Archive for the ‘Scales’ Category

The Secret to Unlocking the Lydian Sound: From Boring Modes to Killing Solos

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Open up any music theory book and you’ll find the term “lydian.”

A funny sounding word that refers to the fourth mode of the major scale…

You’ve, no doubt, played this scale. You’ve probably even practiced it in every key and studied it’s relationship to the tonic.

But what if I told you that you don’t know this scale. That the way that most theory books and teachers teach this mode is putting you into a harmonic straightjacket.

If you’ve only practiced this scale as an exercise, you’re missing out on a sound and harmonic approach that has been utilized by some of the greatest modern improvisers and musicians like Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Mark Turner and Jacob Collier.

And today we’re going to show you the secret to unlocking this sound – turning a mundane theory concept into a real musical technique that you can use in your solos.

Let me show you what I mean…

The lydian mode: What you really need to know

In Western music theory, “lydian” refers to the fourth mode of the Major scale:

It’s one of the seven musical modes of each key, defined by a raised 4th scale degree. In jazz theory the term lydian becomes synonymous with any number of scales that feature the #11.

This definition is fine if you want to memorize your major scales or pass a test, but if you want to improvise over this sound, you need a different approach – … Read More

How The Chord-Scale System Has Failed You: 6 Steps to Freedom With Scales and Modes

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

The Chord Scale System Has Failed You

The Chord-scale system has become the most established and widespread method for teaching jazz improvisation…

And it’s no mystery why. So often, scales—more specifically the modes of the major and melodic minor scales—get passed-off as the most important aspect of learning to improvise.

It’s as if by magic, you learn a couple scales and their modes, and you’re playing jazz!

Scales and modes, are NOT the secret to learning to improvise. They are important, but don’t fall into the trap that so many do, thinking that they are the system that will give you improvisational freedom— they’re nothing more than a starting place.

The modes are the equivalent to learning your times-tables when you’re learning how to multiply.

Recall back to when you learned the basics of math. Remember how your teacher made you memorize the times-tables and drill the information until you didn’t have to think about it anymore?

That’s exactly what you want to do with ALL scale and chord knowledge. Just like the times-tables, you must internalize the information and move far beyond it. Otherwise, you’ll always wonder why your playing still doesn’t sound authentic, like you’re speaking the jazz language, because despite what you may think or have been told, scales are not the language of jazz.

Scales and modes fit into an overarching melodic and harmonic framework that help you to conceptualize melody and harmony in any genre of music. This framework allows you to intellectually understand how specific notes relate to a … Read More

5 Secrets for Mastering the Altered Scale

Monday, September 26th, 2016

secrets-to-altered-scale

The dominant chord is one of the most versatile chords in the jazz repertoire…

And it’s your best bet for adding harmonic tension and melodic interest to your lines.

The only problem is that many players approach this sound with the same old scales and licks every time. And this can get pretty boring…

That’s why today we’re going to show you one of the most powerful techniques for playing V7 chords like a pro – the altered scale.

Transforming this often misunderstood scale from a mundane theory exercise into an invaluable melodic tool that you can start using in every solo.

Here are 5 Secrets to Mastering the Altered Scale

#1) Master the basic scale

If you ask a group of musicians about what to play over an altered dominant chord you’re likely to get a number of answers.

From melodic minor scales to diminished patterns, and even tritone substitutions…

But what you might not realize is that most of these altered approaches are describing the same scale.

Four names for the altered scale

That’s a lot of theory jargon. But at the end of the day, it’s just four different ways of looking at the this scale:

the altered scale

You can mentally approach this scale is a number of ways, but the sound of these 8 tones will be the same…

What matters is how you can access this sound on the fly in your solo. If you prefer to think of melodic minor – use that. If it’s the altered scale –

Read More

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About the Bebop Scale…But Were Afraid to Ask

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Bebop Scale

Scales can be one of the most overwhelming parts of learning jazz improvisation…

Between you and me, it can seem like there’s a scale to learn for every chord, a scale for every progression, and a scale for every day of the week.

However, as you’ve probably realized in the practice room, scales are not always the secret to a great solo.

But what if I told you that there were a few scales that are essential for every serious improviser to know?

Scales with inherent melodic and harmonic devices that can be used in any solo and when practiced correctly, will give you valuable techniques for mastering the jazz language.

I’m talking about the bebop scale. And in today’s post were going to put this scale under the magnifying glass and turn it inside out to show you everything you’ve ever wanted to know.

So if you’ve been stuck wondering how to create long flowing lines in your solo or are frustrated with the same old boring ideas, this one’s for you…

The basic Bebop Scale

I’m guessing you know the bebop scale.

You’ve seen it in books, your teachers have told you to learn it and you probably even know it in a few keys…

Bebop scale

So what’s the big deal? Well, the true value of the bebop scale is revealed in it’s potential for creating melodies over chord progressions.

The chromatic movement surrounding the flat 7th of this scale creates a natural melodic motionRead More

3 Secrets to Soloing with the Pentatonic Scale: A Lesson with McCoy Tyner

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Lesson with McCoy Tyner

No pianist has influenced the modern approach to jazz piano more than McCoy Tyner…

From players like Chick Corea and Mulgrew Miller to non-pianists like Woody Shaw and Michael Brecker, McCoy has left his mark on generations of serious improvisers.

And one distinctive element of his approach to improvising is his creative use of the pentatonic scale.

But it’s more than the five simple notes that most musicians think of using over a minor chord. As you’ll soon learn below, the pentatonic scale can add a wealth of harmonic and melodic possibilities to your solos.

Take a listen to McCoy Tyners’ solo on Blues on the Corner from the album The Real McCoy:

 

The Blues is a form that every improviser must learn and master if they want to become a proficient player. You can approach it with blues language, bebop, or even modern and outside approaches – it all comes together in the blues.

And today we’re going look at 3 creative ways McCoy Tyner uses the pentatonic scale on the blues…

1)  Using the Minor Pentatonic Scale over Dominant Chords

If you’ve subscribed to JazzAdvice I’m guessing you’ve learned more than a few options for improvising over V7 chords.

And you probably have a few tricks up your own sleeve when it comes to creating solos over this sound…

However, one scale that many players don’t think about on V7 chords is the minor pentatonic scale. And that’s exactly what we’re going to look … Read More

5 Skills You Won’t Learn in School, Skill Two: How to Turn Music Theory into Music

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Turn Music Theory Into Music

Have you ever thrown your hands up in frustration trying to understand music theory?

Have you ever found yourself lost and panicking in a solo as you search for the right scale or chord to play?

Many frustrated musicians run into this wall every time they try to take a solo.

From the outside improvising looks easy. You just pick up an instrument, call a tune, and play the music you’re hearing in your head…

However, the moment you try to create a solo yourself or improvise in a difficult key you quickly realize it’s a little more complicated.

So you look in text books, you take lessons, and you sign up for classes. Before you know it your head is overflowing with music theory information, but for some annoying reason it’s not coming out in your solos.

So let’s stop and think about all of this in more practical terms…

How exactly do you turn that music theory in your mind into music on your instrument?

Learning practical music theory

There are two sides to music theory.

On one side is the music theory you learn about in books and school. The construction and building blocks of music, the theory behind scales, chords and tunes, and the flood of musical terminology.

And then there’s the theory that you actually use when you’re performing. The tools you have for navigating chords and progressions, the artistic tools you have for sharing a musical message with the listener.

Music theory information is

Read More

3 Essential Improvisation Tools that You Need to Know

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Imagine that you’re a construction worker.

You’ve just pulled yourself out of bed at 4 a.m. and slipped on your steel-toed boots. As you stretch your tired legs you let out a sigh as another long day looms on the horizon. No worries, nothing you can’t do after a strong cup of coffee.

You arrive on site as the sun is rising, just in time to get a head start before the rest of your team shows up. You quickly unpack your gear and reach into your tool box when it suddenly hits you – you’ve forgotten your tools.

“*&$%#!”

The best you can do now is just stand there and mumble some sorry excuse as you silently curse yourself for your stupidity.

Doesn’t sound like too much fun, right?

But then again it’s common sense. I mean who would show up to work without the one thing they need to do their job?

Well, it’s much easier than you think and if you’re a musician, you’re probably guilty of this very mistake. In fact most players out there struggling to improvise are showing up to solo without any tools. What’s worse, they don’t even realize it.

These hopeful soloists have their instruments and they’ve learned their scales. They’ve memorized the melody and the chord progression and they’ve stepped up to the mic. But when it comes to creating musical phrases in real time, they are stuck up there without any tools.

“*&$%#!” is right.

Think of it like

Read More

10 Easy Options for Expanding Your Dominant 7th Vocabulary

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

31310 easy options for V7

What’s the most important chord progression that you need to know as a musician?

Well that’s a good question…

In the past we’ve explored some common chord relationships that you’ll encounter as an improviser, but there is one chord relationship that sticks out above the rest.

Any guesses?

It’s V to I.

The Dominant/Tonic relationship is at the foundation of Western music from Baroque concertos, to Mahler symphonies, to Louis Armstrong, to Coltrane, to the Beatles.

In nearly every standard that you’ll practice or perform as an improviser, you’re going to encounter the V7 to I chord relationship.

The Blues, Rhythm Changes, Stella by Starlight, Giant Steps, All the Things You Are…it all goes back to V7 resolving to I. If you haven’t already worked on this dominant to tonic relationship, now is the time to get started.

The Basics

For many players, the most common way to access the Dominant 7th to Tonic sound is with the Mixolydian mode:

or a Bebop Scale:

The other common rule that many players also fall back on for V7 to I is the natural voice-leading motion between these two chords. Coming from an analytical perspective, the voice leading “rules” of the V to I relationship are resolving the 7th of the V chord to the 3rd of the I chord:

(7-3 Resolution)

and the 3rd of V7 to the root of the I chord:

(3-1 Resolution)

This is a fine place to start … Read More

Happy New Year! 8 Musical Resolutions That Will Change Your Playing

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

A new year is the perfect time to look back at what you’ve accomplished in the practice room and to look forward  to what you still wish to achieve as a musician. It’s also a great time to make a fresh start, to realign yourself musically, and to set some new goals. So, Happy New Year!

…now what are you going to do to become a better improviser?

A while back we posted 100 New Years Resolution Ideas for the Improviser. These resolutions are great to choose from for your daily or weekly practice routines, however there are some major points that are truly pivotal in making you a better improviser. If you focus intently on these key elements, you’ll be able to transform yourself musically.

Here are 8 musical resolutions for the new year that will make you a better improviser.

I) Work on Ear Training

The #1 area of your musicianship that will make you a better improviser is your ears. Your success as an improviser depends on your ability to hear and understand the sounds around you: melodies, chord progressions, intervals, time signatures, the other musicians in your band, etc.

All of this goes directly back to your ears.

It’s important to intellectually understand the theory and construction of the music, but to truly play it you must be able to hear it. This means working on ear training.

Here are some articles that you should check out to improve your ears:

Read More

The Philosophy of Learning Jazz Improvisation: Thinking like a Composer

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Composition is selective improvisation…~Igor Stravinsky

In 15 seconds the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to decide what to say in 15 seconds, while in improvisation you have 15 seconds.~Steve Lacy___________________________________________________________________________________________

Learning to improvise is a big undertaking. Not only must you become proficient on an instrument, you also need find something musical to play on that instrument. That’s no small task!

But don’t get discouraged just yet, many musicians have learned to improvise before you and many more will in the years to come. Having the correct mindset as you start your journey, however is vital in realizing your goals. In this day and age you can have all the study materials and learning aids in the world, but if you don’t know how to use them, they’re useless.

So where are you going to find this mindset?

In your musical journey so far you might have noticed that improvisation is often compared to musical composition, and for good reason. Creating a solo over a chord progression is essentially composing music in the moment.

As you improvise, you’re using your ears, instrumental technique, and musical language to create new melodies in real time. All of the skills that are essential for composition are also necessary for improvisation. You must create a theme, develop that theme, follow the contours of the harmony, and send a musical message to the listener.

Therefore it’s only … Read More

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