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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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Yup. I teach chord tones and diatonic passing tones rather than scales for interpreting chord symbols. Get them thinking about target notes and approach notes young and it'll be a lot easier for them long-term. Cut/pasting scales can be a quick shortcut, I guess.
Well you definitely get it! When people just associate every chord with a scale it confuses them because they then don't have discretion- they think "oh I can hold any note in this scale!" and don't CREATE MELODY!
 

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Yeah I've had this discussion a few times with the bass & guitar players in my jazz combo when I'm trying to play a solo and something just sounds off. The idea of the chords having some sort of context in terms of a key center doesn't seem to agree with them. I can understand your frustration.
 

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I show them how to sing thru their instruments different licks and variable phrases thru the changes. Although my concept does include simple and complex licks and phrases derived from theory, it involves more of an ear and vocal approach..
 

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Learn to sing through changes.
Don't worry about pitch/tone and keep it simple.
Start with a blues approach then add passing notes and chord extensions.
Keep the phrases short and rhythmic.
If you have keys/guitar then play a chord and sing something over it.
Try it until something makes sense or makes you smile, you might be suprised at what comes out.
Once a phrase works play it on your horn.
 

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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.

Nothing wrong with knowing the scale, it will give you the target notes and the diatonic passing tones. In your example the problem is that the III VI (III V/II if you want) is treated as a II V.
 

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I have been substituting some of my colleague teachers( curiously i was one of their students in the past) and found that they have taught scales and arpeggios and then jump onto 25s. In my classes i am trying to emphasize direction of the phrasing, just landing to a chord tone on the next chord. I found that they have problems even with a simple exercise of going to the third with one two or three note approach(scalar or chromatic first). I find that i am putting a new perspective that they did not seen before. So scales are nothing without the purpose of going somewhere.
Curiously i arrived to that teaching conclusion after giving them exercises from the Bergonzi rhythm book and Bert Ligon´s Connecting Chords. I found that everything was a thinking ahead approach.

The scale approach can be too much at the beginning. Too much scales on a simple tonal standard song. I think arpeggios are more useful first and then little by little adding the CORRECT scales.
When a student don't know his theory you have to be really careful.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Nothing wrong with knowing the scale, it will give you the target notes and the diatonic passing tones. In your example the problem is that the III VI (III V/II if you want) is treated as a II V.
Well, it all depends on which scale you mean. In the case of Bm7 E7 | Am7 D7, then thinking the scale associated with Bm7 is B dorian, or that E7 is E mixolydian doesn't tell you anything about target notes or diatonic passing tones.

In this case the useful things to know are (1) the chord tones and (2) the key centre and any scale associated with that, as opposed to with the chord.

In the case of Bm7 | E7 (where E7 is a VI chord and a secondary dominant of Am7) then my instincts would be to think of the key centre A minor, and my first thoughts would be the notes of A harmonic minor. Knowing the chord tone then gives me (a) the chord notes (obviously) and (b) the passing notes.the passing notes. My initial thoughts would also gravitate to the tensions and melodic leading such as A to G# (Bm7 to E7) and G# to A or D to C (E7 to Am7).

Of course all those thoughts once you are experienced would exactly be going through your brain as thought processes, more like an instinctive reaction, but that's how I would expect a student to think. NOT to be confusing the issue with dorians and mixolydians which in this case are very little help at all in learning functional harmony and impro.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Doesn’t everyone want to be a cut and paste player though?
Hahah!! It seems like it sometimes...

Nothing wrong with knowing the scale, it will give you the target notes and the diatonic passing tones. In your example the problem is that the III VI (III V/II if you want) is treated as a II V.
Knowing a scale to use over a chord is one thing- assigning scales over every chord without regard to harmonic function is NOT GOOD. For example, I can think off the top of my head 10+ DIFFERENT ways to play over a minor 7 chord. Which one is correct? IT DEPENDS!! Some of these kids are being taught to just blindly assign a scale to a chord. I know that most band directors aren't on the scene performing, but if you're not sure how to teach improvisation FIND SOMEONE WHO DOES AND HAVE THEM HELP!! You need to know what you don't know and get others in place to help out when necessary.
 

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Here's another thing- even if someone knows the correct "scale" to play over a chord/sound/etc. a lot of the time they aren't taught melody, so they think every note of that scale is equal. THEY'RE NOT! Cmon people...we complain that younger players sound a certain way, then I go in to do masterclasses/clinics/lessons and find out how they're being taught. Let's do right by these kids- it'll be better for everyone!
 

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I want to have this thread stickyed. And I want the first post on a tee shirt!!!!

I HATE the concept of chord-scales. What sounds good??? Where do the notes want to go???? These are the keys to a good solo.

It's not that I don't like the Dorian or Mixolydian or super-altered Phrygilydian modes, but use them where they make sense. Like on a modal tune... Certainly not in iii-VI-ii-V turnarounds.

Thank you Dave for your rant!!!!
 

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I want to have this thread stickyed. And I want the first post on a tee shirt!!!!

I HATE the concept of chord-scales. What sounds good??? Where do the notes want to go???? These are the keys to a good solo.

It's not that I don't like the Dorian or Mixolydian or super-altered Phrygilydian modes, but use them where they make sense. Like on a modal tune... Certainly not in iii-VI-ii-V turnarounds.

Thank you Dave for your rant!!!!
I appreciate that!!
 

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Some good points have been made already in this thread, but I think it is important to be reminded of what uses scales can be to an aspiring player just learning to improvise. Before knowledge of chords and changes and ear training has to come the technical skills on the saxophone to get around quickly and comfortably in the key or keys the piece being studied is in. This is where learning and memorizing scales, scales in 3rds, scales in 4ths, and arpeggios can really pay off. Once those technical obstacles have been removed developing improvisation skills can begin.
 

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Some good points have been made already in this thread, but I think it is important to be reminded of what uses scales can be to an aspiring player just learning to improvise. Before knowledge of chords and changes and ear training has to come the technical skills on the saxophone to get around quickly and comfortably in the key or keys the piece being studied is in. This is where learning and memorizing scales, scales in 3rds, scales in 4ths, and arpeggios can really pay off. Once those technical obstacles have been removed developing improvisation skills can begin.
It’s a lot more important and useful for any level of player to do a harmonic analysis than using some less-than hip teacher’s shortcut of playing Dorian over every minor chord and mixolydian on every dominant chord. The melody and understanding the function of the harmony is the key to being a successful improviser, not learning to paint by number and regurgitate the same scale-based patterns on everything.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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It’s a lot more important and useful for any level of player to do a harmonic analysis than using some less-than hip teacher’s shortcut of playing Dorian over every minor chord and mixolydian on every dominant chord.
Yes, indeed. I was forced to teach this approach originally when I took on a job teaching impro at a university. In the end I trealised how stupid it was, telling people when they see Bm75b E7 Am that they should start off with a B locrian mode followed by E mixolydian. Completely counter intuitive. when you could just think of A minor over the whole thing.

And then:

  • Use it as a pool of notes, not just running the scale
  • Get to know the chord tones so you have some actual sense of harmony and note tensions/resolutions


Aebersold has a lot to answer for.
 
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