ii/V question

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Bill Lance, Oct 24, 2001.

  1. I have a general jazz theory question:

    I played a tune last night that was very similar to 'Woody & You' in that it had a sequence of m7b5/Dom#9 (or alt) chords, descending in whole steps. I got by mostly sticking to chord tones (1-3-5-7), but I was wondering how you guys would approach that from a scalar perspective (if soloing on bass or piano, for example).

    I hope that's not to vague a question. I know that this sequence is a ii/V in minor, so would you use the natural minor of the I? For example, if it's Am7b5/D7#9, can you get away with playing on a Bb major (G nat minor) scale over that ii/V? It seems like it needs the F# on the D7. The whole sequence is:

    Am7b5 / D7 / Gm7b5 / C7 / Fm7b5 / Bb7 / Eb maj, with all the dom chords being #9, or alt.

    I appreciate any suggestions - thanks.

  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Hi Bill,

    good to see you around again...ask Ed about Jon Raney sometime...

    For starters, I'd look at the notes in the chord voicings and add them up and see what you get in any situation like this. In your case, we get:

    A-7b5 : A,C,Eb,G

    D7#9#5 : D,F#,A#(Bb),C,F

    Put them together and you get:


    This is what I call the "Bebop Minor" scale, and it is a good starting point to help people hear minor ii-V's and ii-V-i's as a single tonality rather than as a series of distantly related complex chord scales.

    When the i chord is present, I add an extra note to make the scale come out:


    Adding the option of the natural 6 allows for any of the common ways that pianists and guitarists voice the i chord in minor (as a min7, min6, or as a miMA7). Think of the first five notes of the minor tonality as solid, and the 6th and 7th being variable, depending on what the chordal players and soloist are hearing at that moment.

    What is usually a safe bet is that the b6, b7, and Ma7 (from the root of the "parent scale") are usually used over the Valt chord of a minor ii-V progression, since they form the b9, #9, and 3rd of the alt chord (no matter what other color tones may or may not be present, MOST resolving altered dominants will have these three notes in the chord scale).

    When you get to the i chord, many pianists will often substitute a mi6 or miMa7 for the notated mi7 chord, so this is when you need to have your ears open to decide which 6th and 7th to play.

    So, in your stated example, you've got:

    a ii-V in gmi

    a ii-V in fmi

    and a ii-V in Ebmi with a deceptive resolution to EbMa. A simple scalar line to cover that might go:

    A Bb C Eb ...D Eb F F#...G Ab Bb Db...C Db Eb
    E...etc... (Chromatic passing tones in parentheses)

    Or, if you prefer the Locrian #2 sound, you could adjust your line over the ii chord accordingly by playing a B natural over the A-7b5 and an A natural over the G-7b5.

    Hope this helps shed some light on the subject. You'll probably hear a bunch of other approaches here as well. Good luck!
  3. Darn it, I don't remember covering that in my Latin classes or was that covered in freshman physics.
  4. Hey Chris,
    Thanks for the great explanation - pragmatic as usual! The first part of the scale is pretty clear, but I've never been too clear on the 6ths and 7ths in that situation.

    Does the #9 imply the #5 on the dominants? The changes were just written #9, and I don't think I was hearing anybody play #5's (so I guess they weren't really alts, huh?). Does the fact that they weren't resolving have anything to do with this?

    Thanks for the help!

  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    As you know, pianists and guitarists use different types of voicings for different situations and sounds. If a good player is hearing that the music needs more space, they sometimes "thin out" their voicings...an example of this is what Phil DeGreg calls "shell" voicings, which consist of the two guide tones (3rd & 7th or sometimes 6th) and a single color tone. For altered dominants, the color tone is usually an altered 9th or 5th. So you may have been hearing some of these from the piano.

    Does the #9 imply the #5 on the dominant? Depends on who you ask. I usually use it in minor as a kind of "default sonority" for the following reason:

    Key: Cmi

    V7#9,#5 = G7#9(#5) = (G) F, A#, B, Eb

    The #5 in this case is Eb, the 3rd of the key of resolution (Cmi), so you can't really go wrong with it as part of the overall sound (as opposed to a natural 6th on the V7 chord, which usually sounds better resolving to Major). Either way, whether the #5 is there in the voicing or not, it will fit in your line as long as the pianist is not playing an natural 6th (13) in his voicing.

    Remember, the term "alt" means different things to different folks. I have some Canadian students in my class this year, and to them, "alt" means 7#9#5. To me, "alt" just means that there is some coloristic alteration of the dominant chord, usually including the 9th. This leaves room for all kinds of interpretation on the part of each rhythm section and soloist, depending on what they are hearing at that time. But the scale I mentioned works fine over plain old #9 chords, b9 chords, #9#5 chords, pretty much everything but a b9(13) chord, which implies notes outside of the parent key.

    And I do think that those chords in the example you sent are resolving by 5th, they just all have deceptive resolutions.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Velcome to Chamey Aebersolt BOOT CAMP, yah! Vee VILL Teach you zu play ze olt TOO FIFE ONEZZZ, yah! Und iff you do NOT learn zu play zzem in ALL TWALF KEYSSZZ, you vill suffer ZE CONSEQUENZES!!


    That's funny, I don't remember covering any Latin or physics in any of my music classes...what a coincidence! ;)
  7. Und iff you do NOT learn zu play zzem in ALL TWALF KEYSSZZ, you vill suffer ZE CONSEQUENZES!!

    --- believe me, I'm suffering 'em!

    Thanks, Chris

  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    DURRLSGONEWILD, (probably my favorite moniker),

    How many threads have we seen where we get a reference to the bebop minor scale?! The Aebersold influence is so strong. It - just - keeps - pulling - me - in.............. Weak......... must fight......... no Bebop..... minor........

    I WILL fight you! I WILL conquer you. I WILL never play the scale. NEVER!!!

    Join us...... at the dark side..... major scale only.... No! No! Pentatonic. How do you like dem apples?
  9. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    ABR0CAJAZZBO, minor bebop be with you!
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    For the record, the "Bebop minor" scale has nothing to do with Jamey...in fact, he doesn't use it, doesn't teach it, might not even have heard of it. This approach is in many ways contrary to his own, which almost always includes a separate scale for each chord symbol.

    Still, resist all you want...
  11. JAS


    Jul 3, 2001
    Another way to play over minor ii v progression is to use the harmonic minor scale for a minor ii v going into a minor i or the harmonic major scale if you are going into a major I. by this i mean...

    Dm7b5 / G7b9 / Cm7
    for this you would use the c harmonic minor scale.
    C D Eb F G Ab B C

    Dm7b5 / G7b9 / Cma7
    for this you would use the c harmonic major scale.
    C D E F G Ab B C

    this is a more diatonic approach, but it can also be very melodic.
  12. mflaherty


    Oct 9, 2001
    Dm7b5 / G7b9 / Cma7
    for this you would use the c harmonic major scale.
    C D E F G Ab B C

  13. Dm7b5 | G7b9 is in the key of C minor which has an Eb and Bb in the key (though B is the leading tone and is harmonically correct). E natural will really only work as chromatic passing tone to F. It doesn't become diatonic, and in this case a chord tone, until the Cmaj7 chord in the third bar. That's a suprise resolution because the minor ii-V makes the ear expect a minor resolution, not major. Your so way off without the minor 3rd in that scale, I don't know why you'd bother observing the b9 (Ab) if you're not observing the minor 3rd (Eb), a much more important note in defining what's happenning there harmonically.

    Regardless of what modes or scales or Pig Latin you're thinking for those three bars, you have to first think ii-V in C minor resolving to C major.
  14. I don't know about the theory, and I have to admit that I've never heard of the harmonic major scale that JAS mentioned, but I was just playing with this stuff on the piano, and in the case where this m7b5/dom goes to major (like the last sequence of my tune), the major third seems to work ok- the major 3rd is a natural 9 of the ii, and a natural 13 of the V, and takes you to the major pretty nicely, I think. It does sort of spoil the surprise of the major resolution, though.

    It's an interesting scale - major with the b6. It still has that gypsy-ish sound in it.

    thanks for the ideas, everyone.

    (By the way Ed, I read in one of your posts that you're from Augusta - I grew up in an even smaller town right across the river in SC.)

  15. Except that those chords, respectively, would have a b9 and b13.
  16. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Oak Park, IL
    Well Dan Haerle and I think much of the rest of the Jamey Aebersold crew will say that alt means b5#5b9#9, which once you add in 1-3-7 pretty much dictates your scale right away.

  17. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Oak Park, IL
    Yah, I use that a lot, although my writing is agnostic about whether or not the 7 is flat or not. What I especially like writing in is the 3rd mode of that scale. There's something really groovy of having a scale open with the half-whole-half sequence of intervals.

  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Except for the fact that there is a difference between "letter of the law" and "intent of the law". Conventional wisdom says that "alt" means #9 and #5. But listen to what these guys PLAY, and you hear that "alt" means whatever altered sound you are hearing/feeling at that moment.

    And remember, most pianists don't play BOTH sets of altered tensions in one voicing. 7#9#5 implies just what it says: 1, 3, #5, b7, #9. While most people find that a #9 implies a b9 in the scale and vice-versa, the same is not true of the 5th. If, for instance, the pianist plays 1, 3, b5, 7, b9....then the scale choice is left open, as this construction supports both Dim/whole tone and Diminished scales.

    I've been hanging with these guys for a long time now, and I think that most of them will tell you that chord-scale relationships are not the name of the game; they are just an entryway into the arena. Once you really start playing, it's about what you are hearing melodically...in other words, when you are playing on the concerts, you don't have to get a permission slip from Jamey to play what you are feeling over the altered-dominant chords, even if it's not a dim/whole-tone scale.

    Personally, I loathe the sound of the #4 (b5) in a resolving dominant chord 95% of the time, so I almost never use that sound melodically (although I do use it in voicings as a tension builder at times). I play with Jamey (who has huge ears) a couple of times a month, and he's never mentioned it. He DOES teach it as one way into the altered dominant sound, but it's just one of many different ways into the same room, which is bigger than any of its doorways.
  19. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Whew. What a relief to know the theory police won't be coming after me for having used an E natural over Dm7b5 and G7b9. Then I'd have to confess to all the other rules I've broken.
    Dumb me, I've been letting a variety of contextual factors affect my phrasing.
  20. Obviously it depends on the context; how you resolve it, etc. Who was it that said," there's no wrong notes, only wrong resolutions?" But before you can hear how an E natural might work in a C minor progression, you gotta understand it's a C minor progression and E flat is diatonic.