Improv Tip Week #12- Chromatic Exercise - Jason Klobnak Music

Improv Tip Week #12- Chromatic Exercise

Welcome back! I hope you’ve been enjoying these improvisation tips. This week, I’m going to format the tip slightly differently. I’m going to put my closing at the beginning: If you’ve enjoyed this tip (or any of the past 11), please feel free to leave a comment or share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. I’ve had numerous people leave me personal messages on how much these tips have helped. I would love to continue helping others and expand the circle of influence.

This week’s tip (Week #12-Chromatic Exercise) is a quick, yet effective exercise that will help get certain jazz lines under your fingers and ears (this is also talked about in Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose). Just about every instrument stresses the importance of the chromatic scale because it covers the full range of the instrument by half step (as well as additional benefits that can be specific to your instrument).

This chromatic exercise is the same scale (you can start on any note…the following examples start on “G”), but alternating every other note. If going down: Go down a whole step then up a half step. If going up: Go down a half step then up a whole step.

The big benefit of this exercise is that it helps you chromatically enclose each note of the chromatic scale by half step (a very common device in Jazz). While there’s additional benefits to doing this exercise (i.e. a great break-up to the routine of just running the chromatic scale, good for the chops, etc), we’re just looking at the enclosure benefits.

For most people (those that haven’t broken up the chromatic scale like this before), this will not be an easy exercise at first. Remember to start slowly and gradually increase your speed. Practice makes permanent. However, if this exercise seems to simple for you, try changing up the exercise by articulating in different patterns (example below)

or by changing up the rhythm:

If that’s still not a challenge for some of you. Try playing major triads on each note like the example below:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! There should be plenty for everyone to work on between now and next week 🙂




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 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).