Improvisation Targets

Hey guys, Willie Myette creator of jazz edge, I want to welcome you to episode number three of the confident improviser. Today in today’s podcast, we are going to talk about improvisation targets. Just as a reminder, if you’re a jazz edge student, and you’re following the confident improviser program on the jazz edge website, you can also watch the video for this podcast. Okay, so I will have a video available as well that you can follow along with. Okay, so today, let’s talk about improvisation lines. And let’s start there. So when we refer to an improvisation line, we might call it several different things, we might call it a lick, we might call it a phrase, man might call it a motive or a motif, we might even just call it a sentence. So for instance, an improvisation line. If I play my simple bass line down here, okay, I’ll just keep that simple bass line going. So an improvisation line might be something like this. So just a short little phrase. There’s another one, right? Now, as you get better at improvisation, you tend to make longer lines, you know, so you start to do things like this. So you can hear that the line is a little bit longer, it spans several measures, don’t worry about getting there just yet. It’s okay, I just want to kind of explain to you that sometimes the line might be short and might be longer. A great way of thinking about improvise lines and improvisation lines, is to think of them like sentences. So when I get to the end of my sentence, what am I going to do, I’m going to take a breath, right, and if I don’t take a breath, and I’m going to pass out, alright, so we obviously need to get to an end of a sentence, we take a breath, and then we have another sentence. It’s also important to realize and why the analogy is so good, is that if I don’t take that breath, like, you know, like, like, we all have that friend who did, they just keep talking and talk and talk and you can like, never get a word in edgewise. And it’s like, it seems like they never get to an end of a sentence. And that gets very difficult to listen to, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s like you feel like kind of bombarded. And that’s why with improvisation, we want to make sure that we put in those rest, and the whole play rest thing, we will end up talking about playing and resting a little bit later. Right now, I want to focus mostly on these improvisational targets, right? So anyway, that’s what we might call an improvised line, a lick a phrase, a motive motif, a sentence, whatever, okay? The and it might look something like this. And if you’re not watching the video, you see that, you know, we have kind of a line that goes up and then starts to curve down and it comes back up again. So it means like, we might go up, and then come down, and then go up, or something like that, or do something like that, right. So the line goes up comes down a little bit goes back up, doesn’t matter what the shape of the line is. This is just an example, I could easily do a line that starts high and goes low, and it’s a straight shot down. Right there you go straight shot down, or the opposite way, is a straight shot up. Okay? So the shape of the line has zero impact, zero meaning, okay, we’re not worried about the shape of the line right now, what we are worried about is the fact that the line starts and ends. This is super important. So let’s go through this nice and slow. Make sure that you really fully understand this. So every improvise line has a start and an end, right. So let’s just keep this simple. So if I go up like this. So I started on C, and I went up to G. So my first note was C. And my last note was G, I have a starting point. And I have an ending point. Now, when we are paying attention to these starting and ending points, this is what we call targeting. Right? So we are targeting in our improvisation, targeting you’re going to realize is a super important thing to do when you improvise, okay. And if you don’t target you’re going to see very quickly in a second, why targeting is so important. And if you don’t do it, why your improvisation is not going to sound great, right? So the best way of explaining targeting is to actually get in and let’s actually create some lines. Before we do that, just remember, we have a starting point, and we have an ending point. So we have a start and an end we start the line someplace and then we end the line. Okay, so here what I have on the screen is the ingredients for exercise number three, which is just simply the first four notes of the minor pentatonic scale. It’s just four notes, C, E flat, F, and G. Okay, so now like I said, there’s always going to be a starting note with your improvisation, and there’s going to be an ending note with yourself. conversation. What I’m going to do right now, and this is great, especially since it’s a podcast, because you could really focus on listening and not watching what I’m like, I’m going to play two different improvise lines, right? I’ll say, tell you that this is line one. And here’s line two, right, I’ll put some space in between line one, and line two. I’m going to in one of them, I’m going to focus on targeting. And in another one, I’m going to just not focus on targeting at all right, so here’s the first line. I’ll start with the baseline first.

Here comes line one. So there was a line one. Now here’s line two. line two again, there’s line one again. So now when you listen to that, which one sounds a little bit more kind of intune with the improvisation, and feels like it kind of fits right? It feels settle the feels like like, like the notes fit over that baseline does this one sound? Right, or this one?

Now, if you answered

in line number two here, this one, I would agree with you, this one doesn’t really sound like it fits with that baseline too much. There’s a lot of tension and a lot of rubbing that’s going on. Okay? That’s because I am starting and ending on a non chord tone. I am starting my line and ending my line on a non chord tone. Okay, so when I played this, this was F, E flat, F, E flat, F, D flat, F. So I’m starting the line on F, and I’m ending the line on F. But now let’s remember what was our accompaniment again, it’s a C minor chord, right then to F minor, g seven. So the C minor chord. Remember, in our podcast episode, last week, we talked about mastering our chords. So we really want to know, you know, very quickly, what are the notes of that C minor triad, right? Well, it’s C, E flat, and G, right? So is the note F, in that,


C, E flat, and g are my chord tones, the note f would be considered a tension. You know, for those of you that want to know, though, be considered the fourth or the 11th. On a minor chord, typically, we would call it 11. We’re not going to dive down that rabbit hole between four and 11. Don’t worry about that right now. thing to focus on is that I was starting my line and ending my line on a non chord tone. Now, that was line one. Now when I did line two, there, I started on G, then E flat F, I still play the F, but then I finished on C. So I started on G, and I ended on C. Well, again, are those chord tones on a C minor chord? You bet they are right. So G and C are part of that C minor chord. So here’s the deal. You if you want your improvisation to sound good, you do not always have to start on a chord tone. Okay, you do not always have to end on a chord sound. But right now I’m talking to the improviser who’s just getting started, right? You know, so like, if you’re more of a pro, you know, you can break these rules. But to get started, if you want your improv to sound more, like sound more, quote, unquote, right? You know, or good to your ears start and end on a chord tone. So you’re targeting these chord tones. There’s a starting target note and an ending target note. So in other words, like when I have the notes, C, E flat, F and G, well, that’s pretty simple. And C minor chord, right? I mean, C, E flat, and g are the chord tones. F is the only non chord tone. So when I start my line on an app, what’s that? how that sounds?

Right? It’s not

G, right? I did F, E flat, C, E flat, F, G, right. So I ended up ending on a chord tone, but I started on a non chord tone. So when I start the line, it sounds a little rough at first sounds a little bit tense, but eventually when I end the line, and it sounds, it sounds fine, it sounds good. Okay, so the starting the starting target note in your improvisation is less important as the ending one, right? And I’ll demonstrate that in a second. All right, well, let’s do this line again. Right, so that’s fine. Okay, so the ending target note was a G. It’s a chord tone sounds great, even though the first Note in that line was an F and it’s a non chord tone, it gets resolved so the ear doesn’t really remember it. Now listen to what happens if I end on an F. Now,

does it sound terrible? Well, no, of course, it

doesn’t sound terrible. But as you start to add more notes to your scales and your ingredients, you’re going to have notes that are really, really going to start to sound outside and sound much more tense. Okay? For instance, if I used a chromatic scale, and I did something like this ending on a C sharp D flat here, it sounds terrible, right? Like, I wouldn’t want to play that. Unless, of course, for one odd reason or another. That was the sound I was looking for. But most of us are not looking for that sound. So there, that final target note, the ending target note was a non chord tone, and it made the line not sound all that good, right? So now what if we go to the ingredients number two, so this is the five finger blues scale, this one is going to be a little bit easier, because now we have five notes to play around with. So now if we think about notes that are outside of the C minor chord, that

F and the

F sharp are most definitely outside of C minor. So remember, the five finger blue scale, the notes are C, E flat, F, F sharp, G. Okay? Those are my notes. Those are my five notes. So now if let’s say I start a line, and I end it on F sharp.

You hear it right away. It sounds very, very tense. You know, and you know, maybe you like the sound, maybe you don’t, but the point is, it definitely adds on a lot of tension. Now listen to what happens if I start the line on an F sharp but I end on a chord tone. So I can see here, I start on F sharp, F, E flat, C, E flat, C, right, so I end on C, but I start on F sharp. Well, what did you hear in that leg? You heard probably that Whoa, wow, that’s what it resolves. By and Gee, there, it resolves there as well. Okay, now, so there, that’s not bad. Even though I started the F sharp, it creates the tension at the beginning of the line. But ultimately, when I resolve the line when I get to my final target note, it’s a chord tone, and it works. So now you might be thinking, Well, it seems to me like that final target note is really the most important. If you think that you’re right. It’s really that final note that you play in your line that people are going to hear and they’re going to remember. So if you find when you’re playing lines, or you’re creating improvisation, you’re creating licks, you know, if you find that your improvisation is just not sounding the way that you want it to sound, then it’s likely that you’re ending your improvise line on a non chord tone. Okay. Again, as reminder, as you improve and you know, you learn more about improvisation, you do not always have to end your lines on a chord tone. But right now we’re trying to get started and just trying to like, get some rules that are kind of, you know, just really help you establish a strong foundation. So start with a chord tone. And with a chord tone. Remember, the chord tone is whatever chord you’re, you’re on for the moment. So when we do C minor here, right? But then we go to F minor, that g7. Okay, so let’s say when I get to the G seven, I end on a B natural. Now, we haven’t talked about adding in that note, right? But listen to what happens.

Right? So it doesn’t sound bad, right? Sounds a little interesting, because we’re going to that major sound and that be natural. So it might sound a little weird to ears, but it doesn’t sound so tense that it’s like, whoa, wait a minute, that sounds like a wrong line. Hey, listen, what happens when we get to the F chord, right? Get the f and I play an F sharp over that. Right and I get to the G and I’m still playing the F sharp. You can hear there’s a lot of tension there. Right now you’ve probably heard of tension and release. And where we want to release that tension while to release the tension. Move it away from being a non core tone, and move it to a core tone. So the easiest way of doing that is usually just moving by a half step.

Right. So if I resolve it down to f, right, or go up to G, that sounds fine as well. So try playing around with your starting and ending target notes. And the biggest thing is just kind of keep that in mind when you’re improvising. If you keep it in mind, you don’t have to really do much necessarily, just keep in mind that okay, where am I starting this? And where am I ending this? And then listen to the sound and ask yourself, do I like the sound of that line, if you don’t like the sound of the line? Well, then likely, you’re starting on, you know, a non chord tone, or you’re ending on a non chord tone. Don’t worry, if you don’t fully understand target notes, and all of that, there’s a couple of things that you can do. Number one, I will be doing a longer lesson on that with some more examples. Okay, and number two, you can join me every Thursday at one o’clock, for the confident improviser live training, right, all you need to do is just log in at jazz edge, and then you can see it right up in the live training menu item. If you’re not a member of jazz edge, check it out. I think that you would enjoy it. And I think that you would find that the lessons are set up step by step. Every Tuesday, you can do coaching with me every Wednesday, you can get online and do office hours every Thursday, you can do the confident improviser with me, so there’s a lot of live training and live interaction between me and my students. It’s not some other teacher. It’s me, right? So the jazz program is really me. So when you write in or you see live stuff, it is me doing it right. We are not a huge corporation, which we farm out all of the stuff, you know, to some customer service place, you know halfway around the world when you’re dealing with jazz as you’re dealing with Willie Myette right. So anyway, hope that I’ll see you in the site. And then I’ll see you in the next podcast episode.

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Willie Myette

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