Improv Drills


The Improv Drill series of lessons is a critcal group of lessons that will get you deep into the changes of any tune by teaching you how to isolate and drill the four components of melodic construction: chord tones on strong beats, arpeggios, scale passages and approach patterns. Once you gain the skill of manipulating these components in real time, you "own" the chords and are well on your way to being able to fluently improvise a melody over any progression.
Through an analysis of a transcription of Hank Mobley's solo over the changes to the tune "Remember" from his 1960 recording "Soul Station," watch how this master of bebop improvisation uses chord tones on strong beats as a foundation for his strong and logical improvised line over the changes to this Irving Berlin classic. Then learn an extensive series of drills to gain control of these notes over this or any chord progression to help you develop fluency with these primary components of good melodic construction.
Joe Zawinul is perhaps best known as a fusion-based synthesist, co-founder of the popular jazz-rock group Weather Report and explorer of World Music styles as leader of his band the Joe Zawinul Syndicate. But he played straight-ahead jazz on the acoustic piano well before venturing off into the varied directions of the past 30+ years. His considerable talents as a bebop pianist are on display in this lesson through an analysis of a transcription of his solo over the tune "Teaneck" from the 1961 classic "Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley" for his use of approach patterns in crafting his lines. This lesson codifies four common approach patterns and demonstrates a series of drills to help you gain control over these patterns for use in your own soloing. The second installment in the Improv Drill series of lessons, this lesson builds on the fundamentals outlined in the first lesson, Improv Drill: Chord Tones.
Bill Charlap, the reigning mainstream jazz pianist, makes commanding use of arpeggios in the second chorus of his solo over the tune Blue Skies from his 2000 Blue Note recording "Written in the Stars," his major label debut. In this lesson, his solo is the basis for several drills of commonly used arpeggios that will help you integrate these essential melodic devices into your own playing. The fourth installment in the Improv Drill series of lessons, this lesson builds on the fundamentals outlined in the first two lessons, Improv Drill - Chord Tones and Improv Drill - Approach Patterns.
Improv Drill - Chordscales completes the four lesson sequence of the Improv Drill series with a presentation of nine drills that aim to help you develop an exhaustive command of the chordscales to "Rhythm Changes." Tommy Flanagan's solo over the "Rhythm Changes" contrafact "Oleo," from his 1977 recording "Eclypso" is used an an introduction to the drills which aim to help you assimilate the chordscales into your head and hands allowing you complete freedom when you improvise. The lesson also describes how to apply the drills to any tune so that you can achieve improvisational freedom for any repertoire.
This installment of the improv drill series accomplishes two goals: it condenses the improv drills presented in the original four lessons (chord tones, chordscales, arpeggios and approach patterns) and it shows you how to play them over the major ii-V-I progression. The idea here is to present to you a more manageable yet still effective drill over the major ii-V-I progression to help deepen your improvisational facility.

Hank Mobley’s solo over the standard tune “If I Should Lose You,” is analyzed in this lesson for his use of the four components of melodic construction and several of his licks are isolated and transposed in the practice sessions for you to use in your own solos and as jumping-off points for your own ideas and licks.