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The purpose of this Interlude (please read!)

The purpose of this Interlude (please read)

This is a very important Interlude. It is designed to show you how to use playalong tracks and how to record with them.

Why is it so important?

I think there are 6 reasons:

  1. You can vary the speed of the playalong tracks so you can slow things down, if necessary, to start off with and then speed them up as you gain confidence
  2. It helps you to play in time, which is essential
  3. The quality of the playalong tracks is generally high and so it can help you to produce an overall “good” sound
  4. It is fun and one can even come close to “swinging” on occasion (a group is said to “swing” when they all lock into the same time concept and thereby reach a greater height of creativity)
  5. You can record your efforts and monitor your progress
  6. You can consider sharing yout recordings with others

When I originally designed this jazz piano course I only knew of Aebersold playalong tracks and all the playalong examples in the course consists of me using these tracks. So if you want to sound as close as you can to me then you can consider using these tracks. The first Interlude starts with showing you how to download Aebersold tracks using iTunes. However, you have to pay for these tracks, although not that much for individual tracks. In order to make the course accesible to every student I have more recently been able to arrange for my current rhythm section of Ben Taylor on bass and Lee Miller on drums to record playalong tracks for you. So you can choose whether to use these tracks or the Aebersold tracks. There are other possibilities like using iReal Book which produces computer generated playalong tracks for a given chord sequence and it has a large library of standard chord sequences. Music is available for Aebersold tracks but only chord changes for iReal Book. However, I provide all the music (charts) that is needed in the course in downloadable form.

The key thing is that you are able to use a playback system which allows you to both alter the speed of the playback and record yourself with the track. So in the second Interlude I show you how to download the free software Audacity and then use it to manipulate playalong tracks so that you can strip off the piano or guitar on the track and just have a bass and drums playalong track. In the third Interlude I show you how to change the tempo and pitch of the playback and in the fourth Interlude how to record yourself with Audacity. Finally I show you how to use the free software SoundCloud to share your recordings with other students. There are other possibilities for playback and recording such as using systems like Band-in-a-box and Garageband, but I restrict attention to the free software Audacity and the free platform SoundCloud.

To help you decide whether to use the Aebesold tracks or the tracks produced by Ben and Lee, here are approximately the Number of tunes covered/Number of Aebersold playalong tracks for each part of the program:

Parts Of The Course Tunes covered/Aebersold playalong tracks
I. Begin With The Blues 4/5
II. Improvising On Jazz Standards 7/8
III. Solo Piano & Advanced Topics 15/9
IV. Final Topics & Two Programmed Concerts 45/32

Knowing precisely what to put in these Interludes has been difficult, because people’s backgrounds and facilities are very varied, but I hope there is enough at least to get you started. Some people are computer literate and find it easy to download software and use it. Others have greater difficulty. If you have difficulty, then in the final analysis you can always “consult the manual” or, better still, ask a friend. Another thing worth trying is simply to ask a question on Google. It is surprising how much helpful information is out there.

In addition, people have different computing facilities such as computer/laptop/tablet/smart phone and different playing facilities such as a piano or keyboard. When it comes to playback and recording, this can also vary markedly involving such things as internal/external microphones, internal/external speakers and the use of cans (headphones). Since this is so central to the experience, I suggest you experiment to find out what works best for you.

Offering feedback

Finally, if you listen to other peoples’ efforts and are prepared to offer feedback, then please do so, but do it sensitively. You do not know the background of the person involved or the facilities at their disposal. Praise may be always welcome, but criticism generally isn’t, unless it is constructive criticism designed to encourage people on their learning path.

Making the effort

This activity is described as a “small” Interlude but, in fact, the 5 videos last a total of half an hour. But understanding what to do is absolutely central to the way the course works, since it relies on you being able to play with playalong tracks. As an educationalist I have been asked what I consider to be the key ingredient in studying and my answer is “motivation”. If you really want to do something then you will probably find a way of doing it. It will probably require some effort to get everything working fully, but I am confident that you will find it really beneficial in the long run and so I strongly urge you to put in the effort required.

© Goldsmiths, University of London
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Learn Jazz Piano: Begin with the Blues

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