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Developing Your Own Language

David Berger



I was going to spend this morning working on my upcoming book: Creative Jazz Composing and Arranging, Volume III: Writing for Small Groups, but while I was reading through my email and Facebook posts, a member of the Jazz Arrangers group asked a question about Triad Pairs.  I’d never heard this term before, but I assumed that he was referring to stacking two non-related triads on top of each other. My assumption was borne out by the responses from other arrangers.


The online conversation led to comments about writing what you hear rather than using intellectually-derived techniques. Oddly enough, this is a topic that comes up over and over in the book I’m writing, as well as in the previous two volumes. Like just about every other musical issue, this is central to all the arts, our everyday expression and life itself.


Think about how you learned to speak. As an infant, you didn’t know any words. You heard your caregivers speak, and gradually learned the meaning of their words and how to produce those sounds so that you could be understood. First you learned individual nouns and gradually added some verbs and finally adjectives and adverbs as you copied their phrases and sentences. After a while you had enough understanding of how to put this all together so that you could start to form your own sentences to be able to express your needs.


By the age of three or four, you get the idea that reading would give you more power and control of your life, rather than just having mom and dad read you bedtime stories. So you learned numbers and the alphabet, and then progressed to 3-letter words, 4-letter words, and so forth. When you got to first grade, the idea of grammar was introduced, so that your speech would conform to the rest of society, and you’d be better understood and respected as a native speaker. You read all kinds of kid lit: Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and the like until you hit middle school where serious authors were introduced.


I remember reading poetry starting in the fifth grade, which led me to Edgar Allan Poe—first his poems and then his prose—I loved the way he told his macabre tales. By seventh grade we were diagramming sentences and reading Dickens, Hemingway and many other great writers. It quickly dawned on me that these authors were superior to everything I had heard or read in my short life in two basic ways: their speech sounded more beautiful to my ears (their rhythm, form, inflection, etc.), and they were better storytellers than my friends, parents, and even my teachers. They told better stories than the TV shows I watched.


So, now my teachers wanted me to emulate these great minds. I felt terribly ill-equipped. My vocabulary was too limited, and I hadn’t had sufficient life experience to draw upon. Or so I thought. When I look back now, I can see that a pile of things had happened to me in my young life, but I didn’t understand enough about those events and relationships to see their importance or universality. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I began to gain some self-knowledge and became a voracious reader. It would be another ten years before I started writing, first papers in grad school and then articles, liner and performance notes, and ultimately my blog and books.


My musical journey was not all that different in its path; I just progressed much more quickly. My early study of Bach chorales (starting at age 11) gave me a basis for understanding harmony. When I got interested in jazz a year later, I was able to apply the principles I learned from Bach to what I was hearing in both jazz and popular music (American Songbook).


I took jazz piano lessons for a year and listened to my slowly increasing record collection several hours every day. I wanted to learn to speak this jazz language like a native—Horace Silver, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and all my other heroes. It took me years to learn this language, but I was determined. I continued to play trumpet and piano in bands as well as arrange and compose for anyone who would play my music. Little by little the pieces started to fall into place.


I continued to listen to my heroes and added two new ones when I was 16: Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer. I frequented the Village Vanguard and came under their spell. I wanted to do what they were doing. I got friendly with Thad and would show him my scores. That summer I went to Berklee and studied harmony and arranging in a formal setting. It was very structured, and came easily to me.


When I returned home that fall, I started reading arranging, composition and orchestration books. I was playing and writing every day. I would try out the techniques I read about in books, but never substituted intellectual knowledge for what sounded good to me. My attitude is, and has always been, to learn as much as I can about what other musicians are doing, practice it, store that information away, and play and write what I hear. All that stuff I’ve studied will come out at the appropriate time. You can’t rush it or force it. But, on the other hand, if you have no technical knowledge, your subconscious mind has little to draw upon when you go to create.


Writers talk about finding their voice. Jazz musicians talk about finding their unique sound. These things will come naturally with time. We project who we are—all the things we like and the culture we grew up in. You can try to be someone else, but it won’t be authentic, and authenticity is essential in everything we do in life. When you think about it, we are no different at 70 than we were at one—learn the world around you and be yourself.

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  • 트럼프카지노 카지노사이트추천 on

    じんよぢへてひさゅぇ 트럼프카지노 카지노사이트추천 온라인슬롯추천 바카라사이트 카심바카지노 온라인바카라 슬롯사이트 슬롯카지노 온라인도박사이트 온라인바카라 온라인카지노슬롯머신 슬롯머신 온라인슬롯머신게임 마닐라카지노 모바일바카라 카지노사이트 오공슬롯 바카라사이트 바카라사이트 바카라 카지노사이트주소 우리카지노계열사 온라인바카라 카지노사이트주소 룰렛사이트 우리카지노먹튀 COD카지노 포텐슬롯 더킹카지노먹튀 슈퍼카지노 온라인바카라 인터넷카지노 블랙잭사이트 로얄카지노쿠폰 카지노사이트 온라인카지노 룰렛추천 포텐슬롯사이트 바카라사이트 카지노사이트 바카라 카심바슬롯 카심바슬롯 카지노사이트 카지노하는곳 카심바주소 포텐슬롯 타이산게이밍 카심바슬롯 바카라사이트추천 바카라배팅전략 바카라사이트 우리카지노먹튀 코인카지노 카지노사이트 바카라이기는방법 비비아이엔게이밍 게임플레이게이밍 비바카지노주소 아시아게이밍 카심바코리아 온라인카지노 포텐슬롯주소 슬롯카지노 온라인바카라 포텐슬롯사이트 밀리언카지노 세부카지노온라인카지노 슬롯머신 온라인바카라 카지노슬롯사이트 SM카지노먹튀 메가슬롯 비바카지노 포텐슬롯사이트 바카라게임사이트 예스카지노 타이산게이밍 온라인슬롯사이트 오공슬롯먹튀 카지노사이트 카지노사이트 텍사스카지노 mongoangulam998 비바카지노주소 비바카지노주소 강원랜드다이사이온라인카지노슬롯머신 온라인블랙잭 해외온라인카지노바카라게임사이트 포텐슬롯주소 카심바슬롯 카지노하는곳 바카라사이트주소 포텐슬롯사이트 바카라전략 온라인바카라 바카라사이트주소 인터넷바카라 비바카지노쿠폰 mongoangulam998 카심바코리아 카심바슬롯 카지노검증사이트 트럼프카지노 카지노사이트추천 포텐슬롯 룰렛게임 온라인카지노 빅카지노 카지노룰렛 해외슬롯사이트 마카오카지노 바카라배팅노하우 슬롯머신추천 바카라노하우 카지노사이트 맥스카지노 슈퍼카지노 붐카지노 온라인바카라 바카라마틴배팅 포텐슬롯사이트 바카라시스템배팅 더존카지노먹튀 카심바슬롯 007카지노 바카라사이트 mongoangulam998 바카라사이트추천 트럼프카지노 카지노사이트추천 타이산게임 온라인카지노 블랙잭주소 블랙잭주소 카심바슬롯 슬롯머신 카지노사이트추천 엠카지노 바카라게임사이트 카지노사이트 필리핀아바타 룰렛사이트 카지노슬롯사이트 카지노사이트 sm카지노 바카라분석법 카심바슬롯 もみてわく 더존카지노먹튀 ゑさぉごゃつそっのび

  • - 우리카지노계열 on – 바카라사이트,카지노사이트,온라인바카라,온라인카지노,카지노검증사이트 – 안전카지노 – 카지노추천 – 실시간카지노 – 비바카지노 – 카지노주소 – 인터넷카지노 – 라이브카지노 – 바카라게임 – 퀸즈슬롯온라인카지노롤링/우리카지노-쿠폰/아바타배팅-전화배팅/온라인-슬롯머신게임/우리카지노-sa게임/블랙잭-게임하는법/에볼루션카지노/바카라-게임하는법/호게임/카지노양방/카지노총판/맥스카지노/밀리언클럽카지노/로얄카지노/카심바코리아-슬롯카지노/카지노사이트/

  • Jeff Hornick on

    Bach didn’t write in “Bach style.” It wasn’t until Mendelssohn “rediscovered” Bach’s music that people dissected it in order to determine the “rules” of writing music “correctly.”

  • David Berger on

    That’s funny, Larry. When I was in my early twenties, I was talking to my buddy Rick Wald. He mentioned the blues scale. I had never heard the term, so I asked him what that is. He told me the pitches, and I said, “Oh, that’s that thing I do all the time.” He said, “Of course.”

    Two Duke stories:

    #1. Ellington would visit Herb Pomeroy’s class at Berklee when he was in Boston. He told Herb, “I love to come here to find out what I’ve been doing all these years.”

    #2. Paul Kondziella left Berklee to play bass in Ellington’s band in 1968. There was a piano/bass duet in every show where Paul would pick up his bass and go stand behind Duke while they played together. One night Duke plunks down a two-handed Co/Bbo. Paul leans over Duke’s shoulder and says, “Ah! Double diminished,” to which Duke immediately responded, “Oh, is that what that is?”

  • Larry Dwyer on

    Another perceptive blog from the master, David Berger! Listening (as David says we all did with language as infants and children) is the essential element to learning jazz or any other musical genre. My introduction to jazz came as a child from listening hundreds of times to the many recordings my father had of Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Art Tatum, Harry James, Coleman Hawkins, and others of the 1930s-40s era. By the time I was playing in the elementary school band, I could also play jazz, because by then it was a language I knew. In college, music theory was easy: if we had to write write some chords to modulate from F to Db, I just thought of how Count Basie did it in “One O’Clock Jump.” I was probably 40 years old before I first heard of the “blues scale,” but had been playing blues for nearly 30 years at that point. Probably 80% of all those notes were actually in the “blues scale,” but musicians choose their improvised notes because they sound good, not because they follow some pre-set rubric.

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