Jazz Improvisation: Stumbling Blocks & Stepping Stones

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Jazz Improvisation: Stumbling Blocks & Stepping Stones
Jazz Improvisation: Stumbling Blocks & Stepping Stones
Curtis Winters, featuring Improv Pathways
Stumbling Block 1: I can’t talk about chord tones because of transposition confusion.
Solution: Use numbers to represent chord tones.
Stumbling Block 2: After working on scales & arpeggios the students still play random notes when improvising.
Solution: Practice and develop muscle memory with good jazz patterns.
Jazz Pattern 1
Jazz Pattern 2
Jazz Pattern 3
Stumbling Block 3: My students are uninterested or afraid of improvising.
Solution: Have conversations with scale/chord tones and do Group Improv exercises.
Stumbling Block 4: Since improvisation is a soloistic act it cannot be regularly experienced in a large class.
Solution: Let them all solo at the same time or in small groups.
Stumbling Block 5: All the chords and scales are confusing!
Solution: Start with one chord/scale until MASTERED, then add another and focus on connections
between them. Learn each new chord/scale in a systematic, step-by-step fashion.
Finding the “IV Chord” Scale
Stumbling Block 6: The theory and skills required to play over chord changes is too confusing and difficult!
Solution: Develop full understanding of essential vocabulary and concepts. Practice and memorize
Multi-chord Group Improv Exercises, Interchange Patterns, and Guide Tone Patterns.
Stumbling Block 7: The Blues Scale.
Solution: Don’t start with it, because it is not “tonal” and does not lead towards “playing the changes”.
The Blues Scale
Blues Scale Pattern
1
Altered Mixolydian Pattern
Stumbling Block 8: Each rhythm section instrument requires uniqe skills.
Solution: Teach everyone basic comping skills. Provide basic voicings for piano & guitar. Include the
drummer in Call & Response exercises.
Guitar Chord Voicings
Ensemble Comping Exercise
Comping
Rhythm 3
Whatever chord tone
you are playing here
Play the FLATTED
version here
And the SHARPED
version here
Piano 3-Note Voicings
Drum Set Timekeeping Patterns
Timekeeping 1
Timekeeping 2
Timekeeping 3
Timekeeping 4
Stumbling Block 9: My concert and festival schedule does not give me enough time to work on improvisation.
Solution: Start with a focus on improvisation and cover the essentials in the first 4-5 months.
Stumbling Block 10: I can’t model improvisation for my students.
Solution: Model prepared patterns and exercises...until you learn to improvise yourself.
7C
Stumbling Block 11: Transcribing is too hard!
Solution: Find simpler solos that use the same chords you are studying and transcribe them as a class.
Stumbling Block 12: Our performance songs don’t have the same chords that we have been studying.
Solution: Study chords that correlate with the current year’s repertoire, or choose repertoire based on the
chords you want to study (book: Teaching Improv in Your Jazz Ensemble by Zach Poulter).
Bonus Solution: At-A-Glance Fingering Charts
Guitar At-A-Glance Charts
Piano At-A-Glance Charts
Alto Sax At-A-Glance Charts
Trombone At-A-Glance Charts
2
Sample CD
Call & Response Patterns
Black numbers ( ) = I Chord (Concert B b7)
Striped numbers ( ) = IV Chord (Concert E b7)
White Numbers ( ) = V Chord (Concert F 7)
In each pattern, numbers are used to represent the scale
tones of the I, IV, and V Chords. Each level of patterns is
presented in a Call-and-Response format on the CD.
Level 1 - I Chord: 3 Notes
1A
1B
1E
1F
1C
Track 1
1D
Level 3 - I Chord: 6 Notes
3A
3B
3E
3F
3C
3D
3G
Level 5 - I Chord with Altered Tones
5A
5E
5B
Track 2
5C
5F
5D
5G
3
Track 3
Level 6 - IV Chord: 4 Notes
6A
6B
6C
Track 4
6D
6E
Level 7 - I Chord to IV Chord 7A
7B
7C
7D
Level 11 - V Chord: 4 Notes
11A
11B
11C
Track 5
Track 6
11D
11E
Level 12 - I Chord to V Chord
12A
12B
12C
12D
4
Track 7
Practice Tracks
Track 8
Track 9
I Chord - Concert Bb7
Track 10
IV Chord - Concert E b7
V Chord - Concert F7
Head Charts & Solo Sections
Track 11
Track 12
I Chord Swing
Solo Section
I Chord Rock
Solo Section
Track 14
I Chord Swing Chart:
It’s a Figure of Speech
Track 15
Track 13
I Chord Rock Chart:
One For The Road
Track 16
Blues Swing
Solo Section
Blues Swing Chart:
Backseat Driver Blues
All instrumental parts may be downloaded from
www.improvpathways.com for a limited time.
Solos for Transcribing
I Chord Swing Solos
Track 17 - Alto Sax Solo
Track 18 - Trombone Solo
Track 19 - Guitar Solo
Track 20 - Bass Solo
I Chord Rock Solos
Track 21 - Tenor Sax Solo
Track 22 - Piano Solo
Blues Swing Solos
Track 23 - Tenor Sax Solo
Track 24 - Trumpet Solo
Track 25 - Piano Solo
Improvising Pathway Samples
Track 26
Improvising 2:
Rhythmic Playing
1) Use scale tone 1 to echo the sentences
On Your
2) Use scale tones 2-3 to echo the sentences
Instrument:
b
3) Use scale tones 7-1-2-3 to have a conversation
Track 27
Original Pattern
Different Rhythm
1st Half of the Pattern
2nd Half of the Pattern
Improvising 4:
Single Pattern
Track 28
Improvising 6:
Telling A Story
Scenario 2
Scenario 1
You see someone you
want to meet, but don’t
know what to say.
You had a miserable
day, and must tell us
ALL about it!
Track 29
Improvising 9:
Fixing Mistakes
Fix These “Wrong” Notes
By Moving Up or Down:
5
Scenario 3
You just scored the
winning goal in the
final seconds!
Transcribing Pathway Sample
Track 30
Transcribing 4:
Trumpet Solo
1
Use your ear-to-hand coordination skills to
figure out the notes for the Trumpet Solo.
Transcribe the first 8 measures onto
the worksheet below and check your answers.
55
Transcribing Answer Key
Blank Transcribing Worksheets
may be downloaded from
www.improvpathways.com
on the PDF Downloads page.
Group Improv Pathway Samples
Track 31: Group Improv 1
Track 32: Group Improv 3
Riff 1:
Riff 1:
Riff 2:
Riff 2:
Bass:
Bass:
Guide Tone Pattern Sample
6
Track 33: Guide Tone Pattern 2

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