Welcome and thanks for checking out week #14’s tip…Personalized Articulation. Before we dive in to this topic, I want to again thank everyone that participated in the July and August drawings (those that purchased the e-book and printed version of Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose, have taken a Skype Lesson or have donated to my next album). If you have a studio or teach an improvisation course, I am running a Buy 3 get 1 FREE special for the printed/bound version of Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose. If you need 10 or more-contact me and we can work out an even deeper savings for your studio/class.
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If you were given a blind listening test of 4 or 5 famous artists that played your instrument-most of you would be able to tell who each artist was. There’s a number of factors that would help you make that determination: Their tone, melodic/rhythmic ideas, articulation, etc. The factor we’re going to talk about this week is articulation. I believe each person has an articulation that’s slightly different from someone else (much like fingerprints) that plays the same instrument. Some can sound very close to the other, but not quite the same. The beautiful part about it is that it’s personalized to each individual. We have our own likes and dislikes.
You may be wondering, “Great, Jason. How does this help me with my improvisations?” Some people never develop their articulation until it’s personalized. We listen to our favorite artists and try to match their articulations and nuances, but rarely do we go past what someone else did and make it our own. When we develop our style, our improvisations communicate to our audiences on a deeper level. You’re showing them yourself and not an imitation of someone else.
As you can imagine, there are varying degrees of each articulation. How short is your staccato? How long is your legato? If I put two people in a room and told them to play a staccato “F”- each person’s interpretation would be different. That’s a part of what makes us individual. When working on personalizing your articulation style, I like to have students start at the extreme end of an articulation and move towards the other end of the spectrum. As you move from one end to the other, you will find that one of those passes will sound the best to your ears. The example below is a very simple melodic line at one end of the extreme (in this case-VERY short and separated).
These examples help us find our articulation in one style (i.e. how we like our staccatos, legatos, etc.) That doesn’t mean that all of our articulations in our improvisations have to all be in that “middle ground.” Since you’ve worked that line from the two extremes…now you can combine different degrees of those articulations to the same line and give it a completely different flavor. The example below is the same line from the two above, but with a mixture of varying degrees of articulations.
Use your ear as the determining factor. Some mixtures will have a great sound. Others…not so much. But, this is a part of finding your personalized style of articulation that you use for your improvisations. Your articulations help define who you are as a musician. Spend this next week working on different articulations to the lines you’re working on and determine which one fits you the best.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Be sure to check out my digital store at Jason Klobnak Music or by clicking the link on the right.
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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