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#2320051 - Yesterday at 06:20 AM For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales
pbluesman Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 15
Hi,

I'm currently learning the Jazz Standard "For Heavens Sake" and I was just wondering if somebody could clarify if I'm using appropriate scales for improvisation, or if you could suggest more suitable alternatives. I find it a bit confusing because it looks like a minor 2-5 to major 1 which I haven't come across before (I've not been playing Jazz very long).

The chart I'm working with is in F major. The first four bars are as follows:

G-7b5 C7b9 / FMaj7 D7b9 / G-7b5 C7b9 / FMaj7 F7

The scales I am currently using:

G-7b5 - G Locrian #2 (Bb melodic Minor)
C7b9 - C Aux. Diminished (Db Diminished)
FMaj7 - F Major
D7b9 (voice this with b13 also as its in the melody) - D Altered (Eb Melodic Minor)

If somebody with more experience wouldn't mind taking a look at this I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance!

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#2320086 - Yesterday at 08:32 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 648
Loc: Leicester, UK
Bill Evans has a great recording of that on Trio 64.

http://vimeo.com/m/46935462

Maybe take a listen and sit at the piano with it? You'll be getting BE's answer to your question. ... That's one way to do it ...

...iim7b5 rather than iim7 is common in jazz and often interchangeable and vice versa. Night and Day can have the same progression.

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#2320096 - Yesterday at 08:57 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
pbluesman Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 15
Hey Mark,

Thanks for the reply. I will definitely take a look at the Bill Evans version you directed me to when i'm home from work.

Regarding the iim7b5, I think the melody at this point is a Db, hence the b5.

Would you still treat this as a minor 2-5 when improvising even though technically its resolving to major?

I'm also a bit confused about why an altered scale would be suggested for D7(b9b13) when the altered scale doesn't contain the natural 5? Is it just that the 5th degree is largely insignificant in terms of the overall tonality?

Thanks again.

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#2320105 - Yesterday at 09:28 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
JazzPianoOnline Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/07
Posts: 90
Loc: raleigh, nc
chordscales won't help you improvise! you need to know how to build strong melodic lines.

instead of running chordscales think of playing chord tones on strong beats (1 and 3 in 4/4 time) and extending lines from them using arpeggios, chordscales and approach patterns.

improvisation is about constructing strong melodies. chordscales alone don't really help. to make an analogy, knowing the alphabet doesn't necessarily help you build words. you need to know how to use the alphabet to form words and then how to use the words in meaningful ways.

same thing with music: you need to place chord tones on strong beats so that melody aligns with the harmony. you need to elaborate that melodic backbone with arpeggios, chordscales and approach patterns. (so chordscales are, really, just 1/4 of the story when it comes to imrpov).

and probably the most important of all the components of a strong melody is approach patterns (chromatic and scalar passing tones) which serve to delay resolution and add chromaticism to your lines.

i've got many lessons about this on my site and you can find several good books on this concept too: bert ligon connecting chords with linear harmony, shelly berg the goal note method, jimmy amadie jazz improv how to play it and teach it and ray santisi berklee jazz piano.

write to me if you need more help.
_________________________
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bill@jazzpianoonline.com
www.JazzPianoOnline.com

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#2320110 - Yesterday at 09:47 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
pbluesman Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 15
Hi JazzPianoOnline,

I have played blues piano for quite a number of years now and so I am already quite capable when it comes to improvising and don't necessarily need help in terms of how to improvise, place chord tones on strong beats etc. That wasn't really what my post was about. I'm asking more from a theory stand point. Also, thanks for the offer but i'm not looking to pay to sign up to an online site.

I am approaching this with chord scales because from previous experience they help me identify with the different sounds that can be produced and I have always found this personally quite an effective method of internalising these sounds and the relationships between the various notes and extensions.

Thanks for your input all the same.

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#2320131 - Yesterday at 10:31 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
Cudo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 134
Loc: Heidelberg, Germany
Originally Posted By: pbluesman
I find it a bit confusing because it looks like a minor 2-5 to major 1 which I haven't come across before

IIm7(b5) and V7(b9,b13) chords used in a major tonality context are called modal interchange chords.
Another example would be Fm7 Bb7 in a C major context. These chords are borrowed from a parallel mode.
The most used modal interchange chords in a major tonality come from the parallel natural minor.

In case of IIm7(b5) in a major surrounding you could use MM6 as a chordscale. Some people call that scale also Locrian 2.
C7b9 would take HM5.

Of course JazzPianoOnline is right when he is postulating that chordscales are just basic and improvising needs a lot of additional knowledge like approach technique and others.


Edited by Cudo (Yesterday at 10:31 AM)

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#2320136 - Yesterday at 10:42 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: Cudo]
pbluesman Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 15
Hi Cudo,

Thanks for the information. What does HM5 stand for? Harmonic Minor?

Originally Posted By: Cudo

Of course JazzPianoOnline is right when he is postulating that chordscales are just basic and improvising needs a lot of additional knowledge like approach technique and others.


Completely agree, however you've got to at least learn one thing before you can learn "additional knowledge". There's no doubt that the more different techniques, approaches etc you can learn the more tools you will have at your disposal to create interesting lines. But you can't learn to do everything at once, I need to spend a bit of time familiarising myself with tool number 1 first! grin

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#2320142 - Yesterday at 10:56 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
Cudo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 134
Loc: Heidelberg, Germany
Originally Posted By: pbluesman
What does HM5 stand for? Harmonic Minor?


Yes, Harmonic Minor starting on its 5. degree.


Edited by Cudo (Yesterday at 11:01 AM)

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#2320151 - Yesterday at 11:12 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
KlinkKlonk Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/09
Posts: 359
It´s really not uncommon. More tunes with this resolution that I can think of right now: What is this thing called love, All of you, I hear a rhapsody, I love you, Woody'n you, One finger snap, In your own sweet way, Stella by starlight, Alone together, Once I loved, Peace. I´d say that is also what makes them fun tunes to play, the ambiguity in tonality at places.

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#2320198 - Yesterday at 12:53 PM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 627
Loc: Chicago
I'll leave the technical stuff to others, but when I play a half diminished chord, followed by an altered dominant and then landing on a major 7, I think of it as a surprise. You ear is thinking one thing will happen, but another happens. Then, the question is, how abrupt to you want the surprise to be?

What do I mean by this nonsense? Well, I'll always play locrian #2 on the half diminished, but then I've got options on the dominant chord. If I want an abrupt surprise, I'll play the altered scale (melodic minor half step up) on the dominant, which really sounds like I'm going to a minor chord. If I want a bit less of surprise, I'll play the diminished scale on the V chord, because that scale leads nicely to both major and minor Is. I might also play simply mixolydian on the V, which means I'm really switching to major mode a chord early.

As this shows, given the ambiguity in that chord progression,you can play virtually anything on the V chord.

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#2320234 - Yesterday at 02:29 PM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 395
Loc: California
It's not about scales, it's about target tones. Tones that help you establish the harmony. Of course the tones are derived from certain scales, but what's important is picking the right ones that work with the phrases you're doing and which harmony the phrases are resolving on. Rather than scales, think about your two handed chord voicings (the voicings you use for comping) as this will give you a better idea of what's going on.
_________________________
Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors
http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

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#2320235 - Yesterday at 02:35 PM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 395
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: pbluesman
Hi JazzPianoOnline,

.... Also, thanks for the offer but i'm not looking to pay to sign up to an online site.
....

Thanks for your input all the same.


I wouldn't dismiss his comments out of hand. His site, and Paul Abrahams site, are the only worthwhile jazz instructional sites online. Very high quality teaching.

In order for you to get into jazz, you need to understand the theory. You need to learn why the chord progressions are the way they are, the theory behind the reharmonizing, and your piano voicings for all those chords. It's evident from your top level post that you haven't gone through this exercise yet, instead you're trying to jump immediately into playing a standard. Do yourself a favor, and learn (and practice) the fundamental stuff before you do that. It's not difficult and its not a mystery, but it requires that you take a step back, and instead of working on tunes, you work on the exercises designed to practice the crucial chord progressions and voicings around the 12 keys. Your standard blues doesn't translate directly into jazz, so you need to take a step back.

And again, forget about scales. You don't want to become one of these dudes that does mindless licks up and down scales.


Edited by Michael Martinez (Yesterday at 02:43 PM)
_________________________
Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors
http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

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#2320243 - Yesterday at 02:50 PM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
pbluesman Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 15
Hi Michael.

I think it's possible that you have misunderstood. I wasn't dismissing his comments out of hand, I believe I politely thanked him for his comments and explained that this wasn't really what I was getting at with my original post. If it didn't come across that way then I apologise, I'm not looking to offend people.

I was really just trying to keep this thread focussed on my original post because I'm well aware that everybody has their own opinion when it comes to improvising and I didn't want this to turn into another argument over the best way to learn jazz, because the truth is all approaches are valid. Some people emphasise learning licks, others chord tones, others scales. You need to do all of them, but you can only learn one thing at a time, or at least I can.

jjo - thanks for your comments this actually made a lot of sense to me and gave me something to think about.

Thanks all.

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#2320282 - Yesterday at 04:36 PM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 648
Loc: Leicester, UK
PbBluesman!

Originally Posted By: pbluesman
Hey Mark,

I will definitely take a look at the Bill Evans version you directed me to when i'm home from work.



When all is said and done, hearing this stuff and doing it by ear–I'm sure you know!–that's the way to go. The BE version is classic. Is there a version other than BE you've been listening to?

Something to ask as you listen to BE is does the chord we're discussing, the ii-7b5 sound like it's in a minor key when BE plays its?

Also the pickup to the melody starts on A natural.




So the composer of the tune (and Bill Evans) pretty much are telling us from the start we're in F major and Db in the melody really just wants to resolve to C.

Play the pickup and the first two measures (without the chords) and you'll probably hear that. However, if you hear it some other way, with some other emphasis that's fine. In which case see if you can explain to yourself why and how you hear it in that other way. Your explanation to yourself of why and how you hear as you do. That's the gold!

Originally Posted By: pbluesman


Regarding the iim7b5, I think the melody at this point is a Db, hence the b5.

Would you still treat this as a minor 2-5 when improvising even though technically its resolving to major?



You've raised a good question. Which is should we improvise on the chord as ii-7b5 like it's going to resolve to a minor key? Or improvise on it as ii-7 because the tune does eventually resolve to major.

Which one you choose is up to you. But there's context there that can help you choose. So, for example, the melody begins on the pickup with the A. That says F major.

Another way is learn from great players who have defined this stuff. For example, Herbie Hancock with Miles Davis often played m7b5 chords as m7 chords. It was a stylistic thing in that particular group. But Bill Evans and Red Garland did the same. Herbie was influenced by BIll and Red so .... smile

The beboppers often did the same. But they also had another way. For them a min7b5 chord was a minor iv chord with the 6th in the bass–which really is something entirely different than a ii7b5

So Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris and others might say the chord we're discussing in FHS is a Bbm triad with a G in the bass.

The exemplar of that sort of thing is Woody'n You. In fakebook's it's G-7b5 to C7 to F-7b5 to Bb7 to Eb-7b5 to Ab7 to Dbmaj7. See how all those min7b5 chords eventually resolve to a major chord?

Dizzy talks about that in his autobiography. But those chords in that tune, and the way he and they described them, were more or less heard as Bbm/G to C7 to Abm/F to Bb7 to Gbm/Eb to Ab7 to Dbmaj7 So all the m7b5 chords built on ii are conceptualised instead as iv chords with the sixth in the bass.

You might try improvising on For Heaven Sake like that (play the G in the bass but treat the rest of the chord as Bbm). And then resolve it to C7. See if it makes a difference ... It's not always as simple or as easy as just "do it or try it ..." Sometimes there's a bit of experience and experimentation required to make the leap. Sometimes the leap just happens. But the experiment is worth doing. You can make about your own mind about what you find and what you hear.


Originally Posted By: pbluesman

I'm also a bit confused about why an altered scale would be suggested for D7(b9b13) when the altered scale doesn't contain the natural 5? Is it just that the 5th degree is largely insignificant in terms of the overall tonality?



That altered scale, wherever it came from, is just someone's idea of how to dress up that particular chord at that particular moment. All sorts of scales and chords could fit there.

The thing about scales placed over chords–some call that chord scale theory–as has been pointed out already is it's a limited way to go at it. Well, limited in some ways. Because Miles Davis explained many times that once he got to So What and related repertoire that he was exploring scales and not chords. There is a difference between playing on chords and improvising on scales and you can hear it in the repertoire MD was playing in those days.

I hope this stuff helps ... it's only the tip of the iceberg. Different players get to it in different ways. I've described it here in terms of a few different players to bring out the diversity in the approaches.

Anyway, which For Heaven's Sake are you listening to? ... it's a great tune!!

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#2320283 - Yesterday at 04:43 PM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
Ilion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/04/09
Posts: 25
Loc: United States
Originally Posted By: pbluesman
Hi,

I'm currently learning the Jazz Standard "For Heavens Sake" and I was just wondering if somebody could clarify if I'm using appropriate scales for improvisation, or if you could suggest more suitable alternatives. I find it a bit confusing because it looks like a minor 2-5 to major 1 which I haven't come across before (I've not been playing Jazz very long).

The chart I'm working with is in F major. The first four bars are as follows:

G-7b5 C7b9 / FMaj7 D7b9 / G-7b5 C7b9 / FMaj7 F7

The scales I am currently using:

G-7b5 - G Locrian #2 (Bb melodic Minor)
C7b9 - C Aux. Diminished (Db Diminished)
FMaj7 - F Major
D7b9 (voice this with b13 also as its in the melody) - D Altered (Eb Melodic Minor)

If somebody with more experience wouldn't mind taking a look at this I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance!


I think you are on the right track practicing these scales with these chords. I tend to think of your G locrian #2 as G natural minor with b5. Same difference...

For F Major you can also use F lydian.

I would use Eb melodic minor for D7(b9) just because the Bb is more consistent with the key than B natural (from the diminished scale). But in truth, when you improvise you can obviously freely adjust and alter harmonies...

I also like to practice patterns and arpeggios from within the scales. For example, playing an A aug7 arpeggio on Gm7(b5).

I would disagree that practicing scales and arpeggios isn't extremely relevant; using the same analogy as above, it is very difficult to spell words and create sentences without intimately knowing the alphabet. Of course there are different approaches, but mine is to know the sounds and tonalities of the scales so deeply that I can focus all my attention on melody which I do agree is the only real consideration.

Additionally, once those tonalities are sufficiently learned, and once good melody is the target, any intention to play "chord tones on strong beats" and so forth is pretty limited.

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#2320286 - Yesterday at 05:01 PM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
chrisbell Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1342
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Chord/Scale relationships are very important, needless to say; playing a scale up and down is not improvising.

Your choice of chords and scales is pretty ok, just a little off in my pov.
I would play: Gm7b5 C7b9, Am7 D7b9, Gm7b5 C7b9, FMaj7 B7#11, Bbm7

Gm7b5: locrian #2
C7b9: Half/Whole diminished
Am7: dorian
D7b9: is a little tricky; it has a b6 via the key signature, but there's no place for a b5 so no alt-scale (or super-locrian or diminished-whole tone). I would use the Half/Whole diminished and add the b6.
F: well duh the Ionian smile
B7#11: Lydian dominant
_________________________

I never play anything the same way once.

https://soundcloud.com/chrisb/sets
https://www.youtube.com/user/djboing/videos

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#2320478 - Today at 04:04 AM Re: For Heavens Sake - Improvisation Scales [Re: pbluesman]
pbluesman Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 15
Mark - Thank you for that very long detailed response, it's very helpful and has given me quite a few ideas to try out at the piano.

To answer your question I actually just picked the song at random from the real book, I wanted to learn something and put my own spin on it before listening to some recordings so I could compare what they did with my own. I have however listened to the Horace Silver version before but it wasn't a tune that I was too familiar with.

My plan was to go through the following steps in order to learn the tune:

1. Learn melody with roots only
2. Learn song with 2+1/2+3 style accompaniment
3. Learn the song with rootless chords
4. Pick and learn appropriate chord scales
5. Look specifically at some options for reharm
6. Compare with recordings, possibly transcribe some solos etc.
7. Work out a written arrangement for the melody (I think this gives an opportunity to come up with different figures, runs that I wouldn't normally when improvising.

So far it's going quite well and I'm on step 4.


Ilion - Thanks for your feedback. I completely agree I think we both learn in a similar manner. If I learn the sound of the scale I learn the sound of the intervals and that helps me a lot.


Chris - you've just made me realise why that D7b9 didn't sound quite right. I too was looking at either D altered and half/whole diminished. I decided on D altered because it had the b6 but it still didn't sound quite right so I tried adding back in the 5th, but I still had the b5 in there which now I'm thinking about it doesn't make any sense. Your logic of going for the half/whole and adding in the b6 makes sense. Thanks for your help with this.


Edited by pbluesman (Today at 04:07 AM)

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