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  1. #1

    Default I just don't get it please help!!!

    I've been improvising for a while now...about three years...and every time I just use a scale that covers the whole chord progression such as a blues scale...that's how I learned when I first learned. Now I want to start getting into changing with the chords and actually pulling some fantastic ideas with my improv, but I just can't get the what scales correspond to which chords. When I see a G7 for example on my page...is that telling me scales that start on my G? or on a concert G? Also what scale goes with a G7 or a Gm chord? How can I know what scale to use when improvising? The same goes for any chord whether &, 9, 13, augmented, diminishes, whatever...I just need major help understanding what scales and chords mean in chord progressions. Nobody thus far has been able to explain to me in a well enough way and hopefully I can find some help here.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    The best way I find to practice this is to play arpeggios through the tune, I suck at this but it does pay off eventually. A G7 has a flat 7 (F) and a Gm has a flat 3 and flat 7 (Bb and F) so you'd need to at least play the G dominant and Gm scale over those as a start....

    The other way to practice those three types at once is the Aebersold 2-5-1 book. Track 1 (I think it is) has a 2-5-1 in all keys and the sheet has it written out for you. If you play the 1-3-5-7- arpeggios through this exercise then it will lock in your knowledge of the minor, major and dominant scales.
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    In addition to that Aebersold (Vol 3), it sounds like you'd really benefit from Vol 1, http://www.jazzbooks.com/mm5/merchan...ry_Code=AEBPLA. These volumes, and the first one especially, are more than just playalongs. Jamey lays out some basic jazz theory with a method to work through it. Also worth your while, cause it's free, is his Jazz Handbook: http://www.jazzbooks.com/mm5/merchan...Category_Code=. There is a lot of info in that one, not necessarily wholly coherent, but worth your time.
    A piano player once gave me some insight that's stuck with me. He told me there are only 4 types of chords: major, minor, augmented, and diminished. Everything else is just a flavor of one of these, and essentially the scale you use give it the flavor. Just keep it in mind as you learn some more.

  4. #4

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by blastoama4 View Post
    but I just can't get the what scales correspond to which chords.
    When people ask me what scale I use over a certain chord, I always tell them "chromatic" What scale goes with what chord is only a guide, a starting point. The ultimate goal is to be able to play any notes over a given chord and have it sound good.

    For example, the scale usually associated with G7 is G/A/B/C/D/E/F/G i.e. the same notes as C major. All of these notes will sound "inside" but you can also play the other 5 notes for a more "outside" sound. Bb and C# gives you a bluesy sound, G# gives you a jazzy sound (although it takes time to learn how to get this to work), etc. The idea is to learn how each of the 12 notes sound in the context of the chord you're playing over.

    This series of videos talks about playing through changes but the underlying principle is the same: each note has a certain function, or aural feel and colour, and like a painter has to learn how to use different colours to paint a picture, musicians have to learn how to use the different effect of each note to paint an aural picture.
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  5. #5
    Distinguished SOTW Member Agent27's Avatar
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    +1 for Aebersold volume 1. That's how I started.

    The first thing you need to do is get a basic understanding of theory. Major scales, and the modes and chords derived from them. Chord construction and intervals.

    To answer one of your questions quickly, if you're reading music written for your instrument, then any chords you see written will correspond to your instrument and not concert pitch.

    Basics:

    Modes:
    You should know your major scales to start off with. To keep it simple, I'll use C Major for examples.

    C D E F G A B C

    This is the major scale played from C to C. Pretty standard. If you play the same scale but start and end on different notes then it becomes a different scale.

    D E F G A B C D

    That's the same C Major scale but played D to D instead of C to C. You can do this with every note of the C major scale. These scales, derived from the Major scale, are called modes. The one above is called "D Dorian". "D" refers to the root of the scale and "Dorian" refers to the specific mode. The dorian mode is built off the 2nd scale degree of any major scale. For example, if "A Dorian" (A B C D E F# G A) is the mode built off the 2nd scale degree of G Major.

    Here are the other modes of the C Major scale.

    Phrygian: E F G A B C D E (C major scale starting on the 3rd scale degree, played from E to E)

    Lydian: F G A B C D E F (C major scale starting on the 4th scale degree, played from F to F)

    Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G (C major scale starting on the 5rd scale degree, played from G to G)

    Aeolian: A B C D E F G (C major scale starting on the 6th scale degree, played from A to A) NOTE: This is also the Natural Minor Scale

    Locrian: B D E F G A B C (C major scale starting on the 7th scale degree, played from B to B)

    Note: The C major scale is also called the Ionian mode.

    You can see that one scale has now given you 7 scales. That might seem overwhelming because whereas before you just had 12 major scales, now you have 84 scales including all the modes. Don't worry about that now. Here's what to focus on, the Mixolydian and Dorian modes.

    The Mixolydian mode is also called the "Dominant Scale". This is the primary scale used when playing over a Dominant Chord. The G7 chord you asked about is a dominant chord. Any chord that has a 7, 9, or 13 following the note name without any notation signifying the chord has a major 7th (by using Major, Maj, M, or a triangle) is a dominant chord.

    You can think of the Mixolydian/Dominat scale in a couple of ways.

    1)Mixolydian is the 5th mode of a Major scale. G is the 5th note of a C major scale. Therefore, G Mixolydian has the same notes as the C Major Scale, starting and ending on G.

    2) Alternatively, you can think of a G major scale but take the 7th scale degree, F#, and take it down a 1/2 step, making it an F natural.

    Often times before a Dominant chord you will see a minor chord (Dm7, Dmin7, D-7). The best scale choice for this chord is usually the Dorian mode.

    Like the Dominant scale, you can think of this a couple of ways.

    1)Dorian is the 2nd mode of a Major scale. D is the 2nd note of a C major scale. Therefore, D Dorian has the same notes as the C Major Scale, starting and ending on D.

    2)Take a D Major scale and lower the 3rd (F#) and 7th (C#) each a 1/2 step so that they become F natural and C natural respectively.

    3)Take a D Mixolydian scale and lower the 3rd a 1/2 step.

    I mentioned before that G7 typically resolves to C. Well, D-7 typically resolves to G7 which typically resolves to C. When you look at all of those chords, guess what? They all share the same scale. This progression is known as a ii-V7-I and it's the most common progression in jazz.

    So how should you practice this? First, get a piece of staff paper and write out all 12 major scales. Then rewrite those scales starting and ending on the 5th note of those scales. These are your Mixolydian/Dominant scale and what you will play over dominant chords. Practice those.

    Once you have those down and can play them from memory, go back to your sheet of major scales and rewrite the scales starting and ending on the 2nd note of the scales. These are what you will primarily use on minor chords.

    That will get you started.

    I won't really get into chord construction, but targeting chord tones (playing them on the downbeats) is very important when trying to give a clear picture of the harmony. You can play the right scale and sound wrong (or not clearly outline the harmony). Likewise, you can play notes that are "wrong" but have it sound right if you play chord tones on the downbeat.

    As a really simplistic (and kind of backwards) way of knowing what the chord tones are, take the appropriate scale and take the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes of the scale. Those are your chord tones. So, we know that you play G Mixolydian/dominant over G7. The notes of the G7 chord are G (1st) B (3rd) D (5th) and F (7th).

    Again, this is a really simplistic method and honestly somewhat limited and thus not the best way to go about it. I suggest getting a book on Jazz Theory and really learn about intervals and chord construction as soon as possible. The Mark Levine book has a lot of info but might be too much to take in at this point. The Jazz Theory Handbook by Peter Spitzer is shorter (but good) and might be easier to understand. And right now, don't even get into the harmony of the Harmonic Minor or Melodic Minor or synthetic scales (diminished, augmented) right now. Get the major harmony down before you move on.

  6. #6

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    I'm actually putting together some more videos that cover exactly what you're asking but here's some stuff to get you started.

    There are two ways to think about the relationship between scales and chords.

    (1) What altered notes make the sound of a chord?

    The C major chord obviously goes with the C major scale i.e.
    Code:
        C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C
    A dominant chord has a flattened 7th, so we modify the scale accordingly:
    Code:
        C   D   E   F   G   A   Bb  C
    Co-incidentally, this has the same notes as F major, but you should think of it as a different scale, the C7 scale if you like.

    A minor chord has a flattened 3rd and 7th and the corresponding scale is:
    Code:
        C   D   Eb  F   G   A   Bb  C
    The same notes as Bb major but again, think of it as a different scale.

    (2) Using modes

    If we write out the C major scale, but starting on a different note each time, we get the different "modes" (scales) and each one is associated with a different chord.

    Code:
    Cmaj7   Ionian      C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C   
    Dmin7   Dorian          D   E   F   G   A   B   C   D
    Emin7   Phrygian            E   F   G   A   B   C   D   E
    Fmaj7#4 Lydian                  F   G   A   B   C   D   E   F
    G7      Mixolydian                  G   A   B   C   D   E   F   G
    Amin7   Aeolian                         A   B   C   D   E   F   G   A
    Bm7b5   Locrian                             B   C   D   E   F   G   A   B
    The chord tones for each chord are the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th note of each scale.

    This covers the basic chord types (major/minor/dominant) and there are a few more advanced ones in (2). For method (1) there are 12 scales x 3 chord types = 36 combinations, for method (2) there are 12 scales x 7 modes = 84 combinations, so it'll take a while to master it all...
    Turning music inside out - JazzTeddyBears.com

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    Forum Contributor 2009 & Mouthpiece Patch Mogul Face Ache Mike's Avatar
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Taka, I just spent some time at your site and would like to thank you. Your explanation is clear and has been the easiest to understand of the many books, videos etc I have seen. Please continue to add more lessons. Thanks again.

  8. #8

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Face Ache Mike View Post
    Your explanation is clear and has been the easiest to understand of the many books, videos etc I have seen. Please continue to add more lessons.
    Thanks for the feedback. It's always good to hear that people are finding it useful, that's why I put it up I'm self-taught, so I definitely understand the kind of problems people have when trying to figure this stuff out
    Turning music inside out - JazzTeddyBears.com

  9. #9

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by tmuraoka View Post

    This series of videos talks about playing through changes
    These are excellent. Blastoama4, if you're still with us, you should definitely spend some time absorbing and processing these. And I would also recommend printing out Agent27's post (#5) and tmuraoka's post (#6) and studying them. You asked for help . . . and you definitely got it!

    Threads like this always make me stop and marvel at the quality and generosity of the membership here at SOTW.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Fader's Avatar
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    There is I'm sure some wonderful advice on this thread. A different approach might be to simply toss out the books and stuff and use your ear. It sounds like you know the scales - That probably puts you ahead of me. All I know is what I like and what sounds good to me. Close the doors and experiment without thinking about scales. Preferably without thinking at all. Feel the force - play the music.

    Or as Chevy Chase said in Caddy Shack - "Be the ball Danny"

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Martinman's Avatar
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    I'd recommend finding someone who knows how to play jazz and taking lessons from them.
    "Martin owners just change the freakin' bulb and get the job done." - MartinMusicMan

  13. #13

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    What's in your record collection?

    I'd like to know more about how you are interpreting the music you hear.

    Scales are supplemental. Ears are fundamental.


    Do you have access to a keyboard? If so play a chord while playing a scale in the other hand. Once you have the sound of that scale in your head, sing along with that chord.

    Engage the ears
    as often as possible.

    Also, chords do not exist by themselves. I heard improvisers play Eb over CM7. The chord before was G7 and the chord after CM7 was DbM7, he played it a little early to say the Eb existed to force in DbM7(add9), so it is more likely, theoretically to explain it as holding the sound of G7 with a b13. Or it was just wrong and bluesy and the PHRASING made it hip.

    The latter explanation conquers most. Because as you understand the phrasing you can get the *feeling* of Jazz. Like when Paul Chambers walks down to F and Wynton's spelling out B7. There are some chords and scales that make this work theoretically. But to have this feeling in your ears.

    Certain kinds of expectations.

    This comes from really getting inside the music with your ears. What you don't want to happen is to engage the mind with formulas THEN go into the music. It's a feeling first, and the chord/scale supplements expands this fundamental understanding.

    PM if ya want some recordings, I recently pulled out some stuff in my Itunes for a guitar player I play with occasionally.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    blastoama4, there's quite a deluge of (all great) info on this thread already. Since you asked about improvising over the chord changes, I would suggest using the chord tones as targets, especially the 3rds and 7ths, since those particular chord tones sound the harmony most clearly. So in the case of G7, you'll be 'thinking' the chord tones B and F. G7 = 1 3 5 b7 = G B D F. You can fill in between those chord tones with notes from the G mixo (dominant) scale, and if you do it right, from the entire chromatic scale. But the important tones are B and D. Try to land on one of those on a down beat or at the chord change.

    If all of what I just said sounds like Greek to you (assuming you're not Greek), then you need to back up, get a basic book on music theory and learn basic scales, chords, chord construction, etc. Learn and memorize all your major scales first so you have a point of reference.

    Finally, one last thing, in case this isn't all "Greek" to you, work on using good voice leading. That means move by step or half-step from one chord into the next chord at the change. So in a blues, if you're moving from the I7 chord to the IV7 chord, let's say from G7 to C7, one example would be to move from B (G7 chord) to Bb (C7 chord). Voice leading (connecting chords smoothly) and guide tones (3rd & 7th chord tones) are important concepts.

  15. #15

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Fader View Post
    A different approach might be to simply toss out the books and stuff and use your ear.
    Sorry but I have to absolutely disagree with this. Learning music is like learning a language, and trying to learn how to improvise without knowing the theory is like trying to become a writer without being able to spell or know grammar.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fader View Post
    Close the doors and experiment without thinking about scales. Preferably without thinking at all. Feel the force - play the music.
    This I absolutely agree with, but you have to remember to do *both* - learn the theory *and* learn how to play.

    A lot of people get obsessed with the minutiae of theory and forget about the artistic/emotional side of things, and others get scared or discouraged by the amount of work they have to do and so come up with "reasons" why they can do it just by ear

    Quote Originally Posted by Fader View Post
    "Be the ball Danny"
    One of my favorite music quotes is, I think, from Bird: First learn how to play your instrument, then learn all your chords and scales and theory, then forget all that and just learn how to play
    Turning music inside out - JazzTeddyBears.com

  16. #16

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Thanks to everyone so much. All this information will definitely go into my practice routines and it'll definitely supplement my improv.

  17. #17
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by tmuraoka View Post
    Sorry but I have to absolutely disagree with this. Learning music is like learning a language, and trying to learn how to improvise without knowing the theory is like trying to become a writer without being able to spell or know grammar.
    You don't learn to speak a language learning grammar.

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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    A different approach might be to simply toss out the books and stuff and use your ear.
    Sorry but I have to absolutely disagree with this. Learning music is like learning a language, and trying to learn how to improvise without knowing the theory is like trying to become a writer without being able to spell or know grammar.
    You don't learn to speak a language learning grammar.
    Interesting exchanges here, often I think we're just using different points of view to get at some of the same concepts. Ultimately, improvisation is music. Organized sound.

    While it's common to learn scale theory and rely upon chords, scales, arpeggios, and patterns to improvise, improvisation can also be learned by simply listening, imitating, and exploring. If you listen a lot to the great players (Parker, Armstrong, Eldridge, Lester, Dexter, Charlie Christian, John Lewis, Bud Powell, etc), it's likely you will pick up a lot of ideas. Start working out things you hear, and by imitation your ideas should have a cohesiveness and logic to them.

    While I don't endorse any single approach (learn as many approaches as you can!), I think it is possible to learn entirely by ear, which is the final judge anyhow. Bunky Green referred to this as theory following practice. Whatever approach one takes, spending time playing by ear helps.

  19. #19

    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by magical pig View Post
    You don't learn to speak a language learning grammar.
    ?!?! You're suggesting you can learn to speak Chinese or Swahili without knowing the rules of how sentences are constructed, whether they use subject/verb/object or subject/object/verb or verb/subject/object, how to conjugate verbs?
    Turning music inside out - JazzTeddyBears.com

  20. #20
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: I just don't get it please help!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by tmuraoka View Post
    ?!?! You're suggesting you can learn to speak Chinese or Swahili without knowing the rules of how sentences are constructed, whether they use subject/verb/object or subject/object/verb or verb/subject/object, how to conjugate verbs?
    Yes. AFAIK Chinese kids learn to speak before they learn how it works in theory.

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