Happy One-Year Anniversary Everyone! We’ve made it to 52 straight weeks of improv tips. I truly hope these have been adding value to your playing. This will be the last weekly improv tip that I’ll be writing. I’ll still be making posts (and re-posts of past week’s tips) on new subjects or topics that come to mind that are related to jazz, music performance, music business, composition, etc. I hope you’ll continue to join me and continue discussing this great art form. I’m also on target to release my 2nd book, Breaking the Monotony, later in the Summer/Fall of 2012. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose yet you can go to my Digital Store for more information.
This week I wanted to talk about the benefits of creating your own Etudes. When we improvise, we’re creating something in the moment. We have an idea in our minds eye about what we’d like to do and the options we can go from a certain point. I also advise that we have targets we aim at with purpose. Those targets help us get to our destination and help create a more meaningful conversation with the audience and the musicians we’re sharing the stage. Etudes, though, are pre-planned solos to be used as a technical exercise. When you are working on a new tune it can be beneficial to write your own etudes because they help solidify and develop your understanding of the song.
Writing an etude is essentially composing your own solo. Write some ideas out and edit as needed. Play through a line or two and ask yourself some critical questions:
1. Does the line (or series of lines) sound good? If not, re-write them until they do.
2. Do the lines have rhythmic interest? If not, re-write it and make it more interesting. Jazz rhythm is syncopated, so find opportunities to add more syncopation to your line(s).
3. Is there anything that could be added or taken away to make it sound better? If so, make the changes.
The beauty of composing your own etude is you can fix mistakes and do an unlimited number of re-writes until it sounds good. This process helps your subconcious understand why some lines sound better then others and you will find they creep into your playing later. Practice your etude with no accompaniment at first and then add them later.
The example below is an etude from my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose. This example showcases some of the concepts that I discussed in the book and is something that I might play through from time to time. In my copy, I’ve actually re-written some of the lines from the published version to change it up. Etudes are technical exercises so don’t feel like you can’t change them (unless you like them as is).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Please feel free to share it with your friends, colleagues, students or other sites that you’re a contributor. There are quick and easy social media share buttons below for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, etc. Again, I hope you’ve enjoyed this past year with us and that you continue to come check out this site. I will be making posts and updates on a regular basis and hope they benefit you as much as these past 52 weeks have!