Forward Steps in Melodic Soloing Part 1 (below: a link to the actual published magazine article)
Forward Steps in Melodic Soloing Part 1
(below: a link to the actual published magazine article)
You will sometimes hear one player say of another – “His/Her solos are really melodic”.
We intuitively value improvising in a melodic fashion. I want to talk in
next two columns about how this concept is evolving in jazz education.
If you have ever asked yourself any of the following questions, you may find this topic very
What should I play in my solo? How do I keep coming up with new ideas?
How long can I stay with one idea? How do I develop it? When is it time
to move to a completely new idea? What makes a solo compelling for a listener?
How do I make my solo interesting through the whole thing?
Keep these questions in mind, and let’s begin by looking at a little history of jazz education,
and then we’ll look at how the focus is shifting in jazz education with a larger spotlight on
Formal college-level jazz education has been around a relatively short time, with interest
beginning to take shape in the late 70’s. This interest was often slow in growing, as many
academic programs showed resistance to both jazz
and guitar as serious artistic pursuits.
Conservative academics tended to look on jazz and especially guitar as less desirable
step-children that did not deserve to be even close to the esteemed place of classical music.
That old order is rapidly changing, and jazz, along
with degree programs in guitar, are finding
acceptance as legitimate courses of study in the arts. The teaching methods and emphases
within these programs are rapidly evolving as well. The early days of jazz education taught
a rather pedantic approach to playing
the music: “Outline the changes”…”play this scale over
that chord”…”use this technique to play outside”….”practice scales”. This intellectual approach
to a form of music that was meant to be emotionally evocative is thankfully starting to run
out of gas!
In the recent past, books with scale studies and rote patterns have been infinite in number.
This represents the prior focus on the analytical approach to the music, and is an approach
that tends to be mechanical in “playing the right notes against whatever chord”. In contrast
to that approach, I have found two books, written recently, that I think represent a new
trend and a new focus in jazz improvisation. They also represent a new direction for how
people will teach this music. The focus is on melodic improvisation and the actual
ways one can develop this ability. The focus is on improvising meaningful melodies as
opposed to simply outlining the harmony with scales and