Tag Archives for " transcribing "

Analyzing Lines-Donald Byrd on 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:

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 (in English and Spanish) or as a printed/bound version.

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!





Record Yourself

Welcome everyone! In today’s post I want to talk about recording yourself. You may be wondering, “why would I want to do that?” Keep reading and I’ll show you some benefits that come along with recording yourself. I truly hope this post will add value and benefit to you and your student’s playing. If this is your first time visiting this site, welcome and please feel free to have a look around. I would also like to invite you to check out my books (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony) at my Digital Store.

Do you ever have moments when you feel like things are going great in the practice room, yet when you get the bandstand things just are not working out? There could be a number of reasons that happens. However, unless you make a habit of recording yourself you might be attempting to fix the wrong issues.

When should you record yourself? The answer is anytime you’re playing! Record yourself practicing, rehearsing with the band and on the gig. Take note of everything that went well, what didn’t go well and what you need to fix. You don’t have to be hyper-critical over everything (let’s face it…NO ONE is or plays perfect), but take an honest assessment of where you were at in that moment in time. Recordings don’t lie and give you instant feedback. Anything that can make a recording will work. In today’s smart phone technology, most phones have a recording memo device that will suffice for most self-recording needs. There are options from very affordable to pretty expensive.

What are some things to listen for in a recording? Here’s a few below:

  • Ideas. From an improvisation standpoint did your ideas (lines, phrases, etc) make sense? Did they flow in a conversational way or did they wander? You might even find that you were grasping at an idea in the moment, but never quite got it right. Figure out what that was and work that idea out.
  • Technical Issues. Tone, articulation, flexibility, etc. Often times what we hear in our head or behind our instrument is not at all what comes out the other end. Again, recordings don’t lie. If you hear technical errors you now know what can be worked on during your next practice session.
  • Communication. This is more for recording yourself on the gig. How was your interaction with the other musicians on the stage? Where you having a one-way dialogue or were you a musical conversation with your band mates? I think there’s a time and place for both, but the recording will show you if it was at the right time or not.

I know it can be tough to listen to yourself on a recording. It is a sobering experience. However, if you practice what needs to fixed you will progress faster as a musician. I suggest you start recording yourself if you haven’t already. What are your thoughts? Do you record yourself? If so, what are some insights you have learned from doing it? Finally, take the average of your recordings. You’re never as good as your best recording, but you’re never as bad as your worst.

Speaking of recording, I’m hoping to try out the new Zoom Q2HD which does high quality audio and HD video soon. If I get the chance to pick one up, I will do a review for those that might be interested.




Improv Tip Week #42-Analyzing Lines Series 4

Welcome to week #42 where we’re continuing our series on analyzing lines. This week, we’re going to look at a line I was checking out while listening to Cannonball Adderley. It’s off his Them Dirty Blues album and is a song written by his brother (Nat Adderley) called Work Song. Like I mentioned last week: we’re breaking down these lines so we can find what makes it “click” so we can re-create something similar in our own playing.

Below is the line that I wanted to break down from his solo. This line occurs in his second chorus on the 6th bar:

I almost don’t want to state the obvious, but Cannonball shows that you can take something as simple as a descending chromatic line and make it sound great all in how articulates it:

While Work Song is not a typical blues, it is definitely played with a lot of blues elements and style. The Adderley brothers inflect the blues into many of their improvisations to great effect. This line contains a great example that sometimes inserting the blues sounds great even though it doesn’t fit chord/scale theory. Some may argue that this particular line is something else, but to me it is essentially a blues lick with two additional chromatic passing tones:

The last part of the line that I look at is how Cannonball uses targeting principles to connect his line. This shows that Cannonball was targeting the 3rd of the C7(#9) and the 5th of the Fmin7. For more information on how to creatively target notes (whether chromatic or other devices), check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose. What has always intrigued me about Cannonball Adderley is that when he would use chromatic targeting-it was almost always with great rhythmic variety.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and the latest in the analyzing lines series. Please feel free to share this tip/site with your friends, colleagues and students. There are links below for quick sharing access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.



Improv Tip Week #39-Analyzing Lines Series 1

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a series, so I thought with week #39’s tip we’d start off looking at what makes some of our favorite improvised lines sound so good. I’ll be tying in some of the different tools and elements we’ve been discussing since week 1 as well as parts from my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose to break down a line. When we break down a line (whether it’s our own or something we’ve transcribed from someone else) we can find its essential elements so we can better understand why we liked it and how we can incorporate it or pieces of it into our regular playing. I’m not going to do an over-analysis of each week’s line, but will give you a few elements that I notice and hope that you find some benefit from them.

To start this series off, we’re going to be looking at a short line that I’ve liked for quite some time by trumpeter Clifford Brown. Like many jazz trumpet players, I’ve always been amazed at Clifford’s facility and how he constructed his lines. The line below is from Cherokee off of his Study In Brown album released by Emarcy.

Those that have been following my blog posts and have read my book know how much I’m into targeting and the different ways we can creatively target notes (and beyond what’s mentioned below). When I first look at this line, I notice how Clifford used chromatic targeting (or enclosures, etc) to reach the 3rd of the Bbmaj7 in the 2nd bar and the two back to back chromatic targetings of the 5th (on the F7+) and the root (on the Bb7).

Another thing that I notice is the descending chromatic line in the first bar that is temporarily interrupted by part of a G-minor arpeggio before finishing the line. You’ll notice the first part of the line listed below in its original form, followed by what it would look like if the line were uninterrupted.

I’ve found that when I’m in the middle of a descending line that is chromatic in nature, I can interrupt the line similarly to what Clifford Brown does above. I will also use the overall line over any major-type harmony. Even though it has chromatic movement, the targeted notes are within the Bb-major harmony.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found it beneficial in some way! Next week we’ll continue on in this series and will analyze another one of my favorite Clifford Brown lines. In the meantime, (if you haven’t already) be sure to check out the rest of this site, past tips, my book and its reviews and other related material. Starting TODAY, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose is now available in the E-book format in Spanish. Be sure to check it out and recommend it to your Spanish speaking friends!



Improv Tip Week #34-Listening

Here we are at week #34’s tip where we’re going to talk about a topic that every musician and non-musician can benefit from. This week’s tip is on the different levels of listening and why each one is important for improvisers. This is also the first weekly improv tip post I’ve made since we’ve updated this site. So, I’d like to encourage you to check it out and look around. Also, if this is your first time visiting…welcome! Take a look at the past 33 weeks of posts as well as the other tabs above. Finally, if you haven’t yet, check out my book Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose on the left hand side of the page or by going to the “Books” tab above.

I’m sure there may be specific definitions to the different levels of listening posted in a doctoral thesis or medical journal, but these are the labels I’ve been using and think that you’ll get the idea. Most importantly, I hope you can take away something from each level of listening that you can apply to watch your improvisation skills grow.

Passive Listening

Passive listening is what we do when we have music on in the background at work, home, driving, etc. Unfortunately, the majority of the world spends most of their time in passive listening. The key definition to passive listening is the word background. The listener may spend a brief moment or two where they focus on what’s happening musically, but eventually it moves to the background. “Great Jason, how does this help me?” Well, if we listen to something long enough (over and over) it tends to sink into our sub-concious. Before you know it, you might find yourself singing or humming a melodic line that you can’t remember where it came from. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our ears will keep what it likes and discard what it doesn’t. If it made it to your sub-concious to the point you remember it later…then your ear has grabbed it. That melodic line (or counterpart, rhythm, etc) has potential to be a part of your vocabulary for you to personalize later. While I don’t endorse only passive listening, I do encourage that musicians and non-musicians alike spend some time with passive listening.

Active Listening

Active listening is fairly self-explanatory. This is the listening we do when we sit down with a recording and listen for specific elements. Musicians in the transcribing process will be participating in active listening. They will transcribe a soloist, a chord progression, a rhythm pattern or other pertinent elements that cause them to grow as a musician. Active listening is very deliberate and there is a focus with a goal in mind. This is great for improvisers because they’re finding the elements that speak to them the most and assimilate it and personalize it into their playing.

Deep Listening

Deep listening takes active listening to another level. Many (not all) who engage in active listening will do so in an environment where there may be an occasional distraction. For example, a college student transcribing a solo. In the process of active listening they’ll get a text/phone call, a knock on their door or a roommate that temporarily distracts them. There are also potentially other sensory distractions (lighting, etc). Deep listening is best done when you can shut off all distractions, non-audio sensory distractions and put yourself into the recording. Deep listening can have a focus like active listening (transcribing, etc), but you will find when you completely shut off outer distractions that you will hear beyond the recording. You will find you can hear hammer actions on pianos, variances in articulations on wind instruments, visualize the interplay between the musicians and other finer nuances that might be missed by just transcribing. Again, your ear will take what it likes and discard what it doesn’t. I’ve personally made some great discoveries when I shut myself in a dark room, close my eyes and put on some quality headphones and try to put myself into the recording.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and find some time to do a little of each level listening. Please feel free to share this site and tip with your friends/colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other site you’re a contributor. There are even links below this tip that allow you to share it quickly through various social media outlets. Thanks again!

Improv Tip Week #31-Benefits of Transcribing

Welcome to week #31, which is the first tip of 2012! If you haven’t yet, I want to encourage everyone to check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and invite you to check it out by going to the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music for more information. The E-book version works great on mobile devices (which is an instant download available all across the globe) and the printed version is sturdy and sits nicely on a music stand. We should have the E-book version available in a few different languages very shortly.

Last week’s tip was on Transcribing Yourself. In this week’s tip, I wanted to talk about the benefits of transcribing (specifically others). Transcribing is one of the most talked about subjects in the jazz community. Regardless of the “how” you transcribe, the benefits are universal and important for every musician to do on some level. But, before we look at the benefits-let’s look at some of the “how’s” (just in case there’s a way that you haven’t explored). Every person has their own learning style and there are different ways that you can transcribe.

-Some transcribe a solo and write it down (whether on paper or digitally).
-Some transcribe a solo entirely by ear (they don’t write any of it down).
-Some transcribe licks or riffs and learn them in all keys (they may or may not write them down).

No matter how you do it, the important part of transcribing is (to quote Mr. Clark Terry) is to “Imitate, Assimilate and Innovate.” The benefits of transcribing:

-Ear training (making the connection between what you hear to what you play stronger)
-Gaining new vocabulary
-It helps you decide what becomes part of your personal style
-It connects theory to practice (try to get into the soloists head and ask yourself…why did that work?)
-You can work on your rhythm by playing with great musicians (when playing with the solo are you articulating the same?)
-It Develops concentration

Even if it seems intimdating at first, the more you do it-the faster you’ll be able to accomplish the utlimate goal of making that connection between what you hear to what you play. There are software programs out there to help out when needed. But, I would suggest doing as much of it as you can at the recorded speed. I’m also in the camp of those that learn the solo (or parts of it) by ear with my instrument. I find, for me, that I can make that connection faster.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip beneficial and start (or continue) transcribing! Let me know your thoughts. What camp of transcribing do you fall into? What are you currently transcribing? Are there other benefits that maybe aren’t listed above that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you and see this blog become more interactive in 2012. Please share this tip/blog with your friends and colleagues and let’s see 2012 become a year of personal improv growth goals!

Improv Tip Week #30-Transcribe Yourself

I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Welcome to week #30, which will be the last tip of 2011! Since this will be the last tip of the calendar year, I wanted to encourage everyone to check out Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose one last time and invite you to check it out by going to the link to the right or by going to Jason Klobnak Music. The E-book version works great on mobile devices (which is an instant download available all across the globe) and the printed version is sturdy and sits nicely on a music stand. I’m hoping to have the E-book version available in a few different languages towards the beginning of 2012.

If this is your first time to this blog…welcome! If you’re a returning visitor, welcome back! This week’s tip is called Transcribe Yourself. I don’t know about you, but I prefer listening to good musicians who sound like themselves. The world has plenty of carbon copies of just about everything. It’s refreshing to hear someone improvise from their depths. One way we can develop our personal sound is by transcribing ourselves. The great thing about this tip is that it’s great for every musician, regardless of their developmental stage. Beginners to advanced musicians can gain great benefit by transcribing what they hear in their head. Granted, advanced musicians can do this quite a bit faster (in the moment). But with time-beginners can reach that goal as well.

Here’s a simple 2-step process to get this started. First, without accompaniment, sing a line that you hear in your head. Second, play it on your instrument. Repeat this over and over with the same line or with new lines. If needed, you can write them down. I prefer that you don’t write them down, though, as you’re attempting to make the connection from what you hear to what you play. Eventually, this process will become faster and you’ll be able to make the connection in the moment. The great thing about this is you’re transcribing yourself. The lines you sing are the ones that have stuck with you (you’ve heard it somewhere before) or what is coming out of pure inspiration. Either way, they become personalized by the way YOU heard it and the way YOU play it. If every musician spent some time transcribing themselves, the world would have fewer copies and more unique musicians.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip (and start putting it to use into 2012)! Please share this tip (and blog) with your friends, colleagues and students via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites you contribute to as I would love to see more and more of our musicians across the globe have their own personalized sound. Let’s make 2012 a landmark year in music that the history books look back on in dedication with its own chapter!