"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."
June 28, 2012 | Tips on improvising from the Pros; Will Patton
In our April Mandolin Sessions finale, we asked a dozen of some of the industry's high profile players about their take on the creative process. Objective vs. subjective, cerebral vs. intuitive, planned vs. spontaneous, established harmonic language vs. muse, all are ends of a continuum of approaches on how to successfully improvise. This week, we'll look at Vermont based muli-instrumentalist and cutting edge jazz mandolin innovator Will Patton for his take.
Will Patton Most students of improvisation know that the way into good solos is two-fold: the academic study of scales, arpeggios,modes, harmony, etc. and the more innate, emotional, 'just let it all go' approach. Both are required to make it all happen, but I'll focus on the latter.
Jazz and blues are, to me, very vocal forms, so my quick takeaway is: sing! Sing a riff from your favorite Lester Youngor Stan Getz solo -- this will always be closer to what the artist felt than transcribing and analyzing (though both are valuable). It's an aural tradition. Play thru a progression you're very familiar with and SING a solo over it, then see if you can play what you sang. The more you listen to the greats the more vocabulary you'll have. It's tempting for an instrumentalist to run a stream of 8th notes because they can but a simple melody played with feeling will always be more effective. The good stuff comes from that singing part of the brain.
(Vermont based Will has recorded and produced five of the finest acoustic jazz mandolin CDs in existence. Indeed, they sing... www.wpatton.com/albums.html )
Artist Bio (from wpatton.com): Will has been playing music since the age of 6, starting on piano and taking up guitar at age 12. Mandolin and bass soon followed, and he's been leading bands since he was thirteen. He studied at Middlebury College in Vermont and discovered a deep connection with the rural landscape there. "Vermont called to me immediately as the place I wanted to call home... I love to travel, and I love returning to these Green Mountains."
His travels have taken him to Rio, Paris and the Caribbean as well as all over the U.S. and Canada, playing rock and roll, folk, bluegrass, Brazilian music, and jazz. His bands have opened for Van Morrison, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs, Maynard Ferguson, John McLaughlin and Toots Thielemans. He has shared the stage with Roy Eldridge and Mose Allison and is featured on many recordings as a bassist and mandolinist. During the last ten years he has been visiting and playing in Paris, and his collaborations with legendary gypsy guitarist Ninine Garcia as documented on his recordings have received critical acclaim both in the U.S. and abroad.