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Ben Clapton

Jazz and Practice

August 1, 2006 at 12:36 AM

My concert on sunday was a huge success. We had about 110 people come, raising $1130 for overseas aid through the Christian organisation, Christmas Bowl.

Now I promised Pauline that I would talk about my hidden talent of Jazz.

When I was in about year 8 or 9, I stopped enjoying classical violin. My teacher, being wise to this, decided to introduce me to a number of other types of violin music, namely Irish Folk, and Jazz. I really took to these two types of music, and enjoy getting out my session book, or my small book of jazz tunes, and playing. However, I got interested in classical music in a big way, so at the moment, I don't have much time to get them out and play, there's too much else to do. Generally, I sometimes get them out during the holidays.

But when an opportunity came to play some jazz at this concert, I jumped at it. A good family friend was available to accompany me, and the drummer of the salvation army band that was also performing, joined in and we played three songs - Take Five (Which I hadn't quite memorised, so I messed the middle bit up), Tuxedo Junction (which went down a lot better), and Good morning Blues (for which I love playing, and improvising around).

When I was introduced to jazz, I really got my mind into it. A read a really detailed jazz primer, which gave me a lot of theory into jazz performance, improvisation, and the chords. As such, if someone shows me an A9b5 chord, I know the notes would be A C# Eb G B and that you'd want to take it to somewhere like a D7 chord. When I improvise, I don't plan anything out beforehand. I just go, thinking about the chords, and listening to the accompanyment. The great thing is if you hit a wrong note, it's dissonance that is resolved when you move to the next note. I have a lot of fun improvising.

Yesterday, I had a really good lesson. I mean, Really good. We spent the entire lesson on my Bach - G Minor Sonata, Siciliano and Presto. We delved into deep musical issues with both, and identified some places for me to practice. We talked about making really good starts (especially seeing as the Siciliano will be the first piece i play at my recital), and articulation for the Sicialiano to make it sound like a Siciliano. There was one chord which I just couldn't get. It's a Bb dominant 7th chord (Bb F D Ab) going to Eb D G. I just couldn't get it in tune. Either the movement from Bb-F down to Eb would bring my Ab past the G, or I would ge the G but my finger wouldn't move far enough to get the Eb. I was also having trouble forming the chord to make it sound joined in the musical line.

I went back to uni, and practiced after my Choir rehearsal. I did maybe about an hour just on that chord. I realised that I was using a second finger to hit the D in the arpegiated chord just before the actual chord, in which I'm using a third finger. I also realised that this arpegiated chord is the exact same chord as the actual chord, just that because it's arpeggiated, there are two notes on some strings. This allowed me to figure out a different fingering than what I was doing (which in turn allowed me to get the Arpeggio and the Chord in tune), and then practiced moving to the next chord. It was all very slow, very short repetitative work, and my sister would've shot me if I did that kind of work here at home (but she's going to have to get used to it). But I got it worked out, so hopefully with a bit of practice on it today, I will have it cemented in my hand and it won't be a problem any more.

I've also given myself a challenge to have the Siciliano memorised by the end of this week. I'm using the Flesch edited Peters edition, and the Siciliano is spread out over two pages (due to a rather large editorial comment on the first page. I'm going to try and memorise the first page today (8 bars), then half of the next page tomorrow, and then the rest on THursday. Then on Friday, I'll work from the back to the front to cement it, before performing it in String class with our awesome new tutor, Michael Goldschlager. I think that's an achieveable goal, and a good one for me to have so early before my recital.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 1, 2006 at 6:20 AM
I'm glad your concert was so successful. Will you post an audio of it?

Thanks for the explanation of jazz violin. I see that it requires a strong working knowledge of chord structure to be able to improvise. I improvise on a lot of different kinds of folk music, but that's less complex structurally. It is a lot of fun, though.

From Ben Clapton
Posted on August 1, 2006 at 11:00 AM
I was hoping to be able to post some audio, but I forgot to take my mini-disk recorder with me. Oh well. I've got some more performances scheduled, so hopefully I can get some good recordings of me playing, something that my website is sorely missing.
From John Lanceley
Posted on August 1, 2006 at 2:14 PM
Glad to hear your concert went well Ben! Hey, you know jazz is the reason I dont practice violin as much as I should. All ive done today is twang my guitar trying to play 'minor swing', and a guilty last minuite practice on violin. In fact I practiced that much I snapped the end of the plectrum off...HAHA!!

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