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:
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.
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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!