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Upper Structure and practical use

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Wilbyman, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    OK, here's one for the literati.

    I've been on a spiritual journey over the last few weeks in an effort to hip-ify my playing some. I've started thinking about harmony more derivatively (i.e., Gmaj7 and associated chords over Cmaj7 for lydian sounds) than I used to, and I'm excited because I feel like I'm "hearing" more polyphonically now. Sher's Improviser's Bass Method has a quick and dirty chapter which lays it out, as do alot of other books.

    Over the last few days I've taken this to playing alot of upper structure ideas. (i.e., superimposing Am7-Cmaj7-Em7-G7 sounds over Fmaj7 for example or Abmaj7-Cm7-Ebmaj7-Gm7 sounds over Fmin7). I've been studying music for ever and for some reason, though this seems simple, I've never thought of upper structure like this, I've always just thought about the intervals and alterations in relation to the root.

    Anyway, what I'm getting around to is: how do you guys sling this stuff over the V in a regular ii-V7-I? Is there a general rule of thumb for V7 chord/scale/alteration once you've implied a particular upper structure chord (i.e., Gm7 over Fm7 which is prevalent it seems)?

    Do pianists have particular right hand ii-V7-I upper structure "fallbacks"? It would be nice if I'm voicing the same stuff!

    Thanks guys. Feel free to flame me if these are dumb questions.


    I'm going to cross post this on the DB side. If that's a no no lemme know.
  2. How do you guys imply this stuff over the V ?

    This is where experience helps there was a statement by Dai-Lama " Know all the rules before you know how to break them "
    As you have been studying up on the upper structures ( modes ) more importantly you can hear the different colours ( sound of each mode ) so in theory you can play Mixolydian mode over the V however there are a number of other possibility's
    Take for example the Blanket Scale approach using a different scale or mode on the V as you have found out
    Then you have your transcribed II-V-I Licks from players that you heard play over the progression
    Or you could use passing notes ( using altered scales )
    So by my experience since I know most of the rules both by Ear and Theory all this goes out the window and I just play what I hear when I come to that II-V-I progression because I know the rules in theory and by playing and hearing the progression especially in Jazz
    So now I'm looking at good ways to break them
    Hope this is put some perspective on your question
    Although there are some other guys that will have a better explaination

    Anyway Peace
  3. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    I can recommend Hal Crook's book How to Improvise for more on this subject, but here's some of what I do:
    Over V7 play a ii-V in a key #4 away from root
    Play triads #4 away from root
    Play quartal structures up in minor thirds, or alternately, based on a major pentatonic scale up a half-step from the root
    Just play something that's sensible, but in a different key!
    There are so many ways to play outside the harmony, and it certainly demands a common vocabulary between the soloist and the accompanist(s).
  4. geees... sure would like to know what ur talking bout there man...
  5. I think he is explaining the Tri-tone subsitution (#4 away from root )

    When you have a II-V-I lets say in the key of C
    So we would get Dmin (II) - G7 (V) - Cmaj (I)
    Instead of playing G7 (V) you would play Db which is a tri-tone (#4) away from G
    This is very common in Jazz
    So you would now come up with
    Dmin - Db- Cmaj notice it's a chromatic run
    And about the quadural structures I learnt this from our knowledgable DB players
    You can use any interval too provided you have enough bars this is a trick that I'm working on
    So let me explain in detail
    Now taking his example going up in minor thirds from say C
    ( use any pattern or licks by the way ) so we'll stick to the bassics triads ( 1-3-5 )
    So you will get C ( C,E,G ) then up a minor third from C you'll get Eb ( Eb,G,Bb ) then up a minor third from Eb you'll get Gb ( Gb,Bb,Db) then A ( A,C#,E ) then you come back to C
    It works out logically this is a trick that saxaphone players use
    But if you're still having trouble understanding maybe get a teacher
  6. See, now what you want to do on those F chords is play the note F. If you get bored, play the note C, then go back to F.
  7. Upper structures aren't exactly the superimposing of chords over other chords -- that's just a shortcut to help think of chords: for example, you could think of a C-11 as a Bbmaj over a Cmin chord. Ultimately you're going to need to get past the shortcuts and see the voicings as they are.

    As far as constructing upper structures for dom7 chords, you have an enormous amount of choices. For example, in a C7 you could borrow any of the diatonic 7th chords from Db melodic minor, G harmonic minor, or the C diminished scale (known as the half-whole scale).

    So my advice is to start seeing the chords for what they are. When you have a C13, you should see C, E, G, Bb, D, F#, and A -- as well as the many scales associated with this chord type. (note that when you have a major or dominant 13 chord, a sharp #11 is assumed)