Duets Part 1

If this is your first time visiting this site-welcome! I truly hope this post adds value and benefit to you and your students. Take a look around the tabs above, previous posts and my Digital Store where you can find more information on two books that I have released (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony).

In this post we are going to start discussing Duets and how they can help your  improvisations. Each  part will look at different ways you can do duets and their benefits. The word duet means a performance by two people. Creativity is increased when you combine more then one source. When playing with another person-you bounce creative ideas off of each other.

Part 1:

All too often in today’s world of technology-students spend too much time practicing with pre-recorded or digital accompaniments. There’s nothing wrong with using them. However, too much practice with just those sources can cause you to interact selfishly when you do play with other human beings. I talk about this in Independence In Improvisation (a previous post on this site and in my book, Breaking the Monotony). We can use this same idea and apply it to playing duets.

Find a friend and pick a chord progression. Decide the tempo and start improvising without any accompaniment. Don’t use any reference (i.e. the changes written out in front of you). You will probably play over top of each other at first. Keep at it and strive to play ideas off of one another. Benefits of doing this exercise together:

  • A deeper understanding of the chord progression. You have to really know the changes if you’re improvising while listening to your partners ideas, responding and making new ones over top of the progression.
  • Timing and Phrasing. When you play without an accompaniment you don’t have a rhythm section “feeding” you the time. The two of you rely on your collective time. Your phrasing is also helped because you have to consider what the other player is playing and react to it.
  • You tap into a deeper level of listening. The focus isn’t on you and how hip you’re going to make this solo. It’s about working together to create something hip as a team.
  • You gain new ideas. This is a fun way to get fresh ideas because you’re tapping into someone else’s resource of creativity that you can use. If you notice something you like…remember it and keep it!
  • Community. Playing with others creates an undefinable bond that is becoming endangered in our ever increasing technology.

This week get together with someone and play some duets. Try doing some without any accompaniment or rhythm section and have fun playing!

End of Phrases

Thanks again for stopping by and checking out the site! If this is your first visit here, I would like to welcome and invite you to browse around and take a look at some of our past posts as well as my book (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony) which are both available at my Digital Store.

Those that have been following know how big I am into the concept of targeting (or aiming at a goal note with purpose). In today’s tip, I wanted to talk about the concept of targeting and the importance of the end of the phrase. I believe if we focus on how we want our phrase to end before we start it-we will find that our ideas will not wander because we’re aiming at a goal ( in this case the end of the phrase) with purpose.

Students often struggle with wandering in their early stages of learning how to improvise. Their phrases/ideas start out great, but they aren’t sure how they will end it. Instead of making a musical statement, they have a run-on sentence (or paragraph for that matter) that lacks cohesiveness.

I find I have more creativity if I build my ideas backwards. If I know where and how I’m going to end my phrase, I now have different options of how I’m going to get there. Let’s take a look at a quick example. The idea below is what we will use as the end of our phrase:

The end of the phrase is targeting the 5th of the Cmaj7 chord. It has a definitive end. Now I have options of how I’m going to get to the ending phrase. Below are a few different options that you could choose from:

The above are just a few of the many options available going to the end of the phrase ( in addition, this tip opens up more creative options to the beginning of phrases too). This process is done in real-time and is something that you have to develop. However, the end result of this practice will pay off. You will find that you (and your students) will be making more cohesive musical statements and there will be less wandering. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tip and that it adds value and benefit to your playing in some way!

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