What is Bebop by the Numbers?
Bebop by the Numbers is a method for teaching music creation to all aspiring musicians, instrumentalists and vocalists alike, focused on using scale degrees and repeatable building blocks and patterns to create your music. I teach Jazz mostly, so I focus on Bebop. But what you discover in these lessons can be found in all genres of music, not just Jazz.
So Why Numbers?
I guess it started with teaching improvisation to beginning jazz band and trying to write out ideas for students to play, without having to transpose everything. You see, band instruments are in different keys. I have no idea whose idea that was. As a piano player, I find it fairly crazy. I started writing things using numbers, and told my band kids to figure out what each note was. Of course I did help them if they got stuck.
I also started using numbers in teaching improvisation with my piano students. Specifically talking about the different intervals of the chords and how to embellish the one, three, the five, the seven, the nine of the chord. As I would teach riffs, I found it useful to talk about the ideas using numbers so my students could transpose them into different keys.
Numbers are very helpful. If you can think about the numbers of the scale degrees instead of the letters, you can then translate ideas to different keys more quickly. “What’s the one, what’s the three?” And then in the other key, it’s the same question, just a different answer. You can’t transpose very quickly from one key to the other without using numbers.