Are you looking for a great exercise to improve your jazz improvisation skills? Look no further! In this post, we’re going to share a 7-step exercise that you can practice every day, no matter what your level is.
This exercise is a progressive 7-step process that you can customize to fit your needs. Depending on your level, you can do the first three steps, or just the first one. However, we recommend that you always start from step one and progress through the rest every time you do it.
Although it’s a 7-step process, you don’t need to do all seven steps every single time. Depending on your level, you can do the first three steps, or just the first one; whatever you want. But I recommend that you always start from step one and progress through the rest every time you do it.
Before you begin practicing, choose a Jazz Standard. I’m going to use “My Foolish Heart“. It’s a ballad with at most two chords per measure (which makes it ideal for this exercise)
So, let’s take a closer look at each of the 7 steps:
- Choose a standard – Start by choosing a jazz standard. The example used in the video is “My Foolish Heart”. Play the seventh chords, broken in eighth notes, in root position. If you’re a piano player, you can play the root on your left hand if you feel like it.
- Use inversions – This time, think of the first note in every chord as a target note, and create a line out of them. Don’t worry too much about voice leading — it doesn’t have to be perfect from chord to chord.
- Alternate the arpeggios up and then down.
- Start with the arpeggios going down so down and then up.
- Remove the rule of playing the complete seventh chord and of going up or down. You can break the chord as you wish.
- Play a chromatic approach, from below, on the downbeat of the chord. This is a great step to start using notes that are very dissonant on top of the chords and how the tension is released when you play the next note.
- Play an enclosure – diatonic from above, and chromatic from below – to your target. This is also known as “trapping the note”, but now, we’re going to play the enclosure before the downbeat and target the note on the downbeat. The challenge here is that we have to start thinking about and playing the next chord while we’re playing the current chord.
After completing the 7 steps, it’s time for some “free play”. Improvise over the entire song again, only this time, loosely using the concepts that you just practiced. Let your ears guide you. Don’t consciously follow any rules. Think as little as you can.
By practicing this exercise, you can improve your improvisation skills, clean up concepts, do ear training, and memorize songs at the same time. It’s a great warm-up exercise that you can use every day.
Remember, you don’t have to do all seven steps every single time. Depending on your level, you can do the first three steps or just the first one. Customize it to fit your needs and practice it regularly. With time and effort, you’ll see your improvisation skills improve and your playing become more fluid and natural.
So what are you waiting for? Give this exercise a try and see what it can do for your playing!
And if you want more tutorials like this one visit the mDecks Music Theory Journal, which is basically an almanac of all the best tutorials created by mDecks Music in their mDecks Music YouTube Channel.
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