The following article is an excerpt from my book, “Recycling in Jazz Improvisation” which can be downloaded as a PDF under my “Shop” tab above.

Can you Play the Phone Book?  Here is an exercise that should test that knowledge, expand your ear, strengthen your interval recognition and further develop your facility in all keys.  When working on patterns or licks in all keys I have found it very helpful to think of the musical motif in terms of numbers rather than their letter name.  This speeds up the transposition process greatly.  So instead of thinking D, F#, A, I am thinking 1, 3, 5 in D.  The Phonebook Game helps develop this skill very quickly and is very challenging!

Rules: Assign a number to each note of a scale – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.  The numerals 9 and 0 can be considered 2 and 3, in this case D and E.  (See Ex. 18)  Basically, the numbers are the intervals associated with the given key.  Then, open a phonebook and take a random number and play it in all keys.  (See Ex. 19)

You can play the phrase in any rhythm you wish.  The key benefit is to do this exercise in your mind without writing the notes out in all keys.  Forcing your mind to recognize these intervals in all keys in random order like this, may not always be the most musical thing but it will greatly help your theory and pitch recognition, (as long as it doesn’t melt your brain first!)

Jazz Improvisation-related links


Jazz/Classical Practicing

Improvisation Practice idea

Recycling in Improvisation

Juggling Versatility


The Phone Book Method