As singers, we don’t have keys, strings or buttons to produce a tone. We have to hear the tone first and then reproduce it from our inner hearing. Thus, everything we sing has to be internalized first. Our hearing has to become very strong. In jazz, complex chords come and go at the speed of light. Before you know it, Gb7alt has dissolved into G diminished and is on its way to become Db6/Ab Bb7.
It can be dazzling trying to keep up. It can be even more dazzling to improvise and make up your own wonderful melodic and rhythmic variations. This might scare you away and may get you into thinking that improvisation is only for the very intellectual few. So glad to inform you that you can quite easily train your ears to get accustomed to the harmony of songs. And you can even train your ears to hear sounds and colors that are not being played.
I remember the moment that all of a sudden my hearing had improved remarkably. Sometimes a learning curve can take you by surprise… I was attending a concert in Amsterdam by a wonderful Dutch jazz singer, Greetje Kauffeld, and while she was performing beautiful jazz standards, I heard a variety of notes that she did not sing. I heard a weaver of sounds, a rainbow of colors, a kaleidoscope of endless possibilities. It felt so good I could burst into song, which luckily I didn’t. I nearly exploded, that’s all.
Now, how can YOU begin training those ears of yours? Here’s a quick and easy start: pick a song, take a seat, and focus on listening to one thing only: the bass. As a singer, you may be distracted by the melody from time to time. Gently get yourself back on track, listen only to the bass notes.
My students hear me saying this all the time: the bass player is your best friend… And why? Because he only plays one note at a time (yaaaay!), making you feel the groove and the harmony at the same time. One of the reasons I wanted to design my online training program – part of Jazz Singers Academy – is for you to improve your hearing too. That’s why we (Erik van der Luijt did this marvelous job, all kudos to you dear) developed a series of 150 exercises that build up from easy to more complex.
When you do these exercises regularly, your subconscious mind will be engaged, and the colors, the harmonic and rhythmic variations will become a part of you. You don’t have to actively search for ideas on stage – you don’t have time for this, the chords come and go before you know it – they will come to you more naturally. Wouldn’t that be loverly?
So, engage, indulge and thrive!
With love, Ilse