Try this “Minimalist” Exercise to improve your Improvisation

All improvisers are looking for new licks and/or techniques to improve our soloing. As saxophonists, too often are we seduced to licks with many notes with sometimes some quite complicated harmonic structures. I got a little weary of that I started to look for ways to improve my use of melody in improvisation and not just be able to rip off a myriad of notes.

A few years back I did a Jazz Workshop and a concert at the College of Music in Nuremberg, Germany. A diverse group of students attended the workshop. There were not only saxophonists, but guitarists, violinists, pianist, bassists, etc. attending.

The workshop as presented under the title of “A Minimalist Approach to Improvisation”. This was a good title for it because that was the ideas I was working on at the time. If you caught my previous post “Playing over a Dominant 7th Chord“, you may be able to get a glimpse of that. It was during my time with the group “The Bridge” where I had to look for other ways to solo, mainly because we played most things in odd meters and polyrhythms.

The exercise I presented to the class followed as so; we played the changes to the tune “Lady Bird” by Tadd Dameron. Then, I instructed the students to use a single rhythmic motive, consisting of just two notes, and they were to try to continue to use this motive throughout the entire chorus. One can (and must) make whatever harmonic changes you need to fit the chords, but you need to keep the motive!

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Evan Tate

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