Feed Your Ears: Second Wave American Free Jazz

A lot of people know about the first wave of American free jazz: Pharaoh Sanders, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and the rest, along with the late work of John Coltrane. We'll have future posts devoted to those guys, but this one is about the ones who came immediately after them. Many were associated with Chicago rather than New York, and they brought an awareness of contemporary classical sounds to bear on the improvisational ethic of their forebears.

Fun With Ring Modulators

As I mentioned before, I've been playing with Usine lately and doing some free VST effect processing on the guitar. This has enabled me to indulge my love of ring modulators, so I recorded a demo of two free ones you can try out.

A Stretching and String-Skipping Workout

I've had about a month of enforced lack of practice; this happens to all of us from time to time. As I often do I devised a little etude to get my hands warmed up and in synch again. I'll be practicing this for the next couple of weeks, and probably using it as a warmup after that, so I thought you might like to try it yourself.

Exploring New Material with Motifs and Patterns

This post is about one way to develop ideas for licks out of simple material almost by a kind of "free association": you play something, find a bit you like, play around with it and so on.

Free Real-Time Effects Processing Using Usine

Today I discovered Usine, a free bit of software for Windows that enables you to wire VST effects together. This is so much fun that I had to share it with you and give you a quick guide to getting it up and running. If you're a music techie already you can probably breeze through the first bit.

Feed Your Ears: Avant Folk

There was a time in the sixties when being into folk music was cool. Then there was a long, long time when it wasn't. Now, it seems, folk is back with the guitar front and centre. This post focusses on American artists; the British scene is seeing a similar resurgence but in a rather different way.

Numbering Systems for Pitch Classes

This post -- the second in our series on pitch class set theory -- looks at three different ways to number pitch classes. These numbering systems are alarmingly similar, so they can get confusing, but an understanding of them is essential for what follows, so hold onto your hat.

Harmonic Minor Modes: The Super Locrian bb7

In this final instalment of our series on the modes of the Harmonic Minor scale, we consider the scale known as the Super Locrian bb7. This is a very distinctive and dissonant scale, and is difficult to use in standard jazz and rock contexts; it makes us work hard if we're going to get something usable out of it.

Some Slonimsky Patterns and Variations

I've been doing a lot of theoretical work recently on Slonimsky's famous Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. I'll have more to say about the book's contents in some upcoming posts, but here are some phrases derived from this material that I was playing around with today.

What is a Pitch Class Set?

This is the first in a series of posts introducing pitch class set theory at a very basic level. In this post I'll say a few things about what the theory's for and why it's useful, and give some of the most basic definitions.