Bill Evans on the Creative Process and Self Teaching

I came across these interviews and thought they might be of interest. Among other things, Evans offers some insight into how important it is to keep your playing within the boundaries of what your fundamental control permits.

The three videos are excerpts from the longer video listed at the bottom. They focus on self-learning and how to learn jazz in general.

Creative Process and Self Teaching 1

Creative Process and Self Teaching 2

Creative Process and Self Teaching 3

Universal Mind of Bill Evans (1966)


Awesome videos to share here Scott!

I have watched them all previously and now they all in one place I will have to watch them again :grinning:

I’ve read on a number of accounts of people asking Bill Evans what he practiced, and his answer was always along the lines of:

“I practice as few things as possible”

This very much ties into your point, about playing within your own fundamental control permits.

If you listen to a lot of Evans solos, he often plays very ‘inside’, that very Evans-Esque sound of descending arpeggio lines and interesting chromatic decorations. He ensured that he truly mastered these basic elements and he played them flawlessly which for me is the beauty of his sound and his style of playing.

Of course he was a musical genius on all accounts and his playing extended far beyond simple arpeggios, but the point is that he ensured he could play within his boundaries before moving on which gives strong foundations on which to build your own sound.

So how does this apply to us?

In my opinion, Bill’s view was that by constantly searching for new sounds, or more theory to master, it’s very easy to neglect the fundamentals of your playing, and leave things ‘half finished’.

Also, as you highly Scott, it’s easy for us step out of the boundaries of our technical capabilities in search of other sounds, when really we should first gain mastery of lines, chords, progressions, tunes, etc… that are within our ‘fundamental control’. ie. we can execute them easily in all 12 keys. Then it’s time to move on.

Interesting stuff… thanks for sharing Scott - I’m sure our other students will find this interesting.

I really enjoyed this and it reinforced what Hayden keeps telling us. Take the time to understand the fundamentals. It is so easy to try to just memorize a new song and go to the next one. But…that really only leaves us one place to go…learn the next song. There is nothing wrong with that, but I am finally beginning to understand that practicing the exercises Hayden gives us will open new doors. I am starting to really drill those extended voices…make myself try a couple of new songs just using the 3rd, 7th and root…then branch out to the extended notes using the major or minor chord that adds those color notes. It will take a long time, but I see a bit of minor improvement. Bottom line…as important as it is to learn the songs…it really helps to work on the underlying basics. So much to learn…wish I had started earlier.

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Yes that’s exactly right Celia. I think it’s always good to try new things and push yourself to learn new tunes, and new theory, but at the same time it’s important not to move too quickly and leave weaknesses in the foundations.

You would be surprised how much you can improve in the space of 6 months with a dedicated practice routine that you follow each day.

You can achieve big things with 2 hours per day over a 6 month period. The key is:

  1. Having a set number of exercises that you are working on - this is what our new practice plans will provide

  2. Work on them everyday, just 5/10/15/20 minutes on each - depending on how long you have to practice

  1. Listening & Transcription is really important for developing your own sound and style

Our new practice guidance section of the forum is a core focus for me and our teaching team in the run up to new year. I will ensure that it’s fully populated with exercises, drills, practice plans, and more so that when the new year comes we are all super focused on our goals and know exactly how to get there.

Upcoming Practice Series On Rootless Voicings

I’ve started planning the practice lessons for our course on Mastering Rootless Voicings.

Bill Evans pioneered this style of rootless left hand voicings, and it also ties into what I was saying above about mastering the foundations.

The key is to always take everything around all 12 keys - lines, voicings, progressions, arpeggio runs, licks, …everything! - and I’m going to demonstrate a few nice exercises using rootless voicings in the left hand, and simple extended arpeggios in the right hand, and perhaps some altered patterns.

I’m sure Bill Evans did this kind of thing and much more when he was ‘woodshedding’ :grinning: