This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores Linear Improvisation. How to begin developing melodies horizontally and help you seamlessly connect harmony melodically
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How to begin developing melodies horizontally
Ten exercises designed to help you seamlessly connect harmony melodically
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Dr. Bob Lawrence
President, The Dallas School of Music
Welcome to jazz pm skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today you are going to discover linear improvisation. And you are going to learn how to begin developing melodies horizontally. And you're going to play 10 exercises designed specifically to help you seamlessly connect harmony, melodically. So as I always like to say, regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner or an intermediate player, an advanced player, or even if you consider yourself a seasoned and experienced professional, you will find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring linear improvisation to be very beneficial if you are new to jazz piano skills. If you are a first-time jazz panel skills podcast listener, I want to personally invite you to become a member. Visit jazz piano skills comm to learn more about the abundance of jazz educational resources, materials and services that are available for you to use to help you along your jazz journey to becoming an accomplished jazz pianist. For example, as a jazz piano skills member, you have access to all of the educational podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets and the playlists that I develop and produce and publish each and every week. For every podcast episode. These are fantastic educational tools educational guides for you to utilize when practicing to maximize your musical growth. Also, as a jazz panel skills member, you have access to the sequential online jazz piano curriculum which is loaded with comprehensive courses, all of them using a self-paced format, educational talks interactive media, video demonstrations of the jazz panel skill in all 12 keys, play alongs and much more. Also, as a jazz panel skills member you have a reserved seat each and every week to my online masterclass. These weekly masterclasses are in essence a one-hour online lesson with me every single week. And as a jazz panel skills remember you also have access to the private jazz piano community, which hosts a variety of engaging forums, podcast-specific forums, core-specific forums, and in general jazz panels, forums as well. And last but certainly not least, as a jazz panel skills. Remember, you have unlimited, private, personal, and professional educational support whenever and as often as you need it. So again, please visit jazz piano skills.com To learn more about all the educational opportunities awaiting you and how to easily activate your jazz piano skills membership. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, contact me let me know I'm always happy to spend some time with you answer any questions that you may have, and to help you in any way that I can. Okay, let's discover learn and play jazz piano. Let's discover learn and play some linear improvisation. So, let me begin by asking you a very important question. A question that we need to successfully answer if we hope to develop our melodic skills. So the question is this. What makes a melody a good melody? Okay, that question again is what makes a melody a good melody. Now, I think we would all agree that the origin of the melody in other words, how it how it was constructed, whether it was composed, or whether it was improvised. Right? Its construction has no bearing on the goodness right On the goodness of the melody, if you will, a good melodies a good melody, regardless of how it was derived, right, whether it was whether the musician sat down and composed it, or whether it was improvised while playing, regardless of how it was derived. A good melody is a good melody. So I think we would all agree with that. I also think that we would all agree that the harmony and rhythm supporting the melody does not determine the goodness of the melody.
Now, we may not like the harmony, or we may not like the rhythm. But so what right? Heck, we may not even like the melody itself, but our personal musical preferences do not determine whether something is musically good or bad. Believe me, I have listened to tons of music that I personally do not care for. But I openly admit that it's good music musically speaking. It's good. It's very good. I mean, I mean, I care for it. But that doesn't change the fact whether or not it is musically valid, or musically legit. Does that make sense? So, if the way a melody comes into existence, whether it is composed or improvised, does not determine the goodness of the melody? And if the harmony and rhythm do not determine the goodness of the melody? Then what makes a melody? Good melody? The answer is this. A melody is a good melody. When it seamlessly flows from measure to measure through the harmony that supports let me say that again, a melody is a good melody, when it seamlessly flows from measure to measure through the harmony that supports it. In other words, a good melody is linear in nature, it's horizontal, which is somewhat ironic because melody flows from Harmony, which is very much vertical. The biggest challenge for any young improviser is to learn how to play linearly horizontally instead of vertically. Now, if you're playing is still very much in the vertical phase thing. Congrats. This is this is where everyone begins. Right? So what do I mean by vertical? What I mean is that you're presented with a chord, right? And then you play something over that chord, and then you move on to the next chord and then you play something over that chord and then you move on to the next chord and play something and so on, right? So it's very much like almost like a call and response. Here's a chord, here's an answer. Here's a chord, here's an answer. Right? It's very vertical on the plane comes off sounding like that. It comes off sounding very straight up and straight down. With a breath in between each measure, you can literally hear the break in the harmony as the musician moves from chord to chord, this vertical approach to play in this vertical approach to creating melodies, this vertical approach to improvising. It's where everyone must begin. In fact, this is how I teach improvisation. You begin with an isolated sound, a chord, major dominant, minor, half diminished, diminished, and explored the sound using ascending and descending arpeggio and scale motion. This is the best way to begin because by isolating a sound a chord, you do not have to worry about where you're coming from and where you're going to. You intentionally create harmonic stagnation. So you can create melodic movement. And if you are at this stage, fantastic, you're on your way. Now once a student is comfortable with isolating sound, isolating chords to create melodic movement, it's time to experience and explore harmonic motion. In what harmonic motion do you think most everyone studying jazz gets introduced to first? If you are thinking to five one the 251 progression then you are thinking correctly. What better harmonic motion to begin with other than the 251 progression which is, without doubt, the most common chord progression in jazz literature It is a great place to begin because
it's the same major scale that can be used to play over all three chords. Right? It's also a horrible place to begin because the same major scale can be played over all three chords. In other words, it's a blessing and a curse at the same time, a blessing because you can begin to get a feel for and begin hearing what it is like to play linerally linearly because only one scale is needed to play through all three chords. That's fantastic. Now, it's a curse because you can easily inaccurately assess your ability to play linearly because you're not forced to change your melodic line, your scale, or your arpeggio to coincide with various harmonic demands. And this is precisely why improvising over 251 does not easily transition to improvising over tunes because when playing tunes, you quickly discover that not only is there much more going on in that tune than just the 251 progression, but there are chords that don't even belong to the parent key of the tune, you quickly discover that you have to master you have to have a mastery of scales and arpeggios to handle harmonic motion that wanders in and out of various key centers. And without this mastery of scales and arpeggios that will allow you to successfully navigate through the various inside-outside harmonies found within jazz literature, you will quickly get sucked back into thinking and plain vertically and not horizontally, not linearly. So how does one How did you How do you begin practicing linear improvisation so that you are prepared to meet the harmonic challenges of jazz literature? Well, that is what we're going to do today. In this podcast episode in this podcast lesson, I like to teach and use harmonic pairs. With students to help them create scenarios that accurately represent jazz reality. One chord will always be the control group, it never changes. And the other chord will be the experimental group, the group that we swap chords in and out of. For example, I may have a student practice a four-measure exercise where measures one and three are played with a B flat major seven and measured two and four, use B flat minor seven. In doing so this B flat major seven and B flat minor seven in doing so, we have to get comfy creating seamless melodies, using the B flat major scale and the A flat major scale.
Does that make sense? Two different scales. I'm treating the two-chord. The minor chord is a two chord or dorian mode. Okay, so some other pairs that I like to use. In addition, to say in B flat major seven, B flat minor seven, right it could be any major any minor, right C major C minor, A flat major A flat minor. In addition to doing a minor pair major-minor pair, the same, B flat and B flat major and B flat minor I like to do for example B flat major seven go into B minor seven alternating with B minor seven, or B flat major seven alternating with C sharp minor seven, or B flat major seven alternating with E flat minor seven, or B flat major seven with E minor seven or B flat major seven with F sharp minor seven or B flat major seven with a flat minor seven, you get the point right. Every one of these harmonic pairs that I just mentioned, every single one requires you to create seamless melodic ideas using two different major scales. And just a quick side note, you know why the major scales are so important because every chord that you run into in the music that you play the music that you want to embellish and improvise every single core with the exception of the diminished chord and altered courts like sharp nine flat nine sharp 11 So on every single chord will be treated with a major scale. Right? So it would make perfect sense to ask these type of questions. You see a major chord you would ask what major scale do I play over that major chord? You see a dominant chord, what major scale should I play over that dominant chord? You see a minor chord, what major scale should I play over that minor chord? You see a half diminished chord, what major scale should I play over that half diminished chord. You see, these different sounds major dominant minor, half diminished, are satisfied with major scales. So learning major scales and gaining a command and mastery of major scales is essential if you want to be successful playing in and out of major dominant minor and half the many sounds. So today, I am going to model for you one of these harmonic pairs so that you can hear how I approach practicing linear improvisation.
Your job will be to take what you learn today and began applying the approach to various major-minor harmonic pairs. So the agenda the educational agenda for today is as follows number one, I am going to present 10 exercises designed to help you begin developing linear improvisation to help you seamlessly connect harmony melodically. Number two, each exercise will focus on helping you successfully transition from two unrelated sounds. In other words, the sounds are derived from different key centers. A one sound will be a major and b one sound will be a minor. Okay, so I'm going to be alternating between major and minor sound. And both sound and both sounds that I just mentioned belong to different keys. Number three, each exercise will focus on developing linear improvisation techniques using ascending and descending arpeggio motion, constructed with inverted shapes or inversions and also ascending and descending scale motion. Plus, the scale motion will use various entry points like root, third, fifth, and seventh. And then number four, I will be using one harmonic pair today for each exercise, the harmonic pair that I selected for today's a B flat major seven, and C sharp minor seven. And finally number five, I will be playing all demonstrations today all exercises using a temple of 140. Alright, only for the sake of time I would be practicing actually practicing these harmonic pairs at much slower tempos, which I highly recommend, right 60 7080 Keep it slow at first, then increase your tempos. If you are a jazz piano skills member, I want you to take a few minutes right now hit the pause button. And download access download and print the illustrations the lead sheets right the illustration packet and the leech lead sheet packet. You have access to all the podcast packets each and every week. And as I remind you each and every week you should absolutely be using them when not only when listening to the podcast episode, but of course when practicing as well. So if you're listening to this podcast on any of the popular podcast directories such as Apple, of course, Google Amazon, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, on and on and on, then be sure to go to jazz piano skills podcast.com to download the podcast packets, you will find the active links the download links in the show notes. And one final but extremely important message. One important note that I always mentioned every week as well is that if you are for some reason thinking that linear improvisation that we are about to discover learn and play is in some ways or even if you feel that it is all the way over your head then that I would say to you, okay it's okay relax. It's fine. So continue to Listen, continue to grow your jazz piano skills intellectually by listening to this podcast episode. Because the reality is the fact is that all skills when first introduced to us on our journey, all skills are over our heads. So the first step to getting better is to always dive in. And listen. The first step is always to listen In order to improve our musicianship, so, all musical growth as I always say begins upstairs mentally, conceptually, before it can come out downstairs physically in your hands. So listen to this podcast lesson now to discover and learn. The play will come in time. It always does, I guarantee it. Okay, the first four exercises are going to be dealing with arpeggio motion ascending and descending our pitch, pitch to motion. Exercises five through eight, we'll deal with ascending and descending scale motion. And then number nine, and 10. The last two exercises, we'll deal with arpeggio motion only ascending multiple octaves and then exercise 10. We'll deal with
scale motion only ascending and descending several octaves, multiple octaves. And then finally, I'm going to do a demonstration or actual exercise at the very end that allows me to freely move in and out of arpeggio and scale motion ascending and descending with multiple octaves. So it's a stair-step process here, right? Okay, so exercise one arpeggio motion, I am going to use ascending motion on my B flat major chord ascending from the root, and from the third, right, so I'm going to complete I'm going to fill up the entire mesh measure. So my first arpeggios B flat, D, F, A, for counts one and two, and then D, F, A, B flat, B flat major and first inversion for counts three and four. So let's write one just like that. Then descending motion, arpeggio motion for the C sharp minor descending from the seventh and descending from the fifth. And then resolving to the B flat major. So I have this seamless transition from B flat major to C sharp minor using ascending and descending arpeggio motion.
Nice. So let's bring the ensemble and Let's place this into a musical context. So you can get an idea you can hear what this is going to sound like and how these exercises are going to sound like moving forward. So here we go. Let's let's check it out and see what we think.
So to get the ideas, right, we're moving through our B flat major and C sharp minor seven, a linear line, not thinking vertically, thinking linearly through these two different sounds with two very different key centers. So in essence, what I'm doing is I'm thinking B flat major seven, obviously for my B flat major chord. And I'm actually thinking B major seven coming from the key of B major, utilizing my C sharp minor as a two-chord or Dorian mode. The point is I'm conditioning some muscle memory to move seamlessly through two different sounds using ascending and descending arpeggio motion. So exercise two, we're going to continue with this same approach, but we're going to shift our entry points. Now I'm going to ascend through my B flat major, starting with my third as my entry point and then my fifth so I get and then descend through my C sharp minor from a Root Entry Point descending. And then a seventh entry point and then resolving to my B flat major Okay, so I ended up getting this
nice, let's put this in a musical context. And let's see what it sounds like here we go.
Nice, so now you're getting the idea of how we're starting to utilize arpeggio motion to navigate through these two very different sounds using arpeggio motion ascending and descending. So now we're going to do the same thing for our third exercise and again shift our entry points. So our B flat major is going to on the first half of the measure is going to arpeggiate from the fifth and then from the seventh and then descending on the C sharp minor from the third and from the root so I get this
nice so let's bring the ensemble back in. And let's drop this harmonic pair into a musical context using ascending and descending arpeggio motion with various entry points. So here we go. Let's check it out see what we think.
Absolutely love it. What a great way to practice now, our final exercise using strictly our ascending and descending arpeggio motion. Exercise number four, we're going to now use utilize the seventh of B flat major as our entry point the note A. Then our route and then on our descending side with the C sharp minor we're going to descend from the fifth C sharp minor, which is the G sharp and then from the third and then resolve it to the seventh of our B flat major. So very nice sound again
that's not right again.
I can't remember what I'm supposed to be playing but hey, it works out right. So let's bring the ensemble back and let's check it out and see what we think. Here we go.
Nice. Okay, so now we have exhausted our arpeggio motion, us going through our major and minor sounds ascending and descending, using various entry points right, for each for ascending motion on the B flat major seven and descending motion on the C sharp minor seven, both using various entry points. Again, because in real-life situations when you're playing, you just don't know where you're going to be right. So we can't always be entering a B flat major from the note B flat, or the C sharp minor from the notes C sharp, we have to practice strategically practice various entry points in order to prepare ourselves for linear improvisation to be able to seamlessly move in and out of the sounds. So now that we have strategically moved through arpeggio motion using various entry points, we're going to do the same thing with exercises 567 and eight, however, we're going to use now scale motion. So we're going to start with the entry point of the route for B flat major scale and then descend starting from the fifth the entry point fifth on our C sharp minor and then resolve it back to our B flat major. So in time, it sounds like this nice, but now let's drop it into a musical context. And let's see what we think. So let's bring the ensemble in here we go check it out.
Absolutely love it right solid. So now we're going to utilize the exact same approach but now we're going to utilize the third as our entry point on B flat major. And then our descent on our C sharp minor will be the root and we'll resolve on the third of B flat major. This is gonna sound like this
nice. So once again, let's bring the ensemble back in Let's drop this exercise into a musical context and see what we think here we go.
I love it. See the whole point of altering our entry points it forces us to deal with different fingering configurations, right? Which is absolutely necessary if you're going to develop linear improvisational skills So whether we're doing arpeggio motion or scale motion, we're always strategically moving our entry points around, so that we have to deal with different fingering configuration. Smart practice effective practice efficient practice. So now with that being said, we're going to shift our entry point to the fifth of B flat major. So we're going to start on our F. And we're going to descend on the third of C sharp minor. And then resolve it to the note F, or to the fifth again of B flat major. So it sounds like this. Wonderful. And once again, we want to drop it into a musical context. So we're going to bring our ensemble in let's have a little fun, see what we think here we go.
Nice, so so far, we've used the entry point on our major chord of being the root Third, the fifth one left to do, that's the seventh. So we're going to use a Sunday motion launching from the seventh of our B flat major the note A. And we're going to descend on our C sharp minor with the entry point being the fifth of G sharp. And then we'll resolve it back to the seventh of B flat major, which is the note again nice. So once again, we're going to drop it into a musical context. Let's call upon our ensemble, bring the ensemble in, and let's see what we think let's listen to this and check it out here we go.
Very, very nice. So we've done eight exercises for them dealing with ascending and descending arpeggio motion through the B flat major C sharp minor sound, and then also ascending and descending scale motion through the B flat major and C sharp minor sound. And we've used obviously different entry points. But it's interesting, right, each one of those exercises in and of itself stayed within an octave, basically an octave range. But by moving our entry points, our entry points allowed us to play over a two-octave range. Does that make sense? We're actually spreading it out, but staying within an octave for each exercise. Now what I want to do is kind of open the floodgates a little bit and I'm going to do some linear improvisation using arpeggio motion only. And my focus is to move seamlessly through my from my B flat major my C sharp minor ascending and descending through multiple octaves at least two octaves ascending and descending. I feel pretty comfortable about it because I've I've explored various entry points and destination points exit points. So I should be able to move around a little bit using arpeggio motion And then focusing on linear, a linear connection between my B flat major and my C sharp minor. So let's really ensemble and let me experiment with this a little bit and see what we think here we go.
Very, very nice. So look if, if we do that with arpeggio motion by restricting our, our movement to include only arpeggio motion, then let's do the same thing using scale motion. So now I'm going to open it up again, I'm going to use ascending and descending scale motion through my B flat major seven C sharp minor seven, exploring multiple octaves, right and focusing on this linear connection between these two sounds. I want that melody to be seamless that I'm playing as I move from my B flat major to my C sharp minor, back to my B flat major, and so on. So let's bring the ensemble back in. Let's check it out and see what we think here we go.
much fun, right, just so much fun. I could do that all day. And I love restricting myself to just one type of motion arpeggio motion, and then restricting myself to scale motion, right? It's by limiting, right setting the parameters that we actually sharpen our creative skills. Always right, we set our parameters in order to sharpen our creative skills. But now with that being said, I'm going to have a little fun and improvise freely over my B flat major seven C C sharp minor seven, using arpeggio motion, scam, ocean, ascending, descending various entry and exit destination points. Just have a little fun and try to create beautiful, seamless, good melodies, right. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble in one more time and let's check it out.
Never, ever fails, we always unpack a ton of information each and every week and each and every podcast within an hour. And today was certainly no exception as we explored the proper way to think about the practice linear improvisation. And once again, I want to encourage you to map out the arpeggio and scale motion that I presented today, not only for B flat major to C sharp minor but for the other combinations that I mentioned earlier as well, right, B flat major to B flat minor, B flat major to B minor, B flat major to E flat minor, B flat major to E minor, B flat major to F sharp minor, B flat major to A flat minor, right, each one of these harmonic pairs, right, each one of these harmonic pairs major and minor combinations require you to have a command of various major scales. Right. And as always, I want you to use the podcast packets, the illustrations, and the lead sheets to guide you. The illustrations include a paper practice template that you can use for mapping out these harmonic pairs, major-minor combinations, and all 12 keys. And you've heard me say this over and over and over and over and over again conceptual understanding determines your physical development. So the time that you invest in studying and mapping out these harmonic pairs, linear improvisation exercises, it's time very, very well spent, and the return on your investment cannot be adequately expressed. And as always, I want you to be patient developing mature improvisational skills takes time and practicing linear improvisation using harmonic pairs is one essential component of the process. So begin structuring your improvisation development after the plane demonstrations that I modeled for you in this podcast episode in this podcast lesson, and I promise you you will begin to see you will begin to feel you will begin to hear your musical progress. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring linear improvisation to be insightful and of course, I hope you find it to be extremely beneficial. Don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz panel skills masterclass 8 pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson exploring linear improvisation in greater detail and to answer any question that you may have about the study of jazz in general. And again, as a jazz panel skills member Be sure to use the educational podcast packets, the illustrations the lead sheets the play alongs not only for this podcast episode but for all the podcast episode episodes over 100 of them. And also be sure to use the jazz panel skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz piano skills community get involved, contribute to the various forums and most importantly, make some new jazz piano friends. As always, you can reach me by phone at 972-380-8050 my extension is 211 by email Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com, or by SpeakPipe found throughout the jazz piano skill website. Well, there is my cue. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy studying and playing and developing linear improvisation enjoy the journey, and most of all, have fun as you discover, learn, and play jazz Piano
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