On a recent recording I made it became glaringly obvious (to me) that my phrases are way too short , like 2bars short. This has been the elephant in my room for too long. I have always prioritized feel, tuning and learning tunes - tools to help you get gigs. Now I've got to sort out my blowing.
I have taken down a few Hank Mobley/Al Kohn/Coltrane solos as examples of great lines but what to do with them now?
The great Emily Remler suggested playing whole choruses in eighth notes with no rests as an exercise to achieve longer, fluid phrases. You can probably find her instructional vids on youtube.
Don't be afraid of your 2 bar phrases. Treat them like building blocks to a better solo.
The key is to remember what you played in the previous 2 bars. That way you can do a call & response pattern... 2 bars of phrase A, 2 bars of phrase b, 2 bars of phrase A, 2 bars of phrase C. Just by doing that you now have an 8 bar phrase. The tricky part is still being able to keep the motif going while transition through whatever changes you have to deal with. For your next two bars, you can take phrase C as your initial call and then come up with a new response. Don't be afraid to repeat the two bars you just came up with either.
Once you get that down, you can start developing your 2 bar phrases to go to 4 bars, which could potentially lead to easier 8 and 16 bar phrases. Doing so will now weave a smaller number of ideas through a longer stretch - it doesn't sound like you're just blathering nonsense anymore.
Easier said than done of course. As one of my teachers puts it, a good solo usually only contains one or two ideas. It's what you do with those ideas.
a few idea's to help:
Sing as you play. Hopefully this mutailes into singing what you are playing the playing what you are singing.
do more cadences like in classical music. This is a bit of a stretch but try doing multiple endings to a phrase. From what ever your last note is then do a little appegio or skip down to another note that resolves. (eg falling from the 9th down to a Maj7)
And lastly, do a "quick" trasrcription of the song. just finds out what ideas somebody else is doing over the changes. Not note for note but listen to where the high points and low points are in the line and use them as target tones then fill in the rest.
A month later and my opinions changes a little bit. I've been chewing alot on this particular nut thinking about solo development and how to expand beyond just 4, 8 and 16 bar phrases (much less 2 bars)....
Yes 2 bar phrases are building blocks... but also, you have to be able to imagine and hear longer phrases. I think Hal Galper does a far better job explaning it.
My advice: use Tristano's slow practice technique: put a metronome at 60bpm and solo while thinking about what you're going to play in the next 4 bars. Once you have 4 bars down, move to 8 bars and always hearing ahead of the moment.
What has helped immensely has been this exercise; The A chromatic scale on the g string (top line of the bass clef) to the octave. Play up and down @ 60bpm in 3/4 and/or triplets in 4/4 using i m fingers in the right hand.
What this has done is get my hands actually playing something that resembles a long phrase , it's banging for your tekkers too. Let me know if you need this explained any further.
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