Transcription: J. J. Johnson’s solo on ‘My Funny Valentine’

As a lowly classical trombone student, I’m always looking to expand my musical horizons, and recently this has been taking the form of dipping my toes into jazz.

Regardless of what you study, transcription is great practise for the ears and I’m trying to make a habit of doing it more often!

Here’s a transcription of J. J. Johnson’s solo on ‘My Funny Valentine‘, taken from the album ‘At the Opera House‘ with Stan Getz. This is the mono version recorded at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles.

NOTE: Due to a transposition error, the changes are in the wrong  key in the video. They should be in F minor – apologies!

Trombone Break from Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (Entr’acte)

This month I went on tour with a big band and had a blast playing Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite. This was a perfect excuse to do a little transcription of the solo trombone break in movement 5, the Entr’acte! In the recording, it is played with what sounds like either a closed plunger or a cup mute.

Quick Tips – Crabwise Scales for Scale Familiarity

I find these crabwise scales really help with scale familiarity because they really make you think about the notes you’re playing before muscle memory starts to kick in! Practising your scales can be a bit of a chore, but here’s a quick tip to play through them all in a slightly more interesting way than you might be used to.

These patterns are also useful to learn because they appear on many exam syllabi and music college/conservatoire technical exams.

Crabwise scales involve playing a scale up and down, but changing the scale by a semitone every time you change direction. So for example, you go up in C, down in Db, up again in D, down in Eb etc.

Crabwise Scale Examples

Here’s an example of a major crabwise on F:

And here is a major crabwise on F#:

After playing through both of these, you will have covered all 12 major scales up and down – and with a bit of practise you can do it really quite quickly! This also makes a great warm up once you add some articulation. Try staccato tonguing on the way up and legato on the way down, then switch it.

These can be started on any note, I just chose F for the examples because it fits well into the range of most lower (and upper if taken up the octave) brass. Bass trombonists can get a valve workout by starting on pedal Bb – and starting that low you could also do 2 octaves before changing direction for a challenge.

Other things to do with this pattern…

You can invent endless permutations of this exercise for yourself – use it with harmonic minors, melodic minors (keeping track of the ascending/descending note changes gets very tricky!), modes or arpeggios. You could also try different scale patterns rather than straight up and down. A favourite of mine is crabwise scales in 3rds:

Invent your own patterns, change up the articulation – but most of all have fun. Hope this tip helps those of us that are less scale inclined, and gives the sad ones like me some new ideas to torture themselves with!