Using Solo Transcription to Develop a Personal Jazz Improvisational Style



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ABSTRACTUSING SOLO TRANSCRIPTION TO DEVELOP A PERSONAL JAZZ IMPROVISATIONAL STYLE Brendan Schnabel, DMA George Mason University, 2021 Dissertation Director: Dr. Darden Purcell The practice of transcribing improvised solos has been a crucial method for jazz musicians to develop their improvisational skills and style since the early history of the music. Stylistic changes to jazz over time can be traced through the impact of innovative soloists and their recordings. While there is a wealth of scholarship dedicated to various aspects of the transcription process, there does not yet exist an intensive study that demonstrates the process by which jazz musicians can utilize transcription to develop a personal improvisational style. In this dissertation, I set out to create a method that addresses how to effectively transcribe solos while also demonstrating techniques for applying material from these transcriptions directly into one’s own improvisations. By addressing both these components of the transcription process, this method will contribute to a better understanding of how jazz musicians can develop their artistic voices. To create this method, I first interviewed three professional jazz saxophonists. The goal of these interviews was to learn the role transcription has played in each participant’s musical development. After organizing and reflecting on the answers provided, I began a case study with myself as the participant, using the methods and philosophies described by the interview participants to undergo a period of transcribing various solos by different artists. I practiced playing these solos on either tenor or soprano saxophone, then used a variety of techniques to apply material from the solos into my own improvisations. The results from this case study are presented along with accompanying musical examples. These were then used to develop a method that addresses both the transcription process and how to use one’s transcriptions in an improvisatory context. Finally, I offer a hypothetical suggested use of this method by a college jazz student.The result of these three separate components comprising interviews, a case study, and a transcription method is a body of work that will complement existing scholarship studying the transcription process. By taking an integrative approach that compiles different viewpoints and mediating these views through a period of practice and reflection, this study will contribute to a greater understanding of the transcription process and its function in helping musicians develop their improvisational styles. KEY TERMS: transcription, jazz improvisation, jazz pedagogy, jazz saxophone, musician interviews, case study