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What more is there to Jazz improv?


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#1 OFFLINE   BillC15

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 08:13 PM

I've really wanted to fully comprehend the art of jazz improv. I feel like I can come up with some nice sounding lines, but for some reason it seems like there's some secret I'm missing out on that separates my improv solos from great ones. In a jazz groove with a lot of 2-5-1 or maybe even a 3-6-2-5-1 with a of of minor 7/9 chords as well as some thirteen chords, I can improvise using all dorian and major related scales. Say the 3-6-2-5-1 was in G, I think in terms of G and since I know all the G major shapes across the fretboard and I can essentially improvise with just this, given that G major is the same as A dorian, the 2 of G and A dorian is the same as D mixolydian, the 5. So generally, I use dorian over minor 7 or minor 9 chords and mixolydian over dominant chords, even though they usually mesh into the same thing like I have described above. So that's where I am now. Where I want to be is fitting cool jazzy extensions into my solos like many of the jazz greats like Joe Pass and Grant Geissman. Now of course I don't expect to be on their level of playing, but I guess my question is, though jazz greats like them do at times improvise using simple modal concepts like I have, what method(s) do they use to include all the extensions and passing tones that compliment the chords and chord changes if it is not just a matter of memorizing these notes as horn players do? Is there a guitar friendly way of looking at this? Or is it simply memorization? Exactly what are they doing????

#2 OFFLINE   Kirk Lorange

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 06:36 PM

Hi BillC15. I can't speak for those two great players of course, but I think that they simply keep very good track of the chord progressions they're playing over. If you can 'see' each chord as it comes into play -- with all it's extensions -- you're looking at all the relevant notes for that moment in time and the intervals between them can always be filled chromatically.

I reckon my book Planetalk describes a very simple and friendly way to see chords like this. If I'm reading a chord chart or playing along to a progression I want to be able to look down at my fretboard and see every chord tone there because I know they're my prime notes. I never think of a scale or mode, I just see chord tones and of course the array of notes I'm looking at shift with each chord change. The 'bigger' the chord gets, the closer I get to looking at a scale/mode pattern, but it's still a different mindset because whatever pattern I'm looking at applies only to the 'chord of the moment'. I think the rest, like passing tones, is mere detail once you've mentally laid out the fretboard like that. There's really not much left over once you 'see' the chord as a fretboard-long entity.

I often use this movie as an example of that mindset:

YouTube - Jazzy Improvisation - Nylon string guitar

I kept the lines fairly straight forward in this because I did it for the members of the private PlaneTalkers' Forum to watch as an example of 'following the changes' to a backing track one of the members uploaded and asked about. Is this is the kind of melodic approach you're wondering about?

#3 OFFLINE   BillC15

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 10:33 PM

WOW. Excellent video. That is exactly what I was looking for. I really enjoyed your ideas and some of the rhythms you used that were slightly behind the beat. Very tasteful.

I guess I sort of knew that jazz improv was based heavily on using chord tones that complement the rhythm section, but I always thought it was very difficult to "see" each one on the fretboard exactly when you need it. This video, though maybe it was just your superb playing, made this concept seem easier to me. If I am ever able to become successful in improvising with chord tones like that, I'm sure filling in gaps using related modes would add a nice jazzy touch to it.

Now I know that to fully comprehend this I would need to practice out of your book, but would you mind sharing with me, if possible, the basic approach you take to "make visible" each chord tone and memorizing them? I mean, I do have basic major chord tones in most keys memorized (1, 3, 5) but that's obviously (or at least in my opinion) too simple to create a tasteful jazz improv solo. What is basic method you teach to see and memorize chord tones such as basic dominant or minor extension chords?

#4 OFFLINE   Kirk Lorange

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Posted 09 October 2008 - 02:00 AM

The PT 'trick' to seeing it all is too simple to even allude at without giving it away, Bill, but here's food for thought: if you can see the 1-3-5's, you can also see the the 2-4-6-7s, and therefore all others. There is a huge fretboard landmark though, one that you'll kick yourself for not seeing yourself once you know it, and that's the one I'm using at all times.

Here's another example of a minor blues thing that keeps changing key. It's done with slide, but I am in standard tuning and the PT mindset applies here too. If you listen to the chords, you'll hear that it's more than just a minor progression, there's more complexity to it than that and that's what I'm keeping in mind while I'l playing along. YouTube - Changes - Slide Guitar

#5 OFFLINE   DG3

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 04:13 AM

BillC15 said:

I've really wanted to fully comprehend the art of jazz improv. I feel like I can come up with some nice sounding lines, but for some reason it seems like there's some secret I'm missing out on that separates my improv solos from great ones. In a jazz groove with a lot of 2-5-1 or maybe even a 3-6-2-5-1 with a of of minor 7/9 chords as well as some thirteen chords, I can improvise using all dorian and major related scales. Say the 3-6-2-5-1 was in G, I think in terms of G and since I know all the G major shapes across the fretboard and I can essentially improvise with just this, given that G major is the same as A dorian, the 2 of G and A dorian is the same as D mixolydian, the 5. So generally, I use dorian over minor 7 or minor 9 chords and mixolydian over dominant chords, even though they usually mesh into the same thing like I have described above. So that's where I am now. Where I want to be is fitting cool jazzy extensions into my solos like many of the jazz greats like Joe Pass and Grant Geissman. Now of course I don't expect to be on their level of playing, but I guess my question is, though jazz greats like them do at times improvise using simple modal concepts like I have, what method(s) do they use to include all the extensions and passing tones that compliment the chords and chord changes if it is not just a matter of memorizing these notes as horn players do? Is there a guitar friendly way of looking at this? Or is it simply memorization? Exactly what are they doing????

A great musician can think a line in his/her head and play it instantly. This is memorization in a sense but it becomes second nature in time. A good exercise is to map out a song's chords, writing the chord scales and just running up each scale finding a bridge or creating one with leading tones to the next scale. It's not quite a solo but you will start to see some patterns on how to get from chord to chord in standard progressions and start to see how leading tones and passing tones work in jazz. Good luck

#6 OFFLINE   Djangolad

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Posted 05 June 2010 - 09:16 PM

Hey BillC15 I guess you've watched Joe's lessons on YT?
As Kirk describes in his reply; Joe said he worked with the chords as a base. Your improvisation extends out from those shapes. Not the other way around according to Joe. As an artist (painter) I can attest to the universal theory which applies unyieldingly to all creative acts which is to work from the GENERAL to the SPECIFIC. In other words it is a more solid foundation to learn guitar from a chordal perspective than a scalar model. This applies at every point along the road to playing the guitar. It is very obvious with drums/percussion but less obvious when you have a chunk of wood with 6 strings attached.

#7 OFFLINE   diabinho

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 08:35 PM

Freakin great chops on this tune. I can feel how you are riding the licks like a surf board. That is the kind of improvisational skill I am searching for.

#8 OFFLINE   Random Robot

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 01:10 PM

I don't know if this is what you're looking for but right now I'm having a study on this... Another important part of Jazz improve is chord substitutions. Major 7 chords can become minor 7 chords a 3rd above the root or in it's relative minor. Minor 7ths can become dominate 7ths, dominate 7ths become altered dominates and so on. So once you get this under your belt you really have alot of options and can start building your melody lines with your chord choices. Oh and don't forget your inversions. My brain hurts thinking about it but I'm in good hands. Here is a video of my instructor doing "Autumn Leaves" .
Exotic is just people talk for awesome...which you are!

#9 OFFLINE   carol m

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 10:01 PM

View PostRandom Robot, on 27 June 2010 - 01:10 PM, said:

My brain hurts thinking about it but I'm in good hands.

You're a lucky man, RR - don't let him escape.
One good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain - Bob Marley

#10 OFFLINE   waveheavy

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 08:37 AM

What Kirk is talking about is the real... secret to guitar improv in my opinion, especially in Jazz where you can't just find one scale to play over the whole song.

The method is simple. Take a simple Jazz tune like Autumn Leaves (All The Things You Are would be better), pick an area on the fretboard to start, then find the 3rd and 7th for each chord in the tune. Create a solo just out of those 3rds and 7ths for each chord first with the tune playing.

Then if you want higher extensions of the chord to create interest or tension-release, add one other note like the 9th, 11th (or #11), or 13th of the chord, and play that with the 3rds and 7ths in the solo, over each chord, etc. Then try it with other chord tones or passing tones, mix up the combinations and listen to what each combination of notes solo'd over the chord creates.

To get a really 'outside' sound, only play the higher extensions of each chord for the solo, like the 7th-9th-11th-13th, or 9th-11th-13th, or b5, #5, #9, #11, 13th, etc.

Merely playing a certain scale over each chord is not the best way to define the harmony 'within' the chord structure at the moment. You really want to get 'inside' the chord harmony, and a mere scale-chord approach will not often get that done. This is one of main differences (IMO) between the great mainstream Jazz soloists and Rock or Blues players new to Jazz.





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