The Fiddle Sessions Jazz Violin Project: Go Tell Aunt Rhody – #3 Randy Sabien
By Randy Sabien
The foundation of a good solo is built on rhythms, phrases, articulation, and dynamics. These are all controlled with the bow. Rhythms are played on the tonic that roughly follow the phrasing of the melody so there are rests every now and then. One of the risks of improvising is to play too much so don’t forget to stop every now and then. Most of my phrases end with a short note marked with a staccato dot. That is where the “bop” of be-bop comes from. Quarter notes are also short so there should be a little space between them. I’ve marked some crescendos and decrescendos to demonstrate how you can “breath” when you play. Bow direction is important and I’ve marked a few places where I take double down or up bows to help with the feel of the phrasing. For swing, you should bow towards the tip and make sure the hair is not too tight.
The next level of improvising I call the “recycle method.” The big question is always “how do you know what notes to play?” It’s easy. You play the same notes you played in the melody the first time but just insert different rhythms or mix up the order of the notes. You can mimic the phrasing as well. This will sound similar to the original tune but come off as a variation.
This solo makes use of two blues scales. Even though this is not a “blues” tune, I like to inject this tonality just for a departure sometimes.
Major Blues Scale: 1 2 b3 3 5 6
You can think of this as a pentatonic scale with the lowered third thrown in.
Minor Blues Scale 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7
This includes the standard “blue” notes b3,b5,b7. Make sure you slide into these notes for the proper blues expression.
There are more 8th note phrases now. When that happens it’s important to slur the off beat to the down beat every now and then. I tend to slur in the middle of the measure (and of 2 to 3) and sometimes on pickup notes across the barline (and of 4 to 1.)
This solo “plays to the changes.” That means the melodies are specifically related to the chords. In order to pull this off you will need to – and I hope you’re sitting down – use your brain! Oh, no!!!!!! You will have to be able to follow the chord progression and know when they change and what notes are in each one. See what I mean? It shouldn’t be too hard on this tune because there are only 2 chords. I’ve written this solo to include nothing but arpeggios.
Bb6 : Bb D F G
F7: F A C Eb
This solo uses the be-bop scale, which, while sounding very impressive, is just a major scale that uses both the lowered 7th and the raised 7th
Bb be-bop scale: Bb C D Eb F G Ab A
F be-bop scale: F G A Bb C D Eb E
I’ve also thrown in an “ornamentation” – the be-bop triplet that is slurred together into the next downbeat.
about the author
Randy Sabien has been performing and teaching jazz violin for over thirty years. In 1978 at the age of twenty-one, he founded the string department at the Berkley College of Music. Following his three year stint in Boston, he spent the next three decades as a sideman with folk musicians -Jim Post, Greg Brown, Mimi Farina, Kate Wolf and as leader of his own groups. Randy is co-author of the Jazz Philharmonic method for string orchestras and an Alfred Publishing composer. In 2009 he accepted the position of String Chair at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN. Visit www.RandySabien.com