Since its release, I’ve received a few general questions about the contents of the “Playing off the Melody” course, and how it will help with your musicianship. This course will obviously help you play more compositionally over "Stella By Startlight." But here are some further thoughts I had this morning.
A large percentage of students have a problem wherein they tend to start and end their improvised melodies in the same place rhythmically, within the measure. This makes your melodies all sound similar; not something you want in a good solo. This course forces you to play starting on every eighth note pulse, in order to get your ear to hear new places to start and end melodic phrases. That will affect not only the example tune “Stella by Starlight,” but every other tune you play. This is one of the main “takeaways” from this course.
The next exercise gets you switching between the 6 melodic shapes. These exercises present etudes that randomly change which melodic shapes is being played. This gets you out of the common rut of playing the same melodic shape. It also hopefully makes you re-examine all the melodies you play and to see how using a simple “rotation” pattern can help you to extrapolate new melodic shapes from all the melodies you commonly play.
The 3rd exercise varies the rhythm AND the melodic shape and these are the most “musical” of all examples. Literally each exercise is close to being a good solo within itself rather than an exercise. When I worked on this part of the course I really enjoyed reading these parts and then improvising around them. Doing this creates a very strong solo which highly relates back to the essence of “Stella by Starlight.”
The 180 permutations of the six note motif from “Stella by Starlight” is included if you want to further expand your use of this melodic fragment. I often use these permutation exercises as a chop builder. They quickly point out which melodic shapes are weak and need work. I also find really cool sounding melodies within these lists.
Like the Melodic Rotation 012345 book, the “Playing off the Melody” course also contains exercises that take you through various cyclic movements of the melody. You will find Minor 2nd, Major 2nds, Minor 3rds, Major 3rds and Augmented cycle exercises in the "Playing off the Melody” course. The kinds of melodies found in these exercises are frequently used by contemporary improvisers who like to play intervallic melodies. Often musicians will combine parts of these cycles to create hybrid scales, and many of them are actually used in real music, as can be seen in the Scale Analysis book which examines which scales you actually hear over chord progressions rather than the scales you are often told are correct. Personally I like these rotations for developing my sight reading skills and expanding my ear. By practicing these exercises with a MetroDrone you expand your ear by hearing new melodic ideas within a key center while the sight reading really helps with accidental recognition. Finally, they build chops, so that's in there too.
All exercises are in all keys so you learn to play “Stella by Starlight” in all keys. This will deeply imprint the song in your memory while it helps you to play similar types of progressions no matter what key they are in. If you work with singers, then this is another important aspect of the course. You never know what key a singer may ask you to play a song in. This prepares you for that situation.
While there are midi files of all exercises, the really useful audio is the 36 MP3s which present a rhythm section version of “Stella by Starlight” at 3 tempos in all keys.
Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart
You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!