Duets Part 2

Welcome! I truly hope this post adds value and benefit to you and your students. Take a look around the tabs above, previous posts and my Digital Store where you can find more information on two books that I have released (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony).

We are continuing our discussion of Duets and how they can help your  improvisations. Last week we looked at the benefits of playing duets with another person without any accompaniment or written music (after deciding the chord progression, of course). In Part 2 we will look at the benefits of playing duets with written charts.

Part 2:

Playing duets with sheet music in front of you adds another layer of positive development to your overall playing. You may be wondering, “wait a second, Jason. How is playing written duets going to help my personal improvisation goals?” That’s a great question! As jazz musicians we grab ideas (melodic statements, motifs, licks, etc) and allow them to eventually show up in our improvisation. We grab those ideas from multiple sources: recordings, live concerts, jam sessions, patterns, books, etc. Written music (for example a book of duets) should not be discounted.

Playing written duets has similar benefits of improvised duets (without accompaniment), but does have some additional ones:

  • Timing and Phrasing. Even though you are reading music, the two of you rely on your collective time. This is a benefit of any type of duet playing (classical, jazz, etc).
  • Sight-Reading. Performing music in time is necessary for a wide range of musicians. If you have a desire to be a professional musician then this is an absolutely necessary skill.
  • Non-Verbal Cues. Playing with someone else requires you to pay attention to what they’re doing. Are they wanting to slow down? Speed up? Swing harder on a particular section? Play more legato on a particular section? Pay attention to what your partner is doing with their body and you can communicate musical ideas without saying anything. This is an imperative skill to have on any bandstand.
  • New Ideas. If you read something you like…remember it, keep and develop it!
  • Intonation. This is more for wind players. Tuning to a single pitch does not mean you are in tune as an ensemble. Adjustments need to be made depending on a note’s context in time. Another important skill to have when playing in any type of ensemble.

There are a few good jazz duet books written that are available. However, in my opinion,  The Ultimate Collection of Jazz Duets Complete by Rich Willey is one of the best out there. If you and a friend (or your students) need a good jazz duet book-this is it. They start fairly easy and get progressively more difficult so they’re perfect for any musician at any stage in their development.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tip and that it has added value and benefit to you in some way. Go out this week and play some duets!

About the Author jasonklobnak

Jason Klobnak is a versatile trumpet player that has been performing as an active musician, author, clinician, composer and educator. His band, J's Ruckus, is Denver's blend of Post-Bop, Soul, Gospel, and Hip-Hop. They perform infectious and up-lifting originals for audiences hungry for a memorable live experience. J's Ruckus released their latest album, Suck Less, in March of 2020 and their first EP, Sermons, in July of 2019. Both were recorded live in front of an audience. Suck Less was recorded to a packed auditorium at Arapahoe Community College's Waring Theater in Littleton, CO. Sermons was recorded in front of a sold out crowd at the Soiled Dove Underground.  The JKQ (the Jason Klobnak Quintet/Quartet) is Mr. Klobnak's Hammond B-3 centered groups. The JKQ released their third full-length album in March of 2018 called Friends & Family. It has been very well reviewed, on numerous Top 10 lists for Jazz radio stations across the country (including Denver's KUVO 89.3FM which named it May 2018's CD of the month), and in Jazzweek's Top 100. Each composition was written for specific family and close friends (that might as well be family). Their second album, New Chapter, was recorded in part thanks to the Pathways to Jazz Grant from the Boulder County Arts Alliance. In 2015 and 2016, New Chapter was in the Top 75 on the Jazzweek charts and on the Top 10 playlists for over a dozen radio stations worldwide. Their first album, Mountain, Move made the Best Recordings of 2013 list from AllAboutJazz.com by C. Michael Bailey. His very well reviewed Christmas single, Hark the Herald, in 2016 as part of a creative project with musicians James Roberson and Nathaniel Kearney Jr. Besides the JKQ, Mr. Klobnak is a B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman-custom trumpet), Denis Wick (mouthpiece and mutes) and Westone Audio endorsed artist (ES20 and Tru Customs). Mr. Klobnak has played and recorded for numerous groups ranging from jazz, soul/R&B, indie-rock/pop and gospel. In addition to performing, he has also written two improvisation-based books called Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony and is currently an adjunct professor and brass instructor at Arapahoe Community College. Mr. Klobnak holds a bachelor degree from Drake University (Des Moines, IA) and a Master’s degree from the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music (Denver, CO).

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