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Transcribing Chords from Melody

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by kiwlm, Nov 1, 2004.


  1. I know transcribing melodies and bass lines are good for ear training, and that I have to be determined, and after 200 songs, it will get easier.

    What about the chords? I have heard lots of pros here asking newbies to transcribe by ear, instead of going for notation/tabs. But almost all pros recommend buying the real/fake books to get the chords of the jazz standards.

    And most of the advices for a newbie to learn a standard, is to look at the progressions/changes, and try to make some bass lines using the chord/scale notes and see which one sounds nice.

    1. Should I even start to try to determine the chords from just the melody, without looking at the real/fake book or chord charts? This I assume will be harder to get-it-right, since it is just solely based on sounding nice or not, contrary to the note-by-note transcription of the melody.

    2. Are there any quick tips on music theory for chords transcription? Say the notes that are used in the particular bar might give hints on the chord, or say the starting note and the ending note of the bar might give hints on the chord?

    3. Lead sheets. From what I learn from the forum, seems that most jazz sessionist will need lead sheets or chord changes to play a tune. If the bassist already know the melody of the tune, could he do without the chord changes on paper, and just like improvise the walking bass lines, instead of thinking, ok A Chord, 1-2-4, C Chord, 1-2-4...etc...

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You have a lot of good questions. Do you have a teacher?
     
  3. Unfortunately, nope.

    And in the country where I am in, its a mountain to climb to get a bass teacher.
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I would recommend that you get yourself one ASAP. Music theory/ear training in conjunction with learning tunes is what you need and desire. Are there any jazz players in your area? Especially a piano player / teacher would be the type to hang with to learn what you want to know.
     
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Not all, certainly not me. There are a couple of ways to go about this, there are ear training exercises that move from you listening, singing and identifying intervals within the octave to listening, singing and identifying intervals within two octaves (you can think of those as "scale tones and chord tones, kind of), moving to singing and identifying triads in one octave, all inversions, closed position, then open position, then 4 part, then 5 part then 6 part chords. You practice triad and 4 part chord arpeggio exercises. All of this helps get the sound of chord quality in you ears and under your fingers.
    Additionally, if you grab some of the play a longs (like the Aebersold series) and DON'T LOOK AT THE BOOK, just put on the CD and play along - try to find the key centers, find the root movement within the key centers, once you've found the root movement try to identify chord quality-does the minor third work, does the major third work, what kind of 7th, what kind of 5th, is a minor or a sus - that kind of thing. Which gets us to....
    Well, again, not me.
    If you get what the change is supposed to be in bar 7 from some fake book and try to pick notes that "sound nice" you are totally unprepared for a situation on the stand where, by the soloist's second chorus, they have abandoned the "suggestion" that the chord is Dm7b5 and are playing something that gets them from point A to point B in a manner that still hews to the harmonic framework of the tune. BUT if what you had been doing instead is starting with your ear to identify what you are hearing, then suddenly it doesn't matter WHAT direction the soloist or accompanist goes, you are just contributing to the aural environment. Not the visual.

    1. Should I even start to try to determine the chords from just the melody, without looking at the real/fake book or chord charts? This I assume will be harder to get-it-right, since it is just solely based on sounding nice or not, contrary to the note-by-note transcription of the melody. The great thing about being a bassist is the amount of control we have over the harmony. If you put a different note beneath the melody, it can change the whole harmonic direction of the piece. And this is, in fact, pretty old school. Somebody knows the melody, cool what chords do we want to put under it? Or the question , these days, of "who's changes are you using?" Check out the thread about GETTING AWAY FROM THE LEAD SHEET (or something like that).

    2. Are there any quick tips on music theory for chords transcription? Say the notes that are used in the particular bar might give hints on the chord, or say the starting note and the ending note of the bar might give hints on the chord?
    No quick and easy. It's just like any other transcription, all you have to do is play or write whatever it is you are hearing. Melody notes and root movement can help give you some hints about what the chords could be, depending on your grasp of functional harmony. But as I said in another thread, rather than try to prophesy what a chord MIGHT be, why not just go ahead and try to hear what the chord IS. Starting and ending note offer about as much information as using the first and last word of this sentence and trying to derive it's meaning.

    STARTING....MEANING. OK, what did I say?



    3. Lead sheets. From what I learn from the forum, seems that most jazz sessionist will need lead sheets or chord changes to play a tune. If the bassist already know the melody of the tune, could he do without the chord changes on paper, and just like improvise the walking bass lines, instead of thinking, ok A Chord, 1-2-4, C Chord, 1-2-4...etc...

    Well, i don't think"A chord 1 2 4". If there is a tune that I don't know and the harmony and form are non standard, then I'm happy to read a chart (and so's the rest of the band. ahem.) But any bass line I play is going to be improvised (with the exception of any composed line for the bass), whether I am reading or not. Your walking line is not supposed to "nail down" the harmony, it's supposed to propel it forward, so the idea is to link the chord progression into one flowing line that has a "conversational" arc, is responsive to the other musicians etc. The better your ears are, the greater the likelihood that you can create a line in such a fashion.

    Ray is right, if you can't find a bassist as a teacher, find a pianist a saxophonist a trumpet player. Because you aren't learning how to play bass here, you're learning how to play MUSIC
     
  6. Such a simple statement. Such a profound concept.
     
  7. I am currently working with midi tunes off
    http://www.worldjazz.ch/play_along1.htm
    which let me mute instruments if they gets too noisy.

    After I transcribed the melody, sometimes I would try to transcribe the basslines, and try to determine it from there. But for some of the bass lines which are not so prominent, I was doubting whether I should look at the book, or just trying to make my own lines, and derive the changes from there.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Understood, which means to say that if I mute all other instruments, and just listen to the melody, and try to play some changes over the melody, I might end up with some changes that differs from the leadsheet, and THAT is ok. right?

    I assume its this one? :)


    How to free myself from reading Lead Sheets
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think you guys are going to have to take his word for it in this case - have you looked at where Jaya is on the map?

    It's literally in the middle of nowhere - well, sort of SE of China and North of Australia in the Pacific!!
    A volcanic outcrop? ;)
     
  9. Ooops, Malaysia is the country, "Petaling Jaya" is the state. Did not realize I put it in reverse!

    Anyway, we are right above singapore/indonesia, and right below thailand.
    :p
     
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Oh right, sorry - I was thinking of Jaya, near Papua New Guinea - still - not much of a Jazz scene eh....? ;)
     
  11. Savino

    Savino

    Jun 2, 2004
    nyc
    This here is a good thread. How do you learn music in the mountains from nothing but recordings? Its been done before, im sure. studying harmony should be done with AND without your instument. Starting with jazz can be a daunting task because of constantly shifting harmony. I would suggest starting with music (just for ear training) that moves in slower or simpler progressions at first. listen to some Classical music, pop, whatever and follow by singing the bass melody, play along with your bass. When you consistently do this, in time you will recognize shifts in harmony. dont worry about grabbing everything at once. the key is to understand the big picture. The more you listen to music in this way, you will gradually be able to hear finer details.
     
  12. I think that the real value of lead sheets is often misunderstood. The changes in fake books represent commonly used harmony for a given tune. They should be used as a starting point only. Some of the hippest tunes are reharmonized standards, Coltranes bread and butter was reharmonizing standard changes till they are barely recognizable. I think that studying harmony is very important, especially the techniques of substitution such as tritone subs, sub-dominant minors, modal borrowing etc... But the most important thing is trust your ears.

    ogyen
     
  13. chadeous

    chadeous

    Dec 6, 2004
    this may have already been said(since i'm too lazy to read everything), but after you play through enough tunes, read enough lead sheets and whatnot you'll finally begin to hear the changes, especially the ii-V's. after a year of looking through all the fakebooks i possibly good, playing the changes on piano with the melody, i'm really starting to hear the progressions much better. you'll sittin' at a club somewhere, and at each new song they play you can hear the way the chords move together. now, extensions are a whole other ballgame :p but it seems as if they're optional additions to a chord in many cases. :ninja:
     
  14. you should probably uprgrade from :ninja: to :bag:

    ;)
     
  15. bass_means_LOW

    bass_means_LOW

    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    kiwlm, I haven't looked to see where your state is in relation to KL (Kuala Lumpor,) but if a teacher is what you want, then look up Greg Lyons. He's a fine tenor player living and teaching at university in KL. I've played with him and think highly of his playing and his compositions. Is 'No Black Tie' still open in KL. That would be a great place to hang. Did a weekend there and found the Malaysians who frequented the club to be very receptive and knowledgable. As Malaysia is an Islamic country, night life is quite subdued, but if you do your homework, you'll learn in spite of it all. The posted answers to your questions are great-I hope you learn from what these guys have written.