Pushin’ It


For many months I have practiced scales in fairly straightforward and rudimentary ways. Literally this past week I feel comfortable progressing to more complicated and advanced methods of scale and harmony practice.


For starters, as I mentioned last week, I am utilizing a polyrhythm by playing subdivisions of the quarter note triplet in 4/4 time. I demonstrated that HERE. Cycling between major and melodic minor, alternating between 3/4 and 4/4 time, and also alternating between step-wise motion and thirds, I made my way through the circle of fifths.


I also switched between 170 BPM on the metronome for 8th notes and 106-110 for triplets. I was pushing the tempo today because I haven't really tested my limits for a while.


On the last two scales I slowed it down to 150 and did it in simple 8th notes just to make sure I got in some reps playing my absolute best.


After that, I went through the chord exercise described in THIS POST except using the melodic minor scale. This was my first day using the melodic minor for this exercise, and my ear was very unused to the sound of the augmented triad built on the third scale degree as well as the diminished triad built on the 6th scale degree.


I made sure to go slowly so that my fingers would only practice the right way instead of making mistakes (which muscles also remember).


After a break for class, I started another new exercise with pentatonics. I adapted the Jim Gailloreto method for these 5 note scales, moving across the whole range of my horn.


For major scales, I used scale degrees 1-2-3-5-6. And here's a video of what it sounds like.

For minor scales, I used scale degrees 1-b3-4-5-b7. And here's a video of the minor version.

To finish, I went back to Lady Bird/Half Nelson. I began by playing along with Dexter Gordon on Transcribe to get into the feel of the piece by imitating his style exactly. During improvisation, I played the head of Half-Nelson all the way through the changes to test myself and make sure I had it memorized. I did.


Taking a more systematic approach today, I tried to insert several of the licks I stole last week over various chords. I also quoted bits and pieces of Half Nelson over almost every change at one point or another. My third focus was on sequences; I played both rhythmic and melodic sequences.


I notice that for now, until I develop a truly second-nature swing feel, it helps to think of rhythm in terms of licks. I know that I can play singular licks and arpeggios in perfect time, so by mentally preparing for just 4-8 notes in a row, I can stay locked in.


Happy Practicing! Check out my interview with jazz pianist Hana Fujisaki here

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