The process of learning to improvise is a journey. A long and rewarding journey and one that is punctuated by a series of milestones. This can be hard to see from that comfy seat inside of your practice room, but take a step back from your daily routine and look at the path that brought you to where you are today. You played your first notes, you learned your first scale, you learned your first tune, you figured out the inner workings of a chord progression, you learned your first ii-V- I line, you transcribed your first solo…
As you begin your musical journey these milestones are huge and transform you at a personal level. Your first notes on your instrument turned you into a musician. Your first solo over that chord progression made you an improviser.
These leaps forward changed your identity and set you apart from everyone around you. However the better you get, the harder it is to . More effort and determination is required to make even the smallest step forward.
But even the small steps forward are essential to your improvement. This musical path that you’re on can be as long or short as you want it to be. Your destination can be the sound that you hear on your favorite records or maybe you just want to be better than you were last week.
Whatever your aspirations, this path to your goal is paved with many milestones…
Getting started with chromatic ii-V’s
So let’s go back to that stuffy practice room. You’ve taken a quick inventory of your musical progress: you’ve learned some tunes, you’ve got some instrumental technique, you feel comfortable over standards, you’ve transcribed some solos and you can even navigate ii-V’s like clockwork. But what’s your next major breakthrough?
Answer: Chromatic ii-V’s
One of the musical milestones that many improvisers can intellectualize and analyze, but few can play well over is the chromatic ii-V7 progression – a sequence of ii-V7 progressions either ascending or descending by half-step: