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Improv Question

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by glocke1, May 15, 2019 at 3:27 AM.

  1. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    Im taking a theory workshop and was given this chord change for a ii-V going to a VI chord.


    the instructor said to use a C natural minor scale for improvising over the D-7b5 and a C harmonic minor for improvising over the G-7b9b13.

    Not sure i understand the rationale for this..
  2. Dabndug

    Dabndug Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2017
    Somewhere in Oz
    I suspect the V chord in the fourth measure should be G7b9b13 rather than Gm7b9b13, in which case C harmonic minor is required for the natural B, the major 3rd of the chord. You'd usually expect the V in a minor II-V to be a dominant 7 chord rather than a minor 7, at least in "modern" jazz theory.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  3. Silevesq


    Oct 2, 2010
    I can see where he is going for, although, I would not present it like that.

    If you spell each chord :
    Dm7b5= D, F, Ab, Bb
    G-7b9b13... somehow G, Bb, D, F, Ab, Eb.
    That is if it's really a G minor chord. Also b13 to me implies there is a perfect 5 in there, otherwise it be written #5.
    If it's a mistake and is G7(b9,b13): G, B, D, F, Ab, Eb

    You could then try to fill the gap between each chord and see what scale it give you. Yes, there could be many variation but always try to create one that make sense according to the basic scale Major, Melodic and Harmonic minor, at least at first. Then from that scale try to find the "mother scale". In this case let say, I think the Dm7b5 is locrian (D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C), it implies that my home scale is C eolian (natural minor) if in minor or Eb ionian in major. If I decided that my Dm7b5 is locrian with a natural 2 then it change everything. Try to find it.

    If you do the same approach for the G7(b9,B13) you will end up with C harmonic minor. If you do all the step to get there you'll understand the link between them. Yet if it's really G-7(b9,b13) it won't work and will use the same scale as Dm7b5.

    By the way this short chord progression slightly remind me of There Will Never Be Another You:
    Which make me think that if the first chord was Ebmaj7 it would help you feel the tonality of the progression and it would make more theoretical sense.
  4. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    ok thanks. I may have written the G-7 b9b13 down wrong, and TWNBAY is a song we are covering in this workshop..
  5. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Use your ear and goals for what you want to do with the harmony. Never use a scale. All seven notes of the scale have different implications, scales are great if you want a kaleidoscope of non-sense (Which I actually might want). It is such a dumb idea and lacks precise thought. The best scale for scale to chord improvising is the chromatic scale - those extra 5 notes won't make any more or less harmonic sense! You are not being clever by leaving them out.
    Seanto, MrSidecar, csrund and 2 others like this.
  6. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    Abso friggin utely. The whole scale chord theory thing is a cop out poor educators use that leads to kinda ok sounding gobbly gook. Scales are a very advanced theory for guys who have already mastered the jazz language (Trane, Miles, Evans). I'm guessing you're new to jazz or you wouldn't be asking for advice on this. Play the chords putting chord tones in important places, and connect those tones with notes that sound good to you. Sometimes this will result in lines that are conventional scales or fragments of scales, and sometimes not.
    Mushroo likes this.
  7. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002

    Jazz has been new to me for the past 20-30 years. Dabbled in it during that time but would give up when the going got rough.

    As for using chords for soloing. That’s what I’ve always done. Target notes were chord tones, non chord to es are passing tones. Once people start talking about what scale to use on this chord or that chord my head starts spinning. .
    Last edited: May 15, 2019 at 3:31 PM
    vanselus and lurk like this.
  8. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    For quite a while I didn't understand why jazz teachers were pushing scales but then I had an epiphany. Before my realization, I would think of sets of pitches for chords in tunes and then it hit me: the scales are just a name for those sets of notes. No jazz teacher I've heard of advocates playing a specific scale from root to root outside of practice, but they will hope that you'll learn that the set of pitches represented by the name of the scale achieve a certain sound when played over a chord. A name for a set of notes is really helpful because C Lydian is much easier to communicate than C D E F# G A B.
    As an example, the progression in your opening post is all in Eb, except for that G7b9b13. The G dominant doesn't have a Bb and instead has a B natural, G B D F Ab Eb. If you play the Bb over that chord, is it wrong? I don't think so. Will the Bb outline the chord? No, of course not. So, if your goal is to outline the harmony as best you can, then the Bb isn't a good choice there and the B natural is a better choice. When jazz students are first starting out, I think one of their key goals is to learn to hear, recognize, and support the harmony, playing "inside" the changes, but that's just the first step.
    There are different ways to think about the sets of pitches as you play through a chord progression, and I think you should explore a few different ways to determine what works best for you. One way to think about the progression in your opening post is to think as your teacher suggested, C natural minor, except over the G7, use a C harmonic minor there because you want the B natural. That's a little indirect because the progression is in the key of Eb Major, not C Minor, but C Minor is the relative Minor of Eb Major and there isn't a scale name that I know of that refers to the set of pitches of Eb F G Ab B C D, so not a terrible way to think about it. Another way would be think I'm going to play in the key of Eb Major except over that G7 when I'm going to use a B natural instead of the Bb.
    The thing is, this is all just the first step. A crucial step, but the a comparatively small one because what comes next is learning to hear different sets of pitches against a given chord. For example, check out this chart, which I think probably came from David Baker, one of the, if not the first college jazz teacher, but Jamey Aebersold has it in his infamous Red Book, and it's not credited so maybe Jamey made it.

    Scale syl.

    You see that there are 10 different scales listed for a Major chord. Each one brings a different feeling to the chord. If I want to outline the chord as well as I can without just playing the chord tones, I'd pick that Lydian scale, C D E F# G A B. But, if I want to make some harmonic interest, I'd probably play that Diminished scale, C Db Eb Fb Gb G A Bb.
    This scale syllabus is one person's attempt to list the most common scales that work well over the different chord qualities, but there are many others and you can discover them all yourself by sitting at the piano, playing a chord and then working out which pitches you want to use in addition to the chord tones.
    Anyway, another perspective for you to consider.
  9. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Does JA actually call this a "C Diminished Scale"???? (It's not. It's a Db Diminished Scale, starting on "C".) It was taught to me (AND I hear it) as a (C) Inverted Diminished Scale, because it begins with a Half Step, not a Whole Step....("Location, Location"!)
    As a "C" chord, it suggests "C7,b9,#9,13,#11".
    As a "Db" chord, it suggests "Dbdim7,maj7,maj9,11",b13".
    FYI - A "C Diminished Scale" is "C,D,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bbb,Bnatural".
    Just sayin'.
    Thank You.
  10. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    (Most likely G7b9b13.)
    I am not at all a fan of naming/thinking/hearing/playing/teaching... a scale whose root is NOT the root of the Chord that is simultaneously being played.
    Just my $0.03.
  11. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Indeed, Jamey has a unique nomenclature. You can see both of the scales he's named "Diminished" in the pic I posted. He distinguishes them by adding "begin with H step" or "begin with a W step" or "8 tone scale". Even more challenging is his abbreviation for the scale using pseudo chord symbols in the leftmost column. They look like odd chord symbols but they're really scale name abbreviations. It took me a while to get used to his nomenclature because it's not what I'd been taught, but as I'm sure you well know, there isn't a standard, and if you want to be able to communicate with other musicians, it's worthwhile to be familiar with as many different conventions as you can. I still have my personal preferences, but they're just that, personal preferences. At the camp, I've seen all kinds of different naming conventions, but I don't correct Rufus, usually because I'm scrambling to try to understand the point he's making, which is usually like peeling an onion, or maybe an artichoke, depending.
    Don Kasper likes this.
  12. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I hear you, but I disagree. To me, the most important thing is how the chord functions, so I don't care if a chord is labeled as a Dm7 or an FMaj in a progression because I think that they're interchangeable, and I can pick the bass note as I like, at that time, with those players. Same with a iii or vi chord; it's critical to know which is the convention, but... that's really the end of it, except for the "what's expected" versus "what's fresh" dimension.
    So, for me, I'd say, know all of the roots of the most significant recordings of the tune, yeah, all 6 of them, but, if you're playing with jazz musicians, don't worry about playing those roots. Instead, make the best music you can.
  13. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I was referring to the OP's teacher suggesting that he "think" of a "C natural minor" scale for soloing over a Dmin7b5 chord in Ebmaj, heading to G7b9b13. It's not "wrong", it's just cumbersome and convoluted.
    Thanks for your interest.
  14. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Agreed, and I think I mentioned that in my post, but, playing devil's advocate, what do you call this set of pitches? Eb F G Ab B Db D or G Ab B C# D Eb F? G7b9#4b13? Man, that's a lot more difficult to comprehend, for me, than C Harmonic Minor. I've got C Harmonic Minor under my fingers. GXXyzzBQQr, um... but hey, whatever works for you, that's the best.
  15. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    OK - G, Ab, Bb, B, C#, (D), Eb, F = G7 Alt., or G7b9+5 (or V7 of Cminor, where the harmony is heading toward.) I don't think it is helpful to think of a "C minorXXX scale" until you actually arrive in "C minor".
    It is my experience that a b9 chord welcomes the #9 as part of that sonority. So, my approach is to "hear" as many notes as possible that support the chord name, (AND sound), even if the chord name is shorthand - i.e., G7Alt. - implies "G7, b9, #9, #11, 5, b13 or #5".
    I agree that whatever works, works best.
    Thanks, Tom.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  16. This ...
    Is worthy of a +1000.

    I wonder what “the other side” would say to this in their discussion of
    “How important are scales” ...

    How Important Are Scales?

    They (scales) make for excellent exam material, as one can learn them and either be right or wrong about them. I guess that’s part of their appeal to a certain branch of “jazz” education.

    lurk likes this.
  17. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Scales are very important. Just not as an answer for what to use against a preexisting chord. At that point we need to get specific about notes.
    Dabndug likes this.
  18. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Fair enough. I agree with you that thinking of that G7 chord as G7alt and using the G altered scale makes more sense to me than thinking of it as C Harmonic Minor because it better describes the root, function, and collection of pitches. Thanks for pointing that out.
    Dabndug and Don Kasper like this.
  19. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The observation I would make is that it is the most dissonant chord in the progression - I would work from there. A b9 adds major 7 level dissonance to dominant 7 chord. That chord is the peak of the tension. You can push it further, support it, stay out of it (just play G!) or try to soften it. These are the things to think before worrying about even one extra note besides G much less a whole scale.

  20. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I think we agree about the ultimate goal. I'll add that I want to have developed, as part of my vocabulary, ways to do any of those things - support, create more tension, soften, etc - when I'm improvising or accompanying over that G7alt so I can respond appropriately in the moment. I'm thinking Dave Liebman, Chris Potter, Rufus, Miles, Dave Holland, John Patitucci, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Herbie, Ray Brown, John Goldsby, etc, etc. I think that's a lifetime pursuit and I have a long way to go before I think I could say I'm competent, but I'm working on it and making progress. It sounds to me that by ignoring this "jazz ed scale thing" you're spending a lot of time reinventing the wheel. Kind of like inventing a new language rather than learning Spanish when you're going to Spain.

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