How do advanced improvisers use the chord changes in their solos?


I really like your approach to improvisation. I'm curious, how do more advanced jazz improvisers use the chord changes in their solos? If I think first about the chord changes I can do a pretty good solo but I would rather it be more intuitive.

Many thanks,

David's response:

Hi Rod,

That's a beautiful goal, and this is exactly where IFR will take you. What happens is that as improvisers gain experience creating melodies over chord progressions, they eventually become aware of all of the sounds available to them in the octave. In the beginning it's certainly helpful to group these notes into the chord notes (which are the most consonant notes in any harmonic environment) and the non-chord notes (which will produce a more tense feeling). But ultimately each note is different and it has its own unique sound and beauty. And great improvisers simply know all of these sounds personally because they have experienced them so many times.

And in fact, I think you already know how this feels in your own playing. Just imagine how you feel right now when you are improvising over one of our jam tracks in the 1 chord. You probably already know the sound of each note in the scale and you can feel how the chord notes (1, 3, 5 and 7) produce a sensation of relaxation while the non-chord notes (2, 4 and 6) produce more tension. You can feel all of this so clearly that you don't even have to think about it. You can just enjoy expressing melodies, feeling the subtle differences in sensation that each note produces.

This is exactly how advanced jazz improvisers use chord changes in their solos. They simply know where all of these sounds are located, and they know the exact sensation produced by each note. You can already do this yourself in a simple context like the 1 chord. So IFR is just about expanding that territory until it eventually includes all modern harmony.

image of IFR Standards Workout 1The best place to learn this is the IFR Standards Workout series. This is where you will learn to improvise intuitively and melodically over jazz standards, applying what you've learned from the IFR method. In IFR Standards Workout 1, you'll learn to improvise over the complete chord progressions to five of the most popular jazz standards played in jam sessions today.

image of IFR Standards Workout 2IFR Standards Workout 2 will help you make the transition to even more creative and melodic soloing. You'll learn how to lift your focus up out of the individual chords and chord progressions to see the "big picture" of the overall harmonic flow. This is the level at which improvising becomes intuitive and effortless, exactly as you are imagining.

I think these two resources will help you develop the creative freedom you are longing for. I hope you enjoy them!