Monday, September 29, 2014

The Guitar Artistry of Bill Frisell - Harmony Transcript

There's a 5-part video now on YouTube called The Guitar Artistry of Bill Frisell.  It's from a 1996 instructional DVD where the guitar genius attempts to describe for others what he does so well.  I found video 3/5 of particular interest, so I have transcribed Bill's esoteric and custom-fit words below.  Starting about 2:40 into the video Bill says:

"Any song that I play, the melody - I always say that - it's just so important.  It gives an architecture to what you improvise.  If you combine all the theoretical knowledge you've learned - chords and scales and patterns - and keep that melody going, that's what can give you your own individual sound, really.  (plays melody)

There was the melody alone and for me that's a beautiful thing.  It's a complete... you don't need to play big fat chords or re-harmonize. If you add the bass notes, then the melody and the bass notes... that's getting pretty full there.

It also gets into some odd fingerings because you're thinking... You have to find ways - usually on the upper strings - to play melody, and then you've got a couple strings left to find a bass note that might... so a lot of times you end up with these odd, what could be considered wrong, ways of playing.  Like again, not in a position.

I'm just sort of... Sometimes I don't even know where I'm gonna end up, but I know there's an F there, there's an open D there.  But what I'd like to say is that once you get that sort of outside skeleton together, then you can start looking for little other notes in between, still not thinking of full chords but...

Some of the things we were talking about before with these scales that run together, notes that run together, I like to use smaller intervals, like 2nds; that's a big sound with only a couple of notes.  I'm gonna try to think of... I'm gonna still use the melody and the bass as my frame, and then I'll be a little freer with... Maybe I'll limit myself to 2nds or something, and think of something to put in between. (demonstrates this)

That's another thing, that I was lucky enough to be able to study with Jim Hall.  He showed me some things, like where I was talking about playing up and down on one string.  If you start adding intervals to that, like go through all the intervals.  Again, this could take your whole life.  (plays)

There's a C major scale.  If you do it in 4ths, or 2nds.  I use that a lot with bass-line melody and then try to think... Find intervals that have a color that you like, or some quality.  Another thing that's interesting to me is to use the melody as a statement, and then sorta think of... Sorta like having a conversation with yourself.

Play the melody and then answer what the melody is saying with either another phrase or a chord.  Like, comp for yourself or whatever.  But that can go on... I could do that all day.  Like, keep playing the melody and then, you know, you could... The melody is what gives me ideas, even to play things that are wrong just to see what they sound like.  (plays)

I don't even know what I did there, but if you keep hearing melody it can also give you more freedom to find harmonies that maybe aren't even in the key.  Or just think of sounds."

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