Improv options over a I7-bIII7 progression

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by LoeLife, Nov 9, 2020.

  1. LoeLife

    LoeLife

    Nov 9, 2020
    I'm working on my soloing technique and I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions on how to approach a I7 to bIII7 vamp? Would love some suggestions!
     
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Here's a question to at least get you started in the right direction:

    Between the two chords, which notes stay the same, and which notes change?

    Personally, I would be sure to emphasize the notes that change in my improvisation. This would show the audience that I understand the song's harmony and know how to "make the changes."

    I look forward to your answer. :)
     
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  3. FretlessMainly

    FretlessMainly

    Nov 17, 2010
    Let's try A7 C7 as an example and add in the b9, #9 (thereby dropping the 2) and the #11, so each chord is voiced as root, b9, #9, 3, #11, 5, 6, b7. All of these extensions are commonly used over V7 chords. We get:

    A Bb C C# D# E F# G
    C Db D# E F# G A Bb

    See where I'm going? The scales are identical. So, voicing the chords more simply (root, 3, 5, and b7) and, as Mushroo indicates, highlighting the differences is one approach. Another is creating a sense of melodic stasis with harmonic motion underneath.
     
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  4. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Lets get away from the I7 and bIII7. Diatonically speaking, those chords are V and VII in the minor key. In Am, for example they would be E7 (E, G#, B, D) -- using notes from the A harmonic minor scale -- and G7 (G, B, D, F) using notes from the A natural minor scale. A natural minor has the same notes as A Aeolian mode.

    In the minor key, VII has a tonic function (unlike vii° which is dominant) but by adding the 7 (F) that role is weakened a little as it starts to sound a bit like ii°, which is subdominant, yet it is structured as a dominant(!). V7 is, as usual, dominant. E7 pulls towards the i chord (Am in the example) but that chord is not part of the given 'progression'. Neither chord fully resolves onto the other. Other than the E/F and G#/G there is little movement between them, and the tonic (A) doesn't appear anywhere.

    So in the given sequence we have a G7 chord that functionally 'torn' between tonic, subdominant and dominant (a classic jack of all trades scenario) paired with a dominant chord to which it has no natural path and that itself has no strong resolution*. IME this makes melodic improvisation problematic insofar as whatever ideas you come up with will have difficulty finding a clear destination. Without destination and with few opportunities for development these ideas are in danger of just becoming a series of unrelated noodles.

    On the other hand, as part of a larger progression that 1) incorporates the tonic i (Am^7) chord and 2) restores strength to VII by dropping the 7th, I think the opportunities for meaningful improvisation improve dramatically. Something like |: G / G/F# Bm/F | E7 / / E | Am^7 / / / | E7 / / / :| has a lot more going for it as a canvas for improvisation, IMHO.

    YMMV

    * From E7 to G7, the 3rd falls to root (G#>G) rather that rising to tonic (G#>A) as it would in a more typical V-i cadence. The 7th and 5th don't move (B>B & D>D) but become 3rd and 5th. Movement to the 3rd is an important element of the cadence - here it is absent. The root leads to 7th (E>F) rather than persisting as the 5th or resolving to root, so it is all rather weak. From G7 to E7, root goes up a half-step to 3rd, B and D don't move (but again don't become anything significant) and 7, whilst it would like to fall to the 3rd and remain 'inside', it has to fall to root. In order to do this by 1/2-step it would need to be in the bass for the G7. Something like G > G/F# > Bm/F > E would help. Remember that all of minor and major 6ths and 7ths (F, F#, G and G# in A minor) are diatonic in the minor key.

    YMMV
     
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  5. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    One of the things I especially loved about Igor Stravinsky's approach to serial matrixes was his embracing the concept of rotation ...which, without getting into too much detail, would allow you to display those two scales in such a way that it was incontrovertibly clear that they were indeed the same. Essentially you just rotate the intervals of one pitch class sequence until its starting note is the same as the previous example, and voila!
     
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  6. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Glad I waited for you guys before I posted. :cool: I was going to point out the difference like Mushroo spoke of and drone on that.

    I'll re-read your posts and figure out what you said.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2020
  7. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor In Memoriam

    Nov 14, 2008
    Southern Maryland, USA
    In my experience, 7th chords are opportunities to hang some tension over a progression or even single chords. You can't always try to make some kind of diatonic sense of everything, so this approach doesn't yield any useful result. Jazz in particular, doesn't work that way.
    In my mind, @FretlessMainly has the "correct" approach. Essentially you can use a symmetrical diminished scale over both chords. In this case, it's the half/whole diminished scale. And because they are 8 note scales, the scale is exactly the same for every 7th chord that is a minor 3rd apart. So A7, C7, Eb7(D#7), and F#7(Gb7) all use the same half/whole diminished scale that @FretlessMainly outlined in his post.

    So the way forward for the OP is to learn to manipulate the half/whole diminished scale (It's not a matter of just playing it up and down). You can't sound authentic playing jazz without it, so he may as well get started. You will get the most useful content on this scale from studying sax players and guitarists. Helpful hint: if you see any X7b9 chord in a lead sheet, it generally implies using some kind of half/whole diminished content. But ultimately your experience and your ears will tell you want to do as long as you have enough material to work from. I'd also add the Melodic Minor to your list of things to do.

    Don't waste any time trying to relate this particular application to the major scale, because it doesn't. Start learning to treat 7th chords as separate entities and learn to understand how to make jazz happen with them. Dominant chords can be a separate study all their own.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
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  8. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Putting those chords in the context of the minor key makes perfect diatonic sense - nothing is out of place and functionally it is a simple tonic/dominant interchange. Of course it is not the only way, but neither is Jazz...
     
  9. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor In Memoriam

    Nov 14, 2008
    Southern Maryland, USA
    Hey, do what you feel. I personally wouldn't approach it that way. I want to use the process that makes the most sense, and has the most validity within the framework of the music and yours doesn't yield the result I'd want to hear. And why would you put that progression is the context of a minor key? There's no reason to do that, I don't think. It feels overly complicated. There are all kinds of H/W exercises created by Grammy award winning musicians that help you move over a single X7b9 chord and to take those same exercises and explore ways to apply them to a two chord vamp makes perfect sense to me. I know this because I've already done it.

    This statement in particular I find particularly unhelpful. If I read it correctly, you are saying that without a longer progression, your opportunities for improvisation are limited, which is absolutely not true. But, your approach is your approach.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
  10. LoeLife

    LoeLife

    Nov 9, 2020
    I think my main question about your analysis is that it's a really great, in depth theoretical breakdown, but it's also dense with information. Do you have any sort of real life example of how you would utilize this information? IE chordscales, patterns, etc?
     
  11. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor In Memoriam

    Nov 14, 2008
    Southern Maryland, USA
    I dunno if he has any real world info, but here's something to consider. Obviously I got this from Mike Stern and it is essentially an example of something he uses a lot, and utilizes the exact information that FretlessMainly and myself outlined. He uses it as an "altered scale" but you can play the same scale over any X7b9 13 chord. Remember what I said about dominants being the source of tensions and extensions. You will have to transcribe it to fit the chords you want to work with.

    The object would be for your to get this down (it's gonna take awhile) and learn to apply it to the situation you are interested in. Bear in mind that none of this stuff is instant. It takes work.

    This is only one example. There are literally tens of thousands of ways of manipulating this scale, and there is a ton in info on how to deal with what you are trying to figure out in an authentic and straightforward way. BTW, I wrote it this way because my bass is strung E-C.
    Mike Stern Half Whole.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
  12. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor In Memoriam

    Nov 14, 2008
    Southern Maryland, USA
    This is an example of a more generic way of learning half whole diminished content. Again there is much more out there. This is just to give you an idea of what you could be doing.
    If you don't want to learn this stuff, just play the chord tones and call it a day.

    Half Whole Ex.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
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  13. LoeLife

    LoeLife

    Nov 9, 2020
    Thank you so much! These are great examples. I'll start shedding these ASAP
     
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  14. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor In Memoriam

    Nov 14, 2008
    Southern Maryland, USA
    Be sure and research the topic and see what you can find that really appeals to you. That's what I love about this stuff. It's like putting together puzzle pieces. One thing builds on the next.
     
  15. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Montreal
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Yes I like the suggestion of the Dominant 8 notes scale aka the diminished HW but there is also the sound of the Blues scale that can be played here. Try playing the G min, C min and Eb minor blues scales over the 2 chords and aim for the blue notes that become a chord-tone here.
     
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  16. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor In Memoriam

    Nov 14, 2008
    Southern Maryland, USA
    Absolutely. My post was just building on what had been mentioned before, but there are a lot of authentic ways to come at it. More options = more freedom. But I guess you have to come at each of them one at a time. You just pick the thing you like and go for it. Then you move on to the next. It's a brick by brick process.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
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  17. Koshchei

    Koshchei

    Mar 17, 2019
    Peterborough, ON
    There are a TON of jazz and jazz-adjacent options, such as treating the I7 as the mixolydian mode (V7) of a bebop octatonic major scale (the major and minor thirds become the natural and major sevenths), an octatonic HW diminished, a Locrian, Phrygian, or chromatic "outside" solo based around the 9th, that plays around with the tension between the I7 and bIII7, though it'll want to resolve to the bIII7 more strongly than the I7 if you go more modal than chromatic.

    My own approach would be to try to gradually smear as many possible things as I could get away with into it in order to build myself a full chromatic palette to work with. To maintain some sort of logical cohesiveness to it, I'd be somewhat strict with my rhythmic phrasing.

    I'd fire it into a looper and try some stuff to see what works for your ear.

    Repetition legitimizes, repetition legitimizes, ad nauseam.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
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  18. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor In Memoriam

    Nov 14, 2008
    Southern Maryland, USA
    So just to give this I7 - bIII7 progression some kind of context, this looks like the next to last bar of a turnaround of a Jazz Blues. In a jazz blues, a typical turnaround would be I-vi-ii-V. But because jazz musicians love dominants and tritones, they would make that whole thing into dominant 7th chords and then use tritone substitutions on the vi and the V.

    In the key of A, which we were discussing, the typical turnaround would be: Amaj7 - F#min7 - Bmin7 - E7. Making everything dominant and applying the substitutions in the spots I mentioned, makes the progression A7 - C7 - B7 - Bb7, or (I7 - bIII7 - II7 - bII7). It just descents chromatically back to the tonic.

    So to find out what to play here, listen to a lot of Jazz Blues turnarounds and just copy what the masters did in those spots. Everything you need to know about playing this stuff already exists in the recordings. Start out with things you can hear well and execute. Transcribing is a jazz musicians greatest tool. Don't try to turn it into rocket science.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
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  19. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    By all means use the theory ideas everyone has suggested, with this as the final tesr. If possible get a loop of whatever the whole band is doing on that vamp.
     
  20. I don’t think this has been suggested yet, but you could use a common tone to do a parallel shift.
    Let’s say A7 to C7, using diatonic modes we could play A mixolydian and shift to A Phrygian on the C7. This allows you to stay in one position and see the notes that are common between the two chords. You can also use non diatonic modes for this as well. I tend to outline pentatonic patterns with this approach.