Tim Price's random lines exercise

Here's an exercise from Tim Price's blog. Garzone used to have me do this one. It's a great way to get comfortable playing outside, it's also a way to discover new and interesting lines.

  • "Here’s another exercise that may help you to find some other stuff to play: choose a tempo and start to play in a swing feel with no tonal center. Let the rhythmic focus be your guide; that is, play rhythmic phrases typical of jazz phrasing, but with a random choice of notes. Try to throw in some really large intervals. Play any note! In fact, the more outrageous the better. Tape yourself and see what happens. There may be some highly musical and personalized notes in there. By experimenting with intervallic and sequential playing you can eventually develop a vocabulary that will enable you to move from note to note. This is a really spontaneous way to improvise, and results in some pretty wild stuff that you may have never played before."

Once you are comfortable with a high degree of randomness in your playing (of course we can never truly be totally random) you will be able to start introducing small amounts into your soloing. Practice playing lines over changes, as you are playing slip a bar or two of totally random notes in and jump right back to following the chord changes. Now try just a few beats of randomness. As you practice playing 'random' notes be aware of trying to use different and wider intervals and direction. Direction is an important element of free/outside playing. Experiment with lines while focusing on just this one element, don't play more than a few notes without changing direction. Next introduce wider intervals into the mix. Don't stop swinging as you are doing these things. If you're swinging really hard the listener will accept these far out lines as being musical. The farther out you go the harder you need to swing. If you mess with the rhythm of a cliché Bebop line it will sound much more outside than a freaked out random line that really swings hard.


Lloyd Perry said...

Hi Dave,

Im a guitarist about to head to ACM university in the UK (www.acm.ac.uk) just want to thanks for the amazing blog. This particular exercise has really helped my improv in bucket amounts thanks.

David Valdez said...

Good luck with your studies. Let all your buddies know about the blog!

John N. said...

Thank you for your suggestion! I've also come to think that it's always rhythm that matters. But I found that a good sense of rhythm is really hard to develop. So now I try to play random lines while listening to a certain rhythm pattern. This site helps me a lot: