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Discussion Starter #1
Bop, Hard Bop or Post Bop, who were you fave soloists that used the alt scale or other modes of the MM? Who do you think had/has the hippest lines? Can you point to specific solos? I'm a guitarist and remain unmoved by many guitarists who love alt scale ideas, so I'd like to check out the sax masters in this regard. Would love some guidance from you guys....
 

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Just transcribing Coltrane on the theme Blues Legacy from Bags and Trane, and there you have the scale in the fourth measure on Coltrane's solo first chorus. At least some good chosen notes and line, great!
 

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Sequences.
 

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This sounds nice (at least to me) and it's easy: The Dimminished -Whole Tone scale, 876.765.654......... Or 121,232,343,...... Rockers use these sequences in 2nds all the time - it's the only sequence they know.
 

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How hard do want to work?
 

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Do you know?

What intervals are and how to name them?

Do you know what the major diatonic key signatures are and the circle of 4ths, 5ths?

Do you know what enharmonic equivalents are?

Do you know what the modes are?

What are the natural half-steps and how do they relate to the tritone interval? Why a five type chord resolves to one? Why a tritone-sub works? In other words, do you get function, and know anything about voice leading? Sevenths and Thirds ring a bell?

Ever look at Slonimisky?

Just out of curiosity... can you tell us which 'altered' scale you are referring to?

I have a lot of written material and examples in musical notation. It has taken me over twenty years to compile my notebooks. It can be overwhelming. If you don't have the basic harmonic theory and musicianship down cold... it might be interesting to read this stuff, but until you catch up and are able to have tonalities and key signatures internalized... you won't be able to apply sequencing as a compositional device very well.

A guitar whacker friend who I grew up with, moved to London, and I lost contact with him for 25 years. He came back to the States for a visit and found me. We were music majors in Jr. College. I got drafted and played in the Army Band, he played in rock, blues, pop and punk bands... forgetting everything he ever learned about 'jazz theory'. Recently he has started hanging out with jazz players and going to pubs to jam. Basically the same Real Book stuff we worked on in the '70s.

He ask me, "As a horn player (meaning single line player), what did I think about in my approach to improvising and blowing on changes. I started to scribble some of the ideas I'm shedding now and realized that it was way over his head. So I tried to go back in time and try to explain how I got to where I am now. Very hard thing to do. There is so much learning and experience that I take for granted and, worse... assume that everybody is hip to already.

I had to start somewhere, and since I'm only interested in sequencing as a compositional device, there is a lot of fundamental musical knowledge that must be understood to have a shot at making these devices relevant.

I had a roommate in the Army who was a monster tenor player and showed me things that I'm still working on 35 years later. He hooked up with players like Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw and drained their brains. He would tell me and show me the stuff they talked about within hours. He'd say, " And that's the hundred dollar lesson man!!! ... but we get it for free! The only way we pay is if we don't learn it, shedd it and play it!"

So my scribbling turned into twenty pages of examples (all one key) of notation and twenty pages of verbal explanation. I'm not a teacher and not a working musician any more, but I play every day and have been working on this sequence project for 16 years. The more I get into it, the more i realize I have just scratched the surface.

My friend went through all my stuff, but after two years, I don't know how far he got. I do know that he copied all my stuff and gave it to a couple other guitar whackers that were blown away and wrote me back. Again, I don't know if it worked for them. I think they were just overwhelmed with the examples and didn't see the forest for the trees.

How about this; Give me the scale or couple scales, chords, sounds that you are wondering about and I will start you off with a couple exercises. When you are ready I will feed you a bit more at a time until you 'get' the idea. I'm not going to learn for you... you have to learn for you. i can only tell you how I think about this stuff and use it. You will have to sort it all out for yourself.

All I can say is that my sequence project has really opened up my ears. All the motifs, licks, patterns, key cycles and other musical junk, is just junk, if you don't have some idea what to do with it. For me it's not about what notes to play, because ideas just come pouring out... that's is about 'where I am'... I'm really interested in where I'm going or how to resolve. Sequences have helped me to get more comfortable composing on the fly, knowing where I'm going and having my lines/phrases make sense.

PM me with your e-mail if you are ready for brain melt... "The only way we pay is if we don't learn it, shedd it and play it!"
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I think it's more important to know when and how to use a b9, #9, 3rd, b5, #5, 7th and root than it is to know and play altered scales.
 

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Hey what about the #4 don't forget him LOL Yes Yes I Know

IMO the only scale one needs to know is the chromatic scale Once that can be played without any thought at all then please refer to Pete's post.
 

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Trane uses the alt scale very effectively on his Take The Coltrane solo, from his session with Duke Ellington (transcription and clip here), generally on the 3rd and 4th measures in the blues chorus, to make a strong false resolution to the IV chord. Very simple, very hip. He uses it in other places in the form as well...

Of course, I doubt he was thinking he was using the alt scale -- it could also be interpreted as a tritone ii-V7 sub…
 

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Of course, I doubt he was thinking he was using the alt scale -- it could also be interpreted as a tritone ii-V7 sub…
Exactly. And I don't believe he uses it as a scale as such, just plucks out those cool notes which happen to be some of the notes of an alt scale. So it's not in the same way that he might have used a diminished scale, ie as a scale in its entirety or patterns/sequences that use all the notes of a dimished. (Oliver Nelson did that a lot too)
 

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I don't believe he uses it as a scale as such, just plucks out those cool notes which happen to be some of the notes of an alt scale. So it's not in the same way that he might have used a diminished scale, ie as a scale in its entirety or patterns/sequences that use all the notes of a dimished. (Oliver Nelson did that a lot too)
Agreed, but I think the chord-scale approach can be a handy way to understand what a player is doing -- even if that player wasn't thinking along those lines! Like music theory in general, since it's derived "after the fact" based on performance practice, it can be a bit of a blunt object -- but it still can yield useful info...

Speaking of useful info, I've just added the promised soundclip of Trane's solo to my blog post referenced above (I thought it was already there, but it wasn't...). One of the all-time great blues performances of Trane, and if you don't have the CD, get it!
 

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Exactly. And I don't believe he uses it as a scale as such, just plucks out those cool notes which happen to be some of the notes of an alt scale.
For a long time, I really didn't understand the use of the altered scale, UNTIL I started trying out some of those actual notes (#9, b9, etc) and it became clear that it was the 'tension' of those notes that made it work, especially in a ii-V-I situation (over the V7 chord). In other words, those tones have to resolve somehow.

Now this is just speculation, but as a scale, maybe the best way to approach it is in terms of a diminished/whole tone sound. Since it's really a partial whole tone scale, stacked on a partial diminished scale.

Regarding the 'hard boppers,' in the music that is usually so designated, I hear a lot of blues, pentatonics, and a more 'earthy' funky rythmic approach (which I love). I'm not sure the altered scale is a big part of that, but certainly some of those tones are.
 

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And it occurs to me that this Eric Alexander solo (clip & transcription provided) offers some almost textbook examples of the altered scale -- AND it's even within the realm of possibility that Eric was actually thinking "altered scale" when he was playing these...
Thanks kelly, that's a great example. And you are right, he could actually be thinking altered scale, but just as likely through his masterful knowledge of extensions, alterations and melodic invention that he was just, as one girlfriend I once had defined jazz, "making it up as he goes along".

I think unless we actually see a full altered scale laid out in a transcription, we might always speculate thus. It's easy to sprinkle in b9 b10 (sorry #9) #ii and b13 here and there without consciously thinking "altered scale".

Now this is just speculation, but as a scale, maybe the best way to approach it is in terms of a diminished/whole tone sound. Since it's really a partial whole tone scale, stacked on a partial diminished scale.
If I were to use it as a scale (as opposed to using alterations in my solo that just happen to fit into an alt scale), that is how I think about it.

Yes, I've practised those scales as if they are a melodic minor starting on the 7th, but very soon dropped that concept as it just confused me. Very often I might think b9 #9 (b10) 3rd as that is a sound that is ingrained in me from when I first discovered the diminished patterns as used by Coltrane, Bird, esp Oliver Nelson, Miles and many hard or soft boppers.

At that point I might either extend a scale phrase or melodic pattern using more of the diminished, or I just slam into whole tone for the #11 b13 and 7th. Voila! the alt scale without even knowing it.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Great responses all. Thanks. Now you have me wondering if the hallowed alt scale is overrated? Can you be a complete player without their specific use? Sometimes I can't tell if the tensions one comes across in transcribing the greats were conceived in other terms, ie symmetrical scales or enclosures etc.
 

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Now you have me wondering if the hallowed alt scale is overrated? Can you be a complete player without their specific use? Sometimes I can't tell if the tensions one comes across in transcribing the greats were conceived in other terms, ie symmetrical scales or enclosures etc.
I didn't realize it was a 'hallowed' scale (the blues scale is, maybe). My guess is the altered scale, like a lot of music theory, came long after the use of the notes in question. Someone simply compiled all the possible alterations of the extensions on a dominant chord, put the notes into a scale form, and voila, the altered scale was born.

So yeah, I'm reasonably sure that those tensions the greats were using did not come from deciding to play the altered scale! They were simply notes that sounded good over certain chords in a certain context. In other words, the melody sounded right with, for example, a #9 or #11 in a specific place.
 
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