Thursday, December 13, 2007

Approaching a Standard

Christmas time is here! (And a bunch of other neat holidays!) And so is the music of the season.
Which leads me to the next thought on the Josh Mental Institution Express Train (of thought)....

Rock musicians might not be very familiar with the term "standard." More commonly used in a jazz language, it refers to a song that's akin to Smoke on the Water or Iron Man. Made popular by countless performances by musicians over the years, and oft requested, a standard is a nifty vehicle to...Remix!

Do a search on Autumn Leaves, a popular jazz standard. While sophisticated jazz musicians may roll their eyes when asked to play this tune, it's been played so many different ways it's mind boggling! From original jazz takes, to bebop flavors, latin grooves, and even folk renditions. (Check out Eva Cassidy's soul gripping rendition to see what I mean.)

The twofold fun of standards includes the original beauty of the song, plus the creative license granted to the artist to make it uniquely theirs in some way.

In this season of winter, twinkling lights, and the mad rush for the deal on the big screen TV, an opportunity awaits the creative musician.

Christmas carols are some of the most popular standards of all! Why not try rockin' some? Or jazzin' some?

There's plenty of tabs, sheet music, and chord charts available. I usually approach a standard by learning it "the right way" first (how it was intended to be played,) and then start tweaking things.

Jingle Bell Rock sounds great when it's...rockin'! Christmas Time is Here is a very nice candidate for a jazz revamp. The chart I have already has extended chords (9ths, 11ths, etc), and I continue that train of thought.

The Trans Siberian Orchestra has made a gazillion bucks from Carol of the Bells, and given how good their rock 'n classical version is, they deserve every penny!

For you advanced players, Christmas and other holiday tunes offer a great opportunity to reharmonize the chord progressions, making a simple tune sophisticated, or vice versa.

For players of any level, "remixing" these holiday standards can be great fun, and superb practice for applying many skills of musicianship. (And another good reason to work on your music reading!)

Have fun! By the way, don't forget to check out these CD's for inspiration. You should own 'em anyway. They're incredible!
Rock on!


Anonymous said...

Great blog. I came your way after reading your write up on ultimate-guitar regarding constructing major scales. Nice job. Entertaining. You've "got it" regarding teaching. I also teach guitar (in NJ) and I like your explainations. Good luck with the new studio.
Dave A

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for the last few months. I really like what you've got going on here. Your UG articles are great. Keep it up and I'll keep tuning in! Thanks dude!