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Improv Tip Week # 50-Shapes part 2

Welcome to week #50! We have two more weeks until we hit the one year mark. This will be the 50th straight week of improv tips! If this is your first time joining us, please be sure to go back through the archives and check out the past 49 weeks. If you’re one of our returning friends…welcome back as we continue to look at how we can use the shapes of some of our favorite lines to build our own. Last week we looked at the infamous “Cry Me A River” lick. This week we’re going to look at another common lick used in the standard jazz vocabulary known as the “Gone But Not Forgotten” lick (GBNF).

For more information on what we can do to find the line’s shape, refer back to last week’s tip. Below, you’ll find the shape of the line with it’s original notes. The example below that is strictly the line’s shape with no accidentals.

When we remove the stems from the original line and just have the shape (or overall arc) we can apply our own rhythms. Not only that, but we can change up the harmonic context so it fits over a number of different situations. Last week with the CMAR shape I was listening to a song that had a heavy shuffle feel. Today I happen to be listening to some funk. So the examples below would be something I might apply to a song type that doesn’t swing. I also didn’t list any chord changes above the lines because they can be applied to different harmonic situations. The first example is based off of the original line’s shape AND note choices.

The next example is just based off of the overall shape of the original line:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it adds value to your playing in some way. I also want to say a big thank you to all who helped our fundraiser last week to fight Malaria! If you didn’t get a chance to help out, you can continue through October 2012 by giving directly to HappyBirthdayNate.com. Also, if you haven’t checked out my book (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose) you can go to my Digital Store to get more information. It’s available in English (printed and digital) or Spanish (digital only) for a very affordable price. I hope you’ll check it out and find that it will add value to your playing as well!

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Improv Tip Week # 49-Shapes AND Malaria Fundraiser Day 1

Welcome everyone to Week #49 AND Day 1 of JKM’s Fundraiser to eradicate Malaria! Did you know that Malaria is 100% preventable? Yet, Malaria kills over one million people each year; 85% of those are children under the age of 5. Today, tomorrow and Wednesday 100% of all Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose book sales, booked Skype Lessons or clinics (they can be for later dates) will be going to help eradicating Malaria by purchasing bed nets for children.

We will be teaming up with HappyBirthdayNate.com and World Vision to do our part in making sure children’s lives are spared from Malaria. If you would like to donate without purchasing a book or scheduling a lesson/clinic, you can go directly to the site above to donate. Otherwise, you can go directly to our Digital Store to make your purchase or to schedule a Skype lesson or Clinic.

In this week’s tip (week #49), we’re going to look at taking a lick and using that lick’s shape to create new ideas. There are times when I’m improvising that I like to think about the shapes of the lines I’m playing. I’ve talked to a number of guitarists and pianists who prefer to think of shapes when they improvise because it’s conducive to their instrument. I think every instrumentalist can apply this concept. To start out, let’s take a look at one of the most common licks found in jazz: the “Cry Me A River” lick (or CMAR).

We’ve talked about using licks in other harmonic situations in past week’s, but this time let’s look at the overall shape of the line without any stems or rhythms:

The above graphic gives you a very good idea of the shape of the line. Now, let’s take a look at it without any sharps or flats and truly the shape of the line:

Now we can apply that shape to whatever rhythm or note length value we like to create a new line based on the original shape. The example below is taking the notes verbatim from the example below, but changing up the rhythm. I’m listening to a heavy shuffle tune now so I made this example with the intent of it fitting over that groove. This example could be played over a number of different harmonies:

The next example stems off of the same idea above, but combines it with the notes from the original riff. Note how we now have a completely different line then the original lick yet they’re still related:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found it useful to your playing! Please feel free to share this tip and site with your friends, students, colleagues or other sites that you’re a contributor. Also, please share what we’re doing with HappyBirthdayNate.com even beyond our fundraiser period. They’re raising awareness and funds through October 2012. Let’s continue to do our part to help those in need.

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Improv Tip Week #45-Analyzing Lines Series 6

Welcome back everyone to week #45 and our continuation of analyzing lines series. If this is your first time here-welcome! Please feel free to check out the site. Also, a big welcome back and thanks for returning friends! This week we’re going to look at the 2nd chorus of Sonny Rollin’s improvisation on Tenor Madness from his album, Tenor Madness with John Coltrane (1957). I think Sonny’s entire improvisation on this tune is worth checking out, but there’s some interesting things we can learn and apply to our improvisations that I’d like to look at from his second time through this tune (based on the Blues).

Below is the 2nd chorus:

The first thing I’d like to look at with you is something that we briefly covered in last week’s line from Lee Morgan. That’s the concept of using diminished/altered targeting techniques (for more info, check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose). However, when I see the line below, I see the whole line (not just beat 4) using this idea. Personally, I see this line as “thinking in G” as opposed to the Bb7 that’s occuring at the moment. I teach my students that it’s all about where we’re going (or targeting). Again, I can’t answer for Sonny Rollins. But, this is how I see it and would apply it to my playing:

The next two are examples of chromatic targeting. In both of these instances below they happen to target the 5th of the chord. The first example is a fairly standard chromatic targeting device. While the second example is great for the chromatic targeting principles, I love how Sonny Rollins takes the simple idea and transposes it down a whole step to fit the changes. Teachers I’ve had have called this sequencing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and hope that it adds some value to your playing and improvisations. Please feel free to share this tip/site with your friends, students and colleagues. There are even some quick share social media buttons below for your convenience. If you haven’t already, I’d like to invite you to check out my book (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose). There are some great reviews that keep getting updated in the Reviews tab above. I hope you get the chance to enjoy it as much as others have!

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Improv Tip Week #44-Analyzing Lines Series 5

Welcome to week #44 where we’re going to continue our analyzing lines series. I didn’t want to stop our current series, but I did want to take a brief detour last week to talk about setting goals because I felt it was important to bring up. Especially since most students are on the last leg of their final semester of the year (at least in most of the US school systems that is). There’s no day like today to put a plan in place for reaching our goals.

This week’s line is from another trumpet great, Lee Morgan. This line is found in the first chorus of his solo on the Eb-Blues of Blue Train from John Coltrane’s Album-Blue Train (Blue Note 1957):

One of the first things I notice in the beginning of this line is the chromatic targeting of the Ab (flat-3rd) on the Fmin7. I can’t tell you exactly what Lee was thinking in his mind, but I see the first part of the line as an F-minor line (disregarding the C7 and thinking of both bars as Fmin7):

Probably the most interesting part of this line is what Lee Morgan plays over the Bb7. I’ve heard some educators talk about this particular line as a Bb7 diminished lick or an altered-dominant lick. I don’t disagree with those at all, but if we’re going to look at a line and break it down for our own use…we need to dig a little bit deeper. When I look at this, I notice a B-minor triad with some chromatic and diatonic embellishments. It’s almost as if Lee was thinking about side-slipping the line up a half-step (which causes the line to hit the b9, #9, b13) to B-minor. Again, this is my opinion. But, take a look and tell me what you see:

The next thing I notice is something that I spend an entire chapter on in my book (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose). This is one of the many lines I see players doing that caused me to write about this concept in my book. If you would like to know more about it, check it out. But, you’ll see that Lee is using part of a diminished (or altered) scale to target the 3rd of the Eb7:

Finally, the last part of the line is a good old-fashioned major pentatonic line that works great over the blues:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found some of the above beneficial to your own playing. Please feel free to share this tip with your friends, students and colleagues. For your convenience, there are even buttons for quick sharing to social media sites most of us use. Also, if you haven’t already-take a look around the site to check out my book, reviews, Skype Lesson, videos and past posts!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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