I wanted to share a simple tip that has been helping my students. I’ve talked about targeting concepts for a long time, but we can view them in a number of different ways. For example, we can target the guide tones (3rds/7ths of chords) as we move from bar to bar or even do harmonic targeting where we aim for key area changes.
Targeting as Punctuation
Today’s tip is to look at targeting as a form of punctuation. By having an end-note in mind we force ourselves to not wander aimlessly in the moment.
“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
This is definitely a challenge (especially for beginners), because we spend so much time worrying about how do I start something as opposed to how do I finish? I have found for most, this is not intuitive and it has to practiced. But, I have found that it has yielded some great results for my own playing as well as some of my students.
The concept is simple. Pick an end-note somewhere in the progression and choose to make that your punctuation. The creative part is what you can do with it on the left-side of the target. Here’s an example:
I decided to pick the 5th of the CMaj7 as my end-note (target) in this ii-V-I example. The goal is to use it as a type of punctuation. I can change the note value or even where it’s placed within the bar, but I need to have some sort of stopping point (punctuation) to try and resist the urge to keep adding on. This where most people tend to wander in their improvisation. We want to keep adding and keep building to the same line without stopping and let it have its own sentence structure.
Here is an option of what I might do with the above (the possibilities are close to endless). The creative part is that we can do almost anything to the left of the target and it will work because we picked a strong end-note. The ear hears the tension on the left and the resolution of the target. If you want some other ideas about what you can do for the left side, check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose in my store.
I would love to hear your thoughts! Have you used this thought-process before (end-note targets to make a punctuation)? Share the line you’d play if you made the G your end-note target…
I hope this simple tip has added some value and benefit to your playing in some way!