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

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


  1. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Agreed. We (in the collective sense) may also be approaching the topic from a couple angles and missing each other a bit. I look at music theory as a sort of music archeology or autopsy. It allows us to examine what has occurred and figure out how to either recreate it, build on it, or discard it. I personally find my solos getting overly technical and lacking in grit and emotion when I let theory knowledge influence my improvisation, at least on a rational level. I think though there is a real use to hearing something on a recording and using a knowledge of theory to integrate it into your playing… in the practice room. Once you are on stage your ears are your guide.
     
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  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA



    Nobody is going to remember that you put in a b13 into a chord when someone else didn't. And there's a high chance that nobody really cares that you did that unless it was truly memorable.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
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  3. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Discover Double Bass, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    At this juncture I'd like to point out that often in recording sessions, jam sessions, practice sessions—and in life itself—players use different approaches. Sometimes notes that are not justifiable theoretically are the most interesting (as told to me by Bill Dobbins, the great pianist, composer and arranger). And it's very important to remember that "the audience doesn't care if it's a Gmin7b5" (as told to me by Ray Brown).

    Players often play things that clash, because they are justifying their choices differently. Often on records, I hear the piano player and bass player and horn player all approaching something differently.

    Going back to Don's C7b9#9:
    The bass line C D D# E F will work. It's theoretically justifiable because it's three chromatic leading tones into the target note F. Of course, C Db D# E will work with less of a clash, and it also leads into the Fmin — but is avoiding a clash always the best thing? I often find that chromaticism in a bass line trumps chord/scale correctness.

    "So What" for instance . . . it's all Dorian minor, right? But Miles plays the M7 quite a bit in his solo. PC plays the b6 quite a bit in his bass line. But there are music teachers everywhere encouraging students to only play Dorian.

    Something that I like to point out to students is that there is no chord symbol for the blues. I once had a great teacher moment when I asked a student what he would play over an F7, and he answered "I'd play the blues."

    Here's the first mega-hit version of Chega, with João Gilberto singing and playing guitar in 1959. He's playing it in C and in the bridge he plays CMaj A7b13 D7/A . . . In the 2nd bar of the bridge, I hear him playing a straight A7b13 and singing the altered note (F) in the melody.

    Anyone hear something different? Since this is the first popular version of the tune, should these be the standard changes?




    How 'bout this one from the composer himself. What do you hear on the bridge here?



    I recently did a project with Toninho Horta, and his tunes were arranged by Michael Abene. The thing I can tell you about working with Toninho is that whenever he wanted to tell me something about the chord changes, he would just play it and I would learn it (and write it down with my own chord symbols). He never once said "That's a D7#9b13" or whatever. The sound was Toninho's, and the theory I used to describe it was mine.

    That's why—as Mark Levine famously wrote—they call it jazz theory and not "jazz truth."

    That said, this is the jazz theory thread, and it's a good place for everyone to get in touch with their inner nerd. As long as we're nice to each other, respectful, and not "rechthaberisch" as the Germans say.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
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  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    John's too modest to post the link here, but there's an excellent blog on his website about this very subject (the notion of "specific chord/scale relationships"). If anyone has the time, it's worth a read - go to his homepage and scroll down to the headline that reads, "BLOG: But Is It Music?" (for some reason, the blog itself is not directly linkable).
     
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  5. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Well said John. Indeed that is one of my favorite things about ensemble playing and improvisation. Not everybody has the same approach and hopefully they work together to make a diverse and interesting musical picture. Also the fact that there is not one right answer. This is a different discussion but I feel as though if someone onstage feels they are more right than someone else that is an imposition of the ego on the proceedings and that never turns out well for the overall improvisation.
     
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  6. Robert Strickland

    Robert Strickland Supporting Member

    May 23, 2008
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I often treat those higher extensions as to what they would be lower down. It can be done by subtracting 7 from the extension. For example, a #11 is the same note as a #4 (or flat 5) lower down. The flat 5 is easier for me to think about as the chords are flying by on the page. Similarly, a b9 is the same as a b2. I think that's one reason that Iona was saying he would ascend across the C7b9 by playing a Db (C - Db).

    Thoughts on that way of thinking about it?
     
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    CHAINYANKER, I would play whatever that feels good to you. There's absolutely nothing wrong with keeping things simple and even skipping over the fancy poopie so long as that's what you hear in your head. If you have to simply something just so you can apply it, I dont see why not - even if means you're a freak and that just so happens to be the way you do it

    Good music needs no justification.
     
  8. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Discover Double Bass, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Sure, that's a great way to think about extensions. You put them within the scale (#4) rather than in the upper structure of the voicing (#11).

    In chord charts, you'll see both though: C7#4 and C7#11. So it's good to be able to react to either way of writing.
     
  9. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Discover Double Bass, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    And of course, Iona is completely correct when he says it sounds good to play the notes C and Db over a C7b9.
     
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  10. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Okay, so I'm on-board with considering a chart as a jumping off place, a rough indication of the changes and I often find it interesting when people sub changes, but how do you deal with charts that could be considered in error? For instance, the changes on the fifth edition of the Real Book of Dolphin Dance are pretty far off from any recording I've ever heard from Herbie. I transcribed Herbie's and made my own chart, but I take a lot of flak from some players who are used to the RB. Should I back down and use the RB? When I play the RB changes, it sounds like a different song to me, and frankly, not as good to my ear. As a sideman, I'll play the changes the BL gives me, with some subs, but as BL, I know I like certain changes and not others.
     
  11. I must admit that I found this discussion to be like a dog chasing its tail and mostly what Hawaiians call manini (small stuff that doesn't really matter or dealing with someone who has a rather stingy nature) In short, annoying. This particular page 4 of this thread has some great contributions from ObiWan Goldsby, Hiddy, Marc Piane and Hillwilliam Fitzgerald. I enjoyed the insight, depth and soul in these posts. Thanks one and all. Great info to share and discuss in this manner.
     
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  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Of course: 9, 11, and 13 are just 2, 4, and 6. Nothing wrong with thinking about it that way. If you run into an extremely pedantic person trying to prove how much they know, they may stop you and explain why 9-11-13 are far different from 2-4-6, but if they do, just smile and pretend to look interested when they pontificate about what an "extension" is.

    This is a tough call because it transcends music and gets into interpersonal relations. In general, if someone calls "Dolphin Dance" on a gig, I usually just let it be known that I know the tune and play the changes that I know and hear. If for whatever reason someone puts a chart in front of me, I might ask about the changes in question in the spirit of us all being on the same page. If they seem unaware that there are questionable changes (like those two pedal points at the end), I might choose to play the "correct" notes from the recording (E and Eb) and see if they even notice (OTOH, there are a lot of recordings where the B and Bb sound pretty good, as well). If they do, then it becomes a matter whether it's worth it to argue on the gig (it usually isn't) or maybe on the break (it still usually isn't). In the end, you are correct - if it's your gig, use your own charts, and if it's someone else's its often a balance between playing weird changes to keep the peace and risking coming off like a know-it-all by insisting that everyone play your favorite changes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
  13. Robert Strickland

    Robert Strickland Supporting Member

    May 23, 2008
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Ha! Good advice for working with pedants. Yes, obviously it's not the same thing, and extensions are...well...extensions! However, when the chords are coming by at about 180bpm or faster, my mind grasps them quicker down closer to the triad. I can see where others might prefer to avoid thinking of them that way, but it seems to work for me.
     
  14. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Thanks Chris. It's good to hear how a pro would approach this situation. I think I once stepped over that line when I made some comment about how the composer played the standard we were playing or maybe how it differed from the RB, and the BL commented that he *really didn't know much about jazz*. Wounded, I have kept my mouth shut since and played with them less because, I suppose, their definition of jazz differs from mine? They seem to be glued to the changes and I like to think of the chart as a common thread. I see how you can out grow the RB and its practicioners.
     
  15. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member


    Hi John,
    Here's what I heard:

    Joao-
    / Cmaj7 / A7+5 / Dadd2/A / Dmin add2/A / same / G#dim7 / F#dim / Cmaj7/
    / Cmaj7 / Ebdim7 / Dmin7 / same / D7/A / same / Dmin7b5 / G#dim7 /.

    Jobim-
    / Dmaj7 / B7b9+5 / E7(9,13) / same / A9sus / A7+5 / Fdim7 / D/F# /
    / D/F# / Fdim7 / Emin7 / same / E7 / E7 /A9sus / A9sus /.

    Thanks for your time and expertise.
    Don Kasper
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
  16. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Discover Double Bass, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Tom: I would just bring your chart and say that you transcribed it and can we play it this way. If they don't want to try it (your correct way), then you can just bite your tongue and play . . . uh, transcendently.

    Don: Thanks for the chords. To me, both of those versions have exactly the same chord sound as in the old Real Book 1: B7b13/D#. Of course, that chord symbol is missing the b9, but *everybody knows* that you can add the b9.

    So, if we use João Gilberto's version as the "official" way, then it should be the root on the downbeat, not the third in the bass.

    The difference between the bassist playing the root B or the third D# is what makes us so powerful :thumbsup:

    Of course, there are lots of ways to play any standard tune. These guys could have used a bass player, don't you think? :)

     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  17. adi77

    adi77 Inactive

    Mar 15, 2007
    bombay
    hi remcult, great thread, i am a total illiterate as far as music theory is concerned and have played for 20 years just by ear and feel :rollno:.. thanks to all the great replies on your post i a may actually become semi - literate.. there's really a lot to learn :)
     
  18. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I remember having lunch with Ben Allison a few years back and we were talking about how when he writes he basically just notates triads or dominant chords and lets the players that are interpreting the chart add whatever extensions they hear.

    There is indeed a lot of theory to know however I think we sometimes make it more complicated than it needs to be. The most important thing always is to look at what the function of the chord is. This will allow you to distill what the functional part of the harmony and what the color part of the harmony is.
     
  19. tkozal

    tkozal

    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    Interesting discussion. I love this kind of stuff. I play in NYC workshops where some players are very literal, and this bassist finds himself quite often puzzled listening to stiff approaches. But my leader tells me bass has different rules do my thing ( how cool is that for a trumpet player!)

    That said, someone did like a 10 page transcription of Chega, showing the different chords Jobim plays through each pass. Must find and post!
     
  20. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Thanks John. Transcendently, I like that.
     

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