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  • lenny breau

    Gaining Tone Security When Improvising

    by Simon James




    A common problem I notice amongst my students is that whilst they may be able to understand the jazz chord progressions and have taken the time to learn jazz scales, when they begin to improvise lead lines over the top they are not tied down to the changes in the chord progression and often end up losing their way or running into a dead end.

    The solution to this problem lies in being able to anchor what you are playing to the chord tones so that there is more stability in your improvisations. The ear may be able to tell you when you are seated comfortably over a chord change but your hands may not be so fast at knowing where to go to reach the acquired chord tones desired by the ear. A common pitfall is to try and randomly search for the right notes and play into as opposed to out of trouble. This leads to uncertainty of the changes and, worse still, makes the listener uncertain of you. In the following exercises I will demonstrate how to practices over any tune to acheive chord tone security, which is one of the first stages that lead to solid and confident improvisation over any tune.

    (i) Record the following chord changes, repeating each a number of times so that you have a rhythm backing track over which to play at a moderate tempo

    (ii) Play the recording and follow the changes by playing only the root notes of each chord

    (iii) Repeat this exercise this time playing the 3rds

    (iv) Repeat again and play the 5ths

    (v) Repeat again and play the 7ths

    (vi) Repeat and play root notes and 3rds

    (vii) Repeat and play the 3rds and 5ths

    (viii) Repeat and play the 5ths and 7ths

    (ix) Repeat playing any combination of chord tones

    (x) Practice these exercises on whatever tune you are working on, gradually increasing the tempo and the number and complexity of the changes

    jazz chord tone exercises  


    Related Posts:

    1. Gaining Tone Security When Improvising Over Extended Chords

    2. Gaining Tone Security When Improvising Over Altered Chords

    3. The CAGED System for Guitar Playing: Learning the Chord Shapes

    4. Using the Major Scale to Improvise and Develop Melodies

    5.Using Arpeggios to Master Any Chord Progression