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Posted By: Nahum Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/15/18 10:44 AM
Many paths lead to mastering the skill of improvisation, but by and large, there are 4 main ways:

1. learning by ear and/or written transcriptions;
2. preliminary study of chords and harmonic patterns;
3. preliminary study of scales;
4. preliminary study of small structures - riffs, motives.

Of course, from the very first moment the question arises: where is it preferable to start, and what is its advantage. I would like to hear opinions on this issue.
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/15/18 08:05 PM
The starting position of students studying improvisation can differ dramatically - from complete ignorance in theory and harmony, accompanied by a weak possession of the instrument, to those who graduated from musical academy in the piano class, but who nevertheless cannot improvise; what usually happens to those who have studied the musical notation of (classical) music more than the music itself.
Among the above four learning paths, two relate to theory, and the other two to the language itself.

The first way - in the presence of good hearing and memory - generally does not require knowledge in theory and harmony; in the same way, a little child learns to talk by ear without knowing anything about grammar and syntax.
If, in addition, there is a good voice, then even the preliminary ability to play any instrument is not required.

The second way already requires possession of the instrument to some extent in order to play chords and build pieces of melody around them (that's how I learned). The melody is created from combinations of arpeggios and ornamentation around chord pitches.

The third way in recent decades is the most popular: the study of diatonic scales on the white keys and linking them with chords. The melody is created by combining fragments of scales.

The fourth way is initially builds bridges between music and human speech using only black keys (the african way) . .
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/16/18 07:07 AM
In fact, the fourth way is based on the beginner's advanced skills developed over a long period of time: natural musicality, the ability to sing and talk, and the ability to press keys in one or another order. Everything else outside the student is extremely limited to pentatonic on the black keys. In such conditions, any child can begin to improvise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCAyyNQzqUM&list=UU6fqDmZ4pyKBMwRtE4VUMvw&index=54

The main problem on this path: acquaintance with speech melody , its identification and transfer to the instrument. This can be a problem even with professional pianists - nobody taught them that.
Posted By: Simon_b Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/16/18 09:28 AM
Hi Nahum

Thanks for another fascinating set of posts.

The way I learnt, and still use to a large extent is option 2. A friend explained to me (eons ago) that you don't need to be able read all the music on the page. If there are chords there (generally for guitar when I initially started) you base what you're doing on those. So simplistically for those who don't know, if I see an E guitar chord shape/box I know E, G# & B will fit in an improvisation, or to play an accompaniment. Understanding that also helps you to see inversions quicker.

Initially I used this for simple blues and rock tunes, mostly playing on a rubbish Elka home organ I had back in the late 70s. Of course since that time I've expanded my chord knowledge, and can see complicated chords both on the keyboard and within written music now and instantly play them.

To a lesser degree I've used option 3 and tried to various types of scales and modes and apply them in Jazz.

I certainly wouldn't claim that the way I learnt is the best way. It just happened, more by luck than anything
I wish I had a better ear...... or more of them!!

Cheers
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/16/18 02:18 PM
Originally Posted by Simon_b


Initially I used this for simple blues and rock tunes, mostly playing on a rubbish Elka home organ


Aha, that way you learned the pentatonic and blues scale!

Quote
The way I learnt, and still use to a large extent is option 2...I certainly wouldn't claim that the way I learnt is the best way. It just happened, more by luck than anything


Quote
To a lesser degree I've used option 3 and tried to various types of scales and modes and apply them in Jazz.


There is no reason to think that one of the options closes the way for others. At the end, everyone meets in the same place; the only question is - in what order? This is not an arithmetic equation, where the sum does not change from a change in the places of the terms. Here time can vary from half an hour (sic!) to many years.

After 4 lessons : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf6OxbXVGjg&t=4s


After 3 lessons : https://yadi.sk/d/elUvDZpG0CUKEw
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/18/18 08:55 AM

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/18/18 10:16 AM
The path of combining the melodic line with speech can be heard here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KrLzQa1ygU 06:18 - The World Is Going Wrong

The violinist plays simultaneously with vocals, exactly keeping a rhythm, intonation, breathing and articulation. Since the melodic line is a series of riffs, this format is most suitable for a beginner with a musical ear, acquaintance with the blues scale (or pentatonic) and a certain mastery of the instrument.
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/20/18 08:38 AM

The impact of preliminary storytelling on the meaningfulness of musical improvisation.

https://yadi.sk/d/F432__kjOJd0PA

2 records of blues improvisation at 5th lesson of the same beginner student (still confused in form ) : the first - improvisation completely without preparation; the second - after asking the student to tell a story about himself within a minute. One can feel immediately sound character change , more organized thinking with clear breathing between phrases and the absence of unnecessary notes .
Who can tell what is happening inside this black box under the influence of the spoken language? Dr. Charles Limb has not investigated this yet ...
Posted By: Ojustaboo Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/28/18 08:28 PM
Improvisation is something I need to learn.

Oddly, I improvise much much better when I'm not concentrating (probably because I lack the theory?)

I have a stand alone digital piano that I'm now using for most of my piano practice.

I also have a very cheap 88 note midi keyboard, and on top of the midi 88 note keyboard, I have a sliding shelf thing with a synth like midi keyboard on (and a ton of VST midi synths etc).

If I play the 88 note midi without pushing the synth kB out of the way, I am effectively playing the 88 note keyboard blind as it's hidden from view.

like in this pic

[Linked Image]

When I do this, I manage to come up with all sorts of interesting things that fit well.

When I have it so that I've pushed the top keyboard out of the way, hence can see what notes/chords I'm about to play on the 88 note,

as in this pic

[Linked Image]


my brain lacks the confidence to experiment (not sure if that makes any sense), and I find myself much much more limited in my improvisation
Posted By: Rob Mullins Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/30/18 09:05 AM
Improvisation starts with memorization of basic phrases in the idiom. If you want to learn how to improvise jazz, you need to study jazz melody lines, and for awhile, maybe several years. I used to sit with my cassette player and just try to write down everything that Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins were playing. When I got frustrated with the cassette player, I would just listen to a phrase, and stop the player. Then try and play it back exactly as the masters did. A lot goes into it, but it pays off over time. There are literally thousands of youtube videos on how to do this now. Youtube is your friend.
All the best and good luck with your music. and Happy New Year!
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 12/30/18 11:08 AM
Originally Posted by Rob Mullins
Improvisation starts with memorization of basic phrases in the idiom.

I would like to know what you mean by "basic phrases in the idiom. "
Posted By: Tim P Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/18/19 11:52 PM
I had a bit of an epiphany when I thought of improvisation as "spontaneous composition." I noticed most musical and enthralling improvisations I heard developed and expanded on ideas, created and resolved tension, just as good compositions.

I recall studying Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson solos when I realized this. For instance, Rollins' playing on "Blue 7" and Henderson's on "Song for My Father" (Horace Silver album) start with very simple motifs and brilliantly build.

So with that in mind I decided to see what I could come up with if giving myself some more time. I took the chord changes of a piece on which I was working and would write out some solos. I'd typically start with a simple motif, then try to expand and develop it over a chorus or two. (I typically did this by holding down a chord on a piano and playing the solo ideas with a saxophone, as that was my main instrument). I learned quite a bit and discovered a lot of things I liked, and a lot I didn't. I never played a written-out solo in a performance, but I used a lot of the ideas, and I believe my thinking this way significantly improved my soloing.
Posted By: Groove On Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/19/19 12:55 AM
Originally Posted by Nahum
I would like to know what you mean by "basic phrases in the idiom.”

My sense is that “basic phrases in the idiom” is similar to #4 on your list (quoted below). In other words, small musical structures that are characteristic of a genre.

Originally Posted by Nahum
... Many paths lead to mastering the skill of improvisation ... by and large, there are 4 main ways:
1. learning by ear and/or written transcriptions;
2. preliminary study of chords and harmonic patterns;
3. preliminary study of scales;
4. preliminary study of small structures - riffs, motives.


For myself, my blues-jazz teacher had me start me with a combination of:
#1 (learning by ear) and #4 (study of small structures/“phrases in the idiom”), which then became #2 - a study of the underlying chords and harmonic patterns.

#3 - the study of scales, has happened more by osmosis rather than targeted study.
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to go next? - 01/19/19 10:36 AM
Originally Posted by Groove On

My sense is that “basic phrases in the idiom” is similar to #4 on your list (quoted below). In other words, small musical structures that are characteristic of a genre.

.
Now I understand, thanks! I would call them elementary motives or submotives.
====================================================================================
Non-structural melodic thinking through chords and scales is like demonstrating the stage of plowing up the soil and sowing dried seed as the music itself. How many students and not only fall through on it! Structural thinking is already a musical harvest. Question: what next?
We will never forget that the improviser is a personal story teller through musical (or off musical) sounds. In classical music in a broad sense, the story is sung, also on the instrument; in jazz, it is expressed partly by dance, partly by singing, and partly by prose; historically gradually converging with the atonal Sprechgesang of Schoenberg , but it's not for students yet . What yes for students - understanding the difference between the melodic structures of musical poetry or dancing ; and musical prose; and I'm only talking about jazz.
Posted By: Cade Re: Learn to improvise - where to go next? - 01/22/19 01:08 PM
My preference would be #3, scales and building off of scales (I often understand arpeggios and riffs as glorified scale variations), because (for me at least) they get the music theory into my fingers better than anything else.

Scale practice is the vehicle that for any place I am in a song, it directs me where I can go, and if I play around the key notes or go into increasingly out scales, it can still sound good without sounding canned. And, the best part, the harmony largely comes for free & right at hand when you get the forms into your fingers; you can't say the same the other way around. And of course scales build both your technique and your harmonic mind, e.g., if you're playing a game like shifting scales with quick changes that progresively speed up. It also works well in conjunction with #2; they're mutually supportive, but scales is the one that really gets it into my fingers & mind.

By ear is right out for me because my mind doesn't work like that.
And learning by small structures leads my playing to sound very canned, and probably hurts my technique and harmonic mind if anything since you're internalizing shortcuts.
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/22/19 08:53 PM
Originally Posted by Cade
.
And learning by small structures leads my playing to sound very canned, and probably hurts my technique and harmonic mind .
The study of small structures has its advantages: first, the novice improviser quickly gets rid of unnecessary notes, and the rest fill up with meaning. In this regard, I recall the infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type any given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare (but this is, of course, a wild exaggeration laugh ).
Secondly, even the smallest structure contains a number of elements necessary for the most important in improvisation - motivic development:
Rhythm + articulation
Melody as a sequence of intervals
Melodic intonation (contour)
The location of the initial note of structure in height
The location of the initial note of structure in time inside the bar
Overall range of structure
Number of notes
Notes order
Melodic skeleton
Harmony
Scales
Posted By: Cade Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/24/19 02:19 AM
I see your point but let me ask a follow up question on that note, since I may not be the only person that has this kind of issue with it.

Scales and chords/harmony practice are easy for me practice as I can largely invent my own practice material endlessly, with scale variations, constructing voicings, and running them through changes increasingly rapidly, etc. I never run out of new material to practice and I feel like I'm always making progress.

Small structures almost by definition are things one has to take from sources and (I feel) can't just invent, aside from simple things like arpeggios or set riffs, and consciously throwing them into tunes. The biggest source I recall going through was something like one of David Baker's Bebop books has 100 bebop patterns, and I'd play through them just to get the movements into my fingers. (I'll also play written transcriptions for this reason.) It's just that the patterns don't stick very well and I don't know how to "make progress" with them in the same way as scales, voicings, & running through changes, since I don't know where else to go with patterns than repeating them or consciously placing them in tunes. I recognize that something's lacking in my playing by not having structure beyond knowing where I am in the changes, but it's harder to know how to fill that gap, or put more concretely, how to fill practice sessions with new and progressive material that consistently fills that gap over time.
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/24/19 02:05 PM
Originally Posted by Cade
It's just that the patterns don't stick very well and I don't know how to "make progress" with them in the same way as scales, voicings, & running through changes, since I don't know where else to go with patterns than repeating them or consciously placing them in tunes.

You are not the only one - many students, working hard on chords and scales, suddenly discover that their improvisations do not sound like the transcriptions of famous artists. Getting started on improvisation with chords and scales is the easiest way; over time, however, it turns into some kind of laziness (also transcription). And, of course, the musical result isn't the one that someone would like to receive.
Originally Posted by Cade


Small structures almost by definition are things one has to take from sources and (I feel) can't just invent, aside from simple things like arpeggios or set riffs, and consciously throwing them into tunes.

The first thing I teach students is to evaluate every sound they play, like every word they say, worth its weight in gold. If you combine them with verbal text to create a small structure, it will also become valuable.
Here is an example on blues form : I randomly got the phrase Today I feel the blues stronger than ever!


[Linked Image]

Then created a speech melody - by sensation; and then began to modify short pieces, and did not forget to insert a descending pentatonic scale, the function of which is the transition between two short phrases.

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/24/19 08:26 PM
Originally Posted by Cade
The biggest source I recall going through was something like one of David Baker's Bebop books has 100 bebop patterns, and I'd play through them just to get the movements into my fingers. (I'll also play written transcriptions for this reason.) It's just that the patterns don't stick very well and I don't know how to "make progress" with them in the same way as scales, voicings, & running through changes, since I don't know where else to go with patterns than repeating them or consciously placing them in tunes.
Innovation in phrasing of bebop has become the rhythmic basis of drum solo in melody, so the typical phrase of bebop consists of several elementary patterns, each of which can be used for development in accordance with the above parameters.
Posted By: Groove On Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/27/19 04:43 AM
Originally Posted by Nahum
Here is an example on blues form : I randomly got the phrase [b]T[i]oday I feel the blues stronger than ever.

Love it, nice example. laugh
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/27/19 09:52 AM
Originally Posted by Groove On

Love it, nice example. laugh
Thanks,Groove On!

Due to the large number of trees (scales, chords, rhythmic patterns), the main thing is sometimes overlooked: musical logic. First it is worth remembering the mechanism of verbal logic. Here are three statements and a conclusion:

If it is snowing, it is cold
If it is cold, John is wearing a coat
It is snowing
Therefore, John is wearing a coat

Here the words snowing , cold , John , wearing , coat are repeated twice. These repetitions provide a logical connection between the statements and the logic of the whole structure (I do not touch upon the question of its truth - music is in no way connected with this ). The logic of musical construction is based on a similar principle of a chain of musical utterances containing repetitions, changes, and some balance between them.
My example again with designations of repetitive elements by a similar color:

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Groove On Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/27/19 11:24 AM
Originally Posted by Nahum
The logic of musical construction is based on a similar principle of a chain of musical utterances containing repetitions, changes, and some balance between them.

Part of the problem is that the words for these ideas can obscure them.

For example, in 'classical' music the same ideas might be referred to as development of motif -> sequences -> transformations. High-sounding names indeed, but it can be quickly brought down to earth if we just call it a lick -> repeats -> variations. But many times, these simple ideas get caught up in a tangled spider-web of words.

From your original list of 4 approaches, I think #4 is the one that is the easiest to learn but is also the most obscure for the average person, even though it is technically taught to children in nursery rhymes and beginner pieces/songs.

1. learning by ear and/or written transcriptions;
2. preliminary study of chords and harmonic patterns;
3. preliminary study of scales;
4. preliminary study of small structures - riffs, motives.
Posted By: Groove On Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/27/19 11:29 AM
Originally Posted by Nahum
If it is snowing, it is cold
If it is cold, John is wearing a coat
It is snowing
Therefore, John is wearing a coat

Okay, so if the MOTIF/LICK is "If It Is"
- the repeats of the motif would be the SEQUENCES
- and the MOTIF with a modifier like 'cold' or 'snowing' would be a TRANSFORMATION/VARIATION
- adding "John is wearing a coat" would officially make it a PHRASE/RIFF because of the ending cadence
- And I guess the whole "poem" would be a MELODY?
Posted By: Nahum Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/27/19 11:55 AM
Originally Posted by Groove On

Okay, so if the MOTIF/LICK is "If It Is"
- the repeats of the motif would be the SEQUENCES
- and the MOTIF with a modifier like 'cold' or 'snowing' would be a TRANSFORMATION/VARIATION
- adding "John is wearing a coat" would officially make it a PHRASE/RIFF because of the ending cadence
- And I guess the whole "poem" would be a MELODY?

I agree that at the basis of verbal structure you can build a melody . I did it in the past on improvisation lessons in real time .
I am having big problems learning to improvise on the piano, as many of my posts here (asking for music for popular songs) will attest. Ive been playing for 8 years now, did ABRSM grade 4 and can play some Joplin rags. But sit me in front of a piano with no music and the best i can muster is playing a I, IV, V progression, 4 to the bar, in C. It is, and sounds, boring.

Ive just brought an electric guitar. After 2 weeks I can do a little improvisation around some basic chord shapes of E, A, D, F, C, G. And i can do a bit relating to power chords all the way down the neck, and some repetitive soloing shapes again all the way down the neck off any base note. I can whack the amp up, add some distortion and reverb and it sounds half decent.

I am wondering whether the way a guitar works (in terms of the hand position patterns that repeat all over the place) makes it easier to improvise on a guitar?
Posted By: Simon_b Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 01/27/19 02:59 PM
Hi

I don't think either instrument is easier. For most people I suspect the instrument they take up first is the one they are most likely to be able improvise on. Not always the case I'm sure, but that would seem the most likely answer. In my case I started Piano when I was about 8 or 9, but didn't start learning guitar until I was in my mid to late 20s. I wanted to play blues guitar as I'm a ok blues Pianist, but it never clicked for me, so I stopped after a few years. I started guitar again a few years ago (more than 25 years later) and am really enjoying it, but improvising I find very difficult.

What you're doing on the guitar has as much to do with the different sounds and tonal qualities you can get on the guitar/amp as with improvisation. And not having heard what your I IV V "four to the bar" in C sounds like, I can't comment on its merit or otherwise. I like playing blues in C on the Piano! Sometimes simple is great.

When we talk about improvising on the Piano, generally that is the province of Jazz Pianists, but I don't get the impression from this post, or your other post, that I replied to, that Jazz Piano is really of interest to you? You say you want to able to accompany yourself, something like Elton John does. That is a different discipline to Jazz Piano, and there is no need to be a fluent improviser to do that.

From what you've said in the 2 posts I've seen, I think you need to be clear about what you really want to do. And then you need to find a way to achieve that. Given that neither chords, lead sheets or transcriptions seem to be of help to you, the conclusion I've reached is that your best option is to find a Piano teacher.

Cheers
Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

I don't think either instrument is easier. For most people I suspect the instrument they take up first is the one they are most likely to be able improvise on. Not always the case I'm sure, but that would seem the most likely answer. In my case I started Piano when I was about 8 or 9, but didn't start learning guitar until I was in my mid to late 20s. I wanted to play blues guitar as I'm a ok blues Pianist, but it never clicked for me, so I stopped after a few years. I started guitar again a few years ago (more than 25 years later) and am really enjoying it, but improvising I find very difficult.

What you're doing on the guitar has as much to do with the different sounds and tonal qualities you can get on the guitar/amp as with improvisation. And not having heard what your I IV V "four to the bar" in C sounds like, I can't comment on its merit or otherwise. I like playing blues in C on the Piano! Sometimes simple is great.

When we talk about improvising on the Piano, generally that is the province of Jazz Pianists, but I don't get the impression from this post, or your other post, that I replied to, that Jazz Piano is really of interest to you? You say you want to able to accompany yourself, something like Elton John does. That is a different discipline to Jazz Piano, and there is no need to be a fluent improviser to do that.

From what you've said in the 2 posts I've seen, I think you need to be clear about what you really want to do. And then you need to find a way to achieve that. Given that neither chords, lead sheets or transcriptions seem to be of help to you, the conclusion I've reached is that your best option is to find a Piano teacher.

Cheers





I mean, improv isn't really improv I guess. Its piecing together previously learnt patterns, in various chords. I started with Authur Migliaza's boogie woogie book a few months back, and I learned a few licks. But it still doesn't teach you how to just sit there and play something off the top of your head. Maybe I just haven't got the musical ear it takes to do that (I didn't start learning till age 30). I mean, as an example, I can play Joplins The Entertainer pretty well, and I know what a rag should sound like, and I know what the beat should sound like, but if you were to ask me to make a simple ragtime progression up on the spot I couldn't do it.

Having thought about it a little, the biggest problem I have is knowing what chords go together. The only ones I can quote off the top of my head are C,F,G and D,G,A as I,IV,V progressions. Thats pretty poor after having done 4 grades and played songs in most keys in the 8 years Ive been playing, but I don't know where to go to get that knowledge from. Rythyms are similar issue, Ive played all manner of time signatures over the years but sit me in front of a piano and all i can do is some 4/4 on the beat block chords. Its woeful lol.
Posted By: krewster Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 02/01/19 04:28 AM

Cudos Cade for ploughing thru that “...100 bebop patterns...” book (was that in all keys?) and sympathies that “...the patterns don’t stick very well...”

By chance, I started the chore of trying to solo like a sax player after having first memorized to blindness (starting up/down from any point) the 12 so-called Barry Harris scales.

Over-applying the concept that the RH can play in the BH scale 1/2 step above the root note of each LH chord, it was recognized that the RH soloing could change keyscale on most quarter notes and that the first, basic pattern-sentences would consist of any 4 noted word/pattern in such a scale above the ii chord followed by any 4 noted word in such a scale above the V.

Several routes for later expansion present themselves without application of much brainpower (e.g., lengthening these 4 noted “words” to 6 or 8 noted words), while others may tax the brain (e.g., doubling sentence-length by supplementing each used keyscale word with a word from one of its diminished sister scales).

This is all to say that on-the-fly recognition of the name of each keyscale from which your upcoming RH word-pattern is sourced (e.g., on a quarter noted level) seems to circumvent, at least for me, your issue of the “patterns don’t stick very well.”
Posted By: Cade Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 02/03/19 02:16 PM
Re: Baker, yes, all keys, and in fact I typed & printed them out in all keys just so I could practice them that way.
I just start at the top and go down the list for 30 of them or so, then start from that point the next time. It also has the virtue of having me do technical practice in all keys equally (eventually), but a good heavy sustained dose for each key.

The other thing I'll do is play through transcribed Bird solos straight (from his Omnibook), just for pure sightreading & technical practice.
And similarly, I just start at the first tune and do two or three. Then I'll start from the next tune the next time.

I actually start my practices with the so-called Barry Harris scales, up and down the whole 88 -- maj, dom7, & double-diminished (whole-half), sometimes the alt scale, in all 12 keys, then the chromatic. And each practice session I'll start on the next note (the 1, the 2, the 3)...
You can see my usual pattern. That sums up what I'd call my technical practice.

I like this advice you and Naham are giving me about patterns & small structure. It's helping to demystify what I thought it meant. I tended to think it meant phrases or ways of phrasing that are thematic or idiomatic, when you play a certain style so much it gets ingrained. The easy analogy is blues playing, where really typical lines get ingrained relatively easily as it lends itself to that. But that wasn't happening as naturally in other styles. But I like the analogy to literal phrases (linguistically) you are both giving me... It reminded me of the "singing method", where you basically just improvise a riff by singing it out and practice having your fingers be able to follow what you sing. It's very natural for me to sing improvised lines roughly in the way you're suggesting (although I'll think more explicitly about the structure and relationship of lines from now on). It was something I was trying to figure out how to work into my practice recently. And at least in my mind, it fits perfectly with this linguistic-inspired method of naturally voicing out a phrase, and then building on that phase in logical or almost conversational ways. And I can start to see how to develop it over time with ramping up the complexity of the patterns and relationships, at least I think. I'll try to work something like this into my practice sessions for a while and possibly report my findings of how it goes after a good bit. Thanks all!
Posted By: krewster Re: Learn to improvise - where to start? - 02/04/19 03:34 AM

Thanks for the further details Cade (your obvious enjoyment of scale-focused doodling feels like a kindred spirit and I second how important it is to demystify a path to achievement of any semblance of a solo-sax-like RH since, otherwise, the motivation to reach an acceptable conclusion to this semi-autistic ambition can wither so easily).

Your mentioned “singing method” for demystifying never came to mind for use by me because it would have to be some pretty sophisticated scatting talent to weave back/forth through tightly packed series of minor 3rds and augmented 5ths.

Instead (seeing it all by hindsight) to demystify, I relied on a formulaic key (i) memorizing only the 12 minor BH scales usable with a root note 1/2 step above the root note of the LH chord (so e.g., over a B7 dominant, the scale of C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, A, B), and eventually (ii) switching every quarter beat to another 4-noted word in a different one of those 12 scales.

One example is for RH to change scales just in a 4-up, 4-up, 4-up, 4-up (so e.g., the minor BH scales rooted in G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab can be used to play the G scale’s Eb, E, F#, G, leading right into the C scale’s Ab, A, B, C (leading further into the F scale’s 4 noted word, etc.). For a quick though imperfect taste, this 6 word/24 noted sentence can be used as a solo over a walking bass for the head of St. Thomas in the key of C (more mileage comes from mixing up word types in each successive keyscale).

Another example is your famous mentioned blues riff which is label-able with reference to only two of these minor BH scales (e.g., in the lead-up half-measure which moves your LH from C7 to F7, the RH can play overlapped pattern-words from the minor BH scales rooted in Ab and Db (e.g., the simplest would be G-Ab-Bb-B and then A-Bb-C-Db).

All the more complex keyscale sequences besides 4-up, 4-up, do not change the basic truth of this particular path to demystification: no pattern recall is needed, rather the big effort is in the second-to-second mental recalling of the next pre-decided and pre-mentally-mapped keyscale (as this effort becomes automatic, the fun of the improv is then in deciding on the fly from among the 8 notes in the next keyscale, which word pattern to use, as a line up to the next keyscale’s word pattern).
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