Here we are at week #43! For me, it’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks we will be at the 1 year mark of weekly tips. If this is your first time to this site…I’d like to welcome you and invite you to check out the past 42 weeks by going to the archives section at the bottom of the homepage. If you’re a returning visitor-welcome back! I hope you enjoy this tip and it adds some value to your improvisation journey.
I was working with a first time Skype Lesson student recently and after talking with them about setting goals, I realized that it would be a great topic/tip to go over with all of you. I ask every first time student I have the pleasure of working with what their goals are in improvisation (well, those that are taking improvisation lessons at least). Most of the students I’ve worked with have had a good idea of what they wanted out of their lesson and the goals they would like to achieve whether in the first lesson or over time. However, I’m finding more students don’t really have a clear goal in mind. Those that teach are probably familiar with these responses: “I want to sound awesome,” “How can I play like (fill in the blank),” and the very popular…”I dunno.”
Those that know me know how big I am into targeting principles (which go beyond chromatic targeting…for more info check out my book). The idea of targeting is to aim at a goal note (or target) with purpose. There are two keywords there: goal (or target) and purpose. But, in this week’s tip I’m not going to be talking about the note goals. We’re going to be looking at what goals should I be setting for myself in my improvisation journey. Depending on where you’re at (beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc) you will have a different set of goals then someone else. Below, we’re going to look at some goal models that will hopefully help you in deciding YOUR goals.
I don’t take credit for this model and honestly can’t remember who the original author is. I remember taking a managment class for my undergraduate degree and have remembered it. It’s called the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting model:
S=Specific. This is the goal itself. It should be answered by WHAT, WHY and HOW. What is the goal? Why is this goal important? How am I going to do it?
M=Measureable. The goal should be measureable, meaning you can track the progress over time.
A=Attainable. Goals you set that are too far out of reach (unattainable), you’re less likely to commit to them.
R=Realistic. The goal should be realistic for where you are at the moment. You should be able to do it, but still should be a challenge.
T=Timely. The goal should have a deadline set for it. This keeps you on track and keeps the commitment from being too vague.
For a student at the beginning of an improvisation journey, let’s look at what some general goals for them might look like in the model above:
S=learn all major and minor scales. (What=major/minor scales. Why=because of their importance in key areas. How=1 major and minor scale a week)
M=It can be measured and tested by learning a major and minor scale each week
A=It’s attainable as long as the student commits time each day to work on that 1 major and minor scale
R=It’s realistic because the student doesn’t already know them, but it gives them a different challenge each week
T=The deadline is at the end of 12 weeks. In 3 months, the student should have a good command of all their major and minor scales.
If you don’t have goals set up for yourself, how will you know you’re making progress? If we set goals for ourselves (short and long-term) then we can start to see our improvement over time. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Please feel free to share it and also to leave some comments on some other goal-setting tips that you use or goals that you’re currently working on!
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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