In a previous blog I emphasized having a goal or an objective for learning short phrases, rhythms or patterns ….. mainly to successfully play the written song or basic melody before you. Those were words of wisdom for beginners.
To extend this further, there is a much bigger objective as you become advanced. I realized that the older and more advanced I got, the more I wanted to learn and practice patterns more than songs. Each lick became an aesthetic entity all its own worthy of learning and memorizing in all keys. Don’t get me wrong. Like anything you use commonly, the more you use a lick in standard keys, the better you will feel comfortable in those keys.
Patterns to music is like words to talking. The more patterns you know, the better you can express yourself musically.
You must have the right mindset and desire to do this life-long task. The search for more patterns, phrases, or licks to tell your story has to come from within. No one can teach that to you.
However, here are a few hints! Think of these patterns as your musical vocabulary. Find a “lick” you like, learn it and try to play it in as many keys as you can. Ideally in all 12 keys. The first lick will be the most difficult to memorize, so choose a simple pattern, maybe 3 or 4 notes of a familiar kids song like “Jingle Bells” with a range of 5 notes and easy to hear. You can build from there. Just remember, it isn’t where you start, it’s how far you go, and how many licks you truly command instantly in all keys. When you verbally speak, do you think of each word you will use to express a thought or do you just say it and it flows off your tongue?
Question……….Where can you find licks to practice?
Just learn what is pleasing to your ear. It will become and establish your personality.
My favorite source is TV. When I hear something catchy in a commercial, movie, or even my car radio, I pause and rewind the lick. Next, I sing it over and over in my head and try to brand it in my brain and memory. As soon as I can, I work it out on my horn then play it in private 1000 times in all keys.
My second source of licks is “youtube”. If you know the name of the song you heard on the radio, find it on youtube, isolate the lick, and play it as many times as necessary to learn. No matter what the source, hear it, sing it, then play it until you own it so you can play it instantly and effortlessly in any key appropriately and hopefully aesthetically.
At first I learned whole solos and could play them note for note but, when I played them, I was playing notes not music! It takes a lot more to say something. You need style, expression, tonguing and articulation techniques, dynamics, tone and overall internal feelings.
If you have evolved enough musically, and have the drive to achieve higher levels, enjoy the never ending journey.