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Hi all,
the past couple of years I’ve been working hard to really get to know all the scales and different chords. I can outline them and I know how to connect them. (sounds good sofar) I think it’s good to have this basic knowledge but if I listen to my own playing it’s getting pretty boring after a while. So right now I’m at a stage where want to get away from outlining each chords and playing from one chord/scale to the next.

I’ve been trying to work on this by repeating 4 bars with 4 cords in Band in a Box. But because I have no plan how to tackle the 4 bars it’s just unfocused random playing. It doesn't sound bad at all but it’s not really helping me to develop my playing.

Does anyone have an idea what I can do to get away from playing chords and instead play melodies and phrases. (I realize this is the most difficult question for any jazz musician to answer :)


rodin
 

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Re: From cords to melody,

I think the missing link might be rhythm.
 

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I am not sure if playing chord tone in rhythm will solve the problem.

Maybe singing helps, since you don't have the pre-made material of scales and chord tones that weighs you down. Just sing a line or two over the chord changes. Then try to remember what you did and attempt to play in a similar style.

BIAB is a good tool for this approach, and if you have problems memorising what you sung, record it and then transcribe it. Just for laughs.
It'll be something different for sure :)

http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showth...-discouraged&p=1586114&viewfull=1#post1586114
 

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Guide tone melodies are a nice way to start thinking more melodically. Slow down your playing and connect the chords with nearby chord tones with half, quarter or whole notes. Then work to add small embellishments. This will be closer to melodic playing than scale and arpeggio running.
 

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Start with a melody, like the head to a tune, and work on developing it within the harmony.

Also, I totally agree with rootytoot. Almost certainly you need to work on rhythm and phrasing. Melody is a combination of elements (not just the notes) and rhythm is an essential ingredient.
 

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1 Listen to a few select recordings of your favorite artists playing over a 12 bar blues.
2 Pick out just a few select phrases or licks that appeal to you.
3 Shed the heck out of these phrases and analyze and identify everything you can about these ideas. Right when you think you know everything (where, when, what, how, to what degree) about the lick that there is to know, practice them in all keys until you can spontaneously use them in your own playing.

Finally -- stop practicing scales you already know -- practice musical phrases instead. You should practice your improvisation with a purpose. In other words, don't go in a practice session thinking you're gonna play 'whatever' cause then it'll sound like 'whatever'. Practice with intent. Think of something specific you want to improve. If you want to improve your sense (sound) of making the changes you can emphasize and exaggerate resolving 7ths to 3rds. Do just that in your improv.

You'll see much quicker progress if you focus on the tiniest granular unit and exaggerate it in your practice sessions.
 

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Great lines and melodies utilize tension and and resolution. Dissonance and Consonance. Many players that focus so much on the chords and scales are missing much of that. They are so focused on playing the right notes that it sounds a bit generic and boring in a way. I would ask you how much of your lines utilize tension and release. do you use any approaches to those chord tones. Do you use any b9,#9,#11.........on different chords. Adding those notes that cause tension can add some excitement to the line.

I would also suggest just playing melodies over those 4 bar grooves. It's funny because I have students come in with the same frustration and I'll give them an assignment to go home and write out 12 melodies over the changes. Many will come back at a loss. They might have scribbles on a page but it's usually things they hate and they are apologizing before they play them. To play melodically you have to have a sense of melody and what sounds good and what doesn't. That comes from listening to music a ton. Singing along with the melody and solos. I think a great player who is worth listening to is Miles. Check out Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quartet. Listen to Miles's solos. In my opinion he is playing some great melodic lines and his phrasing is incredible. Nothing fancy but beautiful. Give yourself that assignment and see if you can write out 12 melodies on those 4 bars you are playing. Melodies that you like and think sound good. Take your time. AT first it might be very hard to do but the more you do it the better you get. Soon they will just flow out when you are improvising if you keep at it enough.
 

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I think he mentioned trying to "connect" the chords, so I assumed that meant "resolving" the tension created by motion through subdominant, dominant and tonic areas. Just like creating a solo is a "proccess", learning to actually "say something" harmonic over chord progression is a "process" as well. It's not about simply "knowing how to do it". Concentrating on "phrasing" is good, but that doesn't mean anything if you have no internalized concept of linear harmony. Also, dont shy away from "cliche" or as you say "boring". If a phrase sounds like it shouldnt be any other way, thats a sign that it works. Too many students want to go right to playing "burning" solos, and shy away from the obvious/typical stuff for fear of being cheesey. Embrace the cheese! It sounds cheesey because it works. I would suspect that "boring" is probably not the right word to describe where you feel you re right now. If that were the case, I would suspect you could just decide to be exciting. You are probably now noticing (as your comfort level increases with what you are practicing now) that your ideas leave you unsatisfied nw, even though they are probably alot better than they were a few years ago.
" Does anyone have an idea what I can do to get away from playing chords and instead play melodies and phrases."
You have to have an idea of what you are going to do with your new found facility of running the chords, and that is too much for a simple re to a thread on "how an I improvise better" unfortuntely. Study with a real pro.
 

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Nef is right on. Good melodies have tension and release plus lots of other elements that should be in your bag (dynamics, phrasing, rhythm, etc.). Unfortunately coming up with a melodic line spontaneously is a difficult thing to learn. It's not something that can be cut and pasted the way lots of "solos" are just memorized riffs and arpeggios.

Ideally a melody is a short story in which the player sets up an idea. It may have variations, conflict/resolution, and a climax. Having personal or emotional content is what wins over listeners. Miles is a great example as he screwed up more notes than almost any other famous player but it didn't matter as his power of melodic communication was so great.

By all means push and practice, but also be aware that we are all individuals and not everybody is going to be another Miles, no matter how hard they practice. Whatever you do make it personal, make it come from you. Listen to great melodies, understand what makes them great, but don't just cut and paste. Internalize by singing/hearing what you want to play and then make this happen with your instrument.

Good luck.
 
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