Category: ii-V-I progression

How Sonny Rollins Practices

How has the quarantine impacted your chops?  This no-gigs lock down has been absolutely disastrous for many working musicians financially.  But our chops don’t have to take the same hit our wallets are taking, if we’ll explore innovative approaches to practicing.

My practice strategy is similar to what Sonny Rollins described when asked how he practices.  Sonny said:

“I start out playing things I know to get the blood flowing.  Those things are often described as ‘clichés.’  You begin with the cliché so you can get the process in motion.  Once the process is in motion, ‘thinking’ gives way to ‘playing.’  At that point, you get out of the way and let the music play.”

Over the past decade, I’ve written down over a thousand licks I keep in a notebook, each of which I woodshed in all 12 keys.  Some of these ideas come from transcribed solos of the masters, but most simply emerge as I’m connecting with the horn.  Practicing joy.  I encourage you to try this technique, as it supercharges your chops, strengthens your improvisatory muscle, and turns you into a composer.

Here’s a lick you can play with, in order to get started down that path.  The tonal center of this phrase baffled my friends and me at first.  Eventually, I settled on a basic ii-V-I progression, which perfectly fit the melodic contour.  If you want more background, leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

To see a chart, click on “CONTINUE READING” below.

Continue reading “How Sonny Rollins Practices”

How to Create, Name, and Use Chords to Evoke Emotion and Make Music Come to Life!

C7 CHORDIn just 45 minutes, you can revolutionize your understanding of THE HARMONIC LANGUAGE Learn how chords are created, what notes they contain, how they’re named, and how they’re used to evoke emotion and make music come to life.   Quickly gain harmonic mastery and confidence which will set you apart as a composer or improviser.

Click here to watch this fascinating video on YouTube for free.

Stan Getz Solo From “O Grande Amor”

The_Stockholm_ConcertLooking for a refreshingly novel approach to playing over a minor   ii-V-i ?   Here’s an idea by Stan Getz.  It’s from bars 15 & 16 in the first chorus of his solo over “O Grande Amor” from “The Stockholm Concert.”

B flat instruments start at line 1.  Concert key instruments start at line 3, and E flat instruments start at line 12.  (Double back to the beginning when you reach the end of the chart.)

STAN GETZ LICK FROM O GRANDE AMOR

STAN GETZ LICK FROM O GRANDE AMOR 2

 

 

 

TEST YOUR EAR!

You’ll ace this one, if you’ve played through “New Ears Resolution.”  If not, it may be tricky.

TEST YOUR EAR

Below is a recording of the pattern in all 12 keys.  Submit a “comment” at the bottom of this post, if you need a chart to play along with the recording.

Note that this phrase traverses the first five chords of the standard “Someday My Prince Will Come,” a long-time staple of Miles Davis’s book.  That “harmonic quote” was not intentional.  When you start creating patterns in a “stream of consciousness” manner, elements of your repertoire tend to crop up in various guises.

Multi-instrumentalist Kevin McCartney recently taught me about the ebb and flow of tension and release created by Cuban clave patterns.   In this exercise, the many accidentals create a bit of harmonic tension, which is then released through resolution to adjacent diatonic notes.  Note in particular the tension created by Si, Di, and Le.

Upon further reflection today (during surgical anesthesia!), it occurred to me that this phrase uses all 17 notes in the scale:  the 7 diatonic pitches, the 5 sharps, and the 5 flats.  For a horn player, G# and Ab are identical.  However, a symphonic violinist thinks of them quite differently.

What you hear in this recording is actually 5 clarinets.  Took me about 20 takes to get 5 usable ones.

Mastering Modulation

Have you ever ridden on a roller coaster blindfolded?  That’s how it feels to improvise without understanding internal modulation.  It’s like driving through a thick London fog.  Progress is halting, movements are uncertain and tense.

By contrast, the player who understands how to navigate key changes improvises smoothly and confidently.

This month, we learn to recognize an internal modulation and craft an effective response. Continue reading “Mastering Modulation”

Darn That Dexter!

ONE FLIGHT UP LP COVERDexter Gordon is universally revered by saxophonists for his muscular sound.  He is equally effective on ballads, blues, and fast tempos.

His Blue Note LP One Flight Up includes a fine reading of the Jimmy Van Heusen ballad “Darn That Dream” on which he dexterously employs a device favored by Charlie Parker.  This maneuver involves momentarily raising the key a half-step and inferring a ii-V progression in that key.

Here are two instances in which Dexter deftly employs that ploy.  As anyone who has ever tried to transcribe his solos knows, one of the hallmarks of Dexter’s style is his unique approach to rhythm.  While his languid phrasing is pure joy to hear, it’s a nightmare to transcribe.  I have greatly simplified the rhythm in these two examples, focusing instead on the pitches Dexter chose for the brief modulation. Continue reading “Darn That Dexter!”