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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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June 24, 2010 | Compose yourself. Antecedent/Consequent thinking

One of the eternal questions of improvisation is "how much of the end product is intentional, and how much is spontaneous?" How many players will recite memorized phrases or entire passages, and how many just make their solos up on the spot? Certainly, the majority employ a combination of creative intuition and strategic, theory-based calculation, but that line between the two can wander, unbeknownst to the audience, and even to the player his/herself.

We plan on dropping in and out of this question over time, but the first approach in this series we'd like to cover is the notion of "antecedent/consequence," otherwise known as "call and response." It's a simple concept really, and you see this demonstrated in early childhood music, and somewhat more primal folk forms.

"Where are you?"

"Here I am."

Simple statement, followed up by a response. The comeback can be a repeat of the question, an answer to it, a diverging reaction, or another related question. "

"WHERE am I?" "I'm right here." "Why do you want to know?"

These are all varied and valid responses, and what happens is a sort of conversation. In improvisation, when you construct your musical "conversations" like some sort of thought out soliloquy, you end up tightening up its larger picture construction. You aren't just blowing notes in some sort of freestyle nonsense. Start with a five note phrase, follow with a restatement of the phrase, either exact repeat or vary one note.

Repeat the phrase backwards. Play only one or two notes from the phrase, or embellish a couple of the notes in the middle.

When you do this, you develop a consistency in your solos. Breaking them up into individual thoughts makes them sound intentional and more sophisticated; you dig yourself a "whole." You can insert small sections of "just blow" time, but a well-crafted, engineered solo demonstrates musicianship and sophistication.

Answer the phone.

Starting off
Don Stiernberg on the "Big Picture" of improvising
You may quote me on that.
Improvisation: too many choices?
Jazz is an accident.

Posted by Ted at June 24, 2010 8:56 AM

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