Using Drop 2 In Improv Part 1

 

Usually when people talk about using “Drop 2” they are typically referring to voicings (on piano or guitar) or an arranging technique. However, in today’s post I wanted to look at a creative way we can use the concept to spur ideas for your improvisations. Before we dive in to the idea I think it would be good to explain what a Drop 2 is for those that may not be familiar with that terminology.

The simplest way to explain what a “Drop 2” is to show you. If you take the 2nd voice from the top of a chord and lower it an octave you have a Drop 2 voicing. Below is a root position C7 chord. Beside it is the same C7 chord, but with the Drop 2 voicing applied.

There are a few concepts in arranging where using the Drop 2 voicing gives you a great sound (I especially like using it in the trombone section of a big band). However, I want to look at how using the Drop 2 idea can spur new creative ideas for your improvisations. We have all probably worked out arpeggios on our instruments (or at least should have/should be), but few seem to work on them outside of root position. Before you shut down thinking, “Oh, this is just an arpeggio rant” stick with me for a moment.

Those that have followed this site know how important I view the concept of targeting (aiming at a goal note with purpose). In this first part we are going to apply chromatic targeting principles (more info found in my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose) to the root position C7 chord and then again with the Drop 2 version. Play through these with your instrument and listen to the difference in line movement.

In this example the Drop 2 version is more angular then the root position version. While I might change the rhythm of the line up, I personally like the movement from the Drop 2 version with the overt tritone sound upfront. It does not sound like someone playing around with an arpeggio. Let’s use another example, but this time we wont start with a root position voicing. Below is a Bbmaj9 in a block chord voicing (which means all of the voices are within an octave) and then the same voicing applying Drop 2.

And a line utilizing chromatic targeting principles:

While the last two examples above used chromatic targeting on the “D,” you could use chromatic targeting on any of the notes found in the voicing. Next week we will expand the Drop 2 idea and look at some other ways we can use it for to enhance your improvisations. I hope you have enjoyed this tip and that it adds some value/benefit to you and your playing!

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Say That Again

STAHave you ever had a line in your improvisation that came up in the moment that you liked so much that you wanted to Say That Again? But, the progression keeps moving so you had to transpose the line. For some improvisers this scenario can be nerve-racking because you might only know that line in one or two keys. In today’s post I want to share an exercise I use regularly (and one that you should never stop doing) to help not only with ear training, but with confidence in playing in all keys. This exercise in the academic world has a number of different terms associated with it: sequencing, transposing, modulating, etc. However, when I work with younger students I like to not only teach the academic musical terms, but call them something they might find humorous so they remember it. In this case, I like to call this exercise: Say That Again!

It is simple. When you are practicing find a motif, riff or lick (perhaps the Lick of the Day here on this site) that you like. For this example we will use the lick below:

STAmotif

After playing the lick (motif, riff, etc) a few times as written…stop looking at it. Memorize it and play it without reading the notes. Once you have the lick down you are going to Say That Again, but by playing it a half-step up or down (see below):

STA.5down STA.5up

You can continue that pattern all the way up (or down) the chromatic scale. Not only have you played the lick in all keys, but you now can play the lick in half-step motions which can be used for taking a line outside. Another very popular way of doing this exercise is by going up in fourths which is often called playing around the cycle of fourths (see below):

STAup4

Practicing your lick this way gets you to start thinking about moving around one of the most common root progression movements (ex. iim7 – V7- Imaj7 all have root movements of a fourth). The next couple of examples move the lick around major 2nds (up or down the whole-tone scale) and minor 3rds (up or down the Diminished 7th chord):

Major 2nds

STAupM2

STAdownWT

Minor 3rds

STAupm3

STAupDIM

I hope this week’s tip has added some value or benefit to you or your student’s playing in some way. For a challenge this week take one of the licks from the Lick of Day found here on this site and take it through the Say It Again exercise. Over time you will be able to navigate your favorite lines through different harmonic progressions with ease!

Finally, be sure to pick up your copy of Mountain, Move today. Part of the proceeds of each album sale (physical or digital) help the Pearl Alliance and their fight against human trafficking. You can get one at our Digital Store along with both of my books: Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony.

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Targeting Using the Augmented Scale

I wanted to share a fun sound that I have been experimenting with recently. For those that have followed this site the past 2+ years know that I am believer in the concept of targeting. This post will be looking at how you can use the augmented scale through the lens of targeting principles that I outline in my first book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose.

Since we have a number of people who visit this site from different levels and abilities we will take a look at what exactly an augmented scale is. An augmented scale is made up of two augmented triads that are a minor third apart. I have also heard an augmented scale called the “minor third, half-step scale,” but not very often. For most in the jazz community (or at least those that know about it) call it the augmented scale. Below is the C augmented scale:

Augmented Scale

Most Jazz educators will tell you that you can use this scale over any augmented 7th chord (for example a C7+) or a x7#11 chord (example would be a C7#11). I agree that the augmented scale works well over those so I am not disagreeing with that usage. However, like a lot of melodic/harmonic devices they can be used with targeting principles. Again, I am not going to outline what those are right now. However, let’s look at how using the augmented scale to target the “C” below in two different situations cause a unique and powerful sound over the listed progressions:

AugTargetEx1

AugTargetEx2

In my practice time I have been gravitating to this particular sound lately. I love the combination of the minor third and the half-step because of its melodic possibilities. I would invite you to try the above example in different harmonic situations where the targeted note would be a “C.” I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added some value and benefit to your playing in some way!

If you have not yet, please check out my album Mountain, Move today. Part of the proceeds go to help fight human trafficking through an organization called Pearl Alliance. More information about that organization can be found here on this site. Also, if you have not picked up Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose or Breaking the Monotony yet you can do so by going to our Digital Store.

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Harmonic Major

In this week’s post I wanted to talk about a scale that does not get a lot of mention in improvisation classes, but it one that is quite effective and easy to learn. That scale is the Harmonic Major scale. Some of you may be wondering, “Wait a second Jason…harmonic MAJOR? I have heard of the harmonic minor scale, but what is the harmonic major scale?” Well, I am glad you asked! Before we take a look at the harmonic major scale, let’s take a look at the more common harmonic minor scale.

The harmonic minor scale is a minor scale that has a lowered (flat) 6th scale degree and a major 7th scale degree as shown in the example below.

C harm min

There has been quite a bit written about this scale and its uses. However, we are going to look at the harmonic major scale. The harmonic major scale is essentially a major scale with a lowered (flat) 6th scale degree. The C-harmonic major scale is shown below.

C harm maj

The harmonic major scale, like every other scale, can be used over various harmonies. One of my favorite uses is over V7(b9) chords. If you take the harmonic major scale and start on the 5th scale degree (if in C…that means you would start on the G), it fits perfectly over the V7(b9) chord. Another way to think about it is if you have a V7(b9) chord, you can use the harmonic major scale a perfect fourth up from the root of the V7(b9) chord. You get the b9 of the V7 chord, but none of the other alterations that are found/heard when you would use a diminished or altered scale.

The example below is a line based off of the C harmonic major scale played over the G7(b9) chord:

harmajex1

I personally like the sound between the flat-6th and major 7th. The scale still has an exotic texture to it-yet still has that familiar major feeling at the same time. I hope this tip has added some value or benefit to your playing!

For more information on how you can use the harmonic major OR harmonic minor scale to creatively target notes in your improvisations you can check out my book Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose or Breaking the Monotony at my Digital Store.

Thank you for checking out my blog! If you’d like to join my mailing list I would love to send you a FREE MP3 from my band. Simply click on the image below and in a few short steps I’ll send it over!

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Whole Tone Combinations

Lately I have been working on my whole tone scales and wanted to share an interesting sound with all of you. I am sure most of you have worked on your whole tone scales and know what they are. If not, they are rather simple and I would suggest you learn them. Since whole tone scales are symmetrical, there are only two of them. A whole tone scale is exactly what it sounds like: a scale made up entirely of whole steps. Below is an example that shows the two versions of the whole tone scale.

I did not want this post to be about whole tone licks, but rather opening a door for you to explore new combinations and the sounds that come with it. I believe far too many musicians learn their whole tone scales, a few whole tone licks and then never revisit them. When you combine the two whole tone scales together you get an interesting “outside” sound that is organized. It does not matter how you combine them. For starters, try combining them in a scale-like manner like the example below:

The above example could create some interesting digital pattern lines if you combined it with other tools like rhythmic creativity or targeting principles. Another way to combine them is by starting a line in one whole tone area and throwing part of the other in half-way through.

Or you can take standard whole tone licks and combine them together. The example below starts with a familiar whole tone lick and then ends with a descending scale of the other whole tone scale (which targets the “C”).

During the week I want to challenge you to find different creative ways to combine the two whole tone scales. Besides being a great ear-training exercise, you might find some combinations that will add a creative spark to your improvisations!

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Lick of the Day Practice Routine

In this week’s post I wanted to show you how you can enhance your jazz improv practice routine by using the Lick of the Day here on this site. I believe you should practice the tools necessary to be successful in improvisation on a regular basis (if not every day). One of those tools is adding vocabulary.

If you don’t have an improv practice routine I’d invite you to try this out for a few weeks. You will have a noticeable improvement in just a few weeks. On the right hand side of the homepage there is a different lick/riff/motif posted every day. The instructions below the Lick of the Day talk about the different things you can do to add that lick into your vocabulary. I know for some of you that you like to have things laid out so here is a sample practice routine you can use with the Lick of the Day:

  1. Go to jasonklobnak.com and locate the Lick of the Day. Today is March 18th, 2013. So today is the 75th Lick of the Day. Play through it (slowly at first) a few times until you get the sound in your ears and the notes under your fingers. Spend around 10-15 minutes on this.
  2. All of the licks from the Lick of the Day are in the key of “C.” Transpose it into all keys as shown in this PDF:Lick of the Day 75. Even though the example is written out I would suggest trying to do this by ear instead of writing it down. Depending on how much you do this process it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
  3. How many chord progressions could this lick fit over? There are 3 examples below (which is not all of them). This takes about 5-10 min. 
  4. Do this daily with each Lick of the Day. Over time you’ll find the ones that stick in your ear the most will be the ones that show up in your playing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added value and benefit to your playing in some way. As most of you know-the Jason Klobnak Quintet was in the studio on March 14-15th and we finished the tracking session for our album Mountain, Move. We still need to finish mixing/mastering and then print the album. I need your help in getting us there. Every book sale, Skype Lesson, clinic and donation get us closer. Go to our Digital Store today to help us finish Mountain, Move!

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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

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Improv Tip Week # 51-Additional Chromatic Target

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe we’re already at week #51! Next week will be our 1 year anniversary of weekly improv tips. I haven’t fully decided what topics we’ll be covering after the 1 year mark, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this past year. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the past tips, you can go to the archives (listed by month/year) at the bottom of the homepage. This week I wanted to expand on the chromatic targets that I mentioned in my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose.

The chromatic targets (or enclosures, upper/lower neighbor, etc) mentioned in my book were simply expanding out from our targeted note by as little as a half step or as much as a minor third. The chromatic targets themselves aren’t the focus, but they’re one of the tools mentioned to get to the note that we’re intending to land on (or as it’s mentioned in the book-aiming at a goal note with purpose). For this week’s tip, I wanted to give you an additional chromatic targeting tool that I like to use that’s not mentioned in my book.

You’ll notice with this chromatic target that the pattern starts a half step above your intended target, moves up a minor third, back to the half-step above and up a whole-step before resolving back to the targeted note. This tool has an exotic sound to it that doesn’t conform to the standard chromatic targeting principles (approaching chromatically from above/below, etc). You will want to use your ear to decide which target applications work best for you. For example, I like using this tool when my targets are landing on the 5th of the chord. Let’s take a look at what this would look like in an application on a ii-V-I in C-major:

To get this sound under your fingers and in your ears, practice the targeting tool on all 12 notes. This way you can apply it at any point in different harmonic situations on the fly. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Please feel free to share it with your friends, colleagues, students or any other sites you’re a contributor. For more information on how you can creatively target notes (chromatic as well as others), check out my book at my Digital Store.

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