If you are reading this article, probably you have already asked yourself how to improvise in Jazz.
All musicians who are hooked on Pentatonic scale fear Jazz, because this style has many harmonic variations, far from the tonal songs that the “virtuous pentamusician” are used to.
But there is always someone who is hooked on Pentatonic and wants to leave this limited life and learn Jazz. This mission, though, goes down the drain in most of the cases, due the fact that Jazz looks like a thing from another planet. And this is why we are here! We want break this myth that Jazz is not for all!
We will soon create a topic which explains what characterizes Jazz, its rhythm and everything. But we can give good news for you who studied and followed all the levels until now: you are already able to improvise in Jazz!
That’s it, but before jumping for joy, calm down, because is yet needed training and dedication.
Characteristics of Jazz
We will not give you a new concept in this topic; we will just emphasize some important points:
- Jazz is, normally, rich in cadences and modulations.
- The rhythmic pulse of Jazz asks a solo that follows the swing.
We will cover in this topic the first item. Later we will create a topic about the second item.
So let’s go. To improvise well in modulations, we already know that is important to master with confidence the Greek modes, in a way that you could stay in the same region of your instrument even if the song changes its tonality.
For example, let’s say that a Jazz song started in C major and in the third barline the tonality changed to D major. If you were using C Ionian, it would be interesting to stay in the same region of the instrument, changing from the C Ionic to C Mixolydian, instead of “jumping” to F Ionic. Try to stay with your hand static during these transitions so that the improvisation can flow, without being like a “deer jumping” and searching Ionic modes in each tonality.
This is the way of developing a behavior and a posture of someone who plays Jazz. In relation to cadences, train a lot the improvisation in cadences II – V – I, exploring the resources that we have to the dominant V7, specially to the Melodic minor scale and altered scale (its sister), because Jazz musicians use and abuse these two scales.
Spending time improvising in a cadence II – V – I will make you used to this sonority and with an immediate reflex, a reaction that phrasing automatically develops when faced with this cadence. The advantage of this is that Jazz uses this cadence, so you will recognize immediately what is happening all time, and of course, you will behave really well in these progressions. After that, train improvisation in other cadences less usual than this, like deceptive cadences, to learn how to react well before some surprises.
Observation: when we say “cadence II – V – I”, you should have the idea of the sequence: subdominant – dominant – tonic, in other words, we can have other chords assuming these functions too, as the cadence IV – V – I, for example.
Having these two concepts that we commented well trained (modulation and cadences); you will find your place in any Jazz song.
How to improvise in Jazz with jazzy phrasing
To have a jazzy phrasing, listen to some musicians of this style and notice the “enthusiasm” they play the notes. Practice a lot the Bebop scale. Choose some Jazz songs and train improvisation in them. In the part of “examined songs” here in the website, we will be putting some classics of Jazz with comments. Practice them. The results will not delay to appear. Try to practice these concepts of this backing track (download the file): Jazztrain.gpro
This base is full of cadences II – V – I. Practice until you feel yourself comfortable with this context.
Soon you will feel yourself comfortable to Jazz, and this will enrich your musical vision in a surprising way!
Go to: Reharmonization
Back to: Module 11