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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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analyzing nica's dream

Analyzing Lines-Donald Byrd on Nica’s Dream

Analyzing Lines – Donald Byrd on Nica’s Dream

Analyzing Nica’s Dream. About a year ago I started a series on Analyzing Lines. We took a look at a few lines of  some of the giants of jazz and broke them down to see why and how they worked. If we can uncover those questions we can learn to build our own lines. The jazz community recently lost a great jazz trumpeter, Donald Byrd. I remember the first time I heard him play was on Nica’s Dream on The Jazz Messengers album by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (Columbia, 1956). I’ve included a YouTube link at the bottom if you haven’t checked it out.

I wanted to do a tribute analysis from one of my favorite lines in his solo on Nica’s Dream. Like I mentioned in the previous Analyzing Lines series-this is my breakdown of what I see him playing and how we can relate and build from it. I’m not inferring in any way that this is how Mr. Byrd played or thought about improvisation.

Below is the line that occurs in bars 42-45 on his solo in Nica’s Dream:

analyzing nica's dream

For those that have been following my posts, you know how much I dig targeting concepts. So let’s take a look at how Mr. Byrd targets specific notes in the line above. Bar 42 looks like he is thinking in the key of Db. You will then notice that he chromatically targets the “F” in bar 43:

Then he uses a diminished targeting concept to target the “F” in bar 44 on the Bb7(b9):

A similar targeting concept is used to target the Bb in that same bar:

I love the way this particular line flows. It has a great combination of targeting concepts, key centered playing and soul. If you’ve never checked out Donal Byrd’s playing, I would highly recommend it. If you would like to know more about how to construct your own lines with different targeting principles (like those mentioned above), I would suggest you check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose which you can find at my Digital Store available as a digital download or for only $15/month get access to everything (every course, book, PDF, album, etc).

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map it out

Map It Out

Map It Out

In today’s post I wanted to give you a sneak peak at one of the songs that’s going to be on the album (on Mountain, Move that you can check out HERE) and talk about mapping out a plan of attack for improvisation. If you drive your vehicle from one destination to another often enough you will get familiar with how to get there and what alternate routes can be taken if there is traffic or roadblocks. The same is true for improvisation. If you’ve played the same chord progression often enough-you know how to get around. However, if you are in a new city (or have a chord progression that’s unfamiliar) you may want to map it out or have a GPS guide you.

We are going to take a look at a song called Stand Firm. The progression is not something that I think would be difficult for the vast majority of players out there. However, for our purposes we will start simple. Below is the intro and A-section to the song (from the piano part).

For me…the less I have to think about when navigating something new the better.  Don’t get bogged down with too many options to start. The more familiar I become with something the more I can expand my options. When you’re driving in a new city you want to know how you get from point A to point B. You’re not too concerned on the first trip or two about alternate routes. I like to take the same approach to mapping out new chord changes.

When I map out a new chord progression I will look for commonalities between the chords. Are there key areas or centers? Can multiple chord changes share the same or similar pattern? If there are commanalities I will explore those avenues first. For instance, in the intro to Stand Firm the  first two chords in the vamp are a whole step a part. So I might look for melodic device options that are a whole step a part. I could use two pairs of pentatonics that are a whole step a part. I could use chromatic targeting devices where the targets are a whole step a part (check out Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose for more info on that one). There’s a number of different ways you can use the whole step a part idea.

I like pentatonic scales because they’re simple and they are full melodic possibilities. Below is how I might map out part of the intro:

 

You’ll notice that above the Cmin11 chord I wrote in a few examples. The Eb and Bb major pentatonic scale as well as Cmin (which is a reminder to think in a C minor key area). Over the Dmin11 is the F and C major pentatonic (along with Emin key area reference which should be Dmin…as a trumpet player sometimes it’s hard to shut off transposing, sorry). All of those options show that I could potentially use whole step pentatonic pairs (Bb to C and Eb to F major).

I would continue this process throughout the whole progression and find what avenues would support a logical flow. Just like voice leading on chordal instruments you want to look for the closest relationships. That means finding devices that are a 1/2 step, whole step, etc. away from the other device. It doesn’t mean that’s the only way you can improvise over the changes, but it gives you a good start to get familiar with changes. Once you do get familiar, you can expand your options.

Next week we will continue to map out some more options on the intro as well as the rest of the form. Let me hear from you, though. What melodic devices/options would you use over the intro?

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Targeting the Bar

I’ve been working recently on charts that I’m going to record for my first album (Mountain, Move.) and was looking over the changes to one of the songs. I was mentally mapping out some options before practicing and realized an important aspect to rhythmic phrasing that I haven’t shared yet. It’s really simple, yet one that I believe will help add value to your playing. If you’ve ever struggled with your lines rhythmically and felt like they’re always square even though the note choices were right…then this tip is for you!

In this concept of targeting the bar I’m going to use 4/4 time as our example. However, you can apply this concept to other meters as well. In 4/4 time we can split the measure a number of different ways, but we’re going to separate it into two equal parts. 

The beginning halves of the bar occur on beats 1 & 3. This is where the majority of chord changes happen (not all, but the majority) to land. The most common is on beat 1 and the second most common is on beat 3

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If you’ve taken some time to explore this site or have been following for a while, you know that jazz rhythm is full of syncopation. It’s what gives the music forward movement. If your lines have felt rhythmically square, there’s a good possibility that you’ve started your lines on the beat (1 & 3 or 2 & 4) as opposed to an off-beat (syncopation). Granted, some good lines DO start on the beat. However, if all of your lines start on the beat then you’re most likely running into phrasing problems and your lines will be pretty square.

I’m big on targeting-which is aiming at a goal note with purpose. We can apply the same concept to rhythm. If we want our notes to line up with the chord changes then we have to have our rhythm line up with it is as well. Let’s take a look at two different ways we can rhythmically target beats 1 & 3. Below are two examples of targeting beat 1 and targeting beat 3. Each one leads into the beat. The first example leads into beat 1 while the second example leads into beat 3.

Notice how each example is not started on a down beat, yet ends up anticipating beat 1 & beat 3? Below are two quick musical examples that should help give you a better idea.

If you apply this concept to your playing you will notice an improvement to your overall phrasing. It is equally important to use targeting concepts to target beats as it is to target the notes themselves.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added value and benefit to your playing in some way. If you haven’t checked out my books yet (Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose or Breaking the Monotony) I would highly encourage you to do so by going to my Digital Store. Also, don’t forget to check out the Lick of the Day on the homepage!

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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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Improv Tip Week # 52-Your Etudes

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.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Please feel free to share it with your friends, colleagues, students or other sites that you’re a contributor. There are quick and easy social media share buttons below for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, etc.

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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 # 49-Shapes AND Malaria Fundraiser Day 1

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).

We’ve talked about using licks in other harmonic situations in past week’s, but this time let’s look at the overall shape of the line without any stems or rhythms:

The above graphic gives you a very good idea of the shape of the line. Now, let’s take a look at it without any sharps or flats and truly the shape of the line:

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.

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