Frank Herzberg has offered a jazz improvisation course for professional musicians and music teachers in São Paulo Brazil since 1997. His unique method is based on two simple ideas:
History and Repetition.
After graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston, and after private improvisation classes with Hal Crook, Bruce Gertz, Ed Tomassi and the legendary Charlie Banacos, Frank found himself with one urgent question: What to study first?
With a shelf full of methods, transcriptions, and handwritten notes about improvisation, it was a difficult task to organize a systematic method of study. But one day Frank looked closely at a poster hanging on his practise room wall that depicts a family tree of musicians from the various eras of jazz history: Blues, Swing, Bebop, Cool, Hardbop, Fusion.
This poster gave Frank an idea how to organize both his own studies and his improvisation lessons. His consideration was:
•How have King Oliver, Louis Amstrong and Sidney Bechet improvised?
• In what ways did the music change during the swing era?
• What did Charlie Parker contribute?
•What did Coltrane and Miles contribute?
Following this line of reasoning, Frank organized his music study into five basic ideas: 1) blues; 2) diatonic scales; 3) chromatic approach techniques; 4) modal concepts; 5) octave - divisions (Giant Steps, inside-outside). As jazz improvisation has developed from simple to complex, Frank organized his study method to follow the music's history and to study the concepts in the sequential order that evolved as the music changed.
The Japanese KUMON method is designed to teach math and reading efficiently, and it emphasizes repetition. In normal schools, children practice mathematical calculations around 400 to 500 times. With the KUMON method, the student will practise these calculations around 15,000 times. The sheer number of repetitions insures that a student no longer has to calculate, but will simply have memorized the answer.
Improvisation requires a similar approach. Excellent technique, based upon much repetition, enables the player to free himself from numbers-notes-fingering-etc., and lets him concentrate on creative ideas, listen to his fellow musicians, and respond in spontaneous ways. Frank's course works only on five basic ideas, but in all keys, phrasing, tempos and over all chord changes. Frank gives his students an individual practise plan, which combines technical exercises with creative playing and enables each student to develop his own concepts over time.