Improv Tip Week #23-Let It Breathe - Jason Klobnak Music

Improv Tip Week #23-Let It Breathe

If this is your first time visiting this blog, I wanted to say welcome and invite you to check out the past posts in this blog. For those that are returning-welcome back to Week #23 where we’re going to talk about Let It Breathe. This week’s tip doesn’t have any musical examples or any exercises, but is something that I think everyone can find some benefit from.

Sometimes in our pursuit for finding our voice or that perfect line, we as musicians tend to say too much. You hear it a lot at college campuses and at jam sessions. Musicians throw in every thought, lick, line, motif and kitchen sink into one improvisation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have stuff to say. However, in our attempt to sound mature we string line after line without leaving space for the improvisation to breathe. Those that play wind instruments (trumpet, sax, bone, etc) at least have to breathe at some point. But, those shouldn’t be the only places that the improvisation has space. Some of the best musical examples (improvised or written) I can think of have a nice balance of notes AND rests. We have to remember as improvisors that everything we play and don’t play is a part of our improvisation. That space matters and it allows our whole improvisation to breathe.

I recently attended the Trumpet Hang in Denver, CO this last weekend and one of the clinics presented by trumpeter Bob Montgomery was on the topic of conversation in improvisation. The driving point behind Mr. Montgomery’s advice was that our improvisations are not one way conversations. You make a statement (a sentence), pause for reaction from either the audience or rhythm section and then make another statement. Unless you’re doing a solo gig, you’re not the only one playing on the stage! Everything that happens within an improvisation (solo) is a part of that improvisation. What the rhythm section plays in your space gives you options on where you could go. If we think of making statements and pausing (or waiting for reaction) before making another statement, we allow the music to breathe and create a more organic improvisation that goes beyond our practice routine of playing with backing tracks.

Personally, I would rather hear an improvisation that breathed a little and had interaction from everyone in the band over hearing a soloist play non-stop as if they were the only one present. I’m not saying that busy is bad (there’s an appropriate time for it), but not ALL the time. Let the music breathe every once in a while and let the interaction between you and the rhythm section take you in a new direction. You’ll be surprised at what might happen!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and would love to hear from you! If you’ve got suggestions on how you would let the music breathe, leave a comment here. Also, share this tip (and blog) with your friends and colleagues via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor. It’s great to hear from all of you and I’m always glad to hear from new friends in other countries! Finally, if you haven’t checked out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose yet, be sure to click the link on the right or go to Jason Klobnak Music for more information. There are some new reviews up and there will be a short video coming soon from the clinic I did at Drake University in October! Have a great 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).

  • Andrew Hare says:

    Hey Jason,

    I hear where you are coming from on this one! I actually just did a post about this same topic but from a drummers perspective on my blog. Here is the link:

    This is one of the most important AND most overlooked elements of improvisation on any instrument. Thanks for the contribution.

    • jasonklobnak says:

      Hey Andrew,

      Thanks for sharing your blog…it’s great to get perspective from other instruments and share ideas! I agree, this is one of the areas that’s greaty overlooked and something you don’t hear people talk about very much.

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