38

Learning improvisation is a long trip. Most people start with one of two ways: going by ear, just play something that fits. Try until you think it's good. going by chords. Learn what tones fits the chords in the chart. Try until you think it's good. Soon you notice that it's not either one way or the other, it's a combination of both. Good improvisers are ...


19

Two modes are parallel if they share the same tonic. That is, D Major, D Minor, D Dorian, and D Mixolydian are all parallel modes. Using a parallel mode will cause a chromatic alteration to your usual key signature. For example, Dorian uses #6 and Phrygian uses b2 (when compared to a minor key or Aeolian mode), while Mixolydian uses b7 and Lydian uses #4 (...


17

tl;dr: You can always guess what notes to play by ear and find what notes sound good, but at the end of the day you are playing in a scale and you should be aware of that. There are some guitarists that don't know scale (or music theory for that matter) and they tend to play by ear. They listen to the progression and try to play something over it and find ...


17

A melody diatonic to the key can be accompanied with just I, IV and V chords, but this will give a less rich harmonization than using a wider variety of chords. But based on your question, you want to keep things simple. That being said, do not feel you must match one of these chords to every single note of the melody. Using a reasonable harmonic rhythm, ...


16

People have different ways of thinking about music, so don't beat yourself up too much. I suspect there are many wonderful musicians who can't play by ear or improvise. However, here's how I would start with the jingle bells problem. I'm assuming a piano here. Try to play Jingle Bells monophonically, in C major using only the white keys. Do it by trial and ...


16

You can get a lot of traction in this direction by learning just the intervals (ie. just "relative" pitch). Train yourself to know the sound of a half-step (minor 2nd), a whole-step (major 2nd), minor 3rd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, augmented 4th/diminished 5th, perfect 5th, minor 6th, major 6th, dominant 7th, major 7th, and an octave. If you know what each "...


15

Learning licks and solos by other musicians can be helpful in this respect. Obviously you'll want to develop your own voice, but no musician exists in a vacuum and it's definitely helpful to learn and analyze (if even unconsciously) the kinds of things musicians you admire have played. Depending on your style and the direction you want to go, it may be ...


15

Diatonic substitution is changing a diatonic chord into another diatonic chord with a similar function. For example, in a C major tonality, you can often reharmonize a melody harmonized with F[maj7] with Dm[7] (or vice versa). These chords share some important notes which makes them functionally similar (both have subdominant character). Chromatic ...


14

Guide tones in a lot of ways are what "define" the feel of a jazz chord, and get you from one chord to the next. This should make it pretty obvious why they are useful in improvisation, since anyone who's ever tried and failed to improvise over an unfamiliar set of changes before didn't know what they were supposed to sound like and couldn't figure out where ...


14

Just see how many different sentences you used in these three lines you posted! 5 Different ones, which where separated by punctuation marks. Think of music as a language (which it basically is). It would be weird for a person to speak and not use any punctuation marks, to differentiate the sentences; music works the same way, with many kinds of cadences (...


13

Where my confusion really comes in is that if the song is in the key of G does that mean I'm only allowed to play the notes in that scale (G,A,B,C,D,E, F#)? The key of a song does not determine which notes you use for the bass-line on a particular chord - the key represents the overall sonority of a song, not all the chords, or the notes they comprise. ...


12

"Fundamental differences" is something that is open to interpretation. Jazz, a great-great-great-great step-grandchild of classical music certainly shares some of the rich musical heritage of European and African traditions which gives it "hybrid vigor." Nevertheless, classical music improvisation delves into many areas that jazz only hints at. Here's ...


12

There are two components involved here. One is indeed ear training, and the other one is knowing your instrument well, i.e. being able to produce any melody as effortlessly as you do with your voice. And for this second part, you do not need to consciously know the intervals as long as you intuitively find the right notes on your instrument. But anyway, ...


12

A cadence does at least two things. It makes a statement about what key you are in at the moment. It also indicates a completion of a thought and therefore the beginning of another, similar as you point out to sentences or clauses in writing. But cadences can also be avoided. In his opera Tristan and Isolde there is a scene where the composer Richard ...


11

I once wrote a software walking jazz bass line generator that created reasonable bass lines in 4/4 time given a key and a sequence of chords (one chord per measure). Source code is not available but I'll explain the basics of the algorithm here. I know it's not really art and it only represents a gross simplification of the actual practice, but it can give ...


11

The point of a bass line is to express the melody and harmony of a song. This means that you should play the notes that make up the chord as well as the notes of the melody. I know that sometimes this is hard, because a chord has (usually) a minimum of 4 notes and the melody can have as many and even more, but you need to find the most important ones. So, ...


11

One of the main reasons that a whole-tone scale works so well to indicate dreaming and rootlessness is that it's a symmetrical structure that divides the octave into equal parts. Multiple notes can therefore work equally well as a "tonic" which kind of means that they're also equally bad at being tonic. A symmetrical structure makes it much easier to avoid ...


11

To answer this, we can arrange the modes in order from those that have the highest-pitched notes (largest intervals relative to tonic), to those that have the lowest-pitched notes (smallest intervals relative to tonic), then compare the resulting intervals. Note how, in this order, each following mode is identical to the previous one, except for one scale ...


11

Short answer. The short answer is yes: because all 7 scale degrees are represented by one of the chords, it is possible to make a harmonisation that only uses I, IV, and V. This is pretty close to how a typical treatise of music theory starts: start with these harmonies, and add more as need be. Long answer. The longer answer is no. Although you can string ...


11

Modal mixture means borrowing chords from parallel modes. But here, the ♯v dim chord is the leading tone chord to the vi chord (i.e., it's really a vii°/vi). I would suggest not trying to analyze chords as if they are within "other modes" unless they cannot be construed as anything but modal mixture. The reason for this is that many chords (at least in ...


11

If by "inner ear" you mean the ability to improvise without actually hearing what you play, and still knowing pretty much exactly what it sounds like, then nothing even close to John Coltrane's skill level is needed. Even I can do that easily. If you can sing an improvised line and then repeat the same line correctly with your instrument, then you played ...


11

I'm afraid a tendency to work just with 'the changes' and ignore the original melody is endemic in today's jazz world. Particularly if your improvisation technique is based on the chord=scale system. I agree that it's an excellent idea to start of by presenting the original melody. Many players don't. What can I say? You've noticed that your ...


10

I think one of the easiest ways to improvise is to find some easy left hand accompaniment which allows you to play about anything with the right hand while still sounding at least ok. Here are a couple examples: With the left hand play the loop Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb, maybe about 1 note/second. I think the second lowest Eb on the piano sounds best. When you've ...


10

By staying in the scale of C maj., most notes will work over most chords made from the diatonic C scale.Even an F note over a C chord can be made to sound fine,so yes, stick with C scale notes. Some may sound inappropriate, depending where in the bar they appear. However, taking the second idea, think about, for example, F scale notes - only the Bb is ...


10

The first question would be: What instrument are you playing? As a bassist that's where my answer will be coming from. I have a few ways to change up what I'm improvising: Backing tracks: this is the big one that helped me the most. By getting as many different tracks as possible to play along with I saw a dramatic improvement. If you have computer ...


10

Guide Tones are a set of notes that outline voices in a chord or progression, usually spelling out what type of chord and descending in a linear fashion within the progression. The most commonly referred to Guide Tones are the 3 and 7 of a chord (often called The Guide Tones). Within most sub-genres of jazz it is standard to play chords with a 7 (major 7, ...


10

C Major is a tempting key on the piano. I would suggest trying to improvise in G Major and F Major. G Major only has 1 sharp, and F Major only has 1 flat. They're pretty easy to improvise over and since you only have 1 black key to worry about it won't be much harder than improvising in C Major. Just stick with those keys for a while, so that you can break ...


10

A walking bass line can in principle contain arbitrary chromatic runs, but obviously it's not a good idea to do that all the time. Often it's best to keep mostly to the chord notes and add some extra melodic spice just when it makes sense for supporting the harmonic movement. Other times, there may be a particular melodic line consisting almost entirely of ...


10

The simple/traditional approach is for the chords to match the scales you're improvising over. You wouldn't improvise with C Lydian in your right hand and simultaneously play a CMaj11 chord--the F in your left hand would clash with the F♯ in your right hand. Similarly, if you improvise over the V7 chord using the G altered scale, you wouldn't simultaneously ...


9

You should focus on chord tones and half-step resolutions. Let's assume the key of C. The 7th chords in this key: Cmaj7: C E G B Dmin7: D F A C Emin7: E G B D Fmaj7: F A C E G7: G B D F Amin7: A C E G Bmin7b5: B D F A Let's use a classic jazz example, the iimin7 | V7 | Imaj7. In C, this would be Dmin7 | G7 | Cmaj7. To ...


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