Learning to improvise over chord changes part 2.
If you have digested the exercises in the previous post you know the cycle of fourths and all the major triads. Now it’s time to turn those exercises in to musical phrases. I’ll give you some hints and tips on how to do that.
1) Think of a rhythm first and then put the notes of the triad on to that rhythm. Doobadatdaa ,doobadaa doodaa in the key of C could translate to a two bar C-E-E-E , C-E-G-E-C phrase for instance.
2) Use the notes of the triads in different octaves, don’t confine yourself to the register of the exercises, the same notes can be found higher or lower on your saxophone
3) It’s great that you know all the notes of every triad now but that does not mean that you have to play all those notes all the time. Using only two or even one note in a nice flowing rhythm can be just as effective.
4) Get away from the exercise patterns by starting on another note instead of the root of the chord.
5) Don’t start every phrase on the first beat. Begin playing on an after beat to break away from the studied pattern. Or start on the second or third beat.
6) Vary the direction of your phrases. If you catch yourself always going upwards in the triad, make sure to play the next 5 phrases going in a downward direction.
7) Use a metronome to keep track of the time and make sure you’re swinging.
8) Or use a backing track. Jamey Aebersold’s vol 84 track 14 (available on ITunes) goes through the cycle in dominant chords. Your major triads will sound just fine on that.
9) You could also make your own backing track in Band in a Box; simply type the letters of the cycle every other bar, choose a style and you’re all set. Also make a track in which every chord last 4 bars. Then play two 2 bar phrases on every chord. Leave some space between the two phrases.
This is also fun to practice with a fellow saxophone player or another instrumentalist. You can take turns in playing two bar phrases and do a “question and response” game through the cycle.
Finding someone to study with is often a great way to learn new stuff. The input of another player makes you hear and play things that you otherwise would not have thought of by yourself.
Good luck and have fun!
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