Last week’s post was on the importance of targeting the end of the phrase and it reminded me of a fun and challenging exercise I use to make sure I’ve got the end of the phrase at the front of my mind. I wanted to share that exercise with all of you in this week’s post. If this is your first time visiting the site-welcome! If you’re curious to know how I came up with the note choices in the examples below-check out my Digital Store where you can get more information on two improv books I’ve written that will help!
This is a very simple exercise to describe, but one that can be challenging as well. Remember that this is an exercise and not how you should improvise on the bandstand (although you can use it if you so choose).
- The end of your phrase (or idea) becomes the first note of your next phrase. You can change the first note of the next phrase as much as a whole step away to create variety. This continues through the entire chord progression.
Sounds simple, right? However, thinking about it and doing it are two different things. The further along the song’s progression the more difficult it becomes because it forces you to think ahead and not always start your phrases the same way (i.e. always starting on the 3rd of a chord). Let’s take a look at some examples. Below is our first phrase with the last note circled.
We know that the “G” is our last note of the phrase. Depending on what the chord progression would be next determines whether we start on the same note “G” or if we need to move a half-step or whole-step away. Let’s take a look at an example that shows the first phrase going into a second while keeping the “G.”
The final example shows the first phrase going into a second phrase where we altered the starting note by a half-step.
It’s a simple, challenging and fun exercise that will help you on multiple levels. When you learn a new song/progression I would suggest you do this exercise over the changes as well. I hope you’ve found this tip beneficial and that it adds value to you (and your students) playing!