How To Practice Licks That Don’t Sound Like Licks: Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we examined three strategies to spice up your practice sessions: 1) octave displacement, 2) rhythmic variation, and 3) sidestepping.

I’d like to suggest two more ideas: 1) playing your licks backwards and 2) utilizing inversions. We’ll use the lick from Part 1 and the previous variations discussed for both techniques.

By practicing these exercises in all 12 keys, you’ll be well on your way to expanding your harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary as an improviser.

Playing Licks Backwards

No explanation needed here. Just take your licks and play ’em backwards. It’s almost like Pig Latin, but it sounds cooler. Here’s what the four variations look like from Part 1 played backwards:



An inversion involves choosing a pitch axis. From the pitch axis, where the original lick went up or down one or more intervals, you will do the exact opposite. If you’re playing a wind instrument, it’s usually safe to say you’ll need to start an octave or two up from your original lick to make this work. Also, be advised that playing the inversion of a lick that utilizes sidestepping will end up sounding more “out” than “in” harmonically.

Using the original lick and variations from Part 1, here is what all of the inversions would look like with C as the pitch axis:


I hope you have enjoyed this series. Be creative with your practicing and don’t be afraid to create your own musical vocabulary! For more practice ideas, continue to follow Jason’s blog, and feel free to check out as well!

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!





Discovery- Canada


We head North in this week’s Discovery series as we take a trip to Canada. Canada, comprised of 10 provinces in 3 terrirtories,  is the world’s second largest country in total land area. It is so vast that it touches 3 of the world’s 4 oceans. While the majority of Canadians speak English there is a large population of residents in Quebec that speak French. Canada has a rich history in music, art, architecture and history.  Canada has been home to some great jazz musicians born there as well as those who have made it their home. As a trumpet player myself-there are a few jazz trumpet players that most have heard of including Ingrid Jensen and Guido Basso (to name few). The same could be said of a number of other instruments. This wonderful country has embraced jazz in its various forms and is home to a number of 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!

Canada has a number of cities that offer live jazz, but one that stands out to me the most is Toronto. Toronto is home to a number of clubs as well as the Toronto Jazz Festival (which the JKQ hopes to play in the future!). It is held annually around the June/July months and has an outstanding roster each season.

Like mentioned with other great countries; Canada 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).

Brian Chahley– trumpet
Francois Bourassa– piano
Gabe Condon– guitar

These are just a few of literally hundreds of great jazz musicians you can find in and/or from Canada. 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 Canadian musicians and see what this great country has to offer in terms of Jazz.



One for the Mother

In today’s post I wanted to take a moment and talk about the importance of thanking those that have helped you in your musical journey. Just about everyone has someone who has deposited knowledge, encouraged them to study or sacrificed something to allow them to pursue their dream.

Thanking them fosters a spirit of gratitude that uplifts not only those you thank; but you as well. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I play/practice/perform better when it’s not all about me. I want others to know they’ve had an integral part in my journey. Bottom line: people need to know that they helped.

I’ve had a number of people that have impacted my musical journey. I could write a lengthy post on each one. People like Craig Swartz, Andy Classen, Roxanne Classen, Susie Miget, Al Hood, Lynn Baker, Eric Gunnison, Greg Gisbert, Brad Goode and Ron Miles all have had direct impact on my trumpet and jazz playing. My brother, Mike Klobnak, introduced me to the trumpet and jazz. My wife, mom and dad (Sarah Klobnak, Wes Klobnak and Patty Gilreath) were always and continue to be supportive. There are others that have made an impact too.

Out of all of these, though, my mom was the one who encouraged and pushed me the most. Even when we couldn’t afford it, she would sacrifice her time and money to make sure I had the opportunity to study. She worked the night shift during my formative years…yet she would always make sure I had a ride to a trumpet lesson or would wake up early to go to a concert or gig.  Even when I moved out of state, she would make her way out to as many concerts and gigs as she could (most recently she took vacation time to come see me play a gig I had on my birthday). She purchased an entire box of CD’s of a college big band recording project so I could get funding for a European trip. I’m sure she’ll probably do something similar for my current project I’m about to record 🙂 Thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do mom!

If you’ve had someone like I’ve mentioned above-take some time out this week to give them a call or write a note and say thank you. If you haven’t…find someone you can encourage to reach their full potential!



Lick of the Day

Yesterday (Jan. 3rd, 2013) I added a new feature to my website called the Lick of the Day. Jazz improvisation has been compared to speech by many great jazz educators. Much like speaking; Jazz has words, phrases and sentences that we can put together to make a cohesive musical statement. To be a better communicator- you need to have more then just a few words in your vocabulary.

There’s a number of different ways you can add to your vocabulary:

  • In my opinion, the best way is to grab them from recordings or live performances. The licks, lines, phrases, etc. that move and excite you should be the ones you learn (and learn them in all keys). Then find creative ways to put that line into different harmonic situations.
  • Talk with other musicians about their favorite lines. You never know when someone else’s favorite lines might work for your vocabulary. This is one of the reasons I started the Lick of the Day. These “licks” are lines that I enjoy using or heard being played.
  • Lick and/or Pattern Books. I don’t have any issue with lick or pattern books per se. If you can grab some that work for you…great. Most lick or pattern books I’ve read, however, were pretty stale. There have been a few that I’ve enjoyed, but not many. Maybe the licks really moved the author, but I didn’t find too many that moved me.

My goal with the Lick of the Day is to provide you with some motivation to add to your vocabulary. If you like the lick you see on a particular day I encourage you to internalize it and learn it in all keys. Find creative ways to put it into other harmonic situations. If you don’t like the lick on a particular day…that’s fine too! Check back daily and you might find one that grabs your attention.

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!



Improv for Kids-Part 3 Feeling Rhythm

Part 3. Last week we talked about keeping things simple. Simplifying the amount of information that the children have to pick from while improvising. In this part I want to talk about the importance of having children learning to feel rhythm. This is just as important (if not more) then the notes themselves.

When children are young is the best time to work on ingraining proper syncopated and swing-type rhythms to where they become second nature as they continue to progress. Every student I’ve met that grew up around syncopated rhythm (either in the home, churches, community organizations, etc) always have a better feel and pickup on improvisation better than those that don’t.

Have the children clap along with you to some second line and clave rhythms. (On the second line example, have them clap along with the bass drum).

Then have them clap some of those same lines while listening to you play a chord progression on the piano or a play-along. Be sure to make it swing. This helps them understand that the clave pattern CAN be used in more than just Latin-type music.

Finally, have them play the 3 to 4 note grouping you gave them from last week’s post and use the second line and clave rhythm. This gets them thinking about rhythm and note choices. To me, the rhythm should be thought of first…then the note choices.

I talk about this in more detail for adults in my book, Breaking the Monotony. You can check it out by going to my Digital Store for more information. There are also a few reviews listed above in the tabs at the top of the page. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added value and benefit to you and your students!




Improv for Kids-Part 2 Simplicity

Part 2. Simplicity is one of the key ingredients in teaching young children about improvisation. While some kids might soak up theory information…most do not. Most, in my experience, just want to play. They want to improvise. Try keeping the theory information as simple as possible (like the first 5 notes of a major scale or the major pentatonic scale)


The more in-depth theory can be saved for later after they have had an opportunity to have fun improvising.

Play the scales with them so they can try and match your sound. It helps solidify their scales as well as their intonation and tone on the instrument. Have them play those scales while you play chord progressions on the piano (or some form of play-along if you’re not comfortable playing them yourself).

Something else I do with younger students is limit the number of note options they have to improvise. Limiting their palette of options can free up their creative mind. This is one of the big reasons I like teaching pentatonic scales. 5 note choices is less information to organize in real time then 7 or 8. For younger students I like to limit their options of notes down to 3 or 4. I like having groupings that are part scale and part leap (like the examples below):

Obviously these aren’t the only small note groupings that can be used. However, they do contain some step-wise motion (major or minor 2nds) and slightly larger leaps. Melodies aren’t 100% scales or leaps. They are a combination of the two. Giving a child the combination helps them understand that improvising is more then just running a scale up and down a chord change. Give them an opportunity to play around with those simplified note groupings with you on a chordal instrument or play-along. Let them make mistakes and figure some things out.

Once they start getting the hang of it, or start getting bored with 3 notes, then expand their options outward. Start simple and expand from there. I find this causes them to learn complex ideas faster and they retain the information longer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added some value and benefit to you and your students! Don’t forget to check out my Digital Store today to grab one of my books, schedule a Skype lesson or get more information on how you can help be a part of my next album, “Mountain, Move.”




Record Yourself

Welcome everyone! In today’s post I want to talk about recording yourself. You may be wondering, “why would I want to do that?” Keep reading and I’ll show you some benefits that come along with recording yourself. I truly hope this post will add value and benefit to you and your student’s playing. If this is your first time visiting this site, welcome and please feel free to have a look around. I would also like to invite you to check out my books (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony) at my Digital Store.

Do you ever have moments when you feel like things are going great in the practice room, yet when you get the bandstand things just are not working out? There could be a number of reasons that happens. However, unless you make a habit of recording yourself you might be attempting to fix the wrong issues.

When should you record yourself? The answer is anytime you’re playing! Record yourself practicing, rehearsing with the band and on the gig. Take note of everything that went well, what didn’t go well and what you need to fix. You don’t have to be hyper-critical over everything (let’s face it…NO ONE is or plays perfect), but take an honest assessment of where you were at in that moment in time. Recordings don’t lie and give you instant feedback. Anything that can make a recording will work. In today’s smart phone technology, most phones have a recording memo device that will suffice for most self-recording needs. There are options from very affordable to pretty expensive.

What are some things to listen for in a recording? Here’s a few below:

  • Ideas. From an improvisation standpoint did your ideas (lines, phrases, etc) make sense? Did they flow in a conversational way or did they wander? You might even find that you were grasping at an idea in the moment, but never quite got it right. Figure out what that was and work that idea out.
  • Technical Issues. Tone, articulation, flexibility, etc. Often times what we hear in our head or behind our instrument is not at all what comes out the other end. Again, recordings don’t lie. If you hear technical errors you now know what can be worked on during your next practice session.
  • Communication. This is more for recording yourself on the gig. How was your interaction with the other musicians on the stage? Where you having a one-way dialogue or were you a musical conversation with your band mates? I think there’s a time and place for both, but the recording will show you if it was at the right time or not.

I know it can be tough to listen to yourself on a recording. It is a sobering experience. However, if you practice what needs to fixed you will progress faster as a musician. I suggest you start recording yourself if you haven’t already. What are your thoughts? Do you record yourself? If so, what are some insights you have learned from doing it? Finally, take the average of your recordings. You’re never as good as your best recording, but you’re never as bad as your worst.

Speaking of recording, I’m hoping to try out the new Zoom Q2HD which does high quality audio and HD video soon. If I get the chance to pick one up, I will do a review for those that might be interested.




Free Jazz

Welcome to my site where in today’s post I want to talk about a free jazz exercise that will help unlock your creativity. I truly hope this post will add value and benefit to you and your student’s playing. If this is your first time visiting this site, welcome and please feel free to have a look around. I would also like to invite you to check out my books (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony) at my Digital Store.

In Part 3 of my Duets mini-series I mentioned a type of call and response duet (Free Jam) that is done with no pre-determined progression or key center. I wanted to expand that thought to personal practice and share an exercise that I’ve done over the years that has really helped unlock my creativity. It’s a very simple exercise to describe, but one that takes some time to get comfortable.

Like the call and response duet, there is no pre-determined progression or key center to reference. Here it is: Grab your instrument, decide a tempo and start playing a continuos string of random eighth notes (syncopation and occasional rests are fine).

The idea is to not play pre-conceived ideas or licks. You want to find new note relationships that you might not normally explore. This  frees up your creative mind because you are not stifled by trying to make your line fit in a chord progression.

The next step is to listen to yourself. If you found something you liked…figure out what it was and transcribe it. You are allowing your creativity to make new connections. You never know what you may discover about yourself and your playing by doing this exercise. Personally, I try and do this exercise once a week for 10 to 15 minutes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tip and find it beneficial to your playing. Try taking some time out this week to play some free jazz!