"I have to be my own teacher, curious to know the reason for things."
wiki ~ Laurindo Almeida

In a nutshell. All those interested in a more formal education and understanding in music have a wonderful journey of discovery before them. For while there's a seemingly endless array of musics to explore, in our Amer Afro Euro Latin Americana mashup of the musical elements, initially there's just two of the 'silent architectures' that foundation near all we do in our musics.

Once discovered and understood, and placed into the musical / performance settings where the artists are 'making their music' from rote memory, or even as they go along through improvisation, through these silent architectures we gain a wider perspective of musics in general. In doing so we enable not only a deeper general understanding of music, but also a more open appreciation of the 'way of the crafting' of any musical art.

Euro classical conversions ~ swing. Showing up here, as a classical artist, one trained in a public school and forward curriculum, getting a better understanding of Americana musics revolves around evolving a couple of the principles of music that are the basis of your training also.

Know that your existing rote learned skills and general musicianship; technique, knowing where your pitches are, reading notation, following a conductor, creating an ensemble tone and hearing others, these skills cook up about 3/4's of the whole Americana tamale. And while there's the shedding to be done, these last few ingredients lean toward ways of thinking shifts, so art inclusive too.

magical Americana rhythms we call 'swing'

Swing. Swinging lines, whether melody, chords, bass or drums, will spice up a tamale in any style we decide to mix up. For while each style has its own ways to bring the swing, the essence of swing, often termed here as the 'pull of swing', is always the same. Once the beat motor is cooking along, how we lean our rhythms into the clicks becomes the 'pull' in musical time that brings the swing.

So with the dimensions of this e-book, I can teach any interested learner what swing is, as measured beats of time click on. It's easy to feel and fun, and we can use any metronome to bring the clicks.

That said, once knowing, U must figure out how you swing, on your chosen instruments, in the ways that make you smile and feel good. And once empowered, develop your own unique voice in making the Americana musics you love.

Euro classical conversions ~ improvisation. Once your 'time' is in place, there's three common approaches to Americana improvisation included. And suggested 'exercises' to strengthen it all.

Improvisation in Americana music is about having 'something to say' in a musical way, within a song we're 'having our musical discussion.' With solid chops already in place, as a classical artist, your tasking is simply to discover and strengthen a new way, your own way, to approach and understand Americana musical time and its phrasing.

... start this learning swing by phrasing :)

The rest of 'getting better' at Americana musics is simply the rote learning of new songs, songs that have a story you feel a kinship with, that you sing along with, with melody pitches and lyrics, that you deeply rote know and love by heart. That we know by heart, helps us to play from the heart.'

After rote learning a handful of songs, structural patterns emerge. And the further one travels upon this path, the more secrets are revealed. Knowledge is power and often is accompanied by a renewed appreciation and understanding, of all the art that you allow to surround you. Remember the joke from vaudeville about art ... ?

'U call that art ? ... no it's showbizz :)

wiki ~ vaudeville

Learning methods. Classical 'conversions' need to flip a few bits to get their classical chops to play Americana, and get their creative to function as an improvising musician. These include finding 2 and 4 and snapping fingers or clapping along to songs that have a prominent accenting on 2 and 4. Using these snaps and learning how to count off songs in a few Americana styles. Working with a metronome to make its clicks become these 2 and 4 beats, which brings the pull of the swing.

To get a 'reality check' of what 'good time' is by making 'the clicks go away' and trading lengths of measured musical time back and forth. This reveals to us our own understanding and sense of time in relation to the 'perfect' timing of a metronome's clicks. For trained up classical players, you've probably done similar practicing techniques all along now, the paradigm shift is to find all of these skills and basics feeling the '2 and 4' beats.

We then use these fundamentals to build up an understanding of phrasing our ideas towards a 'future point in time.' A point in time that collectively, each member of our ensemble is pointing towards also. For in this setting, we are each free to determine how we get there, which pitches and note values etc., knowing we'll all meet our parts up together on that one beat in the near future. This is tricky and advanced, and hard to explain mostly, but is the key to the highway so to speak, and called 'forward motion.'

Learn through listening. And last but paramount in our studies here, we listen listen listen to the Americana musics we love and sing, hum, strum or drum along to the music. We jam along to create musical art moving through real time, every measure we master another bar of strengthening our own skill in working the magic.

Rote learn with your voice the notes and phrasing of your favorite solo on a recording. Internalize through singing what's in the music that makes your hair stand up. By using our voice to 'lock us in' to whatever groove, it rotes it deep in our heart.

Most of these suggestions are now old school, been around for 100's of generations now, of musicians passing along their learned wisdom to the up and coming curious players of the next generation. Nothing new here really in this curriculum, just some essential 'flip the switch' to energize and enable improvising Americana to come forth.

Review. So with some chops are in place, we're just trying to get things to swing and create some 'breathing space' in moving time, to give our 'inner creative voice' a chance to 'suggest' what to play next; to improvise. Once that 'physio brain heart hands' connection is made, and your improv DNA is lashed up and in place you're good to go.

Shedding this process strengthens just like practicing all of our other skills. There's no end to the learning. And like most skills rote earned, we'll have it always for creating our own musics and share with those friends to ready to 'convert.'

For teachers, U Y M / E M G teaching method. The following teaching topics are a beginning way for teachers to use this book as one of their method books with their learners. For not all students learn the same ways, and there's also times when we just want to try something new. And once the curious minded are in motion, we tend to stay in motion :) Following the links here in listed order should get some learning motion going.

improvisation. Those players transitioning from classical to Americana will bump into the near certain necessity of developing a solo voice. It's just too much a part of the music and too much fun to miss. Not overly present in the classical world, although at one point in history it was rumored to be. Herrs' Mozart and Beethoven were said to be the greatest improvisors of their day. Given a theme to variate, they could work the magic.

When starting out, if you're reading is strong, consider finding the written solos of the cats you dig and shed those ideas. Transcribing has historically shown us to be the surest way the Americana oral tradition has passed forward to each new generation.

And while requiring the most discipline generally, it exceed near all other learning methods. Sing the line / play the line is most likely the the original way into this self expressive magic. Speaking from the heart helps keep things true.

top learning method for Americana musics

If entering the jazz world, chances are you'll be playing through the changes and not over them with a parent scale. If this is the case, knowing the theory of spelling chords completely into through their upper structure is a worthy goal. For in the improv of jazz, creating lines through changes is a core historical strand of its DNA.

improvisation / 8th notes and swing. Eighth notes are the cashola of so much of the Americana magic for the improvising musicians. For classical players coming over to Americana, developing their eighth notes can become a essential component of their transition. The beginning of this could be based on playing 'even eighths', an unaccented stream of pitches and rhythms subdividing the big four into eight. These can be one pitch repeated, groups of pitches, intervals or arpeggios etc., easily shaped with the metronome. These super even eighth's lines created by George Benson, with Dexter Gordon on "Gotham City."

wiki ~ George Benson
wiki ~ "Gotham City" album

Even eighths are super hip in today's musics and improvisation. With a notable big step into jazz in the 40's with percussionist Chano Pozo with Dizzy Gillespie, the more 'even eighths' found a way into jazz and evolved the swing beautifully, and in some ways harder than the original dotted figure when employed in straight ahead settings. Of course, the musical environment we find even eighths today has evolved in its time and harmonies, from back when accented eighth's ruled.

wiki ~ Chano Pozo
wiki ~ Dizzy Gillespie

Once comfortable, a first level advancement of even eights is to accent the off beat eight note. This approach can be viewed as a direct evolution from the traditional swing eights as based on the looping feel of the dotted 8th / 16th pattern. Compare the possibilities. Example 5.

Mix and match? Use all of the feels to shape the expressive contour of your idea? Unless it's the style you totally dig or the one for your gig, might want to be careful of practicing and getting too deep into the loping eights, for when you want to even things up, it might be a challenge to shake it out of your chops. Muscle memory and all of that ya know :)

Modern swing eighth's. These super swing lines, with 'octaves a la Wes', created by George Benson, with Dexter Gordon on "Gotham City."

Wiki ~ George Benson
wiki ~ Wes Montgomery
wiki "Gotham City" album

Improvisational pathways. There's a handful of topics here to explore, knit them together to create a way forward for your own creative.

Listeners / listening. For those that want to improve their knowledge and enjoyment of the music they love, the next few ideas will create a pathway of study that combines history with style. So we explore the 'style of an era' and then explore to understand what and how its musical elements were used to create 'that' sound.

Any and every song written in 'C'', in any musical style, is going to have pitches in common together, regardless of the era it was written. So we pick a classic song we totally dig. From any style. If a 'classic', chances are it'll have other 'covers' from other artists from different eras.

We then listen to each version. We decide what's the melody like? What are the chords and their color tones? Any arpeggios?Any soloing? Quarter note bass line and rhythm? Boogie woogie left hand motoring? A big band of horns shouting out the news :) Moody introspective, airy muted modal horn lines at blistering tempos? Beginning to answer any of these gets us a path into the theory.

So in listening, we simply track the elements to a better understanding of what we are hearing. Just turns out that our history timeline coincides with an evolution of style line that helps define what is the 'new' today from artists in each of our main styles of music.

Styles of music is like variety in a way, like our various varieties of apples. Green ones, green and red ones, red ones, stripped ones etc. With these we can create a spectrum of apples that have their own unique qualities. We do the same with our styles of music. A spectrum of styles.

There's some history too of course, always is, but also an incredibly clear correlation between the # of pitches in a song's melody and style, three note triads for chords or more pitches for adding in color tones? We've in theory just the 12 pitches right? So, from one through 12 we get this sort of parallel relationship between # of pitches and musical style.

musical style
kid's songs
folk blues gospel
bluegrass rock country
pop / jazz
# of pitches

While just a spectrum chart really, we gain a perspective of the pitches as a resource to jazz things up a bit.

For dancers and choreographers. So what's in a music theory book for dancers? And anything for for choreographers? Surely musical forms can be helpful. The way the structures of harmony come together, in triads, chords and understanding color tones to shade harmony to fit the mood of the dance story to be told. How do dancers tell their stories? Through the interpretation of the music? Or can a complete dance routine be set to music?

Then there's rhythm and its subdivision. And swing, and the joy it brings. What does it feel like to swing on the dance floor? Apart from the momentum is there that 'pulling' of musical time that creates the tension of swing? And modern styled music that is through composed, with no loops or repeated cycles, how might this way of composing spark new ways of thinking about putting dance and music together?

More questions than answers here, oh well. But alas .. 'we think, therefore we are.' :)

Review and coda. So in transitioning from the legit world into Americana, once a cat can solidly conjure and capture the swing in a 2 and 4 based groove, from right outta the thin air, good things will happen. Once in the groove, singing melodies known deep from the heart become the first lines to swing.

Once these rote lines are swinging, no limit at all. The 1/8th note is the currency of Americana improv, subdividing the big 4, the common parade march time we roll too. 'Even eights' rule the day today, off beat accents on once 'even 1/8th's' a next challenge. Finding the triplet feel and a gallop completes the entry level rhythm chores for the classically trained artist.

"Music helps remind people of their own humanity."
wiki ~ Danny Kortchmar

Coda ~ swing. Classical music doesn't really swing. It actually is more like rock music, where the downbeat of each bar, beat one, gets the hit. There's also no snare pop on the 2 and 4 beats. That's more the swing killer of the two.

A pulse on the 2 and 4 creates different weighted beats, alternating while moving along through time. We each bring our own music / art sensibilities to this weight difference and capture our version of the 'pull of swing.' This 'pull' what we physically can feel when we hear a swinging band.

Here are the beats in 4 / 4 time, so 1 2 3 4 ... and accenting the 2 and 4.

boom BOOM boom BOOM

Classical music doesn't groove like this, so there's no swing thing ever a happening :) No '2 and 4' accents? no swing.

we already have music under our fingers, and yes they like to move and amaze us with their facility! Yet when wanting to learn the basics to create Americana improvisation, we gots to slow it down. And this time around, we slow it down to allow us 'time' to think.

To think of what ? To think of what to play, to create 'windows' of space as the music moves along in time, spaces that give us a chance to take a breath and give ol' Muse an opportunity to 'suggest' to us something to play :)

We articulate our phrases forward in time to close on musical junctions, those points coming up in songs where melody notes, chords and a strong rhythm accent all come together as one. And in truth, this perspective of improvisation and phrasing, to think and aim for a definite spot in the future, is the challenge that applies equally to all :)

R. O. !

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

References academia Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's own and finest resident maestros !

'I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.'

J. S. Bach 1685-1750

'Invest yourself in everything you do. There's fun in being serious.'

John Coltrane 1926-1967