Although I believe there is a limit to value of practicing and understanding chord scale theory, the melodic minor scale is so prevalent in jazz improvisation and composition, I think that learning it’s modes in all keys to be both important and relevant to a developing improviser.
Here’s a PDF and an mp3 of all the melodic minor scales and the modes. I made a call on the en-harmonic spellings in the various keys in an attempt to make each mode easier on it’s own. You can play along with or sing along to the mp3 for ear training and to help you hear if and when you are making a mistake in a scale or mode
Click the link below to download the PDF of the modes in all 12 keys:
In this video I’m working on playing All The Things in 4/4 on piano. Half notes in the bass and 3rds and 7ths grouped in 5/8. This piano exercise helps me to play 5/8 against 4 while playing my saxophone. Just to be clear, the grouping of 5/8 in my right hand is a quarter note followed by a dotted quarter note throughout the form of the tune. This 5/8 grouping creates harmonic anticipation and harmonic suspension against the 4/4 half notes in the bass. It will help you to blur the bar line a bit and improve your rhythmic concept.
Here’s a short routine I came up with that covers all diatonic triads in all inversions through
Major, Harmonic minor, Melodic minor and Harmonic Major scales. The triads notes are ordered only in broken arpeggios (skipping between voices or chord tones) which I find to be a bit more challenging. For example, C major in root position with a note order or broken arpeggio of 3,1,5 is more difficult than note order or arpeggio 1,3,5 (while keeping the triad in root position). This routine covers all these broken arpeggios in every inversion through 4 scale types. The PDF’s below are all in C (C major sale, C Harmonic minor scale, C Melodic minor scale and C Harmonic Major scale. The mp3s can allow you to sing along for ear training.
In this video I’m practicing a simple melody derived from a Dominant Pentatonic scale (1,2,3,5,b7,1). I play the melody over concert C7 chord and ascend by half steps through the keys. I play the melody slowly over concert C7 at first, so you can figure out the line by ear, just pause and rewind if needed. This is a nice scale for use over a dominant 7th chord with a natural 9.
If you use the scale a tri-tone away (F# Dominant Pentatonic over C7) it implies an altered dominant sound (#11, #5 b7, b9, 3).
During the melody I try to stay relaxed and balanced as well as using some space or rest between keys. I often try to remove my left hand from the horn between phrases to help me develop a physical habit which leads to using a little more space.
Working on triads is something I do frequently as I find it good for my ears, my mind, my technique and my basic understanding of one of the fundamental structures found in both melody and harmony. Strong melodies and voicings are often an embellishment of a triad, often times a triad with one added note. In this video I’m working with a metronome on 4 simple 2nd inversion triad phrases from my book Major Triad Mastery. Each triad is in 2nd inversion but the notes are played in 4 different orders thus creating 4 distinct triadic melodies. These are the note orders in 2nd inversion: 1). 1,5,3 alternating with 3,5,1 – 2). 1,3,5 alternating with 5,3,1 – 3). 3,5,1 alternating with 1,5,3 – 4). 5,3,1 alternating with 1,3,5 . The triads are played with a metronome descending by half step from concert Bb major down through the keys.
I finished a new book recently which is a very in depth study of the major triad.
The major triad, built off the naturally occurring overtone series, is one of the most common melodic and harmonic structures found in nearly all types of music. A strong grasp of the major triad, in all of its inversions (root, 1st and 2nd), in all 6 orders of notes (1-3-5, 1-5-3, 3-1-5, 3-5-1, 5-1-3, 5-3-1) and in both spread and closed position will give the improvising artist, the composer and the performer a undeniable leverage point to help improve his or her musical abilities and ear.
Strong melodies and harmonic voicing are often simple embellishments of major triads and through a detailed study of triadic shapes one of basic schematics of melody harmony can be strengthened and expanded upon.
By playing through this book of studies and by singing, visualizing, memorizing and otherwise fully grasping the major triad in it’s many forms, one should see steady and marked improvement in ones ear, musical skills and freedom on their instrument. I believe that the study of the basic melodic and harmonic building blocks of music represent a fulcrum which allows for general improvement in all other musical areas.
This book is designed to help facilitate a mastery of all major triads in both closed and spread positions, in all inversions, in all keys and all 6 orders of notes or arpeggiations. The triadic shapes either ascend or descend chromatically making each melodic sound easier to hear and transpose through all 12 keys. I hope the material helps to transform your playing, hearing and theoretical knowledge in a positive direction. You can purchase the PDF for $4.99 below:
Here I work on the same material from Daily Practice 10 but only in one key (concert A major 7 #5). Using space, focusing on posture, balance and breath will allow you to cultivate many good habits while repeating a phrase in order to help develop your technique. I believe that one very real danger in repetition lies in the habits you are unaware of that you bring into your process. If you are unaware that while repeating a phrase over and over you are also may be practicing mistakes, playing with tension, playing with a wondering (thinking) mind, poor time, non-listening, poor posture, shallow breathing, lack of space etc. you will inadvertently be sabotaging your ability to perform and play well with others even though you are spending hours working on the art form.
In this video I am practicing a Major 7 #5 chord while focusing on my posture, my balance and my breath. I’ll be descending by half step from concert Bb Major 7 #5. While doing this I’m focusing on balance through the awareness of the weight distribution on the bottoms of my feet, my posture by elongating the back of my neck and striving to lift the crown of my head gently toward the ceiling, and breathing deeply and calmly between the phrases or keys. By allowing enough space to pass between each phrase I can slowly ingrain these habits which I believe help you play and perform well, especially in the context of a group.
In this video I’m working on developing or practicing what I consider to be good performance habits. These are the 3 habits I’m focusing on: relaxing, using space and listening. Staying relaxed helps you stay aware and helps you communicate better with your fellow musicians while playing. Staying relaxed also helps to mitigate adrenaline or the “fight or flight” response that we often associate with stage fright. If I become tense while I perform, I tend to overplay, not listen as well and think too much while hearing less. Using space allows for better and more intelligent communication with rest of the band. It also allows for much better overall listening as we listen better when we are not playing. Lastly, I believe that active listening should be part of your practice process. If you focus on listening every time you use space you will have an easier time reacting and deriving inspiration and creative ideas from the players around you.
In this video I play a short melodic phrase from Stardust through the 12 keys. This is the melody that I was practicing singing in the car (Daily Practice 7). By doing all the visualization of the melody and fingerings while singing in the car it makes it much easier to play the melody on saxophone through the keys as I both hear and intellectually understand how the melody relates to the chord progression. I believe it’s important to strive to use your ear more than your mind to play the phrase through the keys, as the thinking mind does not always as reliable in terms of making good musical choices.
In this video I demonstrate one of the many things I do to practice while driving. This is the type of routine that can really help make a commute or any drive a great time to practice working on music, improvisation, learning tunes etc.. This example focuses on singing a short phrase from the standard Stardust. I sing the melodic fragment while visualizing the fingerings on my instrument (tenor saxophone) and visualize the chord and numeric relationship of the melody to that chord. I have learned many new tunes using this method while driving. You can practice nearly anything that you can sing this way. Keep in mind I do not have perfect pitch so when I sing I don’t know what key I’m really in. I just try to sing the pitches in a relative relationship to each other. The nice thing about this is that I can sing in one key while visualizing that melody in any of the 12 keys.
In this video I warm up using Major 7th chords in a broken arpeggio and Altered Scales in each key. I like warming up each day with something easy and slow, usually using a metronome. I try to play something I know and can hear well and at a tempo that allows me to play the material fairly accurately. I always feel that working on structure, that is, basics like 7th chords and scales slowly will always benefit your musicianship and ears. After I do a brief warm up of about 5 to 10 minutes I like to take a break, drink water, put the horn down and plan out what I’ll practice next.
In this video I practice using a 4 note cell or “tetrad” consisting of just the 1st, the 9th, the 5th and 13th degree of the major scale. In C this would be C, D, G and A. An interesting thing about this specific tetrad is that, since it contains no 3rd or 7th it sounds great for improvising over Major 9, minor 9 or Dominant 9 chords. This means that just working on this one tetrad will potentially cover a lot of harmonic ground and practical application. Also, be placing the tetrad in a different location in the harmony, i.e. built off the #11 on a Dominant 7th chord, it can easily imply altered harmony i.e. G7 (C#, D#, G#, A#) or #11, #5, b9, b9. I practice the tetrad in various ways in all keys. Doing this over time will lead to a fluidity in its use.
In this video I’m working on the modes of C harmonic minor. I play up and down the 7 scales or modes and I play up and down the 7th chord for each of the modes. The modes and their corresponding 7th chords can be thought of like this:
1st mode: C minor major 7 b13 (C-Maj7)
2nd mode: D minor 7 b5 b9 nat 13 (D-7b5)
3rd mode: Eb Major 7 #5 nat 11 (Eb Maj7#5)
4th mode: F minor 7 #11 (F-7)
5th mode: G7 b9 b13 nat 11 (G7)
6th mode: Ab Major 7 #9 #11 (AbMaj7)
7th mode: G7 b9 b13 nat 11/B (B dim)
*note that I like to think of the 7th mode as the 5th mode with the 3rd in the bass – or you can think of a diminished with an added nat 3rd.
In this practice video I’m working on minor 7 b5 chords or half diminished chords. I’ve found that by just focusing on the 4 notes of the 7th chord (tetrad or tetrachord) I strengthen my understanding of the structure and basic sound of the half diminished chord. Doing this over time has made it easier for me to improvise over this chord which I find one of the harder sounds to become comfortable with. In this example I play up and down the 7th chord in all keys in triplets, I also improvise some in triplets using just the 4 notes of the 7th chord.
In this practice video I’m working on using hand drums (in this case books) to practice accenting the 2nd triplet. This is similar to Lesson 80 (triplets grouped in 4). I also demonstrate working on triplets grouped in 5’s. I’ve found that working with hand drums or simply tapping on a table or on my legs is be a great way to work on my rhythm, time and feel. It definitely translates to my playing on the saxophone, improving my overall time, feel and groove. Working on accenting the 2nd triplet using hand drumming is slowly helping me hear and feel the 2nd triplet accent which in turn keeps me true to the harmonic rhythm and from losing beat 1 when the rhythm section starts to accent the 2nd triplet for a time.
This is the first in a new series of video “lessons” I’ll be publishing on this blog. I’ll be sharing the things I’m working on in real time, recording some of my practice time during the day. I will verbally explain what I’m working on and how I’m thinking about it. There will be mistakes and a certain degree raw, unrefined playing in these videos so it may not be for everyone. I hope it’s somewhat inspiring in so far as it let’s you know that we’re all working on this art form together and that we’re not alone.
In this first practice video I’m working on a Lydian b13 scale (1, 9, 3, #11, 5, b13, maj7, 1) through the 12 keys and playing it in Cycle 5 (consecutive diatonic 5ths). For more information on Cycle 5 see my post: Lesson 75.
This play along covers Dominant 7th chords in all 12 keys. I’ve been enjoying using these tracks in both my personal practice and teaching for a while.
The bass and drums swing at 120bpm in 4/4 time while a dominant 7th shell voicing (root, 3rd, b7th) drones in the background.
This type of play along has been done before, but the use of the live bass and drums combined with a drone of the Dominant 7 shell voicing (root, 3rd, b7) makes it really easy to hear the Dominant 7th sound.
Also, since the tracks have minimal rhythmic comping from a chordal instrument I find these play alongs less distracting when working on ear training or a specific phrase, scale or melodic idea.
Since each track is only a shell voicing plus bass and drums, you can play any type of dominant 7th chord or chord scale when practicing.
For example, you can put on the C7 play along (below) and improvise using C7 mixolydian, lydian dominant, altered, b9 – b13, H.W. diminished, whole tone, or any other dominant 7 chord scale, or just play free over the dominant 7th sound.
Each track plays for 5 minutes, and you can pick just the dominant 7th shell drone (root, 3rd and b7th) or the Drum and Bass plus dominant 7th shell drone (24 tracks in all).
You can download the mp3s from CD baby here or find them on any of the common online mp3 distributors.
Below is and sample C7 track you can play along to:
Improvising over the minor ii-7, V7, i chord progression can be challenging for both the beginning and advanced jazz musician. Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol.3 contains over 1600 Bars of minor ii-7, V7, i- melodies, licks and patterns in all 12 keys. The material is designed to help one develop an aural, technical and theoretical understanding of this common chord progression in each key. The lines use a variety of rhythmic groupings, chord substitutions, triads, triad pairs, chromatics, approach notes, tensions, chord tones, non chord tones, scales, and both “inside” and “outside” concepts, all with an emphasis on melody. You can click the cover art to buy the book from LULU press. Thanks for your support! Work on the content as you like. You can focus on one bar or one short melody at a time or just play through the material. I recommend using a metronome and learning to sing the individual ideas that you find most interesting and compelling. ~Enjoy!
This is Vol.2 of the Drum and Bass, Roots and Rhythm “play along” which is designed for both practicing and teaching. Vol. 1 has been well received and I thought one in 7/4 would be a nice addition. I’ve been using Drones and Pedals along with a metronome for years but now I’ve started using these play along’s for the same basic purposes. The bass player Jeff Harshbarger plays one note (root) for the duration of each exercise while Brian Steever keeps time on the drums. This allows you to practice anything you’d like over the root; a harmony, singing, visualizing, scales, tunes, lines, melodies, or free improvisation. I’ve been using these tracks for a while now, and I find them much more stimulating and inspiring than using a drone alone.
Volume 2 is all in 7/4 at tempos 80, 120 and 200 bpm and includes roots in every key. There are 29 tracks in both straight and swing feels and also a few tracks of drums alone from 120 to 240 bpm. I’ve included a sample track below that you can try out. You can click on the photo to purchase the mp3s from CD baby or send me a modest Donation with a message and I’ll email you a link directly.
Here’s a free track you can try out; Swing at 120 Bpm in 7 over a B pedal:
I’m happy to announce that the new CD “Broken Waltz” is finished! In an effort to make the music affordable for anyone and everyone, I’m offering both the CD and all the sheet music for a modest donation of ANY amount – 1$ to 100$. This includes both 10 mp3s (flac or mp3) and the corresponding 10 Concert pitch lead sheets (in PDF format).
~Donate with the link below and I’ll send you the recording and sheet music ASAP! ~Thanks for your support! 🙂
The recording includes 10 original songs of mine, many with a folk like quality, reflecting my early musical influences growing up listening to my parents music; Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Phil Ochs, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Woody Guthrie and the like. I’m very happy with how the project turned out.
Produced by David J. Carpenter and Matt Otto
Engineered and Recorded by David J. Carpenter
Mixed by Matt Otto and David J. Carpenter
Mastered by Rob Beaton
Cover art by Jamie Rosenn
Kenny Brooks transcribed my solo on “What Democracy” from this album: