"Students, listen up: There is not one better soloist to learn the language of bebop. Start with Hank, then go on to everyone else. If every jazz program had a required curriculum, it should be that every student (of every instrument) must transcribe 20 Hank Mobley solos and be able to play them along with the records. Jazz education would then be in a much healthier place."
Michael Weiss, pianist
It’s great to transcribe solos. You work on your ear training, focus on the player's characteristics such as time feel, sound, articulation. Playing along the recording, you practice your instrument, intonation, phrasing control and more by trying to emulate the soloist's playing.
But you also need to understand what you are playing, know what to make of this transcription and how to incorporate elements in your own playing.
I realized I needed to analyze the melody (identifying scale degrees) and simplify the phrases to understand how these phrases were built. This is what I call “zooming out”, to the quarter note and half note level. The half note level shows you the targeted notes on beats 1 and 3, the quarter note level shows you the targeted notes on each beat.
Here are a few things to remember when you practice a transcription:
1. Analyze the melody. Identify the scale degrees. Is this D the 9th of C-7, the 13th of F7, the flat 9th of Db7?
2. Identify what are the targeted notes on beats 1 and 3 (half note representation of the melody).
3. Identify the targeted notes on each downbeat.
4. Identify patterns, approach notes, II V phrases etc… and practice these in 12 keys!
5. Sing the phrases