What is Improvisation?
Improvisation or “improv” is the art of creating solos, licks and riffs and are one of the parts of creating music that gives beginners and intermediate players trouble. They might be turned off by having to learn “scales” or already know a scale or two but are having trouble making music. There is a perceived mystery or magic to where the ideas come from. Throw in the difficulties of fingering on instruments with the capability of playing the same note in alternate location on the fingerboard like the ukulele and guitar. And it's no wonder players struggle with improv. It's like a box of crayons and a blank page – “Where do I start?”
Improv is composing melodies in real time. This series of lessons are intended to take the mystery out of creating your solos, licks and riffs.
Hint: It's not the number of crayons that you have it's what you can do with them.
As a young crayon artist I was sure I'd be a better artist if I got my hands on my older cousin's box of 64 crayons with the sharpener. Well when I did I became really good at sharpening crayons. Turns out it's the crayonist not the crayon.
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Improvisation is More Than Just Scales
Most people think, to learn improvisation you really need to master your scales. That's true - but it's just a starting point. Granted scales are a big part of what you draw from for improvisation. There's also intervals, arpeggios and sequences and how you use and apply them.
Essential Jazz Scales?
A scale is not really “Jazz” or “Blues” or “Rock”. A scale is just a collection of notes. It is how a scale or theses collection of notes are used. Some are more common in one style vs. another.
In Jazz we can base all the scales that we will ever need off the Major (Ionian) and Natural Minor (Aeolian) scales. From theses two scales you can create or derive the any other scales you need for playing jazz.
These two scales are core, key and/or references scales. Whatever you call them they are very important.
Essential Scale for Exploring Jazz
- Blues or Minor Pentatonic* ( C, Eb, F, G, Bb, C’ )
My QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, the Blues Scale book is available as a FREE download.
- Pentatonic or Major Pentatonic ( C D E G A C’
And the QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, the Pentatonic Scale books is available as a download.
All scale examples are shown with a C root for comparison.
- Ionian ( C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C’ )
the Major scale is one of the first scale a lot of musicians learn. Especially on the piano where C major is the white keys only.
- Dorian ( C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C’ )
- Phrygian ( C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C’ )
- Lydian ( C, D, E, F#, G, A, B, C’ )
- Mixolydian or Dominant ( C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C’ )
- Aeolian or Natural Minor ( C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C’ )
- Locrian ( C, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C’ )
- Major ( C D E F G A B C’ )
- Natural Minor ( C D Eb F G Ab Bb C’ )
- Harmonic Minor ( C D Eb F G Ab B C’ )
- Jazz Melodic Minor ( C D Eb F G A B C’ )
- Diminished ( C D Eb F Gb Ab A B C’)
- Whole Tone ( C D E F# G# A# C’ )
- Mixolydian +4 or Lydian Dominant ( C D E F# G A Bb C’ )
- Mixolydian -2, -6 ( C Db E F G Ab Bb C’ )
- Mixolydian -2 ( C Db E F G A Bb C’ )
- Mixolydian -6 ( C D E F G Ab Bb C’ )
- Inverted Diminished ( C Db D# E F# G A Bb C’ )
- Super Locrain ( C Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb C’ )
Most of the above scales are available as a book from my QuickStart Series of Scale and Arpeggio Fingering series books.
QuickStart Scale & Arpeggio Fingerings are a highly organized, efficient system of scale and arpeggio fingerings. Each fingering pattern is shown with a fingerboard shape, TAB and standard music notation. Related chords are also explained for each scale.
Master these fingerings and unlock your potential for improvisation.
Whether your interest is in Blues, Rock, Jazz, Country or somewhere in between ant QuickStart Scale & Arpeggio Fingerings Series book is a valuable addition to your musical library.
* There is some overlap with these essential scale, with some just alternate names for the same set of notes.
DERIVED SCALES - From these essential jazz scales other scales can be derived for use in the jazz idiom.
The Blues - a progression, a scale, a felling. The blues is at the heart of all American music. IT's found it's way into rock, country, folk. R&B and Jazz. It's a great vehicle to explore jazz.
The Mixolydian Scale and the Blues
The Mixolydian scale, sometimes called the Dominant scale is a great place to start when learning to soloing in more advanced jazz styles. This is a great “bridge” scale widely used in the blues, rock, and R&B styles. It's a great scale to get your feet wet with when exploring jazz.
The Mixolydian scale is created by lowering the seventh scale degree of a major scale one half step. This gives the Mixolydian scale a formula of (1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 8).
The Blues is the most common song form in music and can easily “jazzed” up with 4-part chords .
In Jazz we can base a lot of the scales that we'll ever need from the Major (Ionion) and Natural Minor (Aeolian) scales. From theses two scales you can create the essential scales you need in jazz styles.
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