Have you been following along on the Improvisation Thursday Facebook Live events? If not, you can click HERE to check out the previous week’s videos highlighting who they’re for, how I believe they can help you, and where to start. If you came to check out the visuals you can scroll to the bottom. But, if need a quick synopsis of what we’ve discussed-here you go:
As I mentioned in the Facebook Live video, it may benefit you to visualize the pentatonic scale less like a scale and more like a collection of pitches. While working with a student recently (thanks for letting me share Noah!) we found that this can help get you out of thinking in terms of dots on a page and more towards the letter association. If numbers work for you too…go for it! Here’s how we’re visualizing it:
If you “stretch out” the scale to the full range of your instrument it might look like this:
If it helps to think of where your octaves are than we can include a line also:
This is where visualizing the layout and having the targets marked was helpful for Noah:
This will prove even more helpful as we start to expand our tools to get to our targets AND keeping the pentatonic as a melodic “home base.”
Have you been following along on the Improvisation Thursday Facebook Live events? If not, you can click HERE to check out the previous week’s videos highlighting who they’re for, how I believe they can help you, and where to start. If you have and just want the free examples you can scroll to the bottom. But, if need a quick synopsis of what we’ve discussed-here you go:
We can use the pentatonic scale as a source of melodic content as well as using it as a tool to get to our targets. I like to use them for both as each line we play should have the end-note (target) in mind. The below examples are in the key of C, but notice how each line ends on either the 1st (C), 3rd (E), or 5th (G) of the key. It’s a free pdf file that you can use to start getting some ideas in your ear and under your fingers.
Welcome to part 2 of starting beginner’s on their improvisation journey. Last week we started off with what I believe is a great foundation to getting a beginner going. There are a number of different opinions, theories and options. However, this is how I like to introduce those just starting. I have seen it work and believe it builds a strong foundation for their playing. I would encourage you go back to PART 1 and read through that if you are just joining us.
The next step is introducing MELODY. Where do we get melodies from? First, we get them from the music we play. What songs are the students learning? If they are really young students are they learning those early nursery rhyme type songs? All of these are melodies. Reading music is important, but have the students learn to play the melody without looking at the music. Internalize it. Once we learn the melody we can use it later. The melody can be embellished with a variety of tools, but they mean nothing without the foundation of the melody. As an exercise, have a student take Happy Birthday and improvise on it. If they have been working on rhythm and listening, you would be surprised at what they can probably already create with it.
Still not sure if you think it is a good exercise? Check out this video made by Wynton Marsalis in France a few years back:
Where else can we get melodies from? One of the scale types used in virtually every culture is the pentatonic scale. There is something melodic about that particular scale that has been creating melodies around the world for generations. If a student still needs to work on their major scales they need to be learning those in addition to the major pentatonic scale (minor scales are important too, but get the major one’s down first). While I do not believe running up and down scales themselves is how you should learn to improvise, they are important to know because they give us a color palette to choose from when improvising and the pentatonic scale is a melodic gold mine.
Combining the two elements of the melody of the song the student is learning with the pentatonic scale in the home key is a great place to get them thinking creatively. The pentatonic scale in the home key can be used to target key notes (landing areas) in the melody. For more information about how you or your student can use a pentatonic scale to creatively target notes you can check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose.
Remember these are just beginning students. Give them achievable goals to start with before adding more complex ideas. I find a higher success rate with beginners that are given a few details to work with and then adding more pieces when ready rather than dumping everything at once. In my teaching studio, rhythm (time, feel, etc) and listening are the foundation. Melody is the next layer. Check back next week for the next layer 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog/post. As a thank you I wanted to give you a FREE MP3 from the JKQ. Simply click the button below and fill out the short form and you’ll have it in just a few short moments!
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.
Welcome to the last part of the Map It Out series. In today’s post we will finish looking at the song Stand Firm by completing the “B” section and then creating a route through the whole progression. If you haven’t looked at the earlier parts in this series, I highly encourage you to check those out (or any of the other past posts on improvisation, composition, etc).
First, let’s take a look at the “B” section to Stand Firm. We mentioned last week that the “A” sections were in Abmaj, yet had a quick minor 2-5 that went to C minor (or the 3rd of Ab). Instead of implying a C minor sound, like the “A” section, the “B” section goes to the C minor. It’s complimented by it’s 5 chord-the G7(b9).
As mentioned in the previous parts, we want to keep the map options simple through the first pass or two. So I’m listing different pentatonic scale options to simplify the thought process.
One option that I see that sticks out would be the Bb major pentatonic because it could be used over the entire “B” section. Again, this DOES NOT mean this would be your only option for improvising. It does, however, help provide a mental map of what your options are going through the changes for the first time. The more familiar you get with the progression, the more options you have available.
Now we have all of the different sections (intro/vamp, A section & B section) mapped out with some pentatonic options. Here’s how our map turned out:
The final stage is to take that map and chart out a route. You could do this in the moment if you are at a mature enough stage in your improvisation development. If you’re a beginner, I would suggest you do this before hand. Here’s one charted route based on the map above:
It may be hard to tell from the picture so here’s another version that may be easier to read:
This is ONE possible route you could take. There are a number of different route options. To hear which one I end up taking in the recording studio-be sure to grab my CD “Mountain, Move.” It should release in the Fall of 2013. If you’d like more information on how you can be a part of the CD project, you can visit my Digital Store today. Individuals and businesses that support the project not only get a copy of the album when it comes out, but they will have other benefits added along with it (including tickets to the CD release, their name/company logo on the jacket or CD, etc for certain donation levels). Be sure to stop by today and be a part of the project!
Welcome to part 3 of the Map It Out series. If this is your first time visiting this site I’d like to welcome you to check out the previous posts on this topic as well as a number of other categories you can find on my blog. Also, be sure to check out the Lick of the Day as well as my Digital Store.
Last week we finished mapping out a plan for the intro/vamp section. This week I wanted to take a look at the “A” section of Stand Firm.
The first chord of the “A” section is an Abmaj9. If that were the only chord to the “A” section then we could use just about anything that was in the key area of Ab major. However, you’ll notice in the 7th and 8th bar that there is a Dmin7(b5) and a G7(b9). Those are not in the key area of Ab major. When you see something out of the key area you know you need to do some quick investigating to find the relationship.
Any time you see a chord progression that looks like the two types listed below-they are some form of 2-5 (and the “5” chord can have any type of alteration applied). 2-5’s and 2-5-1’s outside of the original key area are temporary modulations or setups for key changes:
If we take that information and look at the Dmin7(b5) to G7(b9) in Stand Firm we know it is a minor 2-5. Where would it resolve? To some form of C (typically a C minor). How is the C minor related to the Abmaj9? It’s the 3rd of the Abmaj. So the minor 2-5 in bar 7 & 8 is a minor 2-5-1 of the 3rd scale degree of the original key area. Because we go back to the Abmaj9 we know we’re not changing keys so it is a temporary modulation.
Over the minor 2-5 itself we can use a number of different options. However, since we’ve been talking about simplifying our options in this Map It Out series and using pentatonics-let’s look at some pentatonic options over the minor 2-5. Over the min7(b5) you can use major pentatonics based off of the b6 or the b5. Each one gives a slightly different sound then the other. Another option is to use the F-insen pentatonic scale (insen pentatonic based off of the b3). For more information on that I would invite you to check out previous posts on pentatonics on this site.
Over the 7(b9) you can use major pentatonics based off of the b9, #9 or #11. There are a number of different pentatonic (and non-pentatonic) options you can use for these, but that could turn into a completely different topic altogether. You can use the melodic minor scale, pentatonic scale, diminished, etc.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post on mapping it out. Next week we will finish mapping out Stand Firm and looking at the “B” section. For more information on how you can use various pentatonic scales to creatively target notes in your improvisations I would highly recommend you check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose which is available at my Digital Store.
Last week we looked at mapping out a plan of attack when looking at a new chart or chord progression. We’re going to take the same chart (Stand Firm which will be on my album Mountain, Move later this year) and go further into the progression mapping out a plan. Last week we looked at some different options on the first two chords of the vamp/intro. In today’s post we will take a look at the remainder of that section. Below is the part of the piano part:
We talked about how the first two chords of the intro/vamp are the same chord quality just a whole step a part. This continues until the 7th and 8 bar. It takes the same chord quality and moves up a half step then an additional whole step (Dmin11 to Ebmin11 to Fmin11). Similar to last week’s map we can take pentatonic pairs and move them up a half step and then another whole step as shown below:
From there you can develop a road map of where you might want to go. Below is the full intro/vamp:
You can use whatever tools you want. I’m using pentatonics for these examples because they’re simple and contain great melodic possibilities. I’ve listed two different option paths you could take through the vamp/intro section:
Obviously there are a number of different combination paths you could choose, but like I mentioned last week I think it’s best during your first run-through of a new chart to find the path that has a nice linear path.
Next week we will take a look at the “A” section of this chart and continue mapping out a plan. If you haven’t already done so, I’d like to invite you to check out my Digital Store where you can get more information on my books (Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose and Breaking the Monotony), Skype Lessons and information on how you can help be a part of the Mountain, Move recording project. Also, don’t forget to check back daily for the Lick of the Day that is in the upper right corner of the site!
In today’s post I wanted to give you a sneak peak at one of the songs that’s going to be on the album (on Mountain, Move that you can check out HERE) and talk about mapping out a plan of attack for improvisation. If you drive your vehicle from one destination to another often enough you will get familiar with how to get there and what alternate routes can be taken if there is traffic or roadblocks. The same is true for improvisation. If you’ve played the same chord progression often enough-you know how to get around. However, if you are in a new city (or have a chord progression that’s unfamiliar) you may want to map it out or have a GPS guide you.
We are going to take a look at a song called Stand Firm. The progression is not something that I think would be difficult for the vast majority of players out there. However, for our purposes we will start simple. Below is the intro and A-section to the song (from the piano part).
For me…the less I have to think about when navigating something new the better. Don’t get bogged down with too many options to start. The more familiar I become with something the more I can expand my options. When you’re driving in a new city you want to know how you get from point A to point B. You’re not too concerned on the first trip or two about alternate routes. I like to take the same approach to mapping out new chord changes.
When I map out a new chord progression I will look for commonalities between the chords. Are there key areas or centers? Can multiple chord changes share the same or similar pattern? If there are commanalities I will explore those avenues first. For instance, in the intro to Stand Firm the first two chords in the vamp are a whole step a part. So I might look for melodic device options that are a whole step a part. I could use two pairs of pentatonics that are a whole step a part. I could use chromatic targeting devices where the targets are a whole step a part (check out Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose for more info on that one). There’s a number of different ways you can use the whole step a part idea.
I like pentatonic scales because they’re simple and they are full melodic possibilities. Below is how I might map out part of the intro:
You’ll notice that above the Cmin11 chord I wrote in a few examples. The Eb and Bb major pentatonic scale as well as Cmin (which is a reminder to think in a C minor key area). Over the Dmin11 is the F and C major pentatonic (along with Emin key area reference which should be Dmin…as a trumpet player sometimes it’s hard to shut off transposing, sorry). All of those options show that I could potentially use whole step pentatonic pairs (Bb to C and Eb to F major).
I would continue this process throughout the whole progression and find what avenues would support a logical flow. Just like voice leading on chordal instruments you want to look for the closest relationships. That means finding devices that are a 1/2 step, whole step, etc. away from the other device. It doesn’t mean that’s the only way you can improvise over the changes, but it gives you a good start to get familiar with changes. Once you do get familiar, you can expand your options.
Next week we will continue to map out some more options on the intro as well as the rest of the form. Let me hear from you, though. What melodic devices/options would you use over the intro?