Tag Archives: improvisation

From 1 to 10: Ways to get more from your transcriptions.

Tonight I was listening and playing along with a nice duo recording by Archie Shepp and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (NHØP if you’re nasty) called Looking At Bird. All of the tunes on the album were written by Charlie Parker.

While listening to Moose the Mooche, I came across this phrase by Archie Shepp:

From 1 to 10

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It starts with an enclosure of the A, the 5th of D7. Then it proceeds down the D Bebop Dominant scale and finishes with an enclosure of the F natural, the 7th of G7.

At this point, you could learn the phrase verbatim (in 12 keys, of course) and call it a day, but you’d be much better off in the long run if you can spend some time working out some other ways of playing it.

Below are some examples of ways you could manipulate this phrase:

1. is the original phrase.

2 .begins a beat earlier. Number 1 starts on beat 3 and number 2 starts on beat 2. No other changes.

3. starts a beat later than number 1. No other changes.

4. starts 2 beats later than number 1. This created the need for some adjustments. The C# passing tone between the D and C is gone so that the B is on the downbeat of the G7. I added my own ending to the line on the G7.

5. is the original phrase in double time (twice the speed). It’s rhythmically lined up so that the first note of the G7 is the same as the original.

6. is where bigger changes start. Instead of starting the phrase with an enclosure of the 5th (A) of D7, we start with an enclosure of the root (D). The phrase maintains its overall direction and shape.

7. starts with an enclosure of the 3rd (F#). Again, the direction and shape of the phrase are similar to the original.

8. starts again with an enclosure of the 3rd (F#). This time I added chromatic passing tones between the F# on beat 4 of the 1st measure and the D in the 2nd measure.

9. starts with an enclosure of the 7th (C). I started mine with a Db, but you could just as easily start on D. Whichever one you like is the best choice.

10. is the deluxe Bebop version of this phrase. It starts two beats earlier than the original phrase and contains every available chromatic approach over the D7.


Just by changing where the phrase started rhythmically and which chord tone it started with, I very quickly had exponentially more material to work with. The beauty of that is there are many more options than I listed in the pdf. For example, you could take the double-time version of the phrase (5.)  and start that on a different beat or you could use you other scales in the place of the Bebop Dominant. It only limited by your imagination.

There’s a whole world waiting to be discovered in every phrase!

ii-V of the day: Chris Potter – 4.27.11

It’s been a lot of days since the last ii-V, but I came across a good one in an old transcription I did several years ago.

This ii-V was played by Chris Potter on Easy to Love from his 1995 album, Pure.

I like this one because it’s mostly diatonic except for that little bit of diminished flavor in the G7 measure. When practicing and moving to other keys, you might find it necessary to raise the first note by an octave to make it work.

Easy to Love is a 32-bar tune usually played in G concert.

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Read This!: A Jazz Life by John Klopotowski

John Klopotowski’s “A Jazz Life” is a memoir written about master saxophonist Warne Marsh. Klopotowski, a guitarist, was a private student of Marsh’s in 80’s and this book is a chronicle of that time, written in two sections. Part I tells the story of how John ended up studying with Marsh and describes the time they spent together. Part II describes Warne Marsh’s teaching method and has examples of some of the exercises he gave to students.

I read this about a year ago and was amazed at just how deep Warne Marsh’s concept was and how committed he was to his personal development as a musician. I think it’s a great read for any musician.

Videos: Mulgrew Miller – Advice for Young Jazz Musicians and Learning to Improvise

Here are two videos of jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller speaking and answering questions at a master class. The basic point he makes in these videos is that you must actively listen to the music to understand it and to learn to play it. Good stuff from a master musician.