Which notes to play


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Development of improvisation

Improvisational music started by people embellishing the melody. Making ornaments around an already known melody. In the 1920-ies people like Louis Armstrong started to make completely new maelodies based on the Chordes of the melodies. In the 1940-ies the bebop people started making improvisation based on scales following the melody. Later (in the 1960-ies) jazz musicians started to improvise outside of the the scales that were asigned to each melody. An important concept when playing outside is, that you know and feel the difference about beeing "inside" and outside, so you can get "home".

Which notes to play

When you have practiced improvisation for a while you should get to the point where you dont think about it, you just play and it sounds nice. For some people it may however take several years to get to that point. So what do you do in the meanwhile. While getting there?

One way is going the same way as jazz music developed. Start playing a litle bit around the melody. Then try to follow the chords of the melody, this is especially practical whith melodies with few chord changes such as blues.

The next step is to play scales. This is particularily practical in main stream jazz where you have too many chord changes for making you able to actually follow what chord you have. Often the scales are kept while the chords are changing. (Let say you have a dm7 G7 Cmaj7 development you should play D-doric, G-mixolyidic and C-major over the chords, actually the three scales have the same notes, so it is in fact just one scale.)

  • Start learning the melody
  • Listen to the chord changes
  • Try follow the chord changes by just playing the root and third
  • Make simple rifs over the chords
  • Try to analyze which scales are used for the melody
  • Improvise while staying inside the scales
  • Try to make small passages "outside" the scales, find notes which sound good

Which notes not to play

When doing above you will find that you can almost play any note when improvising, there are very few notes that you should avoid. However if you start thinking of what you should avoid, be sure, you will land on exactly that note you wanted to avoid! Anyway, try to avoid landing on the forth of the chord you are playing, you may play it shortly but try to land on chord notes instead.


Using the Blues Scale

The " blues scale" is a scale cantaining the root, the minor third, fourth, tritonus, fifth and minor seventh. When you play blues, it is good because it gets you straight into that "bluesy mood" but don't overdo it. Use other scales as well when you play blues.

Blues scale in C