Nanoversity of Jazz: November 2019

Practicing “Autumn Leaves” and the DIY, Micro Jazz Studies Degree 

Confession: When I started Nanoversity of Jazz, I only had a rough idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to set up a small-scale, higher-education-like digital platform, but my life was too chaotic to get more specific than that. Now that I have a full-time job, I empathize with a lot of my students. We want our often brief practice to have the same focus of a college or university study. I realized what I wanted was a “DIY, Micro Jazz Studies Degree.” I wanted to review the material I learned as an undergraduate and acquire knowledge I missed out on by not doing my master’s work in jazz studies.

As with My Clinical Research Day Job, I’ll be assigning four monthly modules. You can do one module per week or do all four in one week and repeat (or substitute other tunes). Each module should take approximately one hour. Each month, the assignments will get progressively harder. In keeping with the season, this month’s tune is “Autumn Leaves.”

  1. Jazz History | There are two approaches you can take to learning jazz history. First, you can track down several classic recordings of the tune you’re learning (this article has several great suggestions). Second, you can listen to the full album of a definitive recording of the tune. I’m going with the second approach using Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else recording of “Autumn Leave” (see YouTube video below). While you’re listening, check out the Wikipedia page for the album and do a deep-dive into the biographies of all the musicians and producers.
  2. Theory | There are tons of online articles out there analyzing this tune (see above and this one), but for now I want to focus on analyzing and playing scales. Setting aside the tri-tone substitutions in the C Section, you play all the modes of the Bb Major scale (with one alteration). See below for analysis. Practice playing one- or two-octave scales for each mode (or simplify things and just play the first five notes of each). Set your metronome to 100-135 BPM and play quarter-notes or swung eighth-notes.
  3. Composing/Arranging | Each month, try to write some sort of original musical idea for a given tune. For this month, try composing a bassline. Be sure to include technical notes and harmonic analysis (see image above). If you’re not sure how to compose a bassline, use this as a guide.
  4. Repertoire | For this month, focus on learning three things on your instrument: 1) your written bassline (see above), the tune’s melody, and a solo based on the tune’s scales (see below). If you’re a drummer, voice the melody on your instrument and try to learn all three things on piano, vibes, or voice.


  • Cmin7: C Dorian (2nd Mode of Bb Major) | C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb (1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7)
  • F7: F Mixolydian (5th Mode of Bb Major) |  F-G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb (1-2-3-4-5-6-b7)
  • BbMaj7: Bb Ionian (1st Mode of Bb Major) | Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G-A (1-2-3-4-5-6-7)
  • EbMaj7(#11): Eb Lydian (4th Mode of Bb Major) | Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C-D (1-2-3-#4-5-6-7)
  • Amin7(b5): A Locrian (7th Mode of Bb Major) | A-Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G (1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7)
  • D7(b9): D Phrygian Dominant (3rd Mode of Bb Major with a raised third) | D-Eb-F#-G-A-Bb-C (1-b2-#3-4-5-b6-b7)
  • Gmin7: G Aeolian (6th Mode/Relative Minor of Bb Major) | G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb-F (1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7)

My Clinical Research Day Job: November 2019

Why I switched from full-time musician to clinical research professional, and how you can too! 

A little over a year ago, I moved from Seattle to Birmingham. My health had given out and I’d been unable to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living in the former. Although I arrived broke and broken, I made a vow to myself that I was going to get a project management job in a STEM field. My father – a physician, professor, and researcher – suggested I get into clinical research. It took a yearlong training montage of hard work and self-study, but I finally got and settled into a job as a clinical research professional!

I could be cynical and say I got tired of the brutally competitive, financially barren world of jazz musicianship (or really any job in the service industry…) I could note that the only people I saw making it in Seattle had jobs in tech, healthcare, or (bonus points!) both. But the truth is that I wanted to get into clinical research because I was curious, wanted to challenge myself, and longed to get back into researcher mode a la my dissertation days.

“My Clinical Research Day Job” posts will be monthly roundups of resources I used in the past (or am currently using) to teach myself clinical research, project management, regulatory affairs, etc. I draw from both free (think YouTube) and paid (think LinkedIn Learning) resources. My goal is to help others get into this rewarding and in-demand field!

Like my “Nanoversity of Jazz” series, I’ll stick to four modules each month. Here are this month’s recommendations for each module (each one representing a couple hours’ worth of work):

  1. Clinical Research | Even with my background in research, there was still a lot I had to learn about clinical research. A good starting point is this bookIntroduction to Clinical Research for Residents. Although it’s Saudi-authored, a lot of the same things apply to U.S.-based clinical research. Don’t worry if the statistics parts go over your head, we’ll cover that in the coming months.
  2. Medical Terminology | While you don’t need to be a medical doctor to handle regulatory affairs, it helps to know as much medical terminology as possible. I started out using the Crash Course Anatomy & Physiology Series on YouTube (see video below). It’s a fun, accessible overview of the topic!
  3. Project Management | A lot of what I do is basic project management. But before we dive into that topic, it’s important to get some time management basics down. A lot of people where I work use David Allen’s Getting Things Done System. Either read the book (I got a used copy of the original edition for $4), or watch this class on LinkedIn Learning. Next month, I’ll explain how I use the GTD System in Microsoft Outlook.
  4. Data Science | Full disclosure: If I could Matrix-style upload a body of knowledge into my brain, it’d be data science. So, even though my job doesn’t involve that much data management, I’m still convinced it’s a valuable skill to learn in any STEM field. When I asked my brother (a PhC in math) where to start with learning programming, he recommended I get really good at Microsoft Excel first. One of my favorite instructors on LinkedIn learning is Excel guru Oz du Soleil. In this course, “Excel: You Can Do This,” is an entertaining introduction to the software.

Introducing the jazz ubassist + “Chameleon” Bassline

Today is my 35th birthday, and to celebrate, I’m relaunching my site as “the jazz ubassist”! My ubass (or ukulele bass) has made playing so much fun (and super-convenient)! I played a friend’s ubass a few years ago and have been wanting to get one ever since. My goal is to offer weekly lessons (and eventually build a Skype studio) for jazz ubass – aka the world’s coolest genre on the world’s coolest instrument. To kick things off, here’s the bassline for Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” on ubass (see above for notation and below for GIF showing fingering pattern).

Ubass GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Finger #: The great thing about ubass is not needing to shift in the lower position. The finger numbers correspond to the fret positions (although my ubass is fretless…) There’s one shift up to the third fret (1-1 on beat 1 of bar 2), then you use the rest to get back down to the lower position.

Scale Degrees: As we’ll see in future posts, jazz basslines are built on chord tones, other scale degrees, and chromaticism (pitches outside of the chord-scale). The bassline emphasizes the root (1) and b7 and uses a chromatic “walk-up” with both thirds leading into each measure.

Rhythm: Don’t worry about counting the 16th-note subdivisions. Instead, listen to the original recording, play along with it, and learn to feel it intuitively.

Next Week

The story behind “the jazz ubassist” and Charles Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song.”

Creating a Practice Folder for High Intensity Interval Practice

5 Tips for Quickly Organizing Your Practice!

  1. Use a durable folder. Your practice folder is a critical tool for your High Intensity Interval Practice. The first step is to find a high-quality practice folder. Personally, I use a 2” three-ring binder with plastic sheets for papers. You may want to use tabs to divide 5-week sessions.
  2. Print out a 5-week schedule. Because you will be working in 5-week sessions, it’s important to track your goals and progress. Figure out a calendar format with information for each practice day. Be sure to list your practice goal somewhere on your schedule. If you’re working on an 8-, 10-, or 12- week practice schedule, adjust your calendar format.
  3. Print out leadsheets for each tune. Even if you aren’t working on the melody in your practice, it’s important to have leadsheets for each tune. If you’re only practicing one tune, file the leadsheet after your schedule (see above). If you’re practicing more than one tune, place leadsheets in the order that you will practice (or perform) them. As you learn more repertoire, you should include a list of tunes you’ve learned at the front or back of your practice folder.
  4. Write out your practice etudes. While we’ll go more into this in Week 3, for now, it’s important to know that you need to create practice materials. An etude is any piece of music used for learning purposes. In addition to the melody (which is written on the leadsheet), other types of etudes include basslines, arpeggios (of each chord), chord-scales, and written or transcribed solos. If you’re new to practice, you should consult with an instructor for etude ideas.
  5. Make technical notes. To optimize your practice, write out any notes about technique. This could include rhythmic subdivisions, fingering numbers, and bowing patterns. As with practice etudes, you may want to consult with an instructor for help with this step. Once you have your practice folder ready, you’re ready to move onto HIIP workouts – which will cover in next week’s posts!

Choosing Tune(s) for High Intensity Interval Practice

5 Tips for Quickly Selecting Repertoire!

  1. Pick no more than 5 tunes at a time. In jazz, there’s constant pressure to learn and memorize dozens, if not hundreds of tunes. Instead, focus on learning 1-5 tunes at a time (over a 5-week period). This will help you stay focused and avoid getting overwhelmed. Even if you only memorize one tune at a time, you’ll learn 10 tunes a year!
  2. Pick a theme for your tunes. When you pick your 1-5 tunes, have them all be part of theme that fits your practice goal. If you’re preparing for a performance, they should all be concert repertoire. If you’re trying to learn a particular genre, the tunes should all be representative of that style (or arranged in that style). As your practice goals change, so will your repertoire themes.
  3. Listen to as much music as possible. The best way to select repertoire is to listen to as much music as possible. YouTube, Pandora, and high-quality radio stations are all great sources of tune ideas. Be sure to schedule time for listening as you would practice – workday commutes are an especially good time. Be sure to have a way to jot down the names of tunes that you like.
  4. Listen to as many versions of a tune as possible. Once you’ve figured out a tune that you would like to learn, research it and track down as many versions as you can find. As you listen, make sure it is level-appropriate – that it will be challenging to learn, but not completely overwhelming. If possible, follow along with a leadsheet (see below) to really learn the tune. The more deeply you know the tune, the easier it will be to practice.
  5. Track down a high-quality leadsheet for the tune. If you’ve selected a jazz tune, you’ll want to procure a leadsheet (a simplified chart with melody and chord changes) for it. Leadsheets are available in “Fakebooks” (which you can purchase in music stores) or for individual online download. Make sure the leadsheet is legible and has the correct chord changes (some tunes have multiple variations, so you’ll need to pick the one that works best for you). Once you have tune(s) and leadsheet(s), you’re ready to create a practice folder – which we’ll cover in tomorrow’s post!