The following is an exerpt from my book, “Recycling in Jazz Improvisation” which can be downloaded as a pdf iunder the “Shop” tab.

The core concept for this book started a while ago when I began teaching my younger trumpet students to practice major scales in what I call “scale fragments”.  I have found that this can be a more efficient means to work on major, diminished, whole-tone, and chromatic scales. By limiting your range you can focus on the finger patterns and not fatigue so quickly and thus, work in more repetitions.  Once these fragments are comfortable you can stack the fragments to achieve the complete scale in the range of a 9th. scale frag In essence, I was recycling my G major scale fragment by using it on top of my C major fragment to create an entire C major scale. By working in this way, the student can learn all twelve major scales by only really practicing them five notes at a time! The implications for this kind of practice are obvious when practicing symmetrical scales such as chromatic, whole-tone or diminished.

The first time I played a major scale over something other than its’ major chord was a revelation to me. By focusing on this bit of musical recycling I can now apply something I am comfortable with (major scales, pentatonics and arpeggios) to chords in such a way as to sound exotic and new.

I would like to take a moment here to address the fact that I am not suggesting that any of this is new information. I am proposing a different way of thinking about maximizing one’s practice time. Personally, the more I practice improvisation, the more I realize how much more there is to practice. This can be a very daunting realization and become frustrating and inhibit our desire to keep working on our craft. On the other hand, this fact that there will always be something more to learn is what keeps me intrigued with the art of jazz and continually in a “student’s” frame of mind.

Playing major arpeggios is not a new technique or theoretical concept.  Indeed, it is hopefully something we all are already somewhat familiar.  What I am suggesting is that recycling what we already know into new harmonic situations is maximizing the use of that musical information.  For example; we all hopefully also know our major scales. Try playing a major scale on the b2 of a half-diminished chord. (Play a C major scale over a B-7 (b5).

This covers all the color notes of the chord and you are playing a scale that is already comfortable. I am by no means saying this is the only approach to a half-diminished but it is a viable option that most musicians can apply right away. There are many analogies with learning improvisation and one is that all the scales we need to learn are like tools in a tool-kit. You don’t always know when you’ll need this particular tool but you will be glad you have it when you need it. So even if a player isn’t completely comfortable with a diminished whole-tone scale starting on B, or a D melodic minor ascending scale, or an A harmonic minor scale, or a G be-bop scale, I bet they know their C major scale. All of the scales I just mentioned happen to be great options for the B-7(b5).

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