Can you mix different styles of music together?

Of course you can! Normally, we choose a style of music and play it as it is. eg. We take a Classical piece, and we play it it is. Or we take a Pop song, and then we perform it straight up. That’s the norm, and that’s how most of us would do it.

But what if we take one style of music (eg. Classical), and MIX it with ANOTHER style of music? (eg.Jazz) Now, that’s something quite different altogether.

What are some benefits of doing this?
1. It forces you to think CREATIVELY and play beyond the score (‘What do you mean? I just play the notes on the score, right?)
2. It forces you to listen to musical styles that you don’t normally listen to (‘what? but I don’t like jazz!’ I only play my ABRSM pieces!’)
3. It forces you to think of ways to connect 2 different musical styles together so they make musical sense (‘this is very difficult!’)

Re-imagining original music forces us to go beyond the written score and into improvisation and composition. After all, music is essentially, a creative endeavour! However, the basic thing is this, if you listen only to one style of music, or play only one style of music, chances are, you will have very little idea how you can do this!

So first, you need to go LISTEN to different kinds of music – intensively. Then you need to play these different kinds of music to experience what is it like to play something that you don’t normally play. Then, only then, ideas will slowly come forth.

I ventured out to re-think how certain iconic classical pieces can be jazzed up. It started with Bach’s Minuet in G, which I turned it into a Jazz Waltz with a swingy flavour, then I experimented many times over on Beethoven’s Fur Elise and gave it a Cuban flavour and renamed it ‘Fur Elise in Cuba’! (haha, sorry Beethoven!), then Brahm’s Hungarian Dance was given a Funky twist. That’s how ‘When Classical Meets Jazz!’ was born.

The main challenge is to turn a straight, linear classical song structure into a more syncopated, circular and improvised structure with changes to the underlying rhythm (Straight to Swing or Latin for instance), harmony (normal chords to jazz extensions and altered chords), and melody (original melody to improvised solos), and putting in improvised sections along the way.

Honestly, it was more difficult than I thought because the chord changes in Classical were much more predictable and ‘straight’ compared to the more circular and less conventional nature of jazz, so doing improvised solos within a ‘straight’ structure forced me to rethink many things. But still, a fun and worthwhile endeavour!

The clip above is an example of my band and I fusing Brahm’s Hungarian Dance (Classical) with Jazz. The first part is a Funky dance, while the second part is more ‘Swingy’. Happy experimenting!