Matt Warnock: 6 Out of the Box Exercises

Learning to improvise can sometimes feel overly technical in nature. Sure, we need to learn how to relate scales and arpeggios to chords and progressions, and later on add in chromatic notes to our lines and phrases to jazz them up a bit. But, this process of learning to improvise can also be fun and exciting if we look outside the box a bit when planning our practice routines.

Often times students become bogged down with the technical and theoretical side of improvising, which can cause them to avoid practicing or eventually give up all together. But, learning to play scales and arpeggios over chord changes doesn’t always have to be so bland. By using exercises such as playing with only one finger at a time, playing on one string at a time or with a static rhythm, you will not only be feeding your creative appetite, but learning about chord-scale relationships and other jazz theory at the same time.

The following exercises are six of my favorite ways to step outside the box when learning how to improvise. Each exercise has a technical, theoretical and creative goal to it, and can be used to learn chord-scale relationships, to navigate chord changes or even learn entire tunes.