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Chordal Improv. article from BP mag. 2004

Discussion in 'Ask Adam Nitti' started by bassy7, Mar 12, 2010.

  1. bassy7


    Jan 29, 2010
    Hey Adam,

    My questions stem from a 2 part article (Chordal Improv) you wrote for BP Mag that was published back in the fall of 2004. I got out of bass playing for 6 years- just back into it and I am revisiting some of my older materials.

    IN the articles you showed some arpeggios/chords that could be played over each other in order to extract more sounds when improvising.
    So if you wanted to solo over a static Cmin7 one could treat the Cmin7 as the "2" of the Bb maj scale. As such the Cmin7 could be treated as Dorian.

    The harmonized apreggios all come from Bbmaj- and they are as follows......... (1) Bbmaj7, (2)Cm7, (3) Dm7, (4) Ebmaj7, (5) F7, (6) Gm7 , (7) Am7b5.

    I actually have lots of questions about this approach but I will only list a few at this time.

    In part 2 of the article you stated that one could treat a maj7 chord as the "1" and thus the Ionian scale progression of arpeggios could be used, but the the 4th could sound odd against the 3rd (or something to that effect). So you suggested the maj7 be treated as the "4", and thus the Lydian approach to these arpeggios should be used.

    I get it so far.
    I actually have lots of questions about this approach but I will only list a few at this time.

    I am not sure why a min7 couldn't be treated as the Phrygian, or Aeolian in this context. Or perhaps they can be used without issue- but would one be more desirable than another? or maybe it just depends on the total context of the tune.

    Taken further, could I always use this same approach for a 7 chord, and treat it as Mixolydian?

    Could this exact same aproach work over a Cmin chord instead of a Cmin7 chord?

    I am concerned that if I tried to solo over a guitar part that stayed in Cmin7---- that other musicians in the same setting might just play notes within the Cmin scale- which would clash with me essentialyl using notes of Bbmajor. So I assume this would only work if everybody in the band either plays ONLY the chord tones of Cmin7, or is in the same frame of mind as me- and takes the same modal approach as me. Does it sound like I am on track here?

    Thanks for taking the time to help me out with this stuff.
  2. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    yes, you could alternatively treat the root of a min7 chord a iii or a vi, instead of the ii. on paper, this would appear as 'harmonically legal' :) , because the chord tones extracted from the phrygian and aeolian scales are the same as for dorian: root - b3 - 5 - b7.

    however, that doesn't mean it's going to sound good! the choice of which mode to assign to the root is most associated with the compatibility and traditional nature of the sound/color it implies. for example, in jazz, blues, and improvisational music, dorian is the sound most often associated with minor chords. if you care about sounding idiomatically-correct, then you need to pay attention to the sounds most typically used. this is a result of lots of listening and ear training. having said that, just playing the correct or traditional notes will not make you sound seasoned or adept necessarily... it is all about the quality of your phrasing and _how_ the notes are used... not just the notes, themselves. i'm sure you know this already, but i wanted to iterate that specifically for those reading this that might not be as aware of that already.

    aeolian is going to be more commonly heard over minor chords in rock/metal and even pop settings... you will also hear aeolian used in jazz over minor chord progressions, although over static min7 chords dorian would still be a more typical sound.

    phrygian is also used in jazz, but its sound is more frequently heard over music that is dark and dramatic, such as spanish classical guitar and flamenco, etc... it is also sometimes called the 'spanish gypsy' scale.

    these points are made even more important when you are dealing with chordal improvisation and the combining of diatonic arpeggios to create melodic lines, because the implied colors of each scale are that much more direct and 'in your face', if you will. :D for example, the use of ionian in a chordal improv approach over a static maj7 chord is going to sound even worse than if you just were to create lines using a one octave major scale... this is partly because the larger intervallic distances that connect each chord tone give even more gravity and emphasis to their sound. consequently, the 4th degree is going to rub even harder against the 3 of the maj7 chord because it is being 'jumped' to...

    yes, and yes. however, you will still have some tension between the 3rd and 4th degrees (half step distance) using mixolydian over the 7 chord for the same reason as was described for maj7. you just have to phrase wisely, or substitute lydian dominant as one example... ;)

    if the other musicians are just comping a Cmin7 or Cmin chord, it doesn't really matter... since they are just comping chords with maybe a little embellishment here and there, you are free to impose whatever harmony you want in your solo to step inside and outside of whatever colors you are spontaneously inspired to play. of course, you have to display musical judgment in any situation, and you should always keep ear training at the forefront of your improv practice routines as one of the skills of priority you are working on.

    if you are the soloist, the band should be listening to you, anyways, and doing their best to support what it is you are playing... not the other way around.
  3. bassy7


    Jan 29, 2010
    Thanks for taking the time to address my questions, I really appreciate you reaching to to the rest of us non pro musicians. It will take me a while to properly digest your reponse.
  4. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    no problem!
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