Break It Down

It happens to all of us at one point or another. We get excited on the bandstand and get caught up in the moment. We have a tendency to overplay and force the swing feel instead of allowing it to happen. Our articulations become harsh and our lines either fall apart or they wander aimlessly. Honestly, this is normal. We allow our heart rate to dictate what we play instead of the music. The good news is that there is a simple tip that will help you calm down and swing harder.

A number of great jazz educators talk about this, but the first person to hip me to it was Greg Gisbert. Instead of feeling quarter notes (or even tapping on 2 & 4) while playing, break down how you feel the time to a lower denominator. For instance, instead of feeling the time in 4/4, feel the time in 2/4  (in a sense you are playing as if it were in half-time).  You could even break it down to 1/4 (every measure is felt as 1 beat). Essentially you are breaking down how you feel the tempo.

There are a number of benefits for feeling the tempo this way:

  • The tempo feels slower which has a calming effect on your heart rate. This allows you to think in larger phrases which will also cause you to not overplay.
  • Faster tempo songs become more manageable.
  • Your articulations even out and you’re more likely to lock in with the rhythm section. This actually helps you swing in faster tempos. It does not sound forced.
  • Slowing things down allows you to look ahead, notice what is happening around you and react with the rhythm section (instead of having a one-way conversation).

This simple tip will have an immediate calming effect on the bandstand. However, it is also good to use when practicing. Getting used to playing in a half-time (or less) feel will only benefit your playing.

I hope you have enjoyed this tip and that it adds value and benefit to your playing in some way. The JKQ could still use your help in getting our album mixed/mastered. If you would like to help finish this project you can donate, buy a book or schedule a Skype lesson at my Digital Store today!

Analyzing Lines-Donald Byrd on Nica’s Dream

About a year ago I started a series on Analyzing Lines. We took a look at a few lines of  some of the giants of jazz and broke them down to see why and how they worked. If we can uncover those questions we can learn to build our own lines. The jazz community recently lost a great jazz trumpeter, Donald Byrd. I remember the first time I heard him play was on Nica’s Dream on The Jazz Messengers album by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (Columbia, 1956). I’ve included a YouTube link at the bottom if you haven’t checked it out.

I wanted to do a tribute analysis from one of my favorite lines in his solo on Nica’s Dream. Like I mentioned in the previous Analyzing Lines series-this is my breakdown of what I see him playing and how we can relate and build from it. I’m not inferring in any way that this is how Mr. Byrd played or thought about improvisation.

Below is the line that occurs in bars 42-45 on his solo in Nica’s Dream:

For those that have been following my posts, you know how much I dig targeting concepts. So let’s take a look at how Mr. Byrd targets specific notes in the line above. Bar 42 looks like he is thinking in the key of Db. You will then notice that he chromatically targets the “F” in bar 43:

Then he uses a diminished targeting concept to target the “F” in bar 44 on the Bb7(b9):

A similar targeting concept is used to target the Bb in that same bar:

I love the way this particular line flows. It has a great combination of targeting concepts, key centered playing and soul. If you’ve never checked out Donal Byrd’s playing, I would highly recommend it. If you would like to know more about how to construct your own lines with different targeting principles (like those mentioned above), I would suggest you check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose which you can find at my Digital Store available as a digital download (in English and Spanish) or as a printed/bound version.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog/post. As a thank you I wanted to give you a FREE MP3 from the JKQ. Simply click the button below and fill out the short form and you’ll have it in just a few short moments!

mp3

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Map It Out part 4

map it out

Welcome to the last part of the Map It Out series. In today’s post we will finish looking at the song Stand Firm by completing the “B” section and then creating a route through the whole progression. If you haven’t looked at the earlier parts in this series, I highly encourage you to check those out (or any of the other past posts on improvisation, composition, etc).

First, let’s take a look at the “B” section to Stand Firm. We mentioned last week that the “A” sections were in Abmaj, yet had a quick minor 2-5 that went to C minor (or the 3rd of Ab). Instead of implying a C minor sound, like the “A” section, the “B” section goes to the C minor. It’s complimented by it’s 5 chord-the  G7(b9).

 

 

 

 

 

As mentioned in the previous parts, we want to keep the map options simple through the first pass or two. So I’m listing different pentatonic scale options to simplify the thought process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One option that I see that sticks out would be the Bb major pentatonic because it could be used over the entire “B” section. Again, this DOES NOT mean this would be your only option for improvising. It does, however, help provide a mental map of what your options are going through the changes for the first time. The more familiar you get with the progression, the more options you have available.

Now we have all of the different sections (intro/vamp, A section & B section) mapped out with some pentatonic options. Here’s how our map turned out:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final stage is to take that map and chart out a route. You could do this in the moment if you are at a mature enough stage in your improvisation development. If you’re a beginner, I would suggest you do this before hand. Here’s one charted route based on the map above:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may be hard to tell from the picture so here’s another version that may be easier to read:

  • Intro/vamp: Bb major pentatonic to C major pentatonic (repeated twice) to Db major pentatonic to Eb major pentatonic.
  • A Section: Eb major pentatonic through the first 6 bars. Then the Ab major pentatonic to the Bb major pentatonic in the 7/8 bar. (repeated)
  • B Section: Stay on the Bb major pentatonic because it works over both the Cmin7 AND the G7(b9)

This is ONE possible route you could take. There are a number of different route options. To hear which one I end up taking in the recording studio-be sure to grab my CD “Mountain, Move.” It should release in the Fall of 2013. If you’d like more information on how you can be a part of the CD project, you can visit my Digital Store today. Individuals and businesses that support the project not only get a copy of the album when it comes out, but they will have other benefits added along with it (including tickets to the CD release, their name/company logo on the jacket or CD, etc for certain donation levels). Be sure to stop by today and be a part of the project!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Map It Out part 2

map it out

Last week we looked at mapping out a plan of attack when looking at a new chart or chord progression. We’re going to take the same chart (Stand Firm which will be on my album Mountain, Move later this year) and go further into the progression mapping out a plan. Last week we looked at some different options on the first two chords of the vamp/intro. In today’s post we will take a look at the remainder of that section. Below is the part of the piano part:

We talked about how the first two chords of the intro/vamp are the same chord quality just a whole step a part. This continues until the 7th and 8 bar. It takes the same chord quality and moves up a half step then an additional whole step (Dmin11 to Ebmin11 to Fmin11). Similar to last week’s map we can take pentatonic  pairs and move them up a half step and then another whole step as shown below:

From there you can develop a road map of where you might want to go. Below is the full intro/vamp:

You can use whatever tools you want. I’m using pentatonics for these examples because they’re simple and contain great melodic possibilities. I’ve listed two different option paths you could take through the vamp/intro section:

  1. Eb major pentatonic -> F major pentatonic (repeated 2x) -> F# major pentatonic -> Ab major pentatonic
  2. Bb major pentatonic -> C major pentatonic (repeated 2x) -> Db major pentatonic -> Eb major pentatonic

Obviously there are a number of different combination paths you could choose, but like I mentioned last week I think it’s best during your first run-through of a new chart to find the path that has a nice linear path.

Next week we will take a look at the “A” section of this chart and continue mapping out a plan. If you haven’t already done so, I’d like to invite you to check out my Digital Store where you can get more information on my books (Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose and Breaking the Monotony), Skype Lessons and information on how you can help be a part of the Mountain, Move recording project. Also, don’t forget to check back daily for the Lick of the Day that is in the upper right corner of the site!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Improv Tip Week #42-Analyzing Lines Series 4

Welcome to week #42 where we’re continuing our series on analyzing lines. This week, we’re going to look at a line I was checking out while listening to Cannonball Adderley. It’s off his Them Dirty Blues album and is a song written by his brother (Nat Adderley) called Work Song. Like I mentioned last week: we’re breaking down these lines so we can find what makes it “click” so we can re-create something similar in our own playing.

Below is the line that I wanted to break down from his solo. This line occurs in his second chorus on the 6th bar:

I almost don’t want to state the obvious, but Cannonball shows that you can take something as simple as a descending chromatic line and make it sound great all in how articulates it:

While Work Song is not a typical blues, it is definitely played with a lot of blues elements and style. The Adderley brothers inflect the blues into many of their improvisations to great effect. This line contains a great example that sometimes inserting the blues sounds great even though it doesn’t fit chord/scale theory. Some may argue that this particular line is something else, but to me it is essentially a blues lick with two additional chromatic passing tones:

The last part of the line that I look at is how Cannonball uses targeting principles to connect his line. This shows that Cannonball was targeting the 3rd of the C7(#9) and the 5th of the Fmin7. For more information on how to creatively target notes (whether chromatic or other devices), check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose. What has always intrigued me about Cannonball Adderley is that when he would use chromatic targeting-it was almost always with great rhythmic variety.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and the latest in the analyzing lines series. Please feel free to share this tip/site with your friends, colleagues and students. There are links below for quick sharing access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Improv Tip Week #41-Analyzing Lines Series 3

I hope you’ve been enjoying this current series on analyzing lines. This week, after listening to Charlie Parker’s Scrapple From the Apple, there was one line that I kept hearing that to me is a definitive Charlie Parker lick. I heard it repeated at least twice in this solo, but have noticed him playing it in others as well. So this week I wanted to take a look at this simple line and hopefully reveal it in a new light so you can construct similar shapes and lines in your playing.

Below is the line that I’m talking about. In his first chorus on Scrapple From the Apple I hear him end two of his “A” sections with this particular line:

There are a few things that I notice right off the bat with this line that I wanted to share. Hopefully you’ll notice this as well and look for this fundamental shape in other lines that you hear. First, the essential notes of this line are a descending F-major triad:

The line, once filled with some rhythmic interest, is essentially built off of an arpeggio. The last four notes of the line (which works great as a short blues riff by the way) is a fragment of a Fmaj7 arpeggio (without the 3rd). I work with some of my younger students to find creative ways (whether that’s with targeting principles, rhythms, etc) to make a line based off of different inversions of a triad. That’s their skeleton structure that they can build upon.

For instance, you can see how Charlie Parker uses some chromatic targeting on the 3rd (the “A” of the F-major triad) to build off of the triad.

Now, I’m not saying that Charlie Parker was thinking in terms of connecting parts of a F-major triad together. However, when I break down this line-this is what I see. It’s also how I can simplify a harmonic passage in my mind while improvising over a set of chord changes. As an exercise, trying playing lines similar to this in different inversions of the triad. You’ll notice that this particular sound is used a lot by musicians!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Please feel free to share this with your friends, colleagues and students via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor. If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to click on the link on my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose for more ways you can creatively target notes in similar ways that were mentioned above. It’s available in an E-book format (English and Spanish) as well as nicely printed/bound version (English only).

SaveSave

SaveSave

Improv Tip Week #40-Analyzing Lines Series 2

Last week we started our new series on analyzing lines and we started out with a Clifford Brown lick from his solo on Cherokee. This week (week #40) we’re going to look at another one of my favorite Clifford Brown lines from his famous solo on the Blues standard, Sandu. I mentioned this last week, but 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.

Below is the line starting in the 4th bar of Clifford Brown’s solo on Sandu:

One of my favorite parts of this line is what Clifford does rhythmically (with varied articulation) with the line in bar 5. The line is simple-playing an Eb minor scale fragment over the Ab7. Yet, because of the varied articulation and the playful rhythm-the line propels forward and grabs your attention.

After transcribing some Clifford Brown (and reading transcriptions by others), I found that he liked to delay and anticipate his targets and resolutions. You’ll notice below that he begins to target the root of the C7 before the chord happens creating an anticipation of the upcoming chord…

Connected to the anticipation above is delaying the chromatic targeting of the 5th (G) on the C7. Clifford chromatically descends his line into the C7, but instead of landing on his intended target on beat 1-he delays it until the and of 1.

Both of the above are great examples of crossing the bar line (we covered that topic a few weeks back if you want to go check it out). This week’s line is one that I find myself, at least in part, quoting every now and then.

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 look at lines by other musicians. 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.

SaveSave

SaveSave

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!

SaveSave

SaveSave