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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In my reading I have come across two things that I would like someone to explain to me a little better.

1. One book I am reading that has a strong modal focus keeps refering to building ones chords/arpeggios so that one avoids the dreaded b9. It gives no explanation. Why is the b9 a note to be avoided?

2. I have read several times that when improvizing we should avoid the 4th other than as an occasional passing note, but what do you do with 11th since it is technically a fourth also? At the same time, I am reading a book that actually promotes building harmony off the fourths (quartal harmony). Isn't that kind of contradictory?

Thanks for any insights.

Marshall
 

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play a major seventh chord.

now add in the minor second interval.......

thats why..

in all seriousness. The improvising musician has a right to play any note at any time. Whether that sounds good or not is up to you forst and the audience second.
 

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OK, I'll have a shot at it.

The 9b and the 4th (11th) aren't so much to be avoided, as resolved with care. :D

The 9b is a half step away from the root or tonic (the 1) and so,if you resolve to that note, it's going to sound a bit "iffy."

Likewise, the 4th (11th) sounds dissonant against the harmony. Play a C maj or C7 chord on the piano and then play the F (the 4th) over it. You'll hear that it sounds like it wants to resolve or move. It's a dissonant sort of sound.

The books harp on this and yet the 4th is still a note you can use and it's used often. Blues lines are often found to contain the 4th. It creates a lot of tension. The trick is resolving that tension by moving to a consonant note. Up to the 5th or down to the 3rd.

The 9b is also used a lot. Checkout your Omnibook and you'll see that Bird used the 9b all the time.

The real trick is not to read too many books and get too far ahead of yourself. I'm not speaking down to you here, because it's a trap I fall into myself....way too often. ;)

There are guys on this forum that can actually play the stuff I've just tried to explain and they'll be able to explain it much better too. So I'll leave it there and hope some of the experienced players can shed more light on this for you.
 

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1-Avoiding b9s refers to building voicings. It's a very dissonant interval and teachers usually suggest not putting it into a standard voicing, whether for piano or saxes or Big Band etc.

If you want to voice C7b9, and you want the note C in the voicing. Instead of placing the Db above the C, you might want to invert this (C above Db) so you have a Maj7th instead of a b9 between the two notes. The Maj7th is much more resonant.

eg (going up for C7b9)
Bb, Db, E, A, C would have 2 Maj7th intervals, between the Bb/A and Db/C. Reversing either of those those intervals would sound tense.


2-Avoiding the 4th probably just refers to the 4th of the Major scale, which is a half step above the 3rd and hence dissonant (the 4th wants to move to the 3rd and implies the dominant chord-that's how you break that rule).

These sort of rules are just starting points. By observing and understanding them, you can learn how to manipulate them and then break the rules.
Jamie
 

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I was told when playing over major chords that you don't use the 11, you use an augmented 11th. This was from a great keyboard player, Berklee grad, for what its worth. Its basically just using a Lydian scale as opposed to the normally thought of major scale, the Ionian.
 

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I really agree with Dog Pants on this one. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that there aren't any notes that have to be avoided, regardless of chord, key, mode, etc. It's all a matter of how you use the notes, your ability to use tension and release, and your ability to phrase your lines in a way that makes musical sense. I second the references to Charlie Parker and I'll add Kenny Garrett as a wonderful example as well. Listen to "Sing a Song of Song" from Garrett's album Songbook. It's in concert E major and Kenny plays concert F naturals (b9) left and right, but he's phrasing it well and using the natural tension of that sound to his advantage.

The same principles apply to chord voicings. I also play piano, and I have used major chords with the 4th in playing, as well as in my own compositions. If used correctly, it can give a great semi-suspended "inbetween-the-harmonies" kind of sound. The moral of the story: context is everything.

I hope this makes sense, and that it helps to some reasonable extent.
 

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Resolve, scheezolve! 4ths please me. :D (seriously) I agree with the second poster -- what's "right" is between you and your audience. Play it like you mean it and anything is fair game. (Note the Dexter solo where he sits on an augmented 5th for 9 beats... should not work, but he does it with balls and it's perfect!)
 

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I try to only use the b9 as a passing tone to the tonic, or in appropriate dominant chords.

As for the 4, I usually only use the natural 4 (11) on min chords. Even then, pretty sparingly. The #11 just sounds better.

Of course, you really can never completely avoid notes, but when I can afforn the time to make a consious decision, I try to apply the above. What is really comes down to is how the chords are being comped, that's where good judgment (ears) comes in.
 

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Dan Haerle (master piano player and educator) teaches that in major keys the 11th is always sharp unless otherwise noted in the voicing.
 

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Without context, this discussion is near useless.

b9 on what? V7, I, ii, vi, V7/V??
4th on what? I, IV, V, ii? 4th sounds great on IV, V7sus, and ii. Sounds great on I too as in Trane's version of "I'm Old Fashioned".
 

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The inherent problem of both the 4 (really the 11--you should think in all odd-numbered terms even if you are looking at a scale, because the 2,4,6 are really the upper structure of a chord 9,11,13) and the b9 is that both notes create minor ninth relationships with fundamental chord tones (11 is a m9 above the 3, b9 is a m9 above the root). The m9 interval is one of the most dissonant intervals out there, even more so than the m2, which is why when a m2 is voiced in a chord, it may not always sound as bad (provided it isn't the top interval of the chord) . . . when it comes to the 11, remember that the 3 is defining the quality of the chord (either major-type or minor-type), so sustaining a note a m9 above the 3 is something you want to avoid (you can use it in passing, but just don't hang on it) . . . one of my teachers back in the day used to call it a "Destructive Avoid Note" or "D.A.N." for short . . .

However, a m9 interval can work if buffered by the right note(s) . . . for example let's take a look at a G7(b9) chord . . . if you look at the notes of this chord G-B-D-F-Ab, the m7 of the chord sits a tritone above the 3 and is the buffer note, and allows the m9 to work (play it on a piano omitting the 5, both with and without the 7 and you'll hear it--this only works with a m7 in the chord, not a M7). Moreover, if you look at the 3-5-7-b9 of the chord, they form a diminished 7th chord, creating a pair of tritones to buffer between the root and the b9 when the chord is fully voiced.

Hope this helps!
 

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I was taught, and happen to agree, that the b9 interval sounds harsh, whereas inverted it becomes a maj7 interval and sounds dissonant(as opposed to harsh). However, the b9 interval is an exception when between the root and b9, , but elsewhere should be inverted to form a maj7 interval.

Using the 4th would change the chord structure and actual function of the chord. [It can be used with a major 3rd in "special" circumstance, again forming a maj7 interval (rather than a b9 :) ).
When blowing/improvising use your ears.
 

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Al Stevens said:
Composer Jule Styne uses the 4th effectively in his melodies. For example, in "The Party's Over," the first note ("o-" of "o-ver") after the leadin measure (in Eb) is Ab against an EbMaj7.
True, but in that example, it's a suspension in the traditional sense. The 4th on "o-" only works when it resolves to the M3rd on "ver".

And in the bigger picture, when we talk about "rules" in music, there are always countless examples of the masters breaking those rules. They're successful, though, because they know the rules well enough to break them and convince us that they did it on purpose, rather than by accident. As the Jule Styne example or the Dexter example.
 

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A great solo contains both tension and release. ...as does a great meal. The b9s, etc... are the important catalysts of the roots, 3rds, 5th resolutions. How much hot sauce do you like in your chilli?
 

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In any of it, it's more important to know what it's going to sound like then decide whether you think that sound suits your purpose.
 

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DukeCity said:
True, but in that example, it's a suspension in the traditional sense. The 4th on "o-" only works when it resolves to the M3rd on "ver".
Yes, and in this case the underlying chord is a Maj7. But a sus4 in the traditional sense is typically used as suspension prior to a resolution to the 3rd of the same dom7. It behaves much like the 7 of a ii m7 that resolves down to the 3 of a V7.

Yet often the resolution doesn't happen. A tune or phrase can end on, for example, G7sus4 to C over a melody note of C. The sus4 (C) never resolves to the 3 of the G7 chord (B). Or if it does, it really becomes the Maj7 of the C chord.

For a different example, listen to the first four measures of Bernstein's "Some Other Time."

CMaj7 / Gsus4 / | CMaj7 / Gsus4 / | CMaj7 / Gsus4 / | Gm7 / F#7aug Fm7 |

What is that last Gsus4 resolving to?

I love that tune.

There is only one rule. If it sounds right, it's right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
OK, so I'm 47. How many years does it take to understand this stuff, and then, will my arthritis be so bad, that even with full understanding, I still won't be able to play it right? Honestly though, I maybe caught 25% of what you all are talking about. For now, it will probably be easier just to avoid them until I understand them and instinctively know how to use them properly.

You all have a blessed Christmas!
 

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It will take as long as you are willing to devote to it, because you never stop learning. You certainly can't learn it only by reading what is posted here and what is written in books. You have to play it and hear it. Try out what is explained to you. Play real tunes. Gradually things fall into place.
 
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