Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jazz Improvisation: The Theoretical Approach

When it comes to learning jazz improvisation the theoretical approach is probably the most taught method in schools and books.  Why you might ask?  Well unlike other methods that teach students to improvise the theoretical approach to jazz gives the student a background and structure to learn from.  For most beginning jazz improvisers their main concern is, "What notes do I play?"  Typically the beginning jazz student wants to sound good, but they really don't know how to improvise.

The theoretical approach is a improvisation method that teaches jazz students what does and what doesn't work in a theoretical manner.  This also provides the student with a concrete way to go about learning to improvise over tunes, and it also teaches a student how they can approach new tunes with confidence.

So what is the theoretical approach to jazz improvisation?  The theoretical approach  is the process of learning to improvise over jazz standards by understanding music theory.  In this case you would call it jazz theory.  In simple terms the theoretical approach to improvisation is the study of jazz theory.

Ok, what does this mean.  This means that the jazz student needs to learn and master the basic components of jazz music.  This is done through understanding chord scale relationships.  Jamey Aebersold's books and playalongs go into great detail about how to utilize chord scale relationships to develop a strong jazz solo.

So lets recap.  The theoretical approach to jazz improvisation involves learning jazz theory so that the improviser knows what notes do and what notes don't fit the chord progression of the tune they are playing.  This process is typically learned through understanding how chords and scales relate to one another.

Sounds simple enough right?  Well the concept is simple, but it does take work to master.  A student who wishes to use the theoretical approach to jazz improvisation embarks on a journey where they must learn a lot.  To master jazz improvisation through the theorectical approach a jazz student must learn how to build chords, they need to understand what scales and modes work with the varying types of chords, and they also have to gain an understanding on how the chords within a chord progression relate to one another.  Once these skills are mastered the jazz student will have a strong understanding of jazz harmony and what notes they can use to improvise successfully over a tune.

Well that's all for today.  Until next time.