Modern Jazz Improvisation Part 1

Modern Jazz Improvisation is a two-part class that applies modern jazz melodic vocabulary to modern-style compositions and explores more contemporary chord progressions.  Both parts 1 and 2 offer numerous examples, exercises, and etudes written in standard notation and tablature to increase fluency when playing over the often challenging tunes of today’s composers.

A suggested prequel for these classes is Part 2 of the Modern Jazz Guitar series (Melody) which covered using modern vocabulary on standard chord progressions. While the 5-part Modern Jazz Guitar series included in-depth discussions on the roots of the modern style, technique, melody, harmony, rhythm, sound, and equipment, and addressed improvising on standards, which form the backbone of jazz language, the Modern Jazz Improvisation classes will focus on improvising on contemporary-style tunes.

Anyone who hears jazz musicians performing today will notice that, in addition to standards, they often play their own original compositions as well as those of their contemporaries and recent predecessors.  These tunes, while often derived from or inspired by the old standards, are significantly different in several ways.  Current jazz composers have been greatly influenced by the modal movement that began in jazz in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and most of the modern tunes have their roots in compositions by Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and others in that time period.

Part 1 of Modern Jazz Improvisation thoroughly explores the chord progression from Joe Henderson’s classic tune “Inner Urge” which has, over the years, become what could be considered a “new standard” since so many jazz musicians have worked on mastering it.  “Inner Urge” is a perfect model to introduce modern jazz progressions as it contains chord movement in both the plateau modal and vertical modal styles and is a direct predecessor to many current jazz compositions.

Part 2 of Modern Jazz Improvisation examines, in depth, three chord progressions similar to those in tunes by Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ari Hoenig, and Jonathan Kreisberg.  Like Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” (explored in Part 1), these chord progressions include both plateau and vertical modal styles, but unlike their predecessor, they feature new challenges typical of many modern jazz compositions:  extended harmonies, odd meters, meter changes, and unusual phrase lengths.

Modern Jazz Improvisation part 1 covers:

  • In-depth discussion of tonal versus modal styles of approach to harmony
  • Explanation of the terms “plateau modal” and “vertical modal” and the differences in approach to both
  • Detailed harmonic analysis of the chord progression for the Joe Henderson tune “Inner Urge”
  • Basic example exercise for gaining fluency with finding the chord tones for the above progression
  • Examples of numerous techniques for using motivic development to make logical, musical lines:  rhythmic displacement, rhythmic and intervalic expansion and contraction, and intervalic inversion
  • Exercises to gain fluency through quickly-moving harmonically unrelated chord changes using techniques such as scale tone voice leading; diatonic 7th arpeggio voice leading; major, minor, and major b6 pentatonic scales; parallel moving chord shapes; triad pairs; and odd note groupings
  • Two examples solos on the “Inner Urge” chord progression incorporating all of the above techniques in a musical context, one designed to be played at a medium tempo, and the other designed to be played at a medium-up tempo
  • Running time: 114 minutes
  • 13 pages of written examples, exercises, and solo etudes, in standard notation and tablature, with close-up views of the demonstrations
  • MP3 backing tracks for all written examples and solos, including full-length track for improvisation practice

Course Curriculum

Modern Jazz Improvisation-Part 1
Modern Jazz Improvisation-Part 1 01:54:00

Course Reviews


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  1. Profile photo of Csaba Béke


    Modern Jazz Improvisation-Part 1 is some really good class! It contains many kinds of approaching of imrovisation methods so it is very inventive and varied. It is also very well constructed and thoroughly thought-out. The explanations are detailed and clear. Very helpful are the written notes and the provided backingtracks making practising more effective. It is some serious and thoughtful stuff from a great musician who exactly knows what it is to learn and to really know something.

    ~ Csaba Béke (June 21, 2017)

  2. Profile photo of Armando Nunez


    Another excelent class by Lippincott. He is a master at presenting material in a way that is at the same time very throrough and detailed, and concise. I am never left with doubts with any of his lessons, every thing is so clear.
    The material presented will keep you working for some time. I have a Master’s degree in jazz and still find Tom’s lessons very insightful. I use a lot of his concepts and ideas in my own teaching, even with beginner/intermediate students. I highly recommend it.

    ~ Armando Nunez (June 21, 2017)

  3. Profile photo of Jovica Savin


    This is brilliant! Very inspiring and useful material, very clear. Tom Lippincott is great. Jo Savin

    ~ Jovica Savin (June 21, 2017)

  4. Profile photo of Christian Arellano


    I have thoroughly enjoyed this lesson. It really opened my ears to the modern sounds and helped me understand how to acquire them. Do yourself a favor and get both classes in this series. Enough to shed on for the next few decades!

    ~ Christian Arellano (June 21, 2017)

  5. Profile photo of Gareth Rennick


    Another great lesson from Tom. This time it focuses on one modal tune "Inner Urge" and Tom gives you ideas on how to approach improvising over such a tune and also how to approach tunes with seemingly unrelated and complex chord changes. Loads of great ideas here.

    ~ Gareth Rennick (June 21, 2017)

  6. Profile photo of Allen L


    An excellent intro into various approaches used in improvisation over modern progressions. Each example captures the essence of a specific concept. A huge eye opener for me, as I know it will be for you.

    One suggestion to improve all these lessons is to break everything down into small short videos, each covering a specific concept. This makes finding any topic in the discussion fast for the student, without having to scroll back and forth.

    ~ Allen L (June 21, 2017)

  7. Profile photo of carlos leon


    ~ carlos leon (June 21, 2017)

  8. Profile photo of Julio Sánchez


    All you need to know about harmony and its development and application related to guitar is in this series in a very concise and organized way.

    ~ Julio Sánchez (June 21, 2017)

  9. Profile photo of Tony


    Really great breakdown of the options and choices for these types of modal tunes. To start with, it’s made me look at Pentatonics in a totally new way. Highly recommended.

    ~ Tony (June 21, 2017)

  10. Profile photo of tyoshida


    Can’t find any better lesson than this to learn Inner Urge. Great topic covered. His ideas can surely be applied to other modern tunes. I personally feel it is better to view Tom’s Modern Jazz Guitar series for better understanding. Superb lesson anyway.

    ~ tyoshida (June 21, 2017)

  11. Profile photo of james Seaberry


    Amazing stuff. I thought I was OK with tunes like Inner Urge, Jinriksha, etc., as I have played them in jams and on gigs fairly well, but this class, built upon the 5-series Modern Jazz Guitar series in a completely logical and fluid way, has opened my eyes greatly. Tired of hearing guys play long, winding lines that you can’t tell when they are deliberately "inside" or "outside"? Lines that sound like they cut a random page out of 100 books, put them together, and read them as one book? This class is about THEMATIC development and VOICE LEADING, pure and simple, and it gives you the guidelines for creating MEANINGFUL lines that flow sensibly and will captivate, rather than anesthetize an audience. I also bought part II, but it is going to take a while to get this in my head first. Amazing class.

    ~ james seaberry (June 21, 2017)

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