Free Jazz Violin Lesson- You Play Along and (finally) Learn Rhythm, Harmony, & Improvisation

Play Along to the Free Jazz Violin Lesson with Christian Howes in this Video:

In this Free Jazz Violin Lesson and blog post, we will delve into the rhythm, harmony, and improvisation aspects of Caravan. You will gain insights and skills related to playing over chords, changing your bowing technique to improve rhythm, and much more in this lesson by leading Jazz Violin teacher Christian Howes.

The Origins of Caravan
Caravan is a jazz standard that has captivated audiences for decades. Its origins can be traced back to Duke Ellington and his band. The composition was actually written by one of the band members, Juan Tizol, who played the trombone.

Caravan is characterized by its exotic and evocative melodies. It draws inspiration from Middle Eastern and North African musical traditions. The composition’s mysterious allure captivates the listener, transporting them to far-off lands.

Over the years, Caravan has been embraced by countless artists who have explored its possibilities in various grooves, tempos, and harmonic variations. One such artist is the legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey. His interpretation of the song became a staple in his performances, showcasing his virtuosity and passion.

Analyzing the Rhythm
Caravan presents unique rhythmical challenges that require careful analysis. The two time-feels found in this piece contribute to its distinctive structure. By breaking down and studying the rhythmical patterns, we can gain insight into common structures in Jazz and better comprehend its musicality.

In the A section of the tune, we learn to subdivide the 8th notes within the Latin and Funk-inspired groove. By keeping the bow moving down and up on each 8th note, we practice muting and accenting beats relevant to the groove. This works well for any duple-based, aka “straight” time feel.

In the B section, the time feel changes to swing, which can be thought of as having a basis in triplets. We will need different bowing strategies for approaching swing rhythm, which we do not address in this lesson, but which can be found in many of Christian Howes’s courses or lessons.
Understanding any tune’s rhythmic phrasing and accents is essential for capturing its unique essence. By closely studying these rhythmic elements, we can identify the nuances that allow us to be rhythmically strong and capable in all groove-based music.

Analyzing the Harmony
Harmony is another crucial aspect of Caravan that warrants careful analysis. Harmony refers to the chords and chord progressions used in a composition. By examining the harmony in Caravan, we can better comprehend whether to outline arpeggios or use a chord scales-based approach.

In the A section we can use a scalar approach to improvise effectively over the chord changes. There are two main scales I recommend in this Jazz violin lesson over the A section. The first is the F harmonic minor scale, and the next is the F dorian scale.

Recognizing that the scale’s root is actually C is critical to playing the F harmonic minor scale in this piece. More directly, we can emphasize notes within the scale belonging to the C7b9 chord. These notes are C, Db, E, G, and Bb. If you want an arpeggio to create out of this, I recommend either Dbdim7 or C7. But using the 7 notes within the F harmonic minor scale can work for you, especially if you use the chord tones as “destination” tones or anchors within your scalar melodies.

The second half of the A section falls on an F minor 7 chord. During this moment, you can play out of the F dorian scale. Another way to think of this is simply playing any note in the Eb major scale. (For more insights into playing over chord changes, consider trying Christian Howes’s home study course or set up a free introductory private lesson with him.)

Analyzing Improvisation
Improvisation is an essential skill in jazz music. By analyzing the improvisation in Caravan, we can gain insights into the creative process and techniques utilized by expert Jazz musicians.

The Diminished Scale

In addition to the F harmonic scale minor scale, we will also delve into the diminished scale as an option for playing over the C7b9 chord in the first half of the A section. You can either start on Db, E, G, or B, (on downbeats) and play “whole-half”, or you can use an arpeggio-based approach. An arpeggio based approach to the diminished scale could include playing C7, Eb7, F#7, or A7. By outlining any of these arpeggios, you imply the diminished scale.

The Diminished Scale

The diminished scale is a symmetrical scale that alternates half-steps and whole-steps. Jazz and fusion music often use it to create tension and dissonance. In the key of C, the diminished scale is spelled Db-Eb-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C. This scale can be used over dominant chords to create tension and interesting harmonic variations.

The Mixolydian Scale

The Mixolydian scale is commonly used in jazz music and adds color to chords and melodies. It is derived from the Mixolydian mode, which is the fifth mode of the major scale. The Mixolydian scale is created by lowering the seventh degree of the major scale, giving it a dominant sound.

One of the reasons the Mixolydian scale is so widely used is its ability to create tension when sitting on a dominant 7th chord. Lowering the seventh degree creates a dissonance that can then be resolved to the tonic. The B section of Caravan is a series of dominant 7th chords, i.e. F7, Bb7, Eb7, Ab7 and G7.

In the context of this tune, the Mixolydian scale (or the Mixolydian Bebop scale) can be used over these dominant chords. Dominant chords are the backbone of the jazz language, and these scales provide a versatile and rich palette of notes. It allows for improvisation that is both melodic and harmonically interesting.

The Bebop Scale

Alongside the Mixolydian scale, another important scale in the B section is the Bebop scale. The Bebop scales combine the Mixolydian scale with the major 7th. For example, F mixolydian Bebop scale is spelled F- G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb-E-F…

The Bebop scale is a major scale with an added passing tone, which creates a smooth melodic line by allowing you to alternate chord tones on every other note. The 8 note scale works more easily with 8 8th notes in a bar and has symmetry. Jazz musicians can navigate through chord changes seamlessly and melodically once they have learned the Bebop scale practice exercises which Christian also teaches separately.
These scales are particularly useful when improvising over fast-paced sections of tunes that sit on a 5-chord. The Bebop scales provide a roadmap for navigating through the harmonies and allow for creative improvisation.

A Lifelong Exploration of Scales and Harmony

Jazz musicians dedicate a big part of their musical journeys to mastering the harmony. Through years of practice and experimentation, they have come to appreciate the nique qualities and potential for creating truly distinctive musical expressions via various scales including Bebop, diminished, pentatonic, and more. Part of what is key in developing Jazz violin mastery is learning the best sequence and exercises to work on these scales and chords.
The diminished scale is a fascinating musical concept that has intrigued musicians for centuries. It is a symmetrical scale consisting of alternating whole and half steps. This characteristic gives it a distinct sound that stands out from other scales commonly used in music.

It can be used in various musical genres, from jazz to classical and everything in between. Its unique intervallic structure lends itself to creating tension and suspense, making it an excellent choice for adding drama and complexity to compositions.

When applied to chord progressions, it can introduce unexpected and intriguing harmonies. Its symmetrical nature allows for smooth voice leading and interesting chord substitutions, opening up new horizons for composers and improvisers alike.

Mastering the diminished scale, or any scale, can involve a many years-long commitment to exploration and experimentation. There are various approaches to incorporating the scale into your playing. Explore different melodic patterns, rhythmic variations, and improvisational techniques, constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.

Communicating Meaningful Music
Music is a powerful language that can evoke a wide range of emotions and convey deep meaning. Whether you are playing Caravan or any other piece of music, the ultimate goal is to communicate and say something meaningful through your performance. In the jazz violin lesson video, we explore techniques for achieving this, even without relying on flashy or complex musical elements.

Mastering the Basics
While flashy or complex musical elements can sometimes be impressive, they are not always necessary for meaningful communication. Focus on mastering the basics of music, such as rhythm, harmony, and improvising over elemental forms. Play simple phrases with clarity and accuracy, rather than reacting physically and emotionally and going blind. You’re encouraged to play along with the video to explore this.

In conclusion, this Free Jazz Violin Lesson by Christian Howes contains a wealth of applications for any aspiring Jazz violinist. Christian currently offers a promotion through which qualifying new students can take a Free private lesson with him in conjunction with a very low cost trial of his home study course. Check it out here.

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