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:


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):


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



Minor 3rds



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.





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 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!





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.




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 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 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.




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!



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!



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).



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.