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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Sequences

The Jazz community recently lost another great musician in pianist Mulgrew Miller. I have been a fan of his playing for years-especially his time with Woody Shaw. While thinking about his playing and some of his characteristics (and there are many) I loved the way he played sequences. In honoring Mr. Miller I thought this week’s post should be on using sequences in your improvisation.

What are sequences? There are two types of sequences you will find in jazz: melodic and rhythmic.

  • A melodic sequence is the repetition of a line at a different pitch.
  • A rhythmic sequence is simply the repetition of a rhythmic line.

Both types of sequences are not hard and fast rules. A melodic sequence can be exact interval repeats (digital patterns) or different notes entirely. The general outline or shape of the line is what is repeated. It can have a different rhythmic pattern or the exact rhythm pattern repeated (but with the notes changing).

We are going to look at an example and how we can sequence a pattern. Below is our basic pattern that we are going to use throughout this post.

 

The next example takes our pattern above and uses a sequence over the first part of a 4-bar progression. This example takes the exact pattern and modulates it to the next chord. In this example we keep the same rhythm as the original:

 

You do not have to keep the exact rhythm to create a sequence. The next example takes the idea from above and rhythmically anticipates the F# going to the D7:

 

Another way you can continue the sequence is by keeping the rhythm and shape of the original pattern, but changing the notes so they fit the next chord:

 

That same idea could be repeated over the entire progression, but you may want to add other elements to the idea to keep it from going stale. A few ways to do that is to compress the rhythm down or expand the rhythm out:

 

 

In the final example below we take some of the different elements of sequencing above and put them into the 4-bar progression (I-VI7-ii7-V7):

 

I hope this post has added value to you and your playing in some way and that you can start adding sequencing to your improvisational tools. For more information on how you can use digital patterns for sequencing, check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose. For more information on how you can rhythmically energize your improvisation check out Breaking the Monotony at my Digital Store

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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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Fun with Arpeggios part 3

Hopefully by this point (if you have been following the series on Fun with Arpeggios) you get the idea of how we can creatively use arpeggios in our improvisations. Before we move on to another topic I wanted to continue the thought process, but introduce arpeggios of different chord quality then just major (which was used in part 1 & part 2). In this part we will use the minor 7th arpeggio to build some of our lines.

Below is the minor 7th arpeggio in quarter notes (Cmin7) along with a more extended eighth-note version both up and down:

Unlike the major 7th arpeggio that has the half-step between the 7th and the root, the minor 7th arpeggio has more of a pentatonic scale type feel to it with the combination of minor 3rd, major 3rds and the whole step between the 7th and the root. This can create some interesting combinations over different harmonies.

One obvious way you can use the minor 7th arpeggio is over minor chords, but I am pretty sure most of you can figure that out on your own. However, one really useful way to use the minor 7th arpeggio is over the V7 chord of a ii-V-I. Below is an example with a half-step chromatic target of the C minor 7th arpeggio over the  F7 which resolves into the Bbmaj7:

 

And the next example below takes the descending C minor 7th arpeggio at the beginning of this post and resolves it to the 7th (A) of the Bbmaj7:

 

I, for one, enjoy this sound over the V7 chord. It almost has a blues flavor to the line when you have the minor 7th arpeggio (a 5th away from the root) played over the V7 chord.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and that it has added value and benefit to your and/or your students. If you have not yet, I would invite you to check out my Digital Store today to take a look at my books and other services. Also, be sure to hit “like” on my Facebook Page as well as I will continue to give updates on my upcoming CD Mountain, Move.

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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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Improv Tip Week #26-Intervalic Series-4ths and 5ths

Here we are at week #26! If this is your first time visiting, thanks for stopping by! Take a look around, say hello and enjoy. If you’ve been following this blog…welcome back! We’re going to finish up our series on Intervalic improvisation this week by discussing what we can do with the 4th and 5th intervals and by looking at what we can do with them through the eyes of targeting (if this is your first time visiting, check out some of the older posts for my thoughts on targeting…or aiming at a goal note with purpose).

There are a number of different sources available that discuss using perfect 4th and perfect 5th intervals in your improvisation. Essentially, the suggestion is to build your melodic line (solo) based off series of stacked 4ths and or 5ths. Some instruments can easily maneuver these stacked 4ths/5ths with ease over their entire instruments range. Others…not so much. However, every instrument is capable of playing intervalic melodic lines in their improvisation. Simply adding in a half or whole step in between the stacked 4ths/5ths still give the line that angular sound, but an easier facility on certain instruments.

Our first example below is over an Fmin11 chord (on a side note, great voicings on piano or guitar are based off of stacked 4ths). You will notice that the first six notes of the line are a stack of perfect 4ths. The line is broken up halfway through the stack and then resolved down a half step (between the Db and C) before continuing the descending line of stacked 4ths.

This next example uses the stacked 4ths idea, but adds some chromatic targeting to the line (targeting the “C” on beat 4) to add a different color to the initial angular line.

The first two examples were stacked 4ths that fit within the harmony stated. The next example below uses stacked 5ths to accomplish the angular sound. Notice how the line is more accessible to instruments that might not be able to play stacked 5ths (or 4ths) easily by adding the half step between the D and Eb on beat 2.

Our final example is a combination of using 4ths and 5ths combined in the line. Again, the stacked 4ths/5ths are broken up by either half-step, whole step or chromatic targeting.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and the Intervalic Series! Please feel free to share this blog with your friends and colleagues by clicking on the links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ below or by sharing this on another site that you’re a contributor. You won’t want to miss the next couple of tips as we close out this calendar year! We’re getting closer to Christmas (or other holidays that you might celebrate around this time of year) and if you haven’t checked out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose yet, it makes for a great gift for you or musicians and students that you know. Now is a great time to check out the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music for more information. E-book ($12.00) orders are instant downloads after purchase. If you’re wanting to get the physical book ($16.50) for a Christmas present, you will want to place your order by December 20th for U.S. orders and by December 12th for international orders. Due to some recent international demand, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose will be translated into a few other languages in early 2012!

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Improv Tip Week #25-Intervalic Series-Triad Pairs 2

Welcome back to week #25 where we’re going to continue with our Intervalic Series and giving some more insight into triad pairs. If this is your first time visiting this site…welcome! I’d like to invite you to check out this week’s tip as well as other tips (1-24) that have been posted and take a look around. Also, if you’re a returning visitor…thank you and welcome back! I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and find them beneficial to your playing! Let’s dive in to our second week of triad pairs

Last week we opened up the discussion of triad pairs and I want to continue this week by giving you another practical way we can use them through the lens of targeting and give you a great exercise to work on to help get this sound deep in your ear.

First, let’s expand on the exercise that I gave last week. Last week’s exercise was simply playing up and down the triad pairs in their inversions. This week’s exercise is the same exercise (in a different key), but adding a chromatic half step (either above or below) to connect the different triad pair inversions. This exercise will get the sound of these triad pairs under your fingers and in your ears. If necessary, I suggest writing these out in the key areas that are not familiar to you. However, the best route is to play this exercise in all keys without writing them out.

Last week we looked at how we can use triad pairs over the ii-V-I progression. This week, we’re going to look at them over a different harmonic structure. We’re going to use the triad pair (F/G) over a Fmaj7(#11) chord. Triad pairs on the 4th and 5th scale degrees of a major scale/key area are great for using over diatonic chords. A Fmaj7(#11) chord is in the “key” of C, so we can use the F and G triads because they help define that chord’s harmonic structure. Below is a musical example mixed with the exercise above over a Fmaj7(#11). Notice how we’re targeting the “B” (or #11) in the second measure and how the added chromatic note helps us land on that note on beat 1:

By now, you should have a good grasp on how you can combine triad pairs and connect them with chromatic tones to land on notes that you’re targeting. You can use different triad pairs and types (major, minor, augmented, diminished, etc) that fit over various chords. Walt Weiskopf’s book, Intervalic Improvisation The Modern Sound: A Step Beyond Linear Improvisation has a great chart that shows different triad pairs and which one’s he feels best fit different harmonic structures. I highly suggest you check out his book. If you would like to add different chromatic targeting options and other targeting tools to your arsenal, I would suggest you check out my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose by clicking on the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and would appreciate your comments, thoughts or passing the info along to your friends and colleagues by using the buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (or any other site you contribute to) below.

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!

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