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Advanced Studies

Lesson 6 - Section 1

Improvising a Solo

Improvising a solo is basically creating a replacement melody line for the chords in a song. However, you do it without writing it down first.

Jazz solos are also referred to as improvising or improvisation. You are about to learn to improvise in a melodic way.

If someone were to ask you to do something and you were missing something you needed to complete that task, you might improvise in order to complete the task.

In Jazz, the melody line is missing and it will be your fun and pleasure to replace it with a set of notes you fancy.

As with any task to be done, one needs to look at any resources available to complete the task. So what are the resources that are available to you?

Your List of Available Resources

1- The form of the song and tempo
2- The key signature and time signature
3- The chords within the form of the song
4- The scales that can be played along with each chord
5- Other musicians playing the song with you
6- Past listening experience
7- Past musical performance experience
8- A bag of musical licks (patterns) to draw from

Creatively making use of these resources is your key to improvising.

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Lesson 6 - Section 2

Improvising a Solo continued

When a group of Jazz musicians decide to play a song and include soloing in it, they generally do it in this way:

Step One

Everyone plays the song through one time.

Step Two

Then, each player who wants to solo, takes a turn improvising a solo.

Step Three

Everyone plays the song one last time and then ends it.

How Do You Want to Perform a New Melody Line for Your Solo?

How you decide to use your available resources to create a new melody line is your choice. Soloing is an art form and as an art form it can come in many different variations. Here's a short list: 

1- Do you want to play it on the piano?
2- Do you want to sing your solo? (such as scat singing)
3- Do you want to whistle it?
4- Do you want to play a solo that sounds similar to the original melody line? This is a good place to start for beginners . . .
5- Do you want to play a solo that sounds very different from the original melody line?
6- Do you want to share your solos with other players? This is called trading 4 bars or trading fours.
7- Do you want to stand and read a poem during your solo?
8- Do you want to make sounds of animals or bird calls during your solo?
9- Do you want to hand clap a fancy rhythm during your solo?
10- Do you want to use bits and pieces from solos you’ve heard other people play? This is another good place to start for beginners.
11- Do you want to tap dance your solo?
12- Do you want to mix children’s nursery melodies into your solo?

As you can see the list of choices is endless. Your creative pallet for painting a new melody is wide open!

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