I was threatening to start a theory thread about a week ago and got enough responses that it seemed worth a shot. I've been working on a technique for teaching an introduction to basic melodic soloing concepts (mostly in a jazz context)for the past couple of years. I hope to eventually turn it into either a large handout or a small text for ease of use, but between now and then I need to get some feedback and criticism. So, if you're so inclined, pull up a comfortable chair, get some coffee, and perhaps have a good pillow handy in case I get long-winded and boring. This might take a minute... Over the past 5 years teaching in university situations and at the Aebersold summer workshops, I've noticed a disturbing trend in methods of teaching beginner/intermediate level players how to deal with chord changes to standard tunes. What happens is that many instructors pass out the chord changes and then explain what scale corresponds to each chord, and then count off the tune and play. When the students can't figure out how to apply that knowledge, the typical response is "Okay, let's everybody play through the tune and play the first five notes of the scale (or the arpeggio 1-3-5-7 or whatever)". After everyone has done this, the tune gets counted off again, and then everyone fumbles through the first notes of each scale as they go by, and the solos still sound like scale exercises. Many students walk around practically begging for someone to show them how to play melodically, or how to tie all of the scale knowledge together to help them play melodies. Over the past three years of the camps, I've done some version of the following in my (piano) master classes and combos, and it seems to help. 1) Define "Melodic" as "singable", and refer students who want to solo melodically to imitate melodic constructions of the actual melodies of jazz standards (as differentiated from many bebop heads, which ARE melodic, but which more resemble "frozen solos" in many instances). 2)Analyze various standard melodies (chosen by the students when asked to choose examples of tunes which contain beautiful or strong melodies) to determine how the composer made his/her note choices for the melody. Without fail (so far), when we do this we discover that 90 - 99% OF THE NOTES IN MOST STANDARD MELODIES ARE COMPLETELY DIATONIC when analyzed in the context of the harmonic modulations that the tune goes through. 3)Define the basic tonality that is happening during each harmonic or tonal "area", and assign a single "blanket scale" to cover the entirety of that area. When thought of in this way, the number of "thoughts per phrase or tune" is reduced dramatically when compared to the "normal"(?) way of learning it, which involves seeing each chord as a separate entity which must be covered each time it goes by. Ex. "All The Things You Are" first 8 bars: F- Bb- Eb7 AbMa DbMa D- G7 CMa If you are thinking chord by chord (and, assuming you have your theory correct and know that ALL JAZZ MINOR CHORDS DO NOT DESIGNATE DORIAN SCALES!!!), you would have to think of playing: F aeolian, Bb dorian, Eb mixolydian, Ab ionian, Db lydian, D dorian, G mixolydian, and C ionian. 8 thoughts all in the span of about 16 seconds, (give or take)! How crazy is it to approach soloing this way? How creative can you be while thinking this much? If you are thinking of playing motivic shapes within a blanket scale, you only have to think of playing out of Ab major for the first 5 bars, and C major for the last three. Most people find this a much more liberating approach. I have found that almost all standard melodies/tunes can be approached in this way, and that students who start approaching tunes in this manner tend to start soloing in a more melodic manner immediately. When you reduce the number of thoughts/judgements required to get through any phrase or chorus, it's almost as if you are opening the gate to intuitive playing or creativity. I'd like to write more, but this is getting pretty long already and my wife has her arms crossed and is starting to tap her toes which means....... well, you all know what that means. It means I gotta go. Thoughts, comments, questions, criticism, anyone? More later if anybody has eyes.