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Improv Tip Week #14- Personalized Articulation

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).

The other end of the spectrum would be the same line but very long legato with little separation like the example below.

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.



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  1. Beautiful theme, thanks for talking about it!
    I shall only add, that find their own individual articulation of the easiest to own a pronunciation of verbal text.
    I personally learned from the example of Satchmo, who singing with text and sound production on thorn were completely identical.

    1. I agree that your pronunciation has a great effect on your personal style. Each region in the US (as well as different regions of the world) have different dialects which effect pronunciation as well as articulation.

  2. The question of the articulation interested me for a long time, but only 2 years ago I found that the easiest musical instrument (and, apparently, the most correct, although not general accepted) for the development of jazz articulation – melodica. It has a familiar to all keyboard – on the one hand, on the other side – sound production on it can occur through pronunciation and articulation scat or even words.
    Yours NP

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