Subscriptions and donations are given to special needs music education charities
Tutorials

Remembering chords for improv - how?

davhudson

Member
Messages
175
Location
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
I think all aspiring musicians go through the "Oh my lord, what am I doing? I am never going to be able to do this!" stage.

I have gone through it and am at that point again.

If I have the music or I have learned a peice, passage or riff I am happy.

The problem I have now is improvisation. I understand the principle of II-V7-I structures. I have created a "Band in the Box" loop for:-

Em7 - A7 - D - D
F#m7 - B7 - E - E

I can even play along to this and the notes all seem to fit in.

Here's the problem though. I know that I should be concentrating on the chord tones for each of these scales in the relevant bars and I do know what the chord tones are. BUT in the heat of the moment when trying to play only the chord tones in the relevant bars I just cannot remember which ones I should be playing!

Now this is with just two scales - how are you supposed to remeber these chords for the other 10 scales (along with their modes) not to mention dimininshed (and our friend) half diminsihed?

Help!
How do you cope with this???


David
 

Moz

Senior Member
Messages
841
Location
North of Liskeard, Cornwall,UK
I have listened to statments about chord structure, diminished this, augmented that, V VII VIII iX MCLMXVIII whatever regarding improvisation and I might as well have listened to War and Peace read in Swahili for all the good it did when it came to improvisation. If you have to associate a piece of music with a key or a chord before you improvise then you haven't improvised...

Want to improvise?

Close your bloody eyes and play! Listen and play!! Do it, do it now!!!

Martin
 

ManEast

Member
Messages
214
Location
Southsea .Portsmouth
I think all aspiring musicians go through the "Oh my lord, what am I doing? I am never going to be able to do this!" stage.

I have gone through it and am at that point again.

If I have the music or I have learned a peice, passage or riff I am happy.

The problem I have now is improvisation. I understand the principle of II-V7-I structures. I have created a "Band in the Box" loop for:-

Em7 - A7 - D - D
F#m7 - B7 - E - E

I can even play along to this and the notes all seem to fit in.

Here's the problem though. I know that I should be concentrating on the chord tones for each of these scales in the relevant bars and I do know what the chord tones are. BUT in the heat of the moment when trying to play only the chord tones in the relevant bars I just cannot remember which ones I should be playing!

Now this is with just two scales - how are you supposed to remeber these chords for the other 10 scales (along with their modes) not to mention dimininshed (and our friend) half diminsihed?

Help!
How do you cope with this???


David
Hi David

Do you have a teacher? if your forgive me for saying... It sounds to me like you are way ahead of yourself with 2/5/1.

i.e have you got all of your basic scale work in the bag.

Every now and then it is good to book some time with someone.
I could not tell you what to do with the above, as I would need to find out more about you as a player.

Regards

ManEast
 
OP
davhudson

davhudson

Member
Messages
175
Location
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Hi David

Do you have a teacher? if your forgive me for saying... It sounds to me like you are way ahead of yourself with 2/5/1.

i.e have you got all of your basic scale work in the bag.

Every now and then it is good to book some time with someone.
I could not tell you what to do with the above, as I would need to find out more about you as a player.

Regards

ManEast
Oh yes, I have a teacher - she is very good - Karen Sharpe.

I also know all of my major scales from memory and can play those up and down. I can also do the chords for each of these scales with some trail and error.

I can jam along with Autumn Leaves.

But I think that it is one thing my noodling about and something quite different to put something together "on the fly" that other would appreciate.

I just wanted to know how those in the group who are proficient at this felt that they reached a level of comfort.
 
OP
davhudson

davhudson

Member
Messages
175
Location
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
I have listened to statments about chord structure, diminished this, augmented that, V VII VIII iX MCLMXVIII whatever regarding improvisation and I might as well have listened to War and Peace read in Swahili for all the good it did when it came to improvisation. If you have to associate a piece of music with a key or a chord before you improvise then you haven't improvised...

Want to improvise?

Close your bloody eyes and play! Listen and play!! Do it, do it now!!!

Martin
You may be right on that, but I have that unenviable character trait - perfectionism! I always want to get to the next step - when I am there then there is another step - ho - hum.

Councelling required I think:(
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
David,
We are back in the classical argument regarding improvisation.
If you cannot hear whether the note you are playing is right or wrong and what to do if it sounds or feels wrong, as opposed to knowing what notes are in the applicable scale, then how will you improvise, except in a 'my teacher said this is okay' manner? And that raises another question, is that you or your teacher improvising?
It's really like riding a bike, there are many good and well understood principles in maintaining a bicycle in a meta-stable state but that is not how we learn to ride a two wheeler. It is one of those cases of a big breath and jump. If it goes wrong remember what you did and the result, if it went right, do the same.
Maybe the time to look at the theory is when you are already improvising and want to investigate the technical reasons. As you can tell, I side with Martin on this topic but must add the usual apologies for being serious.
 
OP
davhudson

davhudson

Member
Messages
175
Location
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
David,
We are back in the classical argument regarding improvisation.
If you cannot hear whether the note you are playing is right or wrong and what to do if it sounds or feels wrong, as opposed to knowing what notes are in the applicable scale, then how will you improvise, except in a 'my teacher said this is okay' manner? And that raises another question, is that you or your teacher improvising?
It's really like riding a bike, there are many good and well understood principles in maintaining a bicycle in a meta-stable state but that is not how we learn to ride a two wheeler. It is one of those cases of a big breath and jump. If it goes wrong remember what you did and the result, if it went right, do the same.
Maybe the time to look at the theory is when you are already improvising and want to investigate the technical reasons.
I guess you are right. With someone as old as you I should not argue with experience;}



..... but must add the usual apologies for being serious.
I am worried:(
Are you feeling ok?
Have you had a knock on the head?:D:D

Perhaps you ought to seek medical advice;}

Cheers
David
 
Messages
352
You may be right on that, but I have that unenviable character trait - perfectionism! I always want to get to the next step - when I am there then there is another step - ho - hum.

Councelling required I think:(
Hi David,

know that feeling all too well - though I think for every step, there's another 10, each leading to another 10, and another... just seems to get bigger! If counselling is required do you think we'll get discount if we book in bulk?!

in terms of improv on ii-v-i and understanding the chord changes, not the scales, try just starting on the 3rds and the 7ths: so for D-7 G7 C:

F-F-E (3rd 7th 3rd)
or
C-B-B.(7th 3rd 7th)

If you can get these down, and really hear the note moving down at the right bar this is the biggest part of hearing ii-v-1. Try just using those notes to start with changing at the right place, varying with rhythms, until you can really hear it (and sing it). Do with a simple play along like autumn leaves so you can hear the note you're playing against the chords.

then try to add in other stuff either side of the change, but making sure you move from the one key note to the other at the right place where it changes.

if you can do that in one key your well on your way, cos you'll be able to hear it in all the others, its just a case of working out what noes they are.

and once you can do that you'll be able to play really convincing lines over a 2-5-1

Eventually then you can start looking at other shifts through ii-v-i like 9-#5-9 (falling in semitones) and also the notes that stay the same right through. Very slowly you build up all the different shifts and how they sound, and you'll be flying!

hope thats some help

Oli
 

FastFred

Member
Messages
80
When I start asking my tutor questions about chords and what key etc he generally closes the book and makes me play by ear! I struggled with this at first and still do particularly when the music changes to a nasty key but it does encourage experimentation and you will soon learn to resolve the notes.

I have only been improvising a few months but I'm now starting to play what I hear in my head. Pick easy keys to start with where you are confident of all the notes. When I first started I was rapidly licking up and down the scales run basically scared to stop in case I landed on the wrong note. I am now starting to make more melodic phrases and resolving the duff notes. Also don't get too hung up on the root, third fifth and seventh because in time you will play them anyway as you 'feel' the key you are in.

I am on the aebersold books now for the forseeable future. Good luck.
 

Phil Edwards

Senior Member
Messages
1,335
Location
East Sussex
Ditto what FastFred says. I like to know more theory, but I'm not going to let a current shortfall in that area stop me having a go. It does fall into place once you let go and try it.

Phil
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
Well the advice given by my teacher is that good articulation and a strong sense of timing/pulse are very important and also to keep the improvisation simple.

I've been studying and transcribing the Davis and Coltrane solos from So What and it's amazed me how simple they are (though of course Coltrane's playing is very fast in parts).

Davis starts: 1, 7, 1 (octave lower), 1 (lower), 4, 3, 4, 1, 1 (both lower octave) Blue is the 3rd beat and red 1st beat of each bar - there are some rests.

What struck me is how simple this is and yet with the right timing/articulation it works very well.

Coltrane starts 1, 3, 4 (extended note for 4 and a half beats) 5 and then repeats 1, 3, 4 (extended for only 1 beat) 3. Even the faster section from Coltrane can be as simple as 1, 3, 5, 6 then 1.3.5.7 (hold this note) - triplet 1,3,5 then 7. But it the articulation and timing that makes it work and of course he is playing a lot of 16th notes.

So to recap, I have been told:

  • keep it simple
  • the first and third beats of the bar are where it is best to play chord notes
  • make sure the articulation is precise and clearly defined
  • try not to always start a phrase on the first beat of the bar (either at the start of a solo or for chord changes)
  • try not to end phrases or licks on the last beat of a bar, better to end on the first beat of the following bar
  • its good to approach a chord change from a semi-tone higher/lower than the first note of the following chord - so for example finish Em7 on an F# (leading note) leading to an F of an Fmin7 chord change

This may seem like a lot to take in but then do it in stages - eat the elephant in small bites. I am still rubbish at improvising - which some of you will witness in less that a week's time! but I am improving slowly.

As for remembering them all, I think as much as anything it is just playing chords, licks and scales over and over again until you don't have to think about them any more. Will I ever get there, probably not but I'm having some fun trying.:)

And of course in Jazz there are no wrong notes, just better or worse choices!
 
Saxholder Pro

Members OnlineStatistics

Help!

Sign up to the Mailing List

Latest posts

Top Bottom