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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: Playing too "in"
Category: Improvisation/Soloing
From: Jazz Online (sf,ca)

I have worked long and hard at playing jazz-blues changes. I have become quite decent at applying the blues-scale, dorian and Mixolydian sounds together over each chord in the blues. I am at a point where it all sound too "in"--too predictable. What do you think I should start applying next?

Pat’s Answer:

learning the "grammar" of which chord scales to choose and then how to use that information in an effective way is the first essential (and no matter what anyone will ever tell you, unavoidable) step to learning to tell substantial and detailed stories as an improvisor. the language of improvisation, particularly as advanced through the last half of this century by charlie parker and john coltrane, is a subject that requires lots of hours of study to understand and absorb. however, the fundamental thing of figuring out which notes fit on which chord and why is actually pretty easy. sometimes i see people thinking of it as being this daunting task when in fact i think you could compare it to learning a foreign language- it's hard, but not THAT hard. there are excellent materials out there now to help you too. just get a downbeat or almost any jazz magazine and you'll find dozens of books and materials there marketed by people like jamey aebersold to get you thinking and studying.

you really do have to learn ALL the basics first. i always encourage people to be able to improvise just using the chord tones themselves too. with just the 3, 4 or 5 notes of basic harmony suggested by the actual chord, a good improvisor can find lots of things to play. sometimes the scale thing messes people up too cause they THINK of it as a scale- it's really just a set of available tones. better to practice them out of order.

for "outside" conceptions of note choices, i would recommend highly dave liebman's recent book that addresses in detail the idea of a chromatic approach to improvisation and gives lots of great examples of how to open up you ears and brain to ways of having all 12 notes available all the time, which i think is the goal that we all shoot for.