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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 🙂




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