3 Cures for the Compositional Rut

Posted by on Jan 10, 2017 in Harmony, Inspiration, Rhythm

Jazz tune writer’s block? We all know the feeling. In fact, I’ve also been in a massive blogging dry spell, having taken over a year off from this site. But in the spirit of this post, it only seemed fitting to blog about the idea of having no good ideas.  Here are a few jump-starters to get cooking on your …read more

Experimenting with Melody, Harmony, & Rhythm

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips, Rhythm

“…it’s so hard to describe music other than the basic way to describe it – music is basically melody, harmony and rhythm – but I mean people can do much more with music than that. It can be very descriptive in all kinds of ways…”

~Charlie Parker from an interview conducted by Paul Desmond (1954)

The more I ponder Bird’s fundamental decomposition of music, the more I discover how aptly anything musical can be described by its harmony, melody, and rhythm. There’s still that lingering, intangible “much more,” the part that gives music meaning. But let’s save the “much more” for another post…

As improvisers, we …read more

An Improviser’s Tour de Fourths

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips, Theory

4-slice-sandy

Back in the late 60’s and 70’s, fourths were the hippest thing since sliced bread. Jazz entered the age of treble-heavy bass and electric fusion, and musicians were overlaying fresh-sounding (at the time) intervallic fourth patterns over all sorts of funky modal groove tunes.

But fourths are so much more than just a few licks to plug in. Let’s explore the harmonic and intervallic possibilities the …read more

Roy Hargrove: Playing “Out”

Posted by on Jan 6, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Theory, Transcription, Trumpet

strength

Say what you will about Roy Hargrove’s current lifestyle choices; the man has blown some serious trumpet in his day. Roy’s ability to effortlessly glide between playing “in” (playing notes that fit the harmony) and “out” (creating tension by playing notes that don’t fit) has always impressed me, so I recently …read more

Playing Over Half-Diminished

Posted by on Jan 2, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Theory

When I was first exposed to the half-diminished chord, I was told to simply play the major scale a half-step up, thus giving me the proper chord-scale relationship. After giving a number of other approaches a shot in between with mixed success…

I’ve started thinking about the half-diminished chord in a new way that really opened up my playing: think about simply playing the dorian minor starting on the third of the root

(i.e. for Emin7b5, play your G-dorian). You will give weight to the proper chord …read more

Harmonic Discipline and the Subtleties of Dominant Chords

Posted by on Sep 16, 2014 in Harmony, Improvisation, Theory

beaker

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer. I almost moved to London, but then I heard the burritos over there are terrible, so last week my girlfriend and I moved into a new apartment together instead. So, the posts stopped for a while, but it’s time to get back on the horse!

I’ve been thinking a lot about harmony and come to believe that the difference between today’s best jazz musicians and the rest of us is their masterful command over the minutia of harmony.

I realized that I don’t have as a good a grasp of the plethora of dominant alterations out there as I …read more

Playing the Changes: It’s what separates the men from the boys.

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips

mustachio-boy

Jazz improvisation is inherently subjective. What makes one solo “better” than any other is often a matter of taste, a preference for a given style. But while articulation, swing feel, and phrasing vary wildly from one great player to the next, every noteworthy improviser is able to effortlessly demonstrate a …read more