DV Wright Music

The Secret to ‘Jazz’ Improvisation

There is ‘one truth’ to improvising.

You must ‘pre hear’ everything you play.

I heard a quote from Jimmy Smith, something like, “know what you are going to play for the next 3 or 4 chorus'” – Wow!

Your ‘inner ear’ dictates what comes next. (Basically, your inner ear hears it, approves it then your fingers play it, (all in microseconds) that way your phrases come out strong, confident and flowing)


Forcing yourself to sing your phrases helps this skill. Or, just listening to and obeying your internal ear to arrive at the notes first, then playing them. (Don’t just ‘let your fingers do the walking’!)

So, to develop the ability to ‘pre-hear’ you need a database full of common licks and phrases. The best way to create this ‘database’ is to learn solos that you like or admire, learn them note-for-note, you don’t have to write them down, just be able to play them. (the key is in the struggle of learning them). Learn the phrase ‘lick’ and the chord, or chords it works on, then practice that phrase over the chord(s) in every key. Then see what other chords you can play the phrase over, do the same with those.
Common chords (in Jazz) minor 7, minor 7b5, Dominant 7, Dominant 7b9, Major 7th.

So, go ahead try other methods, you will always come back to this, because this is the one truth to jazz improvisation and consistently sounding good and having nice, well developed phrases.

(NOTE: the above is a note to myself, it’s possible it’s completely wrong. However, this is what I have found as ‘the one truth’)

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