Category Archives for Transcribing

Let It Go

Maybe you have been there…maybe not. It is frustrating. Especially when you are in the moment and things have been going well up until that point. For whatever reason (and it could be a number of them) you have painted yourself into a corner with your improvisation. You realize the line that you are playing will not work. It could be the line wont fit the changes or it could be that you have started to wander.

At this point in time you have a critical choice to make as an improviser. There are two roads you can choose, but you have to make the decision quick because you are in the moment. Here are your options:

  1. The first is to try and play yourself out of the jam you have put yourself in. I will be honest, this can be fun and it can make an improvisation more exciting…when it works. The problem is that it does not work that often. This can actually increase the wandering effect. It is a vicious cycle. You wander to find something that works and you go further down the rabbit hole and wander some more. An effective improvisation is a conversation with the soloist,the rhythm section and the audience. Wandering is like the soloist speaking run-on sentences or constantly going on tangents that have nothing to do with the subject.
  2. In my opinion, the best option is to Let It Go. Stop playing the line as soon as you get to that point. End the statement at a logical point (sooner then later). Take a second to step back, breathe and start a new statement. Repeat this step as soon as you notice that you are going there again. If it happens too many times then you need more time with this chord progression.

I am not a psychologist, but there is something about our human wiring that wants to feel justified about a line we are playing. If it is not working out, we tend to feel like we need to work it out to protect our ego. If you had a chance to hear yourself in this process it does not sound good. However, when we drop our ego and let the line go you position yourself for a greater chance of success.

I hope you have enjoyed this tip and that it has added some value and benefit to your playing in some way! The JKQ is slowly making our way to getting our album Mountain, Move completed. We could still use your help, though. Stop by our Digital Store today and make a donation, purchase a book, schedule a clinic or Skype lesson. Every dollar gets us closer to our album release!

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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 jasonklobnak.com 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!

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Analyzing Lines-Donald Byrd on 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.

Below is the line that occurs in bars 42-45 on his solo in Nica’s Dream:

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 (in English and Spanish) or as a printed/bound version.

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!

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Record Yourself

Welcome everyone! In today’s post I want to talk about recording yourself. You may be wondering, “why would I want to do that?” Keep reading and I’ll show you some benefits that come along with recording yourself. 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.

Do you ever have moments when you feel like things are going great in the practice room, yet when you get the bandstand things just are not working out? There could be a number of reasons that happens. However, unless you make a habit of recording yourself you might be attempting to fix the wrong issues.

When should you record yourself? The answer is anytime you’re playing! Record yourself practicing, rehearsing with the band and on the gig. Take note of everything that went well, what didn’t go well and what you need to fix. You don’t have to be hyper-critical over everything (let’s face it…NO ONE is or plays perfect), but take an honest assessment of where you were at in that moment in time. Recordings don’t lie and give you instant feedback. Anything that can make a recording will work. In today’s smart phone technology, most phones have a recording memo device that will suffice for most self-recording needs. There are options from very affordable to pretty expensive.

What are some things to listen for in a recording? Here’s a few below:

  • Ideas. From an improvisation standpoint did your ideas (lines, phrases, etc) make sense? Did they flow in a conversational way or did they wander? You might even find that you were grasping at an idea in the moment, but never quite got it right. Figure out what that was and work that idea out.
  • Technical Issues. Tone, articulation, flexibility, etc. Often times what we hear in our head or behind our instrument is not at all what comes out the other end. Again, recordings don’t lie. If you hear technical errors you now know what can be worked on during your next practice session.
  • Communication. This is more for recording yourself on the gig. How was your interaction with the other musicians on the stage? Where you having a one-way dialogue or were you a musical conversation with your band mates? I think there’s a time and place for both, but the recording will show you if it was at the right time or not.

I know it can be tough to listen to yourself on a recording. It is a sobering experience. However, if you practice what needs to fixed you will progress faster as a musician. I suggest you start recording yourself if you haven’t already. What are your thoughts? Do you record yourself? If so, what are some insights you have learned from doing it? Finally, take the average of your recordings. You’re never as good as your best recording, but you’re never as bad as your worst.

Speaking of recording, I’m hoping to try out the new Zoom Q2HD which does high quality audio and HD video soon. If I get the chance to pick one up, I will do a review for those that might be interested.

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Improv Tip Week #31-Benefits of Transcribing

Welcome to week #31, which is the first tip of 2012! If you haven’t yet, I want to encourage everyone to check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and invite you to check it out by going to the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music for more information. The E-book version works great on mobile devices (which is an instant download available all across the globe) and the printed version is sturdy and sits nicely on a music stand. We should have the E-book version available in a few different languages very shortly.

Last week’s tip was on Transcribing Yourself. In this week’s tip, I wanted to talk about the benefits of transcribing (specifically others). Transcribing is one of the most talked about subjects in the jazz community. Regardless of the “how” you transcribe, the benefits are universal and important for every musician to do on some level. But, before we look at the benefits-let’s look at some of the “how’s” (just in case there’s a way that you haven’t explored). Every person has their own learning style and there are different ways that you can transcribe.

-Some transcribe a solo and write it down (whether on paper or digitally).
-Some transcribe a solo entirely by ear (they don’t write any of it down).
-Some transcribe licks or riffs and learn them in all keys (they may or may not write them down).

No matter how you do it, the important part of transcribing is (to quote Mr. Clark Terry) is to “Imitate, Assimilate and Innovate.” The benefits of transcribing:

-Ear training (making the connection between what you hear to what you play stronger)
-Gaining new vocabulary
-It helps you decide what becomes part of your personal style
-It connects theory to practice (try to get into the soloists head and ask yourself…why did that work?)
-You can work on your rhythm by playing with great musicians (when playing with the solo are you articulating the same?)
-It Develops concentration

Even if it seems intimdating at first, the more you do it-the faster you’ll be able to accomplish the utlimate goal of making that connection between what you hear to what you play. There are software programs out there to help out when needed. But, I would suggest doing as much of it as you can at the recorded speed. I’m also in the camp of those that learn the solo (or parts of it) by ear with my instrument. I find, for me, that I can make that connection faster.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip beneficial and start (or continue) transcribing! Let me know your thoughts. What camp of transcribing do you fall into? What are you currently transcribing? Are there other benefits that maybe aren’t listed above that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you and see this blog become more interactive in 2012. Please share this tip/blog with your friends and colleagues and let’s see 2012 become a year of personal improv growth goals!

Improv Tip Week #30-Transcribe Yourself

I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Welcome to week #30, which will be the last tip of 2011! Since this will be the last tip of the calendar year, I wanted to encourage everyone to check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose one last time and invite you to check it out by going to the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music. The E-book version works great on mobile devices (which is an instant download available all across the globe) and the printed version is sturdy and sits nicely on a music stand. I’m hoping to have the E-book version available in a few different languages towards the beginning of 2012.

If this is your first time to this blog…welcome! If you’re a returning visitor, welcome back! This week’s tip is called Transcribe Yourself. I don’t know about you, but I prefer listening to good musicians who sound like themselves. The world has plenty of carbon copies of just about everything. It’s refreshing to hear someone improvise from their depths. One way we can develop our personal sound is by transcribing ourselves. The great thing about this tip is that it’s great for every musician, regardless of their developmental stage. Beginners to advanced musicians can gain great benefit by transcribing what they hear in their head. Granted, advanced musicians can do this quite a bit faster (in the moment). But with time-beginners can reach that goal as well.

Here’s a simple 2-step process to get this started. First, without accompaniment, sing a line that you hear in your head. Second, play it on your instrument. Repeat this over and over with the same line or with new lines. If needed, you can write them down. I prefer that you don’t write them down, though, as you’re attempting to make the connection from what you hear to what you play. Eventually, this process will become faster and you’ll be able to make the connection in the moment. The great thing about this is you’re transcribing yourself. The lines you sing are the ones that have stuck with you (you’ve heard it somewhere before) or what is coming out of pure inspiration. Either way, they become personalized by the way YOU heard it and the way YOU play it. If every musician spent some time transcribing themselves, the world would have fewer copies and more unique musicians.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip (and start putting it to use into 2012)! Please share this tip (and blog) with your friends, colleagues and students via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites you contribute to as I would love to see more and more of our musicians across the globe have their own personalized sound. Let’s make 2012 a landmark year in music that the history books look back on in dedication with its own chapter!

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