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  1. #1

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    This is a question about teaching.

    I just started a gig teaching guitarists in High School.

    I was asked to teach some basics and help the kids play some songs in the school jazz band.

    One of the students, who has pretty good chops, wants to learn "modes'.

    I don't really know much about this subject. I mean, I know what modes are, but I'm not sure what to present to the student. I would appreciate some advice.

    For example,

    I'm aware that some people might think ii dorian, V mixo, I ionian to get through a ii V I.

    I prefer to be aware of the chord tones in each chord and remember that the tonal center is C. I know what the modes are, but I don't reference them consciously in that situation.

    I know that Miles started "modal jazz" in the 50s with tunes like So What, but I confess that I don't think about modes consciously when I solo. For example, on Dm in So What, I'm likely to play 1 2 b3 4 5. Then, for 6 and 7, I pick the notes I want by ear. I'm aware that I can think of Dm in terms of different modes, but I just have never found it helpful.

    Similarly, I know that a flamenco E chord calls for E phrygian, but I've always done it by ear

    Can anybody point me toward a resource or outline a good way to respond to this student?

    Thanks in advance

    Rick

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I think at the high school level, this may be a good introduction to modes: An Introduction to Modes

    It's tricky to know what a highschool student means when they ask about modes. Some of them are asking because they learned from some independent study that they should think about modes when they play. You hear that in rock guitar pedagogy, and you sometimes hear it in jazz pedagogy too. Some jazz theory books teach about modes as relating to chords: Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian, etc relate to minor chords, mixolydian to dominant, and so on. I personally never got anything out of that because when I played ii-V-Is using diatonic "modes"/chord-scales, I ended up using the same set of pitches over all of them, which defeated the purpose entirely. I think it can be distracting to learn the modes for a diatonic progression instead of learning (a) the key and (b) the guide tones.

    Instead, a good approach to teaching modes is by using comparison and contrast. Ron Miller's Modal Jazz Composition & Harmony is a very good resource for this. For each mode, he talks about their "characteristic" notes (i.e. what makes that mode sound like itself and not like the others), he talks about the relative gradients of brightness to darkness, some subjective emotional generalizations, etc., and he also talks about how to voice chords from each of the modes. I think that last bit (voicing) is extremely helpful for getting the idea across.

    One point to clarify with your students is the difference between "modes" as a purely descriptive term and "modal" playing. For example, playing dorian, mixo, and ionian over a ii V I isn't "modal" even if you're calling the notes by their modal terms. Modal playing tends to avoid standard functional progressions, arriving at cadences that follow a less deterministic logic than predominant, dominant, tonic. By playing modal chords (i.e. chords that focus more on the characteristcs, mood, and color of their sonority rather than their function) you can arrive at musical compositions whose chord changes don't follow obvious functional logic. Instead their cohesiveness is the result of navigating another set of relationships. I'd recommend Miller's book again if you are looking for good teaching material in this context.

    I also think Ron Miller has some good youtube videos (check his channel) about this stuff where he shows some reharmonizations by example.

    Since you're talking about high school students, they'll be happy if your answer comes in the format of a Youtube video.

    Alan Belkin may be advanced, but he is thorough.





  4. #3

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    I didn't watch the above videos and they are probably much better than I could help with, but nevertheless...


    You might start with this:

    • Do we know our half steps and whole steps theory?
    • Do we know our intervals?
    • Do we know what a scale is?
    • Do we know how to harmonize the major scale?


    Then:
    • What are the seven modes yielded by the major scale? (Displaced scales)
    • What are the moods and brightness/darkness tendencies of each?
    • How to think about modes in modal music (traditional/classical and contemporary/jazz - Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian compositions for example. Provide some examples.)
    • How to think about modes in "tonal" music (I-IV-V, II-V-I, I-VI-II-V, V7 cycles), and how useful is that thinking?
    • How do I play them on my instrument in 2 octaves? Simple ascending and descending, from the 6th string.


    Then:
    • Can I harmonize other scales? (Like....... Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Major)
    • Are there some interesting chords that are yielded as a result?
    • Where might I encounter these chords in music?
    • Are there likewise some interesting modes yielded by displacing these diatonic scales?
    • What moods and sounds do they offer?

  5. #4

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    ^^^ The post above is a fundamental approach that seems to cover all the basics I would expect an instructor to have a grasp on. If you don't have a handle on it, you have to be careful guiding someone else, IMO. Good luck.

  6. #5

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    Some people feel they should learn stuff because it sounds impressive and technical, not cos they actually need it at that stage. ‘Learning modes will make me an awesome metal player.’ (You know, before they can play the pentatonic scale in time.)

    Anyway, in the UK we have exam boards that do graded exams in electric and (non-classical) acoustic guitar. This includes theory scales etc. Do you have this in the states?

    I find this type of thing stops me from reinventing the wheel and allows me to focus on delivery.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-18-2017 at 04:37 AM.

  7. #6

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    Did you check out our lesson on modes?:

    The Beginner's Guide To Guitar Modes & Scales (+ Video/PDF)

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Some people feel they should learn stuff because it sounds impressive and technical, not cos they actually need it at that stage. ‘Learning modes will make me an awesome metal player.’ (You know, before they can play the pentatonic scale in time.)

    Anyway, in the UK we have exam boards that do graded exams in electric and (non-classical) acoustic guitar. This includes theory scales etc. Do you have this in the states?

    I find this type of thing stops me from reinventing the wheel and allows me to focus on delivery.

    Heck no! Or at least not that I can think of off the top of my head.

    That's why I like the Brit's stuff. RGT and ABRSM.

  9. #8

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    There is a difference between... what the term Mode(s) has become and what Modal can imply. The examples above use standard Maj/Min functional Harmony as the reference for understanding... Mode. Which leads to... if one doesn't understand traditional theory and functional harmony... one is not going to really understand Modal theory or function.

    Short version... Functional music is an understanding of why and what makes... music move or rest. Generally used with analysis or compositional musical terms. These understandings become guidelines... and are based on how notes react to each other and which notes control the movements in relationships with tonal references. The basic reference is Ionian and it's understandings and guidelines.

    When we use the term borrowing, we're implying... that functional harmony and theory is still the basic reference. The guidelines for everything. When you get into Modal concepts... your opening the door to different Functional or organization for movement and rest of music. I don't think many HS kids could really understand Modal concepts... because most don't understand Functional Harmony and theory....but if your going to teach modal concepts, you should etc...

    The basic beginning material for modes, or modal understandings., has become basic beginning CST basics, which in it's self is nothing more that relationships between Chords derived form Scales and possible applications... again still base on traditional Functional Harmony and Theory.

    The term Modes has become a term to describe scales derived by starting on different scale degrees. And using the characteristic note(s) as a distinctive color element as compared to functional guideline. Embellishment as compared to functional characteristic element.

    Probably doesn't make any difference for 99%... but if your teaching, might be useful.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg
    There is a difference between... what the term Mode(s) has become and what Modal can imply. The examples above use standard Maj/Min functional Harmony as the reference for understanding... Mode. Which leads to... if one doesn't understand traditional theory and functional harmony... one is not going to really understand Modal theory or function.

    Short version... Functional music is an understanding of why and what makes... music move or rest. Generally used with analysis or compositional musical terms. These understandings become guidelines... and are based on how notes react to each other and which notes control the movements in relationships with tonal references. The basic reference is Ionian and it's understandings and guidelines.

    When we use the term borrowing, we're implying... that functional harmony and theory is still the basic reference. The guidelines for everything. When you get into Modal concepts... your opening the door to different Functional or organization for movement and rest of music. I don't think many HS kids could really understand Modal concepts... because most don't understand Functional Harmony and theory....but if your going to teach modal concepts, you should etc...

    The basic beginning material for modes, or modal understandings., has become basic beginning CST basics, which in it's self is nothing more that relationships between Chords derived form Scales and possible applications... again still base on traditional Functional Harmony and Theory.

    The term Modes has become a term to describe scales derived by starting on different scale degrees. And using the characteristic note(s) as a distinctive color element as compared to functional guideline. Embellishment as compared to functional characteristic element.

    Probably doesn't make any difference for 99%... but if your teaching, might be useful.
    Totally bang on post Reg

    I for one have found the real 'stuff' of music and tunes
    is understanding and importantly hearing
    functional harmony in the tunes ...

    And yes , based on the major scale ,
    and variations on that , secondary dominants etc etc
    the roman numeral or Nashville number system

    I think one needs to really get one's ears together
    on that stuff
    applying it to actual tunes ...

    I'm agreeing with Reg

    However , if you must jump into modal music
    I think its helpful to have a drone going
    Eg if you wanna hear E phrigian ,
    have an E drone going on a loop pedal or whatever ...

  11. #10

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    On the mechanical side, modes are just rotations (inversions) of scales.
    That is the derivative perspective and offers an easy path to build on previous
    scale knowledge to learn flexible fingerings oriented around each scale degree.

    The musical usage side is more commonly connected to a parallel perspective,
    linking scales that share a common tone.

    Ex. Common Tone F

    I. F Ionian - (Ma7 9,11,13) .......... F major
    II. F Dorian - (m7 9,11,13) ......... Eb major
    III. F Phrygian - (m7 b9,11,b1 .... Db Major
    IV. F Lydian - (Ma7 9,#11,13) ..... C Major
    V. F Mixolydian - (7th 9,11,13) .... Bb Major
    VI. F Aeolian - (m7 9,11,b13) ...... Ab Major
    VII. F Locrian -(m7b5 b9,11,b13) Gb Major

    Much intervallic (harmonic) territory is covered by the modal note collections of the 7 note scales
    (Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Major) supplemented by symmetrical scales
    (Whole Tone, Diminished, Augmented), various pentatonic, hexatonics, 8 note scales, etc.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt
    Heck no! Or at least not that I can think of off the top of my head.

    That's why I like the Brit's stuff. RGT and ABRSM.
    There’s also RSL (used to be rock school) and trinity rock pop.

    Could always use one of those

  13. #12

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    Ummm I’m not sure the information above is high school level. Of course it’s entirely possible my high school wasn’t very hip.

    I think you’ll be fine teaching the modes of the major scale and how they relate to rock chord progressions - e.g. Lydian on flying in a blue dream, aeolian on stairway, Etc

    Also harmonic minor and Phrygian dom

    Rock guys use scale and mode interchangeably.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-18-2017 at 12:26 PM.

  14. #13
    Thanks to everyone who replied.

    I'm still working my way through the videos but I've been through all the text.

    I understand the issues a little better than before. I think I can get the student pointed in the right direction. Someone else will have to take him the rest of the way.

    Thanks!

  15. #14

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    FWIW, I think you're bang on with this:

    "I prefer to be aware of the chord tones in each chord and remember that the tonal center is C. I know what the modes are, but I don't reference them consciously in that situation."

    Teach them accordingly. Key scale and chord tones.

    You could also play them this rant by some stuffy old dude:

    (yeah, what does he know? )

    For modes (if they insist) just make sure you play them some modal music, to show how it differs from functional harmony. You know the usual suspects: So What, Maiden Voyage, Flamenco Sketches... and from rock, Oye Como Va, Flying in a Blue Dream, She Said She Said.
    Rock actually treats modes as ways of blurring the difference between major and minor keys - or vice versa, taking a mode and treating it like a key. They don't care (or know) about the distinction too much. (Satriani is a partial exception there.)
    Modal jazz OTOH - at least at the beginning - tried to make modes sound as different as possible from keys - to really draw a line between the two ways of using harmony.

    It's nothing to do with improvisation, either way. Modes are alternative methods of composition. Improvisation is about taking the material of a given piece (functional or modal) and playing around with it.

    CST may indeed assist with that, but - as Hal says - it's not a "method". Not an excuse for ignoring what the music gives you.
    Last edited by JonR; 10-22-2017 at 12:09 PM.

  16. #15

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    Also dropping modal interchange chords into major key pop songs. An example might be Hard Day's Night by the Beatles (Mixolydian into Major), but there are loads more obviously.

  17. #16

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    Tell them to listen to Palestrina.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Also dropping modal interchange chords into major key pop songs. An example might be Hard Day's Night by the Beatles (Mixolydian into Major), but there are loads more obviously.
    The Beatles are a good source (as they are for many songwriting theory questions). Norwegian Wood mixes 3 parallel modes: mixolydian for the main riff, then a dorian i-IV-i, then a major (ionian) ii-V back to the mixolydian I.

  19. #18

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    Sorry if this has been mentioned, but one of the bits of advice that was really useful in helping me integrate modes was the idea that progressions (songs) have a "key center" and a "tonal center". Leave behind the greek names, the intervals, etc, and just think about a tune.

    A song may be in one key, but to our ears it may have a tonal center that's different than the key center. If I am playing a simple progression in Gmaj, then the key center is Gmaj. However, based on the progression the tonal center might be C or D depending on how the tunes moves.

    In cases where the song's tonal center is different than the key center, modes are great in that they allow you to play a mode of the key center that emphasizes the tonal center of the song.

    Robbie Calvo provides a mode-by-mode example of this idea and does a much better job than I do of explaining it

  20. #19

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    Or, as Reg stated perfectly:

    "The term Modes has become a term to describe scales derived by starting on different scale degrees. And using the characteristic note(s) as a distinctive color element as compared to functional guideline. Embellishment as compared to functional characteristic element."

    -Chris

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I was asked to teach some basics and help the kids play some songs in the school jazz band.
    Kids, school band...

    One of the students, who has pretty good chops, wants to learn "modes'
    Which means he doesn't understand 'modes'. He's obviously seen/heard about it somewhere.

    I used to teach kids (never again - ' I forgot my book'). Personally I wouldn't use a question like that to conceptually enrol the poor guy into Advanced Music College and start on the heavy stuff. It's not what he wants, not what he needs, and he won't understand it.

    Most likely, when you begin to explain what modes are and how they're used he'll glaze over double quick. I've seen it many a time and, no, I'm not being negative. Of course, he might be very special and become a musical prodigy but I doubt it.

    What do you mean by his 'chops'? Can he zoom round the major and minor scales? Is he playing proper jazz lines with real understanding? Or just some flash pentatonic stuff? Is he creating or imitating?

    The knowledge you say you have already is almost certainly good enough - modes are derived from the major/minor scales etc. Modal playing is tunes like 'So What' etc.

    On the other hand, it probably wouldn't do you any harm to brush up on it just in case... but at the level and age of your kids (your word) I doubt if complex explanations are necessary or even very interesting to them.

    If he really persists then sit him down and see how much he can absorb. You never know :-)

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by h1pst3r88
    Sorry if this has been mentioned, but one of the bits of advice that was really useful in helping me integrate modes was the idea that progressions (songs) have a "key center" and a "tonal center". Leave behind the greek names, the intervals, etc, and just think about a tune.

    A song may be in one key, but to our ears it may have a tonal center that's different than the key center. If I am playing a simple progression in Gmaj, then the key center is Gmaj. However, based on the progression the tonal center might be C or D depending on how the tunes moves.

    In cases where the song's tonal center is different than the key center, modes are great in that they allow you to play a mode of the key center that emphasizes the tonal center of the song.

    Robbie Calvo provides a mode-by-mode example of this idea and does a much better job than I do of explaining it
    That's an interesting use of terms, but not exactly how I was taught. A veeeeery simplistic explanation follows.

    I was taught terms more along the lines of Key and Key Center. Tonal center is OK too. Tunes in the Great American Songbook and jazz standards make liberal use of direct modulation. That is, the song is in a given key but modulates freely through other keys at the composers will. One telltale signal that the key center has moved is a II-V or II-V-I progression.

    Regarding modes however, most jazz teachers that i have studied with have emphasized that you need to focus on the chords not the scales/modes. Do the modes matter? Sure but you need to outline the harmony when making your melodies, so to speak.

    Steps and skips, not just steps!


    OTOH - things changed with post-bop and we have a lot of modal tunes. That trend continues to today. It's a different approach to playing in a number of ways, because it's a different approach to composing and form.

  23. #22

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    The whole difference between ordinary playing and modal playing is that in ordinary playing the notes are in harmony with the chords, whether the key modulates or not. In modal tunes the emphasis is on the sound the notes make against a certain harmony. That's why the chords in a traditional tune tend to be complex and move around a lot whereas in modal tunes they tend not to.

    If I played the chords to, say, Satin Doll without a lead it would be immediately identifiable. Whereas several bars of one chord, like a Dm, isn't terribly interesting but it's the use of the Dorian or some other mode over them that produces a certain distinct flavour. And, the modal sound being somewhat unresolved, it can happily drift on forever :-)

    I've always thought that blues tunes were modal because those 3 dominant chords aren't in any particular key. You can't play, say, G mixolydian over C7 and D7, it doesn't fit. As the chords change, so must the modes. But that's the beauty of the blues scale, of course, which is not a mode of anything!

  24. #23

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    Scalar playing is not the same thing as cst/modal playing btw. They are two different things.

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Scalar playing is not the same thing as cst/modal playing btw. They are two different things.
    yes. Nice video by the way. :-)

  26. #25

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    rpjazzguitar -

    I mean, you can see the attraction of modal playing. This is just two m6 chords, one after the other, overlaid with the Dorian mode of each, no altered notes. They both have all their notes except one in common so you can drift seamlessly between them. It gives a sort of mystical, meditative quality that's very attractive. Hell of a way to go, especially if you have a good band with different players and instruments. Money for old rope really :-)



    Your high school kids could actually try this out, very simple. They'd probably get instantly hooked!

  27. #26

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    There is no such thing as cst "playing"

  28. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt
    There is no such thing as cst "playing"
    If be curious to know what you mean.

    A lot of people would disagree with that. Numerous angry debates on this forum over the years. I personally don't think you can quantify something that is so philosophical and semantic. Largely gets into what player is thinking when they're playing. Players may play very similar things while thinking very DIFFERENT things.

    Anti-CST players are the most apt to claim that they can immediately HEAR "CST playing" btw. I don't really agree or disagree with that. Don't care that much, but I also don't know how one can argue against the existence of something which is that unquantifiable. Seems largely personal.

  29. #28

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    There's nothing wrong with CST, it works as far as it goes. The thing is not to to be bound by it. When players ask why they don't sound like their heroes it's usually because they're following the CST format and their heroes aren't!

  30. #29

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    Quite.

    And also possibly more importantly, they don’t swing :-)

  31. #30

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    Well I remember a fairly recent discussion that Christian and I had. I guess you could call it a debate but it was a friendly one. I also recall Reg having some debates on CST. Reg knows CST, but of course he is a Berklee guy, and more.

    CST is codified and defined by its authors, most prominently Barrie Nettles, formerly of Berklee. It's published and in the public domain, and you can buy it at Amazon.com. It is a study of harmony. Like any other harmonic theory it informs composers, arrangers, and improvisers about the harmonic environment, in this case, of jazz music. And like any study of harmony it's also mostly focused on chords, chords, chords. How ironic that people get the idea that it's mostly about scales, scales, scales.

    So, beyond that it is NOT an approach to composition, arranging or improvisation. It's doesn't tell you how to play your instrument. It doesn't tell you to play scales, arpeggios, interval leaps, chromatics, whatever.

    What people do is hear a term and then without conducting any research, ASSUME what that term might mean. Then they go about using it casually all the while being incorrect/inaccurate. I suppose some might expect that guitarists would be the least likely to do their research when it comes to music theory, formal or otherwise. Now, maybe that's a debate.


    The Chord Scale Theory & Jazz Harmony: Barrie Nettles, Richard Graf: 9783892210566: Amazon.com: Books

  32. #31

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    The Nettles CST book is a large list of scalar material. I see little in it (at first glance) directly related to application but most of the scale choices are actually quite similar to the ones I would use. I suppose I am a chord scale player then. *shrugs*

    Scales in themselves are of little use to the improviser. They might be a useful first step for the non-improviser. For the advanced improviser they are a useful resource and distinctions about scale use become important.

    The special area in which CST wins is I think in the enrichment of simple chord sounds using 7 note structures that can be broken up not only into scales and tertial structures but literally anything you can imagine. I get a lot of mileage out of this in my playing - works best with melodic minor modes, dorian and lydian.

    Conventional scale running is more like Bach etc, where the scale is used to link chord tones together to outline a chord progression. These lines often have rhythmic phrasing 'baked in' - intervallic lines, less so.

    A skilled bebop improvisor will understand the connection between chord tones and non chord tones and rhythmic phrasing and swing. This is not something I hear much from Berklee school players TBH.

    I don't feel I understand what Reg is talking about well enough to debate him about anything TBH. Some others in the forum have spent more time digging into it and found it useful.

  33. #32

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    BTW there's no reason one can't combine CST and a bebop line constrution sensibility - it's something I'd like to develop myself.

    It's more that I hear a lot of players who have clearly spent many hours playing 8th note CST lines in steps and intervals to a metronome and this is the basis of their approach.... Not a bad sound at all, but just a very prevalent one that I hear a lot.

  34. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    The Nettles CST book is a large list of scalar material. I see little in it (at first glance) directly related to application but most of the scale choices are actually quite similar to the ones I would use. I suppose I am a chord scale player then. *shrugs*

    Scales in themselves are of little use to the improviser. They might be a useful first step for the non-improviser. For the advanced improviser they are a useful resource and distinctions about scale use become important.

    The special area in which CST wins is I think in the enrichment of simple chord sounds using 7 note structures that can be broken up not only into scales and tertial structures but literally anything you can imagine. I get a lot of mileage out of this in my playing - works best with melodic minor modes, dorian and lydian.

    Conventional scale running is more like Bach etc, where the scale is used to link chord tones together to outline a chord progression. These lines often have rhythmic phrasing 'baked in' - intervallic lines, less so.

    A skilled bebop improvisor will understand the connection between chord tones and non chord tones and rhythmic phrasing and swing. This is not something I hear much from Berklee school players TBH.

    I don't feel I understand what Reg is talking about well enough to debate him about anything TBH. Some others in the forum have spent more time digging into it and found it useful.
    The distinction I hear in Reg's videos vs what I read about re CST is largely an inside vs outside way of looking at harmony and playing melody over it. Most people I hear talking about CST, are talking about "What scales sound good over chord X". So, maybe, "What scales sound good over B7alt?" for CST most of the time. Whereas Reg is usually talking about what scales are good for TARGETING the B7. So he's thinking maybe F#7alt to B7alt or other multitiered approaches to a single change.

    When most people talk about it, it's more like how they think B altered is "very B dominant". Whereas after watching a bunch of his videos you think more along the lines of B altered sounds very "E minor". Always more about outlining the "outside" of the upcoming target , rather than finding the "inside " of whatever the chord of the moment is. Maybe semantics, but that's my hobbyist take.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 11-02-2017 at 05:39 PM.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    The distinction I hear in Reg's videos vs what I read about re CST is largely an inside vs outside way of looking at harmony and playing melody over it. Most people I hear talking about CST, are talking about "What scales sound good over chord X". So, maybe, "What scales sound good over B7alt?" for CST most of the time. Whereas Reg is usually talking about what scales are good for TARGETING the B7. So he's thinking maybe F#7alt to B7alt or other multitiered approaches to a single change.

    When most people talk about it, it's more like how they think B altered is "very B dominant". Whereas after watching a bunch of his videos you think more along the lines of B altered sounds very "E minor". Always more about outlining the "outside" of the upcoming target , rather than finding the "inside " of whatever the chord of the moment is. Maybe semantics, but that's my hobbyist take.
    Ah Ok. It's kind of a forward motion approach in that sense. Playing pickups into the resolution.

    That's an aspect of what I'm talking about. Playing over the chord you are on is inherently static. Playing into the next chord is dynamic - more swinging. That's what I aim for in my playing.

    And that's also what Barry Harris teaches, and Hal Galper, in their own ways.

  36. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Ah Ok. It's kind of a forward motion approach in that sense. Playing pickups into the resolution.

    That's an aspect of what I'm talking about. Playing over the chord you are on is inherently static. Playing into the next chord is dynamic - more swinging. That's what I aim for in my playing.

    And that's also what Barry Harris teaches, and Hal Galper, in their own ways.
    Yeah the harmonic rhythm aspect of the way he plays in his videos is what helped me early on, even at a point where I couldn't really play that much. I'd always heard people talk about how they couldn't never make altered sound right and even players are really respected saying that never got much out of melodic minor etc. I had never been able to really make a altered sound good to my ears as a dominant sound.

    Anyway, it really sounds good over the target minor though. Well, "over" is the wrong word, but it sounds really good to target it. B altered kind of sounds "more E minor" than E melodic minor does, if that makes sense. Anyway, I'm a little thickheaded, but something aboutthe way hesaid things employed things and some of those videos opens real doors for me, in being able to hear and understand music.

    Didn't hurt that I was working on basic chromatic enclosures etc. at the time I came upon that stuff. The way he talks about pitch collections is always more in terms of approaches than in static chord of the moment. I've only seen Galper on YouTube and from what I gathered from bits of his website, but it does seem pretty similar in philosophy.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    Yeah the harmonic rhythm aspect of the way he plays in his videos is what helped me early on, even at a point where I couldn't really play that much. I'd always heard people talk about how they couldn't never make altered sound right and even players are really respected saying that never got much out of melodic minor etc. I had never been able to really make a altered sound good to my ears as a dominant sound.

    Anyway, it really sounds good over the target minor though. Well, "over" is the wrong word, but it sounds really good to target it. B altered kind of sounds "more E minor" than E melodic minor does, if that makes sense. Anyway, I'm a little thickheaded, but something aboutthe way hesaid things employed things and some of those videos opens real doors for me, in being able to hear and understand music.

    Didn't hurt that I was working on basic chromatic enclosures etc. at the time I came upon that stuff. The way he talks about pitch collections is always more in terms of approaches than in static chord of the moment. I've only seen Galper on YouTube and from what I gathered from bits of his website, but it does seem pretty similar in philosophy.
    I kind of think this is the sort of thing that would be well learned by knowing your theory and listening a lot to oooh... Bill Evans maybe? Picking apart the lines and really getting inside them. I noticed the way players 'rock'backwards and forward from dominant/dissonant sounds to resolved tonic sounds in apparent idependence to what the progression was meant to be and went from there.

    The ur-example? Tickle Toe by Lester Young. Bbm-Ao7 rocking back and forth. The altered thing is merely a more chormatic version of the same logic.

    The harmonic minor scale is what happens when you put both sounds in a scale
    The major is what happens when you add a VIIm7b5 to a I
    The harmonic major is what happnes when you add a VIIo7 to a I
    The Barry Harris scales are extensions of the same logic for four note tonic chords (I6/Im6/I7/I7b5)

    The altered scale is the chromatic version of this. It's a set of notes that resolve efficiently into a tonic chord. This its origin IMO as superlocrian. The melodic minor thing is a coincidence actually...

    The G altered scale is kind of an enclosure of C major (6) in 7 note scale form.

    G altered
    Ab --> G
    Bb --> A
    B --> C
    Db --> C
    Eb --> E
    F --> E

    (Of course the true enclosure of C major is Db mixolydian/dominant with that lovely F# as well, but CST people - prob not Reg - REJECT that sound for theoretical reasons and then get in a lather when it shows up in actual real life music LOL.)

    CST + shit loads of listening/transcription gets you there perhaps.... CST + metronome through the changes gets you somewhere else.

  38. #37

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    Well OK. I would just encourage anyone who is really interested in CST to read the book themselves.

    In fact I would also encourage them to study at Berklee Online: Music Theory, Getting Inside Harmony, Improvisation, Jazz Guitar, Arranging, and Jazz Composition courses. I've done a fair bit of that - so far.

    But before we go that far, I contrast CST to classical/traditional theory and harmony - but even more to the point - to earlier Jazz texts like those from Jerry Coker. In Coker's explanations we had a few scales and modes that were diatonic and a few that were symmetric. The palette of "note pools" or "pitch collections" for any given tune or line was quite limited compared to what Berklee advanced in the 1980s. Berklee recognized the possibilities of harmonizing the Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Major and even Symmetric scales in determining harmonic relationships, rich tensions, and melodic options for the composer/arranger/improviser. (They didn't invent it, but they helped moved it forward).

    So unless one wants to compose/arrange/improvise triadic and seventh chord tones only, they will need to have an idea of the rich possibilities and options open to them beyond seventh chord tones. And in that vein, and for one very simple example, how should they view a Maj7 chord? Is it a IMaj7, IVMaj7, bIIIMaj7, bVIMaj7, and what do they compose/arrange/improvise as a result of knowing that?
    Last edited by Jazzstdnt; 11-02-2017 at 08:31 PM.

  39. #38

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    I'll have to check out the Coker book for historical purposes (I'm interested in how these things developed and formulated.)

    Berklee(tm) - well I have no particular problem with them. Why, some of my best friends are Berklee(tm) graduates! ;-) They inform me the level of teaching is stellar.

    Players should be aware that there are different schools and styles of harmony. The CST system is neither right not wrong, but being the predominant method of teaching it can sometimes seem the only game in town.

    It is all too possible to be a CST 'no language' player - and I hear a lot of them. Often they are really really accomplished players, but you can hear that way of playing changes and it sticks out a mile to my ear.... It sounds generic to me, bland. To be brutal, it sounds like 'almost jazz' to me, lacking in propulsive swing and phrasing... A sound I am turned off by and want to avoid.

    If that's the sound you really want though I can't say it's wrong. How can a sound be wrong? The only thing that's wrong is when it is not something one does out of choice.

    I don't think this is the fault of CST. You can sound just as bland playing chord tones. CST doesn't dictate this way of playing as it is purely a way of grouping pitches on chords I'd like to cite Peter Bernstein who actually often plays intervallic CST type stuff but if you didn't listen out for it you wouldn't know.

    And of course our own Reg who sounds like a badass hard swinging post-bopper who just happens to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of this stuff. So yeah.

    The unremitting metronomic 8th notes to death approach of many modern players (not mentioning any names but the initials K and R loom large) is a HUGE BANDWAGON, and CST, used naively, practically encourages you to play that way. Even before the era of hats, delay pedals and low slung semis, this sound was common in jazz guitar players.

    The important thing for any student learning jazz is to realise what resources they have - and that includes rhythmic and melodic as well as the oft. discussed harmonic.

    (You only have 12 choices on any chord. It's not that interesting. You just have to know how they all sound. What's to talk about really? On the other hand there are an actual infinity of places you can place a note in time.)

    Anyway musicians much more learned and able than me have weighed in with criticisms of this stuff. In general with the critics two points stand out 1) they know CST at least well enough to use it and 2) they are not criticising the system so much as the way it is used as an improvisational method, a cheap crutch to create 'almost jazz.'

    I doubt many would disagree with what I've said here. I've had these sorts of conversations with my colleagues in jazz performance and education.

    That doesn't have to have anything to do witih passing exams in it. Of course you should read the text books. Same with yer bop II-V-I's yadda yadda. Be a good student, because the colleges are where its at now.

    Anyway this has diverged fom the orginal topic somewhat. All of this stuff is way above the level required. I would suggest getting hte class to improvise on some simple euphonious modes like the Dorian and Lydian and point them out in rock songs etc. Lydian pops up in 80's stuff a fair bit.
    Last edited by christianm77; 11-02-2017 at 09:23 PM.

  40. #39

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    You make me laugh. I am with you on a lot of these points and players.

    I agree with you about swing. It is increasingly advised to play your eighths pretty darned straight. After 1959 the move away from swing and bebop was huge and unrelenting, and continues to this day.

    The Berklee grads that you know are like everyone else in their age group. Most don't specialize in bop or swing. They don't even pretend to. And I also agree about the criticality of rhythm in jazz articulation.

    But I must disagree that the possibilities aren't that interesting beyond rhythm. Rich and surprising chords, when placed just right, can make a huge impact on the listener. The artistic possibilities made available by harmonic color options are there for the artist to exploit at will. Being resourceful and creative is important. Lord knows I'm no composer, but I have pleasantly surprised myself and my Berklee instructors with harmonic choices, when pushed by an assignment or two.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt
    You make me laugh. I am with you on a lot of these points and players.
    It's pretty uncontroversial stuff.

    I agree with you about swing. It is increasingly advised to play your eighths pretty darned straight. After 1959 the move away from swing and bebop was huge and unrelenting, and continues to this day.
    But you can play straight and swing heavily due to where you synch up (phase lock) your eights. I think most really good players - bop or contemporary - get this and can do it - straight and late, so to speak... Finding the notch.

    However - the late 8th thing is easiest to use (IMO) with medium up to up tempos. As a result slower tempos tend to get double timed. Jazz club tempos have polarised heavily between med-up swing and ballad anyway...

    But I love medium swing...

    To get the late 8ths thing on slower tempos requires a really good feel for the swung upbeat (probably helps to spend a few years playing some sort of triplet based dance music like they had in the 40s and 50s) and the balls to let the line BE that behind the beat while still catching the upbeat in the right place so you aren't simply dragging like an MF. Dexter Gordon, basically...

    That old Blue Note stuff ofr instance... For this, there are other resources as well beyond just find that late 8th notch and wailing on it - triplets, 6/8 phrasing, 2nd triplet off beats - stuff you can hear in the phrasing of the greats.

    But you can also play straight upbeats too.... If the band is really triplet swing (Philly Joe style skip note) you can play straight against it Blue Note style.

    A lot of this stuff (for me) is experience and playing with drummers as much as possible.

    The Berklee grads that you know are like everyone else in their age group. Most don't specialize in bop or swing. They don't even pretend to. And I also agree about the criticality of rhythm in jazz articulation.
    And who in their right mind would? Yeah, that's what I mean...

    You don't have to study bebop language as a jazzer at Berklee?

    But I must disagree that the possibilities aren't that interesting beyond rhythm. Rich and surprising chords, when placed just right, can make a huge impact on the listener. The artistic possibilities made available by harmonic color options are there for the artist to exploit at will. Being resourceful and creative is important. Lord knows I'm no composer, but I have pleasantly surprised myself and my Berklee instructors with harmonic choices, when pushed by an assignment or two.
    I don't recall saying that.

    In a changes playing context what I said was true. Deciding what note to put on a D7 chord, you have 12 possibilities (assuming octaves are the same, which one can argue is not so, another blindspot of CST).

    In composition it's different because you have many more combinations in how one combines notes, the number of combinations is vast.

    I spent most of my 20s listening to and performing classical music from the 1100s-present day... So I'm a harmony guy, for sure...

    But the kind of harmony I really like isn't the predominating sort of jazz CST style I hear a lot (everyone in London writes harmony like Kenny Wheeler because they all studied with the same teacher who does all three conservatoires lol....) There so much more out there to play with...

  42. #41

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    I'm not gonna say that you have to study loads of bebop at Berklee these days, nope. A little, sure, but not a lot.

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt
    I'm not gonna say that you have to study loads of bebop at Berklee these days, nope. A little, sure, but not a lot.
    II-V-I licks, basically, amirite?

    I can't say I'm terribly surprised.

    Actually for myself I don't want to play only bop for the rest of my life, but learning it has taught me a lot. It's a real language.

  44. #43

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    Any/all progressions.

    Jazz is not the only focus. Students can follow their own course in contemporary music - including bebop if they so desire.

    Improvisation skills are required regardless.

    But kids today aren't trying to become the Charlie Parker of guitar. I don't think they were in the 1970s for that matter.

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt
    Any/all progressions.

    Jazz is not the only focus. Students can follow their own course in contemporary music - including bebop if they so desire.

    Improvisation skills are required regardless.

    But kids today aren't trying to become the Charlie Parker of guitar. I don't think they were in the 1970s for that matter.
    Man, people should learn some TRADITION!!!! :-)

    Srsly, could anything be a more dispiriting experience than trying to learn Bird solos when you are just not interested in it? I wouldn't wish that on anyone. But - I can hear all this stuff in people's playing.

    And it is the listening, puzzling things out for yourself, immersing yourself in one type of music or another that really does it. Everything else is just grammar.

    I can hear that Holdsworth listened heavily to bebop for instance. It's oblique, but it's really in there. Modern post-Allan fusion guys don't have that aspect in their playing so much...

    Anyway, I try not be judgemental about it, but I know very strongly how I want to play and I know what I want to hear, so inevitably I form opinions. I try not to make out they are objective.... I would encourage any student of mine to do the same, and then we can argue about it over a beer.

    My aim would always be to facilitate and encourage a student to follow their own star rather than impose my own tastes on them. In doing this, there's no such thing as too much knowledge, and I'm always learning in lessons anyway!

  46. #45

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    I can relate to the "all periods" and history thing because I am familiar with the classical tradition (every recital or program covers multiple periods, etc.)

    But, one would have to know more than I about Berklee's current 4-year study plan to say whether the periods of jazz are emphasized or not...

  47. #46
    [QUOTE=christianm77;814216]I'll have to check out the Coker book for historical purposes (I'm interested in how these things developed and formulated.)
    (You only have 12 choices on any chord. It's not that interesting. You just have to know how they all sound. What's to talk about really? On the other hand there are an actual infinity of places you can place a note in time.)>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I struggle with the issue of how much time to devote to CST.

    My goal is to be able to think of cool sounding lines to play -- and then be able to play them. I don't get there if I have to think about CST while soloing, of course. For what I'm trying to do, CST should only be a means to identify sounds and incorporate them into my playing at a visceral enough level that they emerge unconsciously.

    Maybe that's what everybody is trying to do, but sometimes I hear what I think are pattern based approaches which seem like they are part of a very different approach to improvisation.

    So, if the goal is to incorporate new sounds, what is the best way to do that? Some would argue for CST, clearly. Try different juxtapositions of chord and solo-line based on theory. There is no shortage of suggestions for juxtapositions to try.

    Others do it entirely by ear, by transcription and without theory. Some keep lick books to document things they like -- and play those licks.

    Others, a little of this, a little of that.

    My recent thinking has gone away from the "there are only 12 notes to use against a chord". I now think about jazz "sounds" which are based on phrase(s)-against-chord(s) -- and that it isn't sufficient just to know how interval x sounds over chord y. Rather, it's the entire line and how it relates to the harmonic movement of the song. Perhaps someone can chime in on how well CST helps with that.

    I also think that each of us has a learning style and that needs to be respected in learning jazz. I have posted before my observation that, despite a lot of time trying scale X against chord Y, I have benefited minimally from that approach. I have found it easier to incorporate something that I have heard and seen live (rather than from a recording) and often from a friend rather than a stranger. I have been able to incorporate lines that I made up by scatting and wrote down -- more easily than lines transcribed from others. I think I'd be a better player if I could learn from all of those sources instead of just a limited few, but that seems to be how it works

    The upshot is that each player may benefit by recognizing how he learns most efficiently and, somehow, work with it. That might be by avoiding it to concentrate on building up the other skills, or it might be giving into it and simply working that way.

    For my High Schoolers, the next few months are going to focus on reading. Once they can read, I can teach them some theory -- chord construction, major scales/modes, melodic minor, diminished and whole tone. I can teach it by note name rather than pattern, since they will know the fingerboard.

    But, at the same time, I'm going to suggest dissecting tunes to develop their own scales, by ear, based on what sounds good to them. So, for example, play a backing track of All of Me, nice and slow, and try each note of the chromatic scale. Identify the chord tones and inside extensions, tensions and avoid notes, if any. Write down the notes and play from those.

    Or, simply scat along with the backing track until you find something you like -- write it down -- and learn it in every key.

    Then, when you're bored with your own scatting, start learning to sing solos off of recordings and incorporate new sounds that way.

    Or, go on line and look for jazz licks, and not just for guitar.

    Or read through published books of jazz lines.

    I'll tell them what the church modes are, but I won't use them with functional harmony tunes. I'll do that with tonal center and chord tones.

    Time permitting, we'll play some modal tunes and introduce the idea of a different kind of harmony that way.

    Of course, this may take more time than I have with them.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar

    Time permitting, we'll play some modal tunes and introduce the idea of a different kind of harmony that way. Of course, this may take more time than I have with them.
    Oh, you should, they'll probably love it. Problem then is getting them back to playing the old boring stuff over ordinary changes...

    I suspect this labelling of perfectly good, correct notes over chords as 'CST' is unproductive. If you know over Dm7-G7-CM7 you're basically playing notes from C major, what's wrong with that? Excellent for beginning improvisers. Then you can stick in some more clever stuff later.

    But if someone says 'Oh, C major, that's CST', like it's a disease, then I think we're into sticky waters :-)

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I struggle with the issue of how much time to devote to CST.
    I think devote time to CST if you like those sounds. For my part I feel CST works best on top of a grasp of traditional bebop/functional jazz vocabulary. This might be personal taste, but it's what has worked for me (I think.)

    Gary Burton is possibly the most important figure in the mainstreaming of CST in jazz education, and you are not going to tell me he didn't have an absolute mastery of functional harmonic playing at age 17:


    I think he did it purely by ear, no transcription (according to him) - but Burton's ears are not like my ears for sure!

    My goal is to be able to think of cool sounding lines to play -- and then be able to play them. I don't get there if I have to think about CST while soloing, of course. For what I'm trying to do, CST should only be a means to identify sounds and incorporate them into my playing at a visceral enough level that they emerge unconsciously.
    Sure. I think CST is a common language of terms which can be useful... However certain nuggets of stuff that seems to come from a CST direction are flatly contradicted in earlier styles. The 11th is not a problem in lines over dominant for instance. These are factoids that come from misapplying info perhaps, but when Mark Levine says the harmonic minor is rare in jazz and then you find in practically every Charlie Parker solo... Well... Eh?

    Now I think a sophisticated understanding of CST would not contain these factoids. I think that's what people have been trying to say... .Well OK...

    Jazzstudent is right to say most of the stuff I say is mentioned in the Nettles book. For instance, standard scale choices on secondary dominants, the importance of not considering all note choices from a vertical perspective and so on.

    In any case, for me a sophisticated approach to CST would be - transcribe and analyse. Which is what people do at college anyway.

    I have found Barry Harris to be a more powerful set of tools for analysing bop, swing and hard bop circa 1935-1960 than Levine style CST. With the latter it feels like square pegs, round holes. However, a combination of Barry Harris and CST seems necessary for, say, Bill Evans.

    But there's not necessarily a massive disjunction between the two. For instance Locrian #2 is naturally what happens when you treat the IIm7b5 as a IVm6(maj chord, which is what we do in Barry land. Barry advises to play a Db major with an A on the Dbmaj7 chord in ATTYA. Just don't call it Lydian!

    So hardcore Barry people stick to the BH terminology - Dominant scale, Chord for a 4 note arpeggio, etc - while I think you could amalgamate the two and make it more accessible to general jazz students without losing the power of his approach. But the loyalist core of those who have studied with Barry for years might regard that as apotasty. BH is vehemently anti Berklee, and to be honest, I kind of see why. But it's also kind of part of is 'act' for want of a better word. All these students who have spent time in jazz education kind of get a kick out of it too..

    It's like when I was at Catholic school and we used to go to Lewes bonfire and shout BURN THE POPE!!!! For those who have spent years with CST hearing a living legend of the music say Berklee is a 'dumb old school' is cathartic. I would still have loved to have gone there...

    Anyway, the primary advantage of Barry's approach is not theoretical, but practical. Nettles gives the scales. Barry will show you how to organise basically the same scales - particularly the dominant/mixolydian - into convincing sounding bop language you can also see in transcriptions of music of that era. He teaches how to assemble the alphabet into words and sentences.

    Maybe that's what everybody is trying to do, but sometimes I hear what I think are pattern based approaches which seem like they are part of a very different approach to improvisation.

    So, if the goal is to incorporate new sounds, what is the best way to do that? Some would argue for CST, clearly. Try different juxtapositions of chord and solo-line based on theory. There is no shortage of suggestions for juxtapositions to try.
    CST itself is pretty simple theoretically IMO. The problem is HEARING IT... And this is what Reg talks about in so much as I understand him.

    That reminds me:

    Ralph Vaughan Williams was already a professional composer in the late tonal Romantic tradition capable of composing direct to score from his mind's ear. When he studied with Ravel, he was told to compose at the piano as if he composed by ear he could only write sounds he could already hear.

    RVW wrote all his most famous work - Tallis fantasia, Lark Ascending etc - after this. His music got very modal. That music BTW is heavily tinged by the Dorian... Might be a good one for class?

    Gil Evans, Bill Evans, Miles, George Russell... Coming heavily out of Ravel....

    For instance... My struggle at the moment is hearing what Bill Evans does. Play me Hank Jones and I could hear basically every phrase. But Bill is much more out of the key than the bop guys... I know what a 1/2-W scale is and I can play it on my guitar no problem, but I never use it because I can't hear it really. BE will help me hear it as music.

    Another way would be to play it at the piano and write music using those sounds.

    Others do it entirely by ear, by transcription and without theory. Some keep lick books to document things they like -- and play those licks.

    Others, a little of this, a little of that.

    My recent thinking has gone away from the "there are only 12 notes to use against a chord". I now think about jazz "sounds" which are based on phrase(s)-against-chord(s) -- and that it isn't sufficient just to know how interval x sounds over chord y. Rather, it's the entire line and how it relates to the harmonic movement of the song. Perhaps someone can chime in on how well CST helps with that.
    That's true actually... I was a little flippant.. Notes themselves set up tensions that lead onto other chords.

    Uses of CST for this I couldn't comment. My approach is really based on voice leading. Scales can be voice leading in themselves, as I have indicated above. Reg has a concept but his posts make my eyes bleed.

    I also think that each of us has a learning style and that needs to be respected in learning jazz. I have posted before my observation that, despite a lot of time trying scale X against chord Y, I have benefited minimally from that approach. I have found it easier to incorporate something that I have heard and seen live (rather than from a recording) and often from a friend rather than a stranger. I have been able to incorporate lines that I made up by scatting and wrote down -- more easily than lines transcribed from others. I think I'd be a better player if I could learn from all of those sources instead of just a limited few, but that seems to be how it works

    The upshot is that each player may benefit by recognizing how he learns most efficiently and, somehow, work with it. That might be by avoiding it to concentrate on building up the other skills, or it might be giving into it and simply working that way.
    That's true too... Live is different from recorded... But I think you are on the right track, for sure.

    Also - RHYTHM. It makes everything good. A player who can come up with interesting rhythm ideas and then just play CST using that is going to sound good regardless of whether or not it's 'jazz language' - in fact 'language' can become a bit of a dead end... As Ravel told RVW...
    Last edited by christianm77; 11-04-2017 at 08:28 AM.

  50. #49

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    For my High Schoolers, the next few months are going to focus on reading. Once they can read, I can teach them some theory -- chord construction, major scales/modes, melodic minor, diminished and whole tone. I can teach it by note name rather than pattern, since they will know the fingerboard.


    I think it's best to approach it from a really simple perspective. Modal theory is current in rock/pop schools as well as jazz. Most rock music etc is modal really.

    But, at the same time, I'm going to suggest dissecting tunes to develop their own scales, by ear, based on what sounds good to them. So, for example, play a backing track of All of Me, nice and slow, and try each note of the chromatic scale. Identify the chord tones and inside extensions, tensions and avoid notes, if any. Write down the notes and play from those.

    Or, simply scat along with the backing track until you find something you like -- write it down -- and learn it in every key.

    Then, when you're bored with your own scatting, start learning to sing solos off of recordings and incorporate new sounds that way.
    Well that's it... There's no better way. In the process you may notice as I did... oh Charlie Christian is playing the Dorian... Django is playing the Harmonic Major ... .etc :-D

    Or, go on line and look for jazz licks, and not just for guitar.

    Or read through published books of jazz lines.

    I'll tell them what the church modes are, but I won't use them with functional harmony tunes. I'll do that with tonal center and chord tones.

    Time permitting, we'll play some modal tunes and introduce the idea of a different kind of harmony that way.

    Of course, this may take more time than I have with them.
    As a teacher I'd be happy if:

    - they just knew there were seven church modes
    - and that the notes in each scale create a certain vibe
    - listen to a variety of musical examples ranging from medieval music, folk music, 20th century classical, rock/pop and jazz
    - improvise using the modes

  51. #50

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    Also CST is MUCH easier in 7/8.