Dancing on Table Mountain soloing resource

This is a piece I wrote in the late 80’s and now here it is for Wonderbrass!

Soloing

Chords are C /// | F/// | G/// | C/// | repeated throughout.

It’s a township swing feel like Mandela – in fact its very similar to Mandela overall except in a different key. So Diatonic is good b(C major in your key), but experiment with flattening the VII, III, and V.

The tune has ‘wrong’ notes i.e. notes that don’t fit the chord that is
playing – so be bold, be rhythmic and don’t worry about the chords too much.

Play along with the backing track

Structure

A is always 4 bars long B is always 8 bars long.
2 x B played slowly (117 bpm) for an intro

Then these is a drum pick-up into 8 bars establishing the rhythm section at a new speed (133 bpm) then:
AAAA
BB
Solo over A (16 bars)
BB
AAAA
BB (rallentando over last two bars)
That’s it.

Sheet music for the tune

Silver Sea soloing resource

Silver Sea is a short and intense piece. It’s is intense – it’s a fast tune that is meant to sound relaxed in performance, so to achieve that relaxed feel you have to have the notes under your fingers. It’s quite a workout!

Get it as fast as you can so that, when performing it, it feels slow and easy.

Play along with the backing track

After a bass intro there are three A sections, each one being a repeated 4 bar pattern.

There then follow B and C (16 bars each) sections.

First solo is over A1 – 16 bars of soloist plus rhythm until band joins in playing 4 x A1

Second solo is over A2 and is 16 bars of soloist plus rhythm until band joins in playing 4 x A2

First solo is over A1 and is 16 bars of soloist plus rhythm until band joins in playing 4 x A3 followed by B ad C as for the intro head.

That’s it!

Improvising on Silver Sea

The harmonies are mostly G (tonic) and D or D7 (dominant) with the occasional Am or C (supertonic, subdominant). That means all the chords come from the scale of G major and improvising starts there – the G major scale.

The adventurous among you might want to experiment with G blues for downward moving phrases or experimenting with temporary dominants (like using A major scales to move to D) but the safe zone is G major. (E major for altos and baritone, A major for Bb instruments)

Bon voyage!

Sheet music for the tune

Boomshakalak – soloing resources

We originally shared this as an exercise on June 30th 2020. Boom-Shak-A-Lack is a song from the 90’s by Apache Indian with a simple blues structure (12 bar) for the choruses and either 8 or 16 bar solos which all stay on the tonic chord (F).

There is no written music for this, as we’ll be learning it by ear, but you can find audio recordings for the A section, the B section, the rhythm, bari/trombone section and the Bassline on SoundCloud (below).

There are also backing tracks of the head section, the solo section, and the full track for you to play along with:


There’s an A section, which is an instrumental brass section, and B section which is a basic vocal melody. Both can be played at once.

So the head will go:

  • A – brass and percussion
  • A and B – everyone
  • A and B – everyone again.

If everyone could learn A and B that will give us more flexibility when we perform it. I see it working well as both a street and a gig tune. Just learning one of either A or B is ok though, if you can’t manage both.

On the audio files (embedded above) I talk you through the sections.

The A uses these notes (passing notes in brackets):

F (Gb) G Ab C Eb F 

The B section uses these notes (passing notes in brackets):

F (Gb) G C Eb (E) F

Bassline uses these notes

F Bb C and D

Improvising on Boomshakak

Essentially it’s a Blues scale in F but, because it’s Major, then F mixolydian will work too.

  • Blues: F Ab Bb (B) C Eb F
  • Mixolydian: F G A Bb C D Eb F

Enjoy it!

Stag – soloing resources

Improvising on Stag


This is a common improvisation routing – a strong groove and a simple oscillation between two chords. We’re in D major and the chords are I and IV so we’re oscillating between D major and G major.

This sequence should be familiar to you by now. It’s the same as Hambo Nami and a few other tunes we do. So D major mixolydian works well, especially for upward moving melodic phrases, and blues scale in D (D, F, G, A, C, D – maybe add an E in too) works well for downward moving melodic phrases.

So have fun with it and remember – its all about the bass.

The only other chord in this piece is V – A major – and it only appears three times: in the intro and the outro and at the very end of the third solo, so be aware of that if you are working on the third solo. It’s only fleeting, but choose notes from the A7 or dominant scale.

Also, the flute is audible on the second (middle) solo. This is due to the way we recorded the piece in 2008 and I’m afraid it can’t be changed. Its quiet, but its there.

Have fun!

Play along with the backing track

Sheet music for the tune

Funky sister – soloing resources

So here are Doctor Rob’s theory notes for soloing over his tune Funky Sister.

The piece is in G concert, so A for B flat instruments and E for alto saxes.

It’s a mixture between mixolydian (G to G on the white notes – flat 7 major 3) and blues scale in the A section. This means you can flatten 3 and 5, especially on descending melodic phrases, but don’t mess with that 7. It should always be flat.

So I recommend thinking about, and maybe learning,  a mixolydian scale with flattened 3rds and 5ths added:

G A Bb B C Db D E F G

The chords for A are a repeated four bar sequence:

G    F   G   F/c bass   

So those notes in the scale I’ve given you work for all that, you might just want to change the notes you emphasise if you want to give the feel of fitting around the chords.

The contrasting B section is more definitely mixolydian and less bluesy – as it is all on the dominant chord D7 – all the way through the section. 8 bars of D7.

That’s all you need to solo really – once again it’s the rhythm you play that will make the solo you create sound funky and fit the context of the piece. The beat is what is often called ‘shuffle-funk’ which is (to my mind) like having fast and slow art the same time. The swing is at the level of the semiquaver or 16th notes which means each beat having four sub-beats per notated beat long-short-long-short (although the difference between long and short is infinitesimally small).

Anyway. You’ll all bring your personal style and creativity to it so my advice is just for those that want some. Have fun with it; that’s the main piece of advice.

Play along with backing track

You can choose to play along to either the solo backing or the head backing:

Solo backing

Head backing

Sheet music for the tune

Roundup

With gigs taking us up and down the country and the Heritage Lottery Funded project keeping us on our toes, we’ve had a busy old year!

Here are just a few highlights from what has been an absolutely fantastic year…so far:

Making music videos
Last February, braving the icy temperatures, Wonderbrass teamed up with filmmaker Joe Marvelly to make the music video for Dr Rob’s tune Santes Dwynwen Shuffle. 

The video features Jacob’s Market and Tiny Rebel, where we combined our Mardi Gras party gig with a filming session to capture the genuine Wonderbrass gig atmosphere – see how many familiar faces you can spot.

WB25  performanceBringing all of the hard work of the past 18 months together was a definite high point for Wonderbrass. Reuniting members from across the years, showcasing the music we’d all worked so hard to learn and generally celebrating 25 years of Wonderbrass was a truly memorable night.

Volvo boat race

“I loved getting up at 3am for the yacht race! I’ve never played my trumpet at that time of the morning before and it was fun to spend the early hours with the Wonderfamily. We made it a special occasion for the yachts arriving after their epic journey”

Wonderbrass, always eager for a challenge, were on call to welcome the competitors in the Volvo Yacht Race as they arrived in Cardiff Bay. Being on standby to be gig ready at a moments notice at any hour of the day or night was nevertheless one of last year’s most enjoyable moments

Wonder Wedding
2018 saw our pink-haired flute player Caz wedding trombone playing Iain at the famous Wonder-haunt – the Druidstone. A great day of celebration for us all!

Rolling Stones
It’s not every day you’re asked to play brass covers of Rolling Stones songs on the radio. So when Mick, Keith and the others were in town for their Cardiff gig we were delighted when Heart Radio Cardiff invited us to do just that. Now we’ve added five new Rolling Stones tracks to our repertoire.

Porters
We’ve been playing regular nights at Porter’s in Cardiff, where we try to showcase some of our new material. Join us on the 2nd Thursday of every 3rd month at Porter’s to get a glimpse of our new material!

What’s next?
With the Wonderbrass25 project finally drawing to a close we’ll be inviting you all to join us for a night of wine and reminiscence at USW’s Atrium campus.

We’ll be screening the documentary films of the project and sharing stories from the past 25 years of Wonderbrass. Watch this space for more details soon!