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  1. #1

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    I'm curious how others do this ...

    Consider Summer Samba in key of A. Medium tempo. Maybe 150 in 4/4.

    Bars 9-12:

    C#m7 / F#7b9 / Bm7 / G#m7b5 C#7b13/ (next chord is F#m7).

    Exactly how do you pick the notes you're going to play?

    Here's how I might do it -- and I definitely don't recommend this to others.

    1. I could go totally by ear and not think about any of the theory. When I do that, I'm more at risk for hitting a clam or not outlining the changes as precisely as I'd like.

    2. I could play in "Bm" and then "F#m". But, that kind of glosses over some of the notes. If I play in B natural minor (against the first three chords) I don't have a G# for the C#m7 nor an A# over the F#7b9. So, I'd have to adjust that by ear or by knowing the notes that don't fit. I can find Bm (or any minor) anywhere on the neck because I know that it's two sharps. Basically, I think "all white keys but sharp the F and C", and I know where those notes are.

    3. I can start with the chord tones. C# E G# B going to F# A# C# E G. If it were Cm7 and F7b9 I could find all the notes, anywhere on the fingerboard, without thinking. But, for C#, it takes me a fraction of a second to think ... so I end up relying on chord shapes and I'm too likely to have to start a C#m lick at the 4th position or 9th. Similar for the rest of the chords.

    4. Another thing I do is to realize the C#m is within the key of E (among others) and just go to E Ionian (or C# dorian) adjusting a couple of notes on the fly. I know where those notes are. I don't have to do it in a single position or be bound by thinking about a chord shape as long as I know the scale I want.

    5. the 7b9 can be thought of as HW, but I've always found it confusing to think that way. I shouldn't, but I do. So, I play the 7th scale and add the b9 by ear. Sort of Mixolydian add b9. I can find those notes either by note name or by geometric pattern, which I know in 5 places on the neck.

    Well, too much detail. But I'm wondering how other people do this. I'm aware that a lot of people start with CAGED or different scale approaches but I've never asked about the details of how a player applies them to a chord pattern that might not be so common as to trigger a well practiced approach.

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    I'm curious how others do this ...

    Consider Summer Samba in key of A. Medium tempo. Maybe 150 in 4/4.

    Bars 9-12:

    C#m7 / F#7b9 / Bm7 / G#m7b5 C#7b13/ (next chord is F#m7).

    Exactly how do you pick the notes you're going to play?

    Here's how I might do it -- and I definitely don't recommend this to others.

    1. I could go totally by ear and not think about any of the theory. When I do that, I'm more at risk for hitting a clam or not outlining the changes as precisely as I'd like.

    2. I could play in "Bm" and then "F#m". But, that kind of glosses over some of the notes. If I play in B natural minor (against the first three chords) I don't have a G# for the C#m7 nor an A# over the F#7b9. So, I'd have to adjust that by ear or by knowing the notes that don't fit. I can find Bm (or any minor) anywhere on the neck because I know that it's two sharps. Basically, I think "all white keys but sharp the F and C", and I know where those notes are.

    3. I can start with the chord tones. C# E G# B going to F# A# C# E G. If it were Cm7 and F7b9 I could find all the notes, anywhere on the fingerboard, without thinking. But, for C#, it takes me a fraction of a second to think ... so I end up relying on chord shapes and I'm too likely to have to start a C#m lick at the 4th position or 9th. Similar for the rest of the chords.

    4. Another thing I do is to realize the C#m is within the key of E (among others) and just go to E Ionian (or C# dorian) adjusting a couple of notes on the fly. I know where those notes are. I don't have to do it in a single position or be bound by thinking about a chord shape as long as I know the scale I want.

    5. the 7b9 can be thought of as HW, but I've always found it confusing to think that way. I shouldn't, but I do. So, I play the 7th scale and add the b9 by ear. Sort of Mixolydian add b9. I can find those notes either by note name or by geometric pattern, which I know in 5 places on the neck.

    Well, too much detail. But I'm wondering how other people do this. I'm aware that a lot of people start with CAGED or different scale approaches but I've never asked about the details of how a player applies them to a chord pattern that might not be so common as to trigger a well practiced approach.
    That's an interesting question...

    First of all, something I'm quite proud about is that when I improvise the note choices are not normally the most present thing in my mind, at least not in a conscious theoretical sort of way... As soon as I get too into that, my playing suffers.

    My general area of focus is shaping rhythms and phrases... So if my preparation for a tune is imperfect then I have the issue of not being able to play a flowing phrase that I can start and stop as I please so then I have to resort to some ruse or other (it's interesting when you hear the greats do this... For instance, as Rick Beato points out, Joey Calderazzo just playing the chords to Song for Bilbao when it gets to the hard bit lol.)

    In the case of the above I see two minor II-V-I's so I'm thinking
    --> Bm and then --> F#m7

    And play things that tonicise or weave in and out of the minor key centres. I have a bunch of things that do this and I'm always working more into my playing. I'm not thinking about each chord in isolation... I'm thinking about movement...

    There are two things to make it sound like you are playing changes.

    First is to realise no one gives a shit about the Bm and the F#m. Those are the least interesting sounds... It's the --> we are interested in.

    One type of --> is the dim7 a half step below. Another might be the altered scale. Another might be the harmonic minor scale starting on the 5th. Another might be the dominant 7 a half step above... And so on.. Or you might mix them up.

    Or you might start on a strongly establish subdominant sound - say IIm7 or IVm7, or bVImaj7 - and then lead it into the tonic via some route. It's all good. It all works.

    The second thing, very important, is to connect the --> to the thing it's pointing to. To do this you need to connect the phrase in forward motion. That means, essentially, playing from the II V into the I and resolving strongly. This could be on a 1 or 3, or it could be an anticipation, but the point is you are connecting your phrase to the last note and the last note is the one that makes the line make sense. In this, jazz is much like German.

    If you do this, it will never sound like you are flailing about and you will never worry about clams again. To illustrate what I mean I have quite a few vids on how to do this. Here are a couple, including a quite extreme example from Donny McCaslin.





    But this all derives from Hal Galper's book Forward Motion.

  4. #3

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    Isn’t that just a 2-5 going to Bm followed by a minor 2-5 going to F#m?

    If there’s one thing I can do without much thought it’s play lines on any 2-5-1 movement in any key, by ear, so I don’t think this chord progression would cause me much trouble. But I don’t think of it in scale terms so much as melodic phrases built around chord tones, with passing/chromatic notes as I see fit. So I wouldn’t be thinking ‘B min scale’ for the first 3 chords, for example. I would want to exploit the altered sounds on those dominants.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Isn’t that just a 2-5 going to Bm followed by a minor 2-5 going to F#m?

    If there’s one thing I can do without much thought it’s play lines on any 2-5-1 movement in any key, by ear, so I don’t think this chord progression would cause me much trouble. But I don’t think of it in scale terms so much as melodic phrases built around chord tones, with passing/chromatic notes as I see fit. So I wouldn’t be thinking ‘B min scale’ for the first 3 chords, for example. I would want to exploit the altered sounds on those dominants.
    How do you decide where to begin?

    If you see C#m7 going to Bm, how do you pick the position, finger etc.? I'm curious about that level of detail, if you'd be kind enough to provide it. Thanks.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    How do you decide where to begin?

    If you see C#m7 going to Bm, how do you pick the position, finger etc.? I'm curious about that level of detail, if you'd be kind enough to provide it. Thanks.
    I’m not sure, essentially I could grab almost any note and make it lead into a phrase that works. Any note, however ‘odd’ sounding is only a semitone away from a note that fits, so if I pick an ‘awkward’ note, sliding up one fret into a phrase will work.

    I just tried playing over this 3 times, entirely by ear and just going for any area of the fretboard that seemed ok. The first time I started on F# on the B string (so a fourth on the C#m chord). Second time I started on C# on the top E string, that was more or less by coincidence! Third time I started on G# on the D string, so a fifth on the C#m chord.

    By default I guess I generally start playing somewhere around the middle of the fingerboard e.g. 5th position.

    I am very much a ‘by ear’ player, not sure if that helps you much!

  7. #6

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    Exclusively by ear*... when I hear music my mind's ear hears spontaneous multiple musical ideas that want to be expressed; I know what they will sound like because I am already hearing them as if played with the rest of the music, so I select the one I most like for the song at that moment and let it pass to my hands to make the instrument produce the sound of what I hear. The ideas come effortlessly just from hearing music, so the only feeling of really doing anything is the very natural feeling of choosing what sounds best. This process is not in discrete steps as I've clumsily described - it's a continuous flow of exploratory candidates through the "audiation selection valve" of my musical judgement.

    * Just so you know, I have read music and studied theory since starting the clarinet when I was eight and much more reading and theory from classical piano from age eleven, but when I started the guitar I deliberately self taught by ear from day one and all of my playing, practicing, rehearsing, performing, composing, and studio sessions have always been exclusively by ear.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  8. #7

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    Depends if I had time to practice the tune before hand or was playing it cold.

    In both instances, I'd use my ears--since that is how I play on jam sessions.

    I would start by learning the melody--by playing it over and over again for weeks.

    Then I would play the entire chord progression from the start of the tune to the finish--over and over again for weeks (with basic voicings so I could hear everything clearly)

    Then, I would take the progression in question, and go to the piano. I would center my ear by playing an A drone in the bass--maybe a hit every two measures. Then I would sing through the progression, starting with 3rds, then 7ths, then guide tone lines, then the other notes of the chord--using movable do. Emphasis on the A drone--everything would be sung in A.

    C#m7 / F#7b9 / Bm7 / G#m7b5 C#7b13

    Example in Thirds (using A as the key reference)--make sure to follow the harmonic rhythm

    So (5) -- Rah (b2) -- Fa (4) -- Re (2) Le (b6)
    E--------Bb------------D-------------B--------F

    Example with 7ths

    Re (2) -- So (5) -- Do (1) -- La (6) -- Re (2)

    B----------E------------A---------F#-----------B

    And so on...

    Why do this? I think that you want to get as much information readily stored in your ear as possible. When I play (any many here would say the same) it's easier to access what is in my ears in the moment rather than accessing theory (it's not instantaneous, at least for me).

    Now on to the next question, why drive yourself crazy with chromatic solfege? Well, you want to hear how all the harmony works functionally throughout the tune--that means relating it to the key center (which you said was A). Relating everything to the key gives everything that you play the glue that it needs to hold it together. If you want to play out and angular--you can still do that convincingly if you really have the home key in the back of your ear.
    Last edited by Irez87; 05-23-2019 at 07:30 PM.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I’m not sure, essentially I could grab almost any note and make it lead into a phrase that works. Any note, however ‘odd’ sounding is only a semitone away from a note that fits, so if I pick an ‘awkward’ note, sliding up one fret into a phrase will work.

    I just tried playing over this 3 times, entirely by ear and just going for any area of the fretboard that seemed ok. The first time I started on F# on the B string (so a fourth on the C#m chord). Second time I started on C# on the top E string, that was more or less by coincidence! Third time I started on G# on the D string, so a fifth on the C#m chord.

    By default I guess I generally start playing somewhere around the middle of the fingerboard e.g. 5th position.

    I am very much a ‘by ear’ player, not sure if that helps you much!
    I just tried it several times too. What I think I do and what I actually do aren't quite the same thing.

    In this case, where I begin bar 9 depends on what I was doing in bars 1 - 8. I gravitated towards starting bar 1 with a C# (recalling we're in A). Then, I'm singing to myself trying to play what I'm singing. I'm aware of the chord tones, but I don't think about the scales. Then, I hear the Dmaj to Dm7 (iim for G7) and then drop a half step again. Then for the G#m7b5, I hear the C#7 leading to F#m7. I can hear the A note in both chords (b13 to b3). So, I can hear those changes and my fingers will find the guide tones in my mind.

    That's sort of like Amaj, drop a half step and play G#7b13. Next chord by ear, bearing in mind that A6 and Dmaj9 are almost the same thing. Meaning, I sort of continue what I'm doing and let the bassist create the chord change. Then it's Dmaj to Dm and at the end of bar 8 I might go to B (3rd of G7 and b7 of C#m7). The main point is that it's an easy change to hear.

    That leads to the ii V Im which is easy to hear following by the G#m7b5. For me, that requires more focus. I can get it quickly, more or less, by thinking about C#7 chord tones. But, given time to think, what I hear is two notes, F# and D each moving down a half step. I might end up playing roughly in B minor but emphasizing that transition, usually by outlining D to C#.

    At a fast tempo if I didn't know the tune well I might think of G#m7b5 as E9 or Bmelmin - which allows me to find the notes faster. while being sure to avoid clams. That's because I'm not quite as automatic with the chord tones of G#m7b5. If it was Am7b5, it's completely automatic to find every chord tone and 9th, and equally automatic to find every note of Cmelmin or Bbmaj (A locrian). I know those sets of notes all over the neck. I don't use geometric patterns to find them unless I'm struggling for some reason.

  10. #9

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    nah...

    Think A major, like you originally said

    iii-VIdom7 (okay that sound is quite familiar) ii --and here is where my ears really came in--the ii goes to a VIIdiminished (I can't figure out how to do the degree symbol)

    since the last chord is an F#minor7--I kept hearing that as a sub for the one, A major.

    so...

    iii-VIdom7-ii--VIIdim--I (like I said, the vi sounded like a I--unless the progression stays in F#minor 7 for like, four measures--at least)

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    nah...

    Think A major, like you originally said

    iii-VIdom7 (okay that sound is quite familiar) ii --and here is where my ears really came in--the ii goes to a VIIdiminished (I can't figure out how to do the degree symbol)

    since the last chord is an F#minor7--I kept hearing that as a sub for the one, A major.

    so...

    iii-VIdom7-ii--VIIdim--I (like I said, the vi sounded like a I--unless the progression stays in F#minor 7 for like, four measures--at least)
    I get the concept. How do you find the notes?

  12. #11

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    What do you mean, how do you find the notes?

    The notes to improvise with?

    The best advice I can think of, is to relate everything to the home key: in this case, A major. By everything, I mean EVERYTHING (all caps for emphasis, I would never yell at you).

    C#min7 to F#7 to Bm is not a ii-V to Bm--it's a iii VI ii in A major (that seems like a subtle different, but it definitely changes the way you approach that snippet and the rest of the progression--think of the home key)

    I used to analyze vocabulary as it related each chord--micro

    Now I analyze vocabulary as it relates to the key--macro

    I find that if I anaylze vocabulary in a macro level--I am better able to sing it, internalize it, and--in an odd way--manipulate it to fit other harmonic contexts.

    I want to reiterate that the best way to find out what to play, is to absorb as much of what you are studying aurally. If it's a backdoor progression, or a Coltrane cycle--find a way to make it stick in your ears. The clearer everything is in your inner ear--the more access you'll have to it in your fingers (everyone has to figure out what "clear" sounds like in their own minds--but that's the beauty of aural study)

    How to find the notes? Find recordings that you like, even in different keys, and cop some vocabulary? Start simple--chose 5 notes to express the progression within the key. I actually find that limiting my self to fewer notes is more challenging than running double time (that's challenging on a technical level).

    The more time you find listening to the progression, listening to the melody--it helps. I did this with Sophisticated Lady--just listening and playing the tune--it helped me hear things that I didn't hear before.

    Maybe we should take turns recording what we would play and post it here? I dunno how to explain this without posting actual examples?

    ...That said, I really need to bite the bullet and get a portable recorder!
    Last edited by Irez87; 05-23-2019 at 11:47 PM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    What do you mean, how do you find the notes?

    The notes to improvise with?

    The best advice I can think of, is to relate everything to the home key: in this case, A major. By everything, I mean EVERYTHING (all caps for emphasis, I would never yell at you).

    C#min7 to F#7 to Bm is not a ii-V to Bm--it's a iii VI ii in A major (that seems like a subtle different, but it definitely changes the way you approach that snippet and the rest of the progression--think of the home key)

    I used to analyze vocabulary as it related each chord--micro

    Now I analyze vocabulary as it relates to the key--macro

    I find that if I anaylze vocabulary in a macro level--I am better able to sing it, internalize it, and--in an odd way--manipulate it to fit other harmonic contexts.

    How to find the notes? Find recordings that you like, even in different keys, and cop some vocabulary?

    Maybe we should take turns recording what we would play and post it here? I dunno how to explain this without posting actual examples?

    ...That said, I really need to bite the bullet and get a portable recorder!
    I guess another way of asking ... if you're thinking key of A, do you find the notes in that key by ear, by geometric pattern (how many places on the neck) by note name, by chord grip or ???

    The F#7b9 has a G and the C#7b13 has an F, so key of A might require a bit of adjustment. But, I get the idea -- it has the general shape of a iii vi ii V with some meaningful variations.

    If I want to play in the key of A, I do it by note name. I know all the notes in the major scale and where they are.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    I guess another way of asking ... if you're thinking key of A, do you find the notes in that key by ear, by geometric pattern (how many places on the neck) by note name, by chord grip or ???

    The F#7b9 has a G and the C#7b13 has an F, so key of A might require a bit of adjustment. But, I get the idea -- it has the general shape of a iii vi ii V with some meaningful variations.

    If I want to play in the key of A, I do it by note name. I know all the notes in the major scale and where they are.
    Exactly, you alter the home key. That G--that's the flat seventh of the key--it has a certain sound in the key. That F, that's the flat sixth (for me, that's the toughest sound to hear and sing--but everyone is a little different).

    You are letting your ear tell you how these chords create "tension and release" and movement in the key. I think Hal Galper talks of movement within a progression, but this is more macro--this is creating movement in a key.

    To really see this in action--try it at the piano.

    I wish we could get you, chris 77, pauln, and graham in one room so we could demonstrate our ideas in person.

  15. #14

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    If you think of it as a iii vi ii V, you have to accommodate the things that don't fit the usual simple pattern.

    The vi is actually VI7b9. and the "V" isn't actually a 7th chord. Rather, the "V" in this sequence is G#m7b5 to C#7b13.

    Those last two chords could be seen as a minor 2-5 leading to F#m7. Well, maybe. ,

    So, you can view this as a variant of 3 6 2 5 1, landing on the relative minor of the usual I chord.

    But, in this tune, the F#m7 doesn't feel like the root. Instead, it goes right to B7. So, we have a iim V7 in Emaj followed by a iim V7 in Amaj.

    But, as I play the tune, I don't think about any of that. I think of the melody, the "feel" of the chords and the chord tones. Then I sing a melody to myself and I try to play it. Here and there I might think about chord tones to try to more precisely nail the sound of the changes. I find the notes by finding one and then finding the next one based on the sound of the interval. Since I'm currently working on phrasing with the tamborim pattern in Brazilian music, I might think about that.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    But, as I play the tune, I don't think about any of that. I think of the melody, the "feel" of the chords and the chord tones. Then I sing a melody to myself and I try to play it. Here and there I might think about chord tones to try to more precisely nail the sound of the changes. I find the notes by finding one and then finding the next one based on the sound of the interval. Since I'm currently working on phrasing with the tamborim pattern in Brazilian music, I might think about that.
    Then, that's it. My way (well, it's not mine-- it's something Charlie Banacos explored) seems complicated at first. But, it's all about creating the sound of the harmony from the ground up--without any instrument but the sound of your voice. Then, the sounds become internalized in your inner ear. Once that happens, then you are thinking in sounds--not theory--on the bandstand. You can access sound a lot faster than theory. And it's a direct correlation: you think in sound to create sound.

    Most importantly, we are all looking for ways to simplify and get to the root of the music. I'm doing that. Chris is doing that. Graham is doing that. And from your last post, I think that you are doing that as well. Rhythm is definitely an overlooked and crucial aspect of all of this--Brazilian, Bebop, Swing, Hardbop (my personal favorite), and avant guarde. The rhythms guide the notes, not the other way around. The most exciting players I've heard have an incredibly intimate relationship with rhythm.

    We need to create a time and rhythm sub forum (what would we call it?)