Tag Archives for " jazz help "

Get Out!

We have an abundance of ways to stay connected with one another these days. We have social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. We have online music stores and music players. We should be even more connected then generations past, yet I believe we are one of the most isolated generations to date. We can “connect” online, but we lose the face-to-face interaction. I mentioned this in some past posts regarding Independence in Improvisation (we need to play with others and not just play-alongs) and The Jam (interacting with new musicians at a jam session).

In this week’s post I want to talk about the importance of supporting live music. The kind where you do not take your instrument. You are there to support fellow musicians and support your local music scene. It is important because it gets you out of your house, connects you with fellow musicians (hang afterwards and tell the musicians they sounded good) and gives you an opportunity to open your ears to how others approach the music. I would even encourage you to go to concerts that might not be jazz for a different perspective on melody, harmony, rhythm, syncopation, etc.

A local music scene is only as good as its supporters. Be a part of the scene not just as a performer, but as a supporter. Try to get out at least once a week, if not more. Grab your friends, spouse, kids, etc and find a concert to attend. Put it on your calendar so you do not forget-this will help you stick to your commitment.

So, what do you say? Who are you going to check out this week? There are some musicians I am going to check out here in Denver this week. Leave a comment and let us know your music community and who you are going to see!

Maybe you are not sure who to go check out in your area. That is why starting next week I am going to start a new series called Discovery. I want to highlight some different artists (known and unknown) across the planet so you can check them out. This way if you are ever in their area you can go and check them out!

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Myth of Arrival

In this week’s post I wanted to talk about the myth that I find young musicians (and some older) falling prey. That is the myth of arrival. That myth says that you can reach a point in your development (regardless of what skill, gift or talent) where you have “arrived” and there is nothing left to improve or that it is pointless to try and improve. Unfortunately, this place of arrival is subjective. Who really determines if you have “made it?” Do you determine that? Your teacher/mentor? Your family? Critics? I truly believe if you were to poll a room of musicians they would probably come up with different answers. Hopefully, at least one, would answer what I believe to be true: There is no place of arrival.

We will always have areas in our playing and improvisational abilities that can be better. That is why we practice. I have heard stories of jazz greats in their 90’s still practicing. When asked why in the world they were still practicing at their age there response was something like this: “I am always learning.”

A problem we face as musicians is we let the rewards of reaching our goals numb our development. We get accolade, a good review, a promotion, a better gig, a high-five/pat on the back, etc. then become complacent and give less effort to try and grow. The myth of “I have arrived” sinks in. Granted, not everyone falls prey to that myth. But, that does not mean the temptation to fall into it is not there. I have seen some give in to that myth after playing and practicing for a month to those that have been playing for 30+ years.

How do we avoid falling into this trap? I wish I could say it is simple, but it is not. We have to constantly push ourselves towards improvement. Don’t get me wrong, we need to enjoy those moments when we reach our goals. Celebrate them! But, don’t live there! Find a good teacher, mentor or friend that will help keep you in check and encourage you to reach farther.

From one musician to another-I am in this with you. I know there is much more to learn and much to improve in my playing. If you have falling prey to this myth you CAN get out. Take inventory of your playing and be honest. Find things to work on and improve. Then take action and watch for the trap of the arrival myth when you bust through your next goals!

 

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Independence

While I was pondering what I should write about this week I was reminded of a post that was made two years ago around this time and is also written about in more detail in my book, Breaking the Monotony. In the U.S. we celebrate our Independence Day on July 4th which is later this week. I thought this week a re-post was in order. I hope you enjoy!

“Hey Everyone! Welcome to Week #5’s tip-Independence in Improvisation. Today (July 4th, 2011) in the U.S., we celebrate our Independence Day and what better day to talk about independence in improvisation than today? This is a topic that I don’t hear talked about enough in jazz education when discussing improvisation. This week’s tip is something that I try to work on at least once a week and encourage everyone to do the same.

Independence in improvisation could have a few different definitions, but the one that I’m applying refers to the ability to improvise effectively with no accompaniment. A few years ago I had the honor to take a lesson with jazz trumpeter, Ron Miles. We talked a lot about melodic considerations while improvising, but the topic that dominated the majority of our discussion was the ability to improvise when no one else is around (or when the rhythm section drops out for a chorus). This not only works on your time, but makes you focus on the melody and chord changes on a deeper level.

In our modern age of technology, we have become very dependent on our digital “rhythm sections.” Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE using Aebersold’s, Band-in-A-Box and my current favorite…iReal Book for the iPhone. As a matter of fact, I use them on a regular basis. However, we become dependent on having something else feed us the changes and dependent on it keeping time for us. It can cause our improvisations to become reactive instead of proactive. When we’re playing on the bandstand, we’re playing with other musicians who are making music with us. If we’ve spent all of our time with a digital rhythm section, it becomes more difficult to interact with the REAL musicians on stage. The more time we spend working on a song independently, the more freedom we have with that song. It’s become so ingrained that we don’t have to think about it on the bandstand and our focus can move from what I’m playing to what we’re playing.

For this week, take the song(s) that you’re learning and improvise with no backing track of any kind. If this is your first time utilizing this concept, it will probably be a little difficult for the first couple of times. However, after a short time of working on it, when you play it with a rhythm section you will feel a new level of confidence and a sense of freedom to interact with those around you.”

I hope this week’s tip has been as helpful to you as it has been to me! Be sure to go to Jason Klobnak Music to grab your copy of Breaking the Monotony or Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose. Every book sale and donation helps the JKQ with our Midwest tour expenses coming up in August. More details on the tour will be coming soon!

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Harmonic Major

In this week’s post I wanted to talk about a scale that does not get a lot of mention in improvisation classes, but it one that is quite effective and easy to learn. That scale is the Harmonic Major scale. Some of you may be wondering, “Wait a second Jason…harmonic MAJOR? I have heard of the harmonic minor scale, but what is the harmonic major scale?” Well, I am glad you asked! Before we take a look at the harmonic major scale, let’s take a look at the more common harmonic minor scale.

The harmonic minor scale is a minor scale that has a lowered (flat) 6th scale degree and a major 7th scale degree as shown in the example below.

C harm min

There has been quite a bit written about this scale and its uses. However, we are going to look at the harmonic major scale. The harmonic major scale is essentially a major scale with a lowered (flat) 6th scale degree. The C-harmonic major scale is shown below.

C harm maj

The harmonic major scale, like every other scale, can be used over various harmonies. One of my favorite uses is over V7(b9) chords. If you take the harmonic major scale and start on the 5th scale degree (if in C…that means you would start on the G), it fits perfectly over the V7(b9) chord. Another way to think about it is if you have a V7(b9) chord, you can use the harmonic major scale a perfect fourth up from the root of the V7(b9) chord. You get the b9 of the V7 chord, but none of the other alterations that are found/heard when you would use a diminished or altered scale.

The example below is a line based off of the C harmonic major scale played over the G7(b9) chord:

harmajex1

I personally like the sound between the flat-6th and major 7th. The scale still has an exotic texture to it-yet still has that familiar major feeling at the same time. I hope this tip has added some value or benefit to your playing!

For more information on how you can use the harmonic major OR harmonic minor scale to creatively target notes in your improvisations you can check out my book Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose or Breaking the Monotony at my Digital Store.

Thank you for checking out my blog! If you’d like to join my mailing list I would love to send you a FREE MP3 from my band. Simply click on the image below and in a few short steps I’ll send it over!

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Practice Your Weaknesses

I had a student recently ask me, “Now that I am on summer break, what should I practice to get better for next school year?” To answer that we should look at what practicing is and what it should not be. By definition, practicing is performing an activity or exercise/skill repeatedly/regularly in order to improve or to maintain one’s proficiency. That means we need to be working on a skill set regularly to improve that skill. Practicing should not be aimless. It should have a purpose and goal. That goal is to improve.

You have to look at your goals and figure out what needs maintenance and what needs to improve. I would suggest you practice your weaknesses. In terms of jazz improvisation-what are your weaknesses? Do you need to improve your ear training? If so, work on it. Do you need to improv your facility in the key of B? If so, work on it.

You have to take an honest assessment of what you need to improve in your playing. You become a more complete player when you consistently work on the parts of your playing that are not as strong as others. Write those goals down and put a realistic time limit on when you want to achieve them. Be competitive with yourself and you will find that you can rise to the occasion.

I hope for those of you that have a summer break/holiday that you take this time to practice your weaknesses and continually grow as a musician!

Thank you for checking out my blog! If you’d like to join my mailing list I would love to send you a FREE MP3 from my band. Simply click on the image below and in a few short steps I’ll send it over!

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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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The Augmented Triad

I have been making edits so I can have short previews of the songs that will be on my Mountain, Move. album and heard something that I thought would be great to talk about. So, in this week’s post we will look at the augmented triad and how we can use it to creatively target notes in our improvisations. I love using the augmented triad because it does not have the typical triad sound. To many listeners it causes an unexpected, “whoa…what was that?” response. This makes it a great tool to have in your improv arsenal.

I know there are a number of beginner visitors, so we will take a brief look at the augmented triad itself. An augmented triad is simply a major triad with a raised 5th (see example below):

 

The augmented triad is a great candidate to use as a tool for targeting. I invite you to check out some of the many different previous posts on targeting on this site as well as my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose to get a better understanding of how to fully utilize this concept. But, we will take a look at a few different ways you can use the augmented triad to target. The augmented triad is symmetrical. That means no matter which inversion you start on you will have an augmented triad. The examples below will be using the G (or B, or Eb) augmented triad over a V7-I pattern.

The first example takes the augmented triad in a descending order (starting on the “B”) and resolves up a half step to land on the root of the I chord (Cmaj9):

The second example is an infamous lick that you will hear many great improvisers using in their solos. In this case, the augmented triad doesn’t directly lead into the targeted note (D). Instead of continuing down to the Eb (continuing the triad), the line resolves up to the D (which is the targeted note of the line…the 2nd/9th of the Cmaj9):

 

Our final example uses the augmented triad with another targeting concept (the chromatic target) to target the 5th of the I chord (Cmaj9):

 

One of my favorite ways to use the augmented triad to target notes is over the V7-I harmonic movement. There are other ways to implement the augmented triad, but I wanted to share my favorite. For the V7-I movement you can think about it a number of different ways. For instance, you could think about using an augmented triad on the 5th of the I chord or the root of the V7 chord. You can think about using an augmented triad a half-step below the root of the I chord or the 3rd of the V7 chord. Or you can think about using an augmented triad a flat third from I chord or the b13 of the V7 chord. Whatever works best for you. One goal I try to reach with my students is to narrow things down so you have less to think about while playing.

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added value and benefit to your and/or your students playing in some way!

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