Sunday, April 03, 2016

Practicing versus exercising and learning

As many of you know, I fill up my evenings and weekends with various jazz courses. While I think I've learned a lot by doing this and have certainly advanced my abilities, lately I've been feeling like I'm just rushing from one tune one course one day to another and I'm not focussing enough on the lessons or scales or even tunes that I need to be learning. Sure at the end of each session I can play the tunes, scat a chorus for each but I'm not sure I'm internalizing the knowledge.

I think I need a new approach to "practicing" and I think I need to rename it to "exercising" and "learning".  So rather than practising scales, I am going to start exercising my voice using scales, daily exercises. And rather than "having to practice" the tunes, I will "learn" the tunes by leaning the melody, learning the bass notes, learning the 3rds and 7ths (or 5ths and 9ths).

This session I'm reducing the course load that I'm taking and will spend more time on fewer tunes, really attempting to learn and internalize them.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Blues Songs to Learn

JVoice Facebook Group posted this list of Blues Songs to learn. I'm re-posting it here so that I can find it.

Singers, Teachers: The Blues Tunes List You Need
Jazz/ Blues- Most common to less common
Here is a list of jazz blues tunes you're almost certain to hear or play at jam sessions. Most of them are pretty simple. The common blues tunes below are "easy to call" at jams because musicians tend to know them well. memorize 10 of 'em ASAP!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Practicing Jazz

Saw this on a Facebook Comment and am copying it here so I can always find it:

here's the Jim Campilongo practice method, which I find is an excellent approach to deliberate practice:

The amount of time given to each category depends on strengths and weaknesses. This can be done over 1 hour or 8 hours.

1.) "Breakfast"...Warm up with arpeggios and scales. Apply the arpeggios to a song ( "Up a Lazy River", "Prelude to a Kiss","Tennessee Waltz", " How High The Moon", " Sleepwalk", "Giant Steps", "Mary had a Little Lamb" etc.) The song progression will prohibit you from playing on auto-pilot. This will hopefully "test" you and "awaken' you. In this context, tempo and meter aren't crucial. Apply scales to the song ( Major, natural minor, melodic minor, and harmonic minor). Try playing the appropriate scale ascending and descending, then play scales in thirds. While connecting the scales, arpeggios and chords, always strive for small intervallic jumps. Inspiration will most likely follow, but isn't necessarily a prerequisite.

2.) "Lunch"...... Learn a song and memorize the chord progression and melody ( otherwise you don't know the song!). Transpose it.

3.)"Dinner".....Make a tape of the song progression on a boom box or a simple recording setup. Do not get caught up in production. Play the melody and solo over the changes. Sometimes, I try a different approach over every chorus. Octaves,chord melody, steel guitar, "James Burton plays Jazz" etc etc. When you memorize the song , put it on a list of songs you know. Run through that list every few days, so you don't forget them.

4.) Now for "Dessert"......Play and improvise. Try and write something. Experiment with your tone. Play Blues in E. Whatever. Sometimes I learn solo's instead of songs, but I try to keep my practice sessions song oriented. This is for a number of reasons, here are a couple of them. 1.) A musician should know a lot of songs! 2.) Songs give me a challenging musical frame work to apply scales, arpeggio's and chord voicings. 3.) It allows me to see the history, structure and formula of other artists - giving me new perspectives and choices.

5.) Optional - "Snack" - noodle mindlessly while watching Columbo re-runs!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

IF - Beginning

It's been such a long time since I've done anything for Illustration Friday, and this is kind of a happy fluke - these were originally grey faces, but the paint took another direction and .. well .. I'm happy with them and even happier when I realized they seem to represent "beginning".

In my series of Grey is Good acrylic paintings, here are 5 Blue Beginning paintings:

Only took me to Sunday to get them done !

Hope to be back with more IF images soon.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dreams Do Come True, If You Make Them

My dream dining room table was delivered yesterday. Handcrafted by Jason Conway of Nook Design in Montreal, the 60" x 60" x 36", black walnut table is unique, gorgeous and functional.

The story

I have a difficult time finding furniture that I like and can spend years looking for the perfect piece. The case of my dining room table has been no different. I purchased my previous table in 1992 at The Salvation Army. It was a second hand 40" round steel patio table that I painted with a high gloss white paint. I bought plastic garden chairs to work with it. It worked quite well and I kept it for years as I looked for the perfect table.

In 2011, I purged a lot of stuff from my apartment. I knew that getting rid of what was taking space in my apartment would encourage me to move forward to acquire better pieces and improve my living space. Luckily, a community art center in St. Henri was more than happy to receive many items including the garden table and chairs.

I started looking more intensely for the real table, knowing that I might need to have it built.

Important sidenote

I'm an amateur jazz singer and play a little piano and although I would never accompany myself singing at a public performance I love accompanying myself in the comfort of my home. Some may like the idea of a real piano, but for me, a real piano is too heavy, needs to be tuned frequently and cannot be used with headphones. Digital keyboards are great for apartments. Especially if they can be always accessible when you want, but hidden when you don't! For the curious, my digital piano is a Roland FP-4F.  It has a great sound and weighted keys and is a pleasure to play.

Back to the story of the table

I wanted the table to be in the shape of a baby grand piano and ideally hold a digital keyboard. There are companies who make piano shells that house digital keyboards that are used on stage and I thought about buying one of those. The problem is that the skirt, at 14" like a real piano, is too long to comfortably sit with your knees under the skirt. I thought about possibly adapting one of the shells, but the shells were only available in the US and Australia and without knowing how or if they could be successfully adapted I didn't want to take that risk. I also found other possibilities, rectangular tables with hidden keyboards, a baby grand shaped table with no keyboard space (it had an iPod dock), but not one really fit what I had been thinking of: a clean, simple and functional design. I started to measure and sketch and research custom furniture makers in Montreal

Nook Design

With my spec document ready, I reached out to Jason Conway at Nook Design. I didn't know Jason or Nook, but previous work shown on his website matched closely to the design I was looking for. His workshop is only a few blocks away from my apartment. He agreed to research and scope out the project. It took a few interations to get the design down - the most difficult being the opening to where the keyboard is housed. We worked it out and ended up with a design that is even more easy to use and beautiful (seamless) than the first openings that were thought of. There is one hinged part that opens up 180. The front slides out and then can be placed flat on top or can slide in to work as a music rest. A shelf under the table was included to store the keyboard's power cable when not in use.

Jason selected black walnut as the wood and we agreed on a dark stain. The wood and stain is gorgeous, the color appears darker in low light, but as my apartment is flooded with natural light the lighter colors shine through in the daylight. The piano table is simply beautiful and functional and I love it. Working with Jason on this project has been a pleasure, he is knowledgeable, creative and dedicated to the project and its purpose and function.

Delivery and installation

I can't thank Jason enough for working on this project with me. I think he delivered a masterpiece to me, proving that dreams can come true if you make them!

A dream in 4 pieces, some assembly required:

The Piano Table Top
The Piano Table Skirt and Tray
Jason holding the back leg behind the Piano Table skirt
Assembling the back leg
Assembling the front legs

Piano Table, skirt/tray and legs assembled
The Piano Table assembled closed
The Piano Table Assembled, open
The Piano Table ready for celebration!

The big question

How does it sound? Well, considering I'm an amateur piano player, it certainly sounds better than I play! Seriously it sounds fine. The back of the piano shelf is open - the speakers on the keyboard are its back - there is no apparent muffling. There is a slight difference, not better, not worse, just different and certainly not bothersome.  The Roland's great sound shines through.

Next steps

My apartment still needs much attention, there are things to renovate, repair and decorate.  For the area around the piano, I have drawings to frame for the empty wall behind the table. I'll need to get additional stools - I use these white ones at the kitchen counter - they're extremely comfortable. I'll see how they work with the table before purchasing more. The table should comfortably seat 8, possibly 10 squeezed in. For today, I just want to celebrate the arrival of this beautiful work of art.


My sister says I'm a dreamer, and I don't think that's a bad thing, I don't think she thinks it's a bad thing either. You've gotta have dreams. They should be yours, not someone else's. You shouldn't be worried what other people think of your dreams. Dream them, and do your best to make some of them come true.

Lyrics from one of the first songs I remember from my childhood (I think I was 5 or 6).
Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
Talk about things you'd like to do,
You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?
- Happy Talk, from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

A few more photos

The Piano Table Project Team: Jason Conway (Nook Design), Teresa Lang

The Piano Table, view from Middle C on a Winter's Morning

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Montreal Girl Geeks: Anna Goodson / Entrepreneurial Freedom

A fun and informative session was presented tonight at Montreal Girl Geeks by Anna Goodson, the well-known artist rep. Tips and thoughts conveyed:

> Believe in yourself and your idea (no one else will)
> Be creative
> Hard to put a price on freedom
> You can do what you want
> Sometimes naive is good: when you don't know that you can't do something, you try
> Challenge yourself and takes risks
> Network Network Network : It's not how much you know but who you know
> Learn to get by with little money
> Have a vision (define it) - if you know what you want you can figure out how to get there
> Respect (and be nice to) the gatekeepers (receptionists)
> Negotiation: be confident in what you are selling, if you believe it is valuable asking for its value will be respected - people expect to pay for what a product is worth (don't undercut yourself) - don't be cocky, be confident

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Music camps for jazz vocalists

A number of people have recently asked me about music summer camps that I've attended. Here are the names and links for more information of all of the camps that I've attended or want to attend:

Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp near Chicago - Jay Clayton is on faculty! A definite place to be for Jazz Vocalists

Bobby McFerrin, Circlesong workshop - probably the chance of a lifetime to learn from the master vocalist - Rhinebeck, New York.

New York Voices Summer Camp great opportunity to study vocal jazz with New York's finest jazz vocalists - Bowling Green Ohio

Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camps choose from 3 locations: Michigan, Wisconsin, New York - good opportunity to learn more about jazz music and theory.

Lakefield Summer Jazz Camp near Peterborough Ontario, fun way to learn - lots of choice for jazz vocalists

Domaine Forget Jazz week as well as Jazz vocalist weekend - near La Malbaie in Quebec

Camp Musical Asbestos, Quebec

Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp Louisville, Kentucky

Cammac: summer camp north of Montreal at Lake MacDonald. There is a week dedicated to Jazz (instrumentalists) and a week for Broadway and Musical Theatre. Limited course selection for Jazz Vocalists.