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How connecting phrases in improvisation

tommasotommaso ROMA-ITALYNew
edited August 2006 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 149
Hi all, my problem refers to improvisation over chord progression.
How can I string together the ideas, that sound good over single chords, in a whole musical phrase, avoiding that fragmented feeling of single motifs? I try to apply the model of the answer-question and other guidelines to connect my lines, but still the result does not sound as an entity with a complete musical sense.
Any help is greatly appreciated.
Thanks.
P.S. I have a certain knowledge oj jazz theory and I've been playing the guitar for several years now (no as a pro)
Grazie Django!
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Comments

  • woodshedderwoodshedder FlorenceNew
    Posts: 17
    try this, sounds silly but really works: use your mouth like a trumpet and play solo bits over chord changes, then pick them out on your guitar. this is kinda where you wanna be when you're improvising ( imho ) ...play what you hear, not what you think.

    anyway, hope this helps.
  • KcoxKcox Montreal, QCNew
    Posts: 110
    One thing my guitar teacher has been trying to get me to do as an exercise is to think not in licks over single chords but as transitioning between chords. He has me take songs and chop them up into two chord blocks and I have to try creating phrases that move between/link up those arpeggio shapes.

    Not sure if that helps your problem, but I though I'd throw it out there.

    Kevin
  • NEvansNEvans Austin, TxNew
    Posts: 18
    I read this somewhere, and I think Joe Pass said it, but I could be way off the mark. the basic idea was to take the chords to a song and play a only in quarter notes and only from the arpeggios of the chords, then move to eight notes and on and on and try to connect the chords as seamlessly as possible. Try different variations, maybe sticking to a particular pattern every time that is weird compared to what you'd usually play. Eventually the idea is that all of this will get your ear and hand used to which transitions sound good without working out licks that sound contrived and have to be stuck in. I've never been patient enough to try it out for long, but maybe it'll help.
  • CalebFSUCalebFSU Tallahassee, FLModerator Made in USA Dell Arte Hommage
    Posts: 557
    Yeah the quarter notes thing works. That is a technique we use here at FSU. I know Marcus Roberts advocates it. (Something like if you can't play quarter notes from the chord how are you going to be expected to improvise anything hip?). It does work although i never totally converted to it. I just would use it as a tool when I was shedding on a new tune.
    Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard.
  • Bill McNeillBill McNeill Seattle, Washington, USANew
    Posts: 70
    For starters, this thread is helpful to me because I'm in a similar position of being unsure how to put it all together.

    The quarter note technique sounds like it might be helpful, so I want to make sure I understand it.

    I've got a chord progression. For every chord in that progression I play its arpeggio (to keep it simple I can start just by playing major and minor arpeggios). If I'm doing quarter notes, I play root-(min)3rd-5th-octave for every measure the chord is held. So for example, my "solo" for "Minor Swing" would consist of

    A-C-E-A (4x)
    D-F-A-D (4x)
    E-Ab-Bb-A (4x)

    Which is pretty boring, and I can do this just by holding the Am-Dm-E chords, but I can see how playing this pattern with, say, horizontal arpeggios would be way to get a feel for how to solo over it. Is the idea that you practice this sequence of arpeggios until you can do it completely on autopilot, then gradually work in interesting transitions between them?

    If I move up to eighth notes, is it the same thing, just spanning two octaves?
  • Bill McNeillBill McNeill Seattle, Washington, USANew
    Posts: 70
    I guess that should be "2x" instead of "4x", but you get the idea.
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,123
    Kcox wrote:
    One thing my guitar teacher has been trying to get me to do as an exercise is to think not in licks over single chords but as transitioning between chords. He has me take songs and chop them up into two chord blocks and I have to try creating phrases that move between/link up those arpeggio shapes.

    Not sure if that helps your problem, but I though I'd throw it out there.

    Kevin

    your teacher's an idiot....

    in all seriousness, you have to learn how to connect chords as smoothly as possible (in steps, with half-steps being the most strongest connection), but it's not only about notes... a lot more has to do with rhythm, beginning and ending of phrases, length of phrases... it's not always about landing on the right chord on beat 1, sometimes it's about overlapping intelligently and anticipating which is the essence of django, bireli and fapy's styles...

    as fapy once said to me: "Bireli...... now THERE's a man who studied his beats!"
  • KcoxKcox Montreal, QCNew
    Posts: 110
    your teacher's an idiot....

    No argument here :wink: :wink: :D :D

    KC
  • Posts: 145
    to elaborate on what dennis said.

    there are many ways of doing this.

    one really easy way is to simply use chromatic approach tones to the next chord tones, either half step above or below depending on the contour of the line.

    another more theoretical approach would be resolution of chord tones. to generalize big time, the 3rd usually resolves to the 7th of the next chord and the 7th will usually resolve to the 3rd of the next chord either by step or half-step. example: you might connect two lines by resolving the b7 of a dominant chord (F on a G7chord) a half step down to the third of the major chord (E on Cmaj chord).
  • AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator Gallato RS-39 Modèle Noir
    Posts: 277
    Maybe a good exercise would be to construct a solo made entirely of whole notes. Then half notes. You would then be thinking about the chorus as a melodic whole, and you would have a grasp of its entire territory in consonant tones. Then with this underlying structure in mind, you could improvise phrases within it.

    Kind of like an outline, which you then fill in with actual sentences.

    This would also have the added benefit of letting the student develop his own way of fleshing out the structure, developing his own melodic habits (or "voice").

    Kcox

    Perhaps your teacher was encouraging you to play across the bar line more? Say you have an ascending phrase: across the bar line, the line's harmony would change, but its upward trajectory would be preserved. Very nice effect, and it demands that you think about music as always moving.

    Interesting thread.
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