What is Improvisation?
Improvisation or “improv” is the art of creating spontaneous melodies, i.e., solos, licks, and riffs and is 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 for these improvised melodies and licks originate. Throw in the difficulties of fingering, alternate note locations, and 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 takes 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 what you have.
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 good at sharpening crayons. It turns out it’s the artist, not the crayon.
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Improvisation is More Than Just Scales
Most people think, to learn improvisation, you 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 a “Jazz” scale or “Blues” or “Rock”. A scale is just a collection of notes. It is how you use and develop theses collection of notes. 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 these two scales, you can create or derive any other scales you need for playing Jazz.
These two scales are core, key/reference scales. Whatever you call them, they are essential.
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 be “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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