In this episode #52 of The Confident Improviser podcast, Willie Myette, the creator of Jazz Edge, dives into the topic of extended chromatic chord tone targeting in jazz improvisation. He emphasizes the importance of mastering this technique as it is a common challenge faced by jazz improvisers when dealing with chord progressions that last for an entire measure versus two beats. The goal is to create improvisational lines over chords that are two beats apiece, and chords that are four beats apiece. In this blog post, we will break down the techniques discussed in the podcast and provide additional insights on how to master extended chromatic chord tone targeting in jazz improvisation.
The first step in mastering extended chromatic chord tone targeting is to target chord tones. It's essential to know your chord tones and the progression you're playing over. Willie suggests starting by targeting random chord tones to practice. He demonstrates this by playing the chords in his left hand and playing the root, third, fifth, or seventh of that chord in his right hand. You can also practice playing chord tones in quarter notes in your right hand while playing the rootless chord in the left hand. Once you feel comfortable with targeting random chord tones, you can start incorporating them into your improvisation.
The next step is to fill in between the target notes with chromaticism. Chromaticism is the smallest interval that we have at the piano, and it creates the most tension in your improvisation. Chromaticism can be anything from chord tones to enclosures to arpeggios. However, the key is to shape your line to direct you towards your target note. Just like planning a trip, you want to take the shortest distance between two points to make your improvisation sound coherent. Willie emphasizes that the chromaticism should lead you towards your target note, not away from it.
To create tension, you can use chromaticism to fill in between the target notes. The chromatic scale is a great tool to create tension in your improvisation. However, it's essential to use it sparingly and purposefully. Too much chromaticism can create too much tension and make your improvisation sound chaotic. Willie suggests using chromaticism in a way that enhances the melodic line and moves you towards your target note.
Mastering extended chromatic chord tone targeting in jazz improvisation is a crucial skill that every jazz improviser needs to have. The key is to start by targeting random chord tones, practice filling in between the target notes with chromaticism, and create tension by using the chromatic scale sparingly and purposefully. Remember to shape your line towards your target note and make your improvisation sound coherent. With practice, you can master extended chromatic chord tone targeting and take your jazz improvisation to the next level.