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Digging Deeper: Wayne Krantz’ “Grid” System


Ex. 3 is a short improvisation using the formula 1-2-3-4-b5-5-6-b7 in the key of E. (You can also think of this as a Mixolydian scale with a b5.) Take note of all the elements we’ve talked about so far: the use of syncopation, close intervals (the last four notes in the third measure), and a couple of nice little chord stabs for punctuation.

Our final example (Ex. 4) attempts to dig a little deeper into Krantz’ approach to playing chords and improvising with chords. He’d think of this the same way he’d think about single-note improvisation.

In this example, we’re drawing from the Lydian mode (1-2-3-#4-5-6-7), another common modal setting that you might be required to jam on for a long time. We’re blending together chords stabs, melodic content, and rhythmic punctuation on the low strings. The idea that this can be improvised is beyond me, and the result is anything but predictable and always exciting to listen to.

One way to experiment with these voicings is to take a simple little shape, like a major triad, and shift the root up to the 9 or move the 5 down to the #11. Get creative and don’t just rely on what you’ve played thousands of times before. Take a few minutes to seek out one of the thousands of things you’ve probably never tried before.

This lesson really only serves as an introduction to Krantz’ style. When you’re done here, do your own listening, transcribing, and experimentation. And be sure to pick up some of Wayne’s stuff. One of my favorites is his 1993 release, Long to Be Loose.

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