Improv Tip Week #15-Motif's part 1 - Jason Klobnak Music

Improv Tip Week #15-Motif’s part 1

Welcome back to the blog! This is the 15th consecutive week of improvisation tips and we’re going to start into a multi-week series on motifs. A motif is a recurring subject, theme or idea. In the case of improvisations, motifs become great vehicles for improvisation because we can develop a simple idea into something more. Over the course of this series, we’re going to take a simple motif and show what we can do to develop it. Below is the motif we’re going to use throughout this series:

The above is a very simple idea (in this case a short blues lick). There are a number of different ways that we can develop a motif. We can look at the actual notes, contour/shape, rhythm, intervals, harmony (if the motif implies a harmony), articulation, etc. However, over the next couple of week’s we’re going to look at the first four: notes, contour/shape, rhythm and intervals. Below are the first three elements (we’ll get into intervals later):

We will look at how we can develop each of these areas as we go along, but we will also be examining how we use those developments in terms of targeting. Those that have been following or studying with me know that I’m very BIG on targeting-or aiming at a goal note with purpose. My book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose discusses some of the different ways we can creatively target a note. Each motif we use or the development of the motif we use should still be aiming at a target.

When we develop a motif, we look at the original elements listed above (notes, contour/shape, rhythms, etc) as outlines for what we could do with the motif to make it slightly different while still resembling the original idea. Each idea or development leads to another (a great example is Sonny Rollin’s solo on St. Thomas). As the improviser, it’s up to you to decide which elements you want to manipulate to develop the idea. You can develop one element at a time or multiple elements at once. For me, when I’m developing a motif during an improvisation-I like to change one or two elements at a time so each development is easily recognizable to the listener. In a way, it’s like time-lapse photography. The listener watches one frame slowly turn into something completely different.

Below is a simple example of changing a few elements at a time over the first four bars of a “C-Blues.” The first bar is a statement of the original motif. The second bar keeps the same rhythm and general shape/contour, but I’m changing the notes. The third bar is an exact quotation of the original motif. The fourth bar keeps the same rhythm, but slightly changes the notes and the shape/contour. You’ll also notice that each of the examples targets the 7th, root, #9 and 3rd (in that order). It was important that I kept the concept of targeting while developing the motif.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll really dive into developing the motif’s notes, rhythms, shape/contour and intervals. I hope you’ll continue following this series and have found this week’s tip helpful. If you have, please share this blog with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other site that you might be a contributer or frequent. Over the past couple of weeks there has been an increase in new friends following the blog (and buying my book) from outside of the US and wanted to say thank you and welcome! For those that haven’t checked out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose, you can click on the link to the right or go to Jason Klobnak Music for more information. There’s also a short web commercial with reviews and testimonials below from those that have found the book beneficial.

I hope you enjoy and we’ll see you 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).