How Musicians Make Music with Fred Magee
Tuesdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Wellfleet Library
Class dates: Oct.22, 29, Nov. 5, 12, 19.
For many people, creativity can seem like a mysterious gift. For those not familiar with the craft of actors, painters or musicians it may appear that an artist or performer has some special innate talent that can’t really be described or explained. The endless hours of practice, trial-and-error, and repetition that goes into becoming an expert may be assumed, but doesn’t explain the decisions an artist makes in front of a blank canvas, an actor with a new script or a musician sitting down and preparing to play.
Musicians must make all kinds of choices in performance, whether as a soloist or in a group, that may only apply to that one occasion. In fact, depending on the style of music, a musician might use one performance to experiment with ideas that will be used or discarded in the future – all while seeming to be playing a song or composition as if it were fixed in his/her mind. This is especially true for styles that require improvisation, like jazz or rock or blues. In nearly all cases, the musicians are remembering past performances, calling on current skills (or chops) and thinking in real-time as they play.
In this course, we’ll follow the thought process of making music from considering how to use the basic building blocks of rhythm, melody and harmony and applying them to the requirements of styles as diverse as jazz, blues, standards and classical music. We’ll think along with a musician in the process of writing music, performing and collaborating with other musicians – and with the audience. The goal is demystify the process of musicianship and give participants a new tool to better appreciate performance across the spectrum of musical styles.
The course will be taught in five sessions that are designed to remove some of the mystery about how musicians think and perform – from applying the basic building blocks like rhythm and harmony to various styles of music to the challenges musicians face in songwriting, improvisation and performance.
SESSION 1: BREAKING THE SILENCE
Which Comes First? Beat, Melody or Harmony?
· Introduce the elements of music briefly
· Making choices about what in a song you want to showcase with examples from different styles
Groove and Feel
· The decisions a musician makes in choosing the ‘right’ notes to play when every note is not written out
SESSION 2: STYLE
What Kind of Music Do You Play
The different approaches to standards, jazz, rock, folk, pop/show, classical, country and blues.
Respecting the Song
· How musicians ‘shape’ a song based on its nature
· Standards - Hearing common themes
· Blues and Boogie – Get the groove right
SESSION 3: WORDS are MUSIC – WRITING SONGS
Writing a Song from Scratch
· What comes first? An idea, a hook, a poem, a melody?
Adding a Voice
· How does the need to combine music and vocals change a musician’s approach?
SESSION 4: IMPROVISATION
The tricks of the trade
· Finding the opportunities in the music to explore and experiment
Playing Too Much – Playing Too Little
· Less is more? The limitations of physical and mental chops on how a song gets played
SESSION 5: PERFORMANCE and the AUDIENCE
Solo vs. Collaboration
· Finding your own voice
· Playing in an ensemble
· Backing a vocalist
· Performance and the Audience Role in Music
Fred Magee Bio:
Fred Magee is a Wellfleet-based singer/songwriter who has been playing and recording music for over 50 years. At one time or another, Fred has played rock, country, folk, jazz, standards and a bit of just about every other kind of music.
Fred’s goal in presenting this course is to help non-musicians and casual listeners to understand that creative musicianship is at least as much the application of understandable skills and technique as it is spontaneous innovation.