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scale improvisation

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Chip, Feb 26, 2002.


  1. Chip

    Chip

    May 2, 2000
    I was just wondering (for example) if you were having a jam in G, with the chords G,A,D,E
    would you improvise in the G scale, then A, then D, then E, or would you stay in G all the time.
    My teacher says stay in the scale (G for the example) all the time, but i think it sounds just as good if you follow the chords. What do you think is the best thing to do?

    thanks for the help :)
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi chip,

    if the chords are Gmajor, Amajor, Dmajor and Emajor then you're not in the key of G, nor are you in any other one key - you're changing key at least twice, possibly four times. If you were to use that root movement in G and build chords off of those roots in the key of G, you'd get Gmajor, Aminor, Dmajor, Eminor, and then you'd probably want to stick within the key of G.

    To find out what you're hearing in your head, try singing a solo against it, and then working out what you sing - do you stay in the key of G?

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. IMsher

    IMsher Guest

    Mar 13, 2002
    Coos Bay OR.
    That makes the most sense I have seen yet. Thank you for that examples. Now I have another piece of the puzzle.
     
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    You're most welcome! Theory isn't really all that hard - the application of it is quite varied but there are very few actual concepts that require a huge amount of brain power, which is why it really annoys me when people try to make aspects of learning about the language of music sound like alchemy. There's no real secret to it, it just takes some time and application, and ideally, a really good teacher to show you how it all fits together... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  5. IMsher

    IMsher Guest

    Mar 13, 2002
    Coos Bay OR.
    Ya your right. My problem has been that I look for short cuts. In doing so I loss part of the picture. This puts me in a Precarious position, but I have been working on that.
     
  6. Chip

    Chip

    May 2, 2000
    So... just making sure
    if i were to solo in a 12bar blues, would i improvise in 1 key, or change with the changes
     
  7. bassandlax

    bassandlax

    Dec 31, 2001
    Raleigh, NC
    ideally your gonna wanna go through the I IV V changes... but ive heard people use just the I and it not sound too bad.. there will be some "avoid" notes though.
    i personally go through the changes just cause it is more challenging and offers more variety than playing in 1 scale
     
  8. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Blues is a slightly different area to most soloing in that the chords tend not to be derived from one key - you often get Blues progressions where all three chords are dominant 7 chords - ie C7 to F7 to C7 to G7 - so although it's a C Blues, a C Major scale won't work over any of it except the G7!!!

    The best place to start with Blues is the arpeggios of each chord - play the root, Major third, fifth and minor 7th. see you melodic you can be just using those notes. Then you can bring in the major 2nd and major 6th, making each pattern into a Major pentatonic with a minor 7th added - ie, over the C7 chord, start with C (root) D (2nd) E (3rd) G (5th) A (6th) Bb (7th).

    One of the features of blues is the chromaticism, so now try some lines where you approach the 3rd and the 5th from a semitone below - Gb to G and Eb to E - you could phrase something like " Eb E C Gb G C G Bb C" - try different rhythmic ideas with that phrase and see where it takes you...

    Blues is a fairly open harmonic style - you can play almost completely chromatically and still have it sound like the blues... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  9. CaptainWally

    CaptainWally Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2000
    Sandy Eggo, CA
    Thanks Steve,

    I have questions relating to previous posts.

    ** Regarding the orginal question, if I was soloing in the key of G with the corrected progression you cited: G Am D Em

    - Wouldn't the D chord actually be D7 since this is the 5th of that scale? I find that playing the flat 7th, however, sounds kind of lame. Thoughts?

    - When you are soloing over this, certainly you could play anything in G major and it would sound good, but do you tend to focus on the tonal centerr of each chord as the tune moves through the changes?

    - Would you tend to stick to just the chords of the changes, or would tonally center on the chord and play anything in its respective mode: Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian? (I think that's right...)

    ** Regarding blues:

    - What is the theory behind playing all of these 7th chords? Is this just a style that violates key and doesn't care or is there some theoretical justification? (I hope its the former :) )

    - I'm very familiar with 12 bar blues, but isn't there something known in trad jazz as the blues as well that has a different progression? I believe it also uses 7th chords liberally.

    Thanks alot!
     
  10. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    hi captain...

    sorry for extreme tardiness in replying...


    >>>** Regarding the orginal question, if I was soloing in the key of G with the corrected progression you cited: G Am D Em

    - Wouldn't the D chord actually be D7 since this is the 5th of that scale? I find that playing the flat 7th, however, sounds kind of lame. Thoughts? <<<

    If you played the flat 7 in the D chord, the 'most expected' resolution would be back to the G (classic V7 - I progression) - if you leave the 7th out of that D chord, it leaves the harmony slightly more ambiguous and makes the move to Em less surprising. Hope that makes sense...

    >>>- When you are soloing over this, certainly you could play anything in G major and it would sound good, but do you tend to focus on the tonal centerr of each chord as the tune moves through the changes?<<<

    I am aware at any moment of the notes in the chord that's happening - not the note names, though I could tell you what they were, but the shape of the chord, and all the notes in the key as they relate to that. As i've said before elsewhere, I don't ever think of the other notes in the key as being 'passing notes' but chord extensions - so I'm always aware of where the notes are of the chord that I'm playing, but those chord notes include all the notes in the key. Thus I end up with the entire fingerboard being mapped out as a 'grid' in the key that I'm in - all the notes in the key available at any time, and some kind of awareness of what those notes do to the chord that's happening at that time... A lot of this stuff is now subconcious though.. :oops:)

    >>>- Would you tend to stick to just the chords of the changes, or would tonally center on the chord and play anything in its respective mode: Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian? (I think that's right...) <<<

    I think the previous paragraph answers this - if not, feel free to rephrase the question and I'll have another go at answering it (remember, if this doesn't make sense, that's my fault not yours, so feel free to ask the same thing over and over until I provide an answer that makes sense... :oops:)

    >>>** Regarding blues:

    - What is the theory behind playing all of these 7th chords? Is this just a style that violates key and doesn't care or is there some theoretical justification? (I hope its the former ) <<<

    It's just a vernacular that people are familiar - like slang speech that often makes more sense than a more grammatically correct sentence, the blues has rules of it's own, and is open to a huge amount of interpretation and bastardisation...

    >>>- I'm very familiar with 12 bar blues, but isn't there something known in trad jazz as the blues as well that has a different progression? I believe it also uses 7th chords liberally. <<<

    Jazz-blues is a different kettle of fish, in that it combines the rules of jazz harmony with the basics of blues (the basic outline of I IV V etc) and then also has all the 'looseness' of blues... it's really not something that I could do justice to here, but if you really want to get inside it, have a look at 'The Jazz Theory Book' by Mark Levine, published by Sher Publishing...

    hope that lot helps,

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  11. CaptainWally

    CaptainWally Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2000
    Sandy Eggo, CA
    Wow -- thanks Steve! Great information, thought I'm humbled by your ability to 'map out the grid out the entire fret board' to play over a particular chord in a key :)

    Guess you've practiced a bit though!

    Cheers from California!
     
  12. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    just a quick attempt to explain the grid thing - it's all about pattern recognition - you don't need to 'memorise' 12 different 'grids' to cover the neck. You don't even need to memorise one. It's more about recognising where you are in relation to a fixed point or two - namely the tonic of the key and the root of the chord, or one or the other. If you are aware of where the tonic is, and can visualise a path to it, in the key, then you can cover the whole neck - once you reach one tonic, you head of the next one...

    as an exercise in first position, play all the notes you can reach, starting on your open E (or B if you have a 5 or 6 string), all the way up to B on your G string (or E on your C string), then back down, then do the same in G Major, then D, A, E, B, Fsharp etc. etc. all in first position.

    Then move up one fret and do it again, then up another fret and do it again, playing every note in that key in each hand position. Then you can break that material down by interval - play through it in thirds, fourths, fifths, different combinations etc. etc... getting to know the grid... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  13. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Hey Steve,

    Just wanted to say great exercise you have above, something I need to be working on right now.

    Thanks,
    Stephanie