Walking Strategies in Minor Keys

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by brianrost, May 21, 2004.

  1. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Last night's gig reminded me once again of a big hole in my bag of tricks, walking over minor keys (esp. blues changes).

    Give me a major key blues or rhythm changes and I'm all over that...but in minor blues I always feel like I can't find enough good notes :rolleyes:

    A big problem I perceive is the gap between the b3 and the 5. two whole steps with one serious avoid note (the maj3). I also have issues with working in a 6th...use the major6, the b6?

    Even worse are tunes like "Moondance" which spend many bars on one minor chord. After 2 bars I've run out of things to do besides noodle through the chord tones.

    I know an obvious solution is to go spend a few months transcribing every note P.C. played on every chorus of every tune on "Kind of Blue" but in the meantime I'm looking for some temporary band-aids :meh:
  2. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    There's always the tried and true 1 2 b3 5 and 1 b7 6 5 which can be used on dominant or minor. I also don't see any thing wrong with the sound of 1 2 b3 3 when the next chord is a fourth away i.e. Cmin7 to Fmin7.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm sure you know what I'm gonna say, right? Getting minor arpeggios under your fingers and in your ears will help. Building a chord line over the changes of specific tunes, learning the melody and practicing some of the approaches to improv I've outlined elsewhere on the site will help. It's still just about resolutions and tension, what you are hearing melodically, where you been and where you want to go.

    That maj3rd pitch will work, but not if you're hearing it as a maj 3rd.
    Sorry, no quick and easy.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Most minor key blues tunes I have to play on gigs are in a "funky" style (like B.B.'s "Thrill Is Gone" or "Coming Home Baby") and I can handle those OK, it's trying to walk instead of playing funk ostinatos that I struggle with.

    So let me ask a more specific question before I go off to transcribe P.C. :D

    Like I said, I see the space between the b3 and the 5 as a no-man's land. If I have to spend two or more bars on a min7 chord, my ear hears both the maj3 and 4 as avoid notes, the b5 is OK as a passing tone; I feel I have to "leap" a major third from b3 to 5 rather than play a more chromatic line between the two chord tones.

    So that's something I hope to figure out by doing some more transcription but was curious how other people deal with this particular thing.

    If you need me, I'll be in the woodshed :cool:
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I might get flamed here, but I like using the Aebersold "Major and Minor" CD for practicing this kind of thing - turn off the bass and shed along with it for hours!! :)
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The 4th is not a avoid note at all. I really don't like that term anyhow -- the 4th is just a very unsettled note in some chords is all.

    Moondance has no avoid tones, as it is an avoid tune. :)

    As far as your chromatic walking ideas, they all still work if you look at it like this:

    1) To walk up from the II to the V in 4 beats, play 1, 2, 3, major 3, and then 4:

    D-7 G7 (C): D E F F# G
    D-7(b5) G7alt (C-): D Eb F F# G

    2) To walk down from a II to the V, walk down the scale of the parent key:

    D-7 G7 (C): D C B A G
    D-7(b5) G7alt (C-): D C Bb Ab G

    3) To walk up from V to I, play 1, 2, b3, 3, the next root:

    G7 C: G A Bb B C
    G7alt C-: G Ab Bb B C

    4) To walk down from V to I, again walk down the scale of the parent key:

    G7 C: G F E D C
    G7alt C-: G F Eb D C

  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Another thing I'd like to add is check out my fingering threads, which are up in the newbie section. The fingerings for the relative major key will set up up nicely for the minor key.
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Um, no :meh: Show me a walk over 2 or more bars of Gm7 for instance.

    When I have to walk over a minor chord for one bar then to ANOTHER chord, I'm fine. But on a minor blues or a modal tune I may have 4 bars or more on the SAME chord.

    Does that make any more sense?

    I don't have much trouble if the chord is major but when it's minor no matter what I play it sounds pretty lame :crying:

    I know what you mean about "Moondance" being an "avoid tune" but when you put on the penguin suit ya gotta expect a few of those :p If I have to play it, I'd rather it sounded good.
  9. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    You know there are no bandaids.

    Listen a lot to minor jazz tunes. In addition to So What/Impressions you should have no trouble finding versions of, for instance:

    Minor Swing
    Four on Six
    Stolen Moments

    Just get that sound in your ear, as Ed says, and under your fingers, as Ray says. Repeat daily for best results.
  10. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    You have to provide more information than that because it depends where the two bars of Gm7 lead to.

    You can play G dorian for the two bars ascending or descending or you can break it up Descending G F E D(notice no third involved) ascending G A Bb B(major or minor doesn't matter if I'm going to C) or vice versa and everything in between. This really isn't any different than walking in major in the end it all depends on how you want you line to sound. You can go and transcribe PC and that's a good excercise, but you'll only find out that all different types of things work which is something you can explore yourself by writing the lines out and playing them.
  11. Perplexer


    Sep 2, 2003

    is Blue Train a minor blues?

    I always thought of it an Eb blues with an altered sound, but not strictly as a minor blues. I was taught that the Real Book changes were absolutely wrong..

    I could be wrong, but I hear it that way too.
  12. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    No, you're right and I'm wrong.
  13. The first option to learn when walking over any chord which lasts for more than two bars is: Alternate roots and fifths on downbeats. In other words, root for the downbeat of bar 1, 5th for downbeat of bar 2, root for bar 3, etc. This will help you and the band keep your place in the form, especially on a tune like So What.

    In general, you want chord tones on beats 1&3, passing tones on beats 2&4. So for example, on G- you could play,

    G,F#,F,E | D,C,Bb,A |G,Bb,C,C#, | D,F,G,Db | C...
    (if its a blues)

    It's a good idea to reiterate the root in bar 4, before moving on to the next chord. Here's a slightly different version.

    G,F,E,Eb | D,Bb,A,Ab | G,A,Bb,C | D,Ab,G,B | C...
  14. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire

    Your question (the second part) is a major blockade and mystery for most bassists I see at Berklee.

    1. Playing a minor blues presents no larger challenge than playing any other set of changes. It sounds like you simply have not learned to play your minor chords yet. By your description of the "gaps", I also can tell you that you are approaching the building of your lines incorrectly. I apologize for not offering a complete answer and suggested course of action here. Come see me at school and I will get you headed in the right direction. Quit looking for "temporary band-aids".

    2. Now, walking over one chord (d minor) for many measures OR, a two / three chord repeated pattern, is a real mystery and PAIN for most students. If you were to "spend a few months transcribing every note P.C. played on every chorus of every tune on 'Kind of Blue'" you would certainly be a much better player. I recommend you do this if you like jazz. A few months will go by quickly whether you transcribe or NOT transcribe. And the question is, where do you want to be next summer as a player of walking lines? Brianrost, were you aware of the possibility that you could: "spend a few months transcribing every note P.C. played on every chorus of every tune on 'Kind of Blue'" last summer???

    3. All of this transcribing done, you still might not recognize the driving concept behind walking on one chord. I will attempt to explain how really good players do this. I also must apologize here because this post is going to get looooonngg. And, many folks prefer a quick more traditional (chord scale) type fix.

    Answer: Make melodies! Quarter note melodies. (Hmm... just happens to be the title of a book written by a good-looking, bald headed guy from New Hampshire :)

    ***** ALL examples are over d minor. IT IS VITAL TO HAVE A SIMPLE D MINOR DRONE TYPE PLAY-ALONG TO HEAR THESE MELODIES AGAINST WHEN PRACTICING. Also repeat each melody over 4 times before moving on so as to hear the development of phrasing. A good walking line is ALL ABOUT PHRASING!

    Start to think of one measure as a melodic shape. Four quarter note shapes. Some of them stable: (ddad) (dada) (dfdd) (dfad) (dfaf). Notice how these have a lot of "d's". You must practice all one-measure shapes until they are completely second nature. Just the way you would learn a word in a verbal language so you can use it at your discretion. The mistake made by most players here is that they do not learn their words (one measure phrases) well enough so as to not get in the way of their ear, and the possibility of creative playing. Simply, you must understand and BELIEVE the concept of freedom through discipline.

    When you do transcribe extensively, you will be amazed with the simplicity of music. The same is true of our spoken language. You do not need to use big or sophisticated words to express meaningful and powerful messages. If the previous statement were not true then we would all be bored with words like; the, and, it, yes, good, etc., How can I express myself without using the same words and sentence structure as everyone else on the planet? Obviously it is the message which is unique. Not the language.

    Let's learn a few melodies with a bit less stability: (dfed) (defe) (defa) (degf) (dafe).

    Now let's combine some of the A's (most stable) with some B's (less stable) to create a two bar phrase: (dada defa) (dada dafe) (dfaf defa) (defe dafe).

    Notice that some of the melodies move away from stability while others move toward stability. This displaces the point where the release of tension occurs. A good walking line is ALL ABOUT TENSION - RELEASE!

    A few melodies with a bit more tension "C's": (defg) (dgfe) (defc#) (dagf) (dafc#).

    Let's combine some: (defc# defa) (defa defg) (dgfe dafe) (dada dafc#)

    I think this is enough for you to get the idea. However, the idea is not to learn dozens of short melodic phrases. Rather, I encourage you to spend a few weeks PLAYING 8 one-measure phrases over and over and over so this will engrain the sounds into your ear and you will begin to improvise longer phrases.

    I also want warn you against the pitfall of overplaying. You can see that each melody above begins with the root. Of course there are other choices, but you will not become a good player by exploring the endless possibilities, but rather by learning a limited amount of material WELL. Only then will you truly begin to speak and improvise in this language called jazz.

    I continually have students asking me to help them improve their walking lines. They all feel that they need more ammunition when what they need is better aim. If you will transcribe the great players, you will see the simplicity and repetition. Believe me, this is no mistake.

    I recently had a student (who is quite proficient on his instrument) ask me, after playing a line from "Walking In The Footsteps Of Paul Chambers", "How did he [PC] keep from getting so bored?"

    Answer: One probably would get bored reciting a formula, or speaking randomly, (playing d Dorian) but if the message you are conveying is coming from your heart (ear) no one gets bored; you or the listener.

  15. bwulf


    May 15, 2004
    Eureka, CA
    I didn't mean to chop up your post, but I just wanted to paraphrase and say that I agree.
    Also, think linearly (is that a word?) ie; 2 or more measures at a time, ie; descending whole tone scale in Giant Steps. The good players think in 4 to 8 bar or more phrases. Use classical fingering exercises, ie; in Dm, d,f,e,g,f,a,e,g, back to d. repeat it or extend it out to four measures. You are hitting root and third on the downbeat and filling in other scale tones in between. Of course it depends on the context of the tune and what sounds good.
    Use or make up melodies that fit and sound good and are tasteful.
    And, don't forget. This is supposed to be fun. Relax. We're playing, not working.
  16. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Hope it's not too late to reply to this thread. When I was studying with Gary Willis (he's not an URB player but a damn good EBG player) he said the best way to keep a minor modal-type tune interesting was to imply minor ii-V's at the end of phrases (2-bar, 4-bar, etc.). Then I started transcribing Ron Carter's bassline on "Impressions" from the Aebersold record. I noticed Mr. Carter was doing that a lot. It seems like most of the cats are doing that. I think the guy playing on Moondance is even doing it to a degree.

  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    V - I is a failsafe approach. There is nothing that say you need to put it in any particular place. For instance, start the section with a V chord idea :)

    Even on modal stuff (So What, etc.), most players give up the goat and start playing V-I's after a while, although the point of that music was to get around or away from traditional harmony.

    'Shave and a Hair Cut, Two Bits' is one strong cadence!
  18. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    You're right, Ray. I shouldn't have said "the best way" and Gary didn't say that either (I don't think he ever said anything was "the best way", come to think of it). He said "a good way" and that's what I meant to say.

  19. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
  20. cschenk78


    Mar 12, 2000
    Watertown, NY
    I don't have much to add except to back up Jim's response...I was a student of his from 96 to 99 a BCM...

    The ideas that he purveyed are ones that I still use extensively as a player and a teacher to this day...The stuff is worth its weight in gold and adaptable to every style of music...

    Thanks Jim