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Using Drop 2 in Improv Part 2

 

Welcome to part 2 of Using Drop 2 in Improv. In this post we are going to talk about another we can use the Drop 2 concept to help your improvisations. This tip is one that you would use in your practice room. If you go back and check out the series called Map It Out you can get the initial concept of “planning your route” on a tune you are working on. While mapping out a plan mark the changes with (where appropriate) a 4-part rootless voicing. Then apply the Drop 2 to those voicings (see below).

Much like planning out a guide-tone map we can use these rootless voicings as a map too. However, the Drop 2 voicings add more flavor to the line because of its change in interval. The example below takes a arpeggiated line based off of part of the rootless voicing. Notice what happens to the same line when the Drop 2 is applied. Be sure to play them on your instrument or piano to hear the difference:

Let’s do another example. This time instead of an arpeggio we will use a simple line and apply the concept. The first example uses the 4-part rootless voicing as a guide. The second example uses the Drop 2 version as the guide which made it easier to apply a pentatonic targeting technique (more information on that can be found in my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose).

Try it out this week. Take a tune you are learning and map out a “Drop 2 route.” See what new sounds and intervals you can creatively use in your improvisations. If you need help with the what/how to play over the Drop 2 voicings then I suggest you check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony.

 

 

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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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mountain move

Best Recordings of 2013 List

220x220 Album CoverI am very honored and humbled to share this exciting news with you today. Mountain, Move made the list of Best Recordings of 2013 by C. Michael Bailey at All About Jazz today! There are a number of good albums that made this list and am proud to see Mountain, Move on there. Thank you again to all who supported the album during its production and for those that have purchased it since its release.

If you have not grabbed your copy yet, get one today to find out why it made the list!

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Thankful

 

In the United States this week many people celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. Without getting into the holiday’s history I wanted to take a look at the theme of being thankful and how it helps us as musicians. A lot can be said about our attitudes and how we act around others and react to situations. I have found that as a music community at large we take for granted the opportunities we have available to us. We can gripe and complain about pay and the amount of work that is out there, but when it comes down to it we should be thankful for the opportunities we do have.

I try hard each time I am given an opportunity to perform for a paying audience or client that I am grateful for that opportunity. We all have those gigs where it can be tempting to look at our watch (or in today’s times our cell phones) and continuously glance at the door thinking, “oh man…I can’t wait to get out of here.” But, I believe if we foster an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude that it shows in our body language, our words and ultimately through our performance. You never know where your next gig or client is going to come from. If people (including musicians) see your positive attitude you become a more likely candidate for getting call-backs and future work.

What about you? Ask yourself if you are thankful to be a working musician. You could be doing a number of other things, but you were given a gift of music that not everyone has the honor of cultivating. I am asking myself this question this week as well. My answer is a resounding YES. I LOVE BEING A MUSICIAN.

For those that celebrate it: Happy Thanksgiving!

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Unexpected

 

You have probably heard the saying that “when life gives you lemons-make lemonade.” I know it is a cliché, but it is one that has some value to those that improvise. I wrote a post a few weeks back called Fight Through that talked about regardless of what circumstances life has given you; we still have to fight through and make music. In this post I wanted to talk about something similar and make the correlation between the unexpected things in life and how we can use that in our improvisations.

Let’s face it, there are some things in life we thought would be a “sure thing.” Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and you will get a number of different answers. Follow those children 20 years later and ask if they are doing what they wanted to do. For some…maybe. For most…probably not. Life gives us some unexpected twists and turns. Improvisation has a way of doing the same thing. We can plan and plot, but when we finally get in the moment unexpected things can happen. Someone in the rhythm section plays something unexpected and before you know it your improvisation goes in a new direction.

Most of the time when this happens it is fun and exciting. Hopefully you know the song and harmonic progression well enough that you can go to that unexpected place together. Much like life; your attitude towards the unexpected will help determine your level of enjoyment and success. Remember you are involved in the improvisation process just as much as those you are playing with. Your input helps determine the destination.

A while back there was a video of Stefon Harris doing a TED talk floating around social media sites. He and his group of musicians did an excellent job of talking about how reacting to the unexpected creates (or detracts) from the art of improvisation. Check out the video below:

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added some value and benefit to your playing in some way. The holidays are fast approaching and if you are looking for gift ideas for some musicians please go to my Digital Store today and check out my books and recently CD. I am very thankful to all of you that have made a purchase or download!

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Discovery-Brazil

 

This week’s Discovery location takes us to one of the most recognizable and largest countries in South America-Brazil! Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world with a booming economy. Most probably know that Brazil is the home of the Bossa Nova as well as other styles that are regularly incorporated into Jazz. Brazil has been home to some great jazz musicians born there as well as those who have made it their home. This wonderful country has not only embraced jazz in its various forms, but helped greatly influence the art form.

As with our past locations, the goal is to introduce you to 3 new musicians each week from different parts of the world. My hope is you will find some new discoveries, support them by buying their albums and by attending their concerts if you are in their area (or they in yours). Another benefit is for you to hear new musicians and how they approach their instrument and jazz. You never know where you might find your next favorite line!

Like a number of the other large cities that host live Jazz around the world, Brazil has live music venues too numerous to mention on this site. Someday, I would love to take my band (The JKQ) to the BMW Jazz Festival which is held in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. While I have not been, I have heard this is one of the most exciting Jazz Festivals on the planet. Take a look at their site to see who they had performing at this year’s festival.

Like mentioned with other great countries; Brazil has been the home to a number of jazz musicians known and unknown. Hopefully the musicians below are people you will start checking out (if you have not already).

Claudio Roditi– trumpet
Eliane Elias– piano
Nilson Matta– bass

These are just a few of literally hundreds of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from Brazil. If you have checked out these musicians above, be sure to check out their websites and albums to support them. I would also highly encourage you to look up other great Brazilian musicians and see what this great country has to offer in terms of Jazz.

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Discovery- Japan

 

In this week’s Discovery series we head over to Japan! Japan is made up of a series of islands (6,852 of them) in the Pacific Ocean just East of the continent of Asia. Like many of our other Discovery locations, Japan has been home to some great jazz musicians born there as well as those who have made it their home. This wonderful country has embraced jazz in its various forms and is home to a number of world-famous clubs, educational institutions and jazz festivals.

As with our past locations, the goal is to introduce you to 3 new musicians each week from different parts of the world. My hope is you will find some new discoveries, support them by buying their albums and by attending their concerts if you are in their area (or they in yours). Another benefit is for you to hear new musicians and how they approach their instrument and jazz. You never know where you might find your next favorite line!

Japan has a number of cities that offer live jazz whether you are in a large or small city. When I think of Jazz in Japan I immediately think of the Tokyo Jazz Festival. This is one of the world’s foremost Jazz festivals that bring talent from all corners of the globe. Check out their website to see who performed this last year and you will see a list of world-class musicians gracing the stages. It is possible that there are some Jazz festivals in the world that do this, but the Tokyo Jazz Festival is the only one that I have read about that offers child care for concert attendees. As a father of young children-that might just be a deal breaker!

Like mentioned with other great countries; Japan has been the home to a number of jazz musicians known and unknown. Hopefully the musicians below are people you will start checking out (if you have not already).

Takuya Kuroda– trumpet

Hiromi Uehara– piano

Erena Terakubo– sax

These are just a few of literally hundreds of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from Japan. If you have checked out these musicians above, be sure to check out their websites and albums to support them. I would also highly encourage you to look up other great Japanese musicians and see what this great country has to offer in terms of Jazz.

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Fight Through

Have you ever had one of those days? Nothing seems to be going your way. From the moment you wake up until you hit the bandstand your circumstances all point in the direction you don’t want them to go. The circumstances themselves have different faces each time. One could be a physical battle with your body (sicknesses or other pains). Another could be a tough relationship with a loved one. You might be facing an uphill financial struggle. Whatever the circumstance we have to realize as humans that we face them regularly. However, how we choose to deal with those circumstances determine our level of success in just about area of life. We can either give up or Fight Through.

Let’s look at it from a jazz musician perspective. We run in to challenges all the time to become a better musician. Our instruments technically challenge us (some more than others…right trumpet players?). We encounter harmonic progressions as a soloist that take longer to overcome until they become revelation. If you perform for a living you have to fight through the music business to get work. Some people are easier to work with then others, but we can’t just take jobs that are enjoyable AND put food on the table. So, we have to make a conscious decision for each circumstance to let it get to us or to Fight Through.

Let me tell you a short story about a musician who had a rough day and how their decision to Fight Through was worth it in the end. This musician woke up the morning of a club date with a massive migraine. The type where you want to stay in bed and keep all light and sound out to make it through. But, this musician had some important business to take care of that day before the gig that night. They knew they would be out most of the day and needed to grab breakfast. Upon entering the kitchen they realize that they needed to go to the grocery store, but didn’t have time. Still fighting the migraine, the musician decides they need to get to their appointment and skip breakfast which further complicates the growing migraine.

On the way to the appointment the musician was stopped at the intersection right before their appointment location when a driver, who was texting their friend, slams into the back of the musician’s car. The accident was not major, but still caused the musician to miss their appointment (and had to pay the cancellation fee for missing the appointment). Not the way you want your day to go, right? Later that afternoon the musician is at another appointment when they receive a call from one of their band mates in the rhythm section. He has an emergency family matter and has to bow out of the gig. Now the musician in our story is fighting their migraine, hungry, has to deal with the insurance company for the accident earlier in the day and now has to call other musicians in town to see if they can sub on the gig tonight.

I know many people who would have thrown in the towel at this point and said, “Forget it. This is not worth it.” But, we can never grow to our full God-given potential if we let circumstances beat us down.

The musician, who is still weighted down with the day’s circumstances, fights through and determines to play their best on the gig. Why? For starters, someone paid for the entertainment that night. At the very least you need to do your job. The musician also realizes that someone else in the audience (or in their band for that matter), may have had a rough day too. One beautiful thing about music is the power it has to encourage someone else. On this particular night, that is exactly what happened for someone in the audience. They too had one of the hardest days of their life and went to the musician’s show to escape. It was the highlight of their night. They told the musician after the gig about their day and how their show encouraged them. It just so happened that this audience member was on a city council seat that picked entertainment throughout the year for different events. Guess whose band now gets those calls? Because the musician decided to fight through their circumstances they were able to secure more work. I don’t know about you, but that makes fighting through the circumstances worth it.

What about you? What circumstances are you facing right now? I want to encourage you today and tell you that you CAN fight through them. Circumstances (problems, issues, etc) always change. Fight Through Them. If you struggle with playing in the key of B then fight through it until you no longer struggle with it. You can not be great by giving up or deferring. Fight Through.

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