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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