im just wondering how people work with avoid notes when playing chords over a drone chord. If you watch this video of this song i really enjoy I noticed this composer uses a bunch of avoid notes over a chord and not just passing notes or notes that are not important but structure notes

do some people just ignore avoid notes?

so to be more detailed for example he has the dominant chord or mixolydian and then he's using a 4th note of the mixolydian scale as a structural note.

for more on avoid notes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoid_note#:~:text=In%20jazz%20theory%2C%20an%20avoid,chord%2C%20and%20thus%20very%20harsh.

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    In the timed spot the video is set to, there is no dominant chord. Did you intend to set the video to a different place?
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 4:09
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    However, the answer to your question is, yes, sometimes people ignore avoid notes. Avoid notes are just suggestions given to beginning jazz players.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 4:11
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    Could you then point at what time, with which chord do you believe the avoid note is used? Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 4:43
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    I like the idea that "avoid notes" are the ones that are out of tune or broken on your piano. :) Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 12:38
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    Can you please edit in the section you are focused on so folks don't have to go through the entire video and guess. I have popped this on hold until fixed.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


This is not a good answer, just an answer.

Quote from Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine:

“Avoid” note is not a very good term, because it implies that you shouldn’t play it. A better name would be “handle with care” note. Unfortunately, that’s not as catchy, so I’ll (reluctantly) stick with “avoid” note.

Having to teach "avoid notes" is bizarre, as if they were teaching deaf people how to play. If there's a note you don't like for whatever you're trying to do, don't use it. It is possible to spoil a desired musical effect with ANY note, if played the wrong way. I guess the point is just to tell the students "pay special attention to this note and the effect it has in various situations". Not "avoid" the note. You don't avoid making food, because it's possible to get burns. Luckily nobody decided to call the kitchen an "AVOID ROOM".

So forget about "avoid notes". Practice more and develop a sense for hearing and feeling what you're doing. Play more, consume less theory talk. One hour of theory or Youtube is allowed for every ten hours of actual practicing. And choose better theory books to read. ;)

Speaking of which, there are some regular users here who would probably label the Levine books as "avoid books"... But if you have a substantial musical practice and take theory talk as what it is - people talking about doing musical things - you can put things into perspective. There is no single one-and-only correct way of practicing music, and there is no single one-and-only correct way of talking about practicing music either. Practice more, consume less theory-tainment, that's my recipe.

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    Aka, in the popular misquote of Duke Ellington, "If it sounds good it is good." And vice versa. Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 12:39
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    And Duke Ellington did not use the "avoid note" concept. Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 17:43

"Avoid note" is a term from academic jazz. It's a short hand way to help beginners avoid certain dissonances.

IMO one of the problems with the "avoid note" concept is it gives beginners the impression there a certain tones you aren't allowed to use. This is very simply wrong. Additionally the "avoid note" concept seems to result in many students also avoiding learning basic harmony concepts, namely the difference between harmonic and non-harmonic tones.

Additionally, you should be cautious about applying a theory concept, like "avoid note", outside of the music style the theory describes. So, outside of playing academic style jazz, I think you should avoid using the "avoid tone" concept. The music in your example isn't any kind of jazz.

Requesting analysis is off topic, so I didn't look too deeply at the example, however I don't really see what I expected for "playing chords over chords." I expected something with polytonality or poly chords like Debussy - Étude 10 pour les sonorités opposées or Milhuad - Saudades do Brazil. You example looks like extended chords with a melody on top. The style is modern, but maybe not polychords.

When you get into a modern harmonic styles that uses extended and/or chromatic harmonies you need to grapple with the concept of what is dissonance? Simple case in point would be a full thirteenth chord, which if complete, contains all tones of the scale/key. In that case all tones are chord tones, therefore no tone of the scale/key is dissonant to the chord. That doesn't necessarily mean all bets are off regarding dissonance - like in twelve tone music - but it does mean that a different approach to dissonance, something beyond chord tone/non-chord tone is needed.

Importantly there is no textbook analysis approach for this kind of modern harmony. Actually, in many harmony textbooks, all the detail of "rules" is for the common practice era music, while sometimes the end of the textbook as a brief overview of modernism. Close/open chord voicing could be a factor, diatonic vs. non-diatonic could be a factor, handling of inner vs. outer voices could be a factor, etc. etc. Or you could simple dump that the piece has any meaningful concept of dissonance.

In a way assessing dissonance is a kind of "value judgement." Perhaps the first thing to do is describe what the piece actually does with out labeling dissonance, without getting bogged down in the value judgement. If, for example, the piece became chromatic and used augmented/diminished intervals mostly at some climax point, then you have made a meaningful harmonic and structural analysis of the piece. You could do such an analysis without necessarily labeling dissonance.

  • "academic style jazz" LOL That sounds like an awesome genre, can you give some example artists or records to listen to? It's a good answer, too bad the question got closed already. +1 I would have liked to hear more answers about why "avoid note" is a harmful concept. I think most people with any experience would agree it's a dumb idea. Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 18:58
  • Adam Neely calls it "Berklee Jazz." Probably any fusion jazz style. I think of it more as what's not academic jazz: Ellington, Davis, Monk, etc. etc. Reminds me of a great quote I heard somewhere: Thelonious Monk would not be able to win the the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Competition. Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 21:12
  • But, really, the point about "academic" was about the teaching, not a genre or players. Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 21:25
  • Isn't it widely understood that "avoid note" is a shorthand for a more complex topic? Is anyone teaching, on academic level, that you should literally avoid some notes? Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 16:07
  • Apparently that is not widely understood, because the OP's sense of a prohibition seems pretty common. The misunderstanding isn't surprising. If you label something "avoid", and don't explain why (as all the sources I've seen fail to do), then if you don't understand why, the natural thing is to avoid "avoid notes" entirely. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 22:26

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