Jazz Improvisation and Practice Games

Over the years, I have been given many great ways to practice. Here are a few of the gems that my teachers taught me and I teach my students. I hope you enjoy. And if you have a “Game” that you use to practice, please share in the comments below.

GAMES – Fun Ways to Practice Improvisation

  • “Common Ground” – determine the Common Tones that connect the chords together and play a solo using only common tones.
  • “Guidetone Hero” – Start on a guidetone and using your ear, move up or down with each new chord. If a note sounds “bad” stay on it, and aim to resolve it on the next chord.
  • “Stay or Go”  – Start on a note and when the chord changes determine if you should stay on that note or move it up or down either a half step or whole step.
  • “Play Rest” – Alternate between playing and resting, such as play for 2 measures rest for 2 measures, play for 3 measures rest for 1 measure, play for 4 measures rest for 4 measures, etc.
  • “Target Practice” – pick a target note – “I’m going to play an E on the 3rd bar” for example and work on hitting the target accurately and logically.
  • “Loops” – play one chord or a group of chords for a continuous amount of time, until you get really comfortable.
  • “Time No Changes” – Pick a tempo and improvise without thinking about changes. If it helps, pick a key center or scale to use. Focus on time feel above all else.
  • “Steal from the Melody” – Find a short part of the melody that you like and improvising using that as a springboard. You can steal the rhythm, steal the melodic order, alter it a little or a lot, transpose it, and/or sequence it.
  • Free Improv – play whatever you want for 10 minutes straight. Gradually add minutes.
  • Fun Day – forget everything and just play whatever you want for a time. Revisit why you play music to begin with.
  • Group Practice or Practice with a Buddy – practicing can be more fun when you have someone to play with – so invite a friend or a group of friends and practice together.
  • Jam Sessions – there are jam sessions all over town. Learn a tune and go sit in. Or set up your own jam session with your friends.

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