Mike Laird
Status: Member
Member Since: February 22, 2010
Last Visit:December 8, 2017
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Mike Laird

Mike Laird is a student at the Eastman Community Music School, but not your typical student. After a business career in places like Xerox, Citicorp, and McKinsey & Co., he started violin lessons with the objective of jazz improvisation. He studies both classical violin and jazz improvisation. He has had a series of jazz coaches from the Eastman School playing trumpet, guitar, string bass, and drum set. They quickly led him to the realization that specific technique development is necessary for jazz improvisation. After not finding the necessary arpeggio and rhythm exercises in existing violin literature, he started creating these exercises initially to build his own improvisation technique. His book, Arpeggios, Rhythms, and Scales: Fundamental Techniques for Jazz Improvisation on the Violin, is now available.

Among the many helpful things in this new book, its breakthrough contribution to the violin literature is its easy-to-remember fingerings for seventh arpeggios (the equivalent of tablatures for guitar) in all 12 keys. Though many fingerings are possible on the violin, the fingerings in this book have been selected to make them easy to remember while the creative mind concentrates on improvising something delightful. The fingerings are either repeated patterns or stay in a particular, familiar position as long as possible before going up the fingerboard in a repeated pattern. Numerous choices are provided for each key, and many of the fingerings are the same in each key. That’s less to memorize. A student of improvisation still has much to learn, but the frustration of thinking through “which string, which position, which finger” for every next note has been eliminated. It may save your student years of time. If your student is ready to move beyond introductory books, this book is essential to build solid technique that will take your student to new levels in many music styles, including classical.

This book also presents comprehensive technique development for improvisation. It has numerous exercises using typical jazz rhythms. One of these exercises re-interprets Kreutzer No. 8 in an innovative way to build familiarity with jazz rhythms and develop the mental ability to hear a rhythm and then use it with different notes over different chords, as improvisers so often do. Frequently used jazz scales, e.g., modal scales, bebop scales, are provided in three octaves. As with the arpeggios, a beginning student can start with one or two octaves and learn the third octave later in another pass through the exercises. Bowing exercises are included, e.g., to develop swing rhythm, and to develop the colle’ front end on notes for rhythmic pulse. A short introduction to jazz music theory gives useful summaries of commonly used concepts in improvisation. Overall, the book provides a variety of improvisation exercises that can build a wide range of skills - from ear training, to navigating the fingerboard, to shaping the form of an improvised solo. Importantly, teachers’ needs are included in the book, as it provides numerous teaching suggestions for each of the book’s sections.