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  1. #26

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    In the world of the classical musician, theory means learning to read standard notation, the Italian words, time and key signatures, the position of the notes and the meaning of their tails and ties and dots, accidentals, and the marks that indicate articulation, dynamics, and various expressions, etc.

    In the world of the jazz musician, theory very often means everything except the above!

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #27

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    Sounds like you haven't played many actual tunes! I'm new to playing jazz guitar and i also don't really 'get' theory. (Despite the fact I'm classically trained on violin - I just glaze over when people start talking about chord names and sequences and whatnot)
    But I have learned (rather than perfected!) a few jazz standards.

    Basically I've started off by just learning some tunes, chord-melody style, from videos and books. I find videos much more helpful than books generally as you can see and hear what people are doing. I've been doing that for a few months and now I'm finally slowly starting to appreciate a bit of the 'theory', but still not much - I'm an ear player, not a 'brain' player. It's a problem in the sense that every time I try to learn a new song it's a bit like having to reinvent the wheel each time - I'm not even that great at remembering and recognising chord shapes. But it's not like I'm gonna be playing any gigs soon, so I'm in no great hurry...

  4. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by zigzag
    How many of you play a 13th chord and don't know it's a 13th chord when you play it? The point is that you hear it at all, and know how to play it when you want it or need it, even though it doesn't register to you that you're playing a 13th chord. I know that my language is much more expressive and descriptive when I use an adverb, even though I don't think of it as an adverb. I want to use more adverbs in my playing.
    That's not theory. Any more than knowing a tin opener is called a tin opener when you use one.

    I know what a 13th chord is. I know what a 13th chord sounds like. I know how to use that sound to create a certain effect. It's all one thing, not compartments.

    All you're really saying is there are gaps in your knowledge. You don't have this problem when you're playing a C chord.

  5. #29

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    In short, you should rethink it in sound. GTRMan's quote said it all. Sound, notation, chord construction, and the mechanics of realizing all of the above on your primary instrument should all be linked inextricably in your mental model. Then you will know a 13th chord when you hear it, see it or play it. Just as easily as you tell red from blue, sweet from salty, no thinking, no delay, no guessing, no mistakes.

    IDK whether you really mean that you don't know how to talk about theory or if that's your way of expressing the difficulty you are having ... it seems like you do know the words but they aren't connected to the sounds. No offense, but if your teacher did not show you each theoretical construct in sound, that is a huge gap. It's like memorizing "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" without ever actually tasting a souffle. (sorry can't seem to get the diacritical mark over the e!) And it's why you are struggling.

    If you can find a teacher who will show you everything in sound and on paper you should be able to then realize it on your instrument. And, of course, there are many helpful folks here. Not all of whom will agree, but you'll definitely get answers :-)

    You might try your local community college. There's no reason you can't learn theory in sound over a remote video connection. Finding the teacher who will take the time to train your ear and connect it to your mental model is the secret.

    I hope this helped. Good luck!

    PS @DB, with all respect, CST does not encompass all of music theory, it's a subset of the larger subject. Music theory as analysis of harmony or rules of style (e.g. 18th century counterpoint vs newer) goes back hundreds of years. CST is a newer facet that some people apply to jazz improv.
    Last edited by starjasmine; 07-16-2020 at 02:49 PM. Reason: clarified my PS per DB comment

  6. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    In the world of the classical musician, theory means learning to read standard notation, the Italian words, time and key signatures, the position of the notes and the meaning of their tails and ties and dots, accidentals, and the marks that indicate articulation, dynamics, and various expressions, etc.

    In the world of the jazz musician, theory very often means everything except the above!
    There's truth in that, especially for those who don't have aspirations for composition, and especially for arranging and orchestration.

    "Theory" in classical and jazz alike, focuses largely on harmony. Probably more so in jazz.

  7. #31

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    It is clearly possible to know absolutely nothing about theory and play great jazz guitar. Andres Varady is my favorite example.

    It is also possible to be encyclopedic about theory and not sound very good.

    I would suggest strumming chords, scat singing and then, when you get a line you like, put it on the guitar.

    Later on, you can think about a theoretical explanation for what you did.

    That's not to say theory can't inform playing. It can. But, if you know how to play a major scale against a major seventh chord and you can't make jazz with it, theory is not your problem. Jimmy Bruno has a great video demonstrating how good it is possible to sound playing major scale tones only.

  8. #32

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    zigzag -

    First of all, music isn't math. Or chemistry, or anything like that. I understand the similarities but let's not get carried away!

    Music is about sound, how it feels, and all that. It's about the effect it has on the listener. Consider the music you yourself find interesting and exciting. What do you think makes it so?

    I've been through all your posts and these points seem to pop out:

    When I read posts on this board about chord substitution, dropped chords, voicing, etc., none of it really makes sense to me.

    I don't readily associate notes in a scale or on the fretboard with their actual note names

    it seems likely that I just don't speak the language well.

    I might benefit from spicing up chord progressions

    Where I struggle is hearing the tonal/chordal options that add color and spice to a melody line

    I may start considering all of the chordal possibilities surrounding the melodies I choose to explore.
    There are actually only a few effective things to do with chords. There's a lot of theoretical stuff that theoretically can be applied but it can end up sounding contrived and not that good.

    In my experience it's not worth changing (or messing about with) the changes to a song as given. Far better to play it straight - and know well what you're playing - than to wade in and try to make it ultra-fancy for the sake of it.

    If I were you I'd first find a tune. That'll give you a basis to work from right away. For instance, take 'Satin Doll' - it's in C, not fast, not too difficult.

    Dm7/G7 - % - Em7/A7 - %
    Am7/D7 - Abm/Db7 - C6 - Em7b5/A7b9

    Why change that? You could change it, of course, but why? First play it 'as is' properly and effectively.

    Now look at this vid and see what he's done. It might look complex but it's not really, it's just putting in very well-known substitutions here and there. Seriously, it's all standard stuff.




    Once you understand the principles behind this then you can apply it to what you like.

    Strong advice: Take it all out of the abstract. Apply it practically to something. Give it context and you'll make real progress.

    No one can give you experience you don't have. You have to work at it yourself a lot and basically find out things for yourself. Which includes listening to everything other people say and do as well, of course.

    You've got to jump in and find out yourself how to swim. That's how anybody who's any good did it. No short cuts, no other way.

    So you have to be very clear about what you want. If you're not, you'll just float around vaguely with a lot of good intentions and not get very far.

  9. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine
    CST is not theory
    wonder what the ‘T’ stands for?

  10. #34

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    I suppose it's a theory in the scientific sense of a working hypothesis.

    I never thought CST per se was so wrong. What was wrong was taking it as a set of dogmatic rules fixed in stone, thereby taking it out of the working hypothesis arena.

    Gosh, that was scholastic, weren't it :-)

  11. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Milton
    Sounds like you haven't played many actual tunes! I'm new to playing jazz guitar and i also don't really 'get' theory. (Despite the fact I'm classically trained on violin - I just glaze over when people start talking about chord names and sequences and whatnot)
    But I have learned (rather than perfected!) a few jazz standards.

    Basically I've started off by just learning some tunes, chord-melody style, from videos and books. I find videos much more helpful than books generally as you can see and hear what people are doing. I've been doing that for a few months and now I'm finally slowly starting to appreciate a bit of the 'theory', but still not much - I'm an ear player, not a 'brain' player. It's a problem in the sense that every time I try to learn a new song it's a bit like having to reinvent the wheel each time - I'm not even that great at remembering and recognising chord shapes. But it's not like I'm gonna be playing any gigs soon, so I'm in no great hurry...
    This is where diatonic theory will help you greatly; you will discover that tunes are often very similar to each other in chord motion. Really learning the diatonic structures through harmonized scales will help you to learn and remember tunes more efficiently. If you get good at it, you'll her a tune on the radio and be able to play it.

  12. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz
    This is where diatonic theory will help you greatly; you will discover that tunes are often very similar to each other in chord motion. Really learning the diatonic structures through harmonized scales will help you to learn and remember tunes more efficiently. If you get good at it, you'll her a tune on the radio and be able to play it.
    This is the only actual revelation one needs from theory to get an understanding of harmony. It's probably the one thing that transforms a clueless musician into one who now has the most used tool theory has to offer.

    I don't know why some folks advise it involves some serious journey into music academia....

  13. #37

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    Players who know no theory often tend to be lick players - their theoretical understanding might literally be as basic as "this lick works well on these chord progressions." They might not go beyond licks but they will still sound a million times better than a player who tries to use theory to govern their pitch choices. There's quite a few professional players who are licks oriented.

    So learning licks is an important phase, but its not necessarily the end of the line.

    Theory (at least in jazz) is really about understanding some aspect of music and seeing how you can use that knowledge to create new music, or to vary and develop existing ideas. Analysis is a creative act - no two musicians will see or hear the exact same things in a bop line, for instance, although there may be some overlap.

    Theory or analysis should be a divergent thinking exercise (the fact that it seems like a list of rules is a failure in the way it is taught.)

    Each quality you might notice about the music could suggest a potential avenue for exploration. Looked at it this way the application of theory becomes a very creative thing. It doesn't have to be harmonic.

    As an exercise, let's take the following example of a line with the harmonic context given.

    How Should I Rethink Theory?-screenshot-2020-07-16-13-36-51-jpg


    How many things can you say about this line?
    Last edited by christianm77; 07-16-2020 at 09:02 AM.

  14. #38

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    that Charlie Parker guy obviously does not know what he is doing because in the last beat of the third measure he plays the natural 4th of a maj7 chord

    (Just kidding)

    CP was JSB, not CST.

    I had a year of Jazz theory and thought, in my wannabe shredder days, I needed to know a bunch of modes and scales relative to a given chord without any other context. But then as I got more into classical music, realized how stupid chord scale theory was in regards to actual tonal music. Charlie Parker did not know CST either, but he did know music and that line above is like Bach’s lines - the harmony is there in every bar but not in trite or pedantic ways.

  15. #39

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    Haha yeah... Well, one example, if you use forward motion, you'll see/hear the Eb C D enclosure across the barline. If you aren't used to looking out for that stuff, you might miss it ... CST isn't wrong exactly (it describes the note choices in the first two bars quite well, in fact), you just need the experience and knowledge to know when it is useful and when it isn't.

    And there are often quite a few ways to understand the same pitch choices.

    For instance -

    • don't we also have a Cm7 arpeggio on beat 3 in bar 3?
    • Or is it all Bb6/maj9 notes with a couple of notes into an enclosure into D at the end of the bar?

    Neither explanation is 'right' per se.

    BTW What is JSB?

  16. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Theory (at least in jazz) is really about abstracting some qualities of music and seeing how you can use them to create new music, or to vary and develop existing ideas
    It must be said that it's "new music" with respect to the person who is learning and applying the theory. It's not necessarily about going into an unexplored territory.

    It's a tool to expand as a musician. If you never used altered notes on a dominant, then that's new to you. You start working on creating lines, see if you like what you hear. In time that develops your ears for these color tones on the harmony as well as your fretboard awareness and it becomes a second nature. You learn about chord substitution principles. Work on driving substitutions on tunes you know, work on them until they become second nature etc.

    I'm surprised some people make a distinction between "ear player" vs "brain player". Or say you can't perform with theory. That's not how theory works. The idea is not to use it in the band stand to algorithmically drive lines and voicings. That's a straw man view. It is possible to use highly internalized theoretical principles on the band stand when playing tunes one doesn't know but that's exception not the rule.

    Theory is a woodshed tool. It helps you find new materials for practicing towards obtaining a richer musical language. In the end practicing this way develops your ears and your command of your instrument. Probably not the only way to find new ideas to practice and expand but a good one if used with some common sense.

  17. #41

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    JSB - JS Bach

  18. #42

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    Oh JS Bach.

    Yeah... in the pitches.

    Well CP's rhythmic language was very different to JS of course, more advanced and African... Although it's not like JSB was shy of a bit of syncopation... not bad for a European haha. (Brahms too.) Still pretty baba stuff though.

    Take the middle 8 of a Night in Tunisia and work out how its different to a typical JSB 2-5-1 type line (of which there are many) and you understand what jazz is, right? The pitch choices are not that different....

  19. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    It must be said that it's "new music" with respect to the person who is learning and applying the theory. It's not necessarily about going into an unexplored territory.
    Could be as simple as lengthening or shortening that bird line, or playing it on different set of chords. Or putting it in minor. That moves you away from simply being a lick player, because you are working with material.

    Short modules are good too.... you can combine and recombine them in interesting ways...

    It's a tool to expand as a musician. If you never used altered notes on a dominant, then that's new to you. You start working on creating lines, see if you like what you hear. In time that develops your ears for these color tones on the harmony as well as your fretboard awareness and it becomes a second nature. You learn about chord substitution principles. Work on driving substitutions on tunes you know, work on them until they become second nature etc.

    I'm surprised some people make a distinction between "ear player" vs "brain player". Or say you can't perform with theory. That's not how theory works. The idea is not to use it in the band stand to algorithmically drive lines and voicings. That's a straw man view. It is possible to use highly internalized theoretical principles on the band stand when playing tunes one doesn't know but that's exception not the rule. Theory is a woodshed tool. It helps you find new materials for practicing towards obtaining a richer musical language. In the end practicing this way develops your ears and your command of your instrument.
    Yeah. As Hal Galper said, everyone's an ear player. You play exactly as you hear. If you hear weak, you play weak.

  20. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Haha yeah... Well, one example, if you use forward motion, you'll see/hear the Eb C D enclosure across the barline. If you aren't used to looking out for that stuff, you might miss it ... CST isn't wrong exactly (it describes the note choices in the first two bars quite well, in fact), you just need the experience and knowledge to know when it is useful and when it isn't.

    And there are often quite a few ways to understand the same pitch choices.

    For instance -

    • don't we also have a Cm7 arpeggio on beat 3 in bar 3?
    • Or is it all Bb6/maj9 notes with a couple of notes into an enclosure into D at the end of the bar?

    Neither explanation is 'right' per se.

    BTW What is JSB?
    Yes its a bit of a plagal cadence to me, a shift to the subdominant and back. Its not that CST is wrong, it just does not add anything to conventional tonal analysis - when you look at Bach or Mozart you have chord tones and non-chord tones, which can be anything - the full chromatic scale is in play. Thinking about the locrian mode on vii or ii in minor provides no useful information

  21. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Players who know no theory often tend to be lick players - their theoretical understanding might literally be as basic as "this lick works well on these chord progressions." They might not go beyond licks but they will still sound a million times better than a player who tries to use theory to govern their pitch choices. There's quite a few professional players who are licks oriented.

    So learning licks is an important phase, but its not necessarily the end of the line.

    Theory (at least in jazz) is really about understanding some aspect of music and seeing how you can use that knowledge to create new music, or to vary and develop existing ideas. Analysis is a creative act - no two musicians will see or hear the exact same things in a bop line, for instance, although there may be some overlap.

    Theory or analysis should be a divergent thinking exercise (the fact that it seems like a list of rules is a failure in the way it is taught.)

    Each quality you might notice about the music could suggest a potential avenue for exploration. Looked at it this way the application of theory becomes a very creative thing. It doesn't have to be harmonic.

    As an exercise, let's take the following example of a line with the harmonic context given.

    How Should I Rethink Theory?-screenshot-2020-07-16-13-36-51-jpg


    How many things can you say about this line?
    In the context of OP's question (how should I rethink theory?) ...

    First, I'd either put a key signature there (Bb) or transpose to C to take away all of the accidentals (except the one that truly belongs there, Gb in Bb or Ab in C), so that it's easier to see what's going on. This makes it easy to see that all of the notes except Gb are part of the key of Bb. I'd also put Roman numerals above the chords (ii - V - I). Next I'd play the melody line -- learn it well enough to play without reading, then add some very sparse harmony, e.g., just play the root note of each chord in the bass on the first beat of each measure, and continuing the line (holding the root note to ring, if possible). Add some more voices to the harmony as I go to fill in the harmonic context a little (or not).

    Keep at that for a while, then start thinking about what's going on. Right off the bat, an 1/8 note rest introduces syncopation. What's bebop? That's bebop. Now look at the shape of the line, the way it goes up and down, how frequently it changes direction. Now look at the mix of intervals in the line -- there's both stepwise motion and leaps of thirds and fourths. Now go back to that one note that still has an accidental. What is it? What part of a chord is it? It's the flatted 9th of the V7 chord. One color tone in four full measures of music is enough make the line interesting and establish it as of the idiom. Take that flat 9, now put some other notes from an F7 chord below it and see how it turns into a diminished 7th chord. Now move the diminished 7th chord around in intervals of a minor 3rd.

    So this "analysis" yields ideas for how to build lines over ii-V-I progressions (i.e., most tunes), in a way that's idiomatically bebop-like (more so, once you add some transcriptions that include triplets). It also shows you how to use a flat 9 on a V7 (and other Bird phrases would give you more altered tones). It shows you the most basic chord substitution -- a dim7 a half-step up from a dominant -- and allows you to see the "symmetrical" nature of diminished chords as a vehicle for creating motion in the harmon. These devices (altered dominant tones in otherwise completely diatonic tones, syncopation, phrasing, shape of the line, steps and leaps) occur all over jazz, and this sort of analysis is applicable all over jazz. If you know enough theory to see these occurrences as specific instances of general techniques, you're well on your way.

    John

  22. #46

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    Five other common bebop phrasing observations in that lick:
    - The 7th of Cmin goes to the 3rd of F7.
    - This is done with an enclosure pattern.
    - Over F7, arpeggio from the third is played (3 to b9).
    - F7 phrase then continues with a descending scale into the BbMaj7 chord with an arpeggio up, scale down shape.
    - C minor phrase starts with a 2nd inversion triad, very common in Charlie Parker music. It also goes up arpeggio, down scale into the next chord (with an enclosed guide tone approach as stated above).

  23. #47

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    How Should I Rethink Theory?-untitled-sign-jpg
    It's all out of the Bb6 diminished scale.

  24. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by WILSON 1
    It's all out of the Bb6 diminished scale.
    Question - is the Barry Harris thing 'theory' or a useful shortcut? Certainly Charlie Parker and the composers who wrote the standards never heard of this scale. There is no value in teaching this scale to someone who does not already know functional harmony. Nor is this a scale in the sense that it 'diatonically' connects chord tones more than a step apart, the way the major scale does. A 'scale run' through the 5th, b6 and nat6 over a maj chord is kind of goofy and not, I think, the purpose of what Barry Harris is getting at
    Last edited by BWV; 07-16-2020 at 01:13 PM.

  25. #49

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    Also the phrase ends on an up beat. Be-bop!

  26. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by BWV
    Question - is the Barry Harris thing 'theory' or a useful shortcut? Certainly Charlie Parker and the composers who wrote the standards never heard of this scale. There is no value in teaching this scale to someone who does not already know functional harmony. Nor is this a scale in the sense that it 'diatonically' connects chord tones more than a step apart, the way the major scale does. A 'scale run' through the 5th, b6 and nat6 over a maj chord is kind of goofy and not, I think, the purpose of what Barry Harris is getting at
    Goofy it may be, but it’s also a common feature of many jazz lines from the swing and bop era.... see for instance ‘Donna Lee’