Music Savvy logo black on white

Should you know the chord changes?

I’ve always believed that the best way to gain skill as a musician is to develop one’s ear and its connection to the instrument. That belief led to the creation of tools and exercises that encourage musicians to prioritize ears over eyes. So for these tools, I’ve always asked myself, should you know the chord changes?

Continuing that tradition, my latest product is called Groovz Playground, a series of one, two, three, and four chord loops over which one improvises. I did something different, however, with Groovz Playground. I provided chords, scales, and other help for the eyes and left (analytical) brain to make playing over the tracks easier.

I’m not sure “easy” is the right word, but I know that many players just want to see those visual elements rather than depend solely on their ears. And if I’m going to claim that Groovz Playground is fun to use, many would argue that not being to ponder the chords or scales makes it NOT fun.

Groovz Playground is still new so the jury is out as to the consensus of both the enjoyment and utility of it for musicians trying to build their skills. But I discovered something interesting that I’d like to share from recording the short improvisations for each loop serving as examples.

My Experience from Recording

While recording the short improvisations over the Groovz Playground loops, I purposefully chose NOT to look at the chords or keys for any of them, opting instead to simply jump in, hit ‘record’, find the harmony with my trombone, and improvise something.

After creating over 25 of these original loops throughout the past couple of months (and a few of them years ago), my memory is certainly not good enough to remember the various chords for each, so I was truly diving in and exploring the harmonies in real time. I purposefully scattered the keys throughout Groovz Playground  from four flats to four sharps and beyond.

I know myself well enough and have experienced thousands of my performances and recordings to be aware that if I focus on the chords and keys, the authenticity of my improvising suffers. The listener isn’t aware, but I will become attracted to certain chord tones and the muscle memory reflecting phrases and licks of the past if I know the chord changes. That is the type of ‘improvisation’ I personally want to avoid.

Additionally, when I finished a minute or so of recording  over a loop, I’m still not thinking of the chords or keys. For better or worse, I went into these recordings with the goal of exploration rather than the aim showing off slick polished melodies.

Providing You With a Little Help

Groovz Playground was a break in tradition with most of my other books and courses. My other ear-based training provides only the minimum guidance in terms of the chords, scales, keys, etc. My thinking was, if you are going to exercise your ear, why would I want to bypass that with visual and left brain (analytical) shortcuts?

But Groovz Playground provides the chords, keys, common tones, and written out phrases that sound good played over each loop. Why? Because I fear that for the novice player or less skilled improviser, throwing them into the water without a life preserver within reach may help them less. That’s not fun, and without this being fun, you will quit and move on to something else.

That’s my assumption, but I would love to learn more from you if you wish to explore Groovz Playground. To do that, click here to learn a bit more and to sign up for free full access. 

Experience the fun and speed of
improving your jazz improvisation!

Groovz Playground
backing tracks (FREE)

Pocket Jazz 60+ lesson
course ($47)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Picture of Michael Lake

Michael Lake

Trombonist, author, marketer, & tech guy

Share this post…

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email
Most recent
Most popular

It's great that you are enjoying Jazz Master Chat, but you've reach a limit on free usage.

Don’t worry. To continue using the chat, you will need to buy more time. It’s easy to do, and costs only $10 for x amount of interaction.

Inception
Cinematic @ 68 bpm
Inception
Cinematic @ 68 bpm
Milky Way
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
Milky Way
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
I-VI-II-V
Jazz @ 140 bpm
I-VI-II-V
Jazz @ 140 bpm
Caribbean Express
Salsa @ 165 bpm
Caribbean Express
Salsa @ 165 bpm
Dawn of a New Day
Soul @ 85 bpm
Dawn of a New Day
Soul @ 85 bpm
Spinning Top
Jazz Waltz @ 140 bpm
Spinning Top
Jazz Waltz @ 140 bpm
Sails Full Open
Contemporary @ 120 bpm
Sails Full Open
Contemporary @ 120 bpm
Summer's Dawn
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
Summer's Dawn
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
The Benji Pad
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
The Benji Pad
Ethereal @ 100 bpm
St. Thomas Block Party
Calypso @ 114 bpm
St. Thomas Block Party
Calypso @ 114 bpm
Island Mines
World Music @ 112 bpm
Island Mines
World Music @ 112 bpm
Disco Marley
Reggae-ish @ 110 bpm
Disco Marley
Reggae-ish @ 110 bpm
Earthen Choir
Ethereal @ 92 bpm
Earthen Choir
Ethereal @ 92 bpm
Jungle Dance
Cinematic @ 130 bpm
Jungle Dance
Cinematic @ 130 bpm
Bailey's Waltz
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
Bailey's Waltz
Jazz Waltz @ 110 bpm
Afternoon Daydreaming
Samba @ 90 bpm
Afternoon Daydreaming
Samba @ 90 bpm
Galactica
Epic @ 100 bpm
Galactica
Epic @ 100 bpm
Lush Life
Funk @ 90 bpm
Lush Life
Funk @ 90 bpm
Eleuthera
Bolero @ 90 bpm
Eleuthera
Bolero @ 90 bpm
Good Bye
Ethereal @ 90 bpm
Good Bye
Ethereal @ 90 bpm
Southside Strut
Funk @ 100 bpm
Southside Strut
Funk @ 100 bpm
Standing outside
Bossa @ 150 bpm
Standing outside
Bossa @ 150 bpm
Groovy Jazzy
Jazz funk @ 112 bpm
Groovy Jazzy
Jazz funk @ 112 bpm
Sound Refuge
Eclectic - no temp
Sound Refuge
Eclectic - no temp
Dreaming of Mars
Static harmony without a tempo
Dreaming of Mars
Static harmony without a tempo
Beat Sweeper
Jazz @ 180 bpm
Beat Sweeper
Jazz @ 180bpm
Cruisin'
Fast Americana @ 224 bpm
Cruisin'
Fast Americana @ 224 bpm
Contemplation
Smooth @ 120 bpm
Contemplation
Smooth @ 120 bpm

This is just a fake book example for the type of website I can build for you. Just trying to use a little humor here!