Scales to play over chords (F#min11, B13sus4, etc.)

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by remcult, May 14, 2014.


  1. The very idea of scale/chord relationships tells me that the person asking just wants some notes to noodle around with without harmonic consequences.

    If that is the case, I'd suggest sticking to the notes from the melody and chord roots - maybe add some chromatics here or there. At least you retain a connection to the composition.

    Understanding the harmonic function of every note you play and making informed decisions OR trusting your ear and creating a strong melodic line are just going to be more musical as well as a more thorough way of dealing with the composition at hand.
     
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    At the risk of being in agreement with damon ;), I agree that the notion of "chord/scale relationship" is a superficial one that could be viewed as a theoretical suggestion rather than a commandment written in stone, and that the melody is always an excellent indication of what's going on. I tend to think in terms of overall context when i see a chord I'm not immediately sure about, and always try to ask the following questions:
    - What is the context of this chord? What harmony leads into it? What harmony does it lead into?
    - What is the melody doing and what are its implications?

    For me, I tend to see note choices on a spectrum of "organic" on one end and "superimposed" on the other. Organic in this case would mean the most basic set of notes that seems the most "inside" in the context of the melody and the overall progression, and Superimposed would mean something added as a layer on top of the more basic organic set of notes that seem to fit naturally. Thinking in this way, there is no "right vs wrong" but rather a spectrum of choices to make depending on the effect desired. So if a person asked me what notes I would play over F#min11, all other things being equal in the context of a progression in D major I would consider the notes of F# Phrygian to be organic, whereas in the context of a progression in A Major I would consider the notes of F# Aeolian to be organic. Reverse the two scale/note-set choices in the keys mentioned, and I would consider both to be superimposed choices. Sometimes the key center of the progression at the point of a particular chord change is not always clear, in which case I let my ears decide which notes feel most "organic".
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014
    wjl, Treyzer and damonsmith like this.
  3. You are taking chords out of context and looking for an out of context answer, and that will not work, practically speaking..

    To start, "I'm looking at a Snarky Puppy track, and there are chords like F#min11, B13sus4, F7#9, F7sus4, C9sus4, etc."

    The common tone for almost all of these chords is the 4th -that is for the F# - a B, for the B - an E, for the F7, you can squeeze by with a 4th, because a #9 is a minor 3rd, and that will be a Bb, for the C, and F. Scale wise, you can just run a minor scale with a b7, and pitch in a b3rd, 3rd, 4th, chromatic, and maybe a #5.

    But the problem with an approach to scalular playing is it is out of context, and what I call static - You should look at the chords before and after, and even further out in each direction, for common tones from chord to chord and, especially, the melody. If you compare the melody to the chords and what tones the adjacent chords have in common, you will probably find a better counter melody / solo that way.

    Music, and solos do not exist in a vacuum.
     
  4. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member


    Chris Fitzgerald,

    Re: your "Organic/Superimposed" spectrum - On "Chega De Saudade", for example, starting at bar 33, (the bridge, in "D major7"): at the F#min7 (in bar 9), you're calling the F# Phrygian ,"Organic", because of the Key Signature? Maybe I'm not understanding your definition. I hear the F# Aeolian a much nicer/natural-organic(?) fit there - I prefer the G# in the chord/melody there, not the G natural from the F# Phrygian, even though the key signature suggests "G natural". (The next chord, F dim7, contains BOTH the G and G#, by the way).

    If the "Dmajor7" key area is sweetened by the addition of the #11, (G#), instead of G, your Organic/Superimposed concept makes more sense. The same occurs for the "A major" key center - C# Aeolian is a nicer/natural-organic fit there, when the complete scale/mode is sounded.( Again, with the #11 being added to the Amajor key area). It's almost as if standard key signatures are no longer to able to accurately describe some modern (jazz) harmony - For example - Is a Bb Blues in Bb Major? or is it in the "key of Bb7"? Is the key signature of D major 2#s or 3#s? ( just kidding...).

    I think it's fascinating to hear other player's and teacher's concepts and approaches to these questions.
    As always "IMHO, ...Pudding, etc."
    Thanks for your time and expertise.
     
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I had to look it up, but yes, in that spot I hear the G natural as organic over the F#mi, and the G# as the enharmonic 3rd of the Fo7 chord (basically secondary function chord leading to ii in that key area). I don't consider the G# as a bad choice, but rather just a superimposed color (albeit a nice one). In the context of this tune, as in a lot of Brazilian tunes, I hear the iii chord in a major key center more as a I6 (in this case, D/F#) would function in classical harmony. But that's just the way I hear it, which doesn't make it right.

    In another sense, though, all of this is over thinking the process. It isn't so much about the key signature of the song (although that usually plays a significant role for a sizable chunk of the harmony), but rather the key center of the moment at that point in the song. And if a student were asking, I'd ask them to sing improvised lines over the passage, and if they consistently sang a G# there, I'd tell them by all means to play what they're hearing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014
  6. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Chris Fitzgerald,
    So, (as a pianist), if you were comping on that F#min7 chord, is there any voicing you could play that would incorporate the G natural instead of the G#? Or would you avoid it altogether?I can hear the G# in that chord, but not the G natural. I like the "Dmaj7 #11/F#" in place of just "D/F#". I've got a voicing for that, albeit a "bad pianist's" voicing.

    This "(over)thinking" should take place off the bandstand, so that it eventually emerges on the bandstand. I think it's worthwhile "thinking about/organizing/internalizing" this material.
    Thanks.
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    As a pianist, hearing the chord as a D 6/9as I tend to do, I would avoid the G entirely. The most likely voicings that I would consider "go to" would be straight 4ths down from D in the melody of the voicing or a "So What" voicing down from the C# (basically an A major triad over F# and B). Beyond these options, which I consider "organic", there are a lot of nice superimpositions that could fit, with DMa7#4 being a good one.
     
  8. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I like (from the top)- C#, G#, E, D, A / over F# in the bass, even better. The inclusion of the D in the voicing really adds that "first inversion" flavor.
    Thanks.
     
  9. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I am an advocate of thorough grounding in harmonic theory. On the other hand, now that I'm old, I find myself playing stuff that comes out of the blue and I like it. I analyze it after the fact, or maybe not at all.
     
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  10. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Chris Fitzgerald,

    I still don't understand your criteria for classifying a note or mode/scale as either "Organic" or "Superimposed". Is it determined by the Key Signature, as I asked earlier? Or is it a purely subjective determination made by the listener? I find it curious that your Organic mode choice provides a note, (G natural), that is not "inside" the chord voicing of either the F#min7, or the D/F#, while your Superimposed mode choice provides (G#), a note that functions beautifully in both the F#min7 and the D/F#. Despite what the Key Signature may be, at that point in the tune the Key Center accepts/allows (both harmonically and melodically) the G#, not the G natural, to my ears.
    Thanks, again.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm not really interested in arguing a point that is ultimately subjective, but as I said I tend to hear in key centers, and my ear tends to be guided to these key centers in part because of what the melody is doing. In this passage, I hear the melody as being in D Major, with the only note outside of the key being a leading tone to the ii chord (which quickly returns to a D natural shortly thereafter). The only G's we have in this passage in the melody or implied by the harmony are G naturals (also implied by the harmony of the Em and A7 chords). As I said, I hear the F#-7 chord as a I6 harmony, so to my ear it still sounds like D Major in the most fundamental sense. The only G# in the melody is really the 3rd of a secondary F07 chord, sometimes spelled as a G# (its melodic function) and sometimes as an Ab (harmonic function), and even then it returns to a G natural immediately after the secondary harmony is resolved.

    What anyone else hears as most fundamental here is not really my concern, and is of course a personal choice that each player will have to make for themselves; and of course, any player can feel free to superimpose any note they want on any harmony at any time if they can resolve it in a way that makes sense. The G# is easy to resolve in this case as it's simply a neighbor tone to V. If you hear the G# as being more "organic", you should by all means play it.

    Edit: all of this "dancing about architecture" is getting a bit silly. I took a minute to record a quick and dirty soundbite of the passage stripped down to what I hear as its most basic, with an improvised melodic line featuring the G. "Correct" or not, this is the way I hear the essence of the passage.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
  12. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Chris Fitzgerald,

    Thanks for your answer.
    We agree. It is (ultimately) subjective.
     
  13. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Bump.
    (for the "Edit").
     
  14. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Also,
    For anyone who's interested, bar 2 of the bridge is B7b9 b13(over D#). The leadsheets (above) omit the b9. I have an early 70's version of the Real Book that is even worse! I don't think I've ever seen a correct leadsheet of Jobim's version.
    Here is Jobim's classic version:

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2014
  15. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    ? My sheet has b9 b13.
     
  16. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Lucky you.
    How about the rest of the sheet? Is it based on the YT above?
    Thanks.
     
  17. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Feh. I don't trust charts. B7/D# does not fit to me. It doesn't fit the characters of the melody nor the portuguese lyrics.

    B7 is the wrong character. Harmony doesn't exist in a vacuum. It needs to relate to the melody and the melody needs to relate to the lyric.

    The lyrics for the beginning of the bridge are:
    Mas se ela voltar, si ela voltar = but if she returns, if she returns

    The voice is saying that if she comes back to me, if she comes back, it would be something wonderful and something crazy. This is a buildup of hope in the lyric, it needs to ascend. This is a great example where whoever wrote the english lyric (i dont' care who it is) really butchers the beauty of the original meaning in portugese. "Everyday while I am far away?!?!" *** is that?!?

    Anyways, tt may sound good to you, but I don't think that was Jobim's intent to put a B7/D# there, even in his original rendition. That's not what I hear, esp if I go by what the guitarist is playing.

    EDIT: Actually, now that I've pulled my guitar out to play what the guitarist did, he's going:
    Dmaj7 | D7/D#.

    Super simple. Adding a B would simply be a 13, and if the bassist is doing that, you could also consider it as simply anticipating the V of Emi7.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2014
  18. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    ? I don't speak Twitter
     
  19. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Don Higdon,
    Sorry, I was simply asking if your leadsheet is based upon the YouTube of Jobim's original version that I included in my Reply above.
    Thank You.
     
  20. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    hdiddy,
    Oy Vey.
    The chord in bar 2 of the bridge, is B7b9b13/D#. (It is not "D7/D#"). Here is a usable voicing (low to high) : A, C, D#, G, (with a D# in the bass).
    This chord is functioning as a V7 of ii7. (It is in first inversion, meaning the 3rd of the chord (D#) is in the bass, not the root (B)). You can hear it, more clearly as a V7 of ii7, if you replace the D# bass note with a B in the bass - the above voicing will remain the same.
    This is what Mr. Jobim intended, composed and recorded.
    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2014

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