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5 Techniques for More Interesting Lines

When you start as an improviser, playing anything and being able to stay in the scale is exciting in itself. But after a while, you might notice that your lines become a bit stale and predictable. Maybe you’re reverting to some of the same patterns, or maybe you’re falling into a rut and not sure how to bring your playing to the next level.

If that sounds like you, this is the blog for you! Today, we’re going to cover 5 techniques that you can use for more interesting lines.

Before we get started, make sure to check out our video on YouTube with Cecil Alexander as he runs through the concepts in this blog. Plus, if you want to work on these techniques and more, you’ll want to check out Cecil’s latest PDF resource with Jazz Lesson Videos: 56 Hit Licks.

And with that, it’s time to jam!


Melodic Cells

We’ve talked a bit about melodic cells before on the blog—specifically as a great way to come in and out of a tonality. It can help you move through a key in a really coherent way, by giving the listener something to latch on to.

Basically, a melodic cell is a melodic fragment of 3 to 8 notes that you can transpose and shift through the key. One common melodic cell that we’ve covered a few times is the 1, 2, 3, 5 cell. We talked a bit about how Coltrane used this cell to great effect in his classic tune “Giant Steps.”

Using melodic cells in jazz

Against a Cmaj7 chord, our 1, 2, 3, 5 cell would be C, D, E, and G. Then you can effectively get this 1, 2, 3, 5 shape anywhere in the scale, off of any degree. If we take it from the fifth, we get G, A, B, and D—or against the Cmaj7 chord, that’s 5, 6, 7, 9. You can also think of this as using this sequence with the modes of the major scale. But this technique allows us to highlight some of the different tensions and get a bit more color with the use of that melodic cell.

Now our first phrase is going to utilize both the cell starting on the root and the fifth against a Cmaj7 chord.

Now let's check out the phrase.

1 2 3 5 melodic cell exercise for jazz music