Not Your Ordinary Drones

I want to talk about drones, but not your ordinary ones. Other sites and musicians have talked about the benefits of warming up with drones, exploring shapes and intervals. All of this is great and something I personally use now and then too. If you haven’t explored this area before I would suggest you at least try it. It’s an amazing way to open up your ears and explore music’s various layers.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m still not sure what you mean by drones. Aren’t those the remote control things you fly around to annoy your neighbors?” Well, yes. But, not this topic. Here’s a great YouTube example of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen talking about how she uses a drone:

 

“A musical drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece.” – Wikipedia

Instead of rehashing what others have already talked about, I want explore some other ways we can use a drone through the lens of targeting. Targeting is aiming at a goal (note) with purpose. It’s one of the central points of how I improvise and teach improvisation. While it’s great to explore a scale, intervals, or free-improvisation with a fixed pitch (drone)-I have found that beginners and intermediate musicians often have a hard time hearing the note they are aiming for.

What to Use

There are a number of great tools that create a drone. Ingrid Jensen mentioned her device in the video above. You can use just about anything that will create a sustained pitch. I have used a piano with the sustain pedal, computer software (garageband, Logic Pro, etc), YouTube (which has a WIDE range of options that you could spend hours searching), or one of my favorites: iReal Pro

How to Use

Beginners and intermediate improvisors have to be intentional with what they practice. It’s too easy to get distracted and let your imagination go on a tangent. That’s ok when it’s time to explore and foster creativity. But, students need to hear where their line is going. What does it sound like when you are targeting the 3rd of major chord? How does that sound different when you’re targeting the 3rd of dominant chord? What about minor? If a student can learn to hear what targeting sounds like it opens up the creative mind to be able to explore it in real-time. This is why I like using iReal Pro because you get to choose not only the harmonic situation (major, minor, diminished, etc), but you get to do it while keeping time and locking in with a rhythm section that won’t slow down or speed up.

Here’s how I use iReal Pro as a drone:

  • create a new song using the blank template
  • pick a chord type that you need to work on (major 7th, dominant, minor 9th, etc)
  • type that chord in the first measure and set up whatever repeat function you desire
  • set the repeats 30x
  • pick a tempo and feel (swing, bossa, etc)
  • work on first targeting the root in as many ways as you can imagine with various tools with GOOD rhythm (for more info on those tools you can check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose).
  • Once you’ve felt like you’ve fully explored the root move on to the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and other extensions (9th, 11th, 13th)
  • Now move on to the same chord type, but in a different key.
  • Apply what you just did to a song or harmonic progression you’re working on

All of the above is good practice for any musician. It will get you to focus on the sound of targeting so you can hear where you’re going. This will also give a student plenty of practice!

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Unexpected

 

You have probably heard the saying that “when life gives you lemons-make lemonade.” I know it is a cliché, but it is one that has some value to those that improvise. I wrote a post a few weeks back called Fight Through that talked about regardless of what circumstances life has given you; we still have to fight through and make music. In this post I wanted to talk about something similar and make the correlation between the unexpected things in life and how we can use that in our improvisations.

Let’s face it, there are some things in life we thought would be a “sure thing.” Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and you will get a number of different answers. Follow those children 20 years later and ask if they are doing what they wanted to do. For some…maybe. For most…probably not. Life gives us some unexpected twists and turns. Improvisation has a way of doing the same thing. We can plan and plot, but when we finally get in the moment unexpected things can happen. Someone in the rhythm section plays something unexpected and before you know it your improvisation goes in a new direction.

Most of the time when this happens it is fun and exciting. Hopefully you know the song and harmonic progression well enough that you can go to that unexpected place together. Much like life; your attitude towards the unexpected will help determine your level of enjoyment and success. Remember you are involved in the improvisation process just as much as those you are playing with. Your input helps determine the destination.

A while back there was a video of Stefon Harris doing a TED talk floating around social media sites. He and his group of musicians did an excellent job of talking about how reacting to the unexpected creates (or detracts) from the art of improvisation. Check out the video below:

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added some value and benefit to your playing in some way. The holidays are fast approaching and if you are looking for gift ideas for some musicians please go to my Digital Store today and check out my books and recently CD. I am very thankful to all of you that have made a purchase or download!

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Discovery-Brazil

 

This week’s Discovery location takes us to one of the most recognizable and largest countries in South America-Brazil! Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world with a booming economy. Most probably know that Brazil is the home of the Bossa Nova as well as other styles that are regularly incorporated into Jazz. Brazil has been home to some great jazz musicians born there as well as those who have made it their home. This wonderful country has not only embraced jazz in its various forms, but helped greatly influence the art form.

As with our past locations, the goal is to introduce you to 3 new musicians each week from different parts of the world. My hope is you will find some new discoveries, support them by buying their albums and by attending their concerts if you are in their area (or they in yours). Another benefit is for you to hear new musicians and how they approach their instrument and jazz. You never know where you might find your next favorite line!

Like a number of the other large cities that host live Jazz around the world, Brazil has live music venues too numerous to mention on this site. Someday, I would love to take my band (The JKQ) to the BMW Jazz Festival which is held in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. While I have not been, I have heard this is one of the most exciting Jazz Festivals on the planet. Take a look at their site to see who they had performing at this year’s festival.

Like mentioned with other great countries; Brazil has been the home to a number of jazz musicians known and unknown. Hopefully the musicians below are people you will start checking out (if you have not already).

Claudio Roditi– trumpet
Eliane Elias– piano
Nilson Matta– bass

These are just a few of literally hundreds of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from Brazil. If you have checked out these musicians above, be sure to check out their websites and albums to support them. I would also highly encourage you to look up other great Brazilian musicians and see what this great country has to offer in terms of Jazz.

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Say That Again

STAHave you ever had a line in your improvisation that came up in the moment that you liked so much that you wanted to Say That Again? But, the progression keeps moving so you had to transpose the line. For some improvisers this scenario can be nerve-racking because you might only know that line in one or two keys. In today’s post I want to share an exercise I use regularly (and one that you should never stop doing) to help not only with ear training, but with confidence in playing in all keys. This exercise in the academic world has a number of different terms associated with it: sequencing, transposing, modulating, etc. However, when I work with younger students I like to not only teach the academic musical terms, but call them something they might find humorous so they remember it. In this case, I like to call this exercise: Say That Again!

It is simple. When you are practicing find a motif, riff or lick (perhaps the Lick of the Day here on this site) that you like. For this example we will use the lick below:

STAmotif

After playing the lick (motif, riff, etc) a few times as written…stop looking at it. Memorize it and play it without reading the notes. Once you have the lick down you are going to Say That Again, but by playing it a half-step up or down (see below):

STA.5down STA.5up

You can continue that pattern all the way up (or down) the chromatic scale. Not only have you played the lick in all keys, but you now can play the lick in half-step motions which can be used for taking a line outside. Another very popular way of doing this exercise is by going up in fourths which is often called playing around the cycle of fourths (see below):

STAup4

Practicing your lick this way gets you to start thinking about moving around one of the most common root progression movements (ex. iim7 – V7- Imaj7 all have root movements of a fourth). The next couple of examples move the lick around major 2nds (up or down the whole-tone scale) and minor 3rds (up or down the Diminished 7th chord):

Major 2nds

STAupM2

STAdownWT

Minor 3rds

STAupm3

STAupDIM

I hope this week’s tip has added some value or benefit to you or your student’s playing in some way. For a challenge this week take one of the licks from the Lick of Day found here on this site and take it through the Say It Again exercise. Over time you will be able to navigate your favorite lines through different harmonic progressions with ease!

Finally, be sure to pick up your copy of Mountain, Move today. Part of the proceeds of each album sale (physical or digital) help the Pearl Alliance and their fight against human trafficking. You can get one at our Digital Store along with both of my books: Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony.

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Discovery- Canada

 

We head North in this week’s Discovery series as we take a trip to Canada. Canada, comprised of 10 provinces in 3 terrirtories,  is the world’s second largest country in total land area. It is so vast that it touches 3 of the world’s 4 oceans. While the majority of Canadians speak English there is a large population of residents in Quebec that speak French. Canada has a rich history in music, art, architecture and history.  Canada has been home to some great jazz musicians born there as well as those who have made it their home. As a trumpet player myself-there are a few jazz trumpet players that most have heard of including Ingrid Jensen and Guido Basso (to name few). The same could be said of a number of other instruments. This wonderful country has embraced jazz in its various forms and is home to a number of clubs, educational institutions and jazz festivals.

As with our past locations, the goal is to introduce you to 3 new musicians each week from different parts of the world. My hope is you will find some new discoveries, support them by buying their albums and by attending their concerts if you are in their area (or they in yours). Another benefit is for you to hear new musicians and how they approach their instrument and jazz. You never know where you might find your next favorite line!

Canada has a number of cities that offer live jazz, but one that stands out to me the most is Toronto. Toronto is home to a number of clubs as well as the Toronto Jazz Festival (which the JKQ hopes to play in the future!). It is held annually around the June/July months and has an outstanding roster each season.

Like mentioned with other great countries; Canada has been the home to a number of jazz musicians known and unknown. Hopefully the musicians below are people you will start checking out (if you have not already).

Brian Chahley– trumpet
Francois Bourassa– piano
Gabe Condon– guitar

These are just a few of literally hundreds of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from Canada. If you have checked out these musicians above, be sure to check out their websites and albums to support them. I would also highly encourage you to look up other great Canadian musicians and see what this great country has to offer in terms of Jazz.

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Discovery- Sweden

 

In this week’s Discovery series-we take a trip to Sweden. Sweden, a Scandinavian country in Norther Europe, is the third largest country in the European Union in land mass. Like many of the other European destinations we have visited with this series; Sweden has a rich history in music, art, architecture and history.  Sweden has been home to some great jazz musicians born there as well as those who have made it their home. This wonderful country has embraced jazz in its various forms and is home to a number of clubs, educational institutions and jazz festivals.

As with our past locations, the goal is to introduce you to 3 new musicians each week from different parts of the world. My hope is you will find some new discoveries, support them by buying their albums and by attending their concerts if you are in their area (or they in yours). Another benefit is for you to hear new musicians and how they approach their instrument and jazz. You never know where you might find your next favorite line!

Sweden has a number of cities that offer live jazz, but their capital city of Stockholm is home to a number of clubs as well as the Stockholm Jazz Festival (which the JKQ hopes to play in the future!). If you click on the link above it will show you who is playing at this year’s festival which will happen on October 14-20th.

Like mentioned with other great Western European countries; Sweden has been the home to a number of jazz musicians known and unknown. Hopefully the musicians below are people you will start checking out (if you have not already).

Johan Christoffersson– sax
Naoko Sakata– piano
Kristian Brink– sax

These are just a few of literally hundreds of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from Sweden. If you have checked out these musicians above, be sure to check out their websites and albums to support them. I would also highly encourage you to look up other great Swedish musicians and see what this great country has to offer in terms of Jazz.

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Discovery-Illinois, USA

 

We continue our Discovery series this week by heading to the state of Illinois (U.S.). Chicago, by far the state’s largest city, is one of the world’s largest cities and has a long and rich history of jazz. I am not going to even attempt to list all of what this city has meant to the history and the continued development of jazz. Even outside of Chicago, Illinois is home to some great jazz musicians and some wonderful colleges and universities that produce these musicians. Some of the names listed below you may already know, but I hope to focus on some that you may not.

As with our past locations, the goal is to introduce you to 3 new musicians each week from different parts of the world. My hope is you will find some new discoveries, support them by buying their albums and by attending their concerts if you are in their area (or they in yours). Another benefit is for you to hear new musicians and how they approach their instrument and jazz. You never know where you might find your next favorite line!

Chicago is home to a number of great jazz venues, but in this week’s post I wanted to highlight one of those venues because of what they are doing to support not only live Jazz-but supporting young jazz musicians. The Drake hotel in downtown  Chicago (along with a partnership with the Jazz Institute of Chicago) features the NextGenJazz series, which is a 6-concert series every Thursday night in their Palm Court. I think it is great that a venue supports the next generation of Jazz musicians they way they do.

Like mentioned in previous series; Illinois has been the home to a number of jazz musicians known and unknown. Hopefully the musicians below are people you will start checking out (if you have not already).

Marquis Hill– trumpet
Rajiv Halim– sax
Xavier Breaker– drums

These are just a few of literally hundreds (if not thousands) of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from Illinois. If you have checked out these musicians above, be sure to check out their websites and albums to support them. I would also highly encourage you to look up other great musicians from Illinois and see what this great state has to offer in terms of Jazz.

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Discovery-United Kingdom

In this week’s Discovery series-we take a trip to the United Kingdom. The U.K., also known as Britain, is off the northwestern coast of continental Europe. Like many of the other Western Europe destinations we have visited with this series; the U.K. is famous for many things from music, art, architecture and history.  The U.K. has been home to some great jazz musicians born there as well as those who have made it their home. This wonderful country has embraced jazz in its various forms and is home to a number of clubs, educational institutions and jazz festivals.

As with our past locations, the goal is to introduce you to 3 new musicians each week from different parts of the world. My hope is you will find some new discoveries, support them by buying their albums and by attending their concerts if you are in their area (or they in yours). Another benefit is for you to hear new musicians and how they approach their instrument and jazz. You never know where you might find your next favorite line!

The U.K. has some of the world’s greatest musicians from all parts. As with our other places in the Discovery series; it is difficult to narrow down just 3 musicians. Among many other iconic jazz spots in the U.K., when I think of the U.K. and Jazz I immediately think of Ronnie Scotts in London. I had the privilege of checking this venue out in person back in the Summer of 2001.

Like mentioned with other great Western European countries; the U.K. has been the home to a number of jazz musicians known and unknown. Hopefully the musicians below are people you will start checking out (if you have not already).

Steve Waterman– trumpet
Ivo Neame– piano
Adam Waldmann– sax

These are just a few of literally hundreds of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from the U.K. If you have checked out these musicians above, be sure to check out their websites and albums to support them. I would also highly encourage you to look up other great British musicians and see what this great country has to offer in terms of Jazz.

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