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  1. #1

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    In reviewing notes from an old lesson, I came across a statement that guitar and piano don't usually clash "if they're playing the same mode". And, when they aren't, it's usually on a dominant chord.

    I want to make sure I fully understand this.

    The idea seems to be something like this.

    Suppose the chord is Dm7. That chord is part of the scales of Cmajor, Bbmajor and Fmajor. So, one chord instrument might be including, say, a Bb in the chord while the other is playing a B -- and that's a problem. You could argue, I should think, that they ought to be able to agree on the function of the chord based on context, in which case they'd be playing the same mode. It seems to me that a disagreement is not so likely in GASB, but becomes more likely in more modern harmony.

    Presumably, a similar argument for Eb and/or E natural.

    And, then, moving to melodic minor, there could, conceivably, be a problem with C vs C#, although that one seems so obvious, I wouldn't expect it to happen with experienced players.

    Does that cover the issue with respect to minors?

    What about the comment about dominants?

    Let's take G dominant. G7#11 is within Dmelmin. OTOH, Galt is within Abmelmin. So, there are big differences in the underlying scales and, with no avoid notes in melodic minor, this discrepancy would be obvious in multiple notes. D E F G A B C# vs Ab Bb B Db Eb F G.
    Playing a straight G mixo would be different from both of them, although with different numbers of half step clashes.

    I don't know Harmonic minor and harmonic major well enough to make the comparisons.

    What else might this teacher have meant?

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  3. #2

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    Hard to avoid a clash if they are playing in the same room.

  4. #3

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    That's jazz! If you don't want any clashing...


  5. #4

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    Guitarists and pianists nearly always come to blows eventually.

  6. #5

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    But to back away from the guitar-vs-piano mortal kombat, doesn't every thing written above hold true with two guitars, no piano?

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyLoveHandles
    But to back away from the guitar-vs-piano mortal kombat, doesn't every thing written above hold true with two guitars, no piano?
    Take that! Take that!


  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    In reviewing notes from an old lesson, I came across a statement that guitar and piano don't usually clash "if they're playing the same mode". And, when they aren't, it's usually on a dominant chord.

    I want to make sure I fully understand this.

    The idea seems to be something like this.

    Suppose the chord is Dm7. That chord is part of the scales of Cmajor, Bbmajor and Fmajor.
    The pitches comprising Dm7 appear in thousands of scales.


    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    So, one chord instrument might be including, say, a Bb in the chord while the other is playing a B -- and that's a problem.
    Why would one chord instrument play the Bb (because Bb major has some of the pitches of Dm7, so Bb is OK?)?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    You could argue, I should think, that they ought to be able to agree on the function of the chord based on context, in which case they'd be playing the same mode.
    Chord function is not unique even within context; even if they accidentally agree on function they may interpret and express it differently rendering a clash (agreement on function does not necessarily entail same pitches played).

    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    It seems to me that a disagreement is not so likely in GASB, but becomes more likely in more modern harmony.

    Presumably, a similar argument for Eb and/or E natural.

    And, then, moving to melodic minor, there could, conceivably, be a problem with C vs C#, although that one seems so obvious, I wouldn't expect it to happen with experienced players.

    Does that cover the issue with respect to minors?

    What about the comment about dominants?

    Let's take G dominant. G7#11 is within Dmelmin. OTOH, Galt is within Abmelmin. So, there are big differences in the underlying scales and, with no avoid notes in melodic minor, this discrepancy would be obvious in multiple notes. D E F G A B C# vs Ab Bb B Db Eb F G.
    Playing a straight G mixo would be different from both of them, although with different numbers of half step clashes.

    I don't know Harmonic minor and harmonic major well enough to make the comparisons.

    What else might this teacher have meant?
    Hard to tell what the teacher thought, or what you thought the teacher was thinking when you wrote the notes. I think he was just saying to very simple things:

    1] Multiple chord instruments may clash if they don't play from the same set of pitches which do not clash in and of themselves.
    2] This is likely to happen with dominants where multiple choices work but not everyone makes the same choice

  9. #8

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    Sounds like a fairly pointless statement to me. Any time you have two chordal instruments playing chords together you can have clashes, obviously this is more likely on dominants.

    The players just need to work out some kind of strategy to deal with it. I think a lot of guitarists (certainly Joe Pass for one) would suggest the guitar just plays minimal chords e.g. 3rd and 7th, and leaves the fancy extensions to the pianist.

  10. #9
    I was thinking that he was thinking something along these lines ...

    Each chordal instrument may be doing things like moving voicings through scales.

    So, for melodic minor, per Mark Levine, there is no avoid note and you can construct chords using the notes in the scale -- any which way.

    And, that will work for two chord instruments playing together, provided they are playing out of the same melodic minor scale/mode.

    There is a similar argument for major scale harmony and quartile harmony.

    The teacher who told me this has giant ears. So, he would know, from hearing the pianist comp, exactly which mode he was working with, assuming he was working that way at all (some pianists, to the extent I can hear it, may switch around unpredictably).

    Not so easy for us mere mortals.

  11. #10

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    Just write out the chords, extended, altered, whatever, and everyone play the same damn chords. Sheesh, whatever next!

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Just write out the chords, extended, altered, whatever, and everyone play the same damn chords. Sheesh, whatever next!
    That would certainly work, at least up to a point.

    But, if you want to vary the chords without clashing, or, say, to understand how to avoid clashing, maybe this mode idea has some merit.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 06-15-2020 at 11:49 PM.

  13. #12

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    However; not all chords' pitches may be mapped to a single mode, perhaps needing to be mapped to multiple (superimposed) modes not even necessarily sharing a common tonic.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    That would certainly work, at least up to a point.

    But, if you want to vary the chords without clashing, or, say, to understand how to avoid clashing, maybe this mode idea has some merit.
    Well, we'd have to make a series of experiments. Has that been done? How would you do that?

  15. #14

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    As an example, if the piano plays a Cmaj7 then the guitar could play Dmin7, all notes coming from the same ‘mode’. But effectively it would just sound similar to playing all the white notes (in an octave, say) on the piano. It might not clash as such, but how useful a sound is that?

    Still sounds like theoretical stuff to me. In the real world players surely use their ears and judgement more.

  16. #15

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    if the piano plays a Cmaj7 then the guitar could play Dmin7
    If that's what the OP is talking about then absolutely. Can't mix your maj, min and dom families :-)

  17. #16

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    The teacher is talking mode as indicative of a specific collection of
    chord extensions.

    Improvisation offers a myriad of opportunity for minor collisions
    and full blown crash and burn scenarios. The ability to recover
    is the fundamental skill. Sticking to a harmonic script only
    solves part of the problem, rhythmic synchronicity is also a factor.

    Solution?

    Listen and take in all that is being played by others to inform a response.
    When venturing beyond the chord symbol or the basic time feel, ect.,
    do so with as much clarity as possible. Stay aware of when things are
    coalescing and when they are not. Stay open to adjust as needed for
    the good of all the gathered society.

    approximate paraphrase from Wayne Krantz:

    "Composition provides a guarantee of something beautiful.
    Improvisation holds out the possibility of something even more beautiful."

    These are both valid musical paths to pursue, or some balance point
    in between. Improvisation is rightfully risky stuff.

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    As an example, if the piano plays a Cmaj7 then the guitar could play Dmin7, all notes coming from the same ‘mode’. But effectively it would just sound similar to playing all the white notes (in an octave, say) on the piano. It might not clash as such, but how useful a sound is that?

    Still sounds like theoretical stuff to me. In the real world players surely use their ears and judgement more.
    It's possibly the simplest case, but here goes.

    Say the chord in the tune is Cmaj7. According to one theory (I learned from Warren Nunes), Cmaj7 would be interchangeable with Em7 Gmaj7 (accepting the lydian F#) and Am7.

    Basically, the tertian-generated chords without an F.

    G7 becomes interchangeable with Dm7, Fmaj7 and Am7 (a switch hitter). I can't recall Warren's teaching about Bm7b5, but the notes are G9, no root.

    But, you can voice that scale in quartile voicings and, if you don't lean too heavily on a chord, you can play any of the voicings against either the major or dominant. That is, take, say, xx2233 and move it through the Cmajor scale. All of those voicings will work, more or less, against any of the C scale chords -- both major and dominant, with the bassist's note identifying them.

    Back to the tune. So if the chord is Cmaj7 and the pianist plays Cmaj7, Em7 or Am7, then, the guitarist can play any of those and it will work, because they're playing out of the same scale. The guitarist could also include the Dm, Fmaj7 G7, but he'd have to keep the harmony moving at a good enough clip for the audience to hear bitonality and not a clash.

    If, on the other hand, one of them decided that the Cmaj7 was a IV chord in the key of G, it wouldn't work so well because the audience would hear E F and F# at the same time.

    All of this is subject to mutual listening, complementing each other with respect to rhythm, and not leaning too heavily on a chord with an F against a major chord without an F -- or a chord with a C against the dominant.

    This might be the sort of thing he meant, but he said mode, not scale, and this teacher graduated Berklee.

  19. #18

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    OK so theory wise, a dominant chord is always the problem area because it is the most chromatic chord - voice leading etc. So, you have most potential for false relations etc... For sax etc, the sounds are different enough for it not to be an issue - tenor sax sustains etc. Guitar and piano- similar register, similar decay characteristics and so on. So you have to be more AWARE, sure.

    But - why are we afraid to be musicians?

    Red Garland clashes between his HANDS. It works because is hands are in different registers.

    Think register, rhythm, space, texture. Pitch is one aspect.

    Piano and guitar are problematic only when people aren't listening, and just playing auto-jazz.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    OK so theory wise, a dominant chord is always the problem area because it is the most chromatic chord - voice leading etc. So, you have most potential for false relations etc... For sax etc, the sounds are different enough for it not to be an issue - tenor sax sustains etc. Guitar and piano- similar register, similar decay characteristics and so on. So you have to be more AWARE, sure.

    But - why are we afraid to be musicians?

    Red Garland clashes between his HANDS. It works because is hands are in different registers.

    Think register, rhythm, space, texture. Pitch is one aspect.

    Piano and guitar are problematic only when people aren't listening, and just playing auto-jazz.
    I've wondered if George Benson was influenced by Red's block-chord approach in his use of octaves plus a 5th when soloing. You don't get simultaneous clashes (unless you're playing with a pianist!) but a lot of tones outside the main key area can occur in rapid succession.

  21. #20

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    Could be!

  22. #21

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    Wow... seriously?

  23. #22

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    George said he got it from Errol Garner and Fats Waller in an interview in ‘Guitar’ magazine, 1974 (II = Ike Isaacs):

    Same mode, guitar and piano-12c644b9-9dbe-4f42-bc6a-e5a9019400ec-jpg

  24. #23

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    Errol and Fats eh? Interesting. Well, both tend to be underrated among snobby modern players, but they were badasses.

  25. #24

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    Nice find, Graham!

  26. #25

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    This is becoming ridiculous. Forget 'modes', it's nonsense.

    Obviously two chords of different types will clash. Dm7 over CM7 will clash because they belong to two different types. This is very old hat, all this stuff, reiterated on the forum since way back. C, Am and Em go together. Dm, G7 and Bm7b5 go together. The F falls somewhere in between depending.

    As Christian said, obviously they'll be some difficulty if/when the chords are altered. Although, in my view, even that is speculative. If one plays, say, G7b9 and the other plays G7#5 the overall effect should just be 'altered' and not be too much of a problem.

    Are we talking about two instruments which are the same or two different ones? When, say, a sax is playing over a piano it doesn't matter too much if there's technically a clash because the ear hears the loudest one, especially at speed and with bebop sounds. Unless, of course, they really are seriously contradicting each other musically.

    But if we're talking piano and guitar with the guitar leading, are we talking single notes on the guitar or chordal stuff? But the same applies. If the piano is playing fairly straight chords and the guitar is using extensions on the same chords, why should there be any great problem?

    In any case, you wouldn't want too much going on at the same time. Two guitars can play together, two pianos can play together. Both are chordal instruments so the players have to adjust accordingly. It's all been done before perfectly successfully.

    As graham said, I think you're making problems where there don't need to be any. In other words this is just an idea that would be solved in a real band or duo very quickly.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by PMB
    Nice find, Graham!
    thanks, I vaguely remembered Benson talking about his playing methods in that interview, but had no idea he specifically mentioned those block octaves until I looked it up.

    I’ve reposted the whole interview in the ‘players’ section as it seems to have disappeared (I posted it once before).

  28. #27

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    Joe Pass gave some good advice on comping against a piano in that ‘An evening with Joe Pass’ video:

    - piano has 88 keys and will beat you into submission, so guitar might as well defer to the piano.

    - start off playing neutral chords that can’t clash, e.g. just 2 notes on the middle strings, such as root and 5th.

    - once you know what you’re doing, maybe switch to using 3rd and 7th on the middle strings.

    - if you want to play extensions, wait for the turnaround at the end of the tune, that is where most pianists reveal their personal preferences for dominant extensions etc, then you can get an idea of which options to go for.