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Jazz Exercises

It can be said that the most obvious or simplest approach can be the best. In the case of jazz improvisation, sometimes it is necessary to break everything down into its simplest form, like the triad/chord exercises below.



Probably one of the best tenor saxophonists I have ever heard is Ralph Bowen. He was my roommate at Indiana University when I was a freshman. He was playing with Out of The Blue (OTB) and traveling back and forth to New York almost weekly. The press he received touted his technique, his likeness to John Coltrane and Michael Brecker, and his command of the tenor saxophone. I asked him what I could do to improvise better, and he said, "Learn your triads: Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented." Well, I thought I already knew them...but I had no idea. It was great advice -- and I'm passing it on to you.

 

Important!! COPY THIS PAGE and the PRACTICE OUTLINE, at the bottom of the list.
The following exercises are the foundation for your improvising. This covers the vertical approach to improvising, while scales cover the horizontal approach.

 

  • Each exercise must be learned in all 12 keys and in these root movements: m2nd, M2nd, m3rd, M3rd and P4th. If a student can negotiate these parameters, they have learned most of the chord progressions they will face in a tune.
  • I have written out Triad Exercise #1 in all root movements.
  • The remainder of the exercises will only be given in m2nds. The student must learn how to transpose an exercise/ pattern into all 12 keys in their head.
  • Etudes provide better examples of the application process and which pattern(s) works with which chord.
  • The chords within the exercise are the most likely chords to be used.
  • Application of these exercises and patterns is a must. There are etudes under the etude menu which illustrate application.

 

The first exercise is 14 pages long, because it is written out completely. I encourage you to print it out and use it as a guide for the remaining exercises, which are not fully written out.

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Exercise List:

Warm-Ups:

Exercise #1 PDF = Overtones, Basic Study or Exercise #1 GIF

Exercise #2 PDF = Bebop Dominant Perpetual Motion (David Baker) or Exercise #2 GIF

Exercise #3 PDF = Bebop Major Perpetual Motion (David Baker) or Exercise #3 GIF

Exercise #4 PDF = Major Modes Perpetual Motion or Exercise #4 GIF

Exercise #5 PDF = Melodic Minor Modes Perpetual Motion or Exercise #5 GIF

Exercise #6 PDF = Harmonic Minor Modes Perpetual Motion or Exercise #6 GIF

 

Triads:

Exercise #1 PDF = Triads built on 1,3,5,1 or Exercise #1 GIF

All root movements written out = 14 pages

Exercise #2 PDF = Triads built on 3,5,1,3 or Exercise #2 GIF

Exercise #3 PDF = Triads built on 5,1,3,5 or Exercise #3 GIF

Exercise #4 PDF = Triads built on 1,3,5,3 or Exercise #4 GIF

Exercise #5 PDF = Triads built on 3,5,1,5 or Exercise #5 GIF

Exercise #6 PDF = Triads built on 5,1,3,1 or Exercise #6 GIF

Exercise #7 PDF = Triads built on the Diminished Scale or Exercise #7 GIF

Exercise #8 PDF = Triads built on the Whole Tone Scale or Exercise #8 GIF

 

Chords:

Exercise #1 PDF = Chords built on 1,3,5,7 or Exercise #1 GIF

Exercise #2 PDF = Chords built on 3,5,7,1 or Exercise #2 GIF

Exercise #3 PDF = Chords built on 5,7,1,3 or Exercise #3 GIF

Exercise #4 PDF = Chords built on 7,5,3,1 or Exercise #4 GIF

Exercise #5 PDF = Diatonic chords built on 1,3,5,7 or Exercise #5 GIF

 

There are five chord types you must deal with when adding the 7th to the triad. These chords are: Major 7th, Minor 7th, Half-Diminished 7th, Fully Diminished 7th, and Dominant 7th. The augmented chord becomes less effective since the 7th, or 6th as some people think of it, is a major second above the +5. We will exclude the augmented from these exercises.

*PRACTICE OUTLINE = An approach to learning the information in the Exercise and Etude pages. A suggested practice routine.

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