sing the line / play the line
To sing the line / play the line is a wonderful musical skill that can create a tremendous amount of joy for both players and their listeners. It really does not get any simpler than this in regards to creating your own sound on your chosen instrument. Like everything else these days, this sing the line / play the line can be transformed into a very complex form of improvisation, where one player "prompts" an idea and another copies it and plays it back, sort of like an echo, a literal call and response. If you have ever experienced this musical interplay, perhaps you know of the coolness it can create. The intent of the following melodies is simply to prompt the reader to remember the tune, then to sing as much of it as you can, then simply recreate what you sing on your chosen instrument.
Remember this line? Example 1.
Can you play the antecedent phrase above? Pretty fancy name eh? Anyway, can you sing the line? Try to sing and play the line together on your instrument. Oh, your a horn player? Sorry, you'll have to do one or the other eh? The idea here is to vocally represent what we want to play. Can't sing too well? Well, that's why we play instruments eh? Not being so concerned about vocal abilities, the idea is simply to bring forth an idea from within our souls with our voice and project it through our axes. Cool? A very, very simple idea n'est pas?
So why would we want to do this? Sing the line, play the line. Well, for a number of reasons. Sing the line, play the line is a sure way to musically speak from the heart, so perhaps helps us to get to the core source of our expressions. It is a good way to find out where the pitches are on our chosen instrument. In musical styles where improvisation is involved, it's simply one of the key ways to get fluid in the improvisational art form. Perhaps most importantly, is that to sing the line, play the line helps us phrase the line the way we want it to sound. It directly connects our thought process with what we sound on our instruments. And for the those emerging players moving towards the jazz / swing thing, getting one's lines to swing vocally is the solid first step in getting their instrumental lines to swing. Is it all about speaking musically from an internalized musical vocabulary? For creating much of the American sounds it could very well be. Cool with this reasoning?
So, to continue on with the process, do you know the second part of the melody? Can you sing it? Yes? Now find it on your ax. Got it? Try again, sing the line, play the line. Here's the consequent phrase to our first theme or antecedent phrase. Example 2.
Recognize that? Can you now sing the whole line? Try to sing and play the line together. Cool? Here's the lick. Example 3.
Got it? If so, have you tried to reinterpret the way you phrase the line vocally and articulate this phrasing on your instrument? Maybe try a staccato approach? Legato? Swing?
Sing the line, play the line is a part of playing music by ear. If you don't like the way you sing, try humming, whatever. It's not about singing so much as the phrasing? Take the following melodies and filter them through the concept above. If you do not know one, simply click along until you find one. When you find one you know and like, try to sing the rest of the tune and find those pitches and rhythms on your ax, simply sing the line, play the line.
This next idea is more of a gospel tune. From "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." Example 4.
Do you know the rest of this tune? Perhaps have a recording of the tune? Perhaps a friend who knows it and can teach it to you? The more we sound things out by ear, the stronger this ability becomes.
Here is an excerpt from an old time jazz tune, "When The Saints Go Marching In." Example 5. I wonder how many folks can recognize this tune?
This next melody goes way, way back. 16th century perhaps, in the minor tonality, this melody is commonly known as "Greensleeves." Example 6.
This next melody comes to us from the 19th century. "Jingle Bells" is too popular not to know right? Can you sound out the melody on you instrument? Here is the first phrase. Example 7.
Try to work out the whole melody out by ear. Can you think of any other "holiday themes" that you love and can figure out? Try to sing the lines then recreate them on your chosen instrument. What is your favorite melody? Maybe try that one too?
This next melody goes back to the 16th century British Isles, pre-British invasion of the 1960's and returns us to the minor tonality. "Scarboro Fair" was a big hit back in the 60's. Example 8.
This next idea idea is an old American folk song, also redone into a big hit during the 80's. Stephan Fosters "Oh Susanna." Example 9.
This last idea is a challenge. Ever try to sing a chromatic scale before? Example 10.
Any luck? Once mastered with the music, perhaps try it without? It's not too easy is it?
Another simple and cool way to play by ear is to simply jam along with your favorite records. Listen closely and explore on your instrument to recreate the sounds you hear. Use the pause button to stop the music to focus in on a pitch or lick. Run it back and try it again, and again and again. Players call this transcribing and it makes for some very rapid musical progress for those who do it on a regular basis. Oftentimes transcribed sheet music is available to help locate the pitches and figure out tricky rhythms. Depending on your resources, jamming to your favorites is a sure way to have a bit of fun with music while improving all of your musical and performance skills. Even jamming with the radio gets us hanging with the stars right?
Comments, questions? Sing the line, play the line, sing the line, play the line.
|Where to next?|
If you can walk you can dance. If you can talk you can sing. Zimbabwe Proverb