Tag Archives for " melodic "

Storytelling

I have two daughters that love it when I read them books and tell stories before bed time. They especially love my improvised stories where they give me a subject or characters and tell me, “tell us a story on that, daddy!” It stretches my creativity a bit, but it is a lot of fun for them as well as myself. I have been thinking of the parallels of improvising on the bandstand in jazz with being a great storyteller.

There are a number of things we can learn from storytelling. One of the obvious parallels are that we communicate with a rhythm section and audience when we improvise (or at least we should strive to be doing that). But, I wanted to take a look at what characteristics a good storyteller has and how as improvisers we can learn from them. It is difficult to do this if you have not already learned your scales, can play your instrument with a certain level of proficiency and have an understanding of harmony, etc. I would suggest you check out some of the many other posts/tips on this site that will help that stage of your development and then come back to this.

I will admit I am not the greatest storyteller (although my daughters would argue otherwise), so I found an online source of characteristics from iLoveLiteracy.com that I thought were great. They are listed below:

  1. moves through a logical sequence of events
  2. has interesting characters
  3. includes details to develop the plot, characters and setting
  4. includes a problem that must be solved
  5. uses attention getting introductions
  6. tries to build suspense
  7. makes eye contact with the audience
  8. speaks at the right volume and speed for the audience to hear and understand them clearly

While reading that list I took inventory of how I approach improvising on the bandstand and took note of things that I did similarly and those that I know I can improve. Below are a few parallels that I see with jazz improvisation:

  1. improvises through the harmonic progression in a logical manner 
  2. interesting motifs, licks or melodic fragments
  3. develops the motifs, licks or melodic fragments to tell a story
  4. reacts to musical cues from other band members
  5. makes a clear opening statement (see Out of the Gate) to beginning of improvisation
  6. builds the improvisation with dynamics, articulation and phrasing that creates an overall arc that includes a climax
  7. makes eye contact with the audience. I am guilty of this because I tend to close my eyes while improvising
  8.  improvises in a way that the audience can understand them on some level (i.e. melody connects with the average listener while an array of technical virtuosity may not)

Try this out at some point in the coming days/weeks. As an improviser are you an effective storyteller? If not, work on becoming one by practicing some of the parallels above. People remember great storytellers…

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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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Improv Tip Week #25-Intervalic Series-Triad Pairs 2

Welcome back to week #25 where we’re going to continue with our Intervalic Series and giving some more insight into triad pairs. If this is your first time visiting this site…welcome! I’d like to invite you to check out this week’s tip as well as other tips (1-24) that have been posted and take a look around. Also, if you’re a returning visitor…thank you and welcome back! I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and find them beneficial to your playing! Let’s dive in to our second week of triad pairs

Last week we opened up the discussion of triad pairs and I want to continue this week by giving you another practical way we can use them through the lens of targeting and give you a great exercise to work on to help get this sound deep in your ear.

First, let’s expand on the exercise that I gave last week. Last week’s exercise was simply playing up and down the triad pairs in their inversions. This week’s exercise is the same exercise (in a different key), but adding a chromatic half step (either above or below) to connect the different triad pair inversions. This exercise will get the sound of these triad pairs under your fingers and in your ears. If necessary, I suggest writing these out in the key areas that are not familiar to you. However, the best route is to play this exercise in all keys without writing them out.

Last week we looked at how we can use triad pairs over the ii-V-I progression. This week, we’re going to look at them over a different harmonic structure. We’re going to use the triad pair (F/G) over a Fmaj7(#11) chord. Triad pairs on the 4th and 5th scale degrees of a major scale/key area are great for using over diatonic chords. A Fmaj7(#11) chord is in the “key” of C, so we can use the F and G triads because they help define that chord’s harmonic structure. Below is a musical example mixed with the exercise above over a Fmaj7(#11). Notice how we’re targeting the “B” (or #11) in the second measure and how the added chromatic note helps us land on that note on beat 1:

By now, you should have a good grasp on how you can combine triad pairs and connect them with chromatic tones to land on notes that you’re targeting. You can use different triad pairs and types (major, minor, augmented, diminished, etc) that fit over various chords. Walt Weiskopf’s book, Intervalic Improvisation The Modern Sound: A Step Beyond Linear Improvisation has a great chart that shows different triad pairs and which one’s he feels best fit different harmonic structures. I highly suggest you check out his book. If you would like to add different chromatic targeting options and other targeting tools to your arsenal, I would suggest you check out my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose by clicking on the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and would appreciate your comments, thoughts or passing the info along to your friends and colleagues by using the buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (or any other site you contribute to) 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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Improv Tip Week #19-Using the Melody p2

Hey Everyone…welcome back to Week #19 where we’ll be going into the second part of our multi-week series on using the melody. But before we do that, I wanted to thank every one again that was at my clinic at Drake University’s Turner Jazz Center on Friday (Oct. 7th). I had a great time and met a number of great people. Thanks again to Andy Classen (Director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Trumpet) for being a great host! I look forward to hearing good things out of those students and the further growth of Drake University’s Jazz Department.

Last week we looked at using the essential melody notes and guide tones to use the melody as our guide. However, our musical example didn’t have a difference between the essential melodic notes and the guide tones (they were the same). So, this week I wanted to take another jazz standard and use the same process we did last week to construct a solo based off of the essential notes/guide tones found in the melody. This week, we’re going to use Miles Davis’ Solar. Below is the melody with chords:

So let’s take a look at the essential melody notes. Again, we will still find that a majority of our essential melodic notes are guide tones. However, there are a few 9ths and 5ths that I’ve decided to use because I thought they helped define the melody (remember that in some cases personal preferences are ok). You will also notice that I’ve decided to use in some measures multiple essential notes/guide tones so I have additional targets to aim for during the solo. If you play through this reduced version of the melody (just the half notes and whole notes)-you can still hear the song. Below are what I would consider the essential melody notes and/or guide tones:

Now, let’s take the above as our road map and use some targeting principles (covered in previous blog tips and in my book, (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose) along with some rhythmic creativity and build a solo:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! If you’ve enjoyed this tip (and blog), please be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor. There are even buttons on the bottom that will link you to your accounts. If you’d like more information on how we can creatively target notes, be sure to check out my book-Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose by going to Jason Klobnak Music. I look forward to hearing from you!

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 #18-Using the Melody p1

Hey Everyone-here we are again with week #18’s tip-Using the Melody. This is the first week of another one of our multi-week series. If you’ve done any studying of improvisation in jazz, you’ll hear or read at some point the suggestion of “use the melody as your guide.” This is an excellent suggestion, especially for younger musicians or those just starting out in improvisation. However, I know for myself, no one really talked about how we’re supposed to use the melody as a guide. I had a few ideas of what it might be (like quoting the melody or using little phrases of the original melody in my improvisation), but never really had any ideas that clicked. The next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at how we can use the melody in our improvisations. The composer of the song we’re playing took the time to create the main theme or melody and we should be using it (or some form or part of it) while improvising. One of jazz education’s pioneers, Dr. Ed Byrne, has a lot of great material on using elements of the melody. This week’s tip is based off of his research and I recommend you check it out.

In my very first improv tip (week #1-Guide Tones/Targets), we looked at what guide tones or targets are and how they’re great notes to aim for in improvisation. We’re going to look at the melody and find it’s essential pitches. Many times, these essential pitches will be guide tones. However, many times the melody may not have a guide tone (3rds and 7ths) in a particular measure. We’re looking for essential pitches, or those that are most important to the melody…and sometimes those are 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, etc. Half notes or greater become obvious choices because they’re taking up harmonic space. If they’re less than a half note (quarters, eigths, etc) then I believe it’s up to the personal intrepretation of the improvisor to determine if it’s essential or not. The ears are the ultimate judge. We first determine what those essential pitches are and use them as targets for our improvisation. Depending on the harmonic progression, there can be multiple essential pitches.

After finding the essential pitches, we can use different tools to get us to our targeted notes (or essential pitches). For our first week, let’s look at a jazz standard and give some examples.

This first week we’re going to look at a standard that just about everyone in the jazz world knows (All the Things You Are). Below is the first 8 bars of this standard that we’ll be using.

The graphic below shows what I believe would be the essential pitches to ATTYA. You will notice that in the case of this song’s first 8 bars, the essential pitches happen to be guide tones.

Now that we know what our essential pitches are, I’m going to use them as notes that I’m targeting. If you go back through some of our past week’s tips, you’ll find a few different tools of what we can use to get these targeted/essential pitches. This is a very big part of my approach and you can find out more about how to creatively get to these pitches by checking out my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose. Adding creative rhythm along with the tools to get us to our essential pitches creates an improvisation that’s based off of the melody. If you play the example below, you can still recognize the original melody.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at a few different standards and expanding what we can do to “use the melody as our guide.” Thank you again for checking this week’s tip out and I encourage you to share this tip (and blog) with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other music site that you’re a contributor. For more information on my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose you can go to Jason Klobnak Music. Thanks again and I look forward to your thoughts/comments!

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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