Two pretty vital tactics for improvising that can be valuable in building dynamic, structure, solo arc, contour and providing ‘breath’ to a improvisation are ‘SPACE’ and ‘PACING’. Few individuals who work on improvising play with space as a big consideration. I think it’s because we get very ‘cerebral’ as jazzers, learning so much about harmony and rhythm that we forget to leave the room that creates a line or melodic idea wonderful in the first place.
Space gives your playing effectiveness. It gives your phrases and lines more shape and it gives you time to listen to and consider, embellish or develop what you’ve already played. Exaggerate tinkering with space in your next solo and see precisely how it helps each idea appear more carefully developed, leave out large durations – whole bars or more and take a look at and simply play rests! Never fill everything up with sonic information and perform the classic over-playing ‘default’ that is indicative of so numerous players – space is just as valuable as notes.
Next there is the concept of “Pacing “. Practice soloing with the thought that you’ve got 10 choruses to practice over, not just two or 3. This will urge you to underplay a bit and carefully consider the idea of PACING yourself – not merely ripping off continual 8th notes till repetitive strain injury kicks in. You will have to consider the idea of note quantity, note value, length, and rhythmic dynamic – where you play, how much you play, and how often. This idea goes hand in hand with the concept of space and they can be simply performed together.
Write out a small linear phrase (a ‘fragment’ or ‘germ’ of an idea) with harmonic importance to the changes but don’t enhance the line just yet – it’s better if the idea is very simple. Just use two or three different notes, not too widely spread out. Then, let an entire bar go by (space / rest), then play another ‘rhythmically relative’ phrase in the following bar. Practice this process over the full tune or separate a small aspect of the tune if the changes are hard. This creates something comparable to an internal conversation – echoing the ‘call and response’ or ‘question and answer’ idea that is commonly used in improvising between two or more players when trading. Next write out an exact rhythmic phrase placed at different points in the bar – this is referred to as displacement. Just remember the line must be rhythmically and harmonically identical. Focus on spacing your ideas out too – don’t go so much for syncopations or continuous notes, think more along the lines of ‘how can I really SELL this idea’ and when rehearsing this concept, again, overplay / exaggerate it.
Finally, It’s not the what it’s the how! Take one simple note on your instrument and play only that note (or the nearest relative common tone if the key centers are modulating) for the overall chorus. Focus on the rhythmic placing of this note and see if you can make it feel natural and melodic even with harmonically restricted notes. Again apply the thought of ‘spacing’ to your phrases and leave rests even when you want to play more. Remember – the key to practicing this is emphasizing the use of space. Don’t be shy to exaggerate this idea when playing, it is absolutely a device that will expose itself in your playing, just as scale exercising or transcribing licks does.
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