September 5, 2018

These 3 tips will help you improvise as а jazz musician

Listening, playing and targeting for better improvisation technique

As we attempt to better our skills in playing jazz music, we often ask ourselves ‘’How can I improve my ability to improvise?’’ Watching master players do that on the spot almost effortlessly, it makes us wish we could have their musical prowess. However, what exactly is improvisation to begin with?

Improvisation in its most open sense is anything we do in our everyday lives while walking, speaking, making choices, playing football – you name it. We improvise all the time and everything we make is colored by our personalities, temperament, circumstances, etc. Jazz improvisation is no different from that, Don Braden argues. We perform spontaneously or make something from whatever is available, in this case – our musical instruments.

don-braden-groovetalks-listening-playing-jazz

Don Braden, Jazz Workshop in Groove Atelier

We have compiled some recommendations for you to take in order to work on your improvisations effectively towards greater results over time.

LISTEN. That is first. Listen to jazz music and to the records of the master players. In that way, you can perceive the language of jazz music and as time goes on, you will be able to speak it more fluently – just like foreign languages! Listening and understanding jazz music also requires a very special skill – attention. In music, we are able to perceive and take in multiple voices and tunes at once and that is very important when trying to incorporate attention into selective listening that can be used for ear training. It works through isolating the different aspects of intervals, chords, and melodies through the learning process, while listening, and mastering them.

SEE ALSO: 20 Albums To Begin A Journey into Jazz

Okay, now we know the language basics. But, how to start speaking the jazz language more fluently? PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT. Play as often as you can – practice makes perfect! Make jazz solos as much as possible. Figure out how to play and try to find people with similar taste for music to play with. Under such circumstances, you will achieve best results. To support you in the process, we’d like to advise you to lean onto the music theory, unleashing the abilities to improvise.

“Music theory is simply a way to talk about the sound of music.”, Jazzadvise

Music is made from the interaction and cooperation of melody, harmony and rhythm. Each of these key elements plays an essential role in shaping the form of the final piece. Improvisation, considering what we are implying here, is the ability to manipulate and master your feeling of one or more of these three elements. Based on this knowledge, you may assume different approaches to your improvisational techniques – scalar improv (improvising melodies within a scale), arpeggio (independently playing the individual notes of a chord) and more techniques, which you can find here.

Another important thing to do is to WORK TOWARDS A GOAL. Improvisation itself always has some sort of a direction or a goal. Imagine the best version of yourself playing jazz – how would you like to see yourself in the future? That direction will become the compass for your passion and influence your motivation even more. It will help you stay focused and determined to move in a direction of growth.

If you are searching for some jazz artists to draw inspiration from, choose from an abundance of great ballads to listen to and play along, especially for saxophonists.

Enjoy the sound!

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August 22, 2018

Train your ears to unleash the jazz improviser in you

Listening and playing are the core of jazz experience

Let‘s say you‘ve done your homework, learned all the theories, finished all courses and you‘re finally confident in your jazz music education. Now is the time for your solo fly and you are looking for your own, unique approach to the endless opportunities of the big jazz scene. You want to find your own voice. As it turns out, in order to find it, you need to learn to hear it first. Your voice, that is.

Any master will tell you that learning to listen the right way, the deep, understanding way, is one of the paramount first steps in finding your path to greatness.

You need to listen intently (the “jazz ear training” method), ask yourself the right questions, know what and who to listen to, experiment with the knowledge you‘ve gained through listening.

According to Don Braden there are two main keys learning the soul of jazz:  listening a lot and playing a lot.

don-braden-groovetalks-listening-playing-jazz

Don Braden, Jazz Workshop in Groove Atelier

As in everything else in life – to really appreciate it, you have to know its core. In this case the first step is embracing the idea of jazz music as a collective art of expression. Know and hear your expressions and those of your band mates. Open up your ears and know the soul of what you want to express. Hear the voice of every other instrument playing beside you.

Listening can mean a lot of things – listening directly and checking out the masters; listening to yourself; open up your ears for the rhythm section – the foundation to everything that is the magic of jazz.

You need to learn to listen to music with intention and to connect your ear to your instrument  in order to become your own instrument. Because the melodies and rhythms that you improvise should come from the sound in your ear, the internal sound you hear and need to express.

What does intentional listening mean exactly?

Basically you set aside sacred time that you only listen, ingest and give it your full attention. Allow the music to become your main focus, meditate on it if you wish. The only place you want your conscious mind to be is on the music. Once you are there, you can channel your stream of consciousness to an internal dialogue: what song are you listening to; how is the song structured; can you identify the chord progression; who are the band members and do you recognize their sound; how does the song make you feel; what’s in its soul?

Other greatly efficient way of ear opening is to study a simple chord chart then find and listen how other musicians improvise the same melody. Find the differences, sense and most importantly hear the subtle nuances of seemingly the same tunes.

Each and every one of those musicians you admire has their own way of interpreting and expressing tunes blending them with different feelings, moods, views. Only when  you learn to hear these differences you will be able to make them in your own music, your own voice.

Once you hear that inner voice you’ll be able to find the musician inside of you – not the lessons, the right notes, the following of the blues form: just you and the melody in your ear.

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