LESSON > DIGGING DEEPER
Let Your Line Shine
BY JULIAN LAGE
Julian Lage is one of those rare musicians who
feels equally at home in acoustic and jazz cir-
cles. He has been a member of legendary vibra-
phonist Gary Burton’s group since 2004, and
also regularly collaborates with pianist Taylor
Eigsti. Lage’s latest album, Gladwell, reflects
his wide-ranging musical interests and talents
by incorporating chamber music, American folk
and bluegrass, Latin and world music, tradi-
tional string-band sounds, and modern jazz. For
more information, visit julianlage.com.
• Create flowing lines that
include intervallic ideas.
• Incorporate different rhythmic
devices into your improvisations.
• Outline chord changes clearly
with a series of eighth-notes.
Click here to hear
sound clips of
I’ll never forget first hearing Pat Metheny’s olo break on “Third Wind.” After about
a minute and a half of developing an actively
growing harmonic progression with incredible rhythmic intensity, the whole band
comes to a complete stop and Pat plays an
eight-measure break filled with big intervallic
leaps, slurs, dynamic changes, and colorful harmonic implications—all in the blink
of an eye. Before you know it, the band is
back in and his solo is officially under way.
Pat’s ability to take an eight-measure phrase
of 16th-notes and bend them like a rope
around a curving path blew my mind.
And the deeper I got into the master
improvisers—like John Coltrane, Bill Evans,
Sonny Rollins, and John McLaughlin—the
more I heard this approach being repeated,
each time with unique and stunning variations. So today I want to explore ways to
approach improvising long, fluid, rhythmically dynamic lines.
A great way to begin this process of
discovery is to start within a given scale or
tonal center. For this exercise, we’ll use the
key of A major. Often when we practice
scales, we’ll start from the lowest note and
move in sequence up to the top and then
back down. The drawback to this approach
is that we unconsciously condition ourselves
to improvise in the same way. This is why
your soloing can start to sound like you are
running a series of scales rather than creating musical phrases with a clear narrative.
To counteract this tendency, let’s
try a different approach. First, set the
metronome to a comfortable tempo for
eighth-notes—perhaps a quarter-note at
about 66 bpm. Next, designate a time
frame (five minutes, for example), and
then begin improvising within the A major
scale, but using random sequences of notes.
oeoe# oe# oe oeoeoe# oe# oe
oeoe# oeoe# oe# oeoe
oe oeoe# oe# oeoe#
9 10 14 12
7 9 10
66 PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2012