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How do I create more dissonance in sax improvisations - e.g. playing in + out of key

Tobes

Member
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174
Hi there, I am trying to add more variety and harmonic interest to my improvisations. I often hear other sax players playing in and out of key, often at the end of a phrase, in a way that I think sounds tasteful and interesting.

I was wondering if any members have some good examples of performances where playing in and out of key is done effectively, or any resources which provide some good steps to achieve this kind of effect? I've tried some diminish and whole tone stuff but really want some more ideas - it often sounds like a player just repeats a phrase or an idea up or down a semi-tone or may be a tritone away from the tonic key, sounds straightforward but I'm struggling to put it into practice...:-(
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
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5,545
Surely if improvisation is meant to be aurally pleasant, intriguing or demanding, why not try your hunches when practising. If it works, then the theory behind it is of lower priority, otherwise we might as well use a computer and forget about emotion.
 

Tobes

Member
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174
Trouble is I would just end up re-inventing the wheel...hence why I was after some quick pointers
 

daveysaxboy

Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
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3,312
Start messing about with chromatics for a starting point.Theres some great stuff in the Aebersolds.You need a play a long cd like the major and minor cd and also the dom 7th workout cd,these songs stay in 1 key for the whole song.You will find many ideas and certain tense scale choices hard to hear at 1st but the more you play them,ideas,riffs etc you will start to hear and feel what works and what dont.Listen to Mike Brecker,he is so tense,he loved the diminished sound. I think in the terms of theres 12 notes in the world and you can use all of them,lots of work and you will find what you like to your ears,also be brave when you slide slip out of key,the fun bit is getting back home.
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
I found this example of some altered scale notes over a ii - V sequence from one of Charlie Parker's solos on Scrapple from the Apple, looks like Bb minor over Em7 / A7:

Parker Altered Scale Over ii - v7.jpg
 

JKChang

New Member
Messages
14
To contribute to this discussion, I have put some ideas & examples in this post, such as using synthetic scales, superimposition, sliding in/out with pentatonic scale...etc. They are more like generalized ramblings though. But, hopefully, it will generate more ideas and thoughts from forum members.

Peace,

JK
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Thanks JK, that was really interesting! On an academic level, I like the idea of using Schoenberg's 12 tone stuff to completely slip out of key altogether, although probably lost on the average listener!

Interesting point Tom, I think the dilemma is that the more you get into your instrument, technique etc. the more you want to push the boundaries etc. But the more acquired / specialised your music concept becomes the more you tend to alienate (and ****-off) the average punter - I guess that's art all over though!
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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21,947
Thanks JK, that was really interesting! On an academic level, I like the idea of using Schoenberg's 12 tone stuff to completely slip out of key altogether, although probably lost on the average listener!

Interesting point Tom, I think the dilemma is that the more you get into your instrument, technique etc. the more you want to push the boundaries etc. But the more acquired / specialised your music concept becomes the more you tend to alienate (and ****-off) the average punter - I guess that's art all over though!

Experiment and have fun. :mrcool But don't expect us to do any more than be polite, especially with 12 tone discords. :w00t: If you do too much of it, we'll be recommending you study a piece by Glass. >:)
 
Messages
509
Start messing about with chromatics for a starting point.Theres some great stuff in the Aebersolds.You need a play a long cd like the major and minor cd and also the dom 7th workout cd,these songs stay in 1 key for the whole song.You will find many ideas and certain tense scale choices hard to hear at 1st but the more you play them,ideas,riffs etc you will start to hear and feel what works and what dont.Listen to Mike Brecker,he is so tense,he loved the diminished sound. I think in the terms of theres 12 notes in the world and you can use all of them,lots of work and you will find what you like to your ears,also be brave when you slide slip out of key,the fun bit is getting back home.

i would also say listen to Michael Brecker, he had some really wild ideas running through his solos, also as others have said try things out when you are playing, sometimes they work sometimes they dont, but even the mistakes can lead you on very interesting journeys!
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
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5,545
Good point, Kev but never can remember whether it is four minutes and forty-two or three seconds. Still it was good enough for Jimmy Giuffre with his breath only solo. Wonder what books and theories he consulted before cutting that track as he could not possibly have just felt like doing it?

On a similar theme, read there were riots at the first performance of The Rite of Spring. Should think good old Strav just chanced his arm and although well schooled in conventional music, had the guts to think, "I'll try it myself." It is interesting that twelve tone scales were in at the change from the nineteenth to the twentieth century among, and I use the term in the commonly understood meaning, classical composers and again appeared in the 1950/60s in the jazz field with Gil Evans writing scales for Davis. Also, some writers suggest that Parker did not know that what he was doing theoretically and Gillespie was the theory king. That information arrived by PM and will earn the wrath of the CaSLM if it is wrong. >:)

Don't take any notice of this post as I readily admit to being "an average listener" and "the average punter" but would also like to add that this discussion was topical in the fifties where it took the form of cerebral versus emotional jazz but why not include a bit of both and chance your arm? You don't have to be exceptionally brave.
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Have to say I kinda agree with you 'old git'. I studied the Rite of Spring extensively when at uni, and you can really go to town on the theory / origins behind it - however, Stravinsky was almost certainly only 'consciously' aware of less than half of it I'm sure - if this were not the case, it would not be the work of genius that it is (double negative - daah!)

Having started messing around with altered scales and the like, and trying to put some of this more esoteric theory into practice, sometimes it just sounds better when I don't know what I'm playing (theoretically), and just play instinctively - the consonance / dissonance seems to flow more and resolve more naturally - not all the time though :) I'm definitely WIP though, so will keep at it!

As someone else said, I think a lot of these more unusual scales are just different ways to exploit all the 12 tones, which can all be valid and add their own colour to each key, some of us just find it easier to hide behind the theory sometimes...
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
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3,916
On a similar theme, read there were riots at the first performance of The Rite of Spring. Should think good old Strav just chanced his arm and although well schooled in conventional music, had the guts to think, "I'll try it myself."

If I understand correctly (what are the chances of that?) the riots were pretty much pre-planned by some opponents of the company and were directed more at the choreography than the music. As a concert piece the music was accepted very quickly.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
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5,545
Carefully ignoring Big Martin's post and vowing to kill all Turkish Vans in future>:), have a look at Blue Monk. Enough dissonance and altered scales there? Yet to me it sounds good and can be played over the three chord bash structure or as complex as you care to make it.
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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4,695
A nice simple one- for 'colour' moduate everything down so you're playing 2 semitones down from the tone centre of a melody, for weirding it up- modulate one semitone up..... great for brief explosions of dissonance
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
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3,916
Carefully ignoring Big Martin's post and vowing to kill all Turkish Vans in future>:),

He's no longer with us, but he'd have had the CaSLM for breakfast. Our current cat is more of a ninja. You don't see or hear him coming. He can trip you up any time he likes (which is most of the time, come to think of it). Wouldn't even have to get his claws dirty.
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Love Blue Monk - classic jazz blues progression. I managed to get hold of the Abesold Blues in All Keys volume which basically has same progression, all with classic jazz passing chords and turnarounds. Could probably spend ages just going through these...

Freedom Jazz dance is a good one also - Just one Bb7 chord all the way through, anything but simple, with some cool improvising possibilities over the top. Feeling inspired to write / work-out something similar...may be I'll post something soon :)
 

Pete Thomas

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i would also say listen to Michael Brecker,

definitely a good idea when looking for examples, but finding "the formula" is not so easy. I doubt there is one, just lots of ways to do ranging from "play some wrong notes and end up on a right note" to tritone substitution.

e.g. (just making something up in my head, on a C major:)

C D E G - C# D# E# G#- D E F# A - Eb F G Bb | E

Simple lick rising in semitones makes sense because its a pattern and even more sense when it finally ends up on a nice chord tone (the 3rd)

The human brain will accept "wrong notes" if there is something else to grab onto such as the "pattern" of rising semitones.

Going back to your suggestion in the first post, this one works nicely too:

C D E G F# G# A# C# C D E G F# G# A# C# and can work on a C as a tonic or as a C7 dominant (depending on context)
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Hey Cheers Pete, that's great! Just found my old 'Jazz Pattens' book you put together in loft - after removing 12 years worth of dust, there's LOADS of goodies in there also! :)
 
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