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As a Blues player (and a **** poor one at that :D ), I always thought that jazz and especially bebop were just too damned hard. I'd play through the omnibook, slowly, and try to work out why certain notes didn't seem to match up with the whole JA "this scale goes with this chord" thing. I always came away utterly confused and despairing of ever being able to play bebop.

A few years on, and I'm still a crap blues player. In an effort to improve, I've been working on developing a stock of approaches to target chord tones. I'll transcripe a lick or run and then break it down to see what notes are being targeted, on what beat they are being targeted, and how they are approached.

Increasingly, I'm finding that many times, the approaches are chromatic, or blues licks, diminished arpeggios, or a mix of these and others.

I've been working on incorporating these approaches into my playing. I started with just hitting the 3rd of each chord on beat 1, by approaching it from a 1/2 step below. Then extended this to over and under approaches, blues scale approaches etc. The more of these I learn, I find I can target the chord tone on beat 1 from "further downtown." Meaning I can approach the 3rd, (for example) on beat 1 of the target chord, from beat 2, or the and of beat 1, of the preceeding chord. As long as I hit that chord tone on beat 1, the approach resolves and sounds good.

It doesn't seem to make any difference what I actually play over the preceeding chord, as long as it resolves to a chord tone.

And so I'm wondering, does it matter? Should I spend my practice time trying to play the right scales over the chords, when I seem to get a more musical result by targeting chord tones from chord to chord and not actually worrying too much about what I play over the chord s themselves. As long as I'm leading into a chord tone on a strong beat, it just doesn't seem to matter whether I approach them scalewise with the proper scale, chromatically, via blues scale, or whatever.

I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of those folks who can actually play bebop convincingly.

Am I onto something here? Or am I headed down a dead end?
 

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Dog Pants said:
And so I'm wondering, does it matter? Should I spend my practice time trying to play the right scales over the chords, when I seem to get a more musical result by targeting chord tones from chord to chord and not actually worrying too much about what I play over the chord s themselves.
The idea is to understand the scales enough so that the notes you choose to play within the scale make musical sense. It's difficult if not impossible to properly manipulate something you don't understand.

Jazz takes a long time to do well. Don't give up.
 

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I think you've answered the question yourself by saying you 'seem' to get more musical results using this approach. Now just take out the 'seem' - after all its your show!
 

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Dog Pants, I totally get what you're saying. I started learning Jazz from the Aebersold series and I can tell you without a doubt that the way Jamey teaches it is not the way to do it in the beginning. "This chord goes with this scale." You end up with some very strange sounds that do not sound right to the beginner's ear.

The 'goal note method' seems to be much more widely used in performance. If you transcribe enough solos and cop enough licks you can see that a lot of players are using goal notes -- though they may not call the technique the 'goal note method.' So what are the actual goal notes?

To me goal notes are notes of the melody -- these are the obvious ones. A second set of goal notes might be notes of the actual chords. So to be effective, you should know the notes of the chords - 1-3-5-7. (Let's just leave it at 1-3-5-7 for the sake of this discussion, I am very well aware of extensions.) Think of these goal notes as 'pillars' or 'bases' -- this is where you want your lines to end up. Now what are you playing in between the 'bases?'

The short answer is to play whatever you hear as you navigate from goal note to goal note. If you're an anayltical, cognitive player like me you need a bit more guidance and understanding. My first suggestion is to play within the local key. If you're in the key of A and you are trying to navigate from C#-7 to F#-7. If I pick the goal notes of B and A, then the line between that I would suggest is just something in the key of A major. I would not suggest C# Dorian or F# Dorian as your first and obvious choices. If the chord tones of the chord are diatonic to the key just stay on the major scale. To try to follow Jamey's teachings just didn't yield a satisfactory result. Eventually I came up with my own tenet for this particular situation.

If you're in the key of A and you've got to navigate from C-7 to F7, then you've got a much more difficult problem. What makes it difficult is that the chords are not diatonic to the local key of A. What do I mean by diatonic? Without getting into semantics and etymology, diatonic means belonging to the same scale or having the same scale in common. C-Eb-G-Bb of C-7 are not pitch classes found in the A major scale. F, C, Eb of F7 are not pitch classes found in the A major scale. In this case you could go with DORIAN and MIXOLYDIAN on a non diatonic ii-7-V7 progression.

What if you got a G7 in the key of A? The chord is non-diatonic having a G and an F in it (the B and D in the chord is diatonic to A major). Well, once you know what chord tones you need to modify, just modify these and leave the rest of the tones in the local key of A major. A B C# D E F G. If you analyze the scale with G as the root you end up with a G lydian dominant -- which sounds absolutely fantastic in A major! Try to play G mixolydian and it's not going to sound nearly as cool...

Anyway, I 'll stop now. But to summarize: the key to playing over certain bebop changes is to recognize whether the chords are diatonic to the key. If they are, just play in the key. If they aren't diatonic to the key, then just modify the notes that are modified in the chord and play all the other toines within the key. If it's a ii-V -- play the ii-V bebop style (dorian-mixolydian). Rememer context is everything: If you play over a G7 in a G blues the same way you play over it in a tune in A major, then you're just not getting it right.

Dog Pants I am not speaking to you directly, so take no offense. I am speaking to myself when I first started. I wish someone explained this to me a long time ago...
 

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DP; I've been having better luck thinking of the phrasing more as approaches to chord tones (and extensions). Chromatics (single, double, triple) from above, below, and both. Then, utilizing the "scale" tone as an additional approach. (Generally, the "scale" tone is a chord or extension tone that, transposed by the octave, is a step or half step away from the chord tone you are approaching).
 

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Dog Pants said:
. . . I started with just hitting the 3rd of each chord on beat 1, by approaching it from a 1/2 step below. . . . It doesn't seem to make any difference what I actually play over the preceeding chord, as long as it resolves to a chord tone. . . And so I'm wondering, does it matter? . . .
DP: I'm hardly an expert in this, but it occurs to me that in the ubiquitous ii V I progression, the 7th of the ii resolves into the 3rd of the V, and then the 7th of the V resolves into the 3rd of the I. So depending on what you're playing, approaching it from a half step above might be an especially fitting technique. I'm sure that's a rather simplistic observation, but it might still be apt.
 

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If you look at Michael Brecker transcriptions you see him do all sorts of crazy stuff, like play C# triads over a G7 chord and stuff like that. If you can make it work....
 

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C# over a G is the #11 which is the accepted extension of a V7 chord.

I think I heard it said once that there are no bad notes in jazz; just bad resolutions. As long as you know how to land on the right tone (that half step approach you and I both referred to is a good example) then there is really nothing you can't do.
 

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DP and hgiles, thank you, thank you, thank you!! I too started in the JA school, and didn't really start to make significant progress until I bought a book called the Goal Note Method.......... also, I've spent a lot of time critically analyzing Art Pepper's solos, and found that one of the keys to his sound is his fantastic creative ability to resolve to goal notes........ thanks again.

Al
 

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I, too, have struggled with all of this. Hgiles, thanks for the lesson. I'm going to make that my focus this afternoon with I pick up the horn.

Thanks again!
 

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you know I'm pretty much self-taught ear player, and I just stick the horn in my face and play. Most times discussions like this make my eyes glaze over but this is making some sense, so thanks for that.
 

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Here is what I have been taught for ii-V-I's:

Maj ii-V7-1M7

ii-7
1,b3,5,b7,9,11,13

V7
1,3,5,b7,9,#11,13

IM7
1,3,5,7,9,#11,13

Minor ii-7b5, V7b9, i-(M7)

ii-7b5
1,b3,b5,b7,9,11,b13

V7b9
1,3,5,b7,b9,#11,b13 (#9 is also applicable)

I-(M7)
1,b3,5,7,9,11,13
 

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Great responses in this thread so far! A couple of points:

The whole chord/scale approach is more of a modern idea in jazz improvisation. I think it's pretty fair to assume that Bepoppers and Blues players did NOT approach learning to play by using scales. They learned a vocabulary of licks and phrases, and learned to manipulate those to create variation. It's only after the fact that we can analyze those great solos and find, "Hey, this batch of licks all use notes from XXX scale. Let's use that scale!"

The chord/scale thing is indeed useful when looking at some modern jazz compositions. When looking at tunes by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, etc., you often see sequences of chords that can't be easily identified as some kind of ii-V-I (or other functional designations). With this chromatic, or "non-functional" harmony it is sometimes good to look at the individual chords, determine some scale options, and compare those to the scale options of the chords coming before and after.

When you do that, sometimes you'll find that a group of chords that initially look unrelated actually share a lot of common scale tones. So rather than having to totally shift gears from one chord to the next, you may only have to change one or two notes in the scale.

Finally, one way of embracing the chord/scale idea is to acknowledge that: if you extend chords to the 9th, 11th, and 13th (often using the implications of how the chord is functioning) you already have all seven notes of the chord. Chords and Scales are the same thing! It's all in how you stack up the notes.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
So far, so good.

Just to clarify, (and lest this thread get sidetracked). The idea I'm addressing, is that it seems to be more productive to me, to think of where I'm heading (target note) and develop various rhythmic/melodic ways of approaching that note, than to be thinking of where I am (this or that chord) and trying to play this or that scale over this or that chord.

There are only 12 notes. If I learn a variety of approaches to those 12 notes, and variations of these approaches, then I'm equiping myself to play through the chords rather than learning "this scale = this chord," which equips me to play over each chord but not from one chord to another.

Chords and scales might be the same thing but I find it easier to actually get results by building a repertoire of approaches to 12 notes than tring to play a whole bunch of ideas using multitudes of scales.
 

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The "scale that fits the chord" approach is very much a shortcut towards enabling people to play at least something over chords. It's an approach that I believe ca become sterile very quickly. As soon as possible students should learn about chord tones, voice leading, arpeggios, melodic development etc. or there's a real danger of just running up and down scales, most of which won't work if you do that.

e.g. play a d dorian upwards from D on a Dm7 in quavers. OK it works, the chord tones fall on the beat.

BUT, play it down from D and they don't. Start on any other note and the chord tones don't fall on the beat either. (Of course it can work once you get into more advanced stuff like bebop scales)

It's a system that only "sort of" works. I used to use it when I taught impro at university, but I have changed my mind now. Much more important to learn chord tones and diatonic & chromatic passing notes, learn lots of licks, make up your own, transcribe and analyse solos, listen, think, feel and above all learn to improvise melodically and learn to structure solos with tension, release etc.
 

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Pete Thomas said:
. . . play a d dorian upwards from D on a Dm7 in quavers. OK it works, the chord tones fall on the beat.

BUT, play it down from D and they don't. . . . Of course it can work once you get into more advanced stuff like bebop scales . . . .
Interesting. We're studying bebop scales and also "Major Flat 6" scales, i.e., with a flat 6 inserted between 5 and 6. My teacher explained that the purpose of the extra tone (flat 6, or flat 7 in the bebop scale) was to get the timing right. As is often the case, I don't absorb everything on the first take, but now I can see how the extra tone helps chord notes fall on the beat. Thanks.
 

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Pete Thomas said:
The "scale that fits the chord" approach is very much a shortcut towards enabling people to play at least something over chords. It's an approach that I believe ca become sterile very quickly. As soon as possible students should learn about chord tones, voice leading, arpeggios, melodic development etc. or there's a real danger of just running up and down scales, most of which won't work if you do that.

e.g. play a d dorian upwards from D on a Dm7 in quavers. OK it works, the chord tones fall on the beat.

BUT, play it down from D and they don't. Start on any other note and the chord tones don't fall on the beat either. (Of course it can work once you get into more advanced stuff like bebop scales)

It's a system that only "sort of" works. I used to use it when I taught impro at university, but I have changed my mind now. Much more important to learn chord tones and diatonic & chromatic passing notes, learn lots of licks, make up your own, transcribe and analyse solos, listen, think, feel and above all learn to improvise melodically and learn to structure solos with tension, release etc.
I agree with all of this because, quite frankly, apart from the blues scales, fitting dorian, diminished scales and so on, over chord sequences never worked for me (although, for some it obviously does). I find that it stifles, rather than helps creativity. Many early jazz pioneers didn't think that way, I'm sure. They probably knew their chord tones though.

What I would add is the importance of being able to sing an improvised line, even if that's just in your head. Most people here who perhaps struggle with improvisation can probably sing a decent (probably excellent) solo over a chord sequence easily, without thinking about scales. Why? Because when the sax isn't involved they don't have to worry about technique and the mind relaxes. You're far more likely to come up with something original that way.

So I would suggest singing simple solos and transferring them to the horn. After much practise, being able to play what you hear (sing) in your head becomes increasingly easier.

Of course, this is just one aspect of improvising but it's an important and often overlooked one.
 
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