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licks,riffs,patterns...


montunoman

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Just wondering what folks at KB corner thought about practicing licks,riff, and patterns. Do you think such practice is effective towards becoming a better improvisor?

 

Personally I enjoy taking patterns (or licks, or whatever you want to call them) It's fun to run through them in many keys.

 

Currently I'm working on Andrew Gordons "Ultimate Blues Riffs"

Also I enjoy the patterns from Jamey Aeborsold "ii, V, I"

Somtimes after transcribing a solo, I'll pick a few fragments I like and try them in several keys, and try changing up the phrasing too.

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Absolutely. There are hundreds of bits of advice that I'm sure people will post in this thread, so I'll throw mine in first.

 

1) Licks can give you 'go to' chunks of music that you can then build around. For a beginning improviser, this is often a great place to start.

 

2) Stringing endless predetermined 'licks' together isn't a hip way to make music.

 

If I were you, I'd play through them, see which ones you really like, then learn them in every key. As you do it, you'll gain a familiarity with what's actually happening, like 'oh this lick runs down a minor 9th arpeggio, starting with the ninth then it goes down 7, 5, to 3, then 11, up a 4th to the root, 7, 11, #11, 5, encapsulating the 5'. Soon you'll be able to take that pattern or 'lick' and permutate it or use parts of it or use it over a different chord quality.

 

THATS how you use licks: as springboards!

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

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Also, the Andrew Gordon books aren't that great! I have 'em all (used to work in a music store). There are gems in each one, but the signal to noise ratio is very low indeed. Of them, my favorite is the funk one. The patterns from Aebersold's ii V I book are great!

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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Although licks are a practical way of practicing the physical aspect of playing jazz, jazz improvisation should be as lick-free as possible. Which is of course easy to say and hard to do.

 

Not sure I'd say the same thing about blues and rock. I think the argument could me made that we cherish our blues and rock licks, and we want to hear them over and over. You can always play them better and more soulfully, you can look for new and clever ways to frame them, you can play around with minor variations, but the licks have got to be there. Not sure I fully believe this, but it's a make-able argument.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

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+1 on that Andrew Gordon Funk book.

I think my copy of it's in storage & the cd that came with it's all scratched up but I digress. That book got me doing some challenging two-handed clav patterns years ago; stuff that didn't just come naturally to me apart from getting some kind of instruction on it. He used somewhat sophisticated chord voicings too in some of the riffs (maj 7ths, 13ths, etc.) iirc.

Hammond-Suzuki XK-3c, Neo Instruments Ventilator, Yamaha MX-88, Roland ‘chainsaw’ amp with casters 😉, Mackie SRM 450’s.

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Just wondering what folks at KB corner thought about practicing licks,riff, and patterns. Do you think such practice is effective towards becoming a better improvisor?.

 

I've written in great depth on numerous occasions my approach to this but basically--yes.

 

I would expound more but realistically I don't think, with the exception of a very few (who already know my practice strategy in this area) , that people give two shits so why bother......

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I would expound more but realistically I don't think, with the exception of a very few (who already know my practice strategy in this area) , that people give two shits so why bother......

 

I'd give more than a few shits!!! :laugh:

 

Seriously, I guess I missed these posts you mentioned, but I'm very interested in others daily practice routines.

 

So please, indulge me!!

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[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Ok, I'll say it: Believe it or not, I've never studied a single riff, pattern, lick, or whatever, in my whole life. I once bought a book called "Jazz Riffs for Piano", had a look at it, and never used it.

I allow my students to study patterns if they feel the need, but only when they are at a certain level of expertise. For beginners, I feel that thinking about patterns could block some part of their creative "channel", so to speak.

 

So how did I go about learning various styles? Simple: I learned (by transcribing or reading transcriptions) entire big chunks of solos by the masters, then reasoning about the principles and procedures that they used. I try to do the same in my teaching.

 

As I said, the "danger" of learning two-bar or so patterns, is to create an automatic response, like, I see that chord symbol, my hand goes there.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with isolating a phrase that you like from a solo, and transcribing it yourself. :)

 

So don't get me wrong - I'm not against patterns in principle; I just prefer to take my learning material from actual music.

 

 

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Yes, linear outlines are very useful.

 

My main technical drills come from tweaked versions of the Three Outlines shown in Bert Ligon's "Connecting Chords With Linear Harmony". He has written extensivly online about the Three Outlines, most recently at great length on how they occur in Red Garland's lines.

Outline No.2 is the 1 3 5 7 arpeggio ('Round Midnight' arp) targeting the 3rd of the next chord change and also the 3 5 7 9 arpeggio ('Evans arp') targeting the 3rd of the next chord. The fun comes whyen you extend them with chromatic passing tones and enclosures along the way as you approach the target note of the next chord. The other two Outlines consist of the descending scale line 3 2 1 7 ('Fly Me To The Moon 'line) and also target the 3rd of thenext chord (again embelish with chromatic approach notes and enclosures. The third Outline is the descending arpeggio 5 3 1 7 ('Slipped Disc')again target 3rd of next arp. The fun begins when you mess these all up and sort of forget about them. The pathways become so familiar that classic bebop syntax becomes second nature.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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Thanks guys for taking time to respond. It's interesting to hear very different approaches that Jazz+ and Marino have. That is what I was hoping hear.

 

Sorry Dave Ferris that you feel that way. I think many others would be interested in your views. If you feel inclined perhaps you could recommend some books/methods you like- sorry if you already have. But I do understand your sentiments. It seems an OT thread about weird chick singers will go on for pages but when anything regarding musicianship is brought up not many members participate.

 

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For a short while, I had an old teacher that had me repeat licks in 12 keys. He had pages and pages and pages of these. I can honestly say that none of that show in my playing. I've never done it again.

 

I've never practiced licks ever again as well. Unless you call arpeggios licks.

 

However having said that, I do listen to what the masters play and will analyze why it sounds good and usually only as 4 note chunks.

 

Part of the problem with the original lick approach was it was mindless, out-of-context, and multi-measure.

 

But in the context of the underlying chords, I always sense a pattern but I'm making it up so I never run out.

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Agree, the organ grooves are very dull. But this is just my opinion, of course.

 

Also, the Andrew Gordon books aren't that great! I have 'em all (used to work in a music store). There are gems in each one, but the signal to noise ratio is very low indeed. Of them, my favorite is the funk one. The patterns from Aebersold's ii V I book are great!
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I'll elaborate more on my one word answer ("yes") to your question, which was to avoid typing all of this:

 

In early stages, we are scavengers of musical ideas to have a musical well to draw upon. So most everything we learn at that stage (licks, songs, pieces) is all a "springboard" for future playing.

 

As Jazz+ described, in jazz (bebop), there is a language of lines and patterns from which horn players and piano players formulated their playing, based on the bop system Charlie Parker devised. That language or system gives bebop its identity, from which bebop players (like Bud Powell) and post bebop jazz players (like Evans) based a lot of what they played. Later jazz styles, like Coltrane's later style ("Giant Steps" and beyond), were systems unto themselves too, which involved patterns ("tricks" as jazz horn players would call them) within an overall concept.

 

When I made the switch from pure blues and rock playing to jazz, I wanted to become a bop player first, to get that stuff "under my belt." So naturally I learned as much as I could about what other jazz players play when they solo. And that was all a springboard for my own musical decisions to come later. Once I had enough pieces of that language and moved onto overall concepts, I no longer cared about "systems" and just worked on my own. We all end up where we're headed, from our different paths.

 

Much respect to Carlo for developing improvisational approaches from the music itself, without going through a type of patterned or lick based approach. So my 'confessions': I never transcribed a whole solo or bothered to learn anything I didn't like. I think it's best to work on parts of lines or patterns, hooks and turnarounds, things you can actually use in your playing as a foundation for future playing. And I never worked from a book, or practiced anything beyond the point of still being able to feel it.

 

And pardon a general OT rant, not directed at the OP: It's amazing to me the tools musicians have at their disposal these days. Past musicians had teachers, sometimes recordings, and each other to learn from, and they made most of the music that people study today.

 

Today's musicians have a vast amount of info at their fingertips, music forums like this one, "musician support groups", books and video courses, performances via YouTube, instant access to most of the world's great recordings. yet there is a surprising lack of curiosity, interest or research by many music students today. More than enough info is there for the taking to develop one's playing, but it still requires aspiring musicians to do some work on their own - which is the only real work that will count.

 

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For a short while, I had an old teacher that had me repeat licks in 12 keys. He had pages and pages and pages of these. I can honestly say that none of that show in my playing. I've never done it again.

 

 

The same thing happens to me. I have to make a very deliberate decision to throw in any licks that Ive learned. They just dont come out spontaneously. This is why I question the effectiveness of practicing patterns with the goal of becoming a better improvisor.

 

But I do enjoy practicing patterns. But Im not sure if its helping become a better improviser, but Im sure it helps my technique and understanding of music theory (especially when transposing)

 

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Confession: I bought a book "1001 Jazz licks" that shows solo fragments over standard changes for a number of tunes, and I sometimes look at it for ideas, but the idea of practicing these in different keys feels too mechanical to me.

 

I find transcribing solos and then analyzing what is played (and why) very helpful in developing my own voice for soloing, but I don't practice them for licks. I've transcribed solos that are way beyond my ability to play, but taking them apart with my teacher was very helpful in making the choices of the soloist explicit. For example, I found McCoy Tyner's "Inception" a great piece to study for the development of ideas over several choruses, and for the identification of licks over certain chords.

"You'll never be as good as you could have been, but you can always be better than you are." - MoKen
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Montunoman, some people are great at inserting licks at the appropriate time. I'm sometimes amazed at the number of players that get radio play at the jazz station that's based only on connecting cliche licks.

 

But in application, at least for a mediocre player like me, I'd like to think of a musical concept. If I started off with a small phrase, I find I'm able to build off that phrase and come up with related ones. And I think that's a better skill than lick playing. It certainly sounds better. I can't always do this of course. But eventually, I'd like this to be a higher percentage than scale noodling.

 

I used to be so against licks because my current teacher has not taught me a single one (assuming you don't count a Evans 3-5-7-9 arpeggio). He just taught me to listen.

 

But after careful listening and self-study, I'm finding anwyay that there's a large predominance of 4 note patterns that are useful at least for technical practice. I wouldn't call any 4 note pattern a lick though as it's too short for that.

 

I guess we can't help but have patterns in music. The whole basis of overtones is mathematical anyway.

 

But I think the difference is in some people learning licks and stopping there and not having the ability to create music on their own. I have to tell you that the teacher I mentioned actually expected us to play licks like that and thus the rest of the time is spent on thinking of how to connect them. It's sad to imagine the future jazz musicians coming out of that approach. It will be the end jazz as we know it.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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I don't practice lines that connect the chords so that they will come out verbatim in my playing... that's not really the goal.

The goal is to have a subconscious awareness of the pathways that those ideal sort of lines both in your hearing and physically on the geography of the keys.

So, the fun begins when you mess these practiced lines all up and sort of forget about them. The practiced pathways become so familiar that classic bebop syntax becomes second nature.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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Didn't Chick Corea say when asked about improvisation that 1) you play what you know, and 2) The better you get the further ahead you can plan (target notes).

 

That's what the Three Outlines are geared towards.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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BTW - I think target notes all the time. Except that fortunately my ears guide me there rather than my fingers.

 

Maybe it's all the same thing. A lick is a memorized finger movement. But in my head it's more b9 root 3 7 #9 5 11 b3 ....(musically of course). That's how Ligon looks at it anyway which is better since it can be transferrable to all keys.

 

I think in the end both approaches reach the same goal where your ear decides. And then it's a matter of whose ear is better.

 

I'm just surprised at the players who at a professional level (putting tunes out on the radio) are connecting cliche licks that we can all recognize. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't even improvised.

 

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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That's what the 3 outlines are, melodic fragments which are harmonic shapes or connectors

 

 

I have been improvising pretty well for about 25 years now, I am a pro, and always looked down on learning "licks" although I have picked up quite a few along the way from other players. Then only a year ago, as a teacher, I started drilling myself with the Three Outlines (Bert Ligon) on ii V I in all major and in all minor keys. At first I thought they were too pedantic and not really getting me anywhere. I didn't really know how to tweak and extend them well enough. Then I started to discover numerous ways to extend them, to displace them, octave invert, chromaticize, and surround tone the target notes to the point where the drilling really paid off. It creeps up subconsiously in my playing and I have become much more accutely aware of the shapes and goals (target notes) of the lines.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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I always practiced arpeggios, major and minor pentatonic, 6 tone blues scales and modal scales a lot.

 

As far as 'licks' per se not so much unless I was practicing pieces that had those licks in them. But all my licks are built on the thigs I do practice.

 

I also think something that helped was that I worked on the idea that all mistakes can becomes passing tones. Pick a line then sytematic pick an uncalled for notes and make it resolve musically under a metrodone. I don do that any more. It was a phase I went through. I THINK it helped in regards to certain improvization skills. It was just an idea I came up with when I was probably 17 or so.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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May I venture in another direction here? Listening to a lot of bebop patterns, it's all pretty obvious what notes are being used. I haven't been surprised most of the time with the choices.

 

But isn't it the phrasing that makes these melodic? And who really teaches that? I don't know of a book on that.

 

Mostly we just hear it and copy. Often the surprise to me in the lick is the phrasing.

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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The teacher that taught me a lot about improvizational phasing made me sing what is was I wanted to play before I played it. Besides phrasing the exercise helps internalize pitch.

 

I hated that because I sing like a Wilderbeast with whooping cough but it improved my ability to learn material by ear by leaps and bounds.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Yeah, I'm learning the Keith Jarrett bad habit myself. LOL. I'm singing my solo (though not in tune). Makes it sound like a lick though doesn't it?

 

But I often feel like I come up with better lines that way. More organic.

 

EDIT - I play it as I sing it though. How do you think of it before you play it?

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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You sing it. Then you play it.

 

It is an exercise not something you do in performance. You can sing what is on a score to get your phrasing imprinted in your mind or you can do it as improv and try to copy what you just sung. Doing the two at the sametime is cool if you have a voice like George Benson.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I guess what I'm talking about though is singing and playing the solo in real-time. I don't necessarily do it note for note and sometimes I just need to sing the phrasing. But it guides me even with direction (up/down/space). For some reason, when you sing it, the tension and releases are better balanced.

 

The singing and playing after the fact is a different exercise though since the phrase is taken in isolation. Phrasing to me is the collection of phrases and not just one. This in my mind (and ear) includes syncopation.

 

To me, if one can play what one hears, it is a much more organic way of playing lines and probably better than playing licks. One probably hears the same licks in one's head just from listening to the masters but it probably will flow better.

 

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Although licks are a practical way of practicing the physical aspect of playing jazz, jazz improvisation should be as lick-free as possible. Which is of course easy to say and hard to do.

 

Not sure I'd say the same thing about blues and rock. I think the argument could me made that we cherish our blues and rock licks, and we want to hear them over and over.

 

That's actually what I was going to say -- for blues, you either make the sound or you don't. Just check Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, James Booker -- it's a lot of freedom within a set of licks that they all know, and they all sound unique by changing it up and dealing with the rhythm in their own ways.

 

But also true for a pretty heavily codified "language" like bebop, which is the kind of music I most prefer (except it doesn't pay too good! and I don't play it too good neither, compared with Al Haig and Bud and all the greats) and have spent the most time studying hardest since I was a kid.

 

Kudos for all who said there's not *one* way to approach patterns for jazz -- you don't have to regurgitate them verbatim, just be aware of the language and as Albert King said, "play it pretty."

 

To me, if one can play what one hears, it is a much more organic way of playing lines and probably better than playing licks. One probably hears the same licks in one's head just from listening to the masters but it probably will flow better.

 

Agree, but even there there are a few ways to go. For me, I need the discipline of sitting with pencil and staff paper and transcribing to keep me focussed, but others have gone with the singing route and had fantastic success. Who's to say? To each his or her own, I guess.

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