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Thematic Improvisation for Pianists



In this class, we’ll explore ways to develop improvised solos by using themes and then developing them into a story similar to techniques used in fiction writing. Beginning with an idea or character and then developing that character helps to make your story (or solo) compelling and believable. We’ll focus on 4 or 5 songs from the jazz repertoire. Prerequisites: knowledge of basic chord progressions and voicings, as well as major and ascending melodic minor scales.

Wednesdays 6:30 – 8 pm
9/19 – 11/28 (10 weeks) no class 11/21

Frank Martin • $415


Week 1

We will explore different types and ways of creating themes and motifs and apply them in the standard: “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”

Week 2

We will improvise using the melody as a theme. Again with “Softly as…”

We will also explore modal themes.

Week 3

We will play the standard  “All the Things You Are” and find ways of creating themes through lots of chord changes.

Week 4

“All the Things You Are” will again be worked on – building on the previous week

Week 5

Ballads will be looked at: Especially the standard “Tenderly”

Week 6

We will continue with “Tenderly” creating a complete story.

Week 7

Blues songs will be explored and we’ll find ways of creating simple yet effective storytelling.

Week 8

More blues / major and minor

Week 9

Modal songs TBA … creating a solo over a pedal point and changing modes.

Week 10

Free improv based on a motif of your choice / solo performances


Frank Martin (piano/keyboard)

Music Director for Narada Michael Walden, Patti Austin, Angela Bofill; Carnegie Hall appearances with Sting, James Taylor, Elton John; Record producer/arranger for Al Jarreau, Turtle Island String Quartet, Joey DeFrancesco, Mimi Fox, Mary Jenson, Molly Holm, Deuce, Tuck & Patti, Karen Blixt; performed/recorded with John McLaughlin, Buddy Montgomery, Joe Farrell, Dizzy Gillespie, Larry Coryell, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Jordan, Stevie Wonder, Airto, Dori Caymmi, Dianne Reeves, Patrice Rushen, Trilok Gurtu, Richard Bona; Faculty, UC Berkeley Jazz Ensembles. www.frankmartinproductions.com


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