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Learning to improvise . . .

Dear Carl,

At the age of 46 Im always trying to be a better solist or improvisation player. I have been playing since 4th grade and now have been teaching for 25 yrs. In upstate NY it’s difficult to find steady or consistent jobs, thank god for the teaching gig. What advice do you have to learning this art of improvisation?

I need a rhythm section to practice this art and have used Jamie Abersold tapes years ago. Any suggestions, tips, lip exercises, or books that you have used to make me a better jazz player? I need some professional help. I do play jazz duet w/ piano for cocktail hour parties.

Thanks for any tips or ideas you can share or that you have found useful. Keep up the great work, you are an inspiration to all trumpet players across the world.

God Bless,
Jim Traglia

Jim.. Thank you for your kind words.. As far as “learning this art of improvisation”, to really break the barrier and kick yourself up a notch and become a noticeably improved and better improviser, you have to dedicate yourself to playing a lot .. Get people together and play. It’s hard if you’re in a town that doesn’t have a lot of music going on like jazz clubs and rehearsal bands.

Abersold is cool to stay in touch with it but you must create situations for yourself to play on a steady basis. It won’t happen with theory alone. You must apply it .

There is some theory that I can suggest and that is make up chromatic patterns and get them down so you can play them fast and clean. Just different patterns of chromatic scales. That will make your fingers flexible. Another is practice blowing on a never ending cycle of minor 7s resolving up a 4th and then making that the new minor 7th and etc. example.. Cmi7 to F7 Fmi7 to Bb7 Bbmi7 to Eb7 Ebmi7 to Ab7 and so on.

Write tunes and get your mind into thinking about music and melodies. Improvising is writing on the fly. Improvisors are writers and should also write with a paper and pencil too. And of course just the physicality of playing the trumpet is a full time job just to keep your chops up. It doesn’t come easy or quickly it takes time which means you must be patient so good luck and hopefully some skill too.

Use the least amount of air to get the job done to its fullest and stay on top of the beat but don’t rush… CS

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