This week I wanted to talk about the benefits of creating your own Etudes. When we improvise, we’re creating something in the moment. We have an idea in our mind’s eye about what we’d like to do and the options we can go from a certain point. I also advise that we have targets we aim at with purpose. Those targets help us get to our destination and help create a more meaningful conversation with the audience and the musicians we’re sharing the stage. Etudes, though, are pre-planned solos to be used as a technical exercise that are disposable.
Wait, did you just say disposable?
Yeah. They’re meant to have a short shelf-life. You play it (work out the technical passages), analyze it (why did it work), and move on to another.
When you are working on a new tune it can be beneficial to write your own etudes because they help solidify and develop your understanding of the song.
Writing an etude is essentially composing your own solo. Write some ideas out and edit as needed. Play through a line or two and ask yourself some critical questions:
1. Does the line (or series of lines) sound good? If not, re-write them until they do.
2. Do the lines have rhythmic interest? If not, re-write it and make it more interesting. Jazz rhythm is syncopated, so find opportunities to add more syncopation to your line(s).
3. Is there anything that could be added or taken away to make it sound better? If so, make the changes.
The beauty of composing your own etude is you can fix mistakes and do an unlimited number of re-writes until it sounds good. This process helps your subconcious understand why some lines sound better then others and you will find they creep into your playing later. Practice your etude with no accompaniment at first and then add them later. And remember, etudes are technical exercises so don’t feel like you can’t change them (unless you like them as is).
Don’t feel like writing one today, but want to check one out anyway? Click the image below for a FREE etude from my book, Breaking the Monotony. It’s based off of the changes to Have You Met Miss Jones.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Please feel free to share it with your friends, colleagues, students or other sites that you’re a contributor. There are quick and easy social media share buttons below for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, etc.
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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