1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Minor 3rd over a dominant

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by project_c, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    I'm sure this has come up before, sorry if it's an obvious question. Noticing this a lot when transcribing walking lines, the bass often outlines a minor chord over a dominant by playing the minor 3rd instead of the 'correct' third. A good example is Paul Chambers on Warne Marsh's Yardbird Suite, he does this during the head over the D7 several times. I'm wondering if this is just 'because it adds tension / interest', or whether there's more thinking behind it, especially as he only does it over that specific dominant chord, not so much the others.

    My theory: in the A section of this particular tune, the chord that follows the D7 is a G7, so is he implying a II-V-I by playing a minor third there? Would make sense as the tune is in C. It's interesting that this works so well in context even though the chord it's under remains a dominant.

  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm sure that some harmonic literalists take a binary right/wrong stand on things like this and throw shade at players who "break the rules", but the possibilities are basically that PC:
    - Sometimes plays the minor 3rd as a passing tone to reach the third.
    - Sometimes plays a minor chord as part of a ii-V-I to C
    - Sometimes plays the 3rd in a way that it's hard to tell if it's a minor or major 3rd

    It doesn't really bother me on these old recordings when I notice this. As always, EEMMV.
  3. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    You need to look up "dominant alterations." Also see "upper tertian harmony." In the case above, a flatted 3rd in a dominant chord is, in fact, a #9 or, depending on where he's going, it is a chromatic passing tone, or a lower chromatic neighbor.
  4. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Thanks guys. I just had another listen and I think I might know why he's playing the minor 3rd in this particular instance. I think he is following the melody, the notes of which fit really well into a D minor scale at around that point.
    Sam Sherry and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This is a great point. There is no F# in the melody of the A section of this tune - just the notes of Cma with a measure borrowed from the parallel minor when the minor iv comes in. This kind of thing happens a lot. in this case, It really doesn't matter because there is no chordal instrument present, and therefore no clashing of thirds anywhere to be found (at least on the head).
  6. It's not my walk of choice, but it is common. I feel it's more a mistake than intentional. A lot of walking is mathematical. To walk chromatically from a D up to a G is 5 notes. But you only have 4. So you have to skip one. So if walking from D minor to G7, the best choice is D, E, F, F#, G (root, scale tone, scale tone, leading tone, root). If walking from a D major to a G, then it's D, D#, E, F#, G. But a lot of players start that walk on the pinky--in the C major position, so it's easier to go from D to E.
    bobsax likes this.
  7. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The basic "blues" sound is a minor scale or minor pentatonic scale over a dominant 7 chord, right?
    Also, if you look at his tunes and solos he was often playing licks that include both major and minor thirds - check out Whims of Chambers:
    Dabndug, Randyt and project_c like this.
  8. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    We're talking Paul Chambers here, one of the very, very greatest bassists of all time at the very top of his game, improvising counterpoint with two other masters of the art. Mathematical and mistakes are not what is going, assure you...
  9. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The "best choice" is to be Paul Chambers playing whatever he played.
  10. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I puzzled over things like this for years, particularly since many very experienced and knowledgeable people line up passionately on both sides - it's okay or it's not okay. I made up my mind when I was playing through Mike Downes transcription of a Ray Brown line on Rhythm Changes from 1980. If you're not familiar with the tune, the A section is effectively 5 bars of Bb followed by a bar of Eb and then a two-bar turnaround. Downe's transcription has Ray playing a Db on beat one and two of the 5th bar of the A section. Starting on bar 4 the line is C Gb F C | Db Db G F | Eb Bb E G and Downes indicates that the chords are C-7 F7 | Bb Bb7 | Eb Edim7 A few of my teachers would have been hard pressed to say that Ray's line is acceptable but, listening to it, the line sounds great to my ear, even sitting at the piano and playing the chords and the line. Ultimately, I decided that jazz borrows a lot from the blues and some tension, a #9th in this case, makes the music more harmonically interesting. If you don't have Downes book, I heartily recommend it.
  11. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    This. Every day. Twice on Sunday.
  12. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    You can be "right" on the internet or be immortalized on an LP with Warne Marsh and Paul Motian. I am siding with the guy who gets to play in that trio, myself.
    Bassist4Eris, lurk, devnulljp and 5 others like this.
  13. Spot on. :cool:
    Tom Lane likes this.
  14. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    This is great, thanks for posting.
  15. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    i am uneducated, but this is the first thing that came to my mind.
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  16. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    I'm not a theorist, nor am I a great bass player, but I often hear in my head, and play, notes that are not strictly correct to a chord, but create a tension that is desirable. For example, the last bar of a turnaround, sometimes it can sound interesting to play 4 repeated notes, loudly, of a particular dissonance, as additional tension for the resolution that occurs when you come back into the head. I can't come up with any specific examples here at the computer, miles away from my bass, but I think you will understand what I mean.

    It's like the bitterness of certain greens that when added in a small amount to a salad makes it interesting. Key to this is the "small amount".

    As I progress in learning bass, I find myself more and more just hearing a bass line and playing it, without thinking about the underlying chords in an analytical manner, and it usually fits well (sometimes I have not adequately internalized the sound of the harmony and I end up going northwest when the tune turns southeast). In fact, better than a more academically created bass line that adheres too closely to the chords.

    So, in the end, as always, it comes down to what sounds good on the bandstand. Maybe my rock and roll upbringing contributes to that for me. For Paul Chambers, I guess his genius and skills and experience were the key. Of course I am a few hundred years of practice, talent, etc., away from being in PC's league.
  17. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Already covered but my first thought of the why of the minor third is to wonder where the line was going to. Often times a bad note when standing alone becomes a right note in the greater context. I myself play the minor third over both major and dominant chords, but it is generally a passing note to get somewhere else(usually the major third!)
  18. I had never thought of it that way. Thanks for sharing.

    I think most of us know that one thing that makes many blues (and through evolution, rock and jazz) tunes interesting is the interplay (and, yes, rule-breaking) between the major and minor scales. The 7 often is flatted, and the 3rd may or may not be flatted, or both in different parts of the song.

    Thinking of the 3rd as a #9 opens doors in my mind, and helps me understand why sometimes it can be played against another instrumentalist playing the major 3rd. This also helps me understand the #9 chords I sometimes see on jazz charts.

    yodedude2 likes this.
  19. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    You, me and 99.9% of all the bass player who ever have or ever will play as well
  20. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    How about a minor 3rd over a Major 7th!
    Sade - "Harmonic Literalist... or Not" - you be the judge.
    (I couldn't love this LESS.)
    birgebass, damonsmith and JeffKissell like this.

Share This Page