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  1. #1

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    I'm taking a jazz improv class at the local college. First assignment was Tune Up. No problem. Now it's Countdown. Big problem. I understand the concepts in a very abstract sense, but I'm not advanced enough to assimilate and apply them. So maybe there are some different ways of looking at the structure to simplify soloing over it?

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  3. #2

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    Just thought of something that I never tried but might be worth a try
    as an experiment at least.

    Given:

    You have already played Tune Up successfully.
    Countdown is a harmonic elaboration on the structure of Tune.
    Similar to Tune Up, Countdown bars 1-4, 5-8 and 9-12 make the same
    move symmetrically down a whole step. The starting chord and the target
    of each 4 bars are the same.

    Suggested experiment:

    Record a bunch of improvised repetitions play playing over Tune Up changes.
    Transcribe what you played (on paper).
    Adjust notes as needed to address the modulations of the Countdown version.
    This is a possible training wheels path to develop the skill to do this spontaneously.


    What I like about this is that you will be modifying phrases played within your
    comfort zone, with a high likelihood of sounding like legit music as opposed to
    mechanically chasing after the modulations. If you try this, let me know how it goes.

  4. #3

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    Well first order of business, I'd say, would be to slow it down as much as possible, if you haven't already.

    One idea I've seen floating around is instead of looking at the changes as I-bIII: from the the beginning of one bar to the next, think of the changes as sections of V-Is: Em7 (F7 BbMaj7 - Db7 GbMaj7 - A7 DMaj7...) etc.

    Listening to Trane play Countdown, Giant Steps, he does a lot of ascending I-II-III-V arpeggios as well as descending I-V-III-I and I-VII-V-III/I-VII-V-I.

    Just working on cementing those patterns in your fingers/ears will help.
    At least they have for me.

    Hope this helps.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by arielcee View Post
    Well first order of business, I'd say, would be to slow it down as much as possible, if you haven't already.

    One idea I've seen floating around is instead of looking at the changes as I-bIII: from the the beginning of one bar to the next, think of the changes as sections of V-Is: Em7 (F7 BbMaj7 - Db7 GbMaj7 - A7 DMaj7...) etc.

    Listening to Trane play Countdown, Giant Steps, he does a lot of ascending I-II-III-V arpeggios as well as descending I-V-III-I and I-VII-V-III/I-VII-V-I.

    Just working on cementing those patterns in your fingers/ears will help.
    At least they have for me.

    Hope this helps.
    First off, thank you for your clear and concise suggestions. I can see the V-I relationships no problem. The challenge for me is to find a way to unify the changes in a way that I can think of them as a tonal center rather than three cycles of 4ths. For example, am I on the right track if I think of BbMaj7-Db7 as Dmi-G7? And even if I do, where does that get me? I read somewhere that Countdown derives from Have You Met Miss Jones. I can actually kind of hear that. How do you feel about working out some ideas for Miss Jones and applying them to Countdown?

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by buduranus2 View Post
    First off, thank you for your clear and concise suggestions. I can see the V-I relationships no problem. The challenge for me is to find a way to unify the changes in a way that I can think of them as a tonal center rather than three cycles of 4ths. For example, am I on the right track if I think of BbMaj7-Db7 as Dmi-G7? And even if I do, where does that get me? I read somewhere that Countdown derives from Have You Met Miss Jones. I can actually kind of hear that. How do you feel about working out some ideas for Miss Jones and applying them to Countdown?
    Well a whole 6 chord sequence sort of substitutes as the elongated version the II-V
    D-7 - Eb7 - AbMaj7 - B7 - EMaj7 -G7
    D-7 ..........................G7....................


    The Bridge to "Have You Met Miss Jones" is built on 3 key centers: Bb, GB, D - each a major third apart from each other.
    Same as the Giant Steps Cycle (B, G, Eb)

    I don't think it's clear whether Trane took inspiration from that or not. I think Wayne Shorter mentions somewhere that Coltrane knew of the HYMMJ, but it might not have been the source. Beside the point though...

    As far as finding a way to overlay the cycle on to the II-V-I, unless it's just a way of thinking about it I'm not sure there is any shortcut that can tie all three key centers into the resolving target I.

    I'd say definitely work with HYMMJ and Giant Steps in addition to
    or even before Countdown.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by arielcee View Post
    I'd say definitely work with HYMMJ and Giant Steps in addition to or even before Countdown.
    Yes, that's my best intuition. Giant Steps is too big of a bite for me, but Miss Jones is a comfortable place to start. Many thanks!

  8. #7

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    I'm working on Countdown right now and I've had most success with playing throuh the chord changes on a single string. Six practice sessions like that did a lot.

  9. #8

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    I’m surprised that they came in with Countdown right after the way easier Tune Up. Countdown lends itself to very challenging “vertical” playing. That is, each chord would be musically described in a specific way. For example, a C7 chord could be described with the pattern 1 2 3 5 (C D E G) 1 2 3 1 ( C D E C) or other pattern (or “cell”) of chord tones and passing tones. So a good way to practice this is to pick a pattern (1 2 3 5, I recommend for starters) and run it through the changes (of course “3” would be “b3” on minor chords). But this is very challenging.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Rsilver View Post
    I’m surprised that they came in with Countdown right after the way easier Tune Up. Countdown lends itself to very challenging “vertical” playing. That is, each chord would be musically described in a specific way. For example, a C7 chord could be described with the pattern 1 2 3 5 (C D E G) 1 2 3 1 ( C D E C) or other pattern (or “cell”) of chord tones and passing tones. So a good way to practice this is to pick a pattern (1 2 3 5, I recommend for starters) and run it through the changes (of course “3” would be “b3” on minor chords). But this is very challenging.
    I agree, very perplexing. As I was telling a friend yesterday, we could spend the entire semester on Countdown, if not longer. Fortunately, I'm taking the course for audit, not for grade. So I've been spending time on Have You Met Miss Jones, from which Countdown derives, as well as from Tune Up. One of the more intriguing commentaries I saw online was to find the common chord tones. The teacher is very accomplished and a very personable guy, but I feel it would have been helpful if he had prepared some handouts as a starting point. Your recommendation of 1 2 3 5 is a great starting point. In fact, another forum member had recommended that pattern in another context. There's a local teacher here who is deep into drop 2 chords. I want to get with him to help me play the tune as a chord melody. That way I'll have some shapes to improvise over. In closing, I very much appreciate your reply!

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Askildsen View Post
    I'm working on Countdown right now and I've had most success with playing through the chord changes on a single string. Six practice sessions like that did a lot.
    Wow, what a great idea! This also ties into Mick Goodrick's suggestion in The Advancing Guitarist. Many thanks!

  12. #11

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    Countdown was Coltrane's re-write of Tune Up. Thus the sequence makes sense.

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop View Post
    Countdown was Coltrane's re-write of Tune Up. Thus the sequence makes sense.
    Yes, I get that of course. But he uses his "circle of thirds" in between the Tune Up changes, which puts it in another dimension.

  14. #13

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    Memorize the chord changes and it becomes a lot easier.

    I would treat it like Coltrane treated Giant Steps (and Countdown).
    He pretty much did these 4 devices all the time for the changes of G.S.

    1. Play the chord's arpeggio.
    2. 4 note cells. His favorite being: step step skip : 1 2 3 5 (descending 5 3 2 1) or same shape from the 5th (5 6 7 9) or 6th (6 7 8 10)
    3. Play the scale of the chord.
    4. Weave simple very brief melodies based on chord/scale of the moment
    Last edited by rintincop; 08-24-2019 at 03:11 PM.
    Studied privately with Mark Levine from 1986-1989 and with Barry Harris 1990-1992.

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop View Post
    Memorize the chord changes like Coltrane did.
    I would further approach it like Coltrane approached Giant Steps and Countdown too.
    He pretty much did these 4 devices all the time for the changes of G.S.

    1. Play the chord's arpeggio
    2. 4 note cells. His favorite being: step step skip : 1 2 3 5 (descending 5 3 2 1) or same shape from the 5th (5 6 7 9) or 6th (6 7 8 10)
    3. Play the scale of the chord
    4. Weave simple very brief melodies based on chord/scale of the moment
    This is very clearly and concisely laid out. Remains to be seen whether it's within the realm of my capabilities. Good stuff!

  16. #15

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    He uses 4 devices to "make the changes" of Giant Steps (see above). He was very precise with Giant Steps, more so than than his Countdown solo where he did the same thing but less carefully.

    It's like continuously linking together 4 puzzle pieces. With slow daily practice it's doable. First learn the changes by arpeggio. Then the 4 note cell...

    My analysis, per every 2 beats:

    | arpeggio up, simple melody from chord/scale | arpeggio down, 4 note cell |arpeggio down, 4 note cell down |
    | scale ascending | arpeggio down, displaced scale | arpeggio up, arpeggio up|
    Countdown – Any way to simplify it?-giant_steps_1-gif
    Studied privately with Mark Levine from 1986-1989 and with Barry Harris 1990-1992.

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop View Post
    He uses 4 devices to "make the changes" of Giant Steps (see above). He was very precise with Giant Steps, more so than than his Countdown solo where he did the same thing but less carefully.

    It's like continuously linking together 4 puzzle pieces. With slow daily practice it's doable. First learn the changes by arpeggio. Then the 4 note cell...

    My analysis, per every 2 beats:

    | arpeggio up, simple melody from chord/scale | arpeggio down, 4 note cell |arpeggio down, 4 note cell down |
    | scale ascending | arpeggio down, displaced scale | arpeggio up, arpeggio up|
    Countdown – Any way to simplify it?-giant_steps_1-gif
    This is gold. Many thanks!

  18. #17

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    What bars sound like resolutions to you? Which sound like tensions?
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  19. #18
    I get the V7 I aspects as well as the overarching ii V I from Tune Up. It's the circle of thirds that's difficult to process, as well as finding a unifying thread (scale?) so I don't have to negotiate each individual chord.

  20. #19

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    In looking over the Coltrane transcription, referring to the sections with two chords per measure, it certainly looks like he was playing on each chord individually. Some of the connections are nearby notes, but other times he makes a fairly large jump to the first note of the next chord.

    When the harmonic rhythm slows, it looks more like tonal center playing.

  21. #20

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    I suppose you've seen this. Mind you, sax is one thing, guitar's another. I think your teacher's a sadist. Can he play it on guitar at that speed? Can anyone ???


  22. #21

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    I can’t play countdown lol. Giant Steps is one thing (that I almost never play on gigs) but Countdown is IMO for people who really want to master the Trane changes thing to an unusually high level. Just the tempo alone.

    I see where the teacher is coming from as it’s a sub for Tune Up. But then I haven’t played Tune Up for like a decade.

    Jazz education tunes are their own separate world.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    I suppose you've seen this. Mind you, sax is one thing, guitar's another. I think your teacher's a sadist. Can he play it on guitar at that speed? Can anyone ???

    To play jazz guitar at that speed is a supernatural skill. In fact, I’ll say that it’s quite impossible to play at that speed and still sound musical. Theoretical, it’s not a too ambitious piece. Complex chord changes, but not impossible. The secret is to keep down the tempo and study the chord progressions carefully. Arpeggios and chord tones are my tools.
    Have I found it yet? I said that but I didn’t knew it. Did I knew that I had found it yet? No, it wasn’t what I was looking for. Nevermind. Ok.

    -Pataphysical monologue based on Cartesian theory

  24. #23

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    Or be out of your head on smack and meth, of course. I bet that helps a lot :-)

  25. #24

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    This won't help at all and your teacher won't like you. Play it all in Bb. This was take 1 and no trying to aim for the chords either...

    I know, it's definitly not bebop. But it's quite nice.


  26. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    In looking over the Coltrane transcription, referring to the sections with two chords per measure, it certainly looks like he was playing on each chord individually. Some of the connections are nearby notes, but other times he makes a fairly large jump to the first note of the next chord.

    When the harmonic rhythm slows, it looks more like tonal center playing.
    I read an interview where he said exactly that. Can't find it now, but he said what you did, that he played the scale of each chord, and his phrasing was asymmetrical because he couldn't always fit all the notes in.
    Last edited by buduranus2; 09-02-2019 at 12:53 PM.

  27. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I can’t play countdown lol. Giant Steps is one thing (that I almost never play on gigs) but Countdown is IMO for people who really want to master the Trane changes thing to an unusually high level. Just the tempo alone.

    I see where the teacher is coming from as it’s a sub for Tune Up. But then I haven’t played Tune Up for like a decade.

    Jazz education tunes are their own separate world.
    I agree that Countdown is the Rosetta Stone to decipher Trane's music, at least up to the Giant Steps album. As I said previously, we could spend the entire semester on this. Good candidate for chord melody, though,

  28. #27

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    I think looking at the root movements of just the first 4 bars at the piano for an hour might be very helpful. It's a V I pattern simply modulating down by a 3rd like the "Have You Met Miss Jones" bridge. It can be memorized slowly as a routine, so that it's no longer difficult. The second and third lines do the exact same thing. Line four is like Tune Up .
    Studied privately with Mark Levine from 1986-1989 and with Barry Harris 1990-1992.

  29. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop View Post
    I think looking at the root movements of just the first 4 bars at the piano for an hour might be very helpful. It's a V I pattern simply modulating down by a 3rd like the "Have You Met Miss Jones" bridge. It can be memorized slowly as a routine, so that it's no longer difficult. The second and third lines do the exact same thing. Line four is like Tune Up .
    Yes, understood. I've spent some time learning Miss Jones as the foundation for Countdown. I might be able to play the tune at 20 bpm.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by buduranus2 View Post
    I agree that Countdown is the Rosetta Stone to decipher Trane's music, at least up to the Giant Steps album. As I said previously, we could spend the entire semester on this. Good candidate for chord melody, though,
    I didn’t say that. Trane changes are one technical aspect of Tranes music.

  31. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I didn’t say that. Trane changes are one technical aspect of Tranes music.
    Sorry. Didn't mean to put words in your mouth.

  32. #31

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    Sorry for being a grump. Coltrane is very special to me. I see him as more than a Sax player who played interesting notes.... although he was certainly that.

    the fact that people focus on stuff like Trane changes, while cool and impressive neglects so many things I find more interesting about his music.

    It’s like turning his music into a crossword puzzle sometimes the way it’s taught....

  33. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Sorry for being a grump. Coltrane is very special to me. I see him as more than a Sax player who played interesting notes.... although he was certainly that.

    the fact that people focus on stuff like Trane changes, while cool and impressive neglects so many things I find more interesting about his music.

    It’s like turning his music into a crossword puzzle sometimes the way it’s taught....
    No offense taken, of course. I think Trane is special to all of us. BTW, I went to the Saint John Coltrane Church when I was in San Francisco. I agree that music taught in an academic setting can be, well, pedantic. What infuses life into music can't be found in a book – it's the intangibles, like tone, vibe, blusiness and swing, among others. To me, that's the difference between playing it "correctly" and playing it "right." Perhaps an apt metaphor for my aspirations is that while I could place no one higher in the pantheon than Trane, I could listen to Dexter Gordon all day. That said, just to have an inkling about "Trane changes" is a big deal to me, although it's unlikely I'll ever be able to apply them. In closing, much appreciation for your many suggestions, recommendations and observations on this thread and previously.

  34. #33

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    Saint John Coltrane Church
    WHAT? Tell me I'm dreaming.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    WHAT? Tell me I'm dreaming.
    Oh no this is a thing.

  36. #35

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    You're right, I've looked it up, and I'm not saying a word.

  37. #36
    I don't think there's a good way to 'simplify' Countdown, beyond just playing Tune Up. Which is why I don't think Countdown is really going to to anyone any good in an intermediate level jazz improv course. Can you get together with the other folks in class without the instructor, and work on some simpler tunes, concentrating on dynamics, rhythmic density, phrase lengths, articulation, interaction, trading 8s & 4s, stop time, intros endings, all useful and practical things to go over in a combo setting, and let Countdown patterns be an individual at-your-own-pace practice goal, until they come out naturally in group playing situations? Best wishes for your music!

    PK

  38. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut View Post
    I don't think there's a good way to 'simplify' Countdown, beyond just playing Tune Up. Which is why I don't think Countdown is really going to to anyone any good in an intermediate level jazz improv course. Can you get together with the other folks in class without the instructor, and work on some simpler tunes, concentrating on dynamics, rhythmic density, phrase lengths, articulation, interaction, trading 8s & 4s, stop time, intros endings, all useful and practical things to go over in a combo setting, and let Countdown patterns be an individual at-your-own-pace practice goal, until they come out naturally in group playing situations? Best wishes for your music!

    PK
    Thank you for your thoughtful perspective. I couldn't have said it better!

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    You're right, I've looked it up, and I'm not saying a word.
    OK, I'll do it. Here's the link:

    Coltrane Church

    Who knew?

  40. #39

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    Pianist Michael Wolfe has a great YouTube on Giant Steps concepts. I especially like his Big V shortcut, where he plays a dominant altered scale over the first few chords leading to the I of the new key change. For example, play Bbalt over the beginning chords finally resolving to Ebmaj7, continue the same over the next sequence.

  41. #40

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    Yes a have a vid demoing this idea more generally



    So countdown would go from

    Em F7 | Bb Db7 | Gbmaj7 A7 | D

    to

    Em | Em7b5 | A7alt | D

    by this logic. Which is basically Tune Up.

  42. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Yes a have a vid demoing this idea more generally



    So countdown would go from

    Em F7 | Bb Db7 | Gbmaj7 A7 | D

    to

    Em | Em7b5 | A7alt | D

    by this logic. Which is basically Tune Up.
    Man, I wish you were teaching the class. I think I kinda sorta get it, not necessarily to the level that I could explain it. I'll experiment.

  43. #42

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    Em | Em7b5 | A7alt | D

    Which means you're going up in m3rds: Em - Gm - Bbm - (D).

    Mind you, I don't know if any of this actually simplifies the playing of it because it's so fast.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    Em | Em7b5 | A7alt | D

    Which means you're going up in m3rds: Em - Gm - Bbm - (D).

    Mind you, I don't know if any of this actually simplifies the playing of it because it's so fast.
    I think it would be ok, to play ii-V-I you probably have more chops. And it’s easier to improvise.

    What your talking about is more patternsy to my mind.

    Really the Coltrane thing comes down to patterns. You can then apply those patterns on simpler progs or vamps, which is what Trane did.

    But pattern based playing... well it can be a bit relentless so it’s good to have different tools.