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Can you make "Twinkle, Twinkle" swing?
Playing with new rhythms, tring to get a big band sound for Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
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HSquared
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December 31, 2017 - 5:45 pm
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Everybody probably knows it...Suzuki students probably play it thousands of times.

But how do you make it swing? Any ideas on how to give it a groove?

I've played with the standard variations, made up a few new ones--but it doesn't sound right. Can anyone point me to any ideas, videos, etc?

Thanks!

Hsquared

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KindaScratchy
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January 2, 2018 - 8:46 am
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Sounds to me like a challenge! Maybe folks could give it a try and post videos here. Will give it a try myself!

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Demoiselle
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HSquared said
Everybody probably knows it...Suzuki students probably play it thousands of times.

But how do you make it swing? Any ideas on how to give it a groove?

I've played with the standard variations, made up a few new ones--but it doesn't sound right. Can anyone point me to any ideas, videos, etc?

Thanks!

Hsquared  

Yes, but you have to study jazz to do it. You don't necessarily need to go to a college or other music school, but jazz is sort of science which is very different from the science of classical music. I know self-taught jazz musicians who are extremely good and some of them became professionals. But it takes years to learn jazz and convincingly play it. Even a professional musician who has studied classical music cannot play jazz if he/she hasn't worked on jazz too, which takes years. I have been a semi-professional jazz musician during the 80s and 90s and know what I'm talking about. You can't play jazz just like that, you need to start from scratch in jazz and work hard on jazz. And you need to focus on jazz for awhile, you can't manage it just secondarily. You also have to listen to jazz daily because you need listening experience for it. And you need to study chords, rhythms and improvisation. Real groove or swing comes from the relaxed approach you get if you can improvise. Only an experienced improviser can play also musical notes with a convincing groove. Otherwise it will sound just like somebody is trying something he can't really do. "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing", those lyrics sound a bit arrogant and cruel. But it very obviously comes from experience: You can't do jazz just out of your cuff without having deeply studied it.

Last year I attended a jazz workshop led by a classically studied violin professional. Interestingly he told, he had traveled to New York city at young age, to attend jazz workshops. And his idea then was like, "I have studied music, I can certainly do it!" When the docent heard him improvise, he knew at once what was wrong with that young musician. And he informed him like, "No you can't do it, you have to start from scratch!" That's what he did and he now warns too, "Classically trained musicians cannot play jazz if they don't start from scratch extra in jazz!" And he added, he was feeling like again being just a beginner who was awkwardly trying to play a couple notes. A professional of classical music! Yes, that is so--period.

What would I do with Twinkle Twinkle? Well, I performed with the same melody on a Christmas celebration 3 years ago—but it has different lyrics here in Germany: "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann" (Tomorrow comes the Christmasman [Santa Claus]). I prepared the background via keyboard in a dixieland style and played my horns to it. I played the subject of this melody and improvised over it. On the stage also was a guy dressed as Santa who did funny things while I was playing. I was marching around him and my trumpet was constantly targeting him. It was very funny!

Actually, to make this song groove you need a groovy background. I could try it without but it wouldn't sound interesting because this melody is too simple. You need a grooving background and then create a rhythmical tension between background and violin while playing. (Which, again, you have to learn in the first place.) How about swing, instead of dixieland? Then I would either play a piano or a get someone with guitar and perhaps add drums and bass. If you have really good players you don't need drums and bass because the groove will be enough and it sounds already great. If you have a good string bass player you can try it with just bass and drums. But you as violinist have to work hard for years to play with good musicians like that. Because they certainly don't care to play with untrained jazz-beginners. Unless you use good play-alongs. I personally prefer those of Jamey Aebersold and many professional jazz musicians agree.

If you seriously feel like playing jazz, get play-alongs and work yourself into improvisation. And you need a keyboard (a cheap one is okay) to work on chords. You have to play hundreds of tracks to become a good improviser. And you have to listen to jazz music very often to gain hearing experience and develop own ideas. There's no quicker way into convincingly learning to swing or groove. It's no simple game, jazz is an extra science you will not learn in classical violin lessons.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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Firstly....

I was thinking a bit more and found there's a simpler way for those who don't feel like deeply studying jazz.

There are keyboards which work like automated rhythm machines. You can make your own play-alongs with them, although it's probably not done without learning at least a little bit. Either you have a friend who can deal with these kind of keyboards, or you look for a class in which  they teach it.

The downside is: it's not serious art and sounds a little cheap, like keyboard stuff sounds—not really like a serious band. The upside is: it won't sound like you have no feeling for rhythm, like all untrained beginners.

You will find simple chords like that online. It's no complicated science to deal with them.

Secondly....

Playing Twinkle Twinkle without any background: A highly experienced jazz musician could mix this melody with improvised fast phrases etc. and would certainly make something out of anything. The melody itself is not suited to make it groove if you don't add something on the violin which would be very difficult. It needs a grooving background.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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damfino
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For adding swing to it, in my head I think of something like a hornpipe, how you swing the rhythm... might be fun to try for Twinkle 🙂 

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Demoiselle
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Hornpipe is a very old traditional dance, I like it--especially in Handel's Fireworks music. But if our above fellow talks about swing/groove it probably means something more jazzy... Which is way more difficult than most people think. 😉

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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My music brain, ticking again, tells me now what way to go, explained briefly:

Go to a violin teacher who teaches jazz. If he has really studied jazz he also plays piano. You don't have to become a pianist, you just have to dabble a bit on piano or keyboard because you need to learn chords.

 If you feel like this is entirely too much effort, there's no other way to go. Jazz is art, you need to learn it. But self-teaching is possible, as I said in my first statement. It also would mean to study it deeply and get info online. So it would be lots of effort again.

Here on this forum you will find people who play jazz on the violin, so also here you will find lots of stimuli.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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newbie-Ron
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A few weeks ago, I was watching this recorder musician that I like named Tali Rubinstein.  On one of her YouTube videos, she talks about how to play a tune so it sounds jazzy.  She said she studied the Charlie Parker Omnibook for C Instruments to see how jazz sheet music works.  Perhaps that could give some cues into how to improvise something.

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Ferenc Simon
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I can't help but wonder after reading all this, what the original purpose of the opening poster could have been 🙂

The reason I'm wondering is mostly because of the lack of information in the first place..

Why twinkle twinkle? Why make it swing? Is he / she starting out with the Suzuki books and currently at the twinkle twinkle variations and doesn't want to learn a new song, but would still like to add more groovy playing patterns? Because if that's the goal, it's not really needed.. like you said Demoiselle, it's pretty much harder to do it with really simplistic songs like this, than starting out from scratch with an actual tune meant for jazz.. 

Is it for a project?.. Like actually having to perform twinkle twinkle in a new and exciting way in front of an audience? In that case yes... it would require a lot of work.. 

Anyway.. just wondering here... of course I would still be up for listening to the result 😉 

Cheers

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damfino
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Not fiddle... obviously, haha... but I love this so just dropping it here...

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newbie-Ron
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I found this on musescore — https://musescore.com/user/113076/scores/127643

Just play the alto saxophone part.  You can search on twinkle twinkle jazz in musescore to see some other options.

Why jazz up twinkle?  Well, because in life, sometimes you just have to do it your way, like the pink panther — 

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Demoiselle
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newbie-Ron said
I found this on musescore — https://musescore.com/user/113076/scores/127643

Just play the alto saxophone part.  You can search on twinkle twinkle jazz in musescore to see some other options.

Why jazz up twinkle?  Well, because in life, sometimes you just have to do it your way, like the pink panther —   

Somebody who regularly plays Twinkle Twinkle cannot play that. That's too difficult! It's better to be real and not treat that song as a jazz tune. Any jazzing up will make it difficult. Children songs like Twinkle Twinkle are easy, that's why beginners play them, jazz is unlike children songs and difficult.

 Whoever starts with jazz will likely start with very slow blues and short looping riff phrases. There are play-alongs on the market which offer an easy entrance.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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Ferenc Simon said
I can't help but wonder after reading all this, what the original purpose of the opening poster could have been 🙂

The reason I'm wondering is mostly because of the lack of information in the first place..

Why twinkle twinkle? Why make it swing? Is he / she starting out with the Suzuki books and currently at the twinkle twinkle variations and doesn't want to learn a new song, but would still like to add more groovy playing patterns? Because if that's the goal, it's not really needed.. like you said Demoiselle, it's pretty much harder to do it with really simplistic songs like this, than starting out from scratch with an actual tune meant for jazz.. 

Is it for a project?.. Like actually having to perform twinkle twinkle in a new and exciting way in front of an audience? In that case yes... it would require a lot of work.. 

Anyway.. just wondering here... of course I would still be up for listening to the result 😉 

Cheers  

I agree. It's useless to try to play jazz just like that. Start from scratch, use play-alongs and start with those which are very easy to slowly raise the level. Plus, again, you have to listen to jazz a lot to tank ideas.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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newbie-Ron said
A few weeks ago, I was watching this recorder musician that I like named Tali Rubinstein.  On one of her YouTube videos, she talks about how to play a tune so it sounds jazzy.  She said she studied the Charlie Parker Omnibook for C Instruments to see how jazz sheet music works.  Perhaps that could give some cues into how to improvise something.

  

 Just a warning: Charlie Parker is at the top of what's most difficult in jazz! Many people try to start with something they find just great and it can only go wrong. The recorder player is very good. Whoever tries to imitate her might sound like him forever:

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Helvetika
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Oh my, that pink panther cartoon make me laugh out loud!  Especially when the conductor turned around and shot at the person coughing!

Interesting discussion on jazzing up some tunes.  The recorder chick is amazing.  I once dated a guy who had a jazz program on the radio, and although I enjoy jazz, and still listen to it at times, I could not get into it at his level.  

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Helvetika said
Oh my, that pink panther cartoon make me laugh out loud!  Especially when the conductor turned around and shot at the person coughing!

Interesting discussion on jazzing up some tunes.  The recorder chick is amazing.  I once dated a guy who had a jazz program on the radio, and although I enjoy jazz, and still listen to it at times, I could not get into it at his level.    

Don't give up, it takes years and rather 7 years than just 2 or 3. I mean playing routine, just having listened to jazz doesn't mean you can play it. Plus you have to know about chords (keyboard or at least guitar). Nobody can play a faultless jazz chorus without having learned to hear and recognize chords. You learn fast to improvise over blues, or When the Saints Go Marching in etc. but many jazz standards contain way more complicated harmonies. It takes many years to understand them all and follow all those harmonic twists and turns. If you work daily all those years.

If it comes to the question of listening experience I like to talk about the guitar player I worked with in the 80s. He listened to jazz almost 24/7—whenever he gave me a lift in his car there was a music cassette with jazz playing—I visited him at home, there was jazz playing in the background. I guess your boyfriend also was very fanatic; I never met a leading jazz musician who was not overly jazz-crazy.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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KindaScratchy
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Yes, definitely an interesting discussion. I think what's been said here about jazz also applies to every other musical genre: that to become an expert -- in any genre -- requires developing a deep familiarity with it, and an important first step is listening...a lot. And it takes years to become an expert.

But, everyone has to start some place. Every expert musician was a beginner at some point. You have to play...and you have to sound like a beginner before you can play and sound like an expert. There's no way around it. You can't just listen to music, read books and watch videos, then suddenly play like an expert. 

So, no one should be discouraged from trying new things. Experimentation is part of learning.

Getting back to the original question...it reminds me of an assignment I had in a graphic design class in college. We were asked to redesign the cover of a magazine in the style of another magazine. That involved taking the original subject matter and repackaging it in a style that didn't necessarily fit. The exercise made us look at things differently, critically and creatively.

I personally think if anyone wanted to take a stab at playing Twinkle in a different style -- jazz, rock, bluegrass, Irish, or whatever -- it would be an educational exercise...even if they came to the conclusion that Twinkle just doesn't fit a certain style.

That's my two cents. donegold_star

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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Demoiselle
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I now read the long headline, which even talks about a BIG BAND sound. Which kind of is not very different from, "How could I get to Rome to become pope"—if a real BIG BAND is meant. Fake big bands you can try to get out of cheap keyboards sound ridiculously. You have to spend 1000s of dollars to have a synthesizer that enables you to have a somewhat convinicing big band sound. But you also need to study big band arranging and own a midi recording/ home recording program. A modern big band has at least 4 trumpets, at least 4 saxophones (mostly more than that) plus at least 3 trombones. Also you need a rythm section with piano, guitar, bass and drums. So you need at least 15 good musicians. Or you will have to play 15 voices each on the keyboard into your midi recorder. You can grab brass and saxsophone riffs like piano chords, but not ordinary sections of wind instruments. In the 90s I did this with a synthesizer (for an amateur musical movie project) which cost me about a 1000,00 Deutsche Mark—it was lots of work that took days and each day I worked hours and hours. Because I had to write a full big band score with notes for each instrument. And I tell you it wasn't worth it, because it kinda sounded cool, but it really was a fake big band.

If you use a very expensive synthesizer, it will sound more convincing, but not as lively as a real big band. But you can't have a real big band because you either have to pay all those musicians, or you need an amateur big band. So what can you do? I have an actual idea:

You practice hard and when your good enough you join an amateur big band which has a Hollywood style string section. And then you play the violin in an amateur big band. I once played in an amateur big band when I was about 20. At age 26 I avoided that big band because they didn't sound good enough. They were just ordinary people and far from professionals. I then played in a semi-professional swing combo (4 musicians) and was used a better sound.

In a way I understand you since once I was a teenager and also dreamed about having a real big band—a professional one like in Hollywood movies. But that's impossible. Right now I don't even find the right piano player for a small swing combo—which isn't impossible but hard to find even here in Berlin. Good jazz pianists already play in several bands. But as I play trumpet, trombone and a reed instrument which sounds like a clarinet, I could overdubb and that way make a recording of a convincing big band. People already did that, but I'm not gonna waste time on it. Because it'll be about a week full of hard work. As I feel, music needs to be a social thing with other players and not just me and my technical equipment.

The same movie director I worked with in the 90s started an animated pirate movie in October 2017. And I recorded music for the violin playing pirate lady. First I recorded the keyboard part at my spinet, then violin, then flute and finally hand drum. That was work for a whole afternoon and evening. The final mix was part of it, you carefully have to listen which instrument might be too dominant, so you have to pull down its volume, and you have to decide how much reverb you want to ad. That means carefully listening, changing, listening and changing again etc. And I tell you, I'm not gonna produce something like that every month, because it keeps me away from practicing. Maybe once every 3 months....or 6 months.

Even this I consider too much effort: violin, plus recorder, plus spinet, plus a bit hand drumming. Work for almost a whole day. It's better to look for other musicians and make music together with them. But first I have to practice daily otherwise good musicians will be like, "That violin stinks, it doesn't sound well enough."

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My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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damfino
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Demoiselle said
Even this I consider too much effort: violin, plus recorder, plus spinet, plus a bit hand drumming. Work for almost a whole day. It's better to look for other musicians and make music together with them. But first I have to practice daily otherwise good musicians will be like, "That violin stinks, it doesn't sound well enough."  

Taking a day or so away from practice to noodle around learning how to piece together a tune on your own is a great practice exercise itself, though, and gives us goals as beginners. Rather than just always doing our normal routines, scales, etude, bowing, a simple tune, which can get stale, we suddenly have a goal and it becomes fun 😀 After all, making music and trying new things is the reason I think most of us got into this learning instruments 😀 

I personally love trying to record different things to go along with my fiddle playing to make the recording sound more finished. 🙂 I often end up using things like packs of candy and little bells or boxes as percussion, but I have fun and would recommend others to try the same 😀 

KindaScratchy said
I personally think if anyone wanted to take a stab at playing Twinkle in a different style -- jazz, rock, bluegrass, Irish, or whatever -- it would be an educational exercise...even if they came to the conclusion that Twinkle just doesn't fit a certain style.  

I agree it's a fun practice exercise 😀 Something to come back to as we learn, too, to see how we've progressed. I know I've returned to tunes I couldn't quite get the feel for the style at first, and now feel comfortable with, it's a nice way to measure our progress 😀

Now I'm mad that I have to work on tiling my bathroom floor rather than get to practice and noodle around, haha

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Demoiselle
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damfino said

I often end up using things like packs of candy and little bells or boxes as percussion, but I have fun and would recommend others to try the same 😀

I just heard on YouTube you sound very nice. But isn't there somebody who would play guitar in the background? Then you will probably find somebody to play boxes and bells, which can be a musically untrained person with natural feeling for rhythm.

I had not just a big band in my synthesizer, I even imitated a big symphony orchestra and composed a short opera in the style of the late romantic period. But now I think the professional audio engineer I worked with was right: He found my music great, but criticized it would be autistic to do things all alone. He also called it "musical inbreed"—and now I fully agree. Cooperating with others would be better (which we at times did together, but mostly I created music alone). I felt like I could have anything...big band, symphony orchestra and much more..... And I felt like I wouldn't need anybody since I had that synthesizer studio. Withdrawing into my studio after I had had the rich life on stage with real musicians.

Second point of criticism: Imitation of natural instruments was dishonest. Later I focused on soul with plain synthetic sounds which were meant as nothing but synthetic brass or sting sounds and not trying to fake any natural sound. That was better, but it was still the autistic me singing with my synthesizer band. That made me regionally famous and even sound engineers from public broadcast called me a talented midi editor. If I had earned real money for that okay, but actually it didn't get me anywhere.

I  practice not  to practice, actually I had planned to find a guitar player in a church to make Advent music (to later ad a cellist). But grave changes in my violin technique this fall thwarted that plan. It's too late to start with Advent repertoire but I will do it this month! How about playing 1600s hymns for old folks in a home for elderly? That makes more sense to me than home recording. Later that band may play in worship services and that way it can slowly grow.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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