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I have looked for an explanation of this - that I understand, all of over the internet but I seem to come up short every time. In my jazz band, I play lead alto , and get parts that call for an improv solo. I usually do pretty well using Blues scales, but I want to know what I'm actually doing. I don't understand what the chord changes such as Dmi9, C9, B9, Dmi7, and G7 mean. I know these are certain scales that I'm supposed to pick notes from and base my solo off of, and I know what roots, 3rds, and 5ths (etc.) are but I still don't understand. My band director tells me not to worry too much, but I'm not going to be satisfied until I learn. I was hoping that maybe someone could explain this to me? I've heard it's complicated. I also, have one question: If I were to play in C9, would I start on C, or A? That's all I have. Please Help!
 

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I have looked for an explanation of this - that I understand, all of over the internet but I seem to come up short every time. In my jazz band, I play lead alto , and get parts that call for an improv solo. I usually do pretty well using Blues scales, but I wantErico know what I'm actually doing. I don't understand what the chord changes such as Dmi9, C9, B9, Dmi7, and G7 mean. I know these are certain scales that I'm supposed to pick notes from and base my solo off of, and I know what roots, 3rds, and 5ths (etc.) are but I still don't understand. My band director tells me not to worry too much, but I'm not going to be satisfied until I learn. I was hoping that maybe someone could explain this to me? I've heard it's complicated. I also, have one question: If I were to play in C9, would I start on C, or A? That's all I have. Please Help!
Hi Andy.. I'm only just learning but perhaps I can explain a little.. I found most explanations incomprehensible as well.. mostly when they took something for granted.. but finally distilled something.. are you familiar with scales and modes..that will save some time... greetings, Eric
 

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I am familiar with Major and Minor scales. The only modes I really know about are Dorian, Mixolydian, And Lydian Dominant.
 

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To answer your question fully would take a LOT of explanation. For a start, learn & MEMORIZE all 12 major scales, inside and out. Then learn to spell chords, starting with maj7, min7, and dom7:

Major: 1 3 5 7
Dominant: 1 3 5 b7
Minor: 1 b3 5 b7

You can pick those out of a major scale, using the scale degrees. For example:

Cmaj7 = C E G B
C7 = C E G Bb
Cmin7 = C Eb G Bb

Dmaj7 = D F# A C#
D7 = D F# A C
Dmin7 = D F A C

And so on. You need to know the major scales in order to do this.

Beyond that, learn the circle of 4ths (look it up) in order to get an idea of how chord progressions work.

And no, when playing over C9 (that's a C7 chord with the 9th added: C E G Bb D), you don't have to start on any particular note, but you do want to hit some of the chord tones, especially the 3rd, 7th, and in this case, 9th, in order to 'sound' the chord.

There's much more to it, of course. But that's a start. Pick up a good basic music theory book and work through it carefully.
 

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So will I.. for the moment.. the basic scale is the do-re-mi..this sounds the same as the c-scale... the white keys on a piano.. now on each note of the scale you can start a new scale on the white keys that each has a different mode (and mood) because the halfnote distances are on a different step... The chords built on the various steps of the scale follow the mode of the(white key) starting on it. Chord one, four and five are major chords. 2 and 3 and 6 are minor. The seventh chord stands apart, with its cummulative thirds. When you combine it with the fifth step you'll get the dominant7 chord. It is the only chord consisting of 4tones that is not dissonant. It is called dominant because it's second and third tone are only a half tone away from the same tones in the first chord. That tends to force a melody towards an solving end... I don't know exactly what the subdominant 4th chords does or why it does what it does... anyone?
 

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Look - its even simpler. Any tune is based on a pattern of chords. Take 'Cherokee' for example; literally hundreds of jazz tunes have been written over that same pattern. Every chord consists of certain notes. You can just use those notes at first but later you might add the passing tones between the chord notes. The two things together make up the scale that would be based on that chord. Then you have to know the notes that make up all the chords in the tune you're working on, or at least the chords behind the solo. But you don't have to memorize these notes! You see, there are only so many KINDS of chords. You learn what notes are in a diminished chord and all you have to do is apply that knowledge (flat 3rd and flat 5th) to whatever key the chord is in, like C dim or A dim. In jazz, many chords have special modifications, and all info is given in the special chord 'shorthand' which is easy to pick up. So when you start to understand what the arranger is telling you when he writes the chords over the blank measures in the solo section, you'll realize that you have a huge array of notes to use. Once you start ding this, little melodies will start to come out of you. You apply a 'style' to what you're beginning to play so you're playing in the correct 'idiom' for whatever kind of music it is.
Here's a huge shortcut and jump start; most solos are on the 'verse', or 'head' of the tune. Learn the melody of the song and play it in the solo while reading the chords. In fact, write the arpeggios on the music. Now start to 'jazz it up' by playing around with the melody while using the same notes. It may be rudimentary, but now you are 'improvising'.
Like anything that is built to last, your improvising must be built on a solid foundation - the chord pattern of the tune.
 

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Yes, all true.. a basic principle though of chord progression in classical and all (western?) music is that seconds between notes of two following chords pull/tear (sorry don't know right words in English) the song to a next or final turn. So the IV tears towards the V and the V back to I. That's why the added seventh in the dominant7 chord cannot be sharp.. it's power would be gone.. that's also why the sharps disappear in the downward harmonic minor scale.. if you would keep them the V7 chord wouln't be dominant.. then there won't be proper music.. of course this is classical harmonics an jazz musicians tend to create weird sh*t like adding dissonant fourth notes to chords.. so you have no choice but listening and practising and try to feel the music. But the principle that second intervals rule the chord progression will help to understand..
 

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Man, you some of you guys are going to get him seriously confused.

Andy, first off you should know that what you are asking is only the beginning of a very long and time consuming process. So let me join in, in 1.) giving you an overall perspective so you'll have some goals, and 2.) giving you some things to start on.

As pointed out, first and foremost, you need to know all of your major and minor scales.
Then, you also need to know the chords that are built on each note of each scale (hint: in this context, they are always built on stacking thirds up from the bottom note (root of that chord).
You need to know how roman numerals identify the name and function of these chords.

Next, you need to know how to identify the key of the tonic and the key you might be momentarily in when the chords change.
You need to know the root of the tune, and the momentary roots of a small group of chords and you need to know how to get to them and away from them.
Only then will the accompanying scales make sense.

That's just basic chord theory. To improvise you then need to know how to embellish a melody, how to work with short motifs, and how to construct themes and variations.
To do that you need to take the tunes, chords, scales apart and work with them melodically.
You need to be aware of the form of your solo, high points, low points; the shape.

And probably more importantly, you need to develop your ears to recognize the chords and scales and hear short passages before you sound them on the horn. This calls for a ton of listening, regurgitating what you've heard, and some transcribing.

You need some resources to help you, either books or friends; probably both.

The standard book on jazz theory seems to presently be, "The Jazz Theory Book" by Mark Levine.
My favorite primer on what to learn and how to learn it is one suggested above, "Improvising Jazz" by Jerry Coker. A good adjunct book is Coker's "How to Practice Jazz".

So you can see, it's a progression over a lot of time but you don't have to be overwhelmed from the beginning. I just want you to have a perspective on your question. To get started, aside from learning all of your scales and chords, play melodies that you know and embellish the melodies.
- The blues is a great way to start since you can use the same scale for an entire tune.
- - Aebersold's "Nothin' But Blues" play-along is a good resource to use
---while I'm on Aebersold, there's a lot of good information and playing opportunities to be gotten from Aebersold's Volume 1. "How to Play Jazz".
Play along with recordings, getting some typical jazz licks and phrasing and articulations under your belt.

To summarise, if your money will hold out, for knowledge and goal-setting, I would get both Coker books and Aebersold's Vol 1. at a minimum. And listen and play along with recordings to other tunes.

And, oh yeah. Get out and listen to (and support) your local jazz musicians. Talk to them. Let them help you. Good luck.
 

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I have looked for an explanation of this - that I understand, all of over the internet but I seem to come up short every time. In my jazz band, I play lead alto , and get parts that call for an improv solo. I usually do pretty well using Blues scales, but I want to know what I'm actually doing. I don't understand what the chord changes such as Dmi9, C9, B9, Dmi7, and G7 mean. I know these are certain scales that I'm supposed to pick notes from and base my solo off of, and I know what roots, 3rds, and 5ths (etc.) are but I still don't understand. My band director tells me not to worry too much, but I'm not going to be satisfied until I learn. I was hoping that maybe someone could explain this to me? I've heard it's complicated. I also, have one question: If I were to play in C9, would I start on C, or A? That's all I have. Please Help!
You need to know IIm7 V7 Imaj7 progressions and how to solo over them in a basic way and then add other things to them as you go along.

Take the "All The Things You Are" chord progression, it goes through different tonal centres (or key centres) and a player solos based on these block tonal centres and they can also take each chord individually if they want.

Notice how the chords have been lumped into tonal centre blocks, so then it's just a case of soloing over those blocks and joining it all up (sounds easier than it is).

It's pretty easy to go through Jazz Standards and connect the dots and target the different tonal centres in them.

So when the below chord progressions change from the Ab major tonal centre to the C major tonal centre, then the player needs to be aware of it and solo accordingly in whatever way they want.

Just running the Ab major scale over the Ab major tonal centre will tend to sound weak as the chord tones of the changes need to be outlined a bit and so it can be treated as Ab major globally but as Fm7 Bbm7 Eb7 Abmaj7 and Dbmaj7 locally.

Things like chord tones on strong beats and chromatic passing tones on weaker beats and interval jumps on weaker beats and descending scales with chromatic passing notes and ascending arpeggios are ways to give your solo lines some sort of interesting form and it is all about form and structure and played with inspiration and feeling.

http://www.jazzguitar.be/all_the_things_you_are.html




In Jazz Standards there are IIm7 V7 Imaj7 progressions that dominate.

IIm7 V7 Imaj7 in the key of C is Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 and the Dm7 moves to the G7 and then the G7 resolves to Cmaj7 and the G7 has musical tension (G7 wants to resolve to Cmaj7) and this tension doesn't get released until it resolves to the Cmaj7 and then it sounds like the G7 tension has been released, and seeing that the G7 has musical tension then the G7 can take increased dissonance that then gets resolved to the Cmaj7 and so G7 extensions can be used such as the b9 and the b5 and the #5 and these extensions can chromatically resolve to the Cmaj7 chord tones, so a G7 b5 note is an Db note and that can resolve downwards to the root of Cmaj7 which is a C note.

The IIm7 is basically dorian and the V7 is basically mixolydian and the Imaj7 is Ionian and they come from the harmonised C major scale.

There is also a similar progression IIm7b5 V7(b9) Im for minor chord progressions.

There are also rhythm changes "I Got Rhythm" and turnarounds.

Diminished chords are often used as joining other chords together or embellishing other chords to create motion and diminished chords are very similar to V7b9 chords and vice versa and augmented chords like to go back to the Im in a IIm7b5 V7 Im progression like IIm7b5 V+7 Im because of the raised 5th being a common tone in the V+7 and the Im ie G+7 has a raised 5th which is an Eb note and the third of the Cm (which the G+7 is resolving to) is also an Eb note, and there are more uses for diminished and augmented chords.

Common tones, chromatic resolving, voice leading, following the 3rd and the 7th through chord progressions etc etc.
 

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I highly recommend taking a basic theory course at your local community college. If you can take a jazz one as well, that helps a lot. Good on you for wanting to know more at an early age.
 

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I highly recommend taking a basic theory course at your local community college. If you can take a jazz one as well, that helps a lot. Good on you for wanting to know more at an early age.

Great idea and I would suggest the same thing, however I don't think he would be able to test into Theory I now, so a music fundamentals course would probably serve you well it will be boring for
about 6 or 7 weeks and then you might start to get challenged.

Could you tell me do you know how to spell chords yet, for instance do you know what makes a minor chord minor, or can you write out any of the minor scales, or do you know how a minor scale is
built. A lot of these guys have some great input but I think you need your fundamentals to be rock solid, then you have a basis on which to build. My suggestion

Either already know or learn the following

what denotes the quality of a third be it major, minor, augmented, or diminished (all chordal work is tertian(based on thirds) until you get to the atonal stuff)
(once you have a solid understanding of this you can move pretty quickly if you work at it)
be able to play all of the major scales and their relative minor, and understand how the minor scale relates to it's major scale
be able to play all major chords as arpeggios (rock solid, without even thinking about it, you see the chord you play it without delay)
what is a dominant chord and why is it a dominant chord, what degree is a dominant chord based from, why, how does it resolve

I could give you much more but I think it is imperative to get the foundation strong, just as an aside I went from not knowing what
a minor third was about 3 years ago, to taking the Peabody school of music graduate level practice theory test(and passing) in about 6 semesters
at community college. You can do it but you need to consistently work at it, hope this helps.
 

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Andy, now that you know that when the guitar is playing C9 your 'safe' notes are E, G, Bb, C, D (notice you don't have to start on C), you might also like to practice playing chromatically between those 'safe' notes [fast, like Flight of the bumble bee pace] - and back again - mix it up with some long notes and some staccato tonguing; then you will also find out that the 'jazz' comes from playing the semi-tone notes on either side of those 'safe' notes - usually as passing notes - always letting your EARS tell you when it's a good time to move on to the next semitone. All the best...
 
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