One of the goals for any jazz musician is to be able to play what they hear instantly on their instrument!
As a beginner improvisor or jazz student this can be quite a challenging ask!
Hw can this skill be developed in a systematic way without getting too frustrated and wanting to launch your instrument out of the nearest window!
One way I found (and still practice) it to take a tune I already know REALLY well and simply try and play it on my instrument.
At first, the easier the better! Check out the video below. In this example I use 'twinkle twinkle little star'.
Start on the note the you find easiest to play and let your ear and fingers start to work together. As you know the tune really well, you'll instantly know if you've made a mistake!
Once you are confident in one key, then try in another! A good way to play through all the keys is to try in a cycle of 5ths. Check out the image below.
So, you could start in C major, then move to G, then D etc... until you are confident in all keys.
Remember that some jazz tunes (especially in the middle 8) can move to some challenging keys, so it is great practice right from the start to get used to playing in ALL keys!
Once you have mastered a nursery rhyme, you could then move on to a simple jazz tune. When the Saints go marching in would be a great starter as it only uses 5 notes and none of them are chromatic!
Once you start to build your confidence with this, you may want to either try a more challenging tune with some chromaticism (The shadow of your smile would be a challenge) or, start to try and copy phrases from your favourite players jazz solos!
The more you can practice singing phrases or tunes in your head and then playing them on your instrument (in ALL keys) the better equipped you will be to be a better improvisor.
Remember, the more you do this, the more you will improve. Many students know a lot of theory and as a result think they can apply their thoughts to solos, I'm afraid they are going to be very frustrated. True improvisation in every sense, using great vocabulary, playing with a great feel and time, listening to other members of the group all come from developing great listening skills!
This is a great exercises to develop great listening skills.
Even the great Bobby Shew recommends this type of practice!
What Bobby is talking about maybe for more advanced students, if you need something aimed more at beginner or intermediate students, check out my video on developing your listening skills.
Good luck with this exercise!
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