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Duets Part 3

Welcome to the 3rd part of this duets mini-series. I truly hope you have enjoyed them and that they have added value and benefit to your playing in some way. In Part 3 we are going to look at how doing call & response in a duet setting can help your personal improvisation development.

Part 3:

I’ve given a quick definition of what call and response is in previous posts (particularly in Key Fluency part 2). However, if you haven’t checked that post out, here’s a quick definition: “One person makes a call, or musical statement, and then another person (or group of people) make a response back.” This is really simple to do in a duet setting. One person plays an idea/phrase and the other person plays it back. However, in this post I want to talk about a few  different ways you can do this  beyond the standard call/response to enhance your duet experience:

  • Call and Response. The traditional form where Player 1 makes the statement and Player 2 plays it back verbatim. This works ear-training, phrasing, articulation and helps add vocabulary to your arsenal.
  • Call and Response Pitch Chasing. Player 1  makes a statement and Player 2 plays it back with a slight change at the end of the phrase. Then Player 1 has to play back what Player 2 just played verbatim. This is a great ear-training exercise, but it also forces you to anticipate what might be played. That’s a great skill to have on the bandstand when interacting with other musicians.
  • Call and Response (no accompaniment). This is the same as the traditional call and response without having an accompaniment. You rely on your collective time which improves your timing, phrasing and overall rhythm.
  • Call and Response Free Jam. This is call and response without any pre-determined progression or key center. A great challenge to your ear as Player 2 doesn’t have a key center to reference what Player 1 played. This can also free up your creative mind because you are not stifled by trying to make your line fit in a chord progression. You never know what phrase you could conjure up. It might just become one of your signature lines when playing over a progression.

These are all great ways to exercise your ears while having fun and developing your personal improvisation vocabulary. Playing duets allows you to draw from other people’s experiences and is a great way to keep the jazz community alive and active.

I truly hope this post has added value and benefit to you and your students. If you haven’t yet, please check out my Digital Store where you can find more information on two books that I have released (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony).

Duets Part 2

Welcome! I truly hope this post adds value and benefit to you and your students. Take a look around the tabs above, previous posts and my Digital Store where you can find more information on two books that I have released (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony).

We are continuing our discussion of Duets and how they can help your  improvisations. Last week we looked at the benefits of playing duets with another person without any accompaniment or written music (after deciding the chord progression, of course). In Part 2 we will look at the benefits of playing duets with written charts.

Part 2:

Playing duets with sheet music in front of you adds another layer of positive development to your overall playing. You may be wondering, “wait a second, Jason. How is playing written duets going to help my personal improvisation goals?” That’s a great question! As jazz musicians we grab ideas (melodic statements, motifs, licks, etc) and allow them to eventually show up in our improvisation. We grab those ideas from multiple sources: recordings, live concerts, jam sessions, patterns, books, etc. Written music (for example a book of duets) should not be discounted.

Playing written duets has similar benefits of improvised duets (without accompaniment), but does have some additional ones:

  • Timing and Phrasing. Even though you are reading music, the two of you rely on your collective time. This is a benefit of any type of duet playing (classical, jazz, etc).
  • Sight-Reading. Performing music in time is necessary for a wide range of musicians. If you have a desire to be a professional musician then this is an absolutely necessary skill.
  • Non-Verbal Cues. Playing with someone else requires you to pay attention to what they’re doing. Are they wanting to slow down? Speed up? Swing harder on a particular section? Play more legato on a particular section? Pay attention to what your partner is doing with their body and you can communicate musical ideas without saying anything. This is an imperative skill to have on any bandstand.
  • New Ideas. If you read something you like…remember it, keep and develop it!
  • Intonation. This is more for wind players. Tuning to a single pitch does not mean you are in tune as an ensemble. Adjustments need to be made depending on a note’s context in time. Another important skill to have when playing in any type of ensemble.

There are a few good jazz duet books written that are available. However, in my opinion,  The Ultimate Collection of Jazz Duets Complete by Rich Willey is one of the best out there. If you and a friend (or your students) need a good jazz duet book-this is it. They start fairly easy and get progressively more difficult so they’re perfect for any musician at any stage in their development.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tip and that it has added value and benefit to you in some way. Go out this week and play some duets!

Duets Part 1

If this is your first time visiting this site-welcome! I truly hope this post adds value and benefit to you and your students. Take a look around the tabs above, previous posts and my Digital Store where you can find more information on two books that I have released (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony).

In this post we are going to start discussing Duets and how they can help your  improvisations. Each  part will look at different ways you can do duets and their benefits. The word duet means a performance by two people. Creativity is increased when you combine more then one source. When playing with another person-you bounce creative ideas off of each other.

Part 1:

All too often in today’s world of technology-students spend too much time practicing with pre-recorded or digital accompaniments. There’s nothing wrong with using them. However, too much practice with just those sources can cause you to interact selfishly when you do play with other human beings. I talk about this in Independence In Improvisation (a previous post on this site and in my book, Breaking the Monotony). We can use this same idea and apply it to playing duets.

Find a friend and pick a chord progression. Decide the tempo and start improvising without any accompaniment. Don’t use any reference (i.e. the changes written out in front of you). You will probably play over top of each other at first. Keep at it and strive to play ideas off of one another. Benefits of doing this exercise together:

  • A deeper understanding of the chord progression. You have to really know the changes if you’re improvising while listening to your partners ideas, responding and making new ones over top of the progression.
  • Timing and Phrasing. When you play without an accompaniment you don’t have a rhythm section “feeding” you the time. The two of you rely on your collective time. Your phrasing is also helped because you have to consider what the other player is playing and react to it.
  • You tap into a deeper level of listening. The focus isn’t on you and how hip you’re going to make this solo. It’s about working together to create something hip as a team.
  • You gain new ideas. This is a fun way to get fresh ideas because you’re tapping into someone else’s resource of creativity that you can use. If you notice something you like…remember it and keep it!
  • Community. Playing with others creates an undefinable bond that is becoming endangered in our ever increasing technology.

This week get together with someone and play some duets. Try doing some without any accompaniment or rhythm section and have fun playing!

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