Let’s Build a Wall!


In my young day they didn’t have jazz courses. You had to blunder about picking up tips, trying stuff out and bluffing where necessary. So when I play with the young players here in France what sticks out to my ear are the traces of jazz pedagogy in their playing. It’s as if they are playing for marks, to please an imaginary teacher sitting on their shoulder. Everything becomes an exercise.

They enjoy questions like: “When can you play a whole-tone scale/ diminished scale?” When the right chord comes round they will niftily execute the scale and look pleased if anyone noticed.

“Executing” is what bothers me.

The phrase that comes to mind is: the lights are on but there’s no-one at home.

I believe in inhabiting the music we play. When we are working on playing like singing in the shower, or on what I call Voice Empowerment, we need to work brick by brick to help us “inhabit” those scales. And where better to find bricks than in the Pink Floyd song Another Brick in the Wall (I hear you groan) ?


The two links are: {0 +2 +1 -1 -2 +2 +1} with linksum +3, and {0 -2 -2 +2 -2} with linksum – 4. Chaining the first link four times gives you a rising diminished scale, and you can chain the second link three times to give you a descending whole-tone scale back to where you started.

So why is this different to just playing a diminished scale or a whole tone scale that we have learnt from a book? Well let’s look at what happens in our Inner Ear at each iteration of the chain. Each time you come back to the 0 at the start, you mentally reset the fragment to the new key. So from a subjective point of view, rather than completing a diminished or a whole-tone scale, what you have done is play the short scales {2 1} and {2 2} a number of times. You are able to re-inhabit the fragment at each transposition.

Short scales have a charm of their own. They are often sufficient in themselves to make most musical statements I hear on the radio, so why analyse them as parts of a larger structure? Technically undemanding and easily assimilated by the ear, if I were starting music again they would be my first building blocks, long before taking on their 12-span brothers.

If you are keen to start playing these two bricks through all keys on your instrument, you could do worse than just splice them together like so: {0 +2 +1 -1 -2 +2 +1 =0 -2 -2 +2 -2}  (linksum -1) x 12

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About jazzpanflute

jazz panpipe pioneer and designer
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4 Responses to Let’s Build a Wall!

  1. Do you really think that Pink Floyd had the musical knowledge, skill or motivation to construct “Another brick in the wall” based on some musical concept? You talk as much flannel as those you criticise for jazz pedagogy.

    I am not proud of the fact that I can barely read music, but I do know, because of this, I can play in almost any key as I do not know what key I am playing in. And my improvisations come entirely from what I think in my head … as it did with every great player from Louis Armstrong through Johnny Hodges to Thelonius Monk to Carla Bley. Many great jazz players are skilled musicians but their creativity does not come from what they have been taught. It comes from what they feel. The best trained musicians you are ever likely to find will be classical concert players but virtaully none of these can improvise anything.

    Not be ing able to read is not a benefit which is why I am belatedly trying to learn. It limits what I can play as the dots do not mean much to me, so I tend to play numbers that I know. But the numbers that I know are always numbers that I love which is why I know them – hundreds of standard there in my head!


  2. jazzpanflute says:

    Hi Roger, If you read carelessly everything becomes flannel. I make no suppositions about Pink Floyd’s compositional process or their musical abilities. MOVES lessons start with familiar fragments of well known songs to help empower would-be improvisers to become the true authors of what they play, using subjective techniques drawn from NLP and from my own half century of improvising. The goal of playing like singing in the shower, (which you don’t have to share), stated in the top right hand corner of the page, involves learning to play mindless of the key or scale you are in. I aim to strip away any theoretical baggage that contaminates that beautiful melody you hear in your head, or want one day to be able to hear and express on your horn. It is a way of sharing some of the intuitive insights I get from playing the whole-tone panpipe, with players of other instruments. For details of that please check out http://www.tuutflutes.com. I offer free downloadable 3D files of all my panpipe models.


  3. jazzpanflute says:

    Roger said: “The best trained musicians you are ever likely to find will be classical concert players but virtaully none of these can improvise anything.” This blog is in part for the classically chained, as you will see if you check the other posts.


  4. Pingback: Watch the Moves | Intervallic Awareness for Improvisers

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