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Dave's Jazz Handbook

This handbook is designed to be used by my improvisation students, and by anyone else that would like help with improvistion. There are active links to other sites of help, and clicking on MIDI files will play that particular file. Please have fun and enjoy the information.

You can order the print version of this book from Lulu.com. Please click here for ordering information

Reference page for list of additional materials you will need and love, click it or lose out!


Improvising is not hard. It just takes using your imagination to paint a picture, or as the old musicians said, you have to “tell a story”. You can get ideas about what kinds of musical stories you want to tell by listening to the great musicians. A partial list of the greats appears later in this booklet, along with other reference materials. Many of these materials come from sources that you can use also, and many are listed in the reference materials section.

This is not a complete improvisation method, since there are many of those out there. This is merely a short set of “tools” that you can use to get over the hump of being able to express yourself through improvistion. It's a starting point, and you will want to go further.

What do you need to know? Ok, you're not going to like this, but you need know your major scales to improvise effectively. In these materials I've included Jamey Aebersold's Godlike Scale Sheet, that contains most of the knowledge of scales that you will need. And just the major scales will get you 75% there.

This little course in improvisation is about learning the least you need to know to do it. With knowledge of major scales and three types of chords, (Major 7th, Minor 7th and Dominant 7th) you will be able to improvise quite competently, and it will open the door to learning more on your own, and from further classes.

This will also be a “hands-on” approach. Reading about improvisation does very little except give you some basic knowledge of the building blocks, and the tools of the trade. Most of the skills will be developed from actually playing music.

The main thing you have to do is drop your inhibitions, and embrace the idea that you can do this. If I can, you can. To have the outlook that this is something fun and fulfilling from the outset will enable you to grow much faster.

Telling a Story

We all have family members and friends that tell great stories. Their stories have a starting point, an ending and the part in the middle holds your interest through techniques such as an interesting plot and characters that hold your interest. And the story is not the same every time. The stories that you don't like? Those are the ones that don't go anywhere, are the same everytime, and don't have a point. Think about this while you improvise. I will give you specific techniques for this later.


It is now time to improvise. Ready to be brave and face your first challenge? Then go to the next page.

I'm ready, take me to the next page and the next level!

Or proceed by Lesson Number below

Lesson 1 (Dorian Mode)
Lesson 2 (Tune using one Dorian Mode)
Lesson 3 (Mix it Up)
Lesson 4 (More Mix)
Lesson 5 (3 Scales in One)
Lesson 6, (Give Me Them Guide Tones)
Lesson 7 (What Key NOW)
Lesson 8 (Hey Dude, Where's my 2,5,1?)
Lesson 9 (Play the Blues Baby)
Lesson 10 (The Blues and the Mixolydian Mode)    





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