View Full Version : Motivic Improvisation

03-05-2004, 03:06 PM
Ok, This is the counterpart to James' coordinated effort to imrpove our technique (I'm still in right James? ) I constantly read threads asking for improvisation advice, I think that the main problem that we all have is that there are too many options.... VII chords to choose from and 12 tones that in one way or another work over them (technically 7 but if you wanna be out.... ) the best way to pinpoint that problem is limiting the options, we won't do a Steve Vai here and play with one note for 3 + hours (you'd need A LOT of discipline to do that and not go insane) but how about coming up with short motives, and keep them on a key, we can even forget about specific notes and just work off of the intervals, for instance, using only two notes separated by a 4th (whether is a perfect, augmented or diminished 4th is gonna deppend on the key and the scale degrees you're playing) for instance in the key of C major you have a C and and F a D and a G a E and an A (you get the point) or if you wanna play around with 3 notes, ok how about a 3rd and a 2nd so in C major again you'd have a C an E and an F, a D an F and a G etc. We could pick out a chord progression like in the minor mode a I VI V progression or in Major the so popular I VI IV V and kinda play around with those motives, for a couple of weeks, combining those 3 or 2 notes, in the same order (limiting the choices is the key) but playing around with them rhythmically and stuff (you'd be suprised of how good a 3 note solo can sound).... anyways.. that's kind of how the framework of this would work... anyone interested? (I'm looking for some improv practice mates) Let me know and see if we can get this little ball rolling.


03-05-2004, 04:00 PM
Are you suggesting that we limit our use of interval to 4ths or limit our use of notes to just two notes a 4th apart?

I believe I have started a similar thread a couple of years ago.
I'll try and hunt it down.
Reduction us a good way to concentrate on certain areas of study. Jazzers use reduction in the sense of rhythmic reduction where everthing is eight notes.

I am in (and so are you) but I would like more clarification.

03-05-2004, 04:17 PM
The example of the 2 notes one 4th apart it was just that an example, in that particular case you would only use an ascending 4th, and of course you'd keep the notes "inside" the key you're gonna be playing in (I wouldn't modulate yet, so more people can work with us, being easy to just stay in one key). The 2nd Example was just 3 notes again ascending, the first 2 a 3rd apart (again keeping them diatonic to the key you're in so those 3rds are going to be major and minor depending on what note you start on) and the 3rd note a second apart from the 2nd note (again that second is going to be major or minor depending on the note you started on)... those are just examples though, simple motives to get people started. I guess we could start using those two and see if people sugest more... I'm sure you'll be able to come up with one too, let's try and get 5 little motives together and work on those for a few weeks, posting the rhythms you've come up with (there's where the trick is) let's see how interesting we can make those 2 or 3 notes sound.

Does that work?

03-05-2004, 05:52 PM
Hey Jorge,
This sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, I cannot compute - no system of my own, yet.
....perhaps I could get the board game and play along at home..;)

Just to clarify-
) you are talking about using just 2 notes (or 3 w/ your other example) ?
) we would choose the notes ?
) who would choose the interval ?
) would we cover all intervals over 1 harmony and then move on ?
)- move on too what ?

....that's a lot of questions, for a schlep w/out a computer ! :)


03-05-2004, 06:32 PM
Ok, let's take my example as exercise 1, we'll work on that for a couple of weeks and see how we can come up with, is that ok? So we have basically 2 melodic motives, the rhythm isn't written so you can play those notes in any rhythmic grouping you wish or syncopate them, etc. The first melodic motive is two notes separated by an interval of a 4th and can only be played ascending, (so you have an ascending leap of a 4th), then the second one is 3 notes, the first two separated by a 3rd and the 3rd one a 2nd above. For starters we're gonna base our improvisation in the Key of C Major/A minor, so if we take example one and just move up the C major scale we'll have:

C-F D-G E-A F-B G-C A-D B-G etc

For the second one you'll have

C-E-F D-F-G E-G-A F-A-B G-B-C A-C-D B-D-E etc

You can play those notes at any time but always keeping the sequence in order, that is you cannot reverse the motive or move in any other direction once you're started playing it. You're free to add rests whenever you like and combine the notes in any rhythm you want and of course you can play the motive starting on any note of the scale and jump around with it, just base your playing off of those two sequences only.

The chord progressions we're gonna be using is

I-VI-IV-V (that is C - Am - F - G)

I personally like the sound of the I - VI - V - I in minor so let's go ahead and use that one too, so we have Am - F - Em - Am

Feel free to use substitutions or extensions if you like.

Is this defined enough?

03-05-2004, 08:31 PM
o.k. , so;
) phrases are played ascending.
- we're free to jump around so, once I finish a phrase I'm able to drop an octave (or a 5th ?) and begin the next phrase.
- extended phrases or fast (16th note) are o.k. as long as they stick to the ascending, intervalic formula ?

) double stops o.k. ?

I'll assume bends are out since we'd have to pervert the interval at some point.

*Anyone else signin' up for this ?? ........'cause I got no PC !
........if my boss knew that this is what I do for a livin',.......I'd be lookin' for a new way to make a livin' !!

Thanks, Jorge

03-05-2004, 08:35 PM
LOL Mike, I'm kind of in the same situation here, except I got one a couple of months ago. No internet though... but yeah, no double stops (play the phrase straight), no bends, extended phrases are ok like say using pattern 2



C E F G B C etc and yeah 16th notes, tripplets, quarter notes dotted notes, rests inbetween it's all permited

03-09-2004, 05:22 PM
........I cheated !! :p
I can't stick with this.,? As an excersize for learning intervals/degrees/notes on the fretboard, it works nicely -(at least I think it will, would, might :D ). As an improv. excersize, it's killin' me !!. I can't stick with it. I have to cheat

.......now, I'll go cut you a switch - :eek: