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  1. #1

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    How do you guys internalize the root? For example in a 4 bar vi-ii-V-1
    the ii and the V have a tendency to gravitate towards the I, and i always hear them in comparison to the I at every bar.
    So also i can feel the pull towards the 1 in a Blues progression.

    But in a standard, with many more changes my ear loses the root (internally), and I cant resolve my lines properly. I mean I can theoretically build my lines back to the roots, but i don't feel it inside me.

    How do you guys work on this? If at all its a correct approach.

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  3. #2

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    How do you guys work on this? If at all its a correct approach.
    I don't know what a correct approach is.....

    One thing I did in the past that you might find helpful is to play an entire tune against a root drone or pedal tone.
    This of course sounds pretty out when a tune temporarily modulates as in Body And Soul which goes into D and
    C in the bridge against the Eb root. Anyway, hard to lose track of something that is being continually stated.
    Sometimes I would do a second pass played against a dominant pedal tone.

  4. #3

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    But in a standard, with many more changes my ear loses the root (internally), and I cant resolve my lines properly. I mean I can theoretically build my lines back to the roots, but i don't feel it inside me.
    Could you give a sample?

    Because I think maybe you overemphasize the root concept here?
    it's nit necessary to change the root every ii-v that shows up..
    the point is to hear what is the root in teh section, period etc... depends on music.. that's why I would ask for certain samples where you feel you get lost..

    Try to go from the bigger to the smaller... hear the song as some prevailing key... then the parts of the song with their key... then phrases.. then turnaround... and whneever you come to the smallest unit keep in mind the whole song...

    Practically... try to connect the turnaround that misleads you with the root of the song or section..

    Like being in C major.. you have backdoor Fm7 - Bb7.. I believe as you describe it it will lead your ear to Eb major?
    So try to connect Fm7 directly to C.. hear this minor chord as subdominant (or could be treated maybe even as altered dominant of C major)

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by jajabinker View Post
    How do you guys internalize the root? For example in a 4 bar vi-ii-V-1
    the ii and the V have a tendency to gravitate towards the I, and i always hear them in comparison to the I at every bar.
    So also i can feel the pull towards the 1 in a Blues progression.

    But in a standard, with many more changes my ear loses the root (internally), and I cant resolve my lines properly. I mean I can theoretically build my lines back to the roots, but i don't feel it inside me.

    How do you guys work on this? If at all its a correct approach.
    Sounds like at this point in time, you should be working on playing the chord tones through the progression. There are several reasons to do this:
    • The I is not always a good reference point as keys often modulate.
    • The chord progression already resolves, so if you're playing the chord tones, your lines will naturally resolve.
    • You'll be in sync with the chords, i.e. you're less likely to get lost
    • Your lines will be more melodic and will outline the changes as you go. All good players should be able to outline the changes in their single line solos.
    • As you become familiar with the various progressions and their chord tones, the I of the moment becomes clearer.

  6. #5

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    Sounds like at this point in time, you should be working on playing the chord tones through the progression. There are several reasons to do this:

    • The I is not always a good reference point as keys often modulate.
    • The chord progression already resolves, so if you're playing the chord tones, your lines will naturally resolve.
    • You'll be in sync with the chords, i.e. you're less likely to get lost
    • Your lines will be more melodic and will outline the changes as you go. All good players should be able to outline the changes in their single line solos.
    • As you become familiar with the various progressions and their chord tones, the I of the moment becomes clearer.
    Maybe I misynderstand
    but I would partly disagree... modulation is there when it gets more or less stable in a new key (at least you should have the cadence twice then an ear has it more or less fixed...)

    I believe it's not playing and resolving chord tones what's neededed here - but playing and hearing general key...

    Like in Body and Soul mentioned above - it is in Db in general... but when it starts it just sounds like opening Eb minor cadence... But right after it shifts to Db maj and then the key is fixed by repeating V-I in Db major...

  7. #6

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    Like in Body and Soul mentioned above - it is in Db in general... but when it starts it just sounds like opening Eb minor cadence... But right after it shifts to Db maj and then the key is fixed by repeating V-I in Db major..


    Right, as you say, Db major. Sometimes helpful to think before I type.

    I remember playing around with that song in that way because the bridge modulation sounded so harsh,
    yet I found it informative to keep the Db in mind throughout. It grounded the passing modulations in the
    context of the key that it would soon return to.

  8. #7
    I've been tackling the same issue.. kinda. One thing I found pretty helpful ( right now only diatonic). The 5 notes from 1th backwards to 4th step is very easy to find and is unique. Easy to find - first I tried to sing it, took some time but not so much. Then just find it quickly on the neck. Occasionally it can be confusing and 4th to 7th line comes up instead but that needs some care and practice. Later I didn't have to even play it once got the 1th. The key pattern just pops up without even playing more than that 1th step. I think it has been a month now since started this but it hasn't been too much struggle.

    Yeah, I'm not to far with this yet but thought to post it, maybe it can be some help for you.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    Maybe I misynderstand
    but I would partly disagree... modulation is there when it gets more or less stable in a new key (at least you should have the cadence twice then an ear has it more or less fixed...)

    I believe it's not playing and resolving chord tones what's neededed here - but playing and hearing general key...

    Like in Body and Soul mentioned above - it is in Db in general... but when it starts it just sounds like opening Eb minor cadence... But right after it shifts to Db maj and then the key is fixed by repeating V-I in Db major...
    Maybe it's me who misunderstands...or we're talking at cross purposes.

    FWIW, I rarely think key, I think progression. For example: how would you approach "Giant Steps"? In my mind, there is no "key", but only a progression of chords whose chord tones I must employ in order to make a coherent solo.

    For me it sort of boils down to the old horizontal vs vertical debate. My belief is one can't be a good horizontal player (other than simple tunes of course), unless one can first play vertically.

  10. #9

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    FWIW, I rarely think key, I think progression. For example: how would you approach "Giant Steps"? In my mind, there is no "key", but only a progression of chords whose chord tones I must employ in order to make a coherent solo.

    For me it sort of boils down to the old horizontal vs vertical debate. My belief is one can't be a good horizontal player (other than simple tunes of course), unless one can first play vertically.
    You see... there's music and music... GS is not a good example because it is organized a bit different than traditiona functional tonality music. The TC seemed to ask about keys.. that he is loosing the main key during the tune ...
    that's why I answered about keys.. as gravitaion centers. For me it's the song that matters first... the integrality of the form.

    Also I think this
    n my mind, there is no "key", but only a progression of chords whose chord tones I must employ in order to make a coherent solo.
    is a bit risky thing to say ( I do not want to say wrong)... there is no 'only a progression of chords' when we have a piece of music... there's still logics and relations... not necessarily functional but there are.

    By the way I've been noodling around GS for years just trying to approach it in a natural for me... I do not see it as progressions whose chord tones I must use... to me GS is a declaration of an overall major3rd conception... it's actually a breakdown of music... instead of going around minor3rd and triton symmetry of a 12 tone octave (which make even divisions), Trane goes for odds, he uses major 3rd as a division for 3s. That makes absolutely different system of harmonic relations, subs, scales etc.
    So for me GS is kind of declaration of this approach... actually I came to it from another side and only later got that it was the same thing in GS.

    It's not the topic here... what I am trying to say is that it is important to have overall line and center of a song.

    I think for TC it could be friutful to try to go from macro level to micro level... this is how the form works...

    Body and Soul mentioned above... the key in

    The brodge is unstable it's true (but the bridge should be unstable - this is its role in a song, its semantical function ... to bring in some marginality, some other feeling...) at teh same tine note that withing the keys it is much more stable than the A section... the harmonic progression is very simple... I think it how it is contrasting to the A section... The A section is very vague harmonically but it s till moving more or less inside Db major/Bb minor... and the bridge is very clear harmonicaly but changes keys twice..

    I think it's good for the bridge just to check how the modulation is made.
    Modualtion to D is unprepared... he just jumps half-step up with is actually quite common in pop music for an effect of sudden abruptness.

    Modulation to C is made thruogh making tonic chord in Dmajor into a ii chord of C major (turning Dmaj7 into Dm7)

    Modulation back to Ebm minor is quite simple... it uses parallel voicings
    chromatic movement from tonic C chord to B and Bb7 and Bb7 is treated as Dominant of Eb minor

    I think to follow it it is good to try to here different ways of modulations... common turnarounds and how they are treated in one key and another at the same time... how a chord (or a few chords) shares two functions at a time... transitional point

    By the way classical music could be a good school for this.. because modulations are extremly important tool for building sematic structure of a piece...
    Trying to follow modulations in Mozartian symphony by ear is a good practice of underating how this kind of music works and also training your ear in a world of functional tonality.

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    Trying to follow modulations in Mozartian symphony by ear is a good practice of underating how this kind of music works and also training your ear in a world of functional tonality.
    Bach also - one hardcore modulator right there.
    Last edited by emanresu; 05-18-2017 at 05:00 AM.

  12. #11

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    Bach also - one hardcore modulator right there.
    Chaconne actually does not imply lots of modualtions being a variation form basically... (very rare for him though - Chaconne and other variation forms typical for rennaisance and early baroque by the date was already out of fashion.. that's why probably his approach was so exceptional and unique... he refered to it as to something old-stylish)

    Bach's suites, sonatas, preludes and fugues give much more pieces where modualtion is really an essential part of music

    It could be any composer starting from high baroque to early Romantics: Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann... they all used tonal setup as a main vehicle of their art...

    But with Haydn and Mozart it is the most clear to follow as they actually crystalized sonata form and in classical sonata allegro the functional tonality is realized at its best.

  13. #12
    Yeah, I see. I've been a fan of this video for some time so I put it here. I've never played it myself though. I played his 1001 fugue for a year and after that all my own inventions went on a modulation streak. Or.. eh, there is this conception in classical music that I don't have enough english talk about it.. When I learned, the true modulation was a brand new key for a whole part. All else were temporary and always coming back somehow. But I'm not to wise about all that jazz.

  14. #13

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    Yeah, I see. I've been a fan of this video for some time so I put it here. I've never played it myself though. I played his 1001 fugue for a year and after that all my own inventions went on a modulation streak. Or.. eh, there is this conception in classical music that I don't have enough english talk about it.. When I learned, the true modulation was a brand new key for a whole part. All else were temporary and always coming back somehow. But I'm not to wise about all that jazz.
    Yes.. in baroque it's usually in suites or sonatas movements that have two sections structure (like dances: sarabande, allemande etc.)... usually the 1st section is ended in the Dominant key... and the 2nd section is begun modulating to Subdominant key and then modulating to Tonic key back

    In later classical sonata allegro it is usually more complex: exposition has Main part in the Tonic key then Transition part is unstable modualting to dominant (sometimes very long and complex) and the secondary part is in Dominant key. The exposition is usually ended with full cadence in Dominant key. Then the Development section begins - it is usually the most unstable, may have many modualtions (depends on composer, era, style, context etc) but then it Comes to Conclusion sectio which usually repeats the Exposition but only the whole Exposition goes in teh same key... actually it';s very interesting because often the material is exactly the same... so it goes the Main part and then Transitional part (that at the beginning was modulating) now does not modulate and the secondary part also is now the Tonic key not in Dominant.

    The biggest problem for modern listener is that he follows the melodies and does not follow the key changes... though those days this was the thing the listner heard too... so modern listner often hears it as just repeat though actually it's not because the key is different.

    The most important thing is to follow cadences... only full cadence ia new key will mean a modulation in classical music.

    Here's a very simple sample from baroque but done with great skills...
    It's two sections with no repeats... at the end of the 1st section it smoothly modulates to Dominant key. The first shift is done at 0:30, then it is still unclear at 0:48 we already can hear a new key Dominant absolutely clearly and it is followed by full cadence in Dominant key (bb major in thsi case).
    The second section starts in Dominant with the same melody as at the beginning but right after that at 1:18 the new root Bb becomes a 7th chord resolving to its subdominant (Eb major which is actually the original key root) - this bar is the only really unproportioned place in teh whole tune... if you compare it with 1st section you'll see this bar is kind off stuck in... so it moves back to Eb major.

    Now his task is to use the same suquential melody as in the 1st section but now without modulation to dominant - he has to stay in teh same key. And brilliantly does it 01:26
    In a way this form is reminiscent of the future sonata form but very very slightly...



  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    You see... there's music and music... GS is not a good example because it is organized a bit different than traditiona functional tonality music. The TC seemed to ask about keys.. that he is loosing the main key during the tune ...
    GS is a great example because it demonstrates the futility of key-centric playing. GS is a simple collection of V-I and ii-V-I changes that are as "functional" as one can get.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    that's why I answered about keys.. as gravitaion centers. For me it's the song that matters first... the integrality of the form.
    The OP pointed out that his solo lines didn't resolve because he loses the 'I'. I posited that the 'I' is not as important as focusing on the the chord tones which if followed, will allow natural resolution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    there is no 'only a progression of chords' when we have a piece of music... there's still logics and relations... not necessarily functional but there are.
    I never said there is 'only a progression of chords', I said I viewed it that way because keeping the 'I' is strategically unimportant to me, most of the time, for improvisation. Furthermore, following the 'I' will lead the improvisor astray when the tune modulates, and that's exactly what jazz tunes tend to do.

    I also said that focusing on the harmony allows one to hear the 'I' better because one gets familiar with the progressions over time and knows where they are leading.

    We look at Body and Soul and GS completely differently. I do see keys, but don't think about them. I see the harmony constantly modulating because of the progression, heading towards the 'I', but not always in the key of 'I'. Focusing on the 'I' is normally weak sounding and encourages bad notes; hearing the changes, and the possible subs, sounds strong and harmonious.

    BTW, in Body and Soul, the bridge is achieved smoothly, not abruptly as you suggest. Perhaps you're seeing a blunt transition to D, but I hear nice voice leading from Db to A7 which is the V of D.

    Here's the ultimate test for me: can one improvise a single voice solo (no chords or dyads) that informs the audience how the harmony moves? Focusing on the 'I' rarely works, one must focus on the chord tones of the harmony, anything else is extraneous. The OP desires his lines to resolve, following the chord tones of the harmony will naturally resolve everything.

    It seems that people are very resistant to this message because it's harder. Instead, they look to "functional" theory to simplify their improvisational task. I put functional in parentheses because to me, "functional" is not functional for improvisation, it makes things harder in the long run.

    I strongly urge people to put in the work to learn to play chord tones and scales over every chord in the tune. Their playing will be liberated by mastering this basic skill.

  16. #15

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    First I agree on transition from Db to D in Body in Soul... in my mind I dropped out that A7.. and it shurely can be voiced very smoothley (modal thing by the way ah?)


    As for the rest.. you see... I am partly agree but I am not into it now..

    I believe outlining harmony is a part of studying jazz soloing... but it's not about music... I do not care about outlining harmony now.
    (so for me it's not a test at all.. you just need to practice and you will outline harmonies in different way smoothly - no specific talents needed)

    I just want to play what I hear innerly... it's kind of mixture it's melodies connected with harmonies... as any artistic expression I want it to be integral.. I want to have a feel of accomplishment.

    As per functions... again you are partly it's non functionality for practicing jazz... but the I am into it the more I stress the the thing about the musi and the song...

    At the beginning we often drown in practical stuff... it's important you have to learn... but the more I do it the more I come to conclusion that from the very beginning it should be vice versa... it should be music to be played... that's what I try to teach kids..

    You see they alread HEAR harmony - so when hey are in the key they generate inside the melodies that fit or go out and relate... I want to teach them to play it... I do not want them to outline the harmony.. I want them to hear it..

    The keys even in teh straight cassical treatment give you all you need if you can really hear them.. not just know them.

    Again you are in a great deal right if we speak about sone transitional practical point...

    As for OP - so far I am not sure what he really meant... meaybe he will show up and say.

  17. #16
    Ok. This exercise.. Use some app for random chords, or a song (pick a short random place from it then), put it on loop in a DAW or something like that.
    Pick a random note on fretboard, don't play anything else until you haven't figured out what step is your note in the key/chord in your head. If you think you've got it, test it out.

  18. #17
    Some interesting replies here. Thanks everyone for taking the time.

    Ill begin by saying I am a big fan of joe pass. To me, his lines are incredibly musical, not mathematical which im striving for. Ive transcribed some of his solo's and he does use a lot of chord tones on the down beat. Which i believe is a by product of his feel for the music and his ability to internalize the harmony of the piece.

    Joe (if i may is not really thinking, "Oh golly, i need to place a chord tone on every down beat", but he can hear and anticipate the next chord. Because he stated in an interview that he does not think while playing. Also ive gone through his DVDs and he doesn't talk about chord tones.

    He talks about ignoring the ii in a ii-V-1, the V being in anticipation of the 1 (Barry Harris Harmony comes to mind). If the key changes in the song, obviously the chord you're anticipating to changes (Or you can still keep the previous key in mind to create an interesting sound)

    SO what i do need is an stronger imagination of the sound of a Chord or a set of chord changes.

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    Ok. This exercise.. Use some app for random chords, or a song (pick a short random place from it then), put it on loop in a DAW or something like that.
    Pick a random note on fretboard, don't play anything else until you haven't figured out what step is your note in the key/chord in your head. If you think you've got it, test it out.
    hehe yeah i do this. kinda hard. Theres an app called functional ear trainer which helps you

  20. #19
    Yep, I have my phone full of all kinds of ear training apps. A few of them quite good. The problem with the "functional ear trainer" is that its just that one situation repeated over and over - that one progression for the key and thats it. A few visits to toilet and its pretty much done. Just not enough for real world.

  21. #20

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    I think attempting to internalize and maintain the key is a backwards approach which will run into trouble encountering various types of progressions. I think the forward approach is to hear and feel the functionality of the chords in their changes and let them point to the key.

    For example, in a song like Just Friends, the verse goes through to ending number one and repeats, then takes ending number two, and the whole thing is played without making the chord whose root is the key note until the end of the second ending. That is, each full cycle through both endings comprises about two dozen chords of which the "key" chord occurs only once and is the last chord.

    Below is Sonny Stitt taking almost a minute (54 seconds) for the song to hit what would be the Ab major chord for the first time in a song (the way many people play it) that he is playing in Ab major... but it sounds like the turnaround actually avoids calling the Ab chord quite nicely. If you were waiting to hear and remember the "key chord" you would be waiting until the last chord of the whole song, but if you hear the functional pressures of the chords you know it's Ab right away and don't even need to "remember" that because you can "re-hear" it at any time.

    Last edited by pauln; 05-19-2017 at 04:06 PM.

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    Yep, I have my phone full of all kinds of ear training apps. A few of them quite good. The problem with the "functional ear trainer" is that its just that one situation repeated over and over - that one progression for the key and thats it. A few visits to toilet and its pretty much done. Just not enough for real world.
    Bookmarked the app in your signature.

    Functional ear train has helped me though. If i hear a chord and a note after that I can immediately know which one it is, without Descending or Ascending tone by tone to the root of the chord. It comes from a lot of repetition!

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by jajabinker View Post
    Bookmarked the app in your signature.
    I don't have enough time to finish it quickly. Those presets there should work fine but there might be bugs when using some other options.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
    I don't have enough time to finish it quickly. Those presets there should work fine but there might be bugs when using some other options.
    Ok. Its "finished"


    Sent from my HUAWEI VNS-L21 using Tapatalk

  25. #24

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    Is the OP having the problem with a group or in solo playing?

    In a group, it might be worth some thought about what the bassist or pianist is doing. Some guys aren't happy if anybody else knows where they are in the tune <g>.

    As far as internalizing the root, I'd suggest working on it one tune at a time. Learn the vanilla changes (google Ralph Patt Vanilla Book) and strum them. Sing the lyric, if you can. I think the issue is how well you know the tune. Maybe too, making sure that you're playing chords that voice-lead nicely. Hard to miss where the one is if you've got a chromatic line leading down to it.

    So, for example, if you've got a iii VI ii V in G, think about 7x777x, 7x676x 5x555x and maybe 4x454x. Variations abound. But, the point is that the chromatic motion on the B string will lead you right to 3x443x. Or you could put it on the low E string and go chromatically to the G.

  26. #25
    After thinking about it a bit, it seems to me that the better the tune is settled in, the starting key itself doesn't have to be "present" at all times but hm.. After a while, maybe a long while, the tune may be learned so well that you can kinda focus to any part of it in the mind and when doing that, it really is tied to the key. Can't describe it really. Like.. uh, its not gonna be stretched out like a garden hose so can't see the other end, instead like a ball you can hold on your palm. Probably the dumbest description ever but can't really do it better

  27. #26

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    Maybe not exactly on point, but I have been doing some ear training away from the guitar recently and all of a sudden, when listening to a dominant chord, I no longer heard the chord tones as 1 3 5 m7 but as 5 7 9 11, maybe this is my brain telling me "I know what the tonic/root note is", or I could be crazy. Anyone? Is this a good thing?
    Last edited by Bobby Marshall; 06-22-2017 at 01:17 AM.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Marshall View Post
    Maybe not exactly on point, but I have been doing some ear training away from the guitar recently and all of a sudden, when listening to a dominant chord, I no longer heard the chord tones as 1 3 5 m7 but as 5 7 9 11, maybe this is my brain telling me "I know what the tonic/root note is", or I could be crazy. Anyone? Is this a good thing?
    One of the popular ear training method has you hear thing like that. What they do is play a I IV V cadence then hit a note and you ID the note in relation to the key of the cadence. That is what you're doing hearing it as 5 7 9 11. They say it is better for hearing melodies in relation to the key.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.