Re: [linux-audio-user] playing chords to help practise improvisation

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Subject: Re: [linux-audio-user] playing chords to help practise improvisation
From: Larry Troxler (
Date: Sun Dec 08 2002 - 04:28:25 EET

Sorry not to catch the original post, but ..

> Le Samedi 7 Décembre 2002 03:43, vous avez écrit :
> > hi all,
> >
> > i just started to play around with jazz improv. what would be really
> > useful is if i can define a set of chord changes:
> >
> > Dm7 G7 Em7 A7 Am7 D7 Abm7 Db9
> >
> > and have my computer play it over and over again so i can improvise over
> > the key changes. it would be great if...

My short answer:

I disagree with what you think would be great. I think it would be great
if *you* could play these changes over an over again.
Practice comping to the changes and record it into any sequencer that
actually works on Linux.

If you're learning how to solo, wouldn't it be helpfull to
learn how to comp as well?

Why not play the changes live for as many repeats you want, and then solo
over that?

> >
> > it can loop: so i don't have to record the progression 100 times if i
> > want to play around with this 100 times.

I'll leave this up to other who use Linux sequencers. I would expect that
all of them can loop though. Of course, rather then have the loop be one 4
or 8 bars (one cycle of your progression), try just comping for a few
minutes and repeat the whole x number of bars - it will sound a lot more

> >
> > the timing can change wildly: i can't really do much at the speed which
> > i normally play "satan doll". the chords come too fast. and it's hard
> > playing chords unnaturally slow (although i suppose that might be a good
> > thing to practise).
> >

I'm really not sure what you're getting at here. When you say "the timing
can change wildly", do you mean that you would like to practice this
progression at a variety of tempos? If that is the case, just record your
comp to a number of different files, at different tempos.

> > there were some kind of quarter note percussion that gives me a beat so
> > know when the chord is about to change.
> >

It is starting to seem like your questions are not about Linux and/or
sequencers at all, but instead, how to learn jazz improvisation.

Since this is OT, please email me at and I can tell you a
couple of good books to get on this subject.

I can sort of see what you're getting at - you would like some
band-in-the-box type software that helps you learn how to improvise.

I get it I think - maybe a cymbal crash on beat four that signals a chord
change? Is that what you mean?

I could see that as sort of a beginners crutch, but I doubt it would be
very usefull, as eventually you need to learn how to count rhythms and
hear chord changes.

Do you have difficulty counting beats and measures when,
for example, you are listening to a solo? If so, this is really a matter
of practice and experience, and I'm not sure that artificial percussion
clues will help you in the long run.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe something like that would be helpfull
if you are just starting out.

 I honestly think that if you want to learn jazz, you need
to get with a group of like-minded people and go through some exercises
that are found in jazz improvisation books. The things that you want your
software to do to help you learn, I think in the long run, are just
crutches. Jazz improvisation is, like it or not, an interactive human
endeavor. Of course you can do a solo over a computer generated track, and
that is not always a bad thing. But IMO the results would be shallow
unless you first spent a bit of effort the old fashioned way - getting a
group together that is dedicated to learning jazz improvisation. Then, you
can always ask the drummer to start banging on beat four if he thinks
you're getting lost! Believe me you can customise a drummer's behaviour
much more easilly than that of software (drummer jokes elided).

> > it doesn't need to sound good at all. my improv should sound good. ;

If you first record some comping to the chord progression, for some number
of cycles, you can learn to make the comping sound good as well.

Of course this doesn't come close to the interaction and learning you
would have with a live rhythm section, but would at least it's *you*
stabbing out the changes.

Larry Troxler

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