Visualizing the Pentatonic and Targets

Visualizing the Pentatonic Scale and Their Targets

Have you been following along on the Improvisation Thursday Facebook Live events? If not, you can click HERE to check out the previous week’s videos highlighting who they’re for, how I believe they can help you, and where to start. If you came to check out the visuals you can scroll to the bottom. But, if need a quick synopsis of what we’ve discussed-here you go:

  • They’re for beginner Jazz improvisation students
  • They’re for any level of improvisors that have been frustrated with their progress up to this point and want a different perspective
  • They’re for educators looking for a better way to start out their students

What is Targeting?

  • Targeting = aiming at a goal note with purpose. This can be on a micro scale (from chord to chord and guide-tone to guide-tone) or on a macro scale (key areas and longer phrases).

What makes good targets?

  • When thinking micro: the guide-tones. Traditionally the 3rds and 7ths of chords because they help define the quality of the chord. However, these can be expanded to include the root, 5th, and extensions
  • When thinking macro: they key center’s 1, 3, and 5. For example, if we have a progression (or part of one) in the key of C; our target notes would be C, E, and G (1st, 3rd, and 5th of the key). I prefer to teach the macro approach to beginners because it’s easier to find and hear. This also gets the beginner thinking horizontally (melodically) instead of vertically (harmonically). Those targets also end up being other guide tones as well.

Caught Up? Great!

Visualizing the Pentatonic Scale

As I mentioned in the Facebook Live video, it may benefit you to visualize the pentatonic scale less like a scale and more like a collection of pitches. While working with a student recently (thanks for letting me share Noah!) we found that this can help get you out of thinking in terms of dots on a page and more towards the letter association. If numbers work for you too…go for it! Here’s how we’re visualizing it:

If you “stretch out” the scale to the full range of your instrument it might look like this:

If it helps to think of where your octaves are than we can include a line also:

This is where visualizing the layout and having the targets marked was helpful for Noah:

This will prove even more helpful as we start to expand our tools to get to our targets AND keeping the pentatonic as a melodic “home base.”

Jason Klobnak Joins the B.A.C. Family!

Klobnak Joins B.A.C.

Klobnak Joins B.A.C.

I am absolutely thrilled, honored, and incredibly excited to share that I am now an endorsing artist for the B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman) company based out of Kansas City, MO (USA)! Mike Corrigan and the staff at B.A.C. do an amazing job creating some of the best brass instruments in the world. Everything is done in their shop in Kansas City and is handmade with the finest craftsmanship and detail.

I met Mike and a few of his staff at NAMM 2017 (National Association of Music Merchants) in Anaheim, California in January. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with just about every trumpet they had at their booth. I was the guy that kept trying their trumpets, went away and tried others, and then kept coming back like a lost puppy. After some conversation in Anaheim and later over the phone; I officially joined the family! It is an honor to be on the same roster as great musicians like Delfeayo Marsalis, Kenny Rampton, Kevin Williams, Jim Pugh, Michael Ray, Paul Nowell, Marcus Lewis, and a host of others.

Be sure to check out B.A.C’s website at CoolIsBac

To see Jason’s other Endorsements click Here.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Jason Klobnak Joins the Denis Wick Family!

Klobnak Joins Denis Wick

Klobnak Joins Denis Wick

Klobnak joins the Denis Wick family! I am absolutely thrilled, honored, and incredibly excited to share that I am now an endorsing artist! Denis Wick (London) makes some of the best mouthpieces, mutes, and accessories for brass players around. While I have been performing and recording with the Denis Wick adjustable cup mute for almost 20 years, I have never had the opportunity to really check out their mouthpieces until January of 2017.

I met Mary and a few other Wick artists at NAMM 2017 (National Association of Music Merchants) in Anaheim, California in January. I had the pleasure of trying out a few of their mouthpieces and there was an instant comfort, yet familiarity that I fell in love with. I have made the switch over to the American Classic 3C (and Classic 3E when I need something a little brighter) and they keep surprising me every time I put them in my trumpet. I can color the sound, yet still have the comfort and endurance to make it through an entire night of R&B/Soul music without feeling shot the next day. I would gladly recommend any of the fine Denis Wick products to students and colleagues.

So, I have officially joined the family! It is an honor to be on the same roster as so many great musicians that perform all types of brass instruments.
Be sure to check out Denis Wick’s North American site at DANSR.COM

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Not Your Ordinary Drones

jazz drones

Not Your Ordinary Drones

I want to talk about drones, but not your ordinary ones. Other sites and musicians have talked about the benefits of warming up with drones, exploring shapes and intervals. All of this is great and something I personally use now and then too. If you haven’t explored this area before I would suggest you at least try it. It’s an amazing way to open up your ears and explore music’s various layers.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m still not sure what you mean by drones. Aren’t those the remote control things you fly around to annoy your neighbors?” Well, yes. But, not this topic. Here’s a great YouTube example of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen talking about how she uses a drone:

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

 

“A musical drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece.” – Wikipedia

Instead of rehashing what others have already talked about, I want explore some other ways we can use a drone through the lens of targeting. Targeting is aiming at a goal (note) with purpose. It’s one of the central points of how I improvise and teach improvisation. While it’s great to explore a scale, intervals, or free-improvisation with a fixed pitch (drone)-I have found that beginners and intermediate musicians often have a hard time hearing the note they are aiming for.

What to Use

There are a number of great tools that create a drone. Ingrid Jensen mentioned her device in the video above. You can use just about anything that will create a sustained pitch. I have used a piano with the sustain pedal, computer software (garageband, Logic Pro, etc), YouTube (which has a WIDE range of options that you could spend hours searching), or one of my favorites: iReal Pro

Beginners and intermediate improvisors have to be intentional with what they practice. It’s too easy to get distracted and let your imagination go on a tangent. That’s ok when it’s time to explore and foster creativity. But, students need to hear where their line is going. What does it sound like when you are targeting the 3rd of major chord? How does that sound different when you’re targeting the 3rd of dominant chord? What about minor? If a student can learn to hear what targeting sounds like it opens up the creative mind to be able to explore it in real-time. This is why I like using iReal Pro because you get to choose not only the harmonic situation (major, minor, diminished, etc), but you get to do it while keeping time and locking in with a rhythm section that won’t slow down or speed up.

Here’s how I use iReal Pro as a drone:

  • create a new song using the blank template
  • pick a chord type that you need to work on (major 7th, dominant, minor 9th, etc)
  • type that chord in the first measure and set up whatever repeat function you desire
  • set the repeats 30x
  • pick a tempo and feel (swing, bossa, etc)
  • work on first targeting the root in as many ways as you can imagine with various tools with GOOD rhythm (for more info on those tools you can check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose).
  • Once you’ve felt like you’ve fully explored the root move on to the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and other extensions (9th, 11th, 13th)
  • Now move on to the same chord type, but in a different key.
  • Apply what you just did to a song or harmonic progression you’re working on

All of the above is good practice for any musician. It will get you to focus on the sound of targeting so you can hear where you’re going. This will also give a student plenty of practice!

Thank you for checking out my blog! If you’d like to join my mailing list I would love to send you a complimentary MP3 from my band. CLICK HERE and in a few short steps I’ll send it over!

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

How Composing Can Keep You Out of Trouble

That’s right. Composing.

How CAN composing keep you out of trouble? If you’ve followed this blog then you know this is mostly about improvisation tips. But, composing can help you with your improvisation too. I’ve heard it said (and repeated) that composing is improvisation that you can edit along the way (wouldn’t it be nice to edit our improvisations in real-time? Maybe someday…).

I recently finished a new composition called Dad’s Game that will most likely be on the JKQ’s next album later this year. I wanted to show how I composed it and how I use the idea of “improvisation that you can edit.” If you want to check out more on how I compose you can check out that series HERE.

I usually start with a blank sheet of staff paper (good old analog paper), piano, and Finale open on my computer. There’s no one way to start composing and I don’t do it the same way every time, either. In the case of Dad’s Game, I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago and had a specific rhythmic figure over a Latin-feel. This is the initial sketch:

From there I sat down with the piano and improvised various chord combinations over the rhythmic vamp. I eventually locked into what I believe was what I heard in the middle of the night (I probably should have taken better notes, but I was half asleep). After deciding on the progression I wanted to come up with the B3 organ’s left hand figure over the vamp. This is where having a strong idea of targeting concepts helped keep me out of trouble (or I could have been spending more time finding the right sound). I knew what notes I was aiming for within the rhythmic figure and it helped me come up with the final idea. Here’s the final sketch (in treble clef):

When you improvise in real-time you must have a system of navigating the chord progression. I’m a BIG proponent of targeting (not sure what I’m talking about? Check more out HERE). When you compose, you will use the same process albeit much slower. You get time to think about your various targeting, melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic options and change them if they don’t sound the way you want (i.e. you get to edit). The more you do the composing process the more solidified they become in your mind. That comes out in your playing.

  • How would you suggest to get started on this?

If you’re just starting out I would suggest writing out a chord progression you’re working on. Write out the guide tones or other targets. Compose a line of nothing but quarter notes. Play it back. Does it sound interesting with just the quarter notes? If not, edit it until it does. Once it does, add eighth notes. Sound good? If not, edit it. Once it does, alter the rhythm. Continue, rinse, and repeat.

This is an area I cover with my improvisation students (on Skype and in-person lesson). If you’ve used this process or found it helpful, please feel free to share how you compose to help your improvisation in the comments below OR feel free to share this with the social media buttons!

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

SaveSave

SaveSave

Jason Klobnak Joins the Westone Family

I’m incredibly excited to share that I am officially joining the Westone family! While the in-ear monitor and hearing protection community is familiar with them (you should check out their artist roster-it’s a “who’s who” of the musician world), this is from their About Us section on their website:

Established in 1959, Westone Laboratories has more than 55 years of experience delivering premium in-ear solutions for critical listening applications. Westone is the largest manufacturer of custom ear pieces in the world and was the first to design and manufacture a balanced armature driver earphone. With hearing healthcare and music specialists on our research and production teams, Westone invented the most ergonomic monitor design which provides the most comfortable, best fitting and quietest earphones on the market. The largest names in music turn to Westone in-ear monitors for on-stage use, just as U.S. Air Force fighter pilots depend on Westone’s ACCES® in-ear communications system for mission-critical noise isolation, hearing protection and two-way communication. It is our experience, our products, and our people that make Westone The In-Ear Experts®.

I’m a proud user of the Tru Customs and the ES20 custom in-ears (both pictured below). The Tru Customs are perfect for everything I play from small group Jazz (especially in a loud room) to louder amplified bands where the sound team doesn’t have capability to run a line for my ES20‘s.

I have the size 20 filters which reduces overall down to 13dB. If I ever want to raise or lower that filtration I can get different filters that range from 25 down to 10. The ES20‘s are AMAZING. When I went to get the molds, my rep didn’t try to up-sell me to something I didn’t need. The ES20‘s are a dual-driver system. The clarity is exceptional and the fit is spot on. I really love their Flex Canal technology. A body temperature-reactive, semisoft earpiece canal additive that stays firm at room temperature for ease of insertion and then softens at body temperature, allowing increased comfort and acoustic seal for incredible noise isolation.

I would highly recommend that you check out Westone for your hearing protection and IEM’s. Not just because I’m officially an endorsing artist now, but because the products and service are worth it!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Hark the Herald | Official Video

Hark the Herald

Hark the Herald | Official Video

If you’re on my mailing list you were able to get a sneak peek preview of my creative experiment of putting a video to my new Christmas single, Hark the Herald. If you’re not on my mailing list you can DO IT HERE and get a free mp3 in the process. Please feel free to share this, like, comment, subscribe to my channel on YouTube, etc. Enjoy!

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

Genius Jamtracks Review

Genius Jamtracks Review

Genius Jamtracks Review

I am incredibly honored and excited to share a relatively new app that I believe will absolutely help you with your improvisations. I was recently approached by the creators of this app, Dimitris Neonakis and Antonis Tsikandilakis to check out their new app which is the first polyrhythmic play-along. Many of you know that with my students I already highly recommend using iReal, Drumgenius, and other apps for practice. When they mentioned the word polyrhythm I was instantly intrigued. While I play some piano (not at all to the degree to be taking Jazz gigs); I am mainly a trumpet player. Getting together with a rhythm section to work out ideas over shifting rhythms isn’t something I get to do on a regular basis. To be honest, this is one of the areas that I probably lack the most and spend time working on alone. However, this app allows you to work that out whenever you want.

The below is from the Genius Jamtracks:

“Polyrhythms, long part of the jazz vocabulary, were consolidated and brought to a whole new level in the early 60s by the masters of that era and are a core element of contemporary jazz improvisation and composition. Genius Jamtracks is the first polyrhythmic play-along. This interactive and great sounding app offers an easy way to get you from basic four bar chord progressions to the most advanced of Jazz songs.

Genius Jamtracks lets you:

1) Edit each instrument by clicking on it. You can have the bass play quarter note triplets
while the drums play in double time and the piano 4 over 3, or any other polyrhythm you might encounter in this genre
2) Add as many choruses as you want to the song and treat each one individually
3) Treat each section of the song separately: e.g. if the song form is AABA you can choose different events for each of the 4 sections
4) View chord charts and the selected polyrhythms map (for all instruments and sections of the song) at the same time
5) Transpose any track to any key / Adjust the tempo to fit your practice needs / Mix to your liking or mute any of the instruments
6) Randomize your selections either for one section or the whole arrangement and work on your interaction skills
7) Follow through the changes in polyrhythms using the map showing under the chord chart
8) Turn the metronome on/off, from the quick access button, when in need of a checkpoint”

I have had the opportunity to use this app over the past couple of days and I am genuinely impressed and find it incredibly useful. The sounds are as realistic, rhythms are on point (from the default core groove to the 8 different metric modulations and polyrhythms contained in the app), and the various exercises and standards are a great tool to work out these ideas. Because the app is still in its early stages (December 2016) there are only a few limitations like a smaller library of standards and not being able to input your own charts (similar to iReal). However, I’m sure as time marches on some of those capabilities might be added. It is still VERY much worth the $7.99 asking price.

I am going to continue working with this app to help solidify my own internal metric modulations. One exercise I have already started using is taking my Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose book and using the Altered Dominant/Diminished targeting exercise over All the Things You Are with the “3 quarter note pattern.” It’s challenging and fun!

To check out more of the app (including a Youtube video review below by the incredible Jazz pianist, Jean-Michel Pilc) you can go to their Facebook page HERE.

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

If you were like me and thought, “I don’t need to see any more, send me to the download page!” You can click on the image below. If you would like to try the exercise I listed above, be sure to grab my book by clicking on the other link. I hope you enjoy this app as much as I am!Cover PNG

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave