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Improv Tip Week #39-Analyzing Lines Series 1

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a series, so I thought with week #39’s tip we’d start off looking at what makes some of our favorite improvised lines sound so good. I’ll be tying in some of the different tools and elements we’ve been discussing since week 1 as well as parts from my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose to break down a line. When we break down a line (whether it’s our own or something we’ve transcribed from someone else) we can find its essential elements so we can better understand why we liked it and how we can incorporate it or pieces of it into our regular playing. I’m not going to do an over-analysis of each week’s line, but will give you a few elements that I notice and hope that you find some benefit from them.

To start this series off, we’re going to be looking at a short line that I’ve liked for quite some time by trumpeter Clifford Brown. Like many jazz trumpet players, I’ve always been amazed at Clifford’s facility and how he constructed his lines. The line below is from Cherokee off of his Study In Brown album released by Emarcy.

Those that have been following my blog posts and have read my book know how much I’m into targeting and the different ways we can creatively target notes (and beyond what’s mentioned below). When I first look at this line, I notice how Clifford used chromatic targeting (or enclosures, etc) to reach the 3rd of the Bbmaj7 in the 2nd bar and the two back to back chromatic targetings of the 5th (on the F7+) and the root (on the Bb7).

Another thing that I notice is the descending chromatic line in the first bar that is temporarily interrupted by part of a G-minor arpeggio before finishing the line. You’ll notice the first part of the line listed below in its original form, followed by what it would look like if the line were uninterrupted.

I’ve found that when I’m in the middle of a descending line that is chromatic in nature, I can interrupt the line similarly to what Clifford Brown does above. I will also use the overall line over any major-type harmony. Even though it has chromatic movement, the targeted notes are within the Bb-major harmony.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found it beneficial in some way! Next week we’ll continue on in this series and will analyze another one of my favorite Clifford Brown lines. In the meantime, (if you haven’t already) be sure to check out the rest of this site, past tips, my book and its reviews and other related material. Starting TODAY, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose is now available in the E-book format in Spanish. Be sure to check it out and recommend it to your Spanish speaking friends!



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