This week I wanted to talk about the benefits of creating your own Etudes. When we improvise, we’re creating something in the moment. We have an idea in our mind’s eye about what we’d like to do and the options we can go from a certain point. I also advise that we have targets we aim at with purpose. Those targets help us get to our destination and help create a more meaningful conversation with the audience and the musicians we’re sharing the stage. Etudes, though, are pre-planned solos to be used as a technical exercise that are disposable.
Wait, did you just say disposable?
Yeah. They’re meant to have a short shelf-life. You play it (work out the technical passages), analyze it (why did it work), and move on to another.
When you are working on a new tune it can be beneficial to write your own etudes because they help solidify and develop your understanding of the song.
Writing an etude is essentially composing your own solo. Write some ideas out and edit as needed. Play through a line or two and ask yourself some critical questions:
1. Does the line (or series of lines) sound good? If not, re-write them until they do.
2. Do the lines have rhythmic interest? If not, re-write it and make it more interesting. Jazz rhythm is syncopated, so find opportunities to add more syncopation to your line(s).
3. Is there anything that could be added or taken away to make it sound better? If so, make the changes.
The beauty of composing your own etude is you can fix mistakes and do an unlimited number of re-writes until it sounds good. This process helps your subconcious understand why some lines sound better then others and you will find they creep into your playing later. Practice your etude with no accompaniment at first and then add them later. And remember, etudes are technical exercises so don’t feel like you can’t change them (unless you like them as is).
Don’t feel like writing one today, but want to check one out anyway? Click the image below for a FREE etude from my book, Breaking the Monotony. It’s based off of the changes to Have You Met Miss Jones.
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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.
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!
Welcome everyone to Week #49 AND Day 1 of JKM’s Fundraiser to eradicate Malaria! Did you know that Malaria is 100% preventable? Yet, Malaria kills over one million people each year; 85% of those are children under the age of 5. Today, tomorrow and Wednesday 100% of all Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose book sales, booked Skype Lessons or clinics (they can be for later dates) will be going to help eradicating Malaria by purchasing bed nets for children.
We will be teaming up with HappyBirthdayNate.com and World Vision to do our part in making sure children’s lives are spared from Malaria. If you would like to donate without purchasing a book or scheduling a lesson/clinic, you can go directly to the site above to donate. Otherwise, you can go directly to our Digital Store to make your purchase or to schedule a Skype lesson or Clinic.
In this week’s tip (week #49), we’re going to look at taking a lick and using that lick’s shape to create new ideas. There are times when I’m improvising that I like to think about the shapes of the lines I’m playing. I’ve talked to a number of guitarists and pianists who prefer to think of shapes when they improvise because it’s conducive to their instrument. I think every instrumentalist can apply this concept. To start out, let’s take a look at one of the most common licks found in jazz: the “Cry Me A River” lick (or CMAR).
Now we can apply that shape to whatever rhythm or note length value we like to create a new line based on the original shape. The example below is taking the notes verbatim from the example below, but changing up the rhythm. I’m listening to a heavy shuffle tune now so I made this example with the intent of it fitting over that groove. This example could be played over a number of different harmonies:
The next example stems off of the same idea above, but combines it with the notes from the original riff. Note how we now have a completely different line then the original lick yet they’re still related:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found it useful to your playing! Please feel free to share this tip and site with your friends, students, colleagues or other sites that you’re a contributor. Also, please share what we’re doing with HappyBirthdayNate.com even beyond our fundraiser period. They’re raising awareness and funds through October 2012. Let’s continue to do our part to help those in need.
Welcome back everyone to week #45 and our continuation of analyzing lines series. If this is your first time here-welcome! Please feel free to check out the site. Also, a big welcome back and thanks for returning friends! This week we’re going to look at the 2nd chorus of Sonny Rollin’s improvisation on Tenor Madness from his album, Tenor Madness with John Coltrane (1957). I think Sonny’s entire improvisation on this tune is worth checking out, but there’s some interesting things we can learn and apply to our improvisations that I’d like to look at from his second time through this tune (based on the Blues).
The first thing I’d like to look at with you is something that we briefly covered in last week’s line from Lee Morgan. That’s the concept of using diminished/altered targeting techniques (for more info, check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose). However, when I see the line below, I see the whole line (not just beat 4) using this idea. Personally, I see this line as “thinking in G” as opposed to the Bb7 that’s occuring at the moment. I teach my students that it’s all about where we’re going (or targeting). Again, I can’t answer for Sonny Rollins. But, this is how I see it and would apply it to my playing:
The next two are examples of chromatic targeting. In both of these instances below they happen to target the 5th of the chord. The first example is a fairly standard chromatic targeting device. While the second example is great for the chromatic targeting principles, I love how Sonny Rollins takes the simple idea and transposes it down a whole step to fit the changes. Teachers I’ve had have called this sequencing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and hope that it adds some value to your playing and improvisations. Please feel free to share this tip/site with your friends, students and colleagues. There are even some quick share social media buttons below for your convenience. If you haven’t already, I’d like to invite you to check out my book (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose). There are some great reviews that keep getting updated in the Reviews tab above. I hope you get the chance to enjoy it as much as others have!