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Discussion Starter #1
i've been playing for around 16 months now, and at my last lesson with my sax teacher, he mentioned that everything sounded good in my improvisation, all fitted well with the chords, but the solos dont have structure, so he gave me 4 licks that work over the II-V-I proggresion, for me to learn in all 12 keys, since that lesson i've been looking around for these licks that really bring a solo together etc parker,desmond,adderley solos.

how many licks do you think you need to know (in all 12 keys) before your solos really become structured and witty?

thanks
 

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My teacher also does this but it's not for you to regurgitate that lick over and over in your solos. What's it's meant to do is to train your ear to hear II V I and what it sounds like to play a good lick over them. You do it enough in practice and pretty soon (they tell me) you will be making up your own licks that fit over II V I. Jason I feel is right though the goal isn't to have 40 II V I licks memorized, it's to play 40 II V I licks over II V I progressions so you get to the point you hear them in your head no matter where they are in a song.

Your teacher is just bringing your ear along until your brain takes over and plays your own licks over II V I. I'm pretty much at the same point when it comes to trying to learn Jazz. Until your theory/ear/technical training come together memorizing some good II V I in ever key is a good method I think of learning how they sound and what goes good over them.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
but making up your own licks takes some time and experience doesnt it?
 

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Adderly,
I have a lesson on my website dealing with practicing licks from my II-V-I books. I think you might find it very helpful in learning how to take a lick and make it your own. Even with one lick there can be multiple ways that it can be played so that there are variations. I think that's the key. How many licks do you need to know........? that's like asking "How many words do you need to know?" Depends on what you want to communicate and how proficient you want to be at communicating. I don't think of them as learning licks to repeat but as mastering different tools that you can use while improvising and creating. Hope this helps. Steve
 

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I think the more transcribed solos you try and learn, the more licks you memorize from other great players, the better your own licks will become. Your teacher is also right about learning in all 12 keys and in all octaves.

Brecker talked a lot about taking an idea, putting it in 12 keys, then playing it in all octaves. it's a good method to make yourself get all over the horn.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
so far in my experiance transcribed the take five solo,yardbird suite,chi chi by parker, and now i'm trying some adderley solos like wabash and obviously work song, and i find that when you transcribe solos (say the take five solo which is in the key of Eb) i find it easier to improvise over that key in a different song because you learn what works with it.
 

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Some renowned jazz educator (David Baker, I think) said if you learn 12 bebop heads in 12 keys then you have enough vocabulary to be a pretty decent improvisor. (end paraphrase)

The trouble is being able to call upon that vocabulary at the particular moment you need it it making it sound sponataneous and not contrived. Personally I feel you need to force new vocabulary upon yourself. The first time or two you use your new lick it'll sound a bit phoney, but eventually it will come out sincere.

Dave Liebman says in his seminar thing posted here recently that if you don't learn the language it will leave a hole in your playing. He asserts that you got to learn the licks. (end paraphrase) I suppose you don't have to play them all the time, but you need to learn them. I think the goal would be to learn the phrases then be able to break them apart and recombine the smallest of the pieces to make it something unique.

The truth of the matter is there are only 12 notes ever that you'll have to deal with. And as many possibilities as there are, it is a finite number of possibilities.
 

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hgiles said:
Some renowned jazz educator (David Baker, I think) said if you learn 12 bebop heads in 12 keys then you have enough vocabulary to be a pretty decent improvisor. (end paraphrase)
I think there is some truth in this. But I see a distinction (perhaps a subtle one) between a musical phrase and a practice pattern. Most bebop heads and other melodic statements are musical phrases, not patterns. They may be based on, or derived from a pattern, but there's a difference. Some musical phrases become cliches when used too much, but it is important to develop a vocabulary of tasteful musical phrases. The ultimate goal of course is to develop your own. Right now I can hear a classic swing/blues phrase running through my head. I use it in a couple of jump tunes and it's pretty effective.

Also, in some cases certain tunes have a "hook" or signature lick that you really want to know and play since anyone who knows the tune will be listening for it. But that may be a slightly different topic.
 

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JL said:
I think there is some truth in this. But I see a distinction (perhaps a subtle one) between a musical phrase and a practice pattern. Most bebop heads and other melodic statements are musical phrases, not patterns. They may be based on, or derived from a pattern, but there's a difference. Some musical phrases become cliches when used too much, but it is important to develop a vocabulary of tasteful musical phrases. The ultimate goal of course is to develop your own. Right now I can hear a classic swing/blues phrase running through my head. I use it in a couple of jump tunes and it's pretty effective.

Also, in some cases certain tunes have a "hook" or signature lick that you really want to know and play since anyone who knows the tune will be listening for it. But that may be a slightly different topic.
I agree, JL. When working with my students, I use the term "pattern" to mean a scale or arpeggio pattern or shape, which has no specific harmonic implication. I use the term "lick" to mean a melodic phrase with a specific harmonic implication, like a ii-V-I lick.

However, in a very general sense of the word, I believe that it's impossible to improvise jazz without patterned information being used. In order to move in eighth-notes or faster, our brains and bodies have to resort to groups of notes. Those groups could be short, 4-note "cells" like Trane playing Giant Steps, scale/arpeggio fragments, or two-measure long ii-V licks.
 

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Dexter played a lot of licks. It didn't seem to hurt him any.

Improvisation is a combination of scales, intervals, arpeggios, licks, small embellishments (grace notes, triplets, bending, etc.), and truly unique, spontaneous lines. The degree to which you use each of these approaches reflects on your current abilities, vocabulary and growth. Most good improvisers use some combination of all of them.

Licks are often a function of the instrument's ergos. I play different licks on sax, piano, trumpet because the instruments encourage different things.

There is only one rule. If it sounds good, it's right. There is only one way to get there. Work at it. Keep studying, listening and playing.
 

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...Moreover, I think Lieb said if you think you're going to play meaningful stuff without studying the vocabulary then you're fooling yourself.

I knew guys in college that used to shun practicing licks because they didn't want to sound like (insert famous player here). I say, you could be doing a lot worse and those guys usually did.
 
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