Ernie Watts Masterclass – JEN Conference 2012

I am a big fan Ernie Watts, from his crazy huge mouthpiece tip opening to his amazing melodic improvisations. This masterclass offers a great view into his personal sound concept, philosophy, practice techniques and improvisation pedagogy.

Here’s a warmup exercise based on the warmup Ernie recommends to start each practice session with.

Bebop Study #2

I’ve been dragging on doing my transpositions lately but I have a great II V I from Les Wise’s book “Bebop Bible”. I have transposed it to  all 12 keys in the circle of 4ths and it’s a fun little lick. Of course the best way to practice this is over a II V I backing track. It is the opinion here at MBS that hearing the licks in context allows the brain to strengthen the association between what you are playing and what you are hearing.

Here’s the lick, be sure to download the pdf file. Bebop Study Lick #2

Bebop Lesson from Les Wise "Bible Bible" Lick Transposed all 12 keys

I can’t recommend enough that there are great resources for learning improvisation and general techniques all over the web. They range in price, features, and teaching style. MBS recommends  but is in no way affiliated with any the following sites:
Bob Reynolds – &

Bebop Study #1

My first album was Miles Davis’s “4 and More” album. This album was a mind opener for me. It was fast, free, and fun while at the same time allowing me to use my fathers turntable with his permission. For a kid of 12 suddenly allowed to use the turntable this was a big deal. Listening to Miles, George Coleman on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano,  Ron Carter on bass and Anthony Williams on drums excited me to no end. I wanted to learn to play with the energy these players were bringing to the music.

Fast forward 2 decades and change and I am a more nuanced player but sadly I’d never gotten the bebop under my fingers. Years of playing ska, punk, and rock never asked that kind of musical commitment so it was placed on the back burner. Now armed with my copy of the Bebop Bible by Les Wise, yes I have a seemingly rare print copy, and musical accompaniment software I have begun transposing and starting down the path toward bebop understanding and hopefully some small measure of proficiency.

As recommended by Les Wise and several great local boppers I have the privilege of calling friends and musical colleagues, the second step to learning bebop is to build a vocabulary. This is done in 2 parts, the first is to listen and play along with the great players. The second is to practice bebop phrases in all twelve keys while carefully listening. This is what brought me to Les Wise’s book. It is full of great material to help you build a solid bebop vocabulary.

For this section I will be choosing one phrase, line, or lick from Les’s book and transposing it into all 12 keys. I recommend playing these over the chords using software like band in a box. This will help to place the phrases into musical context and should help you to assimilate them into your playing more quickly. If you don’t have Band-In-A-Box then the android app Chord-Bot is the next best thing and is easy to use. I keep ChordBot handy on every device I have. It’s seriously that good of a tool.

This weeks bebop vocabulary building exercise: Bebop Study Lick 1