Seriously, How Do I Get Flow in My Improv? (Podcast Episode #37)

Posted by: JAZZEDGE on July 6, 2021

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00:29 Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge Today we're going to be talking about how to get flow in your improvisation. So our podcast today is seriously, how do I get flow in my improv? So what I'm gonna do is, I'm just playing a little progression here, just, you know, something just kind of made up and just improvising over the top of it. So a lot of times students wonder, how do I get that flow in my improvisation? And the reality is that they end up focusing on the wrong stuff in order to get that flow in their improv, right? So it's too often, you know, there's a lot of focus on what note should I be playing? What scale should I be doing, you know, what chords, all of that kind of stuff. It's a lot of technical and theoretical stuff that students focus on. Whereas in reality, when it comes to flow in improvisation, it's more of a mindset. It's more of a physical dexterity, and it's more some actual mechanics at the instrument that are a little bit more important to get that flow. So let's talk about that right now. So what are they? Some of the main elements, there are three basic elements that we need when we're improvising. Now, the first one that we always come to right away is the notes, right? Well, what notes are we actually going to play? The other element is rhythm, we need to have rhythm in our improvisation if we don't have rhythm in our lines, then it's going to sound pretty darn boring. But the other one is fingering as well. And with that fingering, we can also lump in Dynamics, articulation, you know, phrasing, stuff like that. But the main thing is fingering and when I say fingering, I mean that you're not going to get jammed up when you're improvising. How often has it happened, that you're playing a line, right? And you're like, whoops, I get jammed up, and I can't move over, I don't know how to cross over or cross under the fingers, right? And my line ends up getting jammed up, and then it breaks the flow. It's all about flow. Ladies and gentlemen, right? If you don't have flow, in your improvisation, you can have all the right notes. But if they're like, 02:43 right, it just sounds very like you it's like skipping, right? It's not in step, it doesn't sound fluid, and it doesn't sound flowing, even though I'm playing all of the right notes. Alright, so what's a good exercise for this, what if you take a look at the most recent, confident improviser lesson that I just did, we were talking about three minor scales that you need to know for your improvisation, I am not going to go through all three of them, the only one I'm going to focus on right now is the harmonic minor scale. So I'm going to take G minor here, okay, and I'm gonna be playing that harmonic minor scale, which is the notes G, A, B flat, C, D, E flat, F, sharp, and G. Okay, so basically, it's a flat three, flat six, and natural seven, off of the major scale. So G, A, B flat, C, D, E flat, F sharp. And so now, when we're trying to create flow in our improvisation, it's, I find, it's great to start with a chord and one scale just to try messing around with your improvs. Okay, so I'm going to take my G minor chord over here in the left hand. And to make it simple, I'm not even going to play the seventh because I don't want that seven to get in the way. So I'm just going to hit G, A, B flat, and D. And it gives me like a G minor nine kind of sound. 04:16 And then what I'm going to do is I'm going to start on each of my chord tones, and I'm going to try creating a line, only using that g harmonic minor scale. Now one easy way to get started is start the line and each chord tone and just move up, right? Maybe, maybe you don't even go down the scale, you just go up the scale. So now let's review once again, what are the chord tones that we're talking about here? Well, that would be G, B flat, and D, for sure. Now what about f? Well, f isn't part of the harmonic minor scale. So I'd stay instead, the F sharp because this is really kind of like a G minor, major seventh chord. Okay, so But I really like this harmonic minor sound because it has a real, real nice sound to it. Does that mean you can't use the harmonic minor scale over a regular G minor seven chord? No, no, you can, you can absolutely do that, you just got to have to pay attention to that seventh, when you're improvising, just to make sure it doesn't clash too much there, right? So anyway, Alright, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to start my line on one of my chord tones, and what I'm gonna do is I'm going to start at either the root, the third, or the fifth, right now just gonna leave the seventh out of it. So I'm going to start at either a G, A, B flat, or a D. And I'm going to play that Harmonic Minor Scale going up, starting on one of those notes. So here, I'll start on the G. Now starting to be flat. Now starting on a D, it's all I'm doing some starting the line on different notes of the court. Why do I do that? Because I want to get very comfortable being able to to play that scale starting on any note, well, now why do I start on a chord tone, because the chord tones are going to sound good as starting notes. Now, if you take a listen back to some previous episodes of The Confident improviser podcast, you know, I was also talking about target notes, too. So now I can also start to think about my starting note, and my target note. Okay, so now let's say I start on the route G, and then I'm going to end on the third B flat so that I can maybe go G and go all the way up to the third and then the third and the B flat up here. Now you hear starting on the root, and ending on the third, like that line sounds good. Listen, what happens if I end on a note that's not part of the chord, let's say I'm gonna end on the E flat. Here, how unresolved that sounds. Whereas if I started in the G and go back to the B flat again, how much more resolve that B flat sounds on that G minor chord, right? 07:20 B flat, E flat, just so you can hear. That's anliegen E flat, right? doesn't sound very resolved. So to gain flow in our improvisation, one exercise that I like to do is I would take one chord, in this case, a G minor chord, okay, and you could do whatever voicing you want, you can do shells, if you want, you could just do root five root, you could do a root 510, you could do a rootless chord, you could do a block chord, you could do a root three, seven, shell, whatever you want to do in the left hand side, you can even do a baseline play baseline, if you want to as well, whatever you want to do for accompaniment in the left hand, completely up to you, right, the main idea is that we're trying to create flow in our right hand. So how do we create that flow in our right hand, we're going to run that scale. But rather than just running the scale, up and down, like that, we're going to instead run that scale, we're going to make it so that there's a little bit more, you know, improvisation to it. So I'm going to play the G minor chord, and I'm just going to start up a note again, I'm going to pick a note of the chord, okay. So I'm going to start at either the root, the third or the fifth. And I'm going to run the scale a little bit, and then I'm going to try and end on a chord tone. Okay. I could try things like there I started on the night. I went to the ninth, the major seventh back to the ninth 10th of the route. So see, I can do some enclosures. 09:24 Maybe I go to my shells. I cannot stress enough how important this exercise is to create flow in your improvisation. So let's go through and let's do it over a different chord in a different scale. So again, the idea here is what you're doing is you're playing one chord in the left hand, whatever that accompaniment is shells block chords. triads whenever, like I said, and then you're playing one scale in the right head, why only one scale because you're trying to learn that scale because you're trying to get better at that scale, you're trying to get fluid with that scale. So I take the corner, the left hand, I play the chord, while playing that scale on the right hand, just try and generate as many different ideas as I can. Now while trying to generate these ideas, again, I'm thinking about my starting notes and my target notes, because starting notes and target notes is what adds structure to my improvisation. Okay, so I might think of starting on a chord tone, or I might think of ending on a chord tone. Again, as with anything in improvisation, you do not have to always start in a chord tone, you know, you can start and on tensions or non chord tones. Absolutely fun. All right, so let's, let's move to another chord. Okay, let's do C minor. This time, let's do my natural minor scale, which is C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, D flat C, typically, I'd be playing 123, cross under 12345 in the right hand, for my fingering, remember, when I improvise, I don't keep that fingering, my thumb is not always going to go into C. Ma'am, I put my middle finger on the seat. Alright, so when I just played that line, there was like 34321, right, and then now this is C, D, C, D flat, G. And so I'm like playing, I like I'm doing a fingering, that is not the regular fingering for the scale. Because remember, when I improvise, the fingering that I play, normally, when I'm practicing the scale is not necessarily going to be the same fingering that I do when I improvise, I need to be adept at moving around my hands, and being able to create a line without getting my fingers all jammed up. That's why we do this exercise, okay. So when we typically play that scale, we typically start with one C with the thumb 123, and then cross underneath, right like that. But the reality is, when we go to improvise, we're not always going to improvise like that, right? 12:28 So you see, I'm like, improvising around and playing the core in the left hand, and I do a little bit of a baseline, and I'm just improvising over that one scale, I'm lifting up my hand, just like you lift up a needle on a record and move it to different places, while I'm lifting up my hand and moving it on different sections of that scale. And I need to create my fingering, you know, in the spur of the moment, okay. So that's why we practice this exercise. So again, this is how you do it, just to make sure that you have it completely pick any color you want in the left hand, okay, in this case, I'm picking C minor, well, now I'm going to pick a scale that's going to go along with that C minor, right, so I have a chord in the scale that I want to kind of link together in practice. Now, if I don't have a specific scale in mind, I could always use my chromatic scale. 13:25 But the chromatic scale is not going to give you as much definition of the sound of the chord because it's a chromatic scale, it has all of the notes, you know, all of the chromatic tones in there so there really isn't a lot of definition. Now, if I take something like my C natural minor scale, well now I'm going to have much more definition because I have the notes of the chord baked into that scale. Okay. 14:14 Then I can move to F right so then I moved to app and I could do like the F Dorian scale and move back to C minor. Now when I moved to F and went to F Dorian, why did I go to F Dorian just felt like going to F Dorian. Alright, so it doesn't have to be f Dorian, could it be could have been f Mixolydian or F altered. But the idea here is that you're taking one chord, one scale, and you're really just trying to seriously get a bunch of flow out of that one scale, right? And the way to do that is really isolating your focus on that one particular chord in scale. All right. Okay, so anyway, that's it for tonight. So try doing that. Exercise try picking a chord try picking the scale and seeing you know what kind of flow you can create in your improvisation if you need help with rhythm, check out my rhythm essentials course back at jazz edge. If you need improvisation help well then definitely check out the confident improviser at jazz edge calm that is the be all end all course for improvisation. It's a great course especially for beginning improvisers. A short announcement we are going to be moving the podcast to an every other week. Okay, so next week, there will not be a podcast episode you will see the podcast episode come out every two weeks still coming out on Tuesday, but coming out now every two weeks. All right. We're going to try that for a little bit and see how that goes. We might may go back to every week, but right now we're going to move it at least for the summer to every two weeks. Alright, so anyway, that's it for me guys. Thanks for joining me and I will see you in the next episode.

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