I help musicians find a creative way to improvise. Ask Me Anything on improvisation or the Music Business.

Jason Klobnak
May 14, 2018

My name is Jason Klobnak and I’m a musician, author (of two Jazz improvisation books), and educator (over Skype and an adjunct professor of Music Business, Theory, and Brass at a local college in the Denver, Colorado area).

I help musicians find a creative way to improvise that focuses on the grand picture of targeting. Besides teaching and coaching privately (in person and over Skype), I have a blog with over 3 years of free tips in various categories in my BLOG as well as my improv books that you can find at Jazz Targeting.

I would love to answer any questions you might have regarding improvisation (for Jazz or any other genre) or Music Business. 

**More bio info below**

My band, the Jason Klobnak Quartet, recently released our third very well reviewed (on the Top 10 of a number of different Jazz radio stations) full-length album called Friends & Family in March of 2018. We perform originals with a B3 organ centered rhythm section;  blend hard bop, soul, gospel, and other world rhythms to create a memorable Jazz experience.

 Here are a few Youtube videos from the album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC_q04VFJcM and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSD5b56hRW0

Also, many of my students take Music Business coaching, Jazz improvisation, and trumpet lessons over Skype: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWgQD_s3Zk0I

Jason Smaller.jpg

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If someone has bad phrasing and sense of timing while composing music. How can one improve it?
May 21, 3:05AM EDT0

One-on-one coaching is the most helpful because describing or reading how to fix something with phrasing and rhythm is very difficult. However, my first exercise is one that Dizzy Gillespie recommended: fill your head with rhythm. Specifically not something monotonous like a string of eighth notes. Rather, a mixture of downbeats and syncopation (i.e. Jazz rhythms) that are non-repetitive. 

May 21, 9:51AM EDT0
What are the most valuable, scales or chords in the musical theory?
May 21, 1:08AM EDT0

They're all equally valuable. What matters most is the context that they're used. The ear is the ultimate judge on value, but that is variable depending on the context of what's happening in the moment.

May 21, 9:48AM EDT0
If a musician transcribes a solo and notices a lot of “wrong” notes. How is the soloist playing these wrong notes and still sounding good?
May 20, 11:31PM EDT0

I might challenge what makes notes “wrong?” In my method of Targeting I talk about choosing targets and the various tools used to get to them. 

If your target note is strong then you can play almost anything prior to that target (that creates tension) that makes it sound good/right/pleasing (resolution). 

All music, improvisation included, is a series of moving from tension to resolution in the 3 elements of Music: Rhythm, Melody, and Harmony. 

May 20, 11:49PM EDT0
What is your favourite example of music improvisation?
May 20, 10:25PM EDT0

There are MANY great examples of genius-level improvisations that have been captured in audio or video format. 

One that comes to mind of recent is Corey Henry’s solo on Snarky Puppy’s song, Lingus

May 20, 11:44PM EDT0
As an artist, what do you do to give back to your music community and why?
May 18, 7:12PM EDT0

I teach as part of my giving back both in private lessons (in person and over Skype) and community Jazz centers because that's where and how I learned.

I also give back by being available to answer questions similar to what I'm doing here on AMA. I'm not being paid to answer questions, but rather am glad to do it because it might help an up-and-coming musician that's hungry for knowledge.

May 18, 7:18PM EDT0
How have your prior jobs contributed to your professional skills and attitude in the music scene?
May 18, 11:35AM EDT0

I'm an adjunct professor at a local college in Music Business, Jazz Improvisation, Jazz History, Music Theory, Music Appreciation, and Principles of Acoustics. Prior to that I have worked in Music Ministry at a mega-church, electrical contractor as a project engineer, and 7 years in the Insurance industry as P&C adjuster and subrogator. 

All of the above has helped with what the business industry calls soft skills which translate very well over to the music scene. You have to be personable to work with other musicians, club owners/contractors, and the audience.

May 18, 11:45AM EDT0
What challenges will be addressed by the music industry in the next five years?
May 18, 9:07AM EDT0

There will continue to be a shift in the recording model. We'll probably see major labels splitting into smaller and boutique labels more than we already have. Streaming will also be embraced by the artists and publisher more than ever before because that has shown to be a medium that's not going away.

May 18, 9:37AM EDT0
What do you think of your current local jazz/experimental scene? Who are your favourite artists/ ones to watch?
May 18, 7:02AM EDT0

This was asked earlier in the thread. There are a number of great younger and older musicians in our scene. There's very few that aren't worth watching if any.

May 18, 9:34AM EDT0
Who or what inspires you at the moment - be it in music, arts, politics or your personal life?
May 18, 1:54AM EDT0

Inspiration can come from anywhere, but it's important to realize that it's fleeting. If a creative can't create unless there's inspiration then there will be long periods of drought between producing their art. 

I keep an eye and ear out for inspiration, but it's better to just create. If it fails, it fails. If it succeeds, it succeeds. Time to create again.

May 18, 9:33AM EDT0
Are you working on anything new at the moment? What do you have lined up for 2018?
May 17, 5:30AM EDT0

My band, the Jason Klobnak Quartet, recently released an album called Friends & Family in March of this year and am working on a new EP with many of the same band members.

However, we're taking a different approach to writing and performance than what we've done in the past. We will release that show on December 1st at Denver's Soiled Dove.

May 17, 9:51AM EDT0
What other advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in music performance?
May 16, 6:42PM EDT0

It's important to realize that an education in music performance is not enough. It never has been. How many orchestral, college teaching positions, etc. are currently open right now? That's quite a small number. Now, how many music majors are at the college you're looking to attend/attending? 

The numbers don't match. The business side is equally as important as well as your personality and the relationships you create. To be a musician, you have to be an entrepreneur. Take business classes: marketing, advertising, PR, design, accounting, etc. 

It also takes tenacity to have a career in music. Long hours and little pay. If it's truly your passion then you will find a way to make it work. If not, it's OK to play and enjoy music and still work another job. 

May 16, 6:58PM EDT0
What are you listening to these days? Do you like anything from the recent times?
May 16, 5:57PM EDT0

I love music (all genres) past and present. It's important to listen and absorb stuff from the past, but to help stay current you need to listen to musicians/bands that are current. I'm a big fan of Snarky Puppy, Cory Henry, as well as straight cats like Joey DeFrancesco, Jeremy Pelt, etc. 

May 16, 6:04PM EDT0
Is there an instrument that you regret not learning to play? If so, what is it and why didn't you learn?
May 16, 2:29PM EDT0

All of the instruments I wanted to play I can at the level I wan: trumpet, keys, guitar, bass & drums. I've never wanted or needed to learn to play anything else.

May 16, 2:48PM EDT0
If the music seems a bit dull or boring, what can you do to liven things up? What other types of musicians do you perform with?
May 16, 12:01AM EDT0

If the music is dull or boring...write better music. If the music is good, what can you do to change it? I personally like to change the texture of what doesn't sound good. Sometimes small changes can have a big impact.

May 16, 1:20PM EDT0
Are you planning to come up with more improv books for this year? What will you be covering in it?
May 15, 7:31PM EDT0

Probably not any more books as the medium is not what it once was. I am, however, looking at doing an online course that walks musicians through my Targeting concepts as well as one-on-one coaching.

May 15, 7:52PM EDT0
What methods do you use to critically evaluate your own musical ability?
May 15, 9:16AM EDT0

Our ears do a really good job of evaluating whether something sounds right to us or not. If it sucks...we know it. If it's good...we know it. 

If all evaluation methods were the same all musicians would end up sounding the same. Diversity in what individuals think sound right is what makes the global music culture so rich.

May 15, 10:02AM EDT0
How important is it to have the heads and changes memorized to the most common jazz tunes and standards?
May 14, 11:21PM EDT0

If you're learning Jazz-it's important. A lot of historical language is contained in those songs. Chord progression vehicles (AABA, ABA, 12-bar blues, Rhythm Changes, etc) help solidify our understanding of how great composers before us composed and helps inform future compositions.

Learning these also helps if you go to jam sessions so you don't have to spend a long time figuring out what you'll play. 

However, after all of the above it's important to realize that we have to keep moving forward. Like I mentioned, it helps inform future compositions. How many more times do we need to hear someone play All the Things You Are ? We need the genre to continue to move forward and push boundaries too.

May 15, 10:00AM EDT0
What are more valuable scales or chords?
May 14, 7:24PM EDT0

They’re both valuable. Scales are pitch collections we can use and re-arrange to get us to our targets (see Targeting). Chords are stacks of harmony that show us what key areas or non-diatonic expressions we’re currently in. 

I don’t see one that has more importance than the other. 

May 14, 9:40PM EDT0
How should one go about improving one’s sense of time and phrasing?
May 14, 5:12PM EDT0

Listening. You have to listen and digest from great players and recordings. Get a sense of their time, phrasing, and feel. Then apply it to your own. I have some exercises on my website that help too.

May 14, 7:05PM EDT0
What are the benefits for a musician to learn music theory?
May 14, 4:54PM EDT0

I like to use an analogy for this: You don't have to know the ins and outs of a car to be able to drive. You just need to know how to drive. However, if you know how and why it works...you can modify the car to fit your needs.  Music is the same way. Theory is the inner-workings of music. Know why and how something works and you can make it work for yourself.

May 14, 7:04PM EDT0
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