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Beginner Noticing Chord Progressions

IGoddard

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In my quest to improve my improv I find myself looking for all your invaluable advice yet again.

Each week I learn a new song and improvise over its chord changes on irealpro. This week I’m learning Can’t help lovin dat man, a simple tune for me.

And now it’s time for me to improvise. The chord changes are so frequent I can’t keep up! There aren’t any chords in the piece I’m unfamiliar with, but I need more thinking time. Or better yet, more understanding of the chord progressions in this piece.

I’m relatively new to chord progressions so I’m not adapt to simply spotting or understanding them. I have spotted one II-V-I but are there any more? Are there any tricks to effortlessly playing over these changes?

D6155945-B0C2-4471-A422-6252EB37183D.png


Once again.
Thanks for your time and patience.
 
You have to aim at the cadences. 1st 2 bars are diatonic C and then aim to hit the C7 in bar 3 - to emphasize change to F. Then it's all about aiming for the cadence in bar 7 to return to C. Don't try to hit all the tritone sub passing chords. The B section is more bluesy F7 for 2 bars and then it's all about resolving and getting to the G7.
You can get away with just about anything on the V chords, so long as you resolve onto the I chord.
You can play quite a lot of major and minor bluesy things on these changes, or aim to hit certain chord voice leading tones - like the Ab on the Bb7 chord.

Probably the best way is check out some recordings and pick out phrases and licks that you like, and transcribe them, and see if you can figure out why they sound good over the changes.
 
There are 3 or 4 obvious II V I progressions.

Bars 2&3 Dm7 G7 C. Preceded by the VI at the end of bar I.

Second half of bar 3 into 4. Gm7 C7 F though the II V is so quick the II can probably be ignored.

In bar 8 first time round you have a II V I leading back to the C, second time is a II V I to the F at the start of the middle 8.

In addition the Em7-Am7-Ab7-G7-C in bars 4 to 6 can be seen as a modified III VI II V I. There is a b5 substitution for the II (Ab7 replaces Dm7). Cm blues scale is tempting for the Ab7-G7.
 
Sometimes it is easier to think of what note or notes change as you go from one chord to the next. In fact there are generally more tones that are common to each chord and only one or two notes that change. Below I have "mapped out" just the notes that change from those of the C scale. On the sections marked "chromatic" one can play a motif and repeat it down a half step each change, or just play the notes of the C scale and let the rhythm section do the descending chromatic underneath.

Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man.jpg
 
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Thanks for the quick responses. I’m always deeply impressed with the level of knowledge and willingness to help on this forum.

What is the most efficient way to improve my theoretical knowledge to allow me to analyse pieces in this way?
 
Thanks for the quick responses. I’m always deeply impressed with the level of knowledge and willingness to help on this forum.

What is the most efficient way to improve my theoretical knowledge to allow me to analyse pieces in this way?
There is no short or easy answer, but I can suggest a place to begin. Taking each tone of a major scale and "stacking thirds" produces triads. Adding a 4th tone gives the triads with an added 7th. These spell the chords commonly found in that key. They are often designated using Roman numerals. The ones that tend to be more common are listed in bold. Learning to spell and recognize these chords in all major keys will provide a solid foundation. Please know that the V7 (dominant 7 chord) can have everything but the kitchen sink added to it to produce tension and color.

I Maj7. ii min7, iii min7, IV Maj7, V7, vi min7, vii dim7
 
Knowledge is always a good pursuit. Knowing how computers work and having command of the Language can assist you in being able to write a novel. However that knowledge doesn't mean that you can write anything that anyone wants to read. IMHO too much emphasis has been placed on the technical aspects where a beginner is asked to mechanically play riffs and arpeggios that may "fit" but are musically meaningless. As Colin hints at, playing an alternate melodic line communicates something more than chordal diddles. Should you learn the nuts and bolts of music? Yes, certainly! When it comes to improvisation should you be mechanically playing a lot of notes you can't hear in your head first? Definitely not. If you are not part of the equation in making choices about the notes you are playing, then all you have is a jumble of notes that communicate nothing. Equal or more practice/study time should be spent using your voice to sing the lines you hear in your head and practicing making your horn that voice. The music needs to come from you.
 
Knowledge is always a good pursuit. Knowing how computers work and having command of the Language can assist you in being able to write a novel. However that knowledge doesn't mean that you can write anything that anyone wants to read. IMHO too much emphasis has been placed on the technical aspects where a beginner is asked to mechanically play riffs and arpeggios that may "fit" but are musically meaningless. As Colin hints at, playing an alternate melodic line communicates something more than chordal diddles. Should you learn the nuts and bolts of music? Yes, certainly! When it comes to improvisation should you be mechanically playing a lot of notes you can't hear in your head first? Definitely not. If you are not part of the equation in making choices about the notes you are playing, then all you have is a jumble of notes that communicate nothing. Equal or more practice/study time should be spent using your voice to sing the lines you hear in your head and practicing making your horn that voice. The music needs to come from you.
Your points are well taken, and I know where you are coming from. However, when we are talking about a beginner who has never improvised before there are many valid exercises that can be taught that will help to develop the player's ear, develop an understanding of chords and chord changes, and scale patterns that can add to the player's technique and musical vocabulary.

It is correct to stress that these are merely exercises and should not be considered "improvisation" per se, but in my opinion it would be a disservice to dismiss all of these out of had because they are "musically meaningless". I consider them "stepping stones" to developing a comfort level that allows true expression through improvisation.
 
Your points are well taken, and I know where you are coming from. However, when we are talking about a beginner who has never improvised before there are many valid exercises that can be taught that will help to develop the player's ear, develop an understanding of chords and chord changes, and scale patterns that can add to the player's technique and musical vocabulary.

It is correct to stress that these are merely exercises and should not be considered "improvisation" per se, but in my opinion it would be a disservice to dismiss all of these out of had because they are "musically meaningless". I consider them "stepping stones" to developing a comfort level that allows true expression through improvisation.

I am very sorry that my post, which certainly recognizes the value of knowledge and understanding the fundamentals of music, has been mistaken for a refutation of those principles. It seems that the only point which may be contentious is WHEN the student incorporates their inner voice to these exercises. IMHO it is never too early for this to be a part of the student's musical striving. We all have a voice and most can hum/sing, or at least hear in their head variations to a tune. Why should these be ignored? Are they not compatible? At what point would the student otherwise be encouraged to do something other than "playing the changes"?

I don't presume to know your method of teaching, yet have heard way too many players well past their beginner stage who either have no connection with their inner voice or have had it trained out of them in exchange for a mechanical (theoretical) means of playing. Can they play and sound OK as strictly mechanical players? Probably yes. Do they have much creativity in their playing and can give an audience a communicative experience beyond technical agility? Probably not.

The points that I'm trying to raise are not exclusive, they should be considered inclusive in any teaching regime. The object IMHO is to produce a player who is creative, can express themselves, and is one with their instrument so that it is an extension of their voice.
 
Thanks for the info . Do you teach? If not, you should!

Are there any theory books that’d be worth a purchase?

Do you know your circle of fitfths? .. i mean REALLY know it? So if i say whats the b5 of Dmin7 - you instantly go, yeah its "Ab" ?

If not - study it, know your scales and their arpeggios. You cant really read chords without that basic info.

Edit -
Rick Beato pretty much explains it all here - everything you need to know. You can pause go back, watch again.
Circle of fifths, modes, harmony, chord spelling/formulas, extensions, alterations and inversions. 41 minutes long, but well worth your time.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5SmcH11kUk
 
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I'm a complete amateur and this post is just to share my personal experience.

For me, this is a great question from @IGoddard! A wonderful piece of music too!
I've just listened to it and I would be unable to improvise any kind of of melody to these chords without playing a lot of 'wrong notes' along the way. I really love the richness of the chords and the changes . This richness makes it difficult for me to anticipate (when playing along) what's coming up from just a couple of listenings.

I'm not really much into music or jazz theory. I'd be a better soloist if I was, but where possible I prefer to (literally) just play it by ear. "Can’t help lovin dat man" is way beyond my abilities to improvise on the fly. So I'd write out the chord sequence in advance too and try to find a basis for a melody/improv.

I completely agree with @jbtsax's advice to look for 'common notes' between adjacent chords and to pay attention to 7th, 4th notes etc. (I should follow his advice more often ;)).

I don't know whether this makes much sense but what works best for me is a combination of listening, chord analysis and then just playing around on the sax to find additional notes that fit and don't fit (usually during BigBand rehearsals) . For me personally, all of these are necessary to find something that works.

'Active Listening' to each section over and over again gives me an idea of the 'shape' of each section. Without even knowing exactly which chords are being played, it gives me an idea of where the 'tonic', dominant' 'subdominant' , 'relative minor' chords (and other intervals) fall and how they sound relative to each other. For me, it's like remembering a sentence structure. At this stage, I'm not looking for notes, I'm just listening to the basic 'structure' (what I call the 'shape') of each section. Long ago, I used to play guitar which helps me visualise (in basic keys) what the relationship is between the chords I hear. I think it's worth becoming familiar with the 'scale degrees' of chords so that you gradually learn to recognise chords relative to each other just by listening. Maybe you already do.

The 'shape' and 'sound' of each section becomes much more explicit when you map out the actual chord sequence. The 'added value' of listening for me is that l see the chords while remembering the 'shape' of the section. They add detail to what I already know rather than being an abstract set of symbols. I'm sure lots of people can look at chord symbols and 'hear' the chords in their heads. There's no rule about whether to listen first or map out the chords first and listen from this. Generallly, I prefer to just listen first.

Applying @jbtsax's advice, I usually try to find the basis for a 'safe' melody/improv that doesn't sound wrong. Then I play around on the sax with a backing track to experiment with addititional notes/variations. I remember the ones that sound OK I and incorate these into my melody/solo. The ones that just sound wrong
I remember too and I make a mental note to avoid these.

I think that there's a balance to be found between 'analysis' and 'experimentation'. Ongoing 'analysis' when playing can easily to 'paralysis' which stifles expression and enjoyment. My motto is 'better a few wrong notes when playing freely than being afraid to stray from what's safe'. But the more you've learned about 'what's safe' and the variations that work and don't work, the fewer wrong notes you play. The key to this is preparation (listening, analysis, experimentation).

Hope this helps.

Mike
 
Do you know your circle of fitfths? .. i mean REALLY know it? So if i say whats the b5 of Dmin7 - you instantly go, yeah its "Ab" ?

If not - study it, know your scales and their arpeggios. You cant really read chords without that basic info.

Edit -
Rick Beato pretty much explains it all here - everything you need to know. You can pause go back, watch again.
Circle of fifths, modes, harmony, chord spelling/formulas, extensions, alterations and inversions. 41 minutes long, but well worth your time.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5SmcH11kUk

I know the circle of fifths and I could work out the b5 of a Dmin7 but it certainly wouldn’t be instanteous. I find the process of learning this theory very dry if it’s not applied to a piece of music.
It’s frustrating to see how much I’ve still to learn, and how long it will take. Time to really knuckle down!
 

Similar threads... or are they? Maybe not but they could be worth reading anyway 😀

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