While studying jazz improvisation as an undergraduate college student through formal lessons, informal master classes and countless prominent jazz texts and magazines, I encountered a reoccurring problem. Even though I had been an avid listener of jazz and had practiced scales, chords, and idiomatic phrases, or "licks," for many years, when performing a given composition in the jazz idiom I found it quite challenging to improvise a seamless melodic line, or idea, transitioning from one key area into the next. This is a technique mature jazz musicians use to connect ideas. While it is rarely discussed, those familiar with the art of jazz improvisation are aware that bridging linear material, or scales, from one key into the next is employed to produce either the fabric connecting one improvised idea with another or one clear improvised idea developing over more than one key area.
Now years later, I understand why the act of performing a seamless line bridging one key area into another was such a difficult task. I never practiced exercises that would train me to do so. Jazz musicians know that a player can hear a fantastic melodic line in his or her mind, but if he or she does not have the technique to execute it, it will be impossible to play. 1 This was exactly the case for me. I did not have the technique, for the reason that I never practiced the technique.
The texts and instruction from which I had studied jazz improvisation did not address transitioning a melodic line from one key into another. I found it difficult to implement longer phrases in my own improvisations. In fact, nearly all of the materials from which I had studied jazz improvisation demonstrate isolated scale exercises or exercises that involve scales but do not ask the user to practice perpetual linear material over a variety of harmonic changes.
The resources from which I had studied were established by the jazz education market, particularly educators and catalogs, as some of the most popular jazz improvisation methods. All are still in use today, but a method addressing the specific problem mentioned above is still not available. The aim of my dissertation is to create a graduated method that will fill this void.
1Ramon Ricker, New Concepts In Linear Improvisation , (Miami: Belwin, Inc., 1977), Introduction.