Constructing Melodic Jazz Improvisation

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Constructing

Melodic Jazz

Improvisation

A comprehensive new approach for beginning and

intermediate level musicians

B Edition

By: Brian Kane

ISBN 978-0-9760977-6-1

Cover Design By: Liz Knox

CD Recordings at:

http://www.jazzpath.com/eBook/ConstructingMelodicJazz/ 70 Bedford Road #371

Carlisle, MA 01741 www.jazzpath.com

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Attention E-Book Users:

This electronic resource comes with a 52 track

downloadable CD including both demonstrations of

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Constructing Melodic Jazz Improvisation

Table of Contents

Introduction: Constructing Melodic Improvisation 1 Chapter One: Articulation, Swing Feel, and Stylistic Inflection 5

Articulation in Improvisation 5

Creating a Swing Feel in Improvisation 7

Style Inflection in Improvisation 9

Exercises for Continued Exploration 12

Chapter Two: Introducing the Blues 15

Why the Twelve-Bar Blues and Blues Scale? 15

Improvisational Solo Roadmaps, Composing Etudes, and Scales 17

Constructing a Blues Scale 19

The Twelve-Bar Blues Form 21

Exercises for Continued Exploration 22

Chapter Three: Beginning to Improvise 25

Beginning to Improvise Solos 26

Melodic Contour 31

Location in Form 34

Exercises for Continued Exploration 36

Chapter Four: The Basic Language of Improvisation 39

The Question 39 The Answer 41 The Statement 43 Playing Rests 45 Practicing Repetition 45 Rhythmic Repetition 47 Intervallic Repetition 48 Exact Repetition 49

Exercises for Continued Exploration 50

Chapter Five: Basic Improvisational Phrase Lengths 53

The One-Bar Phrase 53

The Two-Bar Phrase 59

The Three-Bar Phrase 63

Combining Phrase Lengths 67

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Chapter Six: Developing Melodic Solos 73

Shape and Intensity 73

Building Intensity 75

Decreasing Intensity 75

Practice Solo for Melodic Development 76

Creating Roadmaps that Build Intensity 79

Exercises for Continued Exploration 83

Chapter Seven: Using Pickups in Improvisational Phrasing 85

One-Bar Phrasing with Pick-ups 86

Two-Bar Phrasing with Pick-ups 90

Three-Bar Phrasing with Pick-ups 94

Combining Phrase Lengths 98

Exercises for Continued Exploration 101

Chapter Eight: Putting it Together 103

Slow Blues Roadmap 104

Medium Blues Roadmap 106

Fast Blues Roadmap 108

Exercises for Continued Exploration 112

Chapter Nine: Improvisational Motifs 115

The Exact Motif 117

The Rhythmic Motif 120

Intervallic Motifs 123

Transposed Motifs 126

Shape Motifs 130

Exercises for Continued Exploration 133

Chapter Ten: Transitioning to Harmony 135

Playing Bass Lines 136

Chord Scales 139

Beginning the Transition 141

Exercises for Continued Exploration 148

Appendix: Blues Progressions 151 Major Scales 152 Blues Scales 153 Mixolydian Scale 154 Dorian Scales 155 Chord Types 156 Discography 158

About the Author/Personnel 159

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IMPROVISATION

INTRODUCTION:

Constructing Melodic Jazz

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer jazz, rock, country western, hip hop, or classical music. In order to compose, arrange, or improvise beautiful music, musicians must understand how to construct and create melodic phrases. Melodies communicate, challenge, inspire, reveal, develop and convey the emotional intent of those playing and composing them. Melody is the common denominator within all great music that allows listeners to connect and understand the emotional messages of the performer or

composer.

What makes a quality melody? Philosophers have pondered this subjective question for centuries. Perhaps there is no definitive answer, but in order to create

improvisational melodies, musicians must first understand three of the characteristics that quality melodies share.

a. Melodies are stylistically appropriate for their idiom. b. Melodies contain structure in lines and phrases. c. Melodies communicate intent to listeners.

In the course of this book readers will examine and practice each of the above elements in detail. By understanding the underlying commonalities that melodies share, musicians will learn the skills needed to improvise melodically in any style or idiom.

All creative endeavors, including jazz improvisation, occur within structure. To achieve a creative outcome, a person makes choices within a set of given boundaries that lead to an unexpected result. Structure is always inherently present when creative choices are made, though it’s not always obvious. The structures that limit creative choices can vary widely. Rules of nature, skill level, and one’s ability to consciously choose one course of action over another all inherently create boundaries and limitations for creative activities.

Often people believe that they are the most creative when they perceive the fewest structural limitations. They believe that countless possibilities lead to countless choices which, in turn, lead to a creative outcome. Unfortunately, the act navigating these countless choices can lead people to inaction or unfavorable creative outcomes. In actuality, highly structured choices and limitations generally lead to the best creative outcomes. For example, a musician with moderate technical skill may spend hours freely improvising in the hopes of playing a fantastic solo, but much of that hope will be based on the chance of stumbling across a great musical idea. By applying either harmonic or melodic structure to improvisation, the musician greatly decreases the amount of choices available but greatly increases the likelihood of playing an acceptable solo. Throughout this book, musicians will practice and apply melodic phrasing concepts that add structure

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structuring these basic aspects of improvisation, musicians gain the tools needed to create melodically rich solos.

Improvising melodically rich solos presents a unique challenge and a benchmark to inexperienced musicians. Improvisational pedagogy varies widely, but a large part of it typically consists of educating a musician in the vast array of harmonic choices that exist within music. Once aware of these harmonic choices, musicians engage in

experiential learning and accidental discovery on their instrument. Most musicians learn the melodic concepts inherent within improvisation through experiential learning,

accidental discovery, and hours of listening and analyzing great solos. The process of exploring and listening to jazz is an earned right of passage for musicians and its value cannot be understated, but it can be enhanced and accelerated by understanding common melodic phrasing concepts that exist within improvisation.

The application of melodic phrasing concepts helps to streamline the creative process that beginning improvisational musicians use. Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of intermediate level musicians who, despite having a competent understanding of technique, jazz harmony, and their instrument, say “I don’t know what to play” when faced with an unfamiliar improvisational setting. When faced with the dizzying array of harmonic and melodic choices available, some people are unable to take the creative leap necessary to just “jump in” to improvisation. Often these people develop the

misconception that they are uncreative or simply not cut out for jazz. On the contrary, these students are certainly creative and their plight is not uncommon.

Many of these beginners are overwhelmed by the amount of choices and creative decisions that occur while improvising. These beginners require even more structure in their improvisation in order to streamline and facilitate creative decision making. These musicians can benefit from the application of rigorous melodic phrasing concepts while improvising. The application of melodic phrasing structures change the improviser’s focus from “what” they are playing to “when” and “how” they are playing it. This change in focus limits the choices that beginning improvisers face and allows them to focus their creativity on simple, measurable goals:

Did they use the proper style elements? Did they play in the correct place?

Did they play with melodic intent?

Learning melodic phrasing techniques before embarking on the technical and harmonic side of improvisation can help musicians of all levels develop confidence, an understanding of the language of improvisation, and the phrasing awareness necessary to succeed at more technical jazz improvisation.

How To Use This Book

Virtually all of the resources that are presently available for learning beginning improvisation focus on learning technique and harmony, while offering only limited guidance on style, phrasing, creative content, and improvisational intent. Alternatively, this book has been designed to teach beginning and intermediate level musicians the phrasing and creative techniques that are needed to create outstanding solos, without Introduction: Constructing Melodic Jazz Improvisation

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immediately focusing on the harmonic and technical aspects of improvisation. The first eight chapters of this book exclusively demonstrate melodic phrasing concepts using the blues scale, not the harmonic alternatives available during improvisation. The later chapters in this book introduce harmony and exercises for technique only once the melodic skills from the earlier chapters have been mastered.

This book is designed to function equally well as both a classroom textbook resource for beginning jazz improvisation and as a self-guided tutor for melodic improvisation.

For Individuals

This book offers a step-by-step method for understanding and exploring jazz improvisation that is appropriate for beginning and intermediate level musicians. Each chapter is progressively difficult and builds upon skills mastered in previous chapters. Beginners should work through chapters slowly and in order to successfully improve skills.

The book focuses on using the blues scale to develop the essential phrasing and stylistic skills needed to progress to more advanced improvisation. Beginners should work sequentially through the improvisational exercises in the book using the blues scale, master each example solo, and create and compose their own examples where instructed. Those wishing to expand their harmonic awareness of the blues can do so in the

Exercises for Continued Exploration areas at the end of each chapter. Enclosed with the book is a CD. The disc features play-a-long recordings for improvisational practice and demonstration solos for virtually every example solo in this book.

Beginners need to be patient as they develop the skills and habits necessary for melodic improvisation. The process cannot be rushed. With dedicated practice, beginners can expect it to take six to twelve months to master and internalize all of the concepts in this book.

For Groups and Classes

The book has been designed to meet all of the established national frameworks for music education. Throughout the course of this book, readers are encouraged to sing, perform, improvise, compose, sight read, notate, listen, analyze, critique, and connect improvisation to language and the arts. The book consists of progressively difficult chapters that build the skills that musicians need to improvise melodically. At the end of each chapter, the exercises for continued exploration encourage readers to listen and evaluate jazz recordings, expand their technique with challenging exercises, and critically discuss and evaluate the topics of each chapter.

This book is designed to be a companion for both first and second year improvisation classes or ensembles. Musicians using this book will gain a complete understanding of how to construct melodic phrases within jazz improvisation, gain technical fluency within a twelve bar blues, and internalize the melodic phrasing skills and techniques necessary to successfully transition to more harmonically focused

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improvisation. With dedicated practice, a class or group can expect to achieve positive results in one school year using this book.

For Advanced Musicians

Advanced musicians have already developed the technical and harmonic skills needed to move beyond the blues scale and apply the appropriate chord scale alternatives while improvising. Often, musicians who posses technical skills may not have not

sufficiently developed phrasing and melodic skills. As intermediate and advanced

musicians work through this book, they should first play each exercise using a blues scale in order to internalize the phrasing structure and then apply chord scales and harmonic alternatives. Often, advanced musicians find it challenging to eliminate the technical and harmonic aspects of improvisation and focus solely on phrasing and structure. This book creates opportunities for musicians to practice the essential phrasing, motivic, and melodic skills needed to excel at improvisation. All of the skills developed can later be applied to any genre, style, or form.

I hope you find this book challenging and helpful in your exploration of jazz improvisation.

Brian Kane

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Chapter One:

Articulation, Swing Feel, and

Stylistic Inflection

The articulations and stylistic inflections that musicians use while improvising have an enormous impact on the audible quality of melody. Articulation and stylistic inflections add character, emotion, and rhythmic feel to phrases. In many cases, the quality of a melodic idea is determined more by the style and ornament used than by the actual notes a musician chooses to play. The use of stylistic nuance and articulation help to form the musical personality of an improviser. In order to integrate appropriate stylistic inflections and articulations into improvisation, musicians must work hard to make their use habitual. The following series of rules and descriptions regarding articulations and stylistic inflections apply to most common jazz styles. Every rule, especially those in jazz, has exceptions but beginning musicians who work to make the following rules a permanent part of their interpretation will notice significant improvement in their stylistic maturity.

Articulation in Improvisation

The following rules for articulations in jazz can be applied to every instrument. Though variations to these rules exist, beginning and intermediate level musicians who make these rules a habit will significantly improve their style. The easiest way for musicians to practice and improve articulations is by vocalizing, or saying articulation patterns in different contexts. Vocalization helps musicians understand how articulations should sound in different settings and encourages their habitual use. Words to help musicians vocalize the articulations are included with each example. Throughout the jazz idiom there are many variations for articulation with a swing feel. The following

examples represent some of the most common and practical articulations and will help musicians create a style that is appropriate for the rest of this book.

1. Eighth notes followed by rests are staccato or short. To vocalize the following eighth note pattern, say “Do-Dut” or “Too-Tut.”

Example One

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2. When articulating triplets that are all on the same note, articulate the first two legato and the last staccato. When articulating triplets that change notes, articulate the first legato, slur to the second, and make the last staccato. To vocalize the following triplet pattern, say “Do-do-dut” or “Too-too-tut” for repeated triplets and “Do-ooh-dut” or “Too-ooh-tut” for triplets on different pitches.

Example Two

3. When articulating eighth notes that start on a down beat, articulate the first down-beat legato, the next up-down-beat legato, and every following up-down-beat legato. Do not articulate any down-beat other than the first. When eighth notes are repeated on the same note, articulate all eighth notes legato unless followed by a rest. To vocalize the following eighth note pattern, say “Do-do-ooh-do-ooh-do” etc. or “Too-too-ooh-too-ooh-too-ooh-too” etc.

Example Three

4. When articulating eighth notes that start on an up-beat, articulate the first eighth note legato and then every following eighth note on an up-beat legato. When eighth notes are repeated on the same note, articulate them all legato unless followed by a rest. To vocalize the following eighth note pattern, say “Do-ooh-do-ooh-do” etc. or “Too-ooh-too-ooh-too-ooh-too” etc.

Example Four

“Do-Do-Dut” “Do-Ooh-Dut”

“Do-Do-Ooh-Do”

”Do-Ooh-Do”

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These rules for stylistic articulations are notated in every example solo throughout this book. Practice them in every example solo, but also try to make their use habitual during improvisation.

Creating a Swing Feel in Improvisation

The use of a swing feel is an essential component of melodic improvisation. In a swing feel, musicians interpret eighth notes and syncopations differently than in other styles of music. A swing feel is virtually never notated. This type of stylistic

interpretation is left to the discretion of the musician and must become a habitual part of a musician’s repertoire. The correct use of a swing feel will make musicians sound more authentic and mature during improvisation.

Swing Eighth Notes

Eighth notes are not rhythmically even in a swing style. Eighth notes on down beats receive a greater subdivision of the beat while eighth notes on up-beats receive a slight accent and articulation. When playing eighth notes in a swing style, musicians should subdivide each beat into triplets.

First play the following measure with triplets: Example Five

In order to create a swing feel, add ties to the first two notes of each triplet. Example Six

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Eighth notes played with a swing feel sound like example seven. In swing jazz at slow and medium tempos the rhythms in example seven should sound the same if properly interpreted.

Example Seven

The tempo at which a composition or solo is played effects the degree to which eighth notes are swung. At slower tempos, it is not uncommon to exaggerate the swing feel by further emphasizing the first of two eighth notes. At faster tempos the swing feel of eigthth notes dimishes greatly and the notes return to a relatively equal subdivision. Syncopation in a Swing Style

Interpreting syncopation in a swing style presents a unique interpretative

challenge to musicians. In a swing style, syncopated or off-beat notes can have different stylistic articulations depending on the tempo of a song or solo. There are numerous exceptions for the following examples, particularly in ensemble playing, but in general these rules create authentic swing articulations on syncopations during improvisation.

In an up-tempo composition (usually faster than MM=112), off-beat quarter notes in syncopation are articulated staccato or short. The following examples show two rhythms that have the correct articulations notated for a fast tempo. In example eight, the eighth notes of shorter rhythmic value on the down-beat are articulated with a legato articulation while the quarter notes, of longer rhythmic value, are articulated with a staccato articulation.

Example Eight

At slower swing tempos (usually slower than MM=112), the stylistic inverse often occurs. Those notes that were previously articulated as staccato revert to a legato articulation. Notice the different articulation markings in the same examples at a slower tempo.

Example Nine

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Style Inflections in Improvisation

Jazz musicians use numerous stylistic inflections to enhance solos. There are a variety of different ways to play and notate every type of stylistic inflection. Some of the most commonly used stylistic inflections and notations are listed below.

Scoops- Scoops are perhaps the most common jazz inflection. A scoop is a bend approach before a note. On wind instruments, scoops are typically created through individual embouchure, slide, or valve adjustments. Universally, scoops can be viewed as chromatic approach grace notes. Learning scoops through the use of chromatic approach notes has significant benefits. First, scooping using a chromatic note eliminates some of the significant intonation problems that can occur when beginner and intermediate level wind musicians make changes to their embouchures. Second, beginning musicians are able to efficiently scoop any note on their

instrument regardless of register. Third, all musicians, regardless of experience or instrument are able to integrate the inflection fairly easily into their playing. This is how scoops will be notated in this book:

Example Ten

Turns- To execute a turn on quarter notes, play a note and then rapidly play the next ascending diatonic note. This is how turns will be notated in this book and how they might be played:

Example Eleven

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Glissandos- Glissandos are the result of a rapid ascending or descending of a diatonic or chromatic scale. Glissandos are used to connect notes during improvisation. Glissandos can be of any length or speed. Glissandos can be difficult to execute because they require proficiency with either major or chromatic scales. Despite this technical difficulty, glissandos are an important stylistic inflection. This is how glissandos will be notated in this book and how they might be played:

Example Twelve

Falls- The typical fall starts with a note (that will be fallen off of), followed by a drastic decrease in volume while playing a descending diatonic or chromatic scale. On brass instruments, falls are played using half-valve or slide movements rather than focusing on individual chromatic or diatonic notes. The key to an effective fall is that the loudest note is the first and the softest note is the last. Falls can go in any direction, be long or short, slow or fast. Falls moving in an ascending manner are often referred to as “doits” to mimic the sound they create. Typically, falls are used at the end of phrases. This is how falls will be notated in this book and how they might be played:

Example Thirteen

Trills- Trills are a rapid alteration between notes that are either a half-step or a whole-step apart. Trills are not as common as the other stylistic inflections mentioned, but can be effective when used conservatively. This is how trills will be notated in this book and how they might be played:

Example Fourteen

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Shakes- Shakes are a rapid alteration of notes that are greater than a whole step apart. The most common shakes use a minor third interval but can consist of any intervallic combination. On brass instruments like trumpet and trombone, shakes do not always use the same interval. On these instruments, musicians should move up to the next available partial using as few valve or slide movements as possible. This is how shakes will be notated in this book and how they might be played:

Example Fifteen

These stylistic inflections and rules for articulations will aide musicians during improvisation. If the goal of melodic improvisation is to communicate using an

instrument instead of a voice, then stylistic inflections and articulations create the accent and personality of that voice. Make the use of stylistic inflections and articulations a habitual part of playing. Musicians should strive to improvise with a musical accent that demonstrates a mature understanding of the feel and nuance of jazz.

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CHAPTER ONE:

Exercises for Continued Exploration

1. Apply swing articulations to all major, minor, blues, and modal scales in the technique appendix of this book. Begin practicing these scales now to develop proficiency.

2. Practice singing scales and technical patterns using the rules for swing articulations and stylistic inflection. This will help internalize their use when playing.

3. Practice singing phrases and etudes using the stylistic inflections from this chapter. Pay attention to the sound of the inflections and how they alter the quality of phrases. Remember, if you can’t remember to sing it, you won’t remember to play it.

4. Play the following twelve bar blues etude:

Trumpet players may play an octave lower as needed.

5. Play the above etude and add the following stylistic inflections. Notate the inflections you will use. Create several examples that use different style

inflections in different locations. Explore how the use of style inflections can alter the sound of a melody.

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a. Scoops b. Turns c. Falls d. Glissandos e. Other inflections

6. Play your favorite jazz composition and add stylistic inflections to see how it changes. Try playing etudes and exercises from the Jazz Path books Jazz Style and Technique and Creative Jazz Sight Reading to focus on developing correct swing articulations and jazz inflections.

7. Listen to these two examples of the same composition:* Louis Armstrong-Blues in the Night

Ella Fitzgerald-Blues in the Night

a. What stylistic inflections do you hear when Louis Armstrong sings the melody?

b. What stylistic inflections do you hear in the piano comping behind the vocalist on the Louis Armstrong Recording?

c. What stylistic inflections do you hear when Ella Fitzgerald sings the melody?

c. What stylistic inflections do you hear in the big band arrangement behind Ella Fitzgerald?

Discuss:

a. How are the arrangements different?

b. How do the inflections used by the vocalist change the overall feel of the songs?

c. Which version of the song do you prefer? Why?

d. Do you think some stylistic inflections more appropriate for certain instruments or voices?

e. What other stylistic inflections have you heard in other types of music? f. In Rock n’ Roll?

g. In country music? h. In classical music? i. In hip-hop?

j. Can you find examples to back your claims?

8. Improvise vocal solos over tracks two through five of the play-a-long CD to practice to help internalize the rules for stylistic inflections and swing articulation.

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CHAPTER TWO:

Introducing the Blues

The majority of the scope and sequence of this book focuses on developing the phrasing structures and skills needed to improvise melodically within a twelve-bar blues progression using a blues scale. Musicians will first master essential phrasing skills and tools and then apply them over the simplest of improvisational forms: the twelve-bar blues. Once mastered, these same phrasing skills can be applied in all forms and styles of jazz improvisation with any type of harmony.

Why The Twelve-Bar Blues and Blues Scale?

The twelve-bar blues is one of the simplest and most common chord progressions and forms in jazz. Thousands of unique melodies exist over blues chord changes and all musicians will encounter blues in various keys, tempos, and lengths throughout the course of their improvising. The twelve-bar structure of blues makes it one of the easiest forms for improvisers to follow, one of the shortest forms to solo over, and one of the most adaptable forms for non-harmonically driven improvisation. Basically, twelve-bar blues presents the simplest improvisational canvas for conveying and practicing the melodic concepts that will be examined in the course of this book.

The blues scale can be derived from altering the notes in a major scale with the following variations: 1, flat 3, 4, sharp 4 or flat 5, 5, flat 7, 1. Often the blues scale is taught as a variation of the relative minor scale. For the sake of simplicity, the formula used in this book to create a blues scale will be based on only a musician’s knowledge of major scales. The process of constructing a blues scale is detailed on page 19 of this chapter. The scale consists of a series of notes that are harmonically suited to work over all parts of the twelve-bar blues form. The scale creates a harmonic center that does not directly reflect the underlying chord changes of the twelve-bar blues form. The scale offers beginning musicians the chance to have immediate success in improvisation by creating melodies that sound good harmonically over the blues form without mastering the underlying chords. Blues scales limit the harmonic choices improvisers have enabling them to focus their attention on melodic intent, style, and solo development. This type of highly structured immersion with the blues can help musicians develop essential skills that can be later applied to harmonically driven improvisation. Using structured immersion with a blues to scale to practice melodic phrasing concepts makes the transition to harmonically driven improvisation easier for beginning musicians because they learn to make fast creative decisions in a highly structured environment.

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an adverse impact on the long-term improvisational development of musicians and their ability to transition successfully to harmonic improvisation.

Unstructured immersion occurs when beginning musicians are left to their own devices while learning to improvise with the blues scale. Unstructured immersion with a blues scale leads student musicians to falsely believe that all improvisation occurs without harmonic reference and with unstructured creative freedom. Given enough time musicians may develop the ability to play competent solos using a blues scale, but they will have failed to develop the ability to make fast creative choices within the changing contexts of harmonic improvisation and form. Often musicians are unable to leave the perceived freedom of the blues scale behind and progress to improvisation that is more harmonically structured because they have failed to develop the ability to make fast improvisational choices within a highly structured environment. The blame for a musician’s inability to leave a blues scale behind cannot be credited to the blues scale, but rather to the pedagogy of unstructured immersion.

In the structured immersion that will be presented in this book, musicians will improvise solos while making creative choices that limit the length of phrases, location of rests, range, rhythm, and melodic devices that can be used. Though musicians will

initially rely solely on the blues scale for harmonic content, they will remain intensely focused on phrase length and the application of melodic phrasing techniques while soloing. This structured immersion keeps musicians focused on the various phrasing options that exist within jazz improvisation and forces them to make fast and creative choices throughout the course of a solo. The blues scale, despite its harmonic flaws, is simply a vehicle used to apply and practice a wide variety of complicated melodic phrasing techniques.

When used in this type of structured immersion, the blues scale has significant advantages over other harmonic alternatives.

1. The blues scale allows musicians to focus on the phrasing aspects of improvisation without harmonic or technical considerations.

2. The blues scale is accessible and simple enough for any musician to learn and manipulate.

3. Developing extreme technical proficiency with the blues scale encourages more advanced types of technical exploration on an instrument.

4. When using a blues scale, it is easy for inexperienced musicians to hear “mistakes.”

5. When using a blues scale, inexperienced musicians can focus more of their attention on time, style, and the content of improvisation.

Developing technical fluency with the blues scale is essential in order to progress throughout this book. The blues scale should be memorized, played in as many octaves as possible, and with the patterns on page 20 before proceeding through exercises in this book.

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A note for advanced musicians:

Advanced musicians may choose to quickly leave the confines of the blues scale for other harmonic options. Regardless of the harmonies that one chooses to play, improvisers should focus on the phrase structures and lengths outlined in this book. Internalizing the various phrase lengths, melodic techniques, and solo roadmaps in this book can enhance the phrasing awareness of any musician.

Improvisational Solo Roadmaps, Compositional Etudes, and Scales

Throughout the course of this book, improvisational solo roadmaps will be used to highlight the phrasing structure of solos and guide readers through the application of each melodic phrasing technique. Improvisational solo roadmaps consist of a blank twelve-bar blues form with phrasing notation that gives both the location and duration of improvised phrases and other techniques and tools that musicians should apply during a solo. The roadmaps are extremely limiting and force improvisers to focus their attention

exclusively on phrase length and melodic techniques being used. These types of roadmaps, though at times difficult, have benefits for improvisers of all levels:

1. Improvisers must be constantly aware of where they are within the form. 2. Improvisers will experiment and gain proficiency with different phrase lengths

and melodic techniques.

3. Improvisers will develop the ability to consciously repeat improvised ideas during solos.

4. Improvisers will consciously control and manage phrase length. 5. Improvisers will explore the use of space and solo development.

Each roadmap is followed by a demonstration solo that illustrates each new phrasing concept. Readers should become proficient at each solo roadmap and listen to and practice each demonstration solo. The primary goal of this book is to construct melodic solos by developing proficiency and control of improvisational phrasing. Often students ask me, “Is this what you and others think about when you’re improvising a solo?” The answer is no. Musicians practice melodic phrasing skills in the same manner and for the same reason they practice harmonic and technical skills: So that during an improvised solo one can think about communication and emotion, not technique.

Composing Melodic Etudes

Composing improvisational etudes is an essential skill for beginning improvisers. Throughout the course of this book, readers are given dozens of opportunities to compose their own solo examples using the melodic techniques discussed.

Composing examples gives musicians the opportunity to create a concrete example Chapter Two: Introducing the Blues

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apply new knowledge in a useful and pragmatic way and become a record of the

evolution of one’s melodic improvisation. Readers should see drastic improvement in the quality of their written solos throughout the course of this book.

Composing melodic examples also helps musicians develop a technical vocabulary for improvisation that can be applied during future solos. Often great improvised melodic ideas are forgotten and lost. By notating quality examples, improvisers can maintain a written record of their best ideas. These ideas can be reintroduced in future solos where they can be continually developed and improved. Developing this type of improvisational vocabulary helps eliminate those awkward moments when improvisers feel, “I don’t know what to play.”

Scale Fluency

It is absolutely essential that musicians become proficient with the use of the blues scale before proceeding to the next chapter of this book. Fluency in a blues scale occurs when conscious thought is no longer required to play it. The scale should be mastered and memorized throughout the range of one’s instrument at a fast tempo with appropriate stylistic articulation. The following pages are a guide for constructing a blues scale and some rudimentary exercises that should be mastered before proceeding to chapter three. Chapter Two: Introducing the Blues

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The blues scale is the tool that will allow musicians to master the melodic phrasing exercises in this book. The scale can be derived from altering notes in a major scale using the following formula:

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The Blues Scale contains some interesting intervallic combinations. Experiment playing the interval 1-

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4, which is known as a tritone interval, and practice creating a resolution to this tension by moving to 4 or 5. Experiment with other intervallic combinations within the blues scale and practice singing the entire scale to internalize its unique sound and nuances.

Constructing a Blues Scale

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Developing technical fluency with blues scales is essential in order to progress through this book. The blues scale should be memorized, played in as many octaves as possible, and played in the following patterns before beginning to improvise. Musicians who are uncertain of the scale will be unable to focus on the melodic content of their improvisation.

Descending: First play the exercise and then practice singing it.

One octave scales on each note of a blues scale. First play the exercise and then practice singing it.

One octave scales descending: First play the exercise and then practice singing it.

Every Other Note: First play the exercise and then practice singing it. C Blues Scale: First play the exercise and then practice singing it.

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Twelve-Bar Blues Form

The twelve-bar blues follows the basic progression that is outlined below. There are numerous chord variations and possible chord substitutions to the twelve-bar blues progression. The variation

represented below is used due to its relative harmonic simplicity. Though musicians may use the harmonic changes to keep track of their location within the twelve-bar form, the initial focus of this book will be on developing and controlling phrase lengths within the blues form rather than on the specific chords.

It is extremely important for musicians to recognize the length and feel of a twelve-bar blues progression. Listen to this progression on tracks two, three, four and five of the accompanying CD. Count each measure and practice recognizing the beginning of each twelve-bar form. Practice singing the root of each chord during the twelve-bar blues progression. Hearing when the chords change helps musicians keep their place while improvising. Once you can sing the roots in time with the CD, practice playing the roots on your instrument. When you are able to recognize the beginning of each twelve-bar progression, move on to the following listening exercise.

Let the CD play and leave the room for less than a minute. When you return, try to locate where you are within a blues form as quickly as possible. Try to locate the beginning of a new twelve-bar chorus and strive to locate where you are in the form after listening to only two or three bars. Focus on hearing the difference between the primary tonal changes in the blues: bar five "the IV 7" chord and

CD Track 2 (play-a-long)

Listening Exercise

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CHAPTER TWO:

Exercises for Continued Exploration

1. Practice and begin to memorize all twelve blues scales on page 153. 2. Practice and begin to memorize all twelve major scales on page 152. 3. Practice and begin to memorize all twelve mixolydian scales on page 154. 4. Practice and begin to memorize all twelve dorian-minor scales on page 155. 5. Memorize the chord pattern for the twelve bar blues in concert B flat.

6. Listen to CD track 2 and practice identifying the beginning, bar five, and bar nine of each twelve-bar chorus.

7. Listen to the following recordings of melody and solo over twelve-bar blues:* Gene Krupa-Drum Boogie

Louis Armstrong- Black Ole Town Blues Miles Davis-Blues By Five 8. Discuss:

a. Can you find the beginning of each twelve-bar chorus? b. Did every solo start at the beginning of a twelve-bar chorus?

c. Can you identify the style inflections that the improvisers and vocalists used during solos?

d. Identify and discuss specific examples of stylistic inflection and articulations used within solos.

e. Could you hear the rules for swing articulation being applied within the solos?

f. Does the tempo of a song change the way musicians improvise? Compare and contrast the three recording keeping the tempo in mind.

g. Find examples of other musical styles that use a blues form like rock, country western, and rhythm and blues.

h. How are these stylistically different from the jazz recordings? i. Is the blues form the same?

* See discography on page 158

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9. Practice singing the root of each chord during a twelve-bar blues progression using tracks two, three, and four of the play-a-long CD. Hearing when the chords change can help you keep your place within a blues progression. Once you can sing the roots in time with the CD, practice playing them with your instrument. 10. Practice singing the blues scales while the CD plays through a twelve-bar blues

progression. Memorizing the sound of the scale and its intervals will help improve improvisation. Focus on hearing the beginning of each twelve bar repeated progression.

11. Practice singing solos over a twelve-bar blues progression on tracks 2-5 of the CD. Sing for twelve-bars and rest for twelve-bars. This type of alteration can help you keep your place and follow the form.

12. Practice singing solos over a twelve-bar blues progression on track 2-5 of the CD. Sing for four bars and rest for four bars. This type of alteration can help you keep your place and follow the form.

13. Practice singing solos over a twelve-bar blues progression on track 2-5 of the CD. Sing for two bars and rest for two bars. This type of alteration can help you keep your place and follow the form.

14. Practice singing solos over a twelve-bar blues progression on track 2-5 of the CD. Sing for one bar and rest for one bar. This type of alteration can help you keep your place and follow the form.

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ION

CHAPTER THREE:

Beginning to Improvise

Improvisation requires musicians to take creative risks. During improvisation musicians risk sounding bad, making mistakes, and becoming lost or unfocused. When musicians first begin to improvise, they often have no idea what they will play or how it will sound. Despite these hurdles, these first awkward steps in improvisation play an important role in helping musicians develop critical skills. These humble beginnings help musicians learn about form, time, and the individual intervals and sounds within a

twelve-bar blues.

In the previous chapter, musicians worked to develop modest technical fluency with a blues scale. Often beginning improvisers can’t decide what to play despite their technical prowess. Limiting the options that musicians have during solos can help them overcome this indecision. There are three primary ways that musicians can limit creative options and improve their improvisation.

The first way musicians can improve improvisation is to limit the notes that may be played during a solo. Limiting note choices forces musicians to think creatively about rhythms, space, and the proper use of stylistic inflections, dynamics, and articulations. By limiting note choices, musicians remove any perceived technical hurdles and are able to focus solely on the creative and stylistic aspects of improvisation. The second way musicians can improve improvisation is to consider the melodic contour used during solos. When musicians focus on melodic contour while soloing, they limit the range and shape of melodic lines created during improvisation. The third way musicians can improve improvisation is to limit the physical location of phrases played within a blues form. When musicians focus on the location of phrases played during a solo they become sensitive to form and the effective use of space.

In the exercises 3-1 through 3-5, musicians will experiment with improvisation using only limited notes from a blues scale. Musicians should focus on exploring the scale and memorizing the sound of the different intervals. Later in this chapter, we will examine how to use melodic contour to construct phrases within solos and will practice techniques that maintain awareness of location within the twelve-bar blues form.

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Beginning to Improvise

CD Track 2 (play-a-long) CD Track 2 (play-a-long)

Exercise 3-1: Two Note Solos

In exercise 3-1 use only the first and second notes of the blues scale during improvisation. Focus on rhythmic variety and articulation, stylistic interpretation, and the use of different registers.

Exercise 3-1: Two Note Solos with Rhythms-Example Solo

One technique that can be used to add rhythmic variety to a solo is to improvise notes while reading different rhythms. Be sure you can sing and count these rhythms before playing them on your

instrument. Listen to the example solo and practice improvising your own solo using only the first two notes of the blues scale and the following rhythms.

CD Track 13 (demo) Chapter Three: Beginning to Improvise

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F7

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C7

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C7

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G7

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C7

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G7

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C7

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C7

& Û Û Û Œ Û Û

F7

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F7

Œ Û Û Û

C7

Û Û Û Ó

C7 Dmin7 G7 C7 G7 CD Track 2 (play-a-long) CD Track 2 (play-a-long)

Exercise 3-2: Three Note Solos

In exercise 3-2 use only the first, second, and third notes of the blues scale during improvisation. Focus on rhythmic variety, articulation, stylistic interpretation, and the use of different registers.

Exercise 3-2: Three Note Solos with Rhythms-Example Solo

One technique that can be used to add rhythmic variety to a solo is to improvise notes while reading different rhythms. Be sure you can sing and count these rhythms before playing them on your

instrument. Listen to the example solo and practice improvising your own solo using only the first three notes of the blues scale and the following rhythms.

CD Track 14 (demo) Chapter Three: Beginning to Improvise

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C7

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F7

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C7

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F7

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F7

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C7

&

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G7

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C7

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G7

& Û Û Û Û

C7

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F7

Û Û Œ Û Û Œ

C7

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C7

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F7

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..

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G7 CD Track 4 (play-a-long) CD Track 4 (play-a-long)

Exercise 3-3: Four Note Solos

In exercise 3-3 use only the first, second, third, and fourth notes of the blues scale during

improvisation. Focus on rhythmic variety, articulation, stylistic interpretation, and the use of different registers.

Exercise 3-3: Four Note Solos with Rhythms-Example Solo

One technique that can be used to add rhythmic variety to a solo is to improvise notes while reading different rhythms. Be sure you can sing and count these rhythms before playing them on your

instrument. Listen to the example solo and practice improvising your own solo using only the first four notes of the blues scale and the following rhythms.

CD Track 15 (demo) Chapter Three: Beginning to Improvise

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C7

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F7

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C7

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C7

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F7

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F7

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C7

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C7

&

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..

Dmin7

’ ’ ’ ’

G7

’ ’ ’ ’

C7

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G7

& Û Û Û Û Û Û

C7

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F7

Û Û Û Û Û Û Û

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F7

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C7

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C7 Dmin7 G7 C7 G7 CD Track 2 (play-a-long) CD Track 2 (play-a-long)

Exercise 3-4: Five Note Solos

In exercise 3-4 use only the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth notes of the blues scale during improvisation. Focus on rhythmic variety, articulation, stylistic interpretation, and the use of different registers.

Exercise 3-4: Five Note Solos with Rhythms-Example Solo

One technique that can be used to add rhythmic variety to a solo is to improvise notes while reading different rhythms. Be sure you can sing and count these rhythms before playing them on your

instrument. Listen to the example solo and practice improvising your own solo using only the first five notes of the blues scale and the following rhythms.

CD Track 16 (demo) Chapter Three: Beginning to Improvise

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C7

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F7

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C7

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C7

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F7

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G7

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G7

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F7

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F7

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F7

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C7

&

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..

Dmin7

.Û JÛ Ó

G7

Œ Œ Û Û

C7

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G7 CD Track 4 (play-a-long) CD Track 4 (play-a-long)

Exercise 3-5: The Complete Blues Scale

In exercise 3-5 use the complete blues scale during improvisation. Focus on rhythmic variety, articulation, stylistic interpretation, and the use of different registers.

Exercise 3-5: The Complete Blues Scale with Rhythms-Example Solo

One technique that can be used to add rhythmic variety to a solo is to improvise notes while reading different rhythms. Be sure you can sing and count these rhythms before playing them on your

instrument. Listen to the example solo and practice improvising your own solo using the complete blues scale with the following rhythms.

CD Track 17 (demo) Chapter Three: Beginning to Improvise

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Melodic Contour

Musicians must consider the contour of melodic lines while improvising. The melodic contour of an improvised phrase is the general intervallic shape that the phrase follows. For example, if a musician were to play this phrase:

The melodic contour of the phrase might be considered this:

Beginning improvisers should focus on creating melodic contours that use stepwise scale pitches and small intervals. Musicians should practice creating melodic lines that have a gentle rolling contour as shown in the example below:

The melodic contour of the phrase might be considered this:

Range

Phrase Length

This dramatic shape, though effective at times, can be extreme for listeners and can inhibit melodic development when consistently used during solos. Often beginners to improvisation

unknowingly use this type of phrasing extensively during solos without

recognizing the melodic consequences.

This shape of melodic contour offers improvisers many choices for

developing melodic lines.

Phrase Length

Range

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During improvisation the overall contour of melodic lines has a significant impact on how a solo sounds. There are countless variations and contours that musicians can create during improvising. Musicians must not allow chance and technique to dictate the contour of melodic lines. Musicians should consciously and creatively choose the contour and shape of melodic lines while improvising.

Exercise 3-6: Melodic Contour

Using a blues scale and the accompanying play-a-long CD, try to create the melodic contours shown below over multi-chorus blues solos. First, practice singing solos that mimic the shapes below and then try playing them on an instrument.

CD Tracks 2-5 (play-a-long) Chorus One Lo w Middle High REGISTE R

Chorus Two Chorus Three

SOLO LENGTH REGISTE R Low Middle High

Chorus One Chorus Two Chorus Three

SOLO LENGTH Chapter Three: Beginning to Improvise

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Exercise 3-6: Melodic Contour-Create Your Own Examples

In this exercise, create your own examples of melodic contour for use during different length blues solos. First write out the melodic contours that will be used, then practice singing and playing solos that replicate the shape of the melodic line.

CD Tracks 2-5 (play-a-long) REGISTE R SOLO LENGTH REGISTE R SOLO LENGTH Chorus One

Chorus One Chorus Two

Chorus Two Chorus Three

Middle Low High Middle Low High

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’ ’ ’ ’

G7

C7

G7

Location in Form

The third essential skill that musicians must develop to improve improvisation is the ability to be aware of their location within the form while improvising. At this stage of improvisational

development, it's common for musicians to get lost within the form of the twelve-bar blues. All musicians, regardless of skill level, inevitably get lost while soloing. Good musicians recover quickly and are able to find where they are within the form through listening.

The following exercises require musicians to be constantly aware of their location within the

twelve-bar blues form. Musicians should listen carefully and observe the main chordal shifts that occur in bars one, five, and nine of the twelve-bar blues. Practice singing and playing solos that use the following roadmaps. Observe all rests.

CD Track 4 (play-a-long)

Improvise Here

Exercise 3-7: Play for Two and Rest for Two

Don't forget to think about the melodic contour for each two-bar improvised phrase.

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G7

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C7 Dmin7 G7 C7 G7 CD Track 4 (play-a-long) Improvise Here

Exercise 3-8: Rest for Two and Play for Two

Exercise 3-9: Trading Fours

CD Track 5 (play-a-long)

In exercise 3-9 practice playing for four bars and resting for four bars. In odd choruses, play in bars one through four and nine through twelve. In the even choruses, play only in bars five through eight. Trading fours is common in improvised jazz. the ability to hear where each four-bar phrase begins and ends is an essential skill for musicians to develop.

Practice singing and playing solos using roadmap 3-8. Do not play during the rests.

Odd Choruses

Odd Choruses Even Choruses

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CHAPTER THREE:

Exercises for Continued Exploration

1. Write out five one-bar rhythms. Play exercises 3-1 through 3-5 using only the rhythms that you have written while improvising notes.

2. Write out five two-bar rhythms. Play exercises 3-1 through 3-5 using only the rhythms that you have written while improvising notes.

3. Play the following roadmap and follow all instructions for phrasing and note limitations. Practice singing and playing the roadmap with play-a-long tracks two through five.

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4. Create four of your own roadmaps using different combinations of rests and phrase lengths. Challenge yourself to keep your place within the form while improvising. Try to add these additional challenges to your roadmaps:

a. Choose specific stylistic inflections that you will use during the solo. b. Choose specific melodic contours that you will use during the solo. c. Choose specific note combinations that you will use during the solo. 5. Listen to:*

Sarah Vaughan- Sassy’s Blues

Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt- Blues Up and Down 6. Discuss:

a. What type of melodic contour do the soloists use? Draw diagrams to reflect the melodic contour of the solos.

b. Do the soloists repeat melodic ideas or rhythms? Where?

c. Can you keep track of your place within the form while listening to solos? d. Can you recognize bar one, five, and nine while listening to the

recordings?

e. Can you keep track of your place within the form while the soloists trade solos? Challenge yourself to always know where you are within the form. f. What is the overall solo form of “Blues Up and Down”? For how many

choruses do the artists trade fours, twos and twelves? Can you replicate the form of this solo form with a friend?

7. Go back and transcribe the example solos for exercises 3-1, 3-2, 3-3, 3-4 and 3-5 for your instrument. Remember, the rhythms are already notated in the exercises so focus on transcribing the notes.

8. Go back and repeat all of the exercises in this chapter using the concert “F” blues scale and chord progression on track ten of the play-a-long CD. An outline of the chord progression, blues scales, and chord scales that may be used can be found in the technique appendix of the book.

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TION

CHAPTER FOUR:

The Basic Language of

Improvisation

Good melodic improvisation communicates ideas, thoughts, and emotions to listeners. In some ways, musical communication can be more expressive than verbal or written language because of its ability to convey a range of complicated and subtle emotions to large numbers of people instantly. In order to understand how to construct melody and communicate ideas to listeners, musicians must first learn the basics about controlling phrases and adding melodic intent to improvisation.

The following chapter introduces the most basic phrases and melodic devices in improvisation: the question, the answer and the statement. These devices are often grouped together and referred to as call and response. Rests and repetition are other critical tools used during melodic improvisation and will be examined later in this chapter.

The Question

Why begin with a question? Read the previous sentence again and pay close attention to the tone and inflection that your inner voice uses at the end of the sentence. One should notice that the words "the question" are tonally higher than the rest of the sentence. This rise in pitch helps make the sentence an audible question. If readers experiment by not allowing their voice to rise when reading that first sentence, they will notice that it ceases to sound like a question. It is the audible rise in pitch at the end of sentence that triggers our brains to register the words as a question. In music, the same tonal inflection applies. Any short phrase whose ending rises in pitch may be audibly heard by listeners as a question. Playing questions using the blues scale is extremely easy. To play a question, make sure that the last note of a phrase is higher than the note

preceding it or that the phrase generally ascends in pitch. The following examples are short one and two-bar questions written using the blues scale. Practice these examples, improvise your own one and two-bar examples, and then compose some questions in the spaces provided.

One-Bar Questions:

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Two-Bar Questions:

Compose your own examples of one-bar questions.

Compose your own examples of two-bar questions.

Pay attention to the swing articulations and style inflections!

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One-Bar Answers:

The Answer

One of the differences between a question and an answer in spoken language is the audible pitch change the voice creates at the end of a sentence. As stated before, questions rise in pitch in the final syllables. Conversely, answers descend in pitch on the final syllables. In improvisation, the same type of inflection applies. Any short phrase whose overall shape descends in pitch may be heard by listeners as an answer. The following are some short one and two-bar answers written using the blues scale. Practice these examples, improvise your own one and two-bar examples, and compose some answers in spaces provided.

Compose your own examples of one-bar answers:

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Two-Bar Answers:

Compose your own examples of two-bar answers:

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Three-Bar Statements:

The Statement

Throughout this book phrases greater than two bars in length will be called statements. Improvisational statements can blur the obvious audible differences between questions and answers by increasing the length of the phrase and the possible shape of the line. In

improvisational music, statements are the most common phrases. Improvisers often do not intend to consciously play questions or answers during a solo. As in written and spoken communication, questions and answers are only a small part of the improvisational language. Musicians spend most of their time developing improvisational ideas within solos, rather than focusing on specific questions or answers. Since it is not possible to audibly determine the intent of every

improvisational phrase played during a solo, we will generally define any phrase greater than two bars as a statement. The following examples are three-bar statements written using a blues scale. Practice these examples, improvise your own three-bar examples, and then compose your own statements in the spaces provided.

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&

&

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Musicians will encounter obvious cases when phrases that are longer than two bars are specifically intended to sound like questions or answers. This is the improviser's

prerogative. The examples given on these pages are general examples that are meant to demonstrate the concepts of improvisational questions, answers, and statements. Musicians should strive to develop the musicality and skill necessary to consciously play phrases with communicative intent during a solo. Once improvisers acquire and refine this skill, great liberty may be taken during improvised solos.

Compose your own examples of three-bar statements:

Create Your Own Conversations:

Musicians should practice creating improvisational conversations that consist of questions,

answers, and statements. Any conversation that can be spoken can also be played on an instrument. Try the following exercise.

First, write out a short conversation that consists of questions, answers, and statements. Then try playing improvisational phrases that mimic the written conversation. If the conversation repeats words or phrases, repeat those same phrases while improvising. If the conversation has emotional content, mimic those characteristic during improvisation using style and dynamics. At this point, don't worry about the chord changes within a blues form or fitting a musical conversation with the play-a-long CD. Focus exclusively on adding creative intent to improvisation with the blues scale.

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