Jazz improvisation at fast tempos

When playing over a fast tune, don’t get caught up in the chord progression that much. Just keep in mind key centers. If you try to play each individual chord/scale association , then it will just sound like you are playing chord by chord instead of thinking of the tune as a whole.

Often when people play really fast lines they are thinking of a shape to their improv, not necessarily all the notes. Sometimes you do think of all the notes, but the thing to remember is this, and Dizzy said it best: “I may not play all the right notes, but I play my notes in all the right places.” That means that your rhythm, inflections, and placement of the notes you play is so much more important than what notes you actually play.

When analyzing a transcription of a fast song, try also look more at the rhythmic aspect of the solo rather than the melodic aspect. Same with bebop heads- look at they are built rhythmically. Once you figure out that the pyramid of improv importance is heavily weighted on the rhythmic end, your fast solos will all of a sudden, and I mean immediately, transform into great solos. It’s all about the rhythm.

Once your rhythm and timing and placement are correct, you can start worrying about making sure you’re hitting your flat 9’s and stuff like that. One thing you can do is to treat all ii Vs as just dominant Vs or ii7s.

Tip: Don’t tap your foot in 4 on a fast tempo, tap on the half notes and play with a relaxed lighter touch.