Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

The 4 routes to improvisation: scalic, chordal, motivic and special devices

The 4 routes to improvisation: scalic, chordal, motivic and special devices.
We’ve met two new routes to improvisation in this session, namely chordal and motivic.
So far, therefore, we have met three: scalic - where you use the scale associated with the chord and you typically climb up it and down it starting and ending anywhere, chordal - where you climb up and down the notes which make up the chord - you can arpeggiate it, you can take a shape using those notes and move the shape up and down; and finally motivic. So far we have only looked at motivic improvisation where we have used the tune as the source of our motifs. Later on we are going to look at how we produce motivic elements ourselves which we’re then going to improvise upon. Actually, there’s a fourth route, and the fourth route I call “Special Devices”.
What are Special Devices? Well we are going to look at this later on as the course progresses, but to give you an example one mechanism is called “locked hands” or “chording”. It’s where you improvise in the right hand, but you lock the chord in the left hand to the right hand, like this. So every note has locked to it the chord in the left hand. Actually, I have been using a special device - some people may think that I overuse it - and its called a “crushed” note. You remember “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”?
That last thing - is a crushed note. I couldn’t play. It just doesn’t sound right. You can crush the note with - two grace notes - getting you onto the note you are interested in or, maybe, just one grace note. But like most of these things, in the end, you have to exercise discretion. You have to exercise judgement. You have to decide when enough is enough. I had a student once who really overused crushed notes and I couldn’t cure him of it. I think his playing was deficient as a consequence. In the end you have to use your own judgement about special devices and we will meet those as we progress through the course.
Well, not surprisingly, your exercises are going to be now using the three routes
to improvisation: scalic, chordal and motivic for our 3 blues.
We have 3 blues: one in C, one in F, one in B flat. See how you get on now expanding your route to improvisation to include motivic improvisation where you use the tune as the source for your motivic elements. We haven’t really said what improvisation is about - but we’ll get there, I promise you.
This article is from the free online

Learn Jazz Piano: Begin with the Blues

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now