Creating Longer Phrases


Dan had a great lesson on 5/23 while trying a new way of soloing over a chord progression.  On “Stella By Starlight,” the goal was to create longer phrases that would honor the harmonic rhythm of a new chord every measure, but to avoid sounding like he was playing inside a progressive series of what I call “little boxes,” one “box” at a time.  We also wanted to have a stronger sense of direction in the phrases, rather than “following the fingers” (a phrase my mentor, Dale Bruning used to describe as staying in a comfort zone defined by what are familiar patterns for the fingers).

We began by writing a note in each measure which would create a broad, ascending gesture every two measures (see example).  Dan then improvised a path from the first guide note to the second guide note (which was then held).  By playing a melody with a clear, broad stroke that extended past the barline his music began to sing and breathe just like the song’s melody.  It was relatively easy to improvise new starting and stopping points, and to spontaneously decide on the direction (up or down) these two bar phrases would take. Because it was such a simple concept, he had a lot of freedom to choose how he was going to get to the second measure, and yet there was an overall arc and sense of continuity to the eight measures he played over.  Bravo Dan!  (Dan is an adult with some semi-pro experience who also rehearses and performs regularly with a jazz group)


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