Practicing Jazz Improvisation
Lesson 1




Click Here To Download Lesson 1 Files

The files that you just downloaded will be used for this lesson. The folder contains several PDF Files that you may print out and an MP3 Play-a-long file.


The Major Scale

The foundation for our first lesson is the Major Scale. If you don’t know all of your major scales, pick up your horn and start to memorize each scale. In the Lesson 1 File Folder, that you just downloaded, is a Major Scale PDF File. Feel free to print it out and use it for a reference.



Swing Style/Articulation

When you practice your major scales, you are going practice them in a
Swing Style.

This is what the swing style articulation looks like:
Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 9.41.41 AM


No two jazz players swing in the same manner. The above articulation works best for achieving a swing style when playing eighth notes:

Click Here

After you have played, and listened to, the
Swing Scale movie, memorize your major scales using a swing articulation. Use the Major scale sheet from the Lesson 1 File Folder. Work with a metronome, start at a slow tempo and gradually increase the speed of your metronome. Once you have mastered your major scales with a swing articulation, you are ready for the next step.

The Next Step


Look at your
Major Scale Sheet. We are now going to number each scale degree with numbers 1-8. As follows:

Screen shot 2011-02-22 at 11.09.18 AM


For you to be able to improvise, you first need to do some exercises that will help you master chords/scales and allow you to hear chord changes. If you have never played with a rhythm section, don't worry, these exercises will help you become a master improviser!

Next, you are going to print out the file titled
Major Chord Changes sheet found in the Lesson 1 File Folder that you downloaded at the start of the lesson. Be sure to download the correct file for your instrument Eb=Alto/Bari sax, Bb=tenor/soprano sax, C=Flute, guitar etc.

Depending on your instrument type, the file should look something like this:

Screen shot 2011-02-22 at 11.12.23 AM


Exercise 1: Playing The Root of Each Chord

Our First Exercise is going to be very easy. Using the Major Chord Changes Sheet and the MP3 Play-a-long titled Major Chord Progression, you are going to begin by just playing the root (1) of each chord. First you will play them as whole notes then you will improvise different rhythms using only the root of the chord.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on
Exercise 1


Play copy Exercise 1 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn. Practice just playing and improvising the root of each chord.
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.


Exercise 2: Playing pattern 12, 12, over each chord.

For exercise 2, we are going to be playing a pattern of 1,2 in eighth notes over each chord. It will look like this:

Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 10.22.13 AM

Play the above pattern over the entire chord progression and then improvise using only the
1,2 1,2 pattern.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 2

Play copy Exercise 2 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.


Exercise 3: Playing pattern 1232, 1232, over each chord.

For exercise 2, we are going to be playing a pattern of 1232, 1232, in eighth notes over each chord. It will look like this:

Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 1.28.06 PM

Play the above pattern over the entire chord progression and then improvise using only the
1232 pattern.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 3

Play copy Exercise 3 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.


Exercise 4: Playing pattern 1235, 1235 over each chord.

For exercise 4, we are going to be playing a pattern of 1235, 1235 in eighth notes over each chord. It will look like this:

Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 1.33.21 PM

Play the above pattern over the entire chord progression and then improvise using only the
1235 pattern.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 4

Play copyExercise 4 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.

Exercise 5: Playing pattern 1357, 1357 over each chord.

For exercise 5, we are going to be playing a pattern of 1237, 1237 in eighth notes over each chord. It will look like this:

Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 1.38.24 PM

Play the above pattern over the entire chord progression and then improvise using only the
1357 pattern.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 5

Play copyExercise 5 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.


Exercise 6: Playing pattern 1357,6543 over each chord.

For exercise 6, we are going to be playing a pattern of 1357, 6543 in eighth notes over each chord. It will look like this:

Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 1.42.42 PM

Play the above pattern over the entire chord progression and then improvise using only the
1357,6543 pattern.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 6

Play copyExercise 6 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.



Exercise 7: Playing a Major scale over each chord.

For exercise 7, we are going to be playing a Major scale in eighth notes over each chord. It will look like this:

Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 1.50.03 PM


Play the above scale pattern over the entire chord progression.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 7

Play copyExercise 7 Playing Example.

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.


Exercise 8: Starting To Improvise!

For exercise 8, we are actually going to being to improvise, but...with some restrictions. For this exercise, you are only going to be improvising using Quarter Notes.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 8

Play copyExercise 8 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.


Exercise 9: More Improvisation

For exercise 9, we are actually going to being to improvise, but...with some restrictions. For this exercise, you are only going to be improvising using only Eighth Notes.

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 9

Play copyExercise 9 Playing Example

Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords.


Exercise 10: Improvise!!

For exercise 10, you can now improvise with no restrictions! Remember to keep it simple and know at all times where you are in the changes. You don’t need to play every note in the major scale for every chord! Also note that the 4th scale degree in the major scale does not sound good if you just sit on that note. I call it an Avoid Note. It is ok to play the fourth scale degree in a line, but don’t sit on that note. The tritone does not sound good:

Screen shot 2011-02-26 at 2.05.55 PM

Listen to the playing example below before you start to work on Exercise 9
I have kept my improvisation very simple, but you can still hear me making the changes.
That is what you
ALWAYS want to strive for in your improvisations.


Play copy Exercise 10 Playing Example


Ok, now it is your turn!
Remember to use your major scales to play over Major Chords. improvise! Have fun!


Recap:

For this lesson, you have now mastered the Major scale and Major chords. This is a starting point!

For our next lesson we will be moving on to Minor Chords and the Dorian Scale


See you in Lesson 2!

Rik Pfenninger



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