Improvisation Archives

The Jazz Chord / Scale Handbook by Gary Keller

The Jazz Chord / Scale Handbook by Gary Keller

The “Jazz Chord / Scale Handbook” is an aptly titled music reference guide, and an actual “hand book” as well, according to it’s size (6 3/4″ x 9 1/2″). It is laid out in a very clear, logical fashion and is a must have chord / scale resource for anyone who is serious about improvising or composing in the Jazz  or Pop idioms.

I’ve owned this book for a few years now, and I’ve gone to it repeatedly for answers to both practical and theoretical questions.

The author, saxophonist / educator, Gary Keller, has organized the book into chapters describing each scale as generating a unique harmonic system. 

The Asymmetric Scale Systems include: Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor and Harmonic Major. 

The Symmetric Scale Systems presented here are the Whole Tone, Diminished, Augmented, plus several lesser known scales. There are also chapters on the Pentatonic and Blues Scales, as well as a number of Appendixes.

Each asymmetric system is then broken down into a (mostly) two page description of each of it’s modes, including multiple piano voicings for both it’s functional harmonic, as well as it’s modal usages. 

The author also renames the modes of the non-Major asymmetric scale systems, according to their alterations relative to their Major counterpart, eg. Ionian b3 (first mode of Melodic Minor), or Aeolian #7 (first mode of Harmonic Minor). These are unique, as well as accurate descriptions.

What I’ve also found very interesting is the concept of Augmented Scale substitutions for the Melodic Minor modes, which the author shares in the chapter on the Augmented Scale. That’s some pretty hip stuff!

I’d highly recommend “The Jazz Chord / Scale Handbook” to anybody who wants to truly understand,not only how chords and scales relate to each other, but their usage as well.


Bobby Stern
Author of “The Melodic Minor Handbook” & “Slick Licks That Stick”

Order Now The Jazz Chord / Scale Handbook by Gary Keller

“Slick Licks That Stick!” by Bobby Stern (PDF eBooK)

Slick Licks That Stick!

“Slick Licks That Stick!” by Bobby Stern is among the rapidly increasing number of non-paper books, of all subjects, being published and sold in today’s book marketplace. The rapid proliferation of portable reading devices, such as the Kindle, Nook, etc. and their proprietary eBook formats (EPUB, MOBI, and several others), have helped to vault total eBook sales past that of traditional print books. While these digital book formats have worked well for text based books, they have not lent themselves well to publications largely consisting of music notation. However, the common, open standard Acrobat PDF format, in lieu of anything better at this time, is still a very good and viable option for music notation based eBooks.

Before getting to the books content, it should be noted that “Slick Licks That Stick!” is unique in regards to its’ formatting.  With mobile devices such as the iPad in mind, this eBook is laid out in Landscape format so that the complete horizontal line of notation is viewable at normal resolution, thus avoiding the annoying necessity of scrolling from left to right while playing through the exercises. This works on any laptop or desktop computer, as well.

The table of contents, listing ten chapters, is very detailed, with a clickable internal link to the first page of each exercise. The exercises are also fully printable, so that one can freely print out selected pages.

The entire book is thoughtfully laid out and well organized. Each exercise is, thankfully, presented in all12 keys and the notation is clear and easy to read. The subject matter is a potpourri of modern stylistic content, including Pentatonics b3, b6, and b2, Coltrane Changes, Augmented scale exercises, Melodic Minor Bebop scales, polymodal Melodic Minor ii-V patterns, Chromatics, as well as several interesting etudes.

At the beginning of each chapter, there is usually a concise explanation of it’s contents.

I have play tested several of the chapters and find that these are not your typical, everyday plug and play “licks”. Rather, they are exercises which come from a musical place rather than from a purely theoretical one. The fact that they “sound” good can inspire one to practice, as well as to expand vocabulary and fire the imagination. Several of my students who have the book have mentioned this as well.

Another big plus is the price. At $9.99, this much quality material is a true bargain, so get it while it’s hot!

The only thing that’s possibly missing would be some play along tracks, especially for the ii-V exercises. But, with the popularity of self programmable software, such as Band-in-a-Box and iReal b, this is a very minor point indeed, especially considering the aforementioned price.


Prof. Dave King
University of Music and Performing Arts
Mannheim, Germany

How to Comp - By Hal Crook
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This book/CD set presents a clear, comprehensive, one-step-at-a-time method for learning how to accompany an improvised jazz solo. As a sequel to Hal Crook’s text “How to Improvise”, “How to Comp” offers precise explanations, practical exercises, recorded musical examples, four play-along tracks, and daily practice routines. “How to Comp” organizes a vast amount of information that helped to make the author’s previous work “a major contribution to jazz pedagogy”. “How to Comp” is primarily for intermediate through advanced level players of harmonic instruments, e.g. piano (keyboard), guitar and vibraphone. However, drummers, bassists and horn players can also benefit from its….

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Ready, Aim, Improvise!: Exploring the Basics of Jazz Improvisation, Book & 2 CDs (Advance Music)
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Large paperback about jazz improvisation, includes 2 CDs.
How to Improvise
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By Hal Crook. Book/2CDs. What exactly are the steps that lead to ability? In which order should they been taken? What will be required to master each one? These are questions the author has explored in this book, resulting in a rather unique “one-thing-at-a-time” approach to studying improvisation – one that incorporates discipline, technique, creativity and musical intuition. Each topic is explained and demonstrated using written musical examples and it is accompanied by suggested exercises and a sample daily practice schedule, which can be modified to fit your own needs or liking. The book has been used by the Performance….

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Hexatonics (Inside Improvisation Series, 7)
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Hexatonics, is the seventh volume of Jerry Bergonzi’s series, Inside Improvisation. Hexatonic scales are six note scales. This book presents a practical method for the construction of hexatonic scales that are useful for both the improviser and composer. Many modern piano players use hexatonic voicings by stacking the triads to create a particular harmony. We improvise “in” the sound of the voicing and using hexatonic voicings and lines can lend a very contemporary sound.

As with the other books in this series, there is a play along CD of 24 tracks (including 5 demo tracks featuring Jerry) to try out all….

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Inside Improvisation for All Instruments 7 Volume Set By Jerry Bergonzi (volumes 1-7)
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This is one of the best Improvisation methods out there!
These 7 volumes included

Inside Improvisation Volume 1 – Melodic Structures

Inside Improvisation Volume 2 – Pentatonics

Inside Improvisation Volume 3 – Jazz Line

Inside Improvisation Volume 4 – Melodic Rhythms

Inside Improvisation Volume 5 – Thesaurus Melodies

Inside Improvisation Volume 6 – Developing A Jazz Language

Inside Improvisation Volume 7 – Hexatonics

Advance Music Bergonzi Melodic Rhythms Book and CD Inside Improvisation Vol. 4
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Time and rhythm are king! Number one! We are constantly aware of this fact when we are playing or listening to improvised music. All notes seem to sound good when they are played with good time. Even melodies that use wrong notes sound good when played wi
Vol. 102, Jerry Bergonzi: Sound Advice (Book & CD Set)
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Composed by Jerry Bergonzi. Edited by Jamey Aebersold. Play-Along series with accompaniment CD. Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long series. Compositions from this modern jazz tenor man, Jerry Bergonzi. Book & CD. 76 pages. Songs included: Con brio Different Places Together I Ching Reading Inside Out Invisible Light Optimum Propensity Out House Red’s Blues Simultaneous Looks Sound Advice The Ray Wiggy Wind Print You Can Tell
Advance Music Bergonzi: Theasaurus Of Intervalic Melodies Inside Improvisation Vol. 5
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“Practicing out of this book by just reading the melodies has changed and expanded my playing,” says Jerry Bergonzi. He offers a number of suggested uses and applications for this intervallic system including ear training, composition, improvisation, impr
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