~ forward motion ~

~ and moving on thru musical time ~

~ a combined time / rhythm / gravity of pitch concept of phrasing, to energize our musical ideas toward future points in our music, giving Muse a chance to suggest something to play ... = improvisation ~

"Forward Motion" is the title of a book written by jazz piano wizard Hal Garper. The discussions that follow flow from this work, and they are the capstone of advancement in phrasing musical lines, combining our rhythms, musical time and tonal gravity studies of this Essentials work.

In a nutshell. The essence of 'forward motion' is that instead of starting our phrases on a downbeat, we end the line on a downbeat. Sounds simple enough. The tricky part is that these two beats are often the same one, the 'downbeat on one', just in different measures, as the music and phrases move along. Crazy huh? Much easier to hear :) Here's a one measure lick ending on beat one, thinking in the key of 'C' major. Example 1.

The easist way to learn this magic. The essence of 'forward motion' is that instead of star

12 bar blues sting the tonic Joe Oliver lick

and bar 10 for turnaround, F M to beat one at the top

ting our phrases on a downbeat, we end the line on a downbeat. Sounds simple enough. The tricky part is that these two beats are often the same one, the 'downbeat on one', just in different measures, as the music and phrases move along. Crazy huh? Much easier to hear :) Here's a one measure lick ending on beat one, thinking in the key of 'C' major. Example 1.

Two measures. Like most things Essentials in our discussions, there's a numerical way to advance our studies. And following these additive pathways we get our mileposts to rote memorize along the way. Forever to be recalled.

So in this next idea, we add a measure, and our melodic line is now 'forward motion for two measures.' Here's a two measure lick ending on beat one. So we close the line on beat one, of the first measure of a new phrase. Example 1a.

Three measures. Same additive process, now we've a three measure lick that closes onto beat one, of what will become a new, and the next, four bar phrase. And the next and the next ... Ex. 1b.

Four bars. Same process, just now into a four measure phrase. Here's a four measure lick, arpeggiating diatonic chords, ending on one, which is the downbeat or beat one, of measure one, of the next four bar phrase :) Example 1c.

Is everything a four bar phrase? Cool? And once the music is up and running along, we can 'forward motion' our lines towards this downbeat. Once we get comfortable with this approach, we'll evolve different starting points, and end points too.

So is everything in our Americana library of musics built up with four bar phrases? Pretty much. Kid's songs on through folk and into the blues. Rock it out and lighten to country and pop, now with its hip hop and rap. And onto jazz blues and jazz, the four bar phrase has fed the bulldog for a very very longtime now.

Into musical forms. At this point we can begin to put our forward motion phrases to work in the song forms we play and hear everyday. The 12 bar blues and its complete three, four bar cycle. The 8 bar song form of "Key To The Highway." Two 8's into 16, and then off to 32 bar forms. This forward motion phrasing bolts right up :)

Forward motion magics. The forward motion magic really starts coming around once we set the measures in motion as music. Then we've a downbeat to aim for in the measures just ahead. As we strengthen and project further ahead, to collective focus points of the band, we'll further project our lines, creating marvelous arcs of pitches in signature phrases, telling our stories.

And the upbeats? Usually a good spot to start a phrase, giving our musical lines that sense of being energized towards a future point. Here phrasing four bars to 'the one of our next four bar phrase. Look for the upbeat on the second repeat, to start and forward motion the line anew. Example 5.

Catch the pentatonic motion in bars one and two? Cool. Hip to "Giant Steps?" For there's a natural sort of learning curve many of us Americana cats evolve through that we find weaving in through Coltrane's solo on this song. It'll pathway for an evolution of the artist well worth exploring.

Quick review. The basis of creating this 'forward leaning, energy motion ' is to pick a 'future' point in the music and create a phrase that comes to a close at that point. As we evolve in this, we'll bite off bigger and bigger chunks of time. In doing so we give Muse a chance to suggest something to play. Creating some space to think a bit as the time moves along, to allow Muse to suggest to our creative, is at the heart of learning to improvise in this Essentials curriculum.

Relax, create space to think, all while in motion. Working in this forward motion, once our phrase has ended, we can pause. A chance to just relax into the motion of time, and take a breath or two. We want to grab bits of 'quiet time' to allow us to think. A second here, another second or two there etc., is all we need.

We purposefully create a bit of a 'pause,' to gain a moment to think, and listen, to where the music that surrounds us is going. And after a couple of tries, within these 'pauses', our own inner voice, our 'muse creative', will suggest an idea to chime in. It might only be one pitch and a rhythm to start, but that's the spark we want to start this process. And we'll play it, or try to, as best we can, and build forevermore from this beginning :)

Artists will also call this 'pushing away from the barline.' Or even to 'push off' the barline, by how their phrase ends on the down beat of a new four bar phrase. For we can 'push off', to get some physical space in the metrical, moving time that is music. By creating some quiet, some silence, we get to listen within too.

Taking whole measures of silence works fine, try it. I've played with artists that let a full 12 bar chorus go by, just murmuring along and waiting for the top of the chorus to pounce, and then emphatically present a new idea in proper testimony. Very cool, very exciting, risk taking, be patient, it'll all come along. Just give it a chance and keep trying.

Start with just the clicks. When we just get the clicks, we've got to imagine the rest of what the music is, so maxing our creative. They are perfect for a way into this 'motion through time and space' discussion. Pick a style and count on in and trade some licks with the clicks. When it is your turn to play, let a few beats or measures go by in silence. And 'inner listen' to what your creative suggests.

Commonly termed 'trading 4's', we hear this a lot in live performances of jazz and blues, each artist picking up the thread to solo for four bars, as the storyline unfolds. For example, thinking blues in 'A', trading fours with the clicks at 100. Ex. 3.

m.m. = 100

Getting some 'push' of the barline? Feel the swing in the pulse? Creating some space in time, to think and conjure an idea and play it. For we spark the merging of our creative and music improvisation together. The coordination of mind, heart and hands. Create this entry key, into the mists of musical time, and find your improv Muse again and again forevermore. Here's just the clicks backed off a wee bit. Example 3a.

m.m. = 80

Find something? Need help? Just count a 'one' before the click to find beat two. Once up and running, just keep it going. New task ? Counting into the clicks of a metronome ? Finding 2 and 4 in the clicks ? This is NOT that easy. No, not at all. Just keep on trying, 2 and 4 will emerge. You'll feel it when it does :)

Find the clicks and count '1' before any click. Snap your fingers along with the clicks if you can.

"1 click 1 click 1 click 1 click ... "

That makes the click a '2' beat right ? Right. Keep snapping them fingers or clapping your hands on the clicks and count yourself into the groove ...

"1 click 1 click becomes 1 2 ... ah 1 2 3 4 ... "

count it off


'Chiming on in.' When we can evolve the 'chime the line ' into 'sing the line' that is suggested by muse, as added in towards the end of the last example, then all potentially goes kaboom. For we then enter into the ancient halls of rote learning to 'sing the line, play the line.' And this is, and has been down through the all the ages of generations, a starting point to understand, and perform, all of our Americana styles and genres beyond.

So like days of old, we can 'sing for our supper?' Yep, sing our parts with our voices and find the magic on our guitars. Then improvise or 'mix' our ideas in with the other folks in the band.

Start by learning a melody. Need something Americana to sing and play? By ear? Cool, any melody will work to start out. Click the link and pick one out.

The idea is to find a melody you dig, sing it and find the pitches on your instruments. Add vibrato to the pitches you love. Add vibrato to these pitches on your ax. Slide around vocally? Slide around on your ax. Accent rhythms vocally? Accent those rhythms on your ax. There's no limit here, nothing we can say that can't be sung, or, somehow played on our instruments.

wiki ~ discovery learning

And the trick is to find the way we each bring forth the magic. These are connections of heart, head and hands that we each discover and strengthen uniquely ourselves. So we play a bit each day, and bring music and its therapy into our lives, by playing fun, Americana melodies we learn by heart.

Review / advanced studies. Strengthening to create this 'pause' in time, in music that is moving along, becomes a basis for 'forward motion.' These two words together create another concept of time, in regards to placing our phrases in moving time. Combined, our own artistic signature blossoms.

And while advanced in theory, and explanations, in concept, forward motion is fairly simple. Really just a matter of creating the 'pause' in time, coupled with a finding a target point in the near future of the music being created. Trading measures with just the clicks is a way to create this pause and space.

"Aiming our phrase of notes to land around the downbeat of bar one, of our next four bar phrase."

Aiming ahead in time = forward motion.

And once landed, we can choose what length of space again, to give our muse a chance to suggest a next idea, and off we go again with our next phrase.

So by phrasing to a future point in the music, we create that sense of moving and direction to that future point in time. Starting measure by measure, as we strengthen in this ability, we simply 'bite off' bigger and bigger chunks of time, looking further ahead into the future ...

Trading blank slate clicks and trading 4's is a goal to achieve. For in all sorts of genres, trading four bars between band mates is just too cool and common really, to not get to do.

Look ahead to beat one of bar one. To varying degrees, we all naturally do this when playing music from memory. So it is built right in for the most part. As the downbeat of the first measure of a four bar phrase is a crossroads where all in the band are heading towards to meet up anyway.

And since phrasing is most often four bars, beat one, of measure one, becomes the spot we initially aim for in forward motion concepts. And on the other end of the line? The beginning of a line? After a landing, a pause to think, and start from the various rhythm launch points, each contributing a unique, nuanced way to begin our next phrase of our stories.

So might this varied musical phrasing be like changing up the rhythms and syntax of the way we talk, often depending on who we're talking to, and thus how we're telling the story? Yep, sure is. All those variables in our speech patterns live somewhere, and are available on our horns. We just have to find them. The rest is just doing it, finding new challenges. For while combinations are endless, 12 pitches is all we get.

Coda. While forward motion phrasing principles are there to find and apply, within all of our Americana musics, it is in jazz and its historically solid structural forms, and group improvisational communications, that our greatest opportunities arise for its magics. With all 12 pitches in play, lining things up for a spot to meet 'in the future' creates that Americana musical dream and ideal, that unmistakable joy of being.

Mr. Garper's discussions also brings in the music of J S Bach, and how his lines are shaped by these same principles of timing. Of course, the Bach is completely written out, so while his lines are often shaped to 'forward motion', contoured to end on the downbeat of a new measure, the interpretation of these 'set in stone' written lines by each artist challenges anew as each generation follows the pathways to their Parnassus.

So, we're pointing our lines, and their resolutions, to a distant point in the music being performed. Often starting on a jazzy upbeat, and with the four bar phrase our basic building block, we can consider shaping our phrasing ideas to aim for the downbeat, beat one, of the next four bar phrase that's coming. Once arrived, we can pause ... take a breath and in the silence, listen for Muse to suggest what to play next :) (Not sure it gets any cooler than this for an improvising artist of Americana jazz.)

"Should you get lost, consider yourself lucky."

wiki ~ Cy A. Adler