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).