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selecting the notes for improvising

tom9437

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peterborough uk
Hi all i have gone back to grade 1 jazz alto book my reading is getting well] good ish now. ok my Q. eg say page 16. Mac The Knife you have about 19 bars in the head. And then 8 bars solo. Now to make up my own solo and fit it to the 8 bars how do i go about finding the right scale/scales to use just by looking at the chords that they have used eg G69/c7 /Bm7]Am7 ect.??? Sorry if i have not put i over very well.Thanks Tom
 

Bari251

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Norwich
Hi Tom
If you are lazy, like me, don't even think about chords and scales until you have fixed up a playalong system to repeat the first four bars of the solo bit, over and over again.
Play the tune over this bit about 20 times, until you can do it without music, then start to change the tune a bit - say miss out every other bar. Make lots of mistakes, and correct them on the next time round the repeat.
If I try to work up an improvisation from the chords or scales, it sounds like something invented by a computer, rather than the fumblings of an amateur musician.
Malcolm
 

Mikec

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201
Location
Buckinghamshire, UK
Hi Tom,
Bari125's reply is a good idea, but if it doesn't suit you then try this:
With the G6/9 play one of the chord notes (G,B,D or F) on beats 1 and 3. (F is the minor 7th, play F# if you prefer). You can also play E (the 6th, but probably not on the 1st beat). Try the 9th (A), use it if you like it. Other notes you can use on 2nd and 4th beats or in between (i.e. on the half-beats) would be the notes from the scale of G major (G,A,B,C (usually avoided or played very briefly), D E F# (or F)).

The next chord is C, so the same applies as above, except that the minor 7th is specified so use Bb not B and the 4th, to be avoided, is F in this case.

With the minor chords, the advice about chord tones on beats 1 and 3 still applies; the situation with the scale is slightly different as there are so many different minor scales. Use the one you're most familiar with and experiment. If you don't like it use or learn another. Let your ears decide.

Doubtless many people will disagree with what I've written, Tom, and they may be right! I have used the above method, and it works for me, but I am not a teacher or expert, just another self-taught traveller on the road to Musical Mayhem, and I know the feeling of being faced with a succession of chords and feeling that awful blankness as the solo approaches. What I've suggested may get you going, but don't take it as authoritative; experiment, and most of all, enjoy yourself. Good Luck.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
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Buckinghamshire
Hi just to say thank you both for taking the time to reply to me. I will let you know how i get on:welldone
Tom.
How are you getting on?

You can also play roots or thirds of fifths etc on each change which I have found very good for learning the chord progression of a particular tune (especially playing roots).

You can also vary the rhythm and articulation. Also look for 'common' chord notes between the 'changes' or where you can drop or raise a semi-tone with a leading note as you move from one chord to another.

It's good to sometimes not start on beat one of a bar and to end a phrase on beat one of the next bar rather than the last beat of the previous bar. Also think in two or four bar phrases rather than play one bar at a time.

Of course, none of this is easy at normal playing speed - not for me anyway.
 

Phil Edwards

Senior Member
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1,335
Location
East Sussex
You can also vary the rhythm and articulation. Also look for 'common' chord notes between the 'changes' or where you can drop or raise a semi-tone with a leading note as you move from one chord to another.
Another good trick to really get it ingrained is to play the chord tones in sequence (1,3,5,7 or whatever is called for) through each bar. Then go back and play them all in first inversion - so you start on the second note of the sequence (so you'll play 3,5,7,8 - 8 being the root note an octave higher). Play each chord in this style. Then do them in 2nd inversion (5,7,8,10 - 10 being the 3rd raised an octave).

So, using C7 as an example, play C1 E1 G1 Bb1, then play it in the pattern E1 G1 Bb1 C2, then G1 Bb1 C2 E2, finally Bb1 C2 E2 G2.

Once you're bored with that mix up the inversions - bar 1 starting on root, bar 2 on 1st inversion, bar 3 on root etc. Just see what fits - you'll find the common or near tones starting to show themselves to you, and you'll find one inversion naturally follows neatly the chord you've just played.

And then mix up the order of the notes by perhaps playing the first chord in 'normal' pattern (1,3,5,7), then play the next chord from top note of chord down (7,5,3,1), and then back to 1,3,5,7 etc. It's tricky, take it very slowly, but believe me it will really help you to get it fixed in your head and fingers.

Having done all that you'll have broken the habit of playing a scale or chord from root upwards. If you only ever do that it will be reflected in your improvisation, whereas using different inversions allows you to weave a melodic path through the progression without the saw-tooth effect of returning to the root note at every change.

Sorry if that's a bit lengthy, it's not a quick fix, but spend an hour just working on say 4 or 8 bars and it will start to click into place. And you'll begin to hear and feel the progression.

Do it without writing out the notes as soon as you can.

Phil
 

half diminished

Senior Member
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Location
Buckinghamshire
Good stuff Phil.

After reading Forward Motion and particularly Jazz Theory I am now starting to understand some of the relationships that exist, for example in a II V I progression were the 7th of the II chord resolves down by a semi-tone into the 3rd of the V and again the 7th of the V again leads similarly to the 3rd of the I. Hope that makes sense :w00t:

Of course, as always, the BIG problem is doing this whilst improvising in real-time! I am managing to do some of this whilst practicing though.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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Sweden
Some advise that I try to follow.

- Play loud! You want to be heard! If you're playing for yourself, wife, family ... or 50 000, it doesn't really matter. To play loud for me is to have a "full tone, lot's of body" .... in your tone. To play into a microphone doesn't help much. It's just amplifying your real tone. It can make it worse!!!
- Every solo has start - middle - end. Try to arrange your solo. If you are going to play a 8 bars solo, cut the solo into smaller pieces. Think in two-four bars at the time and fill these bars with tones. It's easy to play too much!! Less is more!
- Look at the chords and play the "safe/good" tones. You can learn a solo by just using one tone! Then add more tones. To play a solo with few tones is a real challenge!!
- Tell a story. If you're a beginner or a pro you are suposed to tell a story with your solo. If the song has lyrics, read and listen to the lyrics. What's it all about? Try to "colour" your playing/solo.
- Keep grounded! Feel the basic groove. The bass and drums are important.

Thomas
 

Phil Edwards

Senior Member
Messages
1,335
Location
East Sussex
Good stuff Phil.

After reading Forward Motion and particularly Jazz Theory I am now starting to understand some of the relationships that exist, for example in a II V I progression were the 7th of the II chord resolves down by a semi-tone into the 3rd of the V and again the 7th of the V again leads similarly to the 3rd of the I. Hope that makes sense :w00t:
Yes, that's exactly it, mix up the chords and you find the smooth movement through the changes.

ii-V-I's are great fun; extend 2 steps further around the 'circle' and you get a iii-vi-ii-V-I (eg. Em-Am-Dm-G7-C).

Playing your scales in 'odd patterns' gives you some similar ideas to play with. Start by playing the scale in a 1-3-2-4-3-5 etc pattern (C-E-D-F-E-G etc). That's good finger practice that you can throw into the odd solo - better than a straight run up or down a scale.

If you then try it starting with an iterval of a 4th you find the ii-V appears again because you get 1-4-2-5-3-6 etc (C-F-D-G-E-A etc). practice that and you can throw in a simple I-IV-ii-V-I at will - amaze your friends and relatives...

regards, Phil
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
Yes, that's exactly it, mix up the chords and you find the smooth movement through the changes.

ii-V-I's are great fun; extend 2 steps further around the 'circle' and you get a iii-vi-ii-V-I (eg. Em-Am-Dm-G7-C).

Playing your scales in 'odd patterns' gives you some similar ideas to play with. Start by playing the scale in a 1-3-2-4-3-5 etc pattern (C-E-D-F-E-G etc). That's good finger practice that you can throw into the odd solo - better than a straight run up or down a scale.

If you then try it starting with an iterval of a 4th you find the ii-V appears again because you get 1-4-2-5-3-6 etc (C-F-D-G-E-A etc). practice that and you can throw in a simple I-IV-ii-V-I at will - amaze your friends and relatives...

regards, Phil
Sorry, you've lost me again now!

See, I'm just a learner :confused:
 
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