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Beginning improvisation

ALBERTO BETANCOURT (albetan)

of your brain in your LH accompaniment so that you can put 95% of your brain into RH soloing. That is the secret that most of them dont know. All jazz substructure, as rhythm patterns, bass, chords, arpeggios, progressions, blocks, voicings, shells, and other elements, must be performed by subconscious, as conditioned reflexes. So your conscious mind will be free for creativity, doing new original melodies in real time. It is not strange that it seems very difficult to you... but you may begin to improvise with five easy steps:

Improvisation is the essence of jazz. How may we begin to improvise? We need a baggage of tools and skills before beginning to improvise, as dominion on scales, arpeggios, chords, modes, pentatonics... In improvisation you are creating spontaneously new music... you are composing in real time. Many musicians, excellent readers, can not improvise. Improvisation is a priviledge of some musicians. Why is it so? A great deal of musicians have all harmony rules and everything in their heads, but while playing they must burn all brains energy by thinking, counting time values, remembering voicings, modes, arpeggios, chords, bass, fingerings... and thers not energy for creativity. In a recent thread here our friend 7 said :you should only have to put 5%

STEP 1: Impro over seventh chords.


Play a seventh chord with left hand and create phrases only with chord notes:

Make phrases like question and answer... as in this example. Create many melodies using only C7 chord notes. Do same exercise in all seventh and minor seventh chords.

2 Take some of your favorite standards and improvise in this way over chords. Dont worry about rhythm... Play long chords as a church background. Our focus here is to develop creativity and skills to improvise melodies in real time. Did you not enjoy this step because you dont read music? Thats not a bug... Go to search engine in LearnJazzPiano (upwards at right corner) and write piano at sight selecting files. Dont you know chords, scales, arpeggios, modes? Please search scales and chords modal scales selecting files, and you will get all basic elements. All our melodies are sounding well because everything is consonant, working only with chord sounds. Be patient... spend some weeks in this step 1... the basis of your impro.

Step 2: Progressions:
Write chord progressions II V I in all tonalities and practise a lot. So you are doing free jazz over progressions or an elemental progressive jazz. In left hand use shells as in this example. Shells are two notes with root at bottom and third or seventh at top. For more info about it go to search engine and write: shells selecting files.

Create many melodies over this progression II V I in all tonalities. Improvise over your favorite standards in this style, playing melodies only with chord notes, and shells with left hand.... dont worry about rhythm. Now your perfomance is sounding cool. You are entering in jazz business. As in step 1, be patient and spend some weeks doing these exercises.

Step 3: Link chord notes:


Our melodies are sounding well, but we are limited to chord notes. Now we will progress linking chord notes with passing sounds. How to do it? Taking chord notes as pilots of a bridge, link them in the most natural way using passing notes between them. In other words we may play melodies

with any of 12 notes of chromatic scale as passing sounds while searching chord notes.

If we employ modal scales, our melodies will be more consonant... if we use strange notes, we will have more tension. EXAMPLE: Link notes C E G:

notes, playing any notes while searching it... and during this searching we are doing jazz.
EXERCISES: Perform exercises as in precedent steps, using passing sounds between chord notes. Dont worry about rhythm. Dont worry about scales or modes. May be you are creating new scales for jazz critics or for musicologists... let them to analyse your work... Be free and creative. Your formula is easy and practical: to search chord sounds while playing any

Now we have discovered an easy system to do jazz: We look for chord

notes.

Improvise over your favorite standards in this way. Be patient and spend some weeks in this step. You are progressing a lot.

Step 4: Pentatonic scales:


One of best tools for improvisation is the use of pentatonic scales. If you play a diatonic scale C D E F G A B and omit 4 and 7, you have a pentatonic scale: C D E G A. Practise all 12 pentatonic scales.

You may play any pentatonic scale against any chord... so you have here a powerful tool for improvisation. For more info about this stuff go to search engine and write pentatonic scales , selecting files.
In LearnJazzPiano you will find two nice exercises of pentatonics on SATIN DOLL and on GIANT STEPS. Please write in search engine pentatonics selecting files. Improvise with pentatonics over your favorite standards. Spend other few weeks in this step... your progress is great.

Step 5: Rhythm:
In precedent steps we did not worry about rhythm. Now we are prepared to study it... Most of our standards have time signature of 4/4,,, lets play them as march. Remember beginnings of jazz: New Orleans, Ragtime, Armstrong, Harlem... everything was played as marches. Play 4 beats in each measure so: 1: bass 2: Chord 3: bass 4: chord

If you have not practise in performing rhythm in piano, please download a file that will help a lot, writing in search engine time values, selecting files EXERCISES: Practise all exercises of precedent steps with rhythm.

Syncopation:
Main characteristic of jazz is syncopation. It consists in attacking notes before downbeats.

In this example of Satin Doll you hear upbeat notes very excitant.

An eight note in upbeat slured to same note in downbeat of strong time is a syncope and it has a great force of excitation. 1 and 3 are strong times.
This is one of secrets of jazz. When you play a military march with accents in down beats, you come to last bar and everything was finished... But when you perform a syncopated standard with a group, nobody likes to finish, and each musician is anxious for improvising a chorus... all guys are excited by syncopation. If you did all these exercises and have studied this stuff carefully, you are making cool jazz and so you are prepared to enjoy all marvels and resources of LearnJazzPiano. Good luck an enjoy improvisation, the essence of jazz.