Here’s a piece Brian and I did a couple of weeks ago as part of my lesson.
It’s “C Jam Blues” by Duke Ellington.
The Drums, Bass and Piano are on a backing track.
I’m playing the brass quartet at the start, plus the clarinet, trombone and trumpet, all on the WX5.
Brian’s playing guitar.
This is one of the reasons the WX5 is so much fun to play – there are so many different instruments available. the challenging part is that when you play a “trumpet” it’s important to think like a trumpet. When you play like a trombone, imagine you’re playing a trombone, and how you’d like it to sound. I have to adjust my playing technique depending on the type of instrument I’m trying to mimic, otherwise it doesnt sound convincing.
With this piece, although we in front of us the chord progression that Ellington used, we improvised all of what we played.
One thing Brian has taught me about improvisation is that it’s not about trying to play every riff and lick in your repertoire. It’s all about fitting in with your fellow players, and with the ideas that the composer originally had.
One of the highlights of my week is my jazz music lessons with a fantastic musician named Brian Hayes.
Each week I bring my WX5 and he teaches me as he plays along on Guitar, Sax, Flute or Clarinet. I find it really enjoyable, and am continually amazed at his wonderful musicianship.
Late last year, Brian suggested we record our session. He played some tunes on his guitar, and got me to improvise on the WX5, playing whatever I wanted. I made lots of mistakes, but we decided to record it “as is”, and these songs are the result. We called the collection “Warts and All”.
Thinking of Lizzie
Black Brassy Blues
Laid Back Fanfare
Not Quite Danny
For each song, I chose a different voice on the VL-70m synthesizer – the challenge being to select the most appropriate voice, and to play it in such a way that my style suites it. I find brass, clarinet and flute voices fairly easy. Sax voices are difficult to do well.
If you can look beyond my mistakes in these songs, I hope you can get an idea of how much fun this is!
I wanted to share this with you, not because I think I’m great, but because I had so much fun making it.
Friends and family will know I’ve bought myself a Yamaha WX5 Wind Midi Controller for my 44th birthday. It looks like a clarinet, but it is more like a synthesizer keyboard that you play like a wind instrument. You can see a picture of it here.
I thought you might like an idea of what it sounds like, so I’ve uploaded some of my own recordings to give you an idea.
Some of them I just played from memory by ear because they’re tunes I love (Like the Dark Isle, The Parting Glass, and Basin Street Blues). Some of them are from a “Play along” music book I recently bought which has the backing tracks that you can play along to. For one of them (Beauty and the Beast) I took a midi of the the tune, removed the melody line, and dubbed my own melody line over the top. (I’ll promise to explain how to do this in my technical blog soon).
“Beauty and the Beast” is a very pretty melody. If you only listen to one of these tunes, I hope you listen to this one.
Anyway – here they are – the sounds of me having fun.
The Dark Isle
The Parting Glass
Beauty and the Beast
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
Basin Street Blues
God Bless The Child
Tenor Saxophone voice:
Hit The Road Jack
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