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#1433598 - 05/10/10 01:24 PM Working out scales for chords..
Andy007 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/09
Posts: 134
Apart from the rules that..

Over a G-7 chord you would play F major

Over a G7 Chord you would play C major

Over a Gmaj7 you would play G major

Are there any exceptions to this or other things I should consider when working out what scales to play in improvisation?

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#1433653 - 05/10/10 02:52 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: Andy007]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
I know you are specifically asking for SCALES that work againest certain chords but what you should focus on is playing and improvising againest the changes instead of a scalar approach. I don't even remember or vaguely recall what scales work for what anymore.

Work with the chord itself. It's inversions, extensions,substitutions(relative minor,tritone etc.)in improvising.

Of course it would be good to know what diminished,melodic minor,harmonic minor,wholetone,pentatonic,various modes work for what.I have no idea anymore. You can find that info in any improv book but I'm sure someone here will give you the lowdown. grin


Edited by pianobroker (05/10/10 02:55 PM)
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#1433659 - 05/10/10 02:59 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: Andy007]
FatJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 23
Loc: Germantown, MD
This doesn't answer your question directly, but you might want to take a look at this thread. There is a pitched debate going on whether it's good to approach improvisation with chord/scale relationships.

http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=701503

Personally, I think that applying the thinking that "this chord implies this scale" is limiting, if that's the sol basis for your improvisational material. There are so many other ways to think about how to craft lines. But, if it works for you, go for it. My own approach is kind of stitched together from about a dozen different sources:

- Using the melody as a guide
- Triadic superposition
- Chord/scale relationships
- Harmonic reduction to one key center
- Arpeggios (chord tones)
- Guide tone lines
- Just using my ear
- etc...

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#1433686 - 05/10/10 03:31 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: FatJeff]
Andy007 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/09
Posts: 134
This is exactly what I've been thinking.. how is it possible to create interesting phrases which last a couple of bars when the chords and the scales they imply keep changing every measure! I'll have to read up on that stuff.

Edit: it turns out that topic is 100 pages long.. frown

Jeff, would it be possible if you could expand on some of the sources you have mentioned, baring in mind I'm fairly new to jazz/not a theory buff? laugh


Edited by Andy007 (05/10/10 03:36 PM)

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#1433699 - 05/10/10 03:47 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: Andy007]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
In improvising one actually can intermix playing againest the changes and maybe also playing with a scalar approach. A common approach for me has always been playing againest the changes but intermixing the "blues scale" in the improvisation. In this case an extended "blues scale" is played modaly throughout the progression. Pianists like Oscar Peterson,Gene Harris,Monty Alexander are masters at this style.
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#1433743 - 05/10/10 04:36 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: pianobroker]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2993
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Andy,

in my view, using scales to solo on a tune is one of many valid approaches.
There isn't one scale that works on one chord, rather many, depending on what you do with that chord.

I don't think your initial statement G-7, use a F major scale is accurate. It depends.
G7 is even more controversial. 7th chords pop out in tunes sometimes simingly randomly, finding something that works isnt' always easy.

One way to look at it is to use common tones.

In general, I take it one tune at a time and see. I'm sure if you name a tune, we will all have different options for you. Some are just safer than others.
For learning improvisation, it might be a good idea to stick to a set selection of scales and chords. Once you decide, stick to it until you own it. I think most people make the mistake of trying to conquer too much at once, and then fail to really master anything.

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#1433899 - 05/10/10 07:45 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: knotty]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
One approach I use still to this day.

Over ii-V-I - play the pentatonic scale of the V chord.

Example; over D-7 G7 CM7, use a G pentatonic.

I think this came from Mark Levine's book.
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#1434086 - 05/11/10 01:06 AM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: danshure]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
The basic improv scale for the ii-V-I is the major scale of the I.
I look at that G pentatonic as the same as the relative minor of the I(C) which would be the Am. Same basic tonality.

One problem with following the scale approach exclusively is that you'll sound like everybody else. That does have it's pros. wink
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#1434250 - 05/11/10 08:40 AM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: FatJeff]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3206
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: FatJeff
This doesn't answer your question directly, but you might want to take a look at this thread. There is a pitched debate going on whether it's good to approach improvisation with chord/scale relationships.

http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=701503



I haven't read this thread so my apologies if this has been mentioned.

This debate is not new. Fux's book on counterpoint covered it in 1725, and I'm sure it is older than that.

Put me down as a chord advocate rather than scale. <grin>
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#1434252 - 05/11/10 08:43 AM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: knotty]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3206
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: knotty
Andy,

in my view, using scales to solo on a tune is one of many valid approaches.


Many people do this well.

To my ears, the scale becomes ground in a figure-ground relationship.

The figure becomes the interesting melodic fragments that develop creatively against the rather boring background of the scale - a background that I'd be as happy to see fade away. It's almost a holding pattern while you try to come up with something good.

But that's just to my ears, most people differ.
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#1434321 - 05/11/10 10:19 AM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: pianobroker]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: pianobroker
The basic improv scale for the ii-V-I is the major scale of the I.
I look at that G pentatonic as the same as the relative minor of the I(C) which would be the Am. Same basic tonality.


Can you explain how

A natural minor - ABCDEFGA

and

G Pentatonic - GAB DE G

have the same basic tonality? One is centered on A minor and the other on G major.

Also, the reason G pentatonic works specifically (more than C major), is the C note and F note from C major clash with the 3rd of the V chord (B, clashes with C) and the 3rd of the I chord (E, clashes with F).

G Pentatonic is a very "safe" scale to play over all three chords of a ii V I in C, much more than C major.
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#1434413 - 05/11/10 12:55 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: Andy007]
FatJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 23
Loc: Germantown, MD
Quote:

Jeff, would it be possible if you could expand on some of the sources you have mentioned, baring in mind I'm fairly new to jazz/not a theory buff?


Sure.

Using the melody as a guide.

Basically, the idea is that the melody of the song already has the changes built into it (otherwise it wouldn't sound very good over the harmony, would it?). What you can do is use it as a basis for improvisation. Learn the melody by heart, then play off of it, adding in small departures at first, then straying further from it as you wish. Ed Byrne has a whole improv method based on this, where you distill the melody down to it essential melodic components (notes), and then use approach notes to target these notes. I think Lennie Tristano also published an article on this way back where he illustrates how he takes a melody and methodically deviates from it more and more, until you have a full-blown solo that outlines the changes like the melody did, but is completely original.

Triadic superposition

You can get some really cool sounds when you superimpose certain triads over top of certain other chords. For instance, on a non-resolving dominant chord (like the second chord in Take The A Train, what is it? D7?), you want to use a Lydian Dominant sound. One easy way to get this sound is to just play a E major triad over top of that D7. That gives you the characteristic #11 sound (in this case, G#). There are millions of other possibilities with this technique, and since triads are so basic, they are quite accessible to beginners. John Stowell (a jazz guitarist) has a good discussion of this on his DVD "Jazz Guitar Mastery". I'm not sure about pianists who talk about this but I'm sure the information is out there.

Chord/scale relationships

This is basically what you were originally talking about, I believe. Each chord type that you encounter can have an associated scale that you can plumb for notes that fit within that chord type. The classic example of this, over a ii-V-I, is to use Dorian, Mixolydian, and Ionian. Mark Levine's Jazz Theory book goes into this in great detail.

Harmonic reduction to one key center

If you do a roman numeral analysis of any functional jazz standard (e.g. Autumn Leaves, Satin Doll or All The Things You Are), you will find that it contains sections that are all diatonic to one key. For instance, in All The Things You Are, the first 5 chords of that song are: F-7 Bb-7 Eb7 Abmaj7 Dbmaj7. And guess what, they are all diatonic to the key of Ab (they are the vi, ii, V, I and IV, respectively). So instead of thinking that you gotta play F Dorian, then Bb Dorian, then Eb Mixolydian, then Ab Ionian, then Db Ionian, you just think "Ab", and let your ear guide your fingers to the right notes of the Ab scale that emphasize the particular chord being sounded underneath at that moment.

The next thing that happens in that song is a ii-V-I in the key of C. And so on...anyway, I don't know about you but thinking 5 bars of Ab is a heck of a lot easier for me than to think about each chord as it passes by, one per measure.

Arpeggios (chord tones)

This is a classic and simple way of strongly outlining the underlying harmony. Play only chord tones (1-3-5-7) of the chord of the moment. E.g. in A Train, for the first 4 measures (C7-C7-D7-D7), play two measure of C-E-G-Bb, then two measures of D-F#-A-C. Obviously yuo don't want to play them in that order, with quarter notes, but mix up the rhythms and the order in which you play the tones, and you'll have yuorself a passable solo.

Guide tone lines

"Guide tone lines" are lines based on strong chord tones (usually the third and seventh) that wind through the changes in a nice, smooth way. A fundamental observation is to see that the 7th of a ii7 chord resolves down by half step to the 3rd of a V chord in a ii-V progression. For example, ii-V in the key of C is Dm7-G7, right? So, just play C-B...you have the 7th of Dm7 followed by the 3rd of G7. Google "guide tone line" and you will find a wealth of information on this. And there are hundreds of examples of this taken from real bop solos in the Bert Ligon book "Connecting Chords with Linear Harmony", which I can't recommend enough.

OK, enough out of me. Hope some of this helps.

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#1434477 - 05/11/10 02:28 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: danshure]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Nobody said one had to start with the tonic of the proposed scale in improvisation. If you played that A minor scale starting on the G.What do you have?. You have a similar scale tonality wise but with the added C and F which one does not necessarily have to play.

If I played that G pentatonic scale againest that ii-V-I in C starting from the root(G), to me it sounds like the Am (relative minor) with the G as a grace note.

I think we're splitting hairs.
In improvisation nobody as for the veteran pros, thinks scales anyway unless you are in Improv 101 or analyzing a particular solo that which resembles certain scales. wink
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#1434604 - 05/11/10 05:14 PM Re: Working out scales for chords.. [Re: pianobroker]
Randy C. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/20/07
Posts: 14
Loc: North Carolina
As a not-beginner-yet-not-advanced improvisor, I like using the scale approach. With it you can generate a melodic line or pattern that will fit the moment. I would like to move beyond that and be able to use more notes that don't fit and alternate scale choices. I feel that a good understanding of chord/scale relationships is the groundwork for that.

There is an excellent free reference at Jamey Aebersold jazz (www.jazzbooks.com) -- click "Free Jazz" on the top menu bar then "Scale Syllabus". Click the "Jazz Handbook" link for many more useful documents. They'll send you a printed copy with an order if you ask.

If you own The Jazz Piano Book (if not get it!), dig into chapters 9 through 11 for great ideas about incorporating scales into your playing.

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