Category Archives: Joe Santa Maria

Keith Jarrett – “Solar”

Hi all,

Here is an excerpt from a Keith Jarrett solo on the classic Battle Jazz epic “Solar.”  This song has been a jam session staple for many years.  It seems to have lost popularity a bit, but I feel like I played it a thousand times a week at Berklee and even before when I was in High School in Texas.  “Solar” has a relatively simple set of chord changes and an exciting pacing.  The chords move through Major and Minor key progressions and the harmonic rhythm speeds up at the end giving you a nice jolt of momentum so you can hit the C minor at the top with some fresh inspiration.   Continue reading

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Gobbledigook

Hey everyone, this week I wanted to post a transcription I’m really happy about.  Ever since it came on the scene I’ve been in love with the Sigur Ros song “Gobbledigook.”  It is really pretty and energetic, plus it’s got some really cool time games going on.  The drums are pretty much static throughout, which gives the odd phrasings a lot of impact.   Continue reading

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Rhythmic Displacement Ear Training

As a companion to last weeks blog I’d like to share a few exercises that use melodic and rhythmic displacement to give your ears workout.

The main feature of these exercises is that they highlight ways in which our ear perceives strong melodic arrangement. Since music is something that we all absorb without effort, it makes sense that our brain makes decisions about the music we listen to without our conscience effort. Every time you hear a familiar song your brain registers everything about it. Instinctively you know when the drums, bass, keys, voice, ect. are supposed to line up. It’s all set up to have the biggest impact. The strength of the rhythm section will support the melody and vice versa. The purpose of the following exercises is to take strong melodies and displace the rhythm in order to change the way your mind perceives them. I’ve chosen a simple major scale melody because all of us have heard it a thousand times and it will illustrate the effect of the displacement very clearly. Continue reading

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Julia – Song Analysis

Arguably the most influential pop songwriters in recent history, the Beatles satisfy listeners all across the world with their messages of free love and free imagination… I dare say they are Super Hippies. Their songwriting contains a beautiful mix of characters and some very original ideas. One of my personal favorites is “Julia” from The White Album. It showcases two of their major compositional strengths: voice leading and advanced harmony. I’m going to go ahead and jump into an analysis of the tune. I did an arrangement for my brass band a few months ago and I really fell in love with some of the little tricks in this composition. Check out last week’s blog on Modal Interchange if you’d like also. Learning a little about that topic will help to explain its use in this song. Continue reading

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Triading Your Way Back Home


Using Triads to Navigate Chord Progressions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about simple musical structures the past few weeks. It seems like every time I’m really struck by something lately it turns out to be a pentatonic scale, a major triad, or something else deceivingly simple. It’s easy to get caught up in tricks and extra harmonies when soloing and exploring, but when it comes to pure melodies simple and solid musical structures have a serious impact.  Continue reading

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