • elkayelkay Posts: 239Member
    Just treated myself to a Gibson ES-175. Plugged it in for the first time, turned on the amp, and suddenly I was playing as well as Joe Pass, not! Hopefully, though, it will inspire me to improve my jazz playing.


  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,774Member
     Originally Posted By: elkay
    Just treated myself to a Gibson ES-175. Plugged it in for the first time, turned on the amp, and suddenly I was playing as well as Joe Pass, not! Hopefully, though, it will inspire me to improve my jazz playing.


    Wow! that is the real McCoy isn't it? (jealous, tongue hanging out!) lovely looking, and I'm sure playing, guitar you've got yourself there elkay, congratulations. \:\)
  • Mark 123Mark 123 Posts: 121Member
    Ah... I was thinking along the same lines (but the Epi version - much more in keeping with my current austerity cuts) just before C****tmas, to improve my jazz playing, but I couldn't find one for love nor money!

    Let us know how you get on! Nice buy!
  • elkayelkay Posts: 239Member
    Graham, that is indeed the real thing. Mark, I did try a couple of the Epi versions some time ago, and thought they were very nice guitars indeed.
  • Ape09090Ape09090 Posts: 2,744Member
    Hi Jazz blokes
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
    elkay, I was away (in the UK without an internet connection) in April so I missed your lovely new guitar. Just to repeat what Megi said: Wow!

    Ape09090, hello, even though we've met on other parts of the forum.
  • elkayelkay Posts: 239Member
    Thanks, Lester.
  • Ape09090Ape09090 Posts: 2,744Member
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