Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How To Not Suck, Chapter 15: So you're not Miles

First track on the Kind of Blue. The chords are Dm, then Ebm, then back. Think Dorian. Think minor.

I have, as one of the last things I do before closing my eyes, cued up that track and tried to play with it. There's nothing like trying to play on the same track with some of the greatest musicians of the late 20th century to highlight how unimaginative your playing is.

But there's a bright side. A few, actually.

Listen to early tracks from Charlie Parker, like (I think; going from memory here) "Koko". Miles Davis wasn't always Miles Davis. Well, he was, and he was — you can tell it's Miles by listening to him. But in the 1940s, he wasn't the player he was in 1958. Who knows what kind of musician you'll be in fifteen years?

And you'll only become that musician by working at it. Steve Khan has broken it down for you. And scanned it. All things told, I'd rather he put it into Finale or something, because I'm a very poor reader and it's hard enough to figure it out without reading his handwriting, too. I have been slowly teaching myself to read, to the point where, before giving up and passing out, I was able to play along for the first three measures. I'll say this straight out: Nobody I play with regularly can read music. I play out with them weekly. We can do chord charts, and to at least some extent we can talk in terms of music theory. To me, it's like having words you can say but never write, hear and never read.

My son, after two and a half years of playing clarinet in junior high, is a far better sight reader than I expect to be. And I certainly won't be considered a great jazz icon.

So what?


Furtheron said...

Absolutely great album - I often listen to it on airplane flights for some reason. Love this track, would like to be able to play some version on the guitar some day.

Dave Jacoby said...

The head is simple. It's essentially a Lester Flatt G-Run, followed by A-G. I picked it up as then switching to C with D-C chords, but my ears were stupid when I did the work so it's probably a move to G#.

To be honest, I have no idea how a guitar player might hit rhythm on D minor for bars at a time without sounding square and unjazzy. I'll have to spend more time on it myself. But you can at least get the head.