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  1. #1

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    I used to play with a very good bassist who was a Carol Kaye disciple. He told me: NO SCALES. Just arpeggios and extensions. But in the end don't we end up playing most of the same notes? And -- can something that goes through the cycle be considered functional harmony? (They played cycles before 1959 right?)

    Arpeggios are cool but I can't get anything to sound musical playing just arpeggios. Or, it's a challenge (Sonny Rollins can play one note and go nuts...)

    This is my last gasp at trying to do things the right way before I just go back to doing CST. I don't have enough time (my theme, I know) to re-learn the guitar. But if I can play Lydian Dominant over some cool chords, that might have to be jazz enough for me...

    And if anyone has had success with Carol's DVD, let me know. I saw it once a long time ago. Jimmy Bruno and other current guys I follow seem to all use CST more than just arpeggios as far as I can tell.

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomems
    I used to play with a very good bassist who was a Carol Kaye disciple. He told me: NO SCALES. Just arpeggios and extensions. But in the end don't we end up playing most of the same notes? And -- can something that goes through the cycle be considered functional harmony? (They played cycles before 1959 right?)

    Arpeggios are cool but I can't get anything to sound musical playing just arpeggios. Or, it's a challenge (Sonny Rollins can play one note and go nuts...)

    This is my last gasp at trying to do things the right way before I just go back to doing CST. I don't have enough time (my theme, I know) to re-learn the guitar. But if I can play Lydian Dominant over some cool chords, that might have to be jazz enough for me...

    And if anyone has had success with Carol's DVD, let me know. I saw it once a long time ago. Jimmy Bruno and other current guys I follow seem to all use CST more than just arpeggios as far as I can tell.
    It's just different ways of thinking about the same thing. If you think of the extensions as being the notes "in between" the chord tones, then you're back to CST. Scales are just respelled 13th arpeggios.

  4. #3

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    Transcribe and analyze your favorites. What are they doing? That's what you should be doing.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomems
    I used to play with a very good bassist who was a Carol Kaye disciple. He told me: NO SCALES. Just arpeggios and extensions. But in the end don't we end up playing most of the same notes? .

    Congratulations, you've come to the correct conclusion. Now you too, can ignore everyone on the internet who still hasn't figured this out.

    The approaches are just different roadmaps to the same destination. Sometimes, depending on the tune, one works better than the other.

  6. #5

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    That's the problem with humans, they are always looking for a list of 10 commandments or something. And history has proved time and time again, that doesn't work, in any context. It's clear to me that all my favorite improvisors make full use of their options including CST. I can't even believe there are people on this forum that believe there is something wrong with CST. The answer is and will always be, in matters pertaining to art and creativity: use everything at your disposal to create. Having said that, there's usefulness in limitation. But we use limitation as another creative tool, not as a rule. I sometimes practice changes using only chord tones, but when I do a real solo I then like to ornament those chord tones with other scale and chromatic tones. Go analyze all the best music (specifically melodies) for the last say 400 years and see if master composers (and improvisors) use just chord tones only, or a combination of chord tones, scale tones & chromatics. There will be a landslide victory for one of those two, and hint hint, it's not chord tones only. And yes, I've actually analyzed (and performed) a shit ton of music created over the last 400 years, it's part of the requirement to graduate with a degree in music.
    Last edited by Guitarzen; 10-31-2016 at 02:46 PM.

  7. #6

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    I've used a lot of Carol's material. She starts students off on triads and then seventh chords, the cycle, b5 substituions, using diminished chords over dominant chords, and so on.

    She likes to say: "Don't play something over the chord---play the chord!" But what she means by "chord" can get quite involved. (As when she'll say, "Abm9 is G7." That's actually not complicated but it might sound someone who doesn't know how chords work.)

    One reason she likes to start players off with triads is that it helps develop the student's ear.
    It also helps the fingers, as one is playing with a feel for chords rather than with scale positions. (As someone who came to her material with a background in scale position studies, that took some getting used to.)


    It's worth noting that Horace Hatchet had Carol teach his beginning students when she was in her early teens. (She was too poor to pay for more than a few lessons with him, so this way she managed to keep taking them.) She was gigging before she was old enough to drive a car. She has worked with thousands for professional musicians and when she talks about how they learned and talked about music in the '40s and '50s, she knows what she is talking about. It's not just her experience (-though that is vast and informed) but that of people like Joe Pass and Ray Brown and Earl Palmer and the other greats whom she knew, and worked with, as a peer.

    Although Barry Harris talks about all this a different way----I would pay to see those two jam and chat---he insists that when jazz 'went to college,' the master jazz players of the day were not consulted about how they made the music and how they taught students. Barry flat out says that much which is taught in music schools is just wrong.
    Last edited by MarkRhodes; 10-31-2016 at 02:58 PM.

  8. #7

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    CST is, when used naively and poorly absolutely frickin' useless in helping someone play jazz.

    When used by a musician who already has good ears, a grasp of the jazz rhythmic language an changes playing it can open doors.

    I have a lot of respect for Carol and her teachings. She is from the tradition.

    I don't teach CST to students learning to improvise. Used too much at the early stage it tends to produce musicians that overplay, lack rhythmic shape, imagination and groove in their lines (i.e. swing), noodle, are over concerned with vertical relationships and note choice against chords, and these problems are built into the system.

    It's also a bit of shortcut. Remember when you started learning jazz? It was tunes like So What, Little Sunflower. They look easy on paper, but I actually think good, non boring modal playing is a great challenge. But you can get a class of beginner jazz players jamming on a modal tune for the end of weekend concert. Job done.

    Remember that the generation who trail-blazed CST modal sounds in jazz could already play the crap out of the tradition usually by ear. Gary Burton was a great, and swinging, straight bop player.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-31-2016 at 03:09 PM.

  9. #8

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    Thanks for confirming I'm neither nuts nor on the wrong path. I was looking at theory books a while back and someone said here the Levine book was fine except for its basis towards CST. So I got Jazzology from my library; good info but very dry and way too much in depth info (I'm an amateur). I actually bought the Levine book early today. That, along with the Joe Elliott book, and some tunes... and the Chad Johnson jazz chord book. Maybe that'll give me what I need.

  10. #9

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    Also remember - jazz is all about rhythm. The harmony has changed stylistically in 100 years, but the rhythm has remained the heartbeat of the music.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomems
    Thanks for confirming I'm neither nuts nor on the wrong path. I was looking at theory books a while back and someone said here the Levine book was fine except for its basis towards CST. So I got Jazzology from my library; good info but very dry and way too much in depth info (I'm an amateur). I actually bought the Levine book early today. That, along with the Joe Elliott book, and some tunes... and the Chad Johnson jazz chord book. Maybe that'll give me what I need.
    Yeah, I think a beginners diet needs to be chords, tunes, ear training.

    I actually find myself still thinking about chords on tunes where I begin my analysis with CST. So to me, there's total overlap.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Yeah, I think a beginners diet needs to be chords, tunes, ear training.

    I actually find myself still thinking about chords on tunes where I begin my analysis with CST. So to me, there's total overlap.
    Agreed. I tried to start with CST, and really couldn't make it work until I started focusing on the chord tones.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Used too much at the early stage it tends to produce musicians that overplay, lack rhythmic shape, imagination and groove in their lines (i.e. swing), noodle, are over concerned with vertical relationships and note choice against chords, and these problems are built into the system.
    Hey Christian, some of your comments don't make much sense to me, care to clarify a little? How does CST have anything to do with "rhythmic shape"? How does having more notes to use (all of them) limit imagination? How does it make your "groove" worse? Which may require first a definition as to what "groove" means (I'd take it to refer to your rhythmic flow + being in the pocket). How is "noodling" a bad thing? I'm fairly certain I hear quite a bit of noodling going on, with even those we consider to be the "best" improvisors. Of course, now we might need to define what "noodling" means. I guess I can do that for us, I'd take "noodling" to be somewhat randomly playing without targeting specific notes in any particular way. We'd still be using a scale of course, so it's technically not 100% random. Whereas, "non-noodling" would be more focused use of notes, picking specific notes, chord tones, etc...targeting specific notes. I would argue that both noodling and focused choice of notes are useful in an improvisational context. Especially when that "noodling" is being guided by the ear. I guess you could argue if I'm directing my "noodling" by using my ear, it's no longer noodling. Maybe you meant more of just playing up and down the scale randomly without paying any attention to the sound of it (which I'd argue is nearly impossible unless you are deaf). I'm big on noodling (somewhat random playing / stream of consciousness type stuff), but I'm also big on listening very carefully to what I am doing and directing my lines with my "ears". I often come up with more interesting and melodic ideas by "noodling" than I would by planning every single f$#$# note I am allowed to play over a set of chords.

    Addressing your other points again: how would CST users be "over concerned with vertical relationships and note choice against chords"?? It seems to me this is a problem that the "chord tone only" camp suffers from, but I, with my CST + chord tones + chromaticism, don't have this problem --- I can literally play anything over anything, whereas the chord tone only person is limited.

    I think the one simple golden rule I have learned after being an artist for my entire life is: anytime someone says there is a right way to do art, they are plain f#$#$$ wrong. There may be a right way to fix a car engine, but with art you have to be allowed to do anything to free your creativity. And creativity is at the heart of improvisation wouldn't you agree?

    It almost seems as if you are taking every problem an improvisor might have and blaming it on CST. I just don't see the connection to most of the comments you made.
    Last edited by Guitarzen; 10-31-2016 at 04:01 PM.

  14. #13

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    "I'm into scales right now"......John Coltrane

    Firstly CST isnt a theory, its just an aspect of fundamental music knowledge. Aerbersold, various online sources and even Music colleges have managed to sell it as a 'theory' but there's nothing particularly theoretical about the way CST plonks a 'consonant' scale over a chord. It does however, bastardise the least interesting part of George Russels actual theory about Chromaticism.

    Someone mentioned that certain 13th chords and 'best scale fit' (eg. Dorian and m13) are essentially the same 'pool' of notes. That's worth knowing isnt it?

    On the other hand, consonance ( or dissonance) could be discussed theoretically and thats what sucks about CST. There's no discussion about each tone and its 'gravity' or tension against the root note of the chord, the quality of the chord or any other chord tones in most of the CST stuff in the mainstream.

    It does work as a fundamental area of musical knowledge though - and moreso when you get a good teacher who puts it in there as one component of approaching improvisation and relates it back to the music in a coherent way.

    I dont have a problem with the learning and application of scales. I really have a problem with the way it is generally taught and applied.

    Coltrane 'owned' his approach to learning and applying scales and that study was elemental in his execution of super imposing substitutions and other tonal colours in his approach to harmony. Perhaps the biggest and most ironic problem with CST is that it actually hamstrings an effective study of scales......

    Back to the internet - its not all dreck...Here's one of my favourite vids going back some years and what it lacks in production quality it makes up for in content.


  15. #14

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    I think Barry Harris is onto something here.

    "Teachers are wrong all over the world...What I don't understand is, who did they ask how to teach at these colleges? Who did they ask? They certainly didn't ask Thad Jones. They didn't ask John Lewis.....So most of the schools are wrong."


  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Guitarzen
    Hey Christian, some of your comments don't make much sense to me, care to clarify a little? How does CST have anything to do with "rhythmic shape"? How does having more notes to use (all of them) limit imagination? How does it make your "groove" worse? Which may require first a definition as to what "groove" means (I'd take it to refer to your rhythmic flow + being in the pocket). How is "noodling" a bad thing? I'm fairly certain I hear quite a bit of noodling going on, with even those we consider to be the "best" improvisors. Of course, now we might need to define what "noodling" means. I guess I can do that for us, I'd take "noodling" to be somewhat randomly playing without targeting specific notes in any particular way. We'd still be using a scale of course, so it's technically not 100% random. Whereas, "non-noodling" would be more focused use of notes, picking specific notes, chord tones, etc...targeting specific notes. I would argue that both noodling and focused choice of notes are useful in an improvisational context. Especially when that "noodling" is being guided by the ear. I guess you could argue if I'm directing my "noodling" by using my ear, it's no longer noodling. Maybe you meant more of just playing up and down the scale randomly without paying any attention to the sound of it (which I'd argue is nearly impossible unless you are deaf). I'm big on noodling (somewhat random playing / stream of consciousness type stuff), but I'm also big on listening very carefully to what I am doing and directing my lines with my "ears". I often come up with more interesting and melodic ideas by "noodling" than I would by planning every single f$#$# note I am allowed to play over a set of chords.

    Addressing your other points again: how would CST users be "over concerned with vertical relationships and note choice against chords"?? It seems to me this is a problem that the "chord tone only" camp suffers from, but I, with my CST + chord tones + chromaticism, don't have this problem --- I can literally play anything over anything, whereas the chord tone only person is limited.

    I think the one simple golden rule I have learned after being an artist for my entire life is: anytime someone says there is a right way to do art, they are plain f#$#$$ wrong. There may be a right way to fix a car engine, but with art you have to be allowed to do anything to free your creativity. And creativity is at the heart of improvisation wouldn't you agree?

    It almost seems as if you are taking every problem an improvisor might have and blaming it on CST. I just don't see the connection to most of the comments you made.
    Yeah, I don't want to absolutist about it, but I have to say that I believe as a teacher the CST stuff works best as an extension of other approaches. CST is also not the same thing as using scales per se, BTW. There are loads of scales in bebop, but they are not CST style scales.

    And yes, when I play non functional progressions and modal stuff, CST is an important tool to have in your arsenal.

    My main interest as a player is in playing with intention and swing. To my mind, noodling is the opposite of that. If I could give you a scientific definition of groove but what use is that? You need to feel it in your body. There are ways into that.

    I could go on longer, but I'm feeling pretty ropey so I'll leave it there. I'm giving my advice based on playing over the years and what I would teach my students.

  17. #16

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    A bit on this subject by Hal Crook

    >>>>However, for beginner and intermediate-level players, the chord-scale approach has a potential downside. Many students begin studying chord scales early in their musical education and attempt to apply the knowledge acquired immediately on their instruments. Unfortunately, this often happens too soon in the student's development as an improviser--before he or she has learned how to shape an appealing improvised melody by ear on a chord or chord progression using only, or mainly, chord tones.
    Chord scales can present too much information, or information that cannot be readily processed, controlled, and used musically by the novice improviser. It is much easier to understand chord-scale theory than it is to apply it with musical results in an improvised solo. Improvising on chords with chord scales means that a soloist can play melody notes that he or she does not recognize or cannot identify and control by ear. This can result in wandering, shapeless, directionless, or mechanical-sounding melody lines. Often the lines are played in eighth notes to the exclusion of all other rhythm values, producing undesirable melodic and rhythmic content. Such improvised melodies often tend to outline tonic quality on nontonic functioning chords and vice versa.<<<<<

    https://www.berklee.edu/bt/121/chord.html

  18. #17
    There's a distinction to be made between playing chord tones and TARGETING chord tones. Basic tension and release is fundamentally important in understanding what makes a melody. And it's not just passing tones in a scale, on weak beats or whatever. Take something, like the head of Freddie freeloader. Basic tension and release. Accented non-chord tones on strong beats which resolve to chord tones. That's the whole thing.

    I can't believe how long I tried to play some jazz and studied it from various sources, without ever hearing this concept. It's so fundamental and often overlooked. Targeting is to arpeggios what arpeggios are to scales. Learn to resolve the upper and lower neighbors Christian's talking about, maybe it was in another thread, ....then, all of the scales and arpeggios make more sense aurally.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    There's a distinction to be made between playing chord tones and TARGETING chord tones. Basic tension and release is fundamentally important in understanding what makes a melody. And it's not just passing tones in a scale, on weak beats or whatever. Take something, like the head of Freddie freeloader. Basic tension and release. Accented non-chord tones on strong beats which resolve to chord tones. That's the whole thing.

    I can't believe how long I tried to play some jazz and studied it from various sources, without ever hearing this concept. It's so fundamental and often overlooked. Targeting is to arpeggios what arpeggios are to scales. Learn to resolve the upper and lower neighbors Christian's talking about, maybe it was in another thread, ....then, all of the scales and arpeggios make more sense aurally.
    you hit very good points..playing a melody as written is a given..moving the melodic rhythm but keeping the melody in tact is a very good exercise..chick corea did this with his tune Spain..he would play melodic fragments in wide intervals and displace the rhythm..and bring it back home..the bass player is keeping the tune on the tracks while chick is soaring in his F18 and doing donuts in the parking lot..this of course comes from years of knowing the tune and experimenting in every possible way to play it..chick did not play the the melody as written once - the time I viewed the video - but he left no part of the tune out and you recognized the tune in its original form..that is a neat trick..for those not familiar with the vast talent of Chick Corea..see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_Corea its very humbling

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by gator811
    "I'm into scales right now"......John Coltrane

    Firstly CST isnt a theory, its just an aspect of fundamental music knowledge. Aerbersold, various online sources and even Music colleges have managed to sell it as a 'theory' but there's nothing particularly theoretical about the way CST plonks a 'consonant' scale over a chord. It does however, bastardise the least interesting part of George Russels actual theory about Chromaticism.
    Interesting point. I have to say I don't agree that CST is 'fundamental'. BUT - a discussion on what is fundamental could run and run....

    But you are IMO bang on about it not being a theory. It isn't because it doesn't model what goes on in the music of the past very well, and it's not terribly helpful for developing an understanding of how jazz works as a language.

    To me, CST is the application of modal sounds on functional changes. Which is the step that should be taken after the student can play functional changes and modal improvisations. All the great contemporary players seem to have this down.

    I did start reading the GR book, but it felt like BS to me I'm afraid.

    Someone mentioned that certain 13th chords and 'best scale fit' (eg. Dorian and m13) are essentially the same 'pool' of notes. That's worth knowing isnt it?
    Wes Montgomery on 'Four on Six.'

    The dorian mode actually crops up in the music of Charlie Christian, Django, and I'm sure elsewhere. There's nothing in intrinsically modern about using the dorian as a stepwise scale - swing era improvisors liked the sound of the major 6th on a minor chord, so it's inevitable, in fact.

    The modern conception is in how it's used: the modern jazz conception of using a scale as a palette of available pitches over a chord, or analysing an improvisors note choices by using theoretical scales, which can be taken to an extreme (and to me, risible) degree.

    People have been playing extended sounds on chords in jazz for much longer than most people think. I could give the example of the melody of Honeysuckle Rose - a pretty old pre war tune - built on the b7 sub of a V7 chord. The whole 'family of four' concept is based around this concept (I call it the ladder of thirds) and can be heard in jazz right from the early days.

    So, the use of the an extended mixolydian tonality on V is certainly 'a thing' although I doubt that's the way those guys would have heard it. (And obviously V mixolydian is just I major.)

    There's quite a jump from there to embracing the fully fledged CST. For example, isn't C an 'avoid' note on G7?

    From a theoretical point of view I believe the CST handling of dominant and m7b5 chords to be incomplete at least in how they relate to pre 1960's styles of jazz - i.e. the functional stuff.

    That's quite aside from the pedagogical standpoint.

    On the other hand, consonance ( or dissonance) could be discussed theoretically and thats what sucks about CST. There's no discussion about each tone and its 'gravity' or tension against the root note of the chord, the quality of the chord or any other chord tones in most of the CST stuff in the mainstream.
    As you say that's why CST isn't a theory. It's a pool of sounds you can use.

    I dont have a problem with the learning and application of scales. I really have a problem with the way it is generally taught and applied.

    Coltrane 'owned' his approach to learning and applying scales and that study was elemental in his execution of super imposing substitutions and other tonal colours in his approach to harmony. Perhaps the biggest and most ironic problem with CST is that it actually hamstrings an effective study of scales......
    That's an interesting thing to say - I'm intrigued. How does it hamstring the study of scales?
    Last edited by christianm77; 11-01-2016 at 07:51 AM.

  21. #20

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    Chord tones with connecting notes are not the same thing as scales! With most diatonic scales, being applied to the "chord of the moment", we have 4 basic chord tones leaving us a choice of 3 "connecting notes", some of which can cause rhythmic displacement such that chord tones may not land on downbeats (the biggest giveaway when listening to a novice CST player trying to sound "jazzy").

    in Bop based Jazz, I think it's wiser, for the chord of the moment, to think of there being 4 chord tones (at least), and 8 possible connecting tones (approach, passing, enclosures etc). Of course, it's all about how you use those 8 non-chord tones! That's what I'd be practicing instead of scales....
    Last edited by princeplanet; 11-01-2016 at 09:42 AM.

  22. #21

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    To play devil's advocate, so you're suggesting someone playing a scale can't use a connecting chromatic tone?

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    Chord tones with connecting notes are not the same thing as scales! With most diatonic scales, being applied to the "chord of the moment", we have 4 basic chord tones leaving us a choice of 3 "connecting notes", some of which can cause rhythmic displacement such that chord tones may not land on downbeats (the biggest giveaway when listening to a novice CST player trying to sound "jazzy").

    in Bop based Jazz, I think it's wiser, for the chord of the moment, to think of there being 4 chord tones (at least), and 8 possible connecting tones (approach, passing, enclosures etc). Of course, it's all about how you use those 8 non-chord tones! That's what I'd be practicing instead of scales....
    IMO to play bop well (or swing for that matter), you need to know your diatonic scales. You can get away a long way without, but sooner or later you are going to have to get into the diatonic majors and minors so that you can master passing tones.

    So as you say obviously in bop, we often use more passing tones than would be found in the standard diatonic scale. The 'bebop scale' is the classic example. We do this because of the rhythm.

    C B Bb A G F E D C

    But this is important - we are not seeing these scale tones as a source of upper extensions or 'colour'. The notes in the scale are there purely to connect the chord tones. Is that what you meant?

    With bop, connecting tone are also often applied to the triad. But you can go up to chords of 7 notes.

    I use the 'ladder of thirds' for a dominant chord. Take G7:

    G B D F A C E

    You can extract any three or four note arpeggio you like from that. Sheryl Bailey's family of four looks like this:

    G B D F A C E
    G B D F A C E
    G B D F A C E
    G B D F A C E

    But you could equally use triads such as G, Bo, Dm, F, Am or larger structures like Dm9 etc. (You can also use tritone substitutes, dim symmetry and stuff.)

    With the dominant there's a lot of freedom in how you stack notes. With the major chord you have to be a little more careful, the 11th is problematic.

    6 1 3 5 7 9 is OK though.
    Last edited by christianm77; 11-01-2016 at 10:09 AM.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77

    With the dominant there's a lot of freedom in how you stack notes. With the major chord you have to be a little more careful, the 11th is problematic.
    Is it, though?

    If not used as a point of rest, the 11 never bothers me. The raised 11th, however, can be a note to land on...and a damn good one.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    To play devil's advocate, so you're suggesting someone playing a scale can't use a connecting chromatic tone?
    Of course not. I used to be CST oriented, for years. But trying to work out how chromaticism worked with scales taught me that it's far more logical to work out how chromaticism works around chord tones. I now realise that, for the styles I like, years of practicing scales were largely (but not entirely) a waste of time.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Is it, though?

    If not used as a point of rest, the 11 never bothers me. The raised 11th, however, can be a note to land on...and a damn good one.
    I agree. The 11, if not landed on, sounds perfectly fine against tonic major. I'll never understand the fuss...