Digital Patterns- Jazz by the numbers

At some point in almost every Jazz musician's development he/she usually works on digital patterns. By digital we mean both fingers and numbers. Digital patterns can be helpful for learning to play over changes that move around a lot, like Giant Steps or Stalemates. Trane's solo on Giant Steps is packed full of digital patterns. You can tell that he practiced many of them before recording the tune. The down side to practicing digital patterns is that they sound like digital patterns, but they can be good for getting your fingers working fast over difficult changes.

Here are some digital patterns in order of difficulty. Try first playing them around the circle of fifths then half-steps and whole steps- up AND down. Next try playing them over a tune with a lot of changes that are two beats long and move around a lot, like Giant Steps or Stablemates.

(A 1-3-5-3 pattern over a Cmaj7 chord would be C-E-G-E,
but over a C-7b5 would be C-Eb-Gb-Eb)


Obviously you could keep going and going with these.
At first just practice one pattern at a time. Then start mixing them up. You might alternate between 1-2-3-5 and 5-3-2-1 for example then eventually incorporate all of them at random.

As I said earlier, Coltrane used these digital patterns all over the place when playing on all of his 3-tonic compositions (Giant Steps, Countdown, Satellite, Seventh House, ect). It's hard to play linearly over these types of tunes because they move so far so fast. The goal for me is to be able to play over these types of tunes and not be forced to rely on digital patterns at all. This is very difficult to do.

No comments: