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Jazz Improvisation for Beginners

Hi everyone,

Having taught improve for about 10 years at university level, I've developed my own thoughts and approach on the topic. My initial question when I was asked to do so was, "can you teach jazz?". What I decided over time was not to shy away from learning existing lines, but to take them on yourself. People don't always realize that the great soloists are rarely bringing up anything overly new in their solos. It's just that all the little bits and pieces that they "shed" for hours and hours come out very naturally and well connected. (ballads are for the musicality moments).

So, I used to give them some classic ii - V - I patterns, or some classic be bop lines, and have them learn them in a number of keys. (still nothing new to many readers i'm sure).

But what for the beginner? The classic be bop scale patterns often start on the 3rd or b7th of the chd, a lot of Dixieland licks use the b3 to 3 sound, there's a cool ii V I line that starts (on a Cmin chd for eg) B D C (and then up the min scale). But if you can't instinctively find that 3rd, or the b7, or the maj7 on a chord, it's going to be tough going for the rest of the job. I see the consequences in many students who learn a cool fast line, but have no idea of the chord they're playing over, and in fact play it over chords where it doesn't work. They missed, or didn't have the patience to learn the fundamentals.
So the material that I've developed for my beginning students now involves many small licks over, say, the 3rd of the chord, and then playing the same line but transposed for the next chord and so on. They gain both a harmonic strength on the chords used, and some building blocks for more involved lines down the track.

I've made a small youtube clip demonstrating my method for beginners, and it gives you a chance on your horn to try it out. Love to know what you think. (at least "like" the clip if you think it's got merit)


or go straight to Piglet Music for a bit of a look at piglet music.com

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