Using Angularity in Jazz Improv

If you want to add interest and color to your jazz solos, anglify them. "Anglify" might not be a real word, but it ought to be, and it is now as far as this post is concerned. Word coinage is one of my prerogatives as a word wizard. Anglify. It's easy to get caught up in linear playing, weaving scales up and down like a stock market graph, but that approach will get old fast unless you mix it up with other melodic devices. Angularity is a good one. Wide interval leaps grab attention; they stand out like bold letters and exclamation points in a sentence. Writing about angularity forces me to consider exactly what it is. If I were to define it, I'd say it's the use of two or more consecutive interval leaps of more than a third in any direction. Fourths and fifths are commonly used in angular playing, but any large interval qualifies. The point is, you're no longer playing notes in a straight line; you're breaking up the melodic terrain into hills and valleys, moving out of the flatland and into the mountains. Pentatonic scales are a rich source of fourths and fifths when you start doing interval exercises with them. You can also do exercises on fourths and fifths, or on any interval, using any scale or root movement. Starting a line with an angular approach is a good way to say, "Listen to this!" Here's a little diminished whole tone lick I've been woodshedding lately. It begins with a leap of an augmented fourth followed by a diminished fourth (aka a major third) up to the raised fifth of the D7 #5, #9 chord. (For ease of use, I've shown that note on the staff as Bb rather than A#.)


Note how the arpeggio in the second half of bar two further breaks up the very linear, chromatic flow. The combination of linearity and angularity engages attention.

As always, take the above lick through all twelve keys. Try moving it through the circle of fifths to acquire facility in a lot of playing situations.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Speak Your Mind