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Jacob Collier Masterclass

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This is an orderly summary of all the masterclasses and talks by Jacob found on the web.

How do you create videos and songs?

It is very important to give yourself a time limit. Otherwise you could lose a lot of time. What I look in a song when I arrange is an easy song. Easy and a song that I love. If you start complex it becomes very messy and hard. Start from simple and build. I take a piece of a melody and I explore all the harmonic possibilities. Look at the original context and then interpret it in your own way. I’m gonna talk about harmony and how can we interpret in different ways.

Harmony

When you start harmony you could be locked in your vertical way of thinking. It is important to understand harmony in the original context and then explore with your knowledge and your harmony discoveries. Everything I’ve done in harmony i’ve really achieved through a self discovery. I highly recommend to spend hours and hours in a room with a piano or a guitar or your voice and just doing some exploring. Be inventive and don't be afraid of boundaries.

So if we take a note for example g and you look for chords which g could be a part of… If you think of therms of simple harmony and you think of triads which is a very simple way but what I personally love. Then G is a part of Cmaj, Gmaj and Emin. But if you take it a bit further is also part of E-7, D-7, Fmaj7 and Bb and Eb and Gb and Aminor… There’s so much you can find. But it is important to build your kind of own toolbox.

Jacob's toolbox

Circle of fifths minor and major chords

If you take the circle of fifths and play C,G,D,A and so on melodically it has a very lovely and happy sound. In contrast when you down the circle of fives it has a dark sound. So It is possible and is what I do, to think every major chord as a consecutive notes in fifths and every minor chord as a consecutive notes in fourths. So let’s take:

C maj → C,G,D, A,E,B → C maj jónica

C min → C,F,Bb, Eb,Ab → C min aeolian

circle_of_fifths.jpg

If you take C major and you go up by fifths C,E,G,B,D,F#,A you got the lydian scale.

Some people think that the limit of Cmaj is to start form C, E(3), G(5),B(7),D(9), F#(#11),A(13)... But I think of c major as I start from C and i go up the circle of fiths. There’s an unbelievable sound in itself. In essence every note can be used in a major chord and every note can be used as a minor chord'

Interruptions

I also make interruptions in resolutions. For example you can make a resolution from F to C and interrupt with Emin

Scale combinations

I also combine scales. For example I combine the C scale with the D scale or C with Ab. And you wet a combination of weird sounds. That is what a painter does when he paints. To combine things. He combines yellows with blues to get green and all the stuff. Is the same.

Create your own toolbox

I highly encourage you to create your own toolbox. Write everything you like and everything you don’t like.

Composition

Before sitting in the piano and before checking out my toolbox I always think in the song structure. It’s like a journey. It is very important when you compose know where to start, where to finish, what kind of shape you will have. Is really like a journey. I always write the shape of the song in a paper. Then I start to arrange. Don’t be afraid to start wherever you want. I mean you don’t have to start from the beginning.

It is very important to write or record all your ideas and things you like. It is very frustrating when you have in your mind something very inspiring and you lose it. I record my ideas on my phone. I have a lot of recordings of me playing the piano. When i’m lack of inspiration I go there.

When I have all the material produced organically like in your head or in your piano, I go to sibelius. If there was a fire and I lost my piece of paper or whatever… Putting in sibelius is sure and is very gratifying to see your work . So start in paper and in your piano but then go to sibelius. I then print it out and then I record. Recording is a very long part. I’m very perfectionist. I work with Final Cut and Logic Pro

Critics and music education

Is very important to think about discovering things on your own. Sometimes education is a destructive process because it can you believe things without questioning and that’s very dangerous, specially if you are young. So question always everything you learn. That doesn’t mean to reject education but is important to apply your own criteria. I suppose that this is an idea of thinking about the world. My arrangements are personal to me. Nobody would make something equal. Because they haven’t listen the same music as me, they haven’t my feelings and they haven’t done my own exploration, they don’t like same chords that I like.

Rhythms

With rhythm, I’ve always had a thing about making rhythms on everything – table tops, pots and pans, my lap, drums if I can find them, other people…everything. I’ve always enjoyed crossing rhythms over each other – like playing 4 and 7 simultaneously in different hands, or 5 and 8; or 3, 4 and 5. Rhythm is a different sort of tension and release from harmony, but the two do have a lot in common!

Jacob's listening

Today I listen to absolutely everything I can get me hands on – be it jazz, folk, classical, electronic, gospel, renaissance, hip-hip, dubstep, soul, songs. Anything that feels good.I find I’m not particularly drawn to putting things into categories – that it can be rather limiting. I listen to a bit of everything! For me, the greatest musicians are those who reach you at an emotional level – those who have so deep an understanding of sound on their instrument that they can use it to pull at your imagination and lift your emotions.

Advices

1. Work out what you love, and practice that. Whatever it is that you’re drawn towards, whatever the genre, work out why it makes you feel good, and pursue the understanding of it. Find what you love and do it in every area of life, not just with music. If you find something that inspires you, try to work out why it does, and whether there’s something you can take from it that you can apply to your own life, or art.

2. Never be afraid to stay with one idea for a long period of time, to really absorb it and explore all of its corners.

3. Practice everything in all keys.Each key has a different sonority and character, and it’s important to get to know them all.

4.Another thing I’ve found is that sometimes listening to music with open ears and an active mind can be more useful than struggling at your instrument.It gives your mind a chance to rest, and to absorb music at an experiential level, which helps to build a framework of understanding of how certain things make you feel, which you can refer to alongside your theoretical framework. The two go hand in hand.

5. Be fearless. It’s the best thing you can do. Give yourself the gift of being yourself . Feel how that feels, and create with that…whatever it is, it’s you.

6.Go to concerts, listen as much music as you can, meet people who are musicians, play with people as much as you can. And do it while you do your discovery

Technique vs emotions

I’ve always felt that music is about feeling. I’d put that before technical accomplishment or theoretical understanding. The amount that you can communicate with harmonic (and rhythmic) tension and release has been so thrilling for me. I’ve spent far more days exploring harmonic and rhythmic sounds and feeling the effect of them moving between each other, than working on perfecting a technique.The more you explore, the more you’ll hear – and therefore the more you will improve as a technician, as your hands find new areas to explore on the instrument. That said, it can be incredibly rewarding to lay down a foundation of technique, because it works the other way around as well. The more you are capable of playing, the more you will become capable of hearing. There are a lot of young musicians today, who are incredibly accomplished technicians, but who maybe lack a strong emotional connection with the music. For me, the latter has always been the more important thing, and I think it’s the most universal. Your emotional framework for music is a very personal thing, and, whether you’re a listener, composer or improviser, it is something that you can continue to explore throughout your life. You simply become more and more enriched, the more you hear and the more you learn.

Practice routine

I’ve never been strict about my practice routine. Sometimes I go a couple of weeks without playing very much, and then suddenly feel inspired to play every hour of the day, for a couple of days. My life is quite full at the moment, what with studying Jazz Piano at the Royal Academy of Music, and also working towards an album with Universal. There is so much to be excited for, and thankful for! I tend to practice whenever I can, because for me it’s always something I want to do, never something that I feel obliged to do… it’s a treat! Recently I’ve been trying to play through at least one Bach chorale every day – they’re so glorious, and the voice-leading is so completely amazing. Also it’s good sightreading practice – I’m not so good at reading music. I listen to a lick of bop and play it in every key.

Influences and recommendations

Stevie Wonder --> In the key of life

Sting --> Ten Summoner's Tales

Take 6 --> First Album


For harmony --> Keith Jarrett and Take 6

For Stories --> Bob Dylan

For rhythm --> African Music


Favourite Jazz Pianist


If I had to choose one would be Keith Jarrett. Song "Facing you" changed completely my vision of harmony

References

[1] Brighton Jazz School

[2] Free Jazz Lessons