A new app for learning how to improvise!

Connecting the Dots (CTD) is a new $10 Apple app focused on learning improvisation that should be quite useful. I just downloaded it, so I can’t say how it works. I downloaded it on my iPad; when I looked for the Mac version, it was already there to download with no extra charge. According to the blurb on the website, and an article in the April issue of Downbeat you can

Learn improvisation the same way you learn a language - in small, understandable pieces. Ideal for students and educators alike, Connecting The Dots (CTD) uses call and response exercises which utilize the “bones” of the chords - the arpeggio notes - to help you understand how the vertical chords and horizontal melodies relate in music.

CTD teaches voice leading principles and how to apply them to chord progressions. The exercises are organized into three sections: One Chord, Two Chord and Twelve Bar Blues. They demonstrate simple voice leading from the root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th degrees of one chord to another, using seventh chords and their inversions. Simple tunes and improvisations by Jeff using the material presented are featured at the end of each section.

The app includes range specific transpositions in all 12 keys for tenor, alto & baritone sax, clarinet, flute, trumpet, trombone, bass, piano, vibes & guitar. All exercises have an iReal Pro backing track, the user can play along with the in-app audio or open the backing track in iReal Pro with one tap.

Jeff Coffin is the creator of Connecting The Dots. Jeff is is a globally recognized saxophonist, composer, educator, and is a member of the legendary U.S. rock group, Dave Matthews Band. You may also know him from his 14 years, and 3 Grammy Awards, with the genre-defying Bela Fleck & the Flecktones.

Here is the blurb from his website which also includes several videos explaining the app:

And here is a download of the article from Downbeat. I apologize for the poor quality. My desktop scanner wouldn’t play nice tonight, so I had to do a hand-held scan. Enjoy! :musical_keyboard:

Connecting the Dots app.pdf (723.6 KB)


I have lots of time on my hands right now and no access to a keyboard so I listened to the four introductory videos that Jeff has on YouTube. I found the first video a bit confusing. His complicated chord charts and sudden dive into mixolydian modes was, I thought, too complex for beginners, but in the second video it became clear he was teaching improvisation by call and response using chord tones. At this point the process became far more musically friendly. Even playing basic chord tones his sax sounds amazing and I found its invitation to respond a siren song that was irresistible. The concept is exactly the same as Hayden describes in his chord tone soloing video from the 12 bar blues improvisation course but there were two things that I took from his videos and description of the app that he demonstrates really well. The first is the concept of voice leading, where the last note of one chord tone leads easily to the first note of the next chord. The second is rhythmic control. He demonstrates a huge number of rhythmic possibilities for the improvisation of every bar, asking for a response each time, and for me this is one of the great appeals of this app. I hope he adds to the app with approach notes etc and clears up the clutter at the beginning because it is a great way to practice the basics of improvisation.