Freddie Freeloader Wynton Kelly solo

Notes on learning phrasing from the solo

Matt Crump


December 27, 2023

“A small penguin wearing headphones. The penguin listens to the music from the headphones. The penguin sits in front of a piano. The penguin can imagine the musical notes in a tornado above her head.” - LCM_Dreamshaper_v7

I spent most of yesterday working through Wynton Kelly’s solo on Freddie Freeloader (from Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue). My plan for this post is to talk a little bit about what I did, and what I learned.

A slight detour though. It’s been very nice to have some clear time to actually practice piano, let alone enough time to break down a solo. When I was a kid the advice was to listen to recordings and learn to play from them by ear. In some cases I was able to do this (with difficulty, because I didn’t spend enough time practicing this way), but for the most part I didn’t have the recordings to listen to. Flash-forward to today and almost everything is available to stream. That’s amazing when you’re trying to learn something by ear. Not only that, but the internet is full of musicians sharing their practice tips. It’s almost overwhelming, but in a good way.

For Freddie Freeloader I checked out a couple of YouTube videos before trying the solo myself: a transcription video and an analysis video. Then I played the song a couple times before heading downstairs. Here’s the breakdown process I used this time.

  1. Play the original recording into a track on Ableton live
  2. Cut the track so that it starts properly on the first bar
  3. Turn off “warp”, and then adjust the tempo of Ableton until the beats in the track line up properly with the bars in Ableton.

The purple track is the original recording. The selected area is the first two bars, and it is possible to loop the selection and/or slow it down without changing the pitch (by turning warp back on).

I wasn’t particularly interested in learning the solo to play it note for note straight through. But, I was interested in trying out each little part and thinking about how the notes were used as phrases.

So, I worked in sections of two bars, looped each section, then played over top on the Fender Rhodes until I thought I had the line. The blue track are my 2 bar recordings on the Rhodes.

I didn’t have time to get through the whole solo, just the first 12 bars, and it got a little messy at the end. Oh well. Had lots of fun.

Practice notes: I ended up practicing the first phrase through the circle of fifths this morning.