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Discussion Starter #1
Many of you have my posts about learning out how to Improvisation. So right now I am on figuring out nonharmonic tones in certain transcription I see online. I hear about passing tones and neighboring tones, which I feel like I understand. There are times where none of those really apply, so I am wondering what that is about? In addition, when practicing how to actually adding all of things I go over into my actual playing and be able to consciously use it.


Thanks in advance!
 

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Could be several things.

a) Pursuing a melodic theme outside the harmony at that point in time; in other words, following a pattern outside the key or chord.

b) Conscious effort to play "outside", creating harmonic and/or melodic tension.

c) A mistake.

Which of these apply is maybe not completely clear for any given example; a deliberate attempt to play "outside" may lead to using a thematic approach to leaving the tonality. Perhaps a more specific example of what you are talking about might help someone give a less general answer :)
 

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Hard to know without an example, but maybe you are looking at altered chord extensions, especially common on dominant chords. b9, #9, #11, b13, etc. These would not necessarily be used as passing tones or neighbor tones (although they can be), but more as tones to add tension.
 

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Some common chord substitutes used when you have a dominant seven going to its tonic are chords based on the flat 5, the flat 7 and the flat 9 of the dominant 7. For a C7 chord this would give you the chord substitutes F# major, Bb minor, and Db major. Common use of chromatics in jazz are between the 5 and the 6, and between the 1 and the 7 and between 1 and 9. It's also common to substitute a half diminished chord for a II minor chord and lowering the 9 and 6 one half step on the V7 chord when you have a II,V,I progression where the one is either a perfect tonic or a minor tonic. Basically this gives a harmonic minor scale. Hope this helps some.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hard to know without an example, but maybe you are looking at altered chord extensions, especially common on dominant chords. b9, #9, #11, b13, etc. These would not necessarily be used as passing tones or neighbor tones (although they can be), but more as tones to add tension.
An example would be similar to this transcription of Georgia on my mind by Gerald Albright: View attachment 249252 , the four consecutive C natural in the A7 on line 22, I don't know if you could call that a passing note to the upcoming D. Well this transcription also brings up another big issue I have, is how do some of these Chords even come into a D major scale, like a G sharp Diminished (or any variation of a G sharp chord), or Bm chord. I would think that the tension would be evident, even like some of the extensions you mentioned. If you can show me in the direction to find understand how those are able to work in music I would greatly appreciate it, Thanks.
 

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@iceman, This is maddening to me as well. Some things that defy all rules of harmony just sound great when done by the masters. Those guys aren't thinking theory when they play that kind of stuff, just using their ear to come up with something cool. But your particular examples have some pretty straight ahead explanations.

- C on the A7 is just a minor 3rd (or sharp 9) which is straight from the blues scale, a very common thing to do on a dominant 7 chord for a bluesy sound. In fact, that whole bar is mostly the blues scale. Lots of places to add blue notes to a tune like Georgia. The organ solo plays a ton of blues scale licks as well. One thing I like to do is emphasize that minor 3rd in a lot of bluesy licks, then ultimately resolve to the major 3rd that's actually in the chord. Really nice effect.
- G# diminished is a cool thing to play on a D7 (not necessarily D major) as it contains all those juicy extensions (#11, 13, 1 (not so juicy), #9) of D7 and mostly fits Bm (G# is the 6th, which is fine).
(EDIT: After a second listen, that's not G# diminished, it's another blues scale. Nothing crazy going on there either on the D and Bm).

So to really dig into this, learn your blues scales and copy the heck out of his style and how he sculpts his lines.

That's one killer solo by the way. My hat is off to you if you can master that one, especially the altissimo parts. But much more important than the notes are the intensity, they way he builds tension and uses a metric ton of soul. I think this is the recording that matches your transcription:
 

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@iceman, Those guys aren't thinking theory when they play that kind of stuff, just using their ear to come up with something cool. But your particular examples have some pretty straight ahead explanations.
I tend to think most of the Jazz greats knew theory like the back of their hand. If they were not thinking about it when they played, it's because they had completely internalized the harmonic universe. Just my opinion.
 

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I tend to think most of the Jazz greats knew theory like the back of their hand. If they were not thinking about it when they played, it's because they had completely internalized the harmonic universe. Just my opinion.
+1. And actually everything mdavej pointed out is music theory. However, I do agree with him that "those guys aren't thinking theory;" just as you say, they have internalized it to the point they can use "their ear to come up with something cool."

Anyway, yeah iceman, as mdavej points out that C nat on an A7 chord is a very common alteration (#9 or b3), especially in a blues based improvisation; definitely not a passing tone in this case. It really all comes down to what sounds good.
 

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I'm sorry, if you think the great players from the past learned "jazz theory" your wrong. There certainly was music theory, and there's a lot to learn, but the sorts of substitutions and jazz teaching being referred to was an academic way of trying to express what was played AFTER THE FACT and not learned by those players.

Improvisation is spontaneous composition. It's playing what you can hear in your head and making it come out of your horn. Can you learn theory and lots of finger memory patterns? Yes, of course, then that's just cut and paste and not necessarily improvisation. If you can't hear what you're playing before you've played it then it's not improvisation. It's like touch typing while reading what someone else has written and you may not even know the meaning of what you're typing.

Making music is an art form in which we communicate to others. The "greats" were great because it was personal communication. They weren't doing anything other than playing what they could hear in their heads. So, do you think that learning by rote formula is going to make you play what you hear in your head? Can you hear music in your head? If you can, then the best way to learn to improvise is to follow that and practice for a few thousand hours until you've made the connection from your head to your horn.

Learning to fake improvisation is OK, as long as YOU recognize that it's not real. Learning to play fast is also OK and may satisfy you. If you are trying to impress an audience, but basically have nothing to say other than I can regurgitate a bunch of finger memory riffs and arpeggios quickly, then it's like watching the world's fastest typist. Amusing for a very short while, but what did they type? A great work of art, the next best seller? Or is it just a bunch of quickly dispensed drivel?

If you're a beginner then first see if you can play a melodic line. If you can produce a melody by improvising, then you are on a good trajectory. Blues is a good way to start as the form is limited, but the range of improvisation isn't. One of the most important tenants of blues is that you MUST be able to give emotions to your audience. That's a very good start point that many who aspire to playing jazz forget.
 

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the four consecutive C natural in the A7 on line 22, I don't know if you could call that a passing note to the upcoming D
Are you not more concerened about the D??? It is easier to explain the C than the D on an A7


This is just blues, so much of the conventional theory goes out of the widow. Or you could say the C is a #9 or b10 of the A7. Explaining the D is that it is a suspension. All of this can be explained if you really need to but one thing that C natural isn't is that it isn't passing note. A passing not goes directly between two other notes.

But to be honest it is pointless to try to explain blues with conventional theory, it just doesn't work like that very often
 

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I bet that if you were able to walk up to Gerald Albright right after he played this tune and say. "Man, I see what you did there with those 4 consecutive b10's on that A7 chord" he would look at you like you had 2 heads.....then he would probably tell you that he wasn't even aware he DID that, that he was just feelin' it, and is that all you got out of my solo? Who was it, maybe Bird, who said, "Learn everything you can, and then forget it and PLAY" or something like that....to me that's the greatest challenge, to learn all the vocabulary you can and then use it spontaneously, as you feel it, not worrying about the theory of what you're doing but instead making music. For me at least it's a day to day struggle.....
 
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