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Steve Weiss Mallet Workshop


Ok. So I just finished watching Tony's video series over Stella and I realized something.... I rarely work things through 12 keys. I once tried to learn Stella in C and failed miserably.

I keep hearing over and over about working in all keys but I keep being stubborn and not doing it. I really don't know the best way to go about it.

I guess the question is, how do I do it? Is it just a matter of putting my shoulder to the wheel and just trudging through the process? It seems that I would have to spend hours working a tune through all the keys even though I usually dont feel comfortable with the tune in 1 key.


-Joe Doubleday


Michael Cain (not verified) Sun, 06/07/2009 - 22:01

Having studied with Tony Miceli in grad school, we did EVERYTHING in twelve keys (Bach Sonatinas, Transcriptions, Etudes AND Tunes). The most important thing to realize is that if you learn the theoretical aspects of the tune, you will be half-way to learning the tune in any key.

Now, I know people get their jazz-pantaloons in a knot when it comes to harmonic analysis, suggesting that you should just learn the tune by ear and stumble your way though endless hours of practice until you get it together in twelve keys. If you are the type that can practice 3-5 hours a day, six days a week go for it. I would rather set myself on fire and dance on the third rail at a SEPTA station.

Take "All the Things You Are", for example. Looking at the end of the tune, you can posit that the original key is Ab Maj. Therefore, if you learn the chords to the "A" section as ivm7 - iim7 - V7 - IM7 - IVM7 - *III(V7 - IM7) - iiim7 - vim7 - II7 - VM7 - IM7 - VII(V7 - IM7)

It may look a little intimidating at first, but you can apply this information to ANY KEY. Eventually, you will be able to play any tune in any key, naturally because you will be a master in any key (thanks, Kenny Werner). This goes for transcriptions, too (I would learn the solfege relative to the key center).

Many would say "Why? What's the point of learning 'Cherokee' in E major? When will I EVER need to know that?". I would say this from my personal experience- the best music I have ever made has come from my heart directly through the instrument. I have been able to do that when I am able to get out of my own way and allow myself to play uninterrupted by shortcomings mentally or technically. The tunes that I know in 12 keys, I REALLY know and can focus on the group dynamics rather than "Fudge! How do you play over C#M13???"

Hope you find this helpful. :)

* This being a modulation to the median (third). I personally believe in secondary dominant harmonic analysis (I come from a classical analysis background). If you prefer to keep things relative to the home key, you may wish to call it VII7 - IIIM7

Michael Cain
"Resolve to be good today, better tomorrow" - Catherine McCauley

Jdoubleday Sun, 06/07/2009 - 22:41

In reply to by Michael Cain (not verified)

Actually Analysis isn't a big deal for me. I can do it fine. Should I just write it down and read the chords from that or what? Funny thing is, if I learn Cherokee in E major I could call it at a jam just to mess with everyone. So you are saying I should do the melody by solfege? Man I hate solfege. Maybe doing the melodies in solfege will help me get better at it though. My aural skills class kicks my butt when it comes to singing and reading in solfege.
-Joe Doubleday

tonymiceli Mon, 06/08/2009 - 00:07

In reply to by Jdoubleday

play so what in twelve keys.

or A train, some day my prince will come.

start easy and do it anyway you want except don't read music. memorize the tune.

and do this, do one or two bars of the tune in some other keys, then add on.

get over the hump and you'll it will get very easy.

another easy tune, is blue bossa and i talk about that one in 12 keys somewhere in my book.

Tony Miceli
s k y p e: tjazzvibe
i c h a t: tonymiceli

Michael Cain (not verified) Mon, 06/08/2009 - 08:44

In reply to by Jdoubleday

I had a trumpet colleague in school that had a great way of learning solos. He scheduled it out over four weeks:

Week 1) Listen only
Week 2) Listen and SING ALONG only
Week 3) Listen and play along
Week 4) Analyze and adopt into personal vocabulary

They say you can't play what you can't hear, and in my experience I can sing much more of what my mind's ear hears than I can play. If you have strong analytical chops, than look at the qualities of the melodies you are trying to learn. Say you working on Donna Lee- that first lick is essentially a descending major scale with a little turn on top, which lands on b9 (which happens to be the third of the subsequent chord). Instead of trying transpose a bunch of notes, you simply have to remember the scale and where you start.

Michael Cain
"Resolve to be good today, better tomorrow" - Catherine McCauley

Eric Mon, 06/08/2009 - 09:59

In reply to by Jdoubleday

It will definitely get simpler to transpose tunes. It's only difficult right now because you haven't done it as much. Also, if I've done a tune in twelve keys, I really do know it better than ones I haven't practiced this way. Like was already said, it helps you understand the form and function of everything. Good luck, and I promise it gets easier.

Eric Martin