Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jim Hall & Bill Evans - I've Got You Under My Skin

Last year I did an analysis of Bill Evan's solo on "I've Got You Under My Skin" for a graduate-level class.  In my private lessons I was asked to transcribe Jim Hall's solo from the same performance.  Now that I finished grad school, I figured I'd share with you my paper and transcriptions.  As of now, the commentary below just refers to Evan's solo.  I don't even remember what all I wrote, so hopefully it appears somewhat coherent!  Enjoy.  JC

            In 1966, pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall recorded a duo album titled Intermodulation.  I chose to analyze Evan’s solo on the Cole Porter tune, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”  The song’s harmony presents the improviser with many ii-V-I opportunities in the key of Eb.  The majority of the song consists of the simple four-measure progression: Fm7-Bb7-EbMaj7.  In the fourth bar, Evans and Hall insert a minor ii-V7, Gm7(b5)-C7(b9), to get back to Fm7.  While this inclusion is typical in bebop, Porter’s original harmony seems to only mention C7 (and sometimes just Cm7).
            The measure numbers I refer to do not match specific measures from the recording.  They exist as they do because my transcription of Evan's solo is part of a larger transcription that involves Hall's solo.  In addition, the chord names refer to the basic harmony.  Hall uses inversions and many passing chords while accompanying Evans.  I chose not to include these in my analysis, as it is the equivalent of comparing a solo with every note of a walking bass line.  Such microscopic examination is not necessary for this analysis.  The form of the songs appears to be ABCD.  All sections are 16 measures long, with the exception of C being only 8 bars.  The second section begins similar to A, but there are enough melodic and harmonic variations that I believe it warrants a separate designation.
            Evan’s improvisation starts on the last two measures of the preceding chorus, and actually starts on the same note Hall ends with: G.  In these two bars Evans repeats the same rhythmic figure: a triplet on count one followed by six eighth-notes.  Starting on the third, he outlines an ascending EbMaj9 chord, and uses the 7th and 9th degrees to enclose the root.  This allows for a smooth transition in arpeggiating the Maj7 chord an octave higher.  The next measure involves stepwise motion instead, and in a mostly descending direction.  While there is no harmony underneath, Evans implies a C7(b9) in the last two counts, thus tonicizing the iim7 chord.
            Evans starts the top of his chorus with basic chord tones.  Over the Fm7 he emphasizes the downbeats.  In simple contrast, he reverts to all offbeats during the EbMaj7.  In measure 60, Evans again outlines an EbMaj7 chord (starting on the D) over the Gm7(b5).  He finishes the arpeggio on count three with another D.  This seemingly conflicts with a C7(b9) harmony, so Evans cleverly lowers the high note down a half step (Db) and raises the lower note up a half step.  The result can be viewed as a “double enclosure” to the target note C, the fifth of Fm7 in the next measure.  The D-Bb is a diatonic enclosure, while the Db-B is a chromatic one.
            Diatonic and chromatic enclosures are prevalent in Evan’s solo, as evidenced in just the first six measures.  Two-note enclosures of a chord tone usually exist in two varieties.  The most common one involves a diatonic note above followed by a half-step below the target pitch.  Not including the ones previously mentioned, these enclosures are seen in measures 66, 67, 74, 77, 79, 80, 93, 100, 103, 100, 110 and 111.  Measure 82 is just slightly different due to the target pitch being a whole step above the lower enclosing note.  Measure 84 is also very similar, but the upper neighbor tone is a non-diatonic half-step above its target.  Evan also utilizes the reverse: circle the target pitch from a half-step below first, and then from a diatonic step above.  This is heard in measure 76, 83, and at the end of 103.  My so-called double enclosure occurs again at the end of measure 65, and is a distinct component of a motivic sequence in measures 86 and 87 (including the grace notes).  There are a few examples of three-note enclosures that involve one note from above or below, followed by two chromatic notes from the opposite direction.  Measures 81 features two chromatic notes from above, and bar 99 has two chromatic notes from below.  These different types of enclosures showcase a multitude of ways in which Evans approaches chord tones.
            Another aspect I observe in Evan's solo is the seemingly simple manner in which he uses arpeggios.  It is common for him to begin an arpeggio a step below a chord tone, as in measure 65.  Sometimes this is a result of an enclosure, but not always.  In the case of bar 65, he lands back on his initial note an octave higher after ascending a tertian-based arpeggio (G-Ab-C-Eb-G).  This extends the Fm7 harmony to include the 9th.  Another example looks at how he approaches a half-diminished ii chord in bar 77.  Evans begins a half-step below the flatted-fifth degree (Cb), and then through an enclosure, approaches the flatted-third degree by another half-step below.  Both of these neighbor tones are played on the downbeat, which shifts the melodic rhythm of chord tones to the offbeats.  It is worth noticing that Evans ends his solo in a similar fashion to how he began it.  Measure 111 has the same EbMaj9 arpeggio that begins on the third degree with a triplet rhythm.
            In analyzing bebop-style solos, it is sometimes difficult to determine when superimposition is being used.  Case in point is measure 69.  Besides the first count (notes Ab and C), the remainder of the bar features a simple Eb triad.  While one can argue that Evans superimposes Eb over Fm, the three notes in question also represent tertian-based diatonic extensions of an Fm7 chord (F-Ab-C-Eb-G-Bb).  Thus, I do know view such melodic placement as superimposition.  On the other hand, a great example of such is seen in bar 78.  Over a Bb7 harmony, Evans slyly descends down a Cb (or B) minor triad.  The pitches of this chord, B-D-F# (for ease of spelling), create an altered sound utilizing the b9 (Cb/B) and #5 or b13 (F#/Gb).  These notes stem from the B (or Cb) melodic minor scale, which provides all the alterations for a Bb dominant chord.  
            There are two other instances of Evans imposing chords that do not relate to chordal extensions.  The second half of measure 100 has a fully diminished arpeggio, but one that does not exactly relate to C7.  The notes Gb-A-C-Eb create a Co7 sonority, but the harmony is clearly dominant 7.  One view is that these notes come from a C half-whole diminished scale (C-Db-Eb-E-F#-G-A-Bb), which is another scale that contains altered degrees.  Another way to view this diminished arpeggio is that Evans is thinking of a dominant 7 chord with a b9.  There are only four possibilities: D7(b9), F7(b9), Ab7(b9), B7(b9).  Since Evans resolves the high Eb down to D, only the D7 and F7 make sense due to their anticipated V7-I resolutions: D7 - G or Gm and F7 - Bb.  The other example of superimposition is a short-lived Gb triad during an Fm7 to Bb7 move in measures 109-110.  Given the next two notes are F and C, it appears Evans is approaching a Bb9 chord by a half-step above.
            Lastly, chromaticism is a major component in Evans' solo.  The key is that his chromatic runs end on important pitches, which allows for the melodic line to feel finished.  Most of the time it is consonant chord or neighbor tones.  During his dazzling 16th-note run in measures 107-108, Evans starts on C and lands a half step higher on Db.  That ending note is the b9 to the C7 harmony, a fitting landing that still requires a more settling resolution.

You can view my transcription by CLICKING HERE.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Brent Mason guitar solo on "Don't Try This At Home" (live TV performance)

Don't Try This At Home - Brent Mason solo (PDF)

You can view my transcription by clicking on the link above.  This was a project for my guitar lessons while in grad school.  The performance I used for this transcription came from a live TV recording for the The Nashville Network (TNN) from 1999.  That is the same year The Players (Mason, Michael Rhodes, Eddie Bayers, John Hobbs, Paul Franklin) released their own self-titled album, on which this song is included.

Here is the video of the live performance...

Some highlights of his solo.

Measures 6-7, 19-21, 23-24, and 34-35 feature a common chickin-pickin motive of descending a blues scale but using a half-step approach to the major 3rd scale degree.  In some cases, once Mason gets to the 4th degree (i.e. note A over the E7 chord), he'll immediately enclose the major 3rd (G#) using a half-step below (G, the minor 3rd).  In all cases, he precedes the major 3rd with the minor 3rd (or augmented 2nd) and will either slide up or hammer-on.  Bars 34-35 feature this technique over the IV7 (A7).

Depending on the position and fingering, he will jump to a lower note on the next lowest string before the minor3rd-major3rd connection.  Measure 20 is one example, and this is where I'm either unsure of some notes or I just decided to play something slightly different.  The second note in bar 20 (E) is not really important.  In jazz, this would be approached as a note to ghost (or under emphasis).  That E is kind of difficult to finger because it is in the same fret as the note before it.  What I started to do is use another finger to play this lower, "ghosted" note.   The half-step slide going into measure 20 I tend to use my middle finger.  Thus, I use my pinkie to play a F#.  But remember, this note isn't being stressed.  Similar to be-bop, alot of country playing is dependent on accents.  Not every note is struck with equal weight.  The wave, or arc, of a musical line is sometimes more important than each individual note.

When I have some more time, I may dive into this solo some more.  But for now, I just wanted to get this out here.  I hope some people find it useful, instructive, inspiring, and just plain fun to try to play.

Monday, February 24, 2014

....and we're back!

So I hadn't updated this blog in almost 4 years.  Just last night I thought about it and checked in.  Turns out this page has had over 24,000 views since I started!  That unexpected stat encouraged me to start this thing back up.  So to begin I give you a video of my graduate guitar recital from April 2013.  Why?  Because I can't think of anything else at the moment.  This recital marked the end of my two years at Belmont University (which is partially responsible for my hiatus).  I finished with a Masters of Music in Commercial Guitar Performance.

Over the next weeks I plan to post about some of the songs played on my recital.  The theme of the concert was Nashville guitarists.  Each song was either written or performed in the style of a certain player.  Here was the set list:

Highpockets - Jack Pearson

Don't Try This At Home - Brent Mason and The Players

Mysterium - Kenny Vaughan

Days of Wine and Roses - solo arrangement by Prof. John Pell

There Will Never Be Another You - homage to Hank Garland

Make The World Go Away - homage to Chet Atkins

Reedology - Jerry Reed

Mambo Cheeks - Guthrie Trapp

Mountains of Illinois - Chet Atkins/Pat Bergeson

I had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with some fine musicians, who I can also call friends.

John Cardoni -  lead electric guitar
Nick Palmer - rhythm electric guitar
Stephen Wilder - electric bass
Wil Houchens - keyboards
Nate Felty - drums
Liz Johnson - guest vocalist

more to come

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"The Big Sweep"

Remember that classic Ren & Stimpy episode where Ren keeps going on about "the big sleep!?"  I believe the two get caught by a dogcatcher and are taken to the pound.  One of the dogs there (Phil?) gets taken away.  Ren thinks Phil was taken away to "nap," but eventually it hits him that it's "the big sleep!"  When I was younger my Dad would joke that our cats would take "the big sleep."  I know, it's a little demented.

Anyway, over the summer I've started working on my sweeping.  It's one of those guitar techniques that certain players crave to master right away, but for some reason it never grabbed me when I was younger.  Right now I have a student in early high school who is all about learning how to sweep.  It's cool when you see a kid with a clear goal in mind.  Like he said to me, "I don't care how long it takes, I want to be able to do this."  That's very reassuring to hear these days.  Not everything happens at 12 megabytes per second!  So the past couple weeks we've been working on sweeping.  He found some examples in Avenged Sevenfold's music, so I used that to make sure he understood there are two main "shapes": a major and a minor.

For those starting out, notice that we commonly do a hammer-on/pull-off combo on the 1st string.  That gives the right hand time to "turn back around" for the series of upstrokes to follow.  To really get these down you want to start out SLOW.  That gives you time to really listen in and make sure the pick to striking each string in time and at a consistent volume.  One of the goals starting out is developing accuracy in both hands.  The left hand fingers need to press down right at the moment the pick is striking the string.  You want to get used to the "feel" of the pick rolling across the strings.  It is like strumming, but sloooowed waaaay down.  Once the accuracy is happening consistently, that's when you can speed it up.  If you try to play these too fast too soon you'll most likely end up missing most of the notes in the middle strings.  (That is a "rake," not a real sweep)  Just be patient and persistent.

Ok ok, so what is this "big sweep?"  Besides being a stupid name that I've given it, it's a series of arpeggio shapes that are meant to smoothly connect across the fingerboard.  I came up with this one about a month or so ago.  The idea being one long progression that stays mostly in one key center.

You'll probably notice this does not involve the same arpeggios as above.  Instead of opening the door to "music theory 102" and putting on my nerdy tweed jacket, I'll just say these all are 7th chord shapes.  Despite having more notes, they are actually easier because they involve more hammer-ons (or pull-offs), thus giving your picking hand a little more time to get through the strings.  All these shapes follow the pattern: 2 notes on the 5th string, then a single note, 2 notes, single note, and finally 2 notes on the 1st string.  From what I've heard, guitarists out of Berklee use arpeggio shapes that follow that order.  It's meant to give a predictable and consistent "pace" for your picking hand, which helps it become more automatic.  One less thing to think about, right?

I have this one written in Bb Major.  But I think it would sound cool over a funky Cm groove.

If you want, you can just slide into each shape, rather then starting each one with a downstroke or upstroke (as I have notated).  If you do a slide, you'll end up finishing one shape with a hammer-on, slide up, and do the pull-off all before striking with the pick again.  That can give this a smoother sound, which may be more appropriate for jazz or fusion.  However, I think it might be easier to start with no slides and try how it's written above.

Watch and listen to "The Big Sweep" on YouTube. 

Hope you have fun with this.  How fast can you get through it?  :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just came back from outer space...

First a couple weeks went by and then it quickly became several months since my last post.  Summer "vacation" is already more than half over and I still feel like there is a lot left to do until the school year starts back up in August.  Anyone else feel time is speeding up?

So what has been going on??

Wife spent 3 weeks on the outer banks for the National Park Service.  While I was out there with her we enjoyed some good seafood and time on the beach.  It's pretty cool to drive down a road and see water surrounding you on both sides.  My current facebook profile pic best describes the overall vibe on the outer banks I think....

So once back from N.C., we did some home improvements ( fun fun...).  Painted my office a cool blue/grey color and remodeled the master bathroom.  Really - why would someone want carpet in the bathroom in the first place?  Spent more money at Ikea for square-shaped things that hold other things.

But after finishing house work we finally got a new TV!  This was about month or so ago.  Went with a 42" LG LED.  So far, so good...but we only had local stations, so not too many channels.  Today we had an HD cable box installed, so we're back to "regular" cable and have a decent amount of HD channels now.  Finally I have my 24-hr news, sports, music and other crap again!  For the last 5 years we've had this old Sharp that I'm pretty sure my youngest brother found on the curb of a street.  He went through a phase of finding "street TVs" as we called them.

Oh, let me see, what else.  I got a T-Dap shot after stepping on an old rusty nail.  A horrible sinus infection caused me to go to the doctor's for the first time in almost a decade.  Recently just got over that.  Saw Clapton with Daltrey as the opener earlier this month.  I could tell Clapton really, really liked the strat he was playing.  He was just on that night.  Probably the best I've heard him.  Man, if I can even come close to play like that when I'm 60-something I'd consider myself very lucky.  He's still playing better than most.

So let's just jump to right now.  Right now I'm practicing songs for a wedding gig this weekend.  Everything from Otis Redding to Paul Simon to Grateful Dead to Kool & the Gang.  I was just listening to this live recording of the Dead doing "They Love Each Other."  Man I hate to say it, but sometimes Jerry was just on and other times he kinda stumbled around.  This is one of those stumbling moments unfortunately...but he hangs on and picks it up toward the end.  So 'A' for effort I'd say.  Anyway, the couple asked for this song specifically, but not just that...they also wish for their friend to sing the song with our band and also play lead guitar.  Hey, that's fine with me.  Should be fun, I might try playing some keys on it.  :)

Well, time to head out and teach some youngsters gee-tar.  Yee-haw!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Marc Ribot Solo - Aqui Como Alla

Alright, this week was spring break from teaching, so I had some extra time to get another transcription down...

Marc Ribot is another name that only tends to be known within certain circles.  You can learn more about him at his site:  I first saw his name on some of my Medeski, Martin & Wood albums, particularly The Dropper and End of the World Party (Just in Case).  His playing on the later really caught my ears.  You can hear him really digging into the strings, putting every ounce of energy and emotion into each note.  Probably the most well-known album he has appeared on is the recent Raising Sand.  This beautifully produced album by T Bone Burnett features a couple rockin' solos by Ribot, but also shows how well he blends within a solid group of musicians.  Of course, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss just make it sound so easy as well.  And yet, Ribot regularly teams up with John Zorn.  So he never limits himself to one style or genre, which is what I admire.

Ok, if you're reading this because you're interested in a transcribed solo by Ribot, I have a cool one for ya.  Check out his album with his self-described "punk-Latin" group, Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos.  The album is full of tunes by the late Cuban composer, Arsenio Rodriquez.  This solo comes from the second track, "Aqui Como Alla."

You can view the solo transcription here: Marc Ribot Solo - Aqui Como Alla (PDF) 

The tune itself is a simple melody (reminds me of Tequila) with a nice bridge.  Once the solo begins, Ribot doesn't stay within the key of E for too long.  There are some harmonically fun parts and great rhythmic sequences, but he always resolves by returning to some tasty blues lines.  It's a longer transcription written in standard notation and TAB, so I'm just posting it as a .pdf file.  If you have any troubles viewing it, please let me know.  I really encourage you to listen to the recording to get a feel for his specific phrasing, dynamics and occasional palm-muting.  I tried to write the TAB in areas of the neck where I think he plays, and also seems to make the most sense given the melodic lines.

Marc Ribot is a great player to check out.  I hope you enjoy taking a little look and listen into his playing.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


"For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing.  The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument."  ~ Jerry Garcia

First off, I really do mean to post more regularly.  Before I knew it, 3 weeks flew by since the last time I put something up!  I swear, the old cliche about time flying is so true.

Anyway, while walking the dog tonight my mind went to this Garcia quote.  The first time I read it was in a wonderful book called Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo.  I'm not sure why it popped into my head, but I think there's a lot of truth in it.  Personally, I prefer to listen to creative, catchy music with substance.  Yeah, that is pretty subjective.  But so is art and many other things.  I strive to experience music that transcends the individual talents of the musicians playing it.  If there happens to be guitar in there, great!  But there doesn't have to be.

It can be obvious when a player is more focused on the instrument, rather than the music.  And this definitely isn't limited to guitarists.  Drummers, bassists, saxophonists, singers, etc.  Every group has it's obsessed members.  Probably the main reason I can't take a lot of mainstream country or pop or Americal Idol is because most of it is focused on how good the singer is.  And believe me, I love a great singer.  But I don't want show-choir tunes to be sung to me.  Certain players I can't take because every single second of music is about them filling it up with notes. 

For us 6-stringers the most common culprits tend to be jazzers and shredders.  That makes sense, given it takes a lot of technical ability to play those styles.  You almost have to be obsessed (or possessed?) to practice sweeping 8 hours a day, or arpeggiating rhythm changes all day long.  But unfortunately, when you hear many of those players out at a show, they are lost in their own world.  Their ears and eyes are closed off to everything going on around them.  Sure, on an individual level, they may be crazy talented, but then you realize what they're playing doesn't fit, or is so trite that it gets tiring real quick.

There can be a fine line between using your super-good abilities to add to the musical experience or distract from it.  Of course, it can be different from one person to the next.  There are people who just want to hear a great guitarist.  People who just crave to see drummers working that double foot pedal faster than anyone else.  I guess it's in our nature to be drawn to the aesthetics of something, rather than the substance.  Same can be said about sports.  Kids who want to become basketballs players, what do they worship?  The slam dunks.  Maybe a game-winning 3-pointer.  They could care less about learning how to play within an offensive system or spending hours at the free-throw line.

So learn to recognize a ball-hog, especially if that person is you.  No one wants to listen or play with someone who can't play within the "system" of the band.