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Swing Exchange jam session, Lier, Belgium.  March 2012

So, I've stated a rule then contradicted it...... what to do now?? Well, I was serious when I said there are no wrong notes. And, I'm serious when I say there are better note choices. You can get away with playing wrong notes - especially as a beginning improviser but you must learn the better choices. Eventually, you'll learn how to creatively play wrong notes, make them sound correct, and as though you honestly intended to play them!

Rule 2. "The half-step is your friend". Indeed it is. If you land on a "wrong" note, you can move a half-step in either direction and you are guaranteed to be playing a more pleasant sounding note. If however, the chord changes at the same time, you could find yourself playing a wrong note again..... If this happens, just move another half-step in either direction!!

So, I've talked about my "rules" for improvisation but there's more to consider. To me, creating an improvised solo is the ultimate expression of ego or self. I don't mean ego as in "I'm better than everyone else" instead, I'm referring to the expression of personality and emotions through your instrument. When I'm playing a solo, I want the audience members to get to know me. To hear how I feel. To realize that I'm expressing both my personality and emotions through the trumpet.

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I was well into my college years before I really started studying improvisation. The how's and why's and wheretofore's..... In many ways, I'm self-educated. I got my butt kicked by a professor (thanks Ron) about my lack of knowledge but, jazz was still very much a "four letter word" at the university. There were a couple of big bands, a combo, and an arranging course but that was about it. I don't recall there being an improvisation course/lecture at the time (for all of you aged 40 and under, this was the dark ages) so information was gleaned through listening, hours at the piano, and questions posed to peers and professors. Along the way, I have picked up a few books on scales and such but I'll discuss those later.

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