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The Soundslice Blog

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The latest community-created lessons include instruction for banjo, flute and snare drum. (Separately, of course.)

Enda Scahill’s Irish Banjo Tutor, Vol. II (@EndaScahill) — $21

Enda Scahill of the famous We Banjo 3 is back on Soundslice with his follow up to Learn Irish Banjo Vol I. We are pleased to say that his previous release has been a hit, and that we’ve gotten positive feedback from trad musicians all over.

Enda’s second course features new tunes, and an incredible array of techniques to improve rhythm, phrasing, ornamentation and style. He lamented while recording these performance videos, “No joke, there’s a lot more playing in this one!”

Preview or purchase the course here.

Kenneth Chia's Beginner Flute Course (@KennethChia) — $79.99

Kenneth Chia is a talented performer and flute pedagogue in Malaysia, where he runs the in-person music academy Tuning Fork Music. His impressive credentials include degrees in flute performance from Carnegie Mellon and Indiana University.

This course of 231 lessons is a comprehensive guide for the beginning flutist. You learn how to the properly care for the instrument (anatomy and assembly), the essential tone-production techniques (posture and breathing), musical concepts (notes, rhythms) and most of all, you have fun learning a robust repertoire of music.

There’s nearly 3 hours of instruction for you to learn at your own pace. Preview or purchase the course here.

Applied Essential Rudiments (@repppeter) — $20

Peter Rudd is a middle and high school band director as well as a talented percussionist. He’s put together a collection of 38 snare drum etudes that showcase the essential rudiments.

This is a great musical workout for both beginning and advanced students. Each rudiment includes 5 different tempo goals for you to practice — great for differentiating between grade/ability levels.

Since the pandemic started, we’ve been in contact with Peter as he’s used Soundslice to create various etudes for his remote students. We can vouch for him as a standup guy and a talented teacher. As a bit of good will, he’s directed 100% of the proceeds from this course go to the St. Louis-based charitable music education organization Pianos for People.

Preview or purchase the course here.

Black Friday sale

This Friday through Sunday, more than 80 courses will be on sale in the Soundslice store. Each course will be 50% off its list price.

Course covers

As always, purchasing lessons from the Soundslice store is a great way to support the artists you love. 85% of the profits of every sale go directly to them.

Starting Friday, you can see all the participating courses here.

@rebeccaclinemusic · Piano · Boston

It’s been a few months since our last ‘Featured transcriber’ interview, and we’re glad to pick up the series in this conversation with Boston-based pianist Rebecca Cline. Rebecca is a pro who plays all over the ‘Latin jazz’ scene — she’s even authored an instructional book on the subject. (More on the ‘Latin jazz’ term later.)

PhotoPhoto by Martin Cohen.

In this interview, Rebecca shares her wealth of knowledge and talks about what it was like to transition from her upbringing in strictly-notated music styles to those of improvisation. (Her Soundslice channel is a must-see.)

Soundslice: Rebecca, thank you for being the second pianist in our ‘Featured transcriber’ series. Your channel is extremely unique, and we’re glad to get to pick your brain.

Rebecca: It’s my pleasure to speak with you! I remember reading your interview with Fred Greene soon after I discovered your site. I’ve been following him ever since. I love his taste in music!

Soundslice: Having seen your channel, it seems like you and he have some overlapping tastes. Speaking of your channel, it says that you live in Boston. Are you from there? If not, how long have you been there?

Rebecca: I’ve been in Boston for just over twenty years. I’m originally from Athens, Georgia, but I spent several years in North Carolina, including the four years when I attended UNC-Chapel Hill. Immediately prior to Boston, I lived in Puerto Rico for about five years.

PhotoSoundslice: Oh, wow! ¿Hablas español?

Rebecca: ¡Pues, claro que sí!

Soundslice: Fenomenal. To state the obvious, your channel features remarkable piano transcriptions from Latin jazz genres. Is there a scene for that music in Boston?

Rebecca: There is a Latin music scene in Boston, or there was, pre-Covid, of course. Over the last decade, most of my closest collaborators in the ‘Latin’ scene have moved away, and I have become busier playing jazz trio gigs. There is a new scene now, with different venues and younger players, although, happily, some of the veterans still perform. I always enjoy the opportunity to pop in and play for a dancing crowd.

Soundslice: Glad to hear that it is being continued. Were you always in that scene, or did you come into it at a later point in your musical development?

Rebecca: I pretty much only played music I could read, all the way through college, where I worked as an accompanist and did theatre gigs. But when I heard Michel Camilo’s 1988 trio release on Columbia right after I graduated, I knew what I had to do.

I moved to Puerto Rico with my keyboard and checked out the scene there nightly, while I worked out jazz fundamentals — like the blues form and basic voicings — in my apartment. With that rash move, I took a hard left from “I don’t play it if it’s not written down” to total immersion in the world of improvised music based on North American jazz and the rhythms and repertoire of Cuba and Puerto Rico. I couldn’t have asked for a better community in which to have taken those first steps into the abyss of the musical unforetold.

Soundslice: That’s an amazing, if not dramatic, development! When you were working on those jazz fundamentals on your own, did you have any resources to help? (Method books, etc.)

Rebecca: Yes. I studied Mark Levine’s The Jazz Piano Book like the bible that it is for so many pianists of my generation. My copy is all marked up with my notes in the margins from that time. I used his discussion of recordings to guide my CD purchases and listening.

PhotoI also studied with a dedicated teacher named Jerry Michelsen, whom I met by approaching him after a set he played in one of the hotel lobbies in San Juan. He taught me three important skills: how to write a legible chart, the importance of transcribing, and the importance of compiling a book of tunes that I like to play. Those may seem like lofty goals for someone who was a total beginner like I was, but they served me well from the start, and I appreciate that Jerry took me seriously.

Soundslice: What fantastic advice. That last point I’ve heard repeated many times. ‘Play the songs you like to play,’ or better yet, ‘first learn the songs you know.’ So what happened when you get to Boston?

Rebecca: When I moved to Boston years later, I happened upon the ‘Latin’ scene right away and started working pretty regularly. I’m so grateful for that experience in Boston. It was a great hang. An invaluable opportunity to get comfortable with the standard repertoire and some of the stylistic nuances and performance practices that nobody tells you about.

Soundslice: Again, it’s just very cool to hear about that kind of musical pivot. Would you tell us more about what you pivoted from? What was your musical upbringing like?

Rebecca: I had a solid traditional music education, thanks to my first piano teacher, Ms. Sue Baughman. I was with her from the day I started at age six until my family moved to North Carolina when I was 11. She made sure I knew theory, like key signatures and time signatures, and how to notate music. I participated in yearly state-wide piano competitions, where you had to pass a theory test in order to qualify to place based on your performance. I remember feeling a lot of anxiety around competing, and she helped me deal with that too.

Photo

I am especially grateful to her for dedicating a portion of our weekly lessons to rhythmic exercises. We had syllables for all the subdivisions and she had me tap them out on the fall board while counting aloud. She also had me play the major scales with different rhythmic motifs and accents. That foundation provided me with a key to understanding complex rhythms later in life.

Soundslice: That’s rare and fortunate to have a teacher that would be so encouraging in the theory and rhythm department — she sounds like a special person. No question that the rhythmic exercises would come into play as you developed your skills in Latin jazz.

And if I may divert for a moment, for a music tradition that has so many genres and subgenres, I’ve always wondered about the nomenclature ‘Latin jazz’ — is it a label that musicians who are actually in that world — like you! — use?

Rebecca: Haha, well, it is definitely a fraught term. I dedicate four paragraphs in the introduction of my book to a disclaimer regarding the use of that term. I use it reluctantly, as a time saver, most often when communicating with non-musicians. With musicians, I usually specify the genre, such as guaguancó or cha-cha-chá. My friends in Puerto Rico have fun with the term, saying ‘Latin Yax’ instead.

Book coverSoundslice: Jaja. I figured an answer like that was coming. What’s your book?

Rebecca: Latin Jazz Piano Improvisation: Clave, Comping, and Soloing, on Berklee Press, which is owned by Hal Leonard. I ended up writing my own musical examples for that book that aimed to capture the best of my favorite improvisers.

Soundslice: Very cool. Speaking of your favorite improvisors and transcribing, your channel has incredible snippets of rhythmic concepts found in this music. To someone like me — who doesn’t know much! — the rhythms are very complicated yet sound unforced. Lots of importance on the upbeats. Could you talk about a few of the key rhythmic concepts in this music?

Rebecca: Polyrhythms are used pervasively in improvised Cuban and Puerto Rican piano music. I currently have about 12 complete solo transcriptions published on Soundslice. From those pieces, and from many other solos that are not yet published, I’ve extracted short passages and labeled them according to the improvisational device featured in the excerpt. Rhythmic labels of excerpt slices include “triplet-based polyrhythm” and “montuno polyrhythm.”

Soundslice: How do you practice rhythmic concepts like these?

Rebecca: Shortly after I moved to Puerto Rico, I learned Eddie Palmieri’s solo on ”Bomba de Corazón.”

In that solo, he does that thing where you create a polyrhythm by playing the first three eighth notes of a montuno, and then you displace that figure over and over for about four to eight measures, adjusting pitches for changes in the harmony. In doing this, you are effectively juxtaposing the original pulse with the dotted quarter note pulse that is implied by the displacement of the three eighth notes. After I got that solo down, I recognized the device when it came up in other solos.

Soundslice: That’s fantastic.

Rebecca: One polyrhythmic device I am working on is one in which you take a four-note phrase that resembles part of a montuno, set it to quarter note triplets, and displace it for several bars. You can hear examples of this in the slices entitled “Descarga de Hoy” and “Tumbaíto Pa’ Tí.”

I’m working on this by playing along with a simple vamp I programed in a DAW that has a bass line for a two-measure progression in C minor — Imi IVmi V7 IVmi — and a live percussion track (clave, congas, and timbales) from the CD we recorded for my book. I make up simple four-note montuno-like motifs and try to displace them successfully, adjusting for the harmony, for a longer stretch each time, until I lose my place. The goal, of course, is to be able to displace a motif for as long as I want, with absolute confidence regarding my place within the progression.

Soundslice: That sounds like a fun way to learn something hard! We’re talking a lot about rhythm: What about harmony? Would you say one or the other is more crucial to this music?

Rebecca: Rhythm is certainly paramount. However, certain harmonic tropes also contribute to the identity of this music, such as I-IV-V-IV in major and minor tonalities, I-bVII-bVI-V7, for both major and minor tonalities and dominant seven vamps. These harmonic progressions all have brevity and simplicity in common — not by accident.

PhotoA seasoned bassist in Puerto Rico once told me that longer chord progressions are sometimes appropriate for certain sections in an arrangement, such as the verse. However, when it comes time to groove, the fewer chords the better. Two, or possibly three chords, max, are sufficient for a repetitive chorus section or a percussion solo.

With so few chords to remember and/or find on the instrument, the musician can devote more bandwidth to the time placement and the sound of the notes. I strive for consistency in time feel and a percussive, precise articulation in these groove scenarios.

Soundslice: Two to three chords max. I love that.

If you could send yourself a message back in time, what 5 albums would you recommend to the Rebecca who was just starting to learn this music in Puerto Rico?

Rebecca:

Soundslice: Thank you for that listening advice! One last thing we like to ask in each interview: Do you have a dream Soundslice feature request? It could be anything from a new transcription tool to different piano sounds…

Rebecca: I would love to see more sub-genres of ‘Latin jazz’ available in the pull-down menu of styles. I’ve also thought it might be helpful to tag a slice by the country of the performer’s origin, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, or Colombia. I would not like to lose the style of ‘Latin jazz,’ because sometimes, when an arrangement encompasses music from many sources, ‘Latin jazz’ can be the most apt description.

Soundslice: That tagging of a performer’s origin is such a cool idea. It’d be neat to imagine all of those transcriptions plotted on a map. As to adding those sub-genres, we can do that easy! I’ll be following up for your expertise. Anything else?

Rebecca: I would also enjoy having the same organizational capability on my channel’s public face. For example, I have my slices organized in folders, and I believe the public sees slices in reverse chronological order. If viewers were aware of how the various slices are related to each other, that might increase their engagement with the channel. I don’t know if folders are the way to go on the public view, but perhaps slices could be tagged such that the viewer could select other slices with the same tag.

Soundslice: That makes total sense — yes, as it is, the channel posts show in reversal chronological order and don’t reveal any deeper organization. We’ll have a think on that.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Rebecca! We really appreciate your expertise and are grateful that you’ve contributed so many great transcriptions to the community!

Rebecca: And I would like to thank you and your partners at Soundslice for creating this fantastic tool for experiencing music notation and performance simultaneously! About five years ago, I spent months trying to achieve a similar result by recording screencasts of notation software playback, then syncing up the audio with the screencasts in a movie editing program. That took hours, and the result was fixed, without the ability to slow down the tempo, loop sections, or view the notes on a virtual keyboard. It’s amazing to me how immediate and effortless the process is on Soundslice. Keep up the great work!

Here are the latest Soundslice improvements:

New “Quick tour” integrated editor help

We’ve added a “tour” feature in our editor — an integrated help section that gives you a quick overview of the basic editor features.

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You can access this tour via the editor’s Help menu:

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We’ll also display this automatically for anybody creating their first slice.

Single-line percussion

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You can now create single-line percussion in our editor! This was already possible via MusicXML import, but now you can do this directly within Soundslice.

Read more in the new help page.

New design when creating slices

We’ve simplified and beautified the options you see when you create a slice. Here’s the old version:

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And here’s the new version:

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We’ve also completely hidden the editor sidebar in this screen, as the sidebar wasn’t clickable anyway. Much clearer and better looking now.

Tracks are now Instruments

Previously we used the term Track to refer to each instrument/part in your slice. This term was not as clear as we’d liked, and it was too easily confused with our separate concept of Recording — so we now use the term Instrument.

The player, the editor and our help section have all been updated.

Today, we’ve launched two improvements around the general theme of optimizing your Soundslice workflow:

Per-user permissions for organization accounts

Those of you using organization accounts — which let you share account access with multiple people without sharing passwords — are in for a treat. We’ve added a granular per-user permission system that lets you control what each organization user can do.

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Previously, we only had two levels: either you were an administrator of the organization or not. Now, we’ve added three more permissions:

  • Create slices — specifies whether this user can create slices, duplicate slices or bulk import slices.
  • Delete slices — specifies whether this user can delete slices.
  • Export slices — specifies whether this user can export slices.

More info is in our updated help page.

If you’re an organization admin, you can set these permissions when adding users to your organization or any time afterward.

For backwards compatibility, all existing organization members as of today can create, delete and export slices. If you use our organizations feature, you might want to tweak your users’ permissions depending on your needs. For example, if you’re giving temporary access to an intern, you might want to disable slice deletion for that account as a safety precaution.

Unsynced recordings identified in slice manager

In the slice manager, we used to display syncpoint counts (“35 syncpoints”) under each slice. But when we redesigned the slice manager a little over a month ago, we removed those counts to streamline the page.

Turns out some people were relying on that information to tell, at a glance, whether a slice was “finished” or not. Doh! So we’ve reintroduced this, but in a way that we hope is still streamlined.

The new approach is to display the word “Unsynced” under any slice that has a recording without syncpoints. It looks like this:

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This gives you a way to quickly see whether a slice still needs to be synced — without cluttering the slice manager interface too much. Thanks to the folks who requested this.

Read more posts…