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  1. #1

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    Hi,

    I have some related questions which to me touch on the issues of notation, symbology, memorization, and how to play my instrument (guitar) in different situations.

    Consider a lead sheet (ala the Realbook), and consider a measure (bar) where the melody note is not the 1, 3, 5, or 7 of the chord.

    Example: melody note of D (in the melody, on the staff) where the notated chord is Cm7

    Chord Symbology, Melody, and How to Play-cm-d-note-jpg

    Questions

    Why wouldn't this be notated with a chord symbol of Cm9?

    Is the intent that if you are not the melody-instrument-of-the-moment then you *should not* play the 9 (D)?

    But if you are playing solo guitar, chord-melody style, then you would (have to) play the 9 (D), right?

    How should the tune be memorized, as a Cm7 there or as a Cm9 there?



    Example: melody note of A where the notated chord is Em7b5

    Chord Symbology, Melody, and How to Play-em7b5-note-jpg

    Why wouldn't this be notated with a chord symbol of Em11 (or even Bm7b5)?

    If I'm not the melody-instrument-of-the-moment then playing that b5 anywhere in the treble range is going to clash with the melody. So why is the chord symbol telling me to play the b5? Is the intent that the b5 be "way down" in the bass range somewhere?

    If the melody note of A is to be present, then what would be the point of also having either a G or a Bb present? Aren't we really meaning to *replace* either the 3rd or the b5 with the A? And, wouldn't these be two separate things to be notated differently as, say, Em11 or Bm7b5 ?


    I hope the reader can see how these questions are sort of all tied together.

    For me as a player, I will most often be playing solo chord-melody style. However, in a group situation when it happens, I want to do the right thing that will sound good and be welcomed.

    All this confuses me from the POV of my tune progression memorization process, which I somehow need to make much more efficient if my book is ever going to expand significantly.

    I'm open to all input on how to think about these things. Thanks!
    Last edited by sj1; 02-09-2021 at 10:14 AM.

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I think of the chords as an incomplete suggestion. There is no requirement for the melody note to be a chord tone. As for chord-melody guitar, you just have to be aware of this.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by sj1
    Hi,

    I have some related questions which to me touch on the issues of notation, symbology, memorization, and how to play my instrument (guitar) in different situations.

    Consider a lead sheet (ala the Realbook), and consider a measure (bar) where the melody note is not the 1, 3, 5, or 7 of the chord.

    Example: melody note of D (in the melody, on the staff) where the notated chord is Cm7

    Chord Symbology, Melody, and How to Play-cm-d-note-jpg

    Questions

    Why wouldn't this be notated with a chord symbol of Cm9?

    Is the intent that if you are not the melody-instrument-of-the-moment then you *should not* play the 9 (D)?

    But if you are playing solo guitar, chord-melody style, then you would (have to) play the 9 (D), right?

    How should the tune be memorized, as a Cm7 there or as a Cm9 there?



    Example: melody note of E where the notated chord is Em7b5

    Chord Symbology, Melody, and How to Play-em7b5-note-jpg

    Why wouldn't this be notated with a chord symbol of Em11 (or even Bm7b5)?

    If I'm not the melody-instrument-of-the-moment then playing that b5 anywhere in the treble range is going to clash with the melody. So why is the chord symbol telling me to play the b5? Is the intent that the b5 be "way down" in the bass range somewhere?

    If the melody note of A is to be present, then what would be the point of also having either a G or a Bb present? Aren't we really meaning to *replace* either the 3rd or the b5 with the A? And, wouldn't these be two separate things to be notated differently as, say, Em11 or Bm7b5 ?


    I hope the reader can see how these questions are sort of all tied together.

    For me as a player, I will most often be playing solo chord-melody style. However, in a group situation when it happens, I want to do the right thing that will sound good and be welcomed.

    All this confuses me from the POV of my tune progression memorization process, which I somehow need to make much more efficient if my book is ever going to expand significantly.

    I'm open to all input on how to think about these things. Thanks!
    It's very difficult to discuss this in the abstract. Very broadly, most people who write charts that are used as sources for improvising write the chords as simply as they can while still conveying the harmony of the tune. For most standards, that means maj, min, dom7, half dim, and dim7. There are tune-specific exceptions where you really need to write voicings in greater detail to convey the tune. There are also transcribers who write 4-note symbols for everything, just because that's what they do, and there are some of those who write maj7 just because (even if a 6 sounds better with the melody). The Real Book is a mish-mosh of all that, plus random idiosyncratic exceptions, plus mistakes. If you have to look at it tune by tune to discern what's up (and be ready to treat some symbols as only suggestions and some as mistakes). The one thing one has to understand is that the lead sheets are not fully scored arrangements. They're practical, skeletal pictures of tunes intended to give you the information you need to come up with your own voicings and lines.

    John

  5. #4

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    OP - Yes I would say that you're on the right track. I'm not a music publisher - but:


    1. For accompaniment the idea is to stay out of the way of the melody instrument/singer and not play the melody in unison, hence the basic chord symbol even when you see a tension or altered tension in the melody, and

    2. For chord melody/solo guitar you obviously play the melody note with or without a chord underneath. When you do play the chord underneath the melody and want to label the chord for a written arrangement, you can name the chord symbol in recognition of a tension/altered tension in the melody. (That is, when you are striking a chord and melody note at the same time, as opposed to holding a chord under a moving melody). Naming the full chord should make it easier for the guitarist reading the arrangment to more readily recognize/play the chord.
    Last edited by Donplaysguitar; 02-08-2021 at 04:31 PM.

  6. #5

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    You’re overthinking it. Jazz fakebooks are just a skeleton lead-sheet, the chord symbols are usually kept fairly basic in the interests of simplicity.

    It’s up to the player to interpret them correctly for performance, i.e. to choose a chord voicing that sounds good for the context. So this might be a different voicing or extension when comping, than it would be for solo guitar/chord-melody stuff. Obviously you want to avoid unpleasant clashes with the soloist, or with the melody, so if the given chord symbol doesn’t sound right, you tweak the chord accordingly.

    Incidentally, you can play Em7b5 with an A on top, just put the b5 an octave down from the A. That’s the kind of thing I mean.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by sj1
    If the melody note of A is to be present, then what would be the point of also having either a G or a Bb present? Aren't we really meaning to *replace* either the 3rd or the b5 with the A? And, wouldn't these be two separate things to be notated differently as, say, Em11 or Bm7b5 ?
    I was watching a YouTube video where the presenter promised to give a cool minor voicing for keyboard players and I thought, "I'll steal this".

    It was:
    left hand: 2 b3 4 5
    right hand 7 9 11

    So for E minor: F# G A B, D F# A

    Not so stealable with that 4 note cluster

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyLoveHandles
    I was watching a YouTube video where the presenter promised to give a cool minor voicing for keyboard players and I thought, "I'll steal this".

    It was:
    left hand: 2 b3 4 5
    right hand 7 9 11

    So for E minor: F# G A B, D F# A

    Not so stealable with that 4 note cluster
    x9700x or x97005 gets some of it.

  9. #8

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    Chord symbols are far less consistent than you might assume

    The historical context is that they were always an ad hoc system that developed according of practical contingencies... the fact they are now the centre of so many student’s concerns is a bit of a problem.

    I give a little historical context here... I’m perhaps a little unfair on lead sheets

  10. #9

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    how to play my instrument (guitar) in different situations.
    Play it how you want it to sound.

  11. #10

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    There is no official convention about it... only tradition that is treated more or less conventionally...

    It is often that the chords are marked as Am11 but there is no D in the melody - so it is either harmonic voicing intended there or a colour or just a random minor chord (I know a guy who considers it to be a jazz minor chord)...

    It can be also the opposite...


    Some people treat symbols in a vertical way - as a coded harmony... some read them more in a basic way considering the extensions are not obligatory or melodic...

    After all... all that stuff is often made with much negligence and mistakes...

    i think we as players just should elaborate our own way how to read from it... after all we live more or less in the world of oral tradition ... in jazz all that stuff is much more relative and conventional than in classical... so lets use it as hint but mostly rely on our ears and companion players.
    Last edited by Jonah; 02-09-2021 at 10:18 AM.

  12. #11
    I appreciate all the comments, and continue to welcome more individual perspectives indefinitely!

  13. #12

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    This is a system which can be quite fuzzy around the edges.

    If the melody is D and the arranger writes Cm7, the comping player understands that the 9th is in the melody. He can choose to play it, or not. During the statement of the head, probably not-- leave it for the lead instrument. In the solo section, the chords are an outline anyway. Substituting Cm9 for Cm7 is always an option, among many others.

    If the melody is an A and the chord is an Em7b5, leave the A for the lead instrument during the head. During the solos, I think most players would not include the A, although they might if they like the sound.

    If, otoh, the arranger wrote an Em11b5 (a chord symbol I can't recall seeing) I guess I'd think about playing it behind the soloist, but I'd be listening to figure out if that A is a good idea.

    In any case, if the melody is an A, it's not a good idea to play the adjacent Bb. That note would have to go in a different octave, usually lower. The sound may be something like an Asusb9 (over an E in the bass).

    It also makes a difference if it's a lead sheet for an arrangement for a horn band. In the latter case, the chord symbols may account for the notes the horns are playing. The arranger may have specified exactly what he wants to hear from the guitar -- or not. Playing the full chord, including the horns' notes can sound good, but might not, and isn't typically necessary.

    Anyway, the point is, depending on the situation, you may have a great deal of flexibility in what you can play. Guitarists are limited in the number of notes we can play (and which intervals) so figuring out what to omit is part of a guitarist's life.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    This is a system which can be quite fuzzy around the edges.

    If the melody is D and the arranger writes Cm7, the comping player understands that the 9th is in the melody. He can choose to play it, or not. During the statement of the head, probably not-- leave it for the lead instrument. In the solo section, the chords are an outline anyway. Substituting Cm9 for Cm7 is always an option, among many others.

    If the melody is an A and the chord is an Em7b5, leave the A for the lead instrument during the head. During the solos, I think most players would not include the A, although they might if they like the sound.

    If, otoh, the arranger wrote an Em11b5 (a chord symbol I can't recall seeing) I guess I'd think about playing it behind the soloist, but I'd be listening to figure out if that A is a good idea.

    In any case, if the melody is an A, it's not a good idea to play the adjacent Bb. That note would have to go in a different octave, usually lower. The sound may be something like an Asusb9 (over an E in the bass).
    Heh, that's one of my favourite finger gymnastic chords:

    Em11b5: x78785 (play the 7th fret with a bar but lift the bottom of the finger up so as not to barre the treble E string)