Tag Archives for " licks "

How to Practice Licks That Don’t Sound Like Licks

It is my honor to introduce all of you to our guest contributor for our latest post, Mr. Justin Scoville. Justin and I first met at the University of Denver in 2004. Justin, in addition to being a fine jazz trumpeter, has recently started his own blog at The Jazz Daddy (which I highly recommend you check out). He comes from a rich heritage of Denver-based jazz instruction at CCJA, studied at the University of Denver and holds lucrative liberal arts degrees from BYU and the University of Colorado Denver. And (like many musicians these days) balances a family, day job, blogging, playing jazz, etc. 

Thanks to Jason for letting me pop in for a guest post!

The precocious and tragically short-lived trumpeter Booker Little recalled some sage advice he received from Sonny Rollins while rooming with the venerable tenor saxophonist in 1954:  “Sonny was a big help. For one thing, he cautioned me about becoming overly influenced by other players. ‘You’ve got to be you,’ he told me, ‘whether that’s good or bad.’” At the time, Little was heavily influenced by Clifford Brown. After taking Sonny’s challenge to heart, Booker went on to be one of the most unique jazz soloists during the late 50’s and early 60’s before his premature death.

Part of Little’s singular approach to improvisation was utilizing quarter tones and employing harmonic dissonance (influenced by his understanding of classical music) over traditional bebop harmonies. For an example of this, check out Booker’s solo at 4:30 on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”:

I believe Booker is a great example for us all. He spent the time to emulate the great masters that had laid the foundation of jazz, but then infused his own musical interests into what was (at the time) common jazz vocabulary.

Booker wasn’t the first or last to do this. Charlie Parker copied Lester Young, Clifford Brown copied Fats Navarro, and so on. The question is, what are you going to do with all of the cool licks you’ve learned?

Today I’m going to share three simple techniques that will help you go beyond rote imitation and start discovering your own sound. These three techniques are 1) octave displacement2) rhythmic variation, and 3) sidestepping. 

Let’s take a lick that is fairly common in jazz, like this one:

To add a little variety and challenge to my practice session, I’ll arbitrarily decide to raise or lower certain notes by an octave, paying homage to Eric Dolphy. Here’s an example:

Next, I’ll add some rhythmic variation. Throw in some quarter note triplets, triplets, and quintuplets, and voila! You sound pretty different from all of your lick-playing buddies:

Finally, some sidestepping adds a final dash of harmonic ambiguity. Here, I raised or lowered certain notes to hint at F7 Altered Dominant. Or something like that.

Well, those are some techniques I use to spice up my licks. What have you all tried? Share your comments 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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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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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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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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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!

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Improv Tip Week # 50-Shapes part 2

Welcome to week #50! We have two more weeks until we hit the one year mark. This will be the 50th straight week of improv tips! If this is your first time joining us, please be sure to go back through the archives and check out the past 49 weeks. If you’re one of our returning friends…welcome back as we continue to look at how we can use the shapes of some of our favorite lines to build our own. Last week we looked at the infamous “Cry Me A River” lick. This week we’re going to look at another common lick used in the standard jazz vocabulary known as the “Gone But Not Forgotten” lick (GBNF).

For more information on what we can do to find the line’s shape, refer back to last week’s tip. Below, you’ll find the shape of the line with it’s original notes. The example below that is strictly the line’s shape with no accidentals.

When we remove the stems from the original line and just have the shape (or overall arc) we can apply our own rhythms. Not only that, but we can change up the harmonic context so it fits over a number of different situations. Last week with the CMAR shape I was listening to a song that had a heavy shuffle feel. Today I happen to be listening to some funk. So the examples below would be something I might apply to a song type that doesn’t swing. I also didn’t list any chord changes above the lines because they can be applied to different harmonic situations. The first example is based off of the original line’s shape AND note choices.

The next example is just based off of the overall shape of the original line:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it adds value to your playing in some way. I also want to say a big thank you to all who helped our fundraiser last week to fight Malaria! If you didn’t get a chance to help out, you can continue through October 2012 by giving directly to HappyBirthdayNate.com. Also, if you haven’t checked out my book (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose) you can go to my Digital Store to get more information. It’s available in English (printed and digital) or Spanish (digital only) for a very affordable price. I hope you’ll check it out and find that it will add value to your playing as well!

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Improv Tip Week #40-Analyzing Lines Series 2

Last week we started our new series on analyzing lines and we started out with a Clifford Brown lick from his solo on Cherokee. This week (week #40) we’re going to look at another one of my favorite Clifford Brown lines from his famous solo on the Blues standard, Sandu. I mentioned this last week, but when we break down a line (whether it’s our own or something we’ve transcribed from someone else) we can find its essential elements so we can better understand why we liked it and how we can incorporate it or pieces of it into our regular playing.

Below is the line starting in the 4th bar of Clifford Brown’s solo on Sandu:

One of my favorite parts of this line is what Clifford does rhythmically (with varied articulation) with the line in bar 5. The line is simple-playing an Eb minor scale fragment over the Ab7. Yet, because of the varied articulation and the playful rhythm-the line propels forward and grabs your attention.

After transcribing some Clifford Brown (and reading transcriptions by others), I found that he liked to delay and anticipate his targets and resolutions. You’ll notice below that he begins to target the root of the C7 before the chord happens creating an anticipation of the upcoming chord…

Connected to the anticipation above is delaying the chromatic targeting of the 5th (G) on the C7. Clifford chromatically descends his line into the C7, but instead of landing on his intended target on beat 1-he delays it until the and of 1.

Both of the above are great examples of crossing the bar line (we covered that topic a few weeks back if you want to go check it out). This week’s line is one that I find myself, at least in part, quoting every now and then.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found it beneficial in some way! Next week we’ll continue on in this series and will look at lines by other musicians. In the meantime, (if you haven’t already) be sure to check out the rest of this site, past tips, my book and its reviews and other related material.

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Improv Tip Week #33-Extending the Line

Welcome to week #33! This week’s tip is one that I can remember working diligently on while studying with Andy Classen at Drake University. This tip probably isn’t for everyone. Advanced musicians who have strong improv chops have probably already worked on this and maybe even spent time learning how to control it so they don’t do it as much (I know I have). This week’s tip is about extending the line. If this is your first time here, welcome! I’d highly encourage you to check out some of the past week’s tips as some of them might be helpful for you. For our returning friends…welcome back and I hope you find this week’s tip beneficial to your playing! If you haven’t yet, I want to encourage everyone to check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and invite you to check it out by going to the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music for more information. The E-book version works great on mobile devices (which is an instant download available all across the globe) and the printed version is sturdy and sits nicely on a music stand. I’m currently working on having the E-book version available in a few different languages (I’ll keep you updated on those and which languages) as well as a full update on my website which will be combining this blog with my site.

Every improvisor, at some point in their development, get to a place where short phrases and/or licks are not enough to communicate their message. Can you imagine if you listened to an orator and every statement they made were short little one-liners? One-liners are necessary and add effect, but at some point you want the orator to connect his/her ideas. In improvisation, we need to move beyond the short musical statements and extend the line. We can extend the line a couple of different ways. One way is to combine our short phrases and/or licks to make them longer. Another, which is what is discussed below, combines targeting principles (in this case chromatic targeting) to help extend the line. Below is taken out of part of my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose:

…Below is an exercise targeting the root, 3rd and 5th of a C-major tonality (or scale). Notice how either the root, 3rd or 5th lands on the downbeat of beat 3 of each measure (in 4/4 time):

Below is another example of targeting the root, third and fifth. However, this time the line is moving upward:

There are many different combinations that we can use to create a longer flowing line. The next example below is an exercise used to create a continuous eighth-note line. The targeted notes are the root (C), the 3rd (E) and 5th (G) of a C-major tonality. Again, notice how the root, 3rd or 5th will land on either the downbeat or beat 3 of each measure. The goal of this exercise is to mix the different types of targeting options, while still creating the continous line. For an additional challenge, create your own continuous line exercise and target the root, 3rd and 5th of every major scale’s tonality.


If you’d like to check out more, be sure to click the link above or on the right for more information. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and would love for you to share this blog/tip with your friends and colleagues. For your convenience, you can use the links for Facebook, Twitter, etc below. As always, I hope some of you (or maybe even one of your students) have found some benefit from this tip and continue down your personal improv journey. We’ll see you next week!

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