Improvised Solos

An upright pedal pianoImage via Wikipedia
Have you learned your piano soloing from a pro? Sometimes it seems that I learn quickly and easily by copying what a musician shows me and then change things for my style and improve upon that... Do you find that as well? I hope you'll leave me a message on what works for you.

I discovered a great article by Miles Donahue who plays tenor sax and is known for his hard-bop and post-bop music. I wanted to list some main points that I gleaned from the article.

* Referencing the Masters

1. Michael Petrucciani revealed that as a young player he transcribed and could play between 15-20 solos by Wes Montgomery.
2. Bill Evans said that he couldn't learn jazz through osmosis, but rather had to approach the subject through analytical study.
3. Lennie Tristano had his students sing and play certain transcribed solos as part of their jazz education.

* Academic Benefits

The intermediate jazz student can benefit most from transcribed solos if they have the right approach. There is benefit to be gained from transcribing the solos yourself, and there are benefits to playing solos from published books. If you do the transcription, you would likely have to sing what you hear and write it down. This would serve as ear training. At college auditions students are often tested on call and response, which is when someone plays a melody and then the student must play it back. When you improvise, the ability to remember melodic ideas and invent new ones is absolutely necessary.

* Rules
1. Do not try a solo that is technically beyond you.
2. Find a solo based on a chord progression you know (if we don't know the chord progression we cannot analyze the solo)
3. Sing and internalize the solo bassed on intervals, relationship to the chords, and upon what tools of music are used, such as bebop scales, pentatonic scales, approach notes, tension notes and more.
* 12 Bars and the Truth

A blues is only 12 bars long and there are many solos based on the standard jazz blues chord progression, therefore a blues is a good starting point. I recommend just learning 12 bars of a transcribed solo and then playing in every key or learn 3 or 4 different 12 bar solos in the same key.

What can be learned from only four bars of a transcribed blues solo? One thing I learned is that on the 4th bar many jazz players use notes from the altered scale to produce a stronger resolution to the IV chord on the 5th bar.

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