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Applying Jazz Theory in a Rock Setting

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Mud Flaps, May 27, 2004.

  1. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    How do I adapt what I have learned in Jazz class to a rock setting? What are the main differences between the theory between rock and jazz? What are some common rock chord progressions?
  2. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Many rock songs seem to be variations of I-IV-V.

    Jazz theory is going to help in any other genre, in my opinion. In jazz theory, you're learning how to listen to the other musicians you're playing with, learning how to express your voice through your instrument, playing melodic lines through a complex harmony, playing with great technical ability and much more. How will this NOT be helpful?!

    Perhaps some others will chime in with some more specific information.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Jazz theory can be applied to rock in many ways:

    1. extension of the basic harmony

    2. use of chromatics and passing tones

    3. application of tension/release


    You can hear this sort of thing in the playing of many rock bassists.
  4. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    What's some good music to analyze so I can see all of this in action?

    P.S. This is my 700th post.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    What did you learn in your Jazz class?
  6. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    The works. Whatever you say, chances are I'll understand it if it is written in Jazz. I'm not saying I'm perfect at it, but I can get the general gist of what you're saying or I can go back to my book and review. Specifically, I think common rock chord progressions would be helpful, and anything else I should know.

    The reason I ask is that my friends and I like to write music and play jazz. But unfortunatly, we don't have the resources, space, or time to put together a good jazz group. So we wanted to adapt our skills to a more modern and smaller setting.
  7. I think such classes help in offering the student more options to play. After learning jazz theory, one can analyze the chords and chord progressions the occur in a song and map out a plan for which scalar or modal approach will be used. Sometimes there are more options than others, depending on the chords and progression, but jazz classes, for me, are all about learning what options there are and seeking opportunities to incorporate them into your playing.

    I play rock for the most part, & am no jazz cat by any means, but the Jazz Improv I class on www.musicdojo.com helped open my eyes a bit. I used what I learned there to spice up my playing. In an elementary way, I know when I can used various scales, modes, and appreggios to make them work for the song.
  8. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    I'm not talking about Jazz, though. I'm talking about rock.
  9. check out Phil Lesh on "Dark Star" from the album "Live Dead" and
    Berry Oakley on "Eat a Peach" & "Live at Fillmore East"

    They'll always stand up.

    ...and 100's of others.
  10. OrionManMatt


    Feb 17, 2004
    and Incubus - Fungus Amongus
  11. I'm talking about rock too. To be able to use jazz theory in rock, you have to learn some jazz theory. It just doesn't magically appear in your playing.
  12. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    I don't think you understand. I am not trying to sound like Mr. Expert, but I do know quite a bit of jazz theory. If I didn't know jazz theory, I wouldn't be asking how to apply it to a rock setting.
  13. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    James Jamerson was a Jazz bassist. He was recruited as was other musicains by Motown records to record what was considered to be "pop music" back then. The Motown sound is different then rock music I guess but he was still able to construct what is considered to be some of the best basslines ever and he was playing out of his style. But he was still able to use his skills and apply it, but the key was hey didn't try to make a round peg fit in a square hole sort of speak.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This makes no sense to me - so why does Jazz require more space, resources etc.? And how is a rock group a smaller setting? :confused:

    So - most Jazz groups I have seen in small venues and can be drummerless and very quiet - whereas, rock groups are almost by definition, loud and noisy and play in bigger venues, with bigger amps etc.

    I also dispute that rock is more "modern" - so most rock riffs are based on the Blues and are 40 or 50 years old - whereas I have seen improvised, modern Jazz, that is quite unique, original and unlike any music that has gone before - using digital electronics, for example.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    What sort of thing are you thinking about - can you give a few concrete examples?
  16. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Check out Dennis Dunaway specifically on Alice Cooper's School's Out album. I don't know if he studied jazz, but if not, he certainly can fake it.
  17. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    Usually, jazz requires more space and resources simply because you are generally working with larger ensembles. Of course, you're not always working with jazz orchestras. But rock groups can consist of three or even two people. You also need the space to fit a rhythm and horn section. Which is not always possible. And, it's very difficult to find a good horn player. Especially when you're 16 and can't afford a session musician. It's not difficult at all to find a good guitarist, keyboardist, drummer, or vocalist.

    I love jazz. I listen to %75 more jazz than I do anything else. Especially modern jazz; I love Weather Report, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Chick Corea Return to Forever or Elektrik Band, etc. But I love having people appreciate good work better. And today's stupid youth can't appreciate jazz; thus, my peers would be unable to enjoy my efforts and whatever little talent I have.

    In terms of what I actually mean by the theory we learned in jazz class, I've thought about this and realized that basically, all I need to learn is standard rock voicings (play a little piano, not ******) and chord progressions. Also, how does a rock 12-bar blues or 16-bar blues differentiate from a jazz 12 or 16 bar blues? If I think of anything else, I'll make sure to post it.
  18. tomdabass


    Apr 19, 2004
    Is it common to play modal scales over chord progressions in rock and pop or do you guys suggest to use only the chord tone to make short fill ins??
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - 90% of Jazz groups I have seen, have been acoustic trios or quartets who could set up and play in any space no matter how small - with no amps. Most live Jazz in the UK, consists of duos playing in unlicenced wine bars, coffee shops or similar.

    Whereas just about every rock group I have seen, has needed huge amps and at least a 1,000 watt p.a. system, before they could even be heard against the drummer!! ;)
  20. It would definately be more interesting for more rockers to be able to analyze the chord progression in rock songs, and find that scale or mode that fits best. However, if you play rock, you should do both. You certainly are going to have the times when you use chord tones, major scales, minor scales, blues scales, etc. to develop your lines and to create fills, but like I said, if you study the relationship of the chords that occur in a song, and and find that scale or mode where they all occur, you can make you playing more modal and a little more jazzy and/or progressive by using that scale or mode. I hope the more experienced players around here will correct me if I am wrong.

    Regarding the above, do any of the jazz players know where us rock players with no formal training should start to begin analyzing progressions. Should we just start learning as much theory as possible? Is Mark Levine's book a good place to start, or are they are other things you could suggest? I could always use more direction here, and I am sure other could too. Thanks.