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How to Walk

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by eli, Jan 2, 2001.

  1. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Thought I'd post this under its own heading since a couple of people have asked this question. It's a place to start, anyway.


    First thing to know is you want to use the notes you play not only to define the chord you're playing, but to provide forward motion by setting up the chord that's COMING UP. So you need to look ahead to the next two or three chords to decide how you're going to handle "this one."

    Lots of jazz progressions move down in fifths, as in iii-vi-ii-V-I. I'll confine my comments to these progressions since they are so common. Chords last largely either 4 beats or 2 beats.

    If a chord is 4 beats, you can go scalar down one scale degree per beat, or you can go scalar up inserting an accidental between the 2nd and 3rd scale degree. Also note that the half-step is the most powerful force in music. You want to propel the music forward, and you can do that by setting up anticipation of where the next note will be. For this you can use the tritone substitution.

    Examples of all of the above, using the progression Bb7 - Eb7:

    Scalar down: | Bb Ab G F | Eb.....
    Scalar up: | Bb C C# D | Eb....
    Tritone sub: | Bb Ab F E | Eb....

    Notice in the last two examples how inevitable the Eb is after the two half steps right before it. That is the propulsion you want to create.

    You can also add the tritone sub to an arpeggio like so:

    | Bb D F E | Eb.... (try this with the D BELOW the Bb too!)

    Or mix up the arpeggio:

    | Bb F D E | Eb.... (Again, try the F either below or above the Bb.)

    Also consider repeated notes:

    | Bb Bb D D | Eb.....

    If you do this for a whole chorus, it can really "lay down the law" and bring everyone "back to earth" if things have been kind of wild for a couple of choruses.

    For two beats per chord, the easiest 2nd note choice is either the 3rd or the tritone of the chord you're in -- which amounts to approaching the next root from either above or below by a half step.

    | Bb D Eb....|

    | Bb E Eb....|

    This will work in either the front half or the back half of any bar.

    Within all of this, you need to keep track primarily of the 3rd and the 7th. You need to play major chords as major chords and minor as minor. Similarly, you need to play maj7 chords with the major 7th, and dominant ("plain old 7th") chords with the lowered 7th. The tritone substitution
    does not work well with maj7 chords. To my ear, the tritone sub works OK under minor 7th chords. You may not agree -- in which case, it's your bass line, play it how you want it!

    NOW: Atmospherics. Feel.

    I've always tried to mix up these approaches within a chorus. But use your ears: If the arpeggio thing is sounding kind of sing-songy, go to scalar. When the repeated note trick wears out, drop it. And when the quarter-note thing gets kind of ploddy, try to anticipate when the drummer (or anyone else, for that matter) is going to hit a syncopated accent (like the "and" of beat 4 in the last bar of a whole
    chorus), and HIT IT WITH 'EM. You will then be entering the world of really playing together, learning each others' styles and tastes and complimenting each other. With enough playing time with a particular musician (I discuss the drummer fequently because the drum-bass interaction is so important), you'll get to know how they set up particular little phrases, and you'll be able to communicate what's coming UP through what you're playing NOW. (It is also entirely legal to use your face and body to communicate as well.) This communication through music is the essence of good jazz. It's a lofty goal but entirely achievable.

    Good jazz is a dicussion -- you want to interact and inspire each other to play better. Kick people in the pants once in a while by playing something unexpected!

    This little lesson ought to keep you busy for a rehearsal or two. It's kept me busy for the last 25 years. Good luck!

  2. A couple things: What you're calling a tritone sub isn't a tritone sub. A tritone substitution, as I understand it, is a chord substitution in which you sub one V7 chord for another a tritone away.

    eg: ii7-V7-Imaj7 becomes ii7-bII7-Imajor7

    in Abmaj- Bbm7-Eb7-Abmaj7 becomes Bbm7-A7-Abmajor7

    The principle behind this is dom7 chords a tritone apart
    share the same tritone (third and seventh, the nature of the interval renders the fact the it's inverted a non-issue, it
    sounds the same). Hence dom7 chords a tritone apart can be
    substituted for one another without affecting the dominant function of the chord, and it yields the chromatically descending bassline. Although you descend chromatically in your example, I don't think beginning the descent from F, the perfect 5th, produces a tritone sub sound. It's more like a leading tone.

    The other thing I question is your example "scalar up". You
    wrote "Bb C C# D". That would work for a Bb minor chord (although the C# would really be Db), but for a dominant chord, which contains a major third, I think the minor third on the third beat will make it sound like a minor chord. I'm well aware of subbing a parallel minor, but you
    didn't mention that in your post. In some situations for Bb7 I might like Bb-C#-D-F (or E, or F-E 8ths). This way the major 3rd (important chord tone) is on the third (strong) beat.
  3. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    DK --

    You wrote:

    "Although you descend chromatically in your example, I don't think beginning the descent from F, the perfect 5th, produces a tritone sub sound. It's more like a leading tone."

    The chord I was in was Bb7. I was just on F on beat 3, and for beat 4 the E is indeed the tritone of Bb. Actually, as long as the chordal instrument is still playing Bb7, putting E under it renders some form of E7. The chordal instrument doesn't really have to change for this to work, that's the cool thing about it.

  4. Ah ha! I hear it now. And if the piano/guitar plays a rootless Bb7sus4 on beat 3, your F makes a ii7. Nice.

    Honestly, I never thought of the 1/2 above as anything but
    a leading tone. Thanks.

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