The Jazz community recently lost another great musician in pianist Mulgrew Miller. I have been a fan of his playing for years-especially his time with Woody Shaw. While thinking about his playing and some of his characteristics (and there are many) I loved the way he played sequences. In honoring Mr. Miller I thought this week’s post should be on using sequences in your improvisation.
What are sequences? There are two types of sequences you will find in jazz: melodic and rhythmic.
Both types of sequences are not hard and fast rules. A melodic sequence can be exact interval repeats (digital patterns) or different notes entirely. The general outline or shape of the line is what is repeated. It can have a different rhythmic pattern or the exact rhythm pattern repeated (but with the notes changing).
We are going to look at an example and how we can sequence a pattern. Below is our basic pattern that we are going to use throughout this post.
The next example takes our pattern above and uses a sequence over the first part of a 4-bar progression. This example takes the exact pattern and modulates it to the next chord. In this example we keep the same rhythm as the original:
You do not have to keep the exact rhythm to create a sequence. The next example takes the idea from above and rhythmically anticipates the F# going to the D7:
Another way you can continue the sequence is by keeping the rhythm and shape of the original pattern, but changing the notes so they fit the next chord:
That same idea could be repeated over the entire progression, but you may want to add other elements to the idea to keep it from going stale. A few ways to do that is to compress the rhythm down or expand the rhythm out:
In the final example below we take some of the different elements of sequencing above and put them into the 4-bar progression (I-VI7-ii7-V7):
I hope this post has added value to you and your playing in some way and that you can start adding sequencing to your improvisational tools. For more information on how you can use digital patterns for sequencing, check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose. For more information on how you can rhythmically energize your improvisation check out Breaking the Monotony at my Digital Store
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!
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!
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.
In this week’s post we are going to continue having some fun exploring improvisational options with arpeggios. In part 1 we looked at what were arpeggios and looked at one of my favorite major 7 arpeggio lines. In part 2 we are going to look at some practical options of how to use that major 7th arpeggio. As we continue along in this series we will look at other chord quality arpeggios and some effective ways to utilize them.
Below are the examples from last week on the major 7 descending arpeggio. The first starts on the root while the second starts on the 3rd of the arpeggio:
Now we are going to explore some ways to use the arpeggio in our improvisation. The first example below simply uses the descending pattern (starting on the 3rd) verbatim over a ii-V-I progression in the key of C:
For those that have been following this blog since the beginning, you know that I like to give you the tools to create your own lines. Now, let’s use the descending arpeggio as our skeleton and add some targeting principles:
If you would like more information on how to apply targeting principles, I would invite you to check out some of the other posts on this site as well as my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose, which is available in printed and digital form (English and Spanish available) at my Digital Store.
Check back next week as we continue to look at other ways we can creatively use arpeggios in our improvisations!
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:
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!
Analyzing Nica’s Dream. About a year ago I started a series on Analyzing Lines. We took a look at a few lines of some of the giants of jazz and broke them down to see why and how they worked. If we can uncover those questions we can learn to build our own lines. The jazz community recently lost a great jazz trumpeter, Donald Byrd. I remember the first time I heard him play was on Nica’s Dream on The Jazz Messengers album by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (Columbia, 1956). I’ve included a YouTube link at the bottom if you haven’t checked it out.
I wanted to do a tribute analysis from one of my favorite lines in his solo on Nica’s Dream. Like I mentioned in the previous Analyzing Lines series-this is my breakdown of what I see him playing and how we can relate and build from it. I’m not inferring in any way that this is how Mr. Byrd played or thought about improvisation.
For those that have been following my posts, you know how much I dig targeting concepts. So let’s take a look at how Mr. Byrd targets specific notes in the line above. Bar 42 looks like he is thinking in the key of Db. You will then notice that he chromatically targets the “F” in bar 43:
Then he uses a diminished targeting concept to target the “F” in bar 44 on the Bb7(b9):
A similar targeting concept is used to target the Bb in that same bar:
I love the way this particular line flows. It has a great combination of targeting concepts, key centered playing and soul. If you’ve never checked out Donal Byrd’s playing, I would highly recommend it. If you would like to know more about how to construct your own lines with different targeting principles (like those mentioned above), I would suggest you check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose which you can find at my Digital Store available as a digital download or for only $15/month get access to everything (every course, book, PDF, album, etc).
Welcome to my site where in today’s post I want to talk about a free jazz exercise that will help unlock your creativity. I truly hope this post will add value and benefit to you and your student’s playing. If this is your first time visiting this site, welcome and please feel free to have a look around. I would also like to invite you to check out my books (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony) at my Digital Store.
In Part 3 of my Duets mini-series I mentioned a type of call and response duet (Free Jam) that is done with no pre-determined progression or key center. I wanted to expand that thought to personal practice and share an exercise that I’ve done over the years that has really helped unlock my creativity. It’s a very simple exercise to describe, but one that takes some time to get comfortable.
Like the call and response duet, there is no pre-determined progression or key center to reference. Here it is: Grab your instrument, decide a tempo and start playing a continuos string of random eighth notes (syncopation and occasional rests are fine).
The idea is to not play pre-conceived ideas or licks. You want to find new note relationships that you might not normally explore. This frees up your creative mind because you are not stifled by trying to make your line fit in a chord progression.
The next step is to listen to yourself. If you found something you liked…figure out what it was and transcribe it. You are allowing your creativity to make new connections. You never know what you may discover about yourself and your playing by doing this exercise. Personally, I try and do this exercise once a week for 10 to 15 minutes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tip and find it beneficial to your playing. Try taking some time out this week to play some free jazz!