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Generally speaking, most instruction that I have read recommends placing chord tones on downbeats for lines that will give the "sound" of the chord that you are playing over. Also most generally recommend tonging the upbeats. I've been working on both of these principles but I'm beginning to get the idea that these are just basic guidelines that once mastered, really need to be broken in order for more creative lines.

I have found that the better I am at articulating fast runs the more musical it sounds and there is much more energy and forward motion. And indeed lines with chord tones on downbeats sounds more coherent, but if you stick to this as a hard and fast rule,.. doesn't that start to sound pretty predictable and sort of vanilla flavored? After all, ever note in the scale is practically a chord tone if you consider the chords fully extended. And if you only tongue downbeats or stress certain beats aren't you kind of ignoring all sorts of kinds of colorful, interesting, and unexpected syncopation to occur?

I'm just wondering if anyone has some thoughts and insight on this because sometimes I get these rules in my head and get confused when it sounds better breaking those rules. Then I realize that I'm probably thinking about it all wrong.
 

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You are right in your analysis but it's the kind of thing where you need to master the rule to then be able to break it in my opinion. As an interesting fact, I was curious about this at one point so I took out my Omnibook and went through a bunch of solos counting if the downbeats were chord tones or not. As I remember Bird played chord tones on the downbeats around 60-70% of the time. (I don't remember the exact number but it was in the 60s.........)
 

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With my Mastering the Dominant Bebop Scale book, most of the book has chord tones on the downbeats. Book 2 introduces many lines with non-chord tones on the downbeats also. I wrote Book 2 because I wanted to figure out a way to approach what Bird was doing with that 30-40% of non-chord tones on downbeats that could be taught in some logical way. Of course, this is just my way of trying to figure it out and teach it and I am sure Bird didn't approach it my way but at least my books help to get students closer to that goal in my opinion.........
 

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Generally speaking, most instruction that I have read recommends placing chord tones on downbeats for lines that will give the "sound" of the chord that you are playing over. Also most generally recommend tonging the upbeats. I've been working on both of these principles but I'm beginning to get the idea that these are just basic guidelines that once mastered, really need to be broken in order for more creative lines.
Do you really mean downbeats and upbeats? I was taught that a downbeat is the first beat opf the bar and an upbeat is the last beat of the previous bar. Maybe you are refrring to strong and weak beats. Call me pedantic, but this could be confusing for some people.

What you describe sounds like the typical advice given for outlining chords when playing a string of quavers, so the chord tones are on the beats (1, 2,3 , 4) and the non-chord tones are on the weak "ands" ( 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and). Tonguing the "ands" is commonly known as bebop articulation.

The concept of chord tones on the stronger beats is common to many genres, and is found in actual tunes not just impro of course - so thinking like that is an aid to more melodic improvising but of course if you just stick to doing that as a rule it can become formulaic to the point of not being melodic. Melody requires the use of different intervals not just scales - and a main criticism of a lot of jazz impro (and the teching thereof) is that it centres around scales.

It is however a great rule to learn, and as Steve says, master the rules before you break them.

With this kind of style of playing, you think of:

  • non-chord notes on the weaker beats as passing notes - this is how scales can be made, by joining up the chord notes with passing notes.
  • non-chord notes on a stronger beat these are basically suspensions - e.g. a 9th, 11th or 13th on a strong beat has a leading tendency to want to resolve down onto the chord tone below.


After all, ever note in the scale is practically a chord tone if you consider the chords fully extended. .
As above, I find it useful to think of extensions as suspensions as oppoased to chord tones. They don't really fit into that traditional concept of chord tones on the stronger beats which is mainly based on notes 1, 3 5 and 7 of the chord. This should be especially true at beginning stages of learning
 

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I agree with Steve Neff and Pete Thomas on this. I've felt that just telling a student to play a given scale over a given chord it too simplistic and not all that helpful for a student. At least teaching them to play chord tones on the strong beat and non-chord tones on the weak beat gives a student some direction on the path to learning how to play logically. Another thing that is typical (but not done all the time of course) is that you lead from one chord to the next chord with chord tones that are one half step or a whole step away from each other. For example if you are going from a G7 dominant chord to a C major chord you might use the seventh of the G7 chord to lead into the C major chord landing on the major third of the C major. This also helps the student to play with logic. If you look at Parker's solos or any of the great players you'll see this is done quite often. It also sounds good. I think of these as general rules and not something cast in cement as it were. I know once I was taught this my playing improved a lot. It gave me the direction I sorely needed. Just my two bits.
 

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In addition to all of the above, keep in mind that the '3rd' and '7th' are the chord tones that best define the chord, so in order to 'sound the chord' in a melodic line, you want to emphasize those two tones. Especially on the strong beats 1 & 3 of the bar.

Another thing that is typical (but not done all the time of course) is that you lead from one chord to the next chord with chord tones that are one half step or a whole step away from each other. For example if you are going from a G7 dominant chord to a C major chord you might use the seventh of the G7 chord to lead into the C major chord landing on the major third of the C major.
What Rob describes in the quote above is often called "guide tones" and this makes for a very smooth transition from one chord to the next. Also, look up neighbor tones, passing tones, and leading tones; these usually (but not always) fall on the weak beats and are either a half step or whole step away from the 'target' chord tone.

Just an aside: Pete, I've always used down beats/up beats interchangeably with weak beats/strong beats. I hadn't heard the definition for downbeat & upbeat relating to the first and last beats of a bar. Good to know, but seems a source of confusion. Is it possible these things are defined differently on different sides of the pond (the Atlantic)?
 

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I was taught the same thing that Pete learned yet I live and grew up in California. So, yes the downbeat is the first bit of a bar.
 

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I grew up in Ca and was taught (2 Universities, 3 Junior Colleges and The Grove School) that every beat has a downbeat and upbeat.
As long as everybody understands what's being stated then it's semantics.
 

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I am kind of wondering if downbeat and upbeat is the new soda versus pop. I have only heard downbeat and upbeat like strong versus weak. My first thought like JL was that it is probably an English thing. Anyway, I don’t want to hojack the thread.
Pontius, I would highly suggest you analyze solos by the masters focusing on this exact topic. I would also suggest that you look at solos from faster tempos so that the soloists were more limited to using eight notes. Bird is definitely the goal in my mind if you want to sons as musical and spontaneous as possible. But if you are taking an analysis approach I would suggest Sonny Stitt and Hank Mobley. Charlie Parker should probably be the 5th or 6th person you use since his chord approach is so advanced. I did the EXACT same thing as Steve did, essentially over analyzing everything in the Omnibook. That book was everything to me when I first started studying jazz. Looking back in it and analyzing other solos, I would suggest you study those two guys.
You are on the right track with chord tones and voice leading, now is time to put about 50 hours into studying how the masters did it.
Enjoy! :)
 

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So, yes the downbeat is the first bit of a bar.
Come to think of it, I've used this terminology every time I let the band know the time of the gig: "Downbeat at 9 pm." Meaning get your %^&$ in there to setup by 8 pm, ready to start playing at 9 sharp.

Anyway, it's always good to be clear on terminology when discussing this stuff.
 

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What is really confusing to me is playing lines with a triplet pulse over a beat. If you play the same line that sounds great with the chord tones on the down beat in a triplet pulse it still sounds great. This negates the whole downbeats have to be chord tones because when you are playing in a triplet pulse very few of the down beats are chord tones. It's almost like your implying your own beat over the original beat and the listener hears the line in that new beat. I think the jazz articulation helps also because the chord tones are a little bit longer than the notes on the upbeat so they hear them longer perhaps.
 

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I am kind of wondering if downbeat and upbeat is the new soda versus pop. I have only heard downbeat and upbeat like strong versus weak. My first thought like JL was that it is probably an English thing. Anyway, I don’t want to hojack the thread.
Either way the important thing here is to different between the actual (crotchet or 1/4 note ) beats in 4/4 ie 1 2 3 4 and the strong vs weak , ie 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.

I think the OP means the latter, in which case Upbeat, downbeat, on beat, off beat are all confusing because I think those refer to 1/4 notes, not the 1/8 notes aka quavers (beat me daddy, 8 to the bar)

I actually think we don't have a proper terminology in this case. I hate referring to "ands" but very often this is the least confusing.

 

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Beat me daddy????????
This isn’t the syllable breakdown you learned is it?? :shock:
On a different note, here in texas some schools are using a system to count 16th notes as “1, tee, tat, tah” which is apparently from the Eastman school of music and I think is brilliant.
Definitely better than beat-me-da-ddy :whistle:
 

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Beat me daddy????????
This isn’t the syllable breakdown you learned is it?? :shock:
On a different note, here in texas some schools are using a system to count 16th notes as “1, tee, tat, tah” which is apparently from the Eastman school of music and I think is brilliant.
Definitely better than beat-me-da-ddy :whistle:
I learned sixteenth notes (or any division of beats into four divisions) as 1-e-and-da-2-e-and-da and so on.

In my world, "downbeat" and "upbeat" are context-specific. So, if you are talking about a whole bar at a time, (all the following discussion is based on 4/4 time), "upbeat" is 4 and "downbeat" is the following 1. If you're talking about a single quarter note and you're phrasing and feeling it in eighths, "upbeat" is the "and" of the beat before, and "downbeat" is the beat itself. So in 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and, the upbeats are all the -ands- and 1,2,3,4 are downbeats. If you're phrasing and feeling it in sixteenths, 1-e-and-da-2-e-and-da and so on, 1- & -and- are "downbeats" while -e- & -da- are "upbeats".

Where the terminology actually gets used is in trying to get people to line up hits on a chart.

On another topic, the whole "tonguing on the offbeats" thing is in my opinion an overenthusiastic interpretation of an articulation that the boppers used on occasion. Because they were tonguing on "upbeats" occasionally, the pedagogical types made up a rule that "you have to tongue on the upbeats in bebop and post-bebop jazz". This leads to generations of students going dut-do-wat-do-wat-do-wat-do-wat on and on.

But if you actually listen to actual recordings, you will hear that long unbroken strings of eighth notes are not all that common, and even those players who tend toward the long strings of eighths use a much much wider variety of articulations. I think 99.99% of players would do well to forget that thing about tonguing on upbeats and focus on developing a wide range of articulation styles incorporating all the different types of tonguing that are possible.
 

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On another topic, the whole "tonguing on all the offbeats" thing is in my opinion an overenthusiastic interpretation of an articulation that the boppers used on occasion. Because they were tonguing on "upbeats" occasionally, the pedagogical types made up a rule that "you have to tongue on the upbeats in bebop and post-bebop jazz". This leads to generations of students going dut-do-wat-do-wat-do-wat-do-wat on and on.
+1 to that! I've never found the thing about tonguing the offbeats (the "ands") in a string of eight notes to work well at all. At least I can't do it and make it sound right. I think it's true this came from bebop phrasing, but it seems to be a bit of a misinterpretation of what's really going on. Some of those offbeats are tongued or emphasized, but not all of them. And the overall rhythmic feel seems more complex than 'dut-do-wat-do-wat-do-wat" etc. Also, a lot of the so-called tonguing doesn't really sound like tonguing to me; more like some sort of emphasis using the air stream, or very light tonguing at most.

Pete, I'm all for being pedantic (I've been accused of that on here more than once) in the sense that effective communication requires agreement and clear understanding of the terminology being used. So it's well worth pointing these things out. When speaking to other band members, I generally do use the 'and' term: For example, "That phrase starts on the 'and of 2'"... It seems everyone understands what that means, so it avoids confusion.
 

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For Jazz purposes:
Patting the foot on 1 2 3 4
(thinking this can make it simple)
when the foot is down = downbeat
when the foot is up = upbeat
down up down up down up down up
Jazz is basically an accented upbeat music. Jazz has it's own language and ways of using musical norms.
I keep it simple for beginners. Once downbeat has been simplified I get more informative and explain how Parker started putting chord tones on the downbeats that they feel in the "downbeat" patting of the foot.

Taking it further I give them some Cannonball Adderly when they're ready.
Jazz 8THS can also be articulated slurring groups of 3s.

Like Cannonball
Slur start on and of 1 & 3.
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

It's all in the foot, that's why we use it.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks everyone for the input. It confirms what my intuition has been telling me about a lot of this stuff. I've been following some of these "rules" while doing certain exorcises which has helped a lot, but when I just improvise and try to develop lines that sound interesting to me, I find that breaking a lot of those rules makes for some more interesting rhythms and melodic contours.

As far as the tonguing the weak beats (upbeats?), I felt that when I got better at that, it did give scale type fragments more forward motion and made them come alive rhythmically and sound more musical rather than sounding like a scale. I felt that it was also useful to get lines to swing while still playing very straight 8th notes rather than the corny long/short style of swing time (dotted 8th's?.
Eventually though, I found that it was more interesting to mix it up to create more interesting and unexpected pulses. In short, it was good articulation practice but should not be viewed as a general way of playing everything.
 

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I learned sixteenth notes (or any division of beats into four divisions) as 1-e-and-da-2-e-and-da and so on.

In my world, "downbeat" and "upbeat" are context-specific. So, if you are talking about a whole bar at a time, (all the following discussion is based on 4/4 time), "upbeat" is 4 and "downbeat" is the following 1. If you're talking about a single quarter note and you're phrasing and feeling it in eighths, "upbeat" is the "and" of the beat before, and "downbeat" is the beat itself. So in 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and, the upbeats are all the -ands- and 1,2,3,4 are downbeats. If you're phrasing and feeling it in sixteenths, 1-e-and-da-2-e-and-da and so on, 1- & -and- are "downbeats" while -e- & -da- are "upbeats".

Where the terminology actually gets used is in trying to get people to line up hits on a chart.

On another topic, the whole "tonguing on the offbeats" thing is in my opinion an overenthusiastic interpretation of an articulation that the boppers used on occasion. Because they were tonguing on "upbeats" occasionally, the pedagogical types made up a rule that "you have to tongue on the upbeats in bebop and post-bebop jazz". This leads to generations of students going dut-do-wat-do-wat-do-wat-do-wat on and on.

But if you actually listen to actual recordings, you will hear that long unbroken strings of eighth notes are not all that common, and even those players who tend toward the long strings of eighths use a much much wider variety of articulations. I think 99.99% of players would do well to forget that thing about tonguing on upbeats and focus on developing a wide range of articulation styles incorporating all the different types of tonguing that are possible.
I learned one-ee-and-ah, two-ee-and-ah as well, turf3. Your point about articulations and long strings of 8th notes is well taken, but I still believe that players should be ABLE to tongue from the upbeat. La-ta-ah-ta-ah-ta-ah-ta-ah.... Most useful with a soft or legato style tongue, otherwise it sounds stilted.

Many players also, depending on tempo, tongued every note in an 8th note line - I'm thinking Dexter and Hank Mobley for strong examples. And people also slur part or all of the phrase, dropping the tongue in to bomb accents. But I agree that jazz phrasing is way more than just where you tongue - there's the concept of swing, there's where you accent, there's ghost notes and swallowed notes and notes with the tongue on the reed and...

Regarding upbeats and downbeats, I think (don't have a reference or source for this, but it's how I think of it) that the term "upbeat" originated from the way that conductors raise the baton on the 4th beat (or last beat) of the measure. But it is also in common use as the offbeat parts of single beats - the "and" of each beat. Downbeat is forever and always the "1" for me :)

Regarding making the downbeat, JL, when I was working in the showrooms, we wore tuxes, with bow ties. Lotta guys tied their ties (like a shoelace) rather than using a clip-on. We had kind of an ongoing contest to see who could wait to tie their tie the longest, and still make the downbeat (or at least not be seen when the curtain opened).

There was also one show where many folks missed the downbeat for one particular tune. Ann Margaret. She sang "The Body Electric" from the musical Hair, and for that tune she appeared stage left in a clinging electric blue gown, so form fitting that her nipples were quite visible. You needed a strong will to watch the conductor instead of her entrance....
 

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Discussion Starter #20
This morning I stumbled on excerpts from Hal Galper's book "Forward Motion" on the internet. Seems relevant to the discussion. Has anyone here checked that out?
 
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