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Author: Simon 
Date:   2011-02-10 00:22

Hello all,

I play Macedonian music using Bb clarinet. I have been practasing on and off for a number of years. I don't play in a band and the reason is that I can't seem to grasp the tecnique to improvise or also known as "taxims" in Turkish and Greek music.

Unfortunately in the Macedonian folklore music improvisation/taxims is very important, it is the very thing that adds colour to the music.

I play by ear but have the ability to read basic music as well.

I have read prior posts on this, I listen to all macedonian clarinet artists perform and try to copy them, I try to come up with my own, I have had other people tell me just stay in the same key as the main piece, but I just can't seem to crack this. I am able to perfectly play the main piece but when it comes to the improvisation part it stops. It gets very depressiong at times not being able to play the whole piece.

I would be very grateful if anyone out there would know of any exercises, or written music for that matter that I can use as building blocks to try and overcome what it seems a straight forward piece of music (at least for other players). Also if I can overcome this the folk at home will also be very grateful, you know what I mean.

Many thanks in advance.

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 Re: Improvisation
Author: Kalakos 
Date:   2011-02-11 06:09

See my comment on the other board.
(Greek Musician)

Kalakos Music

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 Re: Improvisation
Author: HaynesMan 
Date:   2011-08-19 20:06

Have you tried starting your studies of improvisation with the established American forms (jazz/blues/etc)? These will give you a basic chord structure to work over, many musicians will be able to help you develop this skill in this fashion... ...good place to start learning to develop your own melody as you improvise and a great source of influences as well. I can well understand your perspective: I'm a jazz player with influences from klezmer.

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 Re: Improvisation
Author: Jon Shurlock 
Date:   2012-01-05 14:26

I have not been playing the clarinet for long and haven't done any improvisation to speak of on it, but have played guitar in pub bands off and on for 20 years, so perhaps can add a few general music tips

There are lots of ways to learn to improvise, but the more you do the better you get. Be prepared to sound awful and to make lots of mistakes in the beginning, but keep trying and keep practising. Don't have expectations that are too high - remember that the whole essence of improvisation is to play something you haven't done before, so how will you know it sounds good until you have played it! You'll make mistakes, but learn from them

Assuming that the improvisation is over the chord changes in the main part then your fallback is the melody. If all else fails and you only play the main melody then at least there isn't a big gap in the music. You can always put your own slant on it, by phrasing it slightly differently

Obviously this isn't the final result that you want to achieve, so start by changing a few things with the melody, perhaps by doubling up notes, syncopating the rhythm, approaching the melody notes with the adjacent notes or arpeggio fragments, repeating key phrases etc. There are lots of resources online about different ways to play so have a look

Another approach is practise licks, which are useful, short phrases that can be used in different situations. Using these and changing them around often gives you ideas that take you to another place in the music. Listen to people who inspire you and practise a few of their phrases, change them to make them your own and then apply them. Again, lots of resources on the net, and books galore if that's your thing. Remember that you can copy phrases from any instrument. Indeed, often by using phrases from other instruments you can create a new feel

Scales and arpeggios always help - a bit of theory will show you which scales go with which chords, or just go with your ear

Improvising with your voice, then repeating it with your instrument is another way to improve

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 Re: Improvisation
Author: Randall 
Date:   2012-04-09 17:18

You've had two very helpful responses which I'd like to add to. If you have recordings of the style of music you'd like to improvise on, I suggest you play along with them. I found it helpful to play long single notes, much like you were playing a bass line, trying to be in harmony with what's being played. Generally, what you consider 'wrong' notes are but a half-step away from a suitable note. Playing with records is an excellent form of ear training, and not concerning yourself with how many notes you play gives you the time to better hear the progression of chords. Good luck, and have fun. R

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 Re: Improvisation
Author: Dextepayne 
Date:   2012-10-25 11:00


I remember the first time I heard Ivo - "What is he DOING? Is that a clarinet?"

Yes, playing a taksim requires knowledge of the scale/ maqam. Not "chord changes" as in american or even klez music. Very important is the correct ornamentation, different from Greek, to Turkish, to Bulgarian, Macedonian.

Best thing to do is copy. Find a taksim you love , and copy it. Of course, at home, it's the challenging parts that we work on the most. Take it one segment at a time, slowly. Speed up gradually and then begin to stitch the segments together. If there are parts beyond your technique, keep practicing! You will come up with simplified versions of the tough parts, and that's how your style is born. And don't neglect the "easy" passages, they are often harder. Genius has a lot to teach in simplicity.

Then do the same with another recording, and another. Dont stop listening and learning! Ill go back to something I learned long ago and listen again - "That's how it goes? Wow! Why didn't I hear that before!"

Practice maqamat just like we do scales- you only need a handful to start. Start with Hijaz and Necris, modes of the same scale, and make up patterns to get them in your fingers. Goof around with it, make up (and quote) phrases that define the scales FOR YOU. This is where you really have to put in some time. Collect phrases that you like - copy at first, then make up your own "in the style." When you hear a phrase you like, learn it and write it down. All great soloists pay homage to the definitive creators who came before.

When you get with your friends, and they ask you to blow, try to make a clear entrance - use an opening statement from a taksim you've learned. Once you have their attention, take a breath, then tell YOUR story, give us your angle! You can play something planned, but somewhere in there just take a chance and see what comes happens! Then, before they get bored, get out! Use an ending you've copied. Or something you made up and want to try out. Start well, end well.

Don't drag out the middle trying to "get it". Being spontaneous in the moment is great, but you have to develop a vocabulary if you want to say something. Showing off technique is the most common solution. Telling a story is more rare.

Have fun! Soloing is a psychological game. Standing up there thinking "I don't belong here" will not cut it. Your creativity will shut down... and you won't belong there! But that kind of thinking is a pattern you can break.

So you figure out how to break it. Prepare a song. Once on stage: limit your solos, both in number and in length. Take one short solo and make it so YOU feel you are saying something. If it doesn't go as well as you hoped... welcome to the club. You WILL succeed and they WILL ask you to do more. Have another song prepared!

Eat well, get enough sleep, and practice. These do wonders for your self-respect, and it's amazing the difference it makes in your having something to say, musically speaking. Sorry to run on, but I hope something in here resonates!

Post Edited (2012-10-25 11:56)

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 Re: Improvisation
Author: aaron michael 
Date:   2012-11-10 15:08

I'd like to add to the suggestions already made about improvisation. As was mentioned, a taksim is different than modern jazz solos; but shares a little with traditional jazz. Modern jazz creates a new tune based solely on the chords. Traditional jazz makes comments and variations on the melody, more in common with Mozaer and others.

A taksim is a variation and or comment on the makam. As a first approximation, think of the makam as the melody of the song and the various versions of as played by others.

So the taksim is making other variations while staying in the scale and the "mood" of the original. On way to begin is to take 1 or 2 bar fragments of the tune and mix and recombine them in different orders.

Note that in Eastern music in general there's no chord progression. The melody and taksim constantly refer to the tonic.

Greek, Macedonian etc. music often combines ideas from both Eastern and Western music so often a song will have a chord progression. Macedonion music that has taksims (like Chalgia) is generally more Eastern and has no chords. Many of these style tunes are built on incremental repetition. The last four bars of a line become the first four bars of the next line. Use this idea to begin to create taksims.

One of the best methods for learning is to write out taksims first and learn them. Either by transcribing from recordings or even better: Try writing your own. Write your ideas out and learn to play them. Keep them with you and use them as a base and build on them as you gain experience.

Creating solos of any kind is like composing, it takes practice. And it is easier to do and learn if you don't have the added pressure of doing it in real time.

Many are surprised to learn that the jazz greats don't produce their great solos on the spot! If you study in a good university jazz program you'll have to write out a bunch of new solos every day as homework.

Even in modern jazz where the melody doesn't matter, they use a bunch of stock licks that are learned and recombine them. See Coker or Abersold.

The great soloists play variations on the solos they've built up over the years.

Hope this helps. Aaron

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 Re: Improvisation
Author: Wes 
Date:   2012-11-26 04:23

It seems to me that one should identify several popular tunes that one wants to play and memorize them. The chords, if applicable, should be memorized and the scales or modes, also. One can do this from records or written music. You really have to know some tunes, regardless of the culture.

I used to play at Jewish affairs but it was mostly reading from the Kaman book or from hand copied lead sheets with essentially no improvisation. We just played the melody over and over and the crowds loved it. Is there a Macedonian tune book to copy from?

Now I play at some "real book" sessions where we play the "head" from a lead sheet and take turns at improvising. Generally, I can do fine just following the chords but it seems a good idea to stick in a quote from the melody or to make up a short phrase and repeat it, modified to fit the harmony, perhaps several times. I almost never use prememorized licks but once in a while will quote a bit from another tune. As Don Ellis said when I studied with him, he did not dare practice any of Charlie Parker's solos,as he did not want them to surface during one of his solos.

A significant technique is needed for fluent improvising. Try the "key of the day" idea where you work on one key(or mode) only a day, playing scales and made up exercises in one key only per day. Good luck!

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