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What is ‘Dry’ Improvisation?

Mark Stefani

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Mark Stefani’s ‘Seven Steps to Changes Heaven’, Step #5 – Application Using “Dry” Improvisation

Once you are on the right path with regards to acquired language and actually have something potentially good to say as an improviser, the next stage is a transitional one. After all, the language doesn’t do much good if it doesn’t rear its head during the course of a solo, right? But getting that to happen in a live ensemble context is not the easiest thing to do. For me, once I hear a rhythm section of any kind my brain goes on hiatus, because I just want to close my eyes and let my ear and automatic pilot take over. This is just the way it should be in an ideal world, but few players have the luxury of performing and improvising jazz 6-7 nights a week, which gave many artists in the past the time for things to naturally evolve. In either case, I would get frustrated knowing that I had these great ideas under my belt that just weren’t coming out, so I found two solutions that worked very effectively for me. The first is what I call “dry” improvisation, which is particularly appropriate for guitarists. 

How does it work? Simple. There are many possible scenarios, but I’ll create just one as an example. Let’s say that you have a classic two-bar II-V cliche that you’d love to get into your playing, perhaps in measures 9 & 10 of a swing blues progression. You play rhythm guitar, comping the chords in the progression. When the 9th measure occurs, stop comping, ideally while maintaining the rhythmic flow, and play the lick. When it resolves after the 10th measure go back to your support role. Do this over and over until your ear and fingers naturally respond to the situation. Try using both shorter phrases (one measure) or longer phrases (four measures) in the same way.  

Watch for the NEXT STEP in the SERIES!

And check out more from Mark Stefani.

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