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Now this is in NO WAY a bashing Aebersold thread. I'm been to one of his clinics and he's a brilliant guy who developed generations of amazing players and jazz material. It's really just my thoughts on the whole Chord/Scale approach to improvisation.

As I age and think about my improvisation both strengths and most definitely weaknesses, I think back to the very beginning. My HS director handed a play-a-long sheet for something and a tape. Unfortunately, the tape was dubbed from a Record and the pitch was really off so it didn't work out. But the music had each Chord with a Scale and that was the basis for my improvisation for the next 20 years.

You can get a LOT of mileage out of the old Dorian/Mixolydian thing and fake it for a LONG time. Over the last four years and particularly this past year, I have started to avoid using scales and have been focusing on chord tones and enclosures. I think the Chord/Scale thing has a place but when I was a kid - that was the only tool in my improvisation tool box.
 

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If you understand that the Aebersold method is an instruction for getting started it’s much easier to see its value.
The problem is using the play a longs. I’ve always just told people to play along with the actual records
 

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You can get a LOT of mileage out of the old Dorian/Mixolydian thing and fake it for a LONG time.
What does it mean that you have been "faking" it? If you are playing over Impressions and are using E dorian, how is that "faking" it? Do you mean you are not actually hearing the notes and how they fit with the chords but just playing random scale notes?
 

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If you understand that the Aebersold method is an instruction for getting started it’s much easier to see its value.
The problem is using the play a longs. I’ve always just told people to play along with the actual records
Personally I think the Aebersold materials are top notch as practice aids, within the limitations imposed by what they are.. Although, of course, the records do tend to push you into a particular interpretation, on the other hand the interpretation is also one of the most common.

What the materials don't do is to give you a complete context. For example, the chords-scales thing is useful to get an initial understanding of which notes are consonant with a given chord. It does not, and I'm sure J. Aebersold himself would agree it doesn't, take the place of developing a personal voice, nor does it explain all the times when you can use a different note and have it turn out good, nor does it explain in detail when you would want to use a particular set of notes versus a different particular set of notes (for example, of the three or four different sets of notes (you can call them "scales" if you want) that can be used when playing over a half-diminished chord, how and when do you pick a particular set of notes).

The Aebersold materials do not teach you how to use space, or how to play less, or how to create a compelling melodic statement in the first four bars of your solo to command attention. Again, that is not their purpose.

I have a somewhat different perspective as I started playing saxophone at age 16; once I had learned most of the basic major and minor scales ( a couple weeks) I immediately started improvising especially along with records. It was a number of years later, and I was already an adult musician playing (semi)professionally, before I got hold of the Aebersold playalongs. So I already had established my "voice " (for what it's worth; I don't want to come across too arrogant here!) and a full array of idiosyncratic phrases, patterns, etc. The Aebersolds were a great tool to either learn standards I had not played before, or to learn the right chords for standards that I had been shucking on for years, or just to practice as many times as desired a tune without wearing a rhythm section into the ground. (Just try to find a bassist, drummer, and piano player that are willing to play 100 rhythm choruses for you so you can try out every place you can and cannot insert a tritone substitution, for example! I doubt you could even pay the guys I know enough to endure that - but Jamey's guys on CD will cheerfully do it over and over and over and over.)
 

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If you understand that the Aebersold method is an instruction for getting started it’s much easier to see its value.
The problem is using the play a longs. I’ve always just told people to play along with the actual records
I think this is key. The Aebersolds are a starting point for beginners. They aren't the final say on the matter. It is expected that you will move past the ones scale as you keep learning. You might learn that E dorian is good on E-7 and that is a good start but later you might start messing with E harmonic minor, E melodic minor, approach note patterns,pentatonics, chromaticism, etc........All these things open up your ears and and expand the possibilities.
 

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Rant incoming: It really pisses me off when I see teachers write out “scales” over chords for a student without ANY regard for the actual function of the chords. CONTEXT MATTERS. Chords aren’t in a damn vacuum- stop confusing these kids by basically showing them they should treat each chord as a standalone solo. THAT’S NOT MUSIC. These kids can soak up so much information, and if they were taught right from the start they'd actually be playing MUSIC instead of 1-bar technical exercises.

For example I see this a lot: minor 7 = dorian scale, dominant 7 = mixolydian scale

They'll have this progression at the end of a chorus: | Bm7 E7 | Am7 D7 | Gmaj | AND WRITE OUT A DORIAN SCALE FOR BOTH MINOR CHORDS AND MIXOLYDIAN SCALES FOR BOTH DOMINANT CHORDS!!!!

Please help these students out and teach them harmonic function. Theory should supplement sound, not govern it as a be-all end-all equation to adhere to when performing.
 

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It helps the student if they understand harmony by also playing a polyphonic instrument. Elementary Jazz piano, even just to be able to bang out chord voicings, goes a long way in ear training. That's about all I can do on piano; I started out as a guitarist. I think without those, I'd not understand harmony in the same way, in spite of going through music school. Theory and Analysis, Orchestration is what flunked most folks out as I recall.

Because to me, ALL methods and materials are really ear training. Sure, I'm always aware of what digit I'm on, but my first and last actual goal is to just sing through my horn. I'm not really thinking of chord/scale, it's just there.

I've used Aeborsold a lot, Patterns, Baker materials, George Russell, etc. etc. I studied with Jerry Coker and was well indoctrinated. Then I studied with many others who told me that's great, now never play that again. There is value to be gained from pretty much all approaches and perspectives.
 

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The Aebersold materials are a beginning....and a damn good one....in teaching improv we don't throw everything at the student at once....it's a progression....scale/chord is a great place to start....I start them on a minor pent scale over a blues....that gets them a little confidance..then scale/chord, then key center, then theory....I encourage them to learn piano, which really helps them understand theory....if they don't progress, they will sound like a scale exercise...it's the teacher's job to keep them progressing....
 

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They'll have this progression at the end of a chorus: | Bm7 E7 | Am7 D7 | Gmaj | AND WRITE OUT A DORIAN SCALE FOR BOTH MINOR CHORDS AND MIXOLYDIAN SCALES FOR BOTH DOMINANT CHORDS!!!!
A teacher who writes out four (five?) different "scales" for the 5 chords you list able in that context, does not understand harmony well enough to be teaching it.

When I think back to my early days improvising over changes, I realize that explaining the different contexts when different note collections should be used to someone at the beginning level of theory would be difficult.
 

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A teacher who writes out four (five?) different "scales" for the 5 chords you list able in that context, does not understand harmony well enough to be teaching it.
Yup!

I have middle school kids using leading tones, creating melodies, etc. over changes- if I were to just say HERE IS CHORD HERE IS SCALE THEY ARE MARRIED TOGETHER that would severely irresponsible of me.
 

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Yup!

I have middle school kids using leading tones, creating melodies, etc. over changes- if I were to just say HERE IS CHORD HERE IS SCALE THEY ARE MARRIED TOGETHER that would severely irresponsible of me.
Shoot, the guy who was teaching the combos when I was at Meramec (college!) would go through tunes at note which scales to use chord by chord.
 

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In my view, if there is a problem, it's in how materials are used and not why. Aebersold is also tied in with the Coker materials and similar materials. It has turned out generations of people looking for a codified means of teaching and learning and not taking a lot of the materials in a flexible and expansive way. All learning the same stuff in the same way.

In it's basic context, the Play-Alongs are chord/scale contexts to learn improvisation. Dorian/Mixolydian/Ionian. Good basic organization. Nothing wrong with that. But then there are taking the next steps, looking at transcribed solos and seeing how the chromatic scale is used as the basis for melodic direction toward (or implied) "home". The more abstract one gets, the more arbitrary is the evaluation, it becomes more personal interpretation of the evaluator vs. evaluating how perfectly one plays through ii-V7-Imaj7. Difficult to quantify and difficult to sell the "arbitrary" opinion of evaluators to the school board (or college presidents).

Pattern in Jazz is a good example. The goal is to learn physical dexterity and pick up a few licks in the process. But the goal is dexterity. Yet, generations of players and teachers have used it as a book of licks, first and foremost, to be memorized. So you get schools turning out tons and generations of people playing similar licks.

IMO the culprit is not in the materials, it's in the teaching. In it's most literal context, it gives educators a more clear method of teaching and grading. Also, keep in mind, that a lot of educators are generalists and simply do not have the tools to dynamically teach jazz, or general improvisation, for that matter. Even if a kid doesn't come up under this system in the schools, (rare) they are exposed to it through endorsements from teachers.
 

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I can't speak for others, but Aebersold's materials have been helpful for me. Really, it's just lead sheets and a rhythm section playing the changes. You can do anything you want over it. Play inside, play outside, play modes, play chord tones, play altered tones to see what they sound like in context. Make weird noises.

Certainly it's not the only method improvisors should use to develop, but as turf said:

(Just try to find a bassist, drummer, and piano player that are willing to play 100 rhythm choruses for you so you can try out every place you can and cannot insert a tritone substitution, for example! I doubt you could even pay the guys I know enough to endure that - but Jamey's guys on CD will cheerfully do it over and over and over and over.)
 

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The Aebersolds were a great tool to either learn standards I had not played before, or to learn the right chords for standards that I had been shucking on for years, or just to practice as many times as desired a tune without wearing a rhythm section into the ground. (Just try to find a bassist, drummer, and piano player that are willing to play 100 rhythm choruses for you so you can try out every place you can and cannot insert a tritone substitution, for example! I doubt you could even pay the guys I know enough to endure that - but Jamey's guys on CD will cheerfully do it over and over and over and over.)
Absolutely! This is why I really like irealpro- you can play any tune in any key at any tempo, and loop any parts of the tune you want. The other day in a lesson I had a kid blow over the first 3 bars of Moment's Notice for like 10 minutes- you really start to figure out what works and what doesn't after awhile!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The reason I bring this up is that 'Back in the Day' - there weren't really any other resources. I didn't know any professional musicians, there was no on-line anything except clothes, even though I was a music major, I never any formal "Jazz" training at University. That one sheet was my only source to develop my early jazz playing.

Each Chord had a scale - learn the scale that matched the chord and you were improvising. DONE

This stayed with me for a long time. I agree it's a great place to start so long as the student moves to PART 2 or 3. I think the modern student has so much more information (as do I) - I just don't have the time. :(
 

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Most of the materials out there that I've seen/used are good but I think that some basic composition theory and techniques should be learned in conjunction with scales and chord structure.
 

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Yep I tell all the people in my improve class to get I real pro. You can play many songs at different tempo. I was warming up for awhile playing This Masquerade up a half step every day by ear. Trying to catch as many chord tones as possible. I fully agree with the chord approach. I learned Chord scales at Berklee when I went there but learned much more about soloing by copping Lee Morgan licks and learning chord progressions. The goal is always the same. As a horn player understand the harmony and hear it as well as the piano/bass/guitar whatever you are playing with K
Absolutely! This is why I really like irealpro- you can play any tune in any key at any tempo, and loop any parts of the tune you want. The other day in a lesson I had a kid blow over the first 3 bars of Moment's Notice for like 10 minutes- you really start to figure out what works and what doesn't after awhile!
 

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I tell students to avoid not stop non phrased scale licks. Thats like saying the alphabet really fast. Its impressive but doesn't say anything K
 

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Well ranted.
 
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