tips on improvising

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by songbook, Nov 1, 2010.

  1. songbook

    songbook Piano User

    Apr 25, 2010
    I've received so many great tips on playing trumpet that I thought I'd try another topic. I currently play in a big band and some times a solo will pop up with just the chords. Because I concentrate so hard on the scale and chord notes I lose count of the measures. Also is there a good starting note to solos? I should add that I do know my scales and chords. When there are more than one chord in a measure I really get lost in my timing.
  2. Brekelefuw

    Brekelefuw Fortissimo User

    Mar 21, 2006
    Transcribe solos and memorize them. Listen to as much as you can. I bet there are 50 chords and scales you don't know the relationships to. Learn more theory. Practice scale patterns. Not just up and down and in thirds, but in 4ths and 5ths as well. Practice them chromatically and around the cycle. Practice them around common progressions and turn-arounds.
    And that's just the beginning!
  3. zappamusic2010

    zappamusic2010 Pianissimo User

    Oct 4, 2010
    SONGBOOK YOU'VE READ MY MIND ... I WAS ABOUT TO START A VERY SIMILAR THREAD! I hope you don't mind me adding my issues to this thread for responses? If so, let me know and i'll start another soon ... ;-)

    My issue(s)

    - I started improvising using 'regular' blues scales ... Most of the soul stuff I was/am playing are 12 bars. But guess what? Most of my improvs sound the same ...
    - I'm an experienced brass musician (classically trained) and classroom music teacher so music theory i'm strong with (not necessarily putting it into practice on a trumpet and jazz improv) but knowledge it's very good.

    I want to develop my improvising skills. The plan so-far is

    - Remind myself of all of my major and minor scales (including starting on different notes ...) Will certainly start practicing them in 3rds and 4th etc.
    - Should I learn all of the modes or stick to maybe dorian and/or mixolydian and start incorporating them?
    - I have a few Fakebooks with a lot of the standards in, which I will start practcing as it's stuff I need to become familiar with ...
    - I trying to listen to more jazz which i love (but i must admit i do get distracted ny zappa and steely dan!) ... I will listen more though

    LIKE SONGBOOK, I'D BE MOST GREATFUL FOR ANY FURTHER HINTS, TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS! Is there any CD play alongs or software to play along with?

  4. Asher S

    Asher S Pianissimo User

    Sep 20, 2009
    Suburban Boston
    Take a look at this video:

    YouTube - Jeff Stout Soloing Private Lesson

    With respect to your problem losing track of the beat, that is a common problem. Try practicing improvising with just 2 notes, but altering the rhythm, focusing on staying with the beat.
  5. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    If you're getting lost, maybe you're thinking about too many things. Commit the song and chord changes to memory. This may free you up to think more about your solo without getting lost. The free Jamey Aebersold free jazz handbook (around page 10, I think) outlines a plan for learning a song and committing it to memory (Free Jamey Aebersold Jazz Handbook).

    I'm not sure where you are at in your improv skills. But let me suggest Eric Bolvin's site (Eric Bolvin Music). He has some free videos and printed material on improvising. He also sells 2 jazz pattern books (Modern Jazz Trumpet Method and Big Book of Pentatonics & Fourths).

    The short answer is to consider practicing scales in all modes, and in as many patterns you can think of (3rds, 4ths, etc.; 3-note patterns, 4-note patterns, etc.). I also practice these patterns in the cycle of 4th's (C scale, then F scale, then Bb scale, and so on), and chromatically (C scale, then B scale, then Bb scale, and so on).

    The main scales I focus on are major, dorian, mixolydian, half diminished, super locrian, dimished, whole tone, major blues, minor blues, and pentatonic. Almost all of these scales are in the free Aebersold book. Another source is Dan Haerle's "Scales For Jazz Improvisation" (Books - Dan Haerle).

    Back to your question about playing in all modes. For example, when practicing a C pentatonic scale (CDEGAC), I play it from C to C, then D to D, then E to E, the G to G, and so on.

    I do this for the entire scale, or a subset of notes. For example, with the C pentatonic, I do 4-note patterns (CDEG, DEGA, EGAC, GACD, and so on).

    There's an endless supply of ideas.
  6. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas

    If you don't have the melody and the chord changes memorized, and the practice time in to be able to play all the scale and chord permutations across those changes, you don't "know" the song well enough yet to improvise easily.

    Here's a quick breakdown of what we mean when we say you "know" a song at a basic level (all from memory!!!):

    1. Play the melody over the changes
    2. Play the roots in whole notes over the changes
    3. Play the root + 3 (or equivalent if its a minor chord, etc.) in half notes ...
    4. Play the root + 5 (or equivalent) in half notes...
    5. Play the chord tones in quarter notes....
    6. Play the chord up and down in 8th notes...
    7. Play the chord scales up in eighth notes (here you can play any scales that work -for example major, minor, bebop, etc.)
    8. Play the chord scales down in eighth notes...

    If you do spend the time to get the changes "under your fingers" I think you'll be surprised how much easier it is to play a line that works over the tune and to "land" on the beat with chord tones. It's hard to get lost when you've spent a few hours teaching your ears and fingers what the harmony and rhythm of the song sound like, and practicing playing chord tones on 1 and 3.

    Learning how to "learn" a song is just the beginning, of course, and improvisers spend years developing a "vocabulary" that works across lots of tunes (TrumpetMD gave some great examples of extending this).

    Once you've "learned" a particular tune, you can then transfer what you've learned over to other tunes with the same changes. For fun, look up "Rhythm Changes" in Google to see how many tunes use the chords from "I've Got Rhythm" to see how many there are. If you learn to improvise over that tune, you can do a passable job over any other tune with those changes. If you can "learn" a song a week (or even a song a month) you can really start to see patterns like that and recognize things you can play in newer or unfamiliar situations. The best jazz musicians make it look easy because they "know" so many tunes and changes they always have something at their fingertips when they see a set of changes.

    By the way, the Aebersold CDs are great for backing music and for practicing and learning tunes. You can also use your real books and a recording of the tune if you want to be able to hear how your note choices "mesh" with other melodic voices.

  7. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005
    I studied with Jeff at Berklee -- he's great.

    As far as learning to improvise, Jeff's completely correct. You want to amass material 'under the fingers' in your practice and learn tunes. You also have to practice the tunes!

    Ultimately, though the biggest 'secret' is to just learn to get everything out of the way between your brain and your instrument....the technique, the material, the translation of musical ideas to sound, all become transparent processes. It's like hitting a groove when you reach a plateau at a sport. Monk called it 'lifting the bandstand'. When it's really something but it takes a lot of work.

  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The only way to improvise is to have "patterns" at your fingertips. The easiest place to find patterns: thousands of tunes memorized. There is no better resource than tunes. A chorus does not have to be some virtuosic creation. It can be a simple, related melody. As you get a better "feel" for harmony and groove, more daring things become available.

    Transcribing and memorizing solos is a great way to develop faster. When we write, see and hear, more senses are involved in the project and thus more of the brain. Your pool of options becomes bigger.

    No good musician ever claims to have scales and intervals "down". There is always a rhythm, scale or change that can use serious polishing - even if you are a master.
  9. SteveB

    SteveB Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 15, 2008
    Prescott Valley, AZ
    That's it in a nutshell. Simply having all of those tunes in your head provides a pool of endless patterns to draw from.

    Matter of fact, the verse (or chorus) line from one song could easily become the "improvised" jazz solo in another. Especially since so many songs follow a similar, if not identical, chord progression.

    The ability to instantly translate a tune in your head to your horn ("playing by ear") is what makes improvised solos happen. That can be learned by simply listening to as many songs as possible. And whenever possible, play along with the recording . . . . without written music being your crutch.
  10. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008

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