# Improvisation

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by Tony de la Nutria, May 16, 2001.

1. ### Tony de la Nutria

Hello Mike,

I woulkd like you to ask a question about improvising; How do I improvise on a non-diatonic chord progression? i.o. improvising over chords which aren't derived/ formed from the diatonic intervals of the major or minor scale.
I know when you improvise over a diatonic chord progression you can use the modes from which the given chords are derived, but what are the possibilities with the non-diatonic chord progressions?
And what is exactly "outside playing" ? I think it is improvising with scales/ modes which aren't directly related to the chord progression; can you give me some examples of this technique?

Greetings,

Tony.

2. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
Tony,
Great question. Over a non-diatonic chord progression you have to identify the tonal center of the non-diatonic passage. By using the basic principles of functional harmony we can determine the key or tonal center of the chords and determine the proper modes/chord scales to play over them. A really great book on the subject is Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book." A more bass specific book (and half the price) is my book "The Chordal Approach". Also check out my online lesson of Autumn Leaves at www.bassically.net. Check it out, not so much for the solo bass arrangement, but for the functional harmony analysis in the performance notes. Here is an example. Let's take the chord progression E-7, A7, DMaj7, D-7, G7, C6. If we say that the overall tune is in the key of C, we can right away see that the A7 and D7 are not diatonic. If we assume that the E-7 is the 3rd (phrygian) mode of the C major, we would be wrong. The E-7 to A7 is a II-V (a subdominant to dominant) in the key of D. The first 3 chords are in the key of D. The second 3 chords outline a II-V in the key of C. If we were to improvise over these changes we could play from D major to C major. We could further analyze the chord scales for each chord. A good understanding of funtional harmony is the key (no pun intended)

Mike