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Whole Tone Combinations

Lately I have been working on my whole tone scales and wanted to share an interesting sound with all of you. I am sure most of you have worked on your whole tone scales and know what they are. If not, they are rather simple and I would suggest you learn them. Since whole tone scales are symmetrical, there are only two of them. A whole tone scale is exactly what it sounds like: a scale made up entirely of whole steps. Below is an example that shows the two versions of the whole tone scale.

I did not want this post to be about whole tone licks, but rather opening a door for you to explore new combinations and the sounds that come with it. I believe far too many musicians learn their whole tone scales, a few whole tone licks and then never revisit them. When you combine the two whole tone scales together you get an interesting “outside” sound that is organized. It does not matter how you combine them. For starters, try combining them in a scale-like manner like the example below:

The above example could create some interesting digital pattern lines if you combined it with other tools like rhythmic creativity or targeting principles. Another way to combine them is by starting a line in one whole tone area and throwing part of the other in half-way through.

Or you can take standard whole tone licks and combine them together. The example below starts with a familiar whole tone lick and then ends with a descending scale of the other whole tone scale (which targets the “C”).

During the week I want to challenge you to find different creative ways to combine the two whole tone scales. Besides being a great ear-training exercise, you might find some combinations that will add a creative spark to your improvisations!


The Augmented Triad

I have been making edits so I can have short previews of the songs that will be on my Mountain, Move. album and heard something that I thought would be great to talk about. So, in this week’s post we will look at the augmented triad and how we can use it to creatively target notes in our improvisations. I love using the augmented triad because it does not have the typical triad sound. To many listeners it causes an unexpected, “whoa…what was that?” response. This makes it a great tool to have in your improv arsenal.

I know there are a number of beginner visitors, so we will take a brief look at the augmented triad itself. An augmented triad is simply a major triad with a raised 5th (see example below):


The augmented triad is a great candidate to use as a tool for targeting. I invite you to check out some of the many different previous posts on targeting on this site as well as my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose to get a better understanding of how to fully utilize this concept. But, we will take a look at a few different ways you can use the augmented triad to target. The augmented triad is symmetrical. That means no matter which inversion you start on you will have an augmented triad. The examples below will be using the G (or B, or Eb) augmented triad over a V7-I pattern.

The first example takes the augmented triad in a descending order (starting on the “B”) and resolves up a half step to land on the root of the I chord (Cmaj9):

The second example is an infamous lick that you will hear many great improvisers using in their solos. In this case, the augmented triad doesn’t directly lead into the targeted note (D). Instead of continuing down to the Eb (continuing the triad), the line resolves up to the D (which is the targeted note of the line…the 2nd/9th of the Cmaj9):


Our final example uses the augmented triad with another targeting concept (the chromatic target) to target the 5th of the I chord (Cmaj9):


One of my favorite ways to use the augmented triad to target notes is over the V7-I harmonic movement. There are other ways to implement the augmented triad, but I wanted to share my favorite. For the V7-I movement you can think about it a number of different ways. For instance, you could think about using an augmented triad on the 5th of the I chord or the root of the V7 chord. You can think about using an augmented triad a half-step below the root of the I chord or the 3rd of the V7 chord. Or you can think about using an augmented triad a flat third from I chord or the b13 of the V7 chord. Whatever works best for you. One goal I try to reach with my students is to narrow things down so you have less to think about while playing.

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added value and benefit to your and/or your students playing in some way!



Fun with Arpeggios part 3

Hopefully by this point (if you have been following the series on Fun with Arpeggios) you get the idea of how we can creatively use arpeggios in our improvisations. Before we move on to another topic I wanted to continue the thought process, but introduce arpeggios of different chord quality then just major (which was used in part 1 & part 2). In this part we will use the minor 7th arpeggio to build some of our lines.

Below is the minor 7th arpeggio in quarter notes (Cmin7) along with a more extended eighth-note version both up and down:

Unlike the major 7th arpeggio that has the half-step between the 7th and the root, the minor 7th arpeggio has more of a pentatonic scale type feel to it with the combination of minor 3rd, major 3rds and the whole step between the 7th and the root. This can create some interesting combinations over different harmonies.

One obvious way you can use the minor 7th arpeggio is over minor chords, but I am pretty sure most of you can figure that out on your own. However, one really useful way to use the minor 7th arpeggio is over the V7 chord of a ii-V-I. Below is an example with a half-step chromatic target of the C minor 7th arpeggio over the  F7 which resolves into the Bbmaj7:


And the next example below takes the descending C minor 7th arpeggio at the beginning of this post and resolves it to the 7th (A) of the Bbmaj7:


I, for one, enjoy this sound over the V7 chord. It almost has a blues flavor to the line when you have the minor 7th arpeggio (a 5th away from the root) played over the V7 chord.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and that it has added value and benefit to your and/or your students. If you have not yet, I would invite you to check out my Digital Store today to take a look at my books and other services. Also, be sure to hit “like” on my Facebook Page as well as I will continue to give updates on my upcoming CD Mountain, Move.




Fun with Arpeggios part 1

For some instruments, arpeggios are very easy to execute because you can keep the same finger pattern or hand position and move it up and/or down the instrument. As a trumpet player, they can be a little more difficult to perform. I have loved playing the major 7th arpeggio in my improvisations because of the half step motion between the major 7th and the root. And, like many arpeggios, it can be played over more than just one harmonic context.

Since we have a number of people who visit this site from all over the world as well as different ability levels-we are going to take a quick look at what an arpeggio is and then start executing some basic arpeggiated ideas.

An arpeggio is a musical device where notes in a chord are played in a sequence. Below is a Cmaj7 chord and then a Cmaj7 arpeggio in quarter notes:

I like descending arpeggios. I like their sound more so than ascending (not that I do not like ascending or do not use them). In part 1 we are going to look at a simple descending arpeggio pattern. The first below takes the root of the chord and arpeggiates down.

For my ears, I love the half-step movement between the root and the major 7th. However, it still has an arpeggio type sound to it when it starts on the root. So, let’s take the same arpeggio and start on the 3rd:

Maybe it is just me, but this sounds more like a line that I can use in an improvisation. If you like this sound, try playing through it in all keys and getting the sound in your ears and the technique under your fingers. I have listed the example above in all keys below:

In the next couple of parts we will look at some other arpeggios as well as how we can apply them to our improvisations. However, before we do that, you should probably start playing through your arpeggios this week!




Lick of the Day Practice Routine

In this week’s post I wanted to show you how you can enhance your jazz improv practice routine by using the Lick of the Day here on this site. I believe you should practice the tools necessary to be successful in improvisation on a regular basis (if not every day). One of those tools is adding vocabulary.

If you don’t have an improv practice routine I’d invite you to try this out for a few weeks. You will have a noticeable improvement in just a few weeks. On the right hand side of the homepage there is a different lick/riff/motif posted every day. The instructions below the Lick of the Day talk about the different things you can do to add that lick into your vocabulary. I know for some of you that you like to have things laid out so here is a sample practice routine you can use with the Lick of the Day:

  1. Go to and locate the Lick of the Day. Today is March 18th, 2013. So today is the 75th Lick of the Day. Play through it (slowly at first) a few times until you get the sound in your ears and the notes under your fingers. Spend around 10-15 minutes on this.
  2. All of the licks from the Lick of the Day are in the key of “C.” Transpose it into all keys as shown in this PDF:Lick of the Day 75. Even though the example is written out I would suggest trying to do this by ear instead of writing it down. Depending on how much you do this process it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
  3. How many chord progressions could this lick fit over? There are 3 examples below (which is not all of them). This takes about 5-10 min. 
  4. Do this daily with each Lick of the Day. Over time you’ll find the ones that stick in your ear the most will be the ones that show up in your playing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added value and benefit to your playing in some way. As most of you know-the Jason Klobnak Quintet was in the studio on March 14-15th and we finished the tracking session for our album Mountain, Move. We still need to finish mixing/mastering and then print the album. I need your help in getting us there. Every book sale, Skype Lesson, clinic and donation get us closer. Go to our Digital Store today to help us finish Mountain, Move!





Improv for Kids-Part 2 Simplicity

Part 2. Simplicity is one of the key ingredients in teaching young children about improvisation. While some kids might soak up theory information…most do not. Most, in my experience, just want to play. They want to improvise. Try keeping the theory information as simple as possible (like the first 5 notes of a major scale or the major pentatonic scale)


The more in-depth theory can be saved for later after they have had an opportunity to have fun improvising.

Play the scales with them so they can try and match your sound. It helps solidify their scales as well as their intonation and tone on the instrument. Have them play those scales while you play chord progressions on the piano (or some form of play-along if you’re not comfortable playing them yourself).

Something else I do with younger students is limit the number of note options they have to improvise. Limiting their palette of options can free up their creative mind. This is one of the big reasons I like teaching pentatonic scales. 5 note choices is less information to organize in real time then 7 or 8. For younger students I like to limit their options of notes down to 3 or 4. I like having groupings that are part scale and part leap (like the examples below):

Obviously these aren’t the only small note groupings that can be used. However, they do contain some step-wise motion (major or minor 2nds) and slightly larger leaps. Melodies aren’t 100% scales or leaps. They are a combination of the two. Giving a child the combination helps them understand that improvising is more then just running a scale up and down a chord change. Give them an opportunity to play around with those simplified note groupings with you on a chordal instrument or play-along. Let them make mistakes and figure some things out.

Once they start getting the hang of it, or start getting bored with 3 notes, then expand their options outward. Start simple and expand from there. I find this causes them to learn complex ideas faster and they retain the information longer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added some value and benefit to you and your students! Don’t forget to check out my Digital Store today to grab one of my books, schedule a Skype lesson or get more information on how you can help be a part of my next album, “Mountain, Move.”




Improv Tip Week #22-More Digital Patterns

Welcome back to the blog as we’re going to continue our discussion on Digital Patterns this week! Last week we looked at some basics into digital patterns. This week, we’re going to talk about using one of last week’s patterns amd applying it to other key areas, showing some additional patterns and I’ll show you an exercise to get some of those patterns under your fingers and in your ears. Since most of you have probably read through some of the previous posts, you know one of my primary goals for students is to have them use various tools to target notes. If you haven’t checked out some of our previous posts or need more information on targeting, I’d like to invite you to check out some of our previous week’s.

Let’s first take a look back at one of the simple patterns we used last week:

The above pattern is a very simple (1,2,3,5) pattern. Last week we mainly looked at using that pattern with a major scale. However, since we do have a varied audience that read the blog, let’s give some examples of how we can use that same pattern (1,2,3,5) over other key areas or scales. The example below using the same pattern, but over each of the greek modes starting on “C” (notice that because of this particular pattern, some of the examples are the same for different modes):

You can take any pattern and apply it to any mode, scale or key area. This is a great way to work on keys that are not as familiar as others.

Last week’s patterns were very closely related to the pentatonic scale. This week, let’s look at two new digital patterns that incorporate the “4th” scale degree. Many times you’ll read about the “4th” scale degree as being an avoid note (especially on Major chords. I personally like the use of the “4th” scale degree, as long as you’re using it to get you to a targeted note or not sitting on it. Here are two new patterns that use the “4th” that I enjoy:

Much like last week, let’s take the two new patterns and give some musical examples of how we can use a pattern as tool to target a note:

Finally, some of you that have been following the blog have mentioned that just playing through 4 note digital patterns are too easy, simple or mundane. I’d like to show you an exercise that I’ve used and have had my students use to help get more unfamiliar key areas/scales under the fingers and in the ears. Trumpet players will recognize this exercise, because it comes from Herbert L. Clarke’s Techincal Studies book (Exercise #2). There’s even a book that utilizes just this pattern that was written by trumpeter Pat Harbison. Below is that exercise, but applied to a “C dorian” scale:

As always, I truly hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and continue to follow along as this blog and community grows. Please be sure to share this tip (and blog) with your friends/colleagues via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor. I’m enjoying your feedback too, so be sure to leave your comments or click the “like” button. If you haven’t checked out my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose yet, be sure to click on the link to the right or go to Jason Klobnak Music for more information. It was recently mentioned in the Resources section of the October 2011 edition of Teaching Music and is helping a number of people across the globe find creative ways to target notes in their improvisations.




digital patterns

Improv Tip Week #21-Digital Patterns

Welcome back to the blog and checking out this week’s tip. We’re on Week #21 where we’ll be talking about Digital Patterns. A few weeks back when we talked about Key Fluency, one of our friends (Karel) left a comment about how we can use digital patterns to help get a better understanding of various key areas and scales. So this week, I wanted to talk about how we can use Digital Patterns to creatively target notes. For those that have purchased my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose, this topic is discussed in Chapter 3. If you’d like to check out the book, you can go to Jason Klobnak Music.

A few weeks back we talked about pentatonic scales and some of the various uses we can get from them (and how they’re additional tools to target a note). Digital patterns are similar to pentatonic scales because they are mathematical in structure and remain constant for that pattern. Digital patterns can be based on any scale type and can be used for many different tonalities (major, minor, diminished, etc). For example, the digital pattern below is based off of the root, 2nd, 3rd and 5th major scale degrees.

The example above is one note short of being a pentatonic scale (shown below), which is why they are so closely related.

Below are a few additional digital patterns with their scalar structure listed beneath the notes:

Digital patterns, which can be used to define a harmony, can also be used as a tool or vehicle to connect musical ideas in your improvisation. Since I’m a big proponent of targeting, let’s look at how we can use a few of the above digital patterns to target the note “C.” The examples below do not have any stated harmony above them as they can be used in a multiple of harmonic settings.

These are just a few brief ways we can use digital patterns to creatively target notes. If you’ve never used them before, I would suggest that you start learning major scale patterns by taking a pattern or two a week and playing them through every key. Once you gain a level of familiarity, start expanding to other digital patterns as well as digital patterns in other harmonic areas (minor, diminished, other modes, etc).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip. Please remember to share this tip (and blog) with your friends/colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor. I know these tips have been helping many of you and I would love to continue to see them helping others as this community grows. There are a few additional reviews up on my book’s store site (mentioned above) if you’d like to check those out. Thanks again and we’ll see you next week!