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joe1871
06-18-2009, 03:12 AM
Hi - first post - newbie - good to be here.

I have a question regarding diatonic harmony and improvisation. Lets say I am playing over the changes to "All The Things You Are", a well known jazz standard. The first section of the 1st verse is F-7, Bb-7, Eb7, AbMaj7, a I, VI, II, V in Ab. THis I am quite comfortable with. My question here is do I try to think of each individual chord in the progression - i.e. play F Aeolian, Bb Dorian, Eb Mix, and Ab Ionian, or do I basically play Ab major over the entire thing. Now I know F Aeolian and Bb Dorian and Eb Mix, are all the same notes as the Ab Ionian or major scale, but is it common practice or expected to play those modes over each change? Do you focus on the sound of F Aeolian for one measure, and then try to change your mindset to the Dorian, and then the Mixolydian? It seems like a lot of thinking and tonal shifting for just a few beats. Is it better to just work out something that sounds good in Ab major, and then hit the key change to C Major?

There is a chord in between the Ab key and the CMaj key- a IV chord in Ab - the Db Maj7th. How do I handle this chord?

Thanks in advance - this seems like a great resource.

Joe

Jestme
06-18-2009, 08:03 AM
Joe

Welcome aboard. Great 1st post, I like the question. As I understand it the modes may each contain the same notes as the Ionian, however the emphasis is on different target notes, which are more appropriate for the underlying chord. Therefore following the modes across the chords is certainly a valid and safe bet.

There are no doubt other choices as well,,, among is changing to the ionian mode for the underlying chord through the changes.

There are quite a few very knowledgable folks on the forum here that can no doubt provide a deeper and complete answer so - I'll leave plenty of room for them to comment.

It would seem that you are an experienced player and perhaps a jazzer. If you get a chance perhaps you could introduce yourself and your gear...

BTW Brad Carlton has several great courses that you might enjoy. Here are a couple of suggestions...
Caged Cracked - pentatonic related however goes into playing over changes
http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=caged&videofile=
Improv ala mode - Study of improvising using modes :)
http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=improv&videofile=
Also be aware that Mimi Fox has a couple course here that I think you would like.
Jazz Anatomy - http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=anatomy&videofile=
Graduated Solos - http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=gradsolos&videofile=

Of course there is also some material from Robert Conti, Frank Vignola, John Stowell...

I think you're gonna like it here.

jauen
06-18-2009, 09:06 AM
Joe,

Welcome. Nice to have you here.

I wasted a lot of time going down the modal black hole.

I could pass tests on the theory behind what you "should" and "should not" play over chord changes, but my playing sounded choppy and formulaic. Lots of very cool stuff I was hearing didn't fit into the formulas. Frustration mounted.

Everything I had learned was based on a snapshot approach to understanding what was happening. Problem is, music isn't static. Music flows. Context constantly changes.

It's like learning to speak a language. Saying "ain't" instead of "is not" or using profanity and slang (to add color to your communication) is not only appropriate in certain contexts, but makes your point better than any other words or phrases. That approach of course will not work in other situations. Think about it. How did you learn to use "color" in your native language? It certainly wasn't learned by analyzing sentences and paragraphs and trying to follow rules.

It's the same with music. Sometimes a little color (or a lot) is very effective. Learn it the same way. Play your instrument. Listen and imitate other's that you respect and admire. Relate the new stuff to something you already know. That's how you retain it for later use.

It seem that you understand quite a bit of harmonic theory yourself. Based on your question, you recognize that the "snapshot" approach to improv involves a lot of thinking while the tune is cruising by. I know that there are people who can effectively improvise this way (Brad Carlton here at Truefire being the preeminent example). I'll bet you he completely ignores all the rules when he is truly improvising in the heat of the moment. If you stop him and ask him what he's doing, he can put it in a theory context ten ways to Sunday, but he's not doing that first.

Is that true Brad?

Here's a great way to practice modal sounds ( I hate that term). Pick a key. Record a vamp or jam using any diatonic chords. Loop it. Play the major scale (ionian mode :mad:) over the vamp. Now play the same scale starting and ending on the second note, then the third, then the fourth, etc. Don't improvise. Straight 8th notes are fine. Each 7 note grouping is a phrase.

Start each phrase on the first beat of the first chord, then the second beat, then the third, then the fourth. Then start each phrase on the first beat of the second chord, then the second beat, etc, etc. It's truly endless. Do this a thousand times and the tonality of the individual notes gets stuck in your head. You can "color" your playing with these tones any time over any chord regardless what someone at Berkeley calls it. You'll be complimented by theory geeks on your use of the Phrygian mode over the three chord as the tune modulated up a minor third (or some such thing). All you were thinking was "major scale with a little color" or "major arpeggio with a little color."

Now add the other 5 notes one by one using the same technique. HUGE color palette here. This takes a long time. It's fun.

Modal studies, I think are good for analyses after playing something, not before.

Your DbMaj7 chord is of course diatonic to Ab so Ab tonality works fine. Since you're going to CMaj7, try anticipating that change by adding a B natural, D natural, G natural or an E natural to your line over the DbMaj7 just before the change to the CMaj. Half steps are your friend when it comes to color. F and C are the only shared notes, good pivot tones for a less tense sound.

Here I'd be thinking "Ab, Ab, Ab, Ab, Color Note, C, C, C."

Isn't that easier than "Ab Ionian, Ab Ionian, Ab Ionian, B Dorian (or E Phrygian or F Lydian...) for a second, C Ionian, C Ionian, C Ionian?"

Wolfboy1
06-18-2009, 09:08 AM
Welcome Joe,
Thanks for stopping in. You are out of my league but I will see if I can round up a posse.

joe1871
06-18-2009, 02:12 PM
Folks

Outstanding responses - exactly what I was hoping for. I will write more when I get home, and maybe we can start a nice thread on this topic, but I wanted to chime in quickly and tell you I appreciate your feedback.

I had pretty much come to the conclusion, as both you guys seem to strongly impy, that you basically do what works for you. I would normally think Ab Major over this entire progression, and possibly try to hit chord tones as I go past each of the chords. For example hitting the b3 and b7 over the minor chords to emphasize their tonality. THat works as long as I don't make a real mental exercise. Jauen - the IV chord, the Db, is an interesting chord. It comes after this whole phrase resolves itselfto the Ab, so continuing the Ab emphasis sits oddly - too long. I understand and do use the half tone below the next key trick regularly, but this chord is odd in that it almost should be a II chord in the key of C. I will keep playing with this. BTW Jauen - how do you pronounce your name?

As far as equipment goes, I am a gas junkie, buying up everything I can afford. I have tons of stuff. My main guitars are a 86 DOT neck 335 in blond that I just got and absolutely love. It is a gorgeous guitar. I have the requisite PRS, Les Paul, Strats galore, etc. I have a Bill Nash Tele that is a great example of a fresh snappy Tele. For acoustics I have two Collings, a Koa CJ and an Indian Rosewood OM-2H. If you don't know Collings guitars do yourself a favor... they are stunning.
As far as amps go, my main amp is a Bad Cat Hot Cat 30R. I also have a Mesa Roadster combo. Most of the time lately I have been playing through Guitar Rig 3 on my computer though. Its a lot of fun to use and sounds great. I may dump the amps and bring a laptop and small keyboard amp to gigs from now on.

As I said - I will continue my response later. I have already used up to much of my companies time. Gotta earn my keep.

Joe

Jestme
06-18-2009, 03:30 PM
Joe

Sounds like you have a great herd of guitars there. I especially like your Collings. IMHO they are awesome guitars... In fact I too have an Collings OM2H. I also have a Martin, a Mullin, and a Les Paul.

Where abouts are you located? I'm in NH of USA.

beboy
06-18-2009, 10:41 PM
Hey Joe :jimi:
Welcome to the Forums!

You are in good hands with any advice Jauen gives you.

I'm not much of an improviser so I don't have too much to offer. What I can add is that is seems like some players keep their solos interesting by switching around different scales.

They might do exactly as you said - I would normally think Ab Major over this entire progression, and possibly try to hit chord tones as I go past each of the chords. Then you could play arpeggios for a couple bars - Back to Ab Major - then Pentatonics - different Modes, etc.

David Hamburger is really good at mixing it up.
If you have a TrueFireTV subscription checkout these videos where David Hamburger solos and explains what he is doing as he goes along:
The Bossa (http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=architect&videofile=architect/arthebossa5) - commentary
4 on the Floor (http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=architect&videofile=architect/arfouronfloor5) - commentary

If you don't have a subscription here's some free samples (although he doesn't change scales as much in these, he still shows how to mix things up in a solo to create interest in the listener):
Blue Chicken (http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=architect&videofile=architect/arbluechicken5)- commentary
Lone Star (http://truefire.com/tftv/index.html?channel=architect&videofile=architect/arlonestar5) - commentary

joe1871
06-19-2009, 02:19 AM
Hey JestMe

I USED to be a close neighbor of yours - I lived just over the border in Massachusetts in Methuen- I am a born and raised, cah pahkin Boston boy.. In the last five years though I pulled up my roots and landed in the San Francisco Bay area. If I had to leave Boston - a great place to live - then SF is one of the few equals. This is a fantastic area, musically, socially, geographically - and any other "ally" I could think of! :mariole:

Everyone - fantastic feedback. Thank you for taking the time to write such well thought out responses. We have gotta take tis technology tothe next level and make this some kind of holographic meeting where we all beam our holograms into some central place and jam and talk and throw back a few cold ones. And the best part of the technology is no hangover and no weight gain, and the wife somehow thinks its the greatest thing ever. Cmon - there has got to be a clever web programmer out there who can cook this up!

I have to look around in here. I do have a full year top level account, so I will check out those TV suggestions this weekend.

Off to bed guys, Have a good one.

Joe

Josh Gibson
06-19-2009, 12:08 PM
My question here is do I try to think of each individual chord in the progression - i.e. play F Aeolian, Bb Dorian, Eb Mix, and Ab Ionian, or do I basically play Ab major over the entire thing.

That's your choice - both options are synonomous - whether you choose to think of Ab throughout, or mentally address the modes as they occur, you are still using the same 7 notes. The difference lies in how well you can articulate the chord changes. Parent scale approach frequently leads to wank-y solos....by introducing chord/arpeggio based ideas, you're more likely to play ideas that really spell out the changes.

Now I know F Aeolian and Bb Dorian and Eb Mix, are all the same notes as the Ab Ionian or major scale, but is it common practice or expected to play those modes over each change?

Correct - these modes are all derived from the same parent scale.....so again, by playing Ab Ionian over the changes, you're applying these modes whether you think of them or not.

Do you focus on the sound of F Aeolian for one measure, and then try to change your mindset to the Dorian, and then the Mixolydian?

You will certainly benefit from trying both approaches. For instance - if you are thinking Ab when the Eb7 chord occurs, in order to really nail the sound of the chord, you'll have to identify which notes in the Ab scale work best over the Eb7.

Step 1 - identify parent scale.
Step 2 - identify chord tones.
Step 3 - play melody.

It seems like a lot of thinking and tonal shifting for just a few beats. Is it better to just work out something that sounds good in Ab major, and then hit the key change to C Major?

Yes, intelligent improv requires a good deal of thinking, at least in advance (practice room). Fast tempo tunes may force you into thinking only of the parent scale - but your lines will still need to reflect the changes by emphasizing chord tones as the chords change.

Addressing the chords individually is alot more work, but will undoubtedly make your melodies sound more coherent and well, melodic. Plus, you eliminate a step...

Step 1 - identify chord.
Step 2 - play music

There is a chord in between the Ab key and the CMaj key- a IV chord in Ab - the Db Maj7th. How do I handle this chord?

Stay in Ab - it's just the IV chord. The resulting sound will be Db Lydian whether you think of it that way or not.

Thanks in advance - this seems like a great resource.

Joe

Good luck!

Jestme
06-19-2009, 01:08 PM
Hey JestMe

I USED to be a close neighbor of yours - I lived just over the border in Massachusetts in Methuen- I am a born and raised, cah pahkin Boston boy.. In the last five years though I pulled up my roots and landed in the San Francisco Bay area. If I had to leave Boston - a great place to live - then SF is one of the few equals. This is a fantastic area, musically, socially, geographically - and any other "ally" I could think of! :mariole:

Hey Joe

I thought I recognized your accent as a Boston boy.!! :siffler:

I grew up in Somerville myself. Eventually moved up to NH cuz I could afford to live in NH... but now I don't know where I can afford to live LOL I guess I'll just stay put.

Once agan welcome to TF. There's lots of good folks in here to brain pick and socialize with.

Have fun

Hutch82
06-20-2009, 03:39 PM
It's like learning to speak a language. Saying "ain't" instead of "is not" or using profanity and slang (to add color to your communication) is not only appropriate in certain contexts, but makes your point better than any other words or phrases. That approach of course will not work in other situations. Think about it. How did you learn to use "color" in your native language? It certainly wasn't learned by analyzing sentences and paragraphs and trying to follow rules.

It's the same with music. Sometimes a little color (or a lot) is very effective. Learn it the same way. Play your instrument. Listen and imitate other's that you respect and admire. Relate the new stuff to something you already know. That's how you retain it for later use.


J I've spent the last 7 yrs learning to speak French with the above approach with some success and spent the last 35 yrs trying to demystify music and guitar playing .......Truefire has helped me big time with my guitar karma and am loving it and your thread response has just woke me up :banghead: to demystifying the mode thang....thanks man

H

slasner
06-24-2009, 02:11 PM
we can look at theory and improvise based on theory, but when true creative improv occurs for me I am not very focused on theory, I'm focused on melody and intervals, what sounds good to my ear, I move from one note to the next according to the interval my mind hears as my preferred destiny. My point is: at some point we can ignore theory and just let the melody flow naturally.:breaker1:

DamianRyan2
01-11-2010, 11:36 AM
Joe

Sounds like you have a great herd of guitars there. I especially like your Collings. IMHO they are awesome guitars... In fact I too have an Collings OM2H. I also have a Martin, a Mullin, and a Les Paul.

Where abouts are you located? I'm in NH of USA.

Well! here we go with the equipment deal again.Are guitarists crazy??? Joe what you have in the way of gear sounds great,pun intended he he.That blond 335 whew.Anyway I have a "Les Paul de lux" a Gibson semi like the one Chuck Berry has on the covers of his albums,a PRS Mc Carty,an old tele that sum idiot carved for humbucking pickups and destroyed,a fender Jazz bass,an old 67 Precision bass,A Gison J55 acoustic,a Ramirez nylon acoustic electric cutaway,a Yamaha GC3A hand made (whatever that means) classical and last but not least my 3/4 nylon string Ibanez that I started this journey on so long ago.As for amps,Marshal JMP 1,1967 Marshall JCM 45,Line 6 Flextone II.Now if I could play them properly I'd be in the pound seat's.
One might wonder about my "Are guitarists crazy?" question.For years I've been using the McCarty through the Line 6 and the other day I plugged the Les Paul into the Marshal JMP 1 and into the JTM 45 and was left wondering why I bothered with all the other expense.Man that rig sounds wonderfull.

DamianRyan2
01-11-2010, 11:50 AM
we can look at theory and improvise based on theory, but when true creative improv occurs for me I am not very focused on theory, I'm focused on melody and intervals, what sounds good to my ear, I move from one note to the next according to the interval my mind hears as my preferred destiny. My point is: at some point we can ignore theory and just let the melody flow naturally.:breaker1:

Well spoken,this is something I find fascinating about the whole iprovising question,what is this artist thinking of as he pours out a wonderfull solo or that artist etc.What scale to play over what chord etc.Try it all but record what your doing and listen to it,analyse it,you know what you started off attempting as in scale over chord etc.
As in any lanuage the greater ones command of the theory the more able one is to express oneself in that language be it Latin,Greek,English or Music.
We talk and read for years to aquire the level of skill that one achieves at a point in life,same with the music,as the now famous saying goes "Just Do It"

PS I've just read the responses from Juan and Josh Gibson.I think it's best if I read and don't write on this forum.Wonderfull advise from them. Damian