Sometimes working on just one key for a while can be beneficial. Today I practiced a bit on concert A major - on tenor sax this is B major, which does not lay well on the horn for me, mainly due to my deficiency using the side A# fingering. Also, it’s more difficult for me to visualize the 7 modes in this key than compared to concert Bb major.
After singing and playing over an A drone for a while, I came up with a simple melody that moves down through the 7 modes of concert A major by diatonic step (all over an A drone). For rhythmic interest, each melody is played first as all dotted quarter notes (a 3 over 4 grouping) and than in 8th notes. I started by singing the exercise until it was easy to hear and visualize and than put it on the horn.
There’s a PDF with the melody for C, Bb and Eb below.
This is a simple melody that uses the 2nd mode of harmonic major over a -7b5 chord (or half diminished) in one key (concert F#-7b5) which is concert E harmonic major, the 2nd mode being concert F#-7b5(nat9, nat13).
This 2nd mode of harmonic major creates an interesting “bright” sound over half diminished; natural 9 and natural 13.
The more common locrian mode of the major scale gives you a b9 and b13 on a -7b5 and the popular 6 mode of melodic minor will give you a natural 9 and a b13 over a -7b5.
The 2nd mode of harmonic minor over -7b5 will give you the b9 and the natural 13.
All 4 scales will work nicely over a half diminished chord but this melody just focuses on using the natural 9 and natural 13 sound (2nd mode of harmonic major).
Here’s a simple chart that should help make it clear:
F#-7b5 (b9,b13) = F# locian (G maj scale 7th mode) F#, G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
F#-7b5(nat9,b13) = 6 mode of A melodic min F#, G#, A, B, C, D, E, F#
F#-7b5(b9, nat13) = 2nd mode of E harmonic min F#, G, A, B, C, D#, E, F#
F#-7b5(nat9,nat13) = 2nd mode of E harmonic maj F#, G#, A, B, C, D#, E, F#
The intro and outro clips in the video are short improvisations using this 2nd mode of harmonic major i.e. concert E harmonic major, 2nd mode = F#-7b5(nat9, nat13).
The short melody in the lesson uses a grouping of 7/8 over 4/4 and is a sequential melody descending by diatonic 3rds through the mode (cycle 6 in Mick Goodrick’s system).
Try singing the melody over a drone or the F#-7b5 chord until it feels comfortable than play idea on your instrument. After try improvising freely with the mode.
For more an introduction on the use of the 7 modes of harmonic major, you can pick up my book on the topic here.
This ii-7, V7, I melody that uses minor triads with an added 9th (or 2nd) i.e. 1,3,5,9 or 1,9,3,5 etc…
The first part of the melody uses a minor triad with the added 9 over the ii chord (D-7 would use a d minor triad with the 9th “E” added). The second part of the melody uses the minor triad with an added 9th one half step above the root (G7 would use an Ab minor triad with the 9th “Bb” added) or a tritone away from the first triad. This triad with added 9 over the dominant produces an “altered” sound giving you b9, #9, 3 and #5 on the dominant and comes from the 7 mode of melodic minor or altered scale). The line resolves to the 5th of the I chord… Try singing the line slowly at the piano to learn to hear it well before playing it on your primary instrument.
My friend Miles mentioned to me that Stefon Harris refers these triads with any single added note as “quadrads”. A quadrad can basically be thought of as a 4 note scale.
Once you’ve worked on this simple melody through the keys try improvising using the 4 note “quadrads” over the same ii – V – I progression. Last, try to use the quadrads over a standard or original you enjoy improvising on. This should help the new sound eventually become part of what you hear.
In this lesson we’ll look at the first ii – V7 – I melody found in the “Modern Jazz Vocabulary vol. 2” book. This melody is comprised of major 1st inversion triads descending by half steps and a few chromatic passing tones at the end. The melody is also grouped in 6 against the harmonic rhythm in 4/4. The descending triads end up outlining some nice tensions over the the ii – V7 – I progression. Although this is a melodic sequence it is still loosely based and George Garzone’s Triadic Approach which I recommend checking out. In the video I play this short melodic phrase through the 12 keys at both a med and med up tempo. Remember to work on this and all the material from the blog from memory as much as possible. I believe it’s better to learn the idea from memory in one key than to read it in 12 keys.
Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol. 2 Is an in depth study of classic II-V-I progression found commonly in jazz improvisation. The nearly 300 melodic examples incorporate rhythmic groupings, triad pairs, enclosures, chromatics, synthetic scales, chord substitutions and more.
“…I can definitely use this book for myself and my students.”
In lesson 63 we look at a simple melody that uses both the natural 9 (the #11) and the b9 on a dominant 7th chord. Within the first bar of this melody a major triad a whole step above the root is present. Somtimes this is refered to as an upper structure triad since it outlines some of the notes above the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th of the chord (in this case the 13th, the 9th, and the #11th).
The resolution melody in bar 2 does not contain a 3rd or a 7th so you could conceivably play this idea over a major, minor or dominant 7th chord. It can be interesting to improvise over a chord using just the root, 5th, 9th and 13th – creating a nice open sound (you can hear this concept used by many great improvisers such as Art Tatum, Monk, and Dexter Gordon).
There is a play along mp3 below to help you hear the harmonic context of the melody and also a “sing along” mp3 with the melody for ear training, singers, or those suffering from RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome. In the video I first play the resolution melody (5, 13, 9, 13, 5, 9) in the second bar of the play along through the keys. Next I play just the V7 melody resolving just to the 5th of the resolution chord through the keys and lastly I play the whole melody through the keys.
I had the honor of doing a masterclass at Casa Valdez Studios while in Portland earlier this month. We talked a lot about singing over droneswhile visualizing the related fingerings on your instrument. Using this method to learn to hear vertical harmony, and horizontal melody can really help one begin to connect with their ear and inner voice and help free them from playing by rote, i.e. using mainly muscle memory habits, chord scale theory and/or other forms of analysis to improvise.
David cooking Vegan Sausage.
Getting to teach the class and play for a week with David Valdez and some amazing Portland musicians was a huge inspiration. Not only was the music gratifying and challenging, I ate better than I’ve eaten for years; David is both an amazing player and an amazing cook, and knows all the best restaurants in town!
David recorded the whole “lecture” and posted it on his blog, here’s the link:
We sang the root motion to some simple tunes and talked about playing what you hear (the melody you hear note by note in your mind) as opposed to playing what you “think” (using theory and concepts). We also briefly talked about some “thinking based concepts” like playing “outside” the harmony using modulation (playing inside melodies in unrelated keys), as well as a variation of Garzone’s triadic approach, and playing atonal or random intervals over structured harmony.
I’ll be posting some of the gigs that we played together during that week and hopefully you’ll be able to hear some of these concepts put into practice. Here’s short solo from one of our gigs.
While working on major 7th and minor 7th “drop 2″ chord voicings, I found a nice shape to work on through the keys. Drop 2 is a great way to voice chords and has been used in classical and jazz music for hundreds of years. Several of Mick Goodricks books really get into the drop 2 voicing in depth while this short exercise just looks at one simple major and minor voicing in isolation. Arpeggiating voicings on a single note instrument can be interesting and challenging and will help you incorporate intervallic melodies to contrast traditional linear ideas. One nice thing about working with a chord voicing is that, no matter what order you play the notes in, a strong melody ensues.
This lesson covers a great melody from one of the Bach Cello suites which has been extended slightly to cover the whole major scale.
The sequence outlines the main seven chords found in the major scale (in the key of C: Fmaj, B-7b5, E-7, A-7, D-7, G7, Cmaj); the root motion moves in diatonic fourths. I’ve found this exercise to be very melodic and yet strangely challenging to memorize and play technically.
To expand on this melody, try playing the material in smaller phrases, perhaps just outlining one or two of the chords. Also, changing the rhythm in a variety of ways should help the material become a more creative part of your vocabulary.
I thought it might be nice to work with a variation on Lesson 1 (Spread Triads) – In this exercise we play spread major triads a tri-tone apart, a sound which will work nicely over a dominant 7th chord with with a b9 and a #11 (or as a substitution).
This is one simple way to begin hearing larger intervals and shapes while still maintaining melodic and harmonic integrity. I like to work on the material slowly with a metronome while trying to sing and memorize each interval right from the start. This helps to internalise the new material quickly and exercise your analytical mind. By singing melody slowly over a drone in a key that fits the range of your voice the larger intervals will become easier to hear and to incorporate into your improvisation.
There is a PDF and video of me playing the lesson below. The melody is played through the 12 keys starting on Concert C7.
This is a nice triadic idea that works through a dimished scale. By simply playing 2nd inversion major triads down by minor thirds you get a nice melodic line that clearly outlines the 4 major triads found in diminshed harmony.
This line also works nice over a dominant 7th chord with a #9, b9, #11, 13. Or over a standard diminished chord. Since it is so symmetrical, it will work nicely for playing outside the changes as well…
The line is played around the circle of 4ths starting on concert C. After you feel comfortable with the melody, practice improvising with the underlying structure (major triads descending by minor 3rd). Using this basic schematic, you can discover endless melodies.