Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

A fundamental question about modal soloing (piano jazz)...


Sundown

Recommended Posts

 

Hey all,

 

There is something Ive never understood about the concept of modes and modal soloing in (piano) jazz

 

To illustrate my confusion, lets take a simple II-V-I in the key of C major (Dm7, G7, Cmaj7). If I understand the basic idea correctly, one might play D Dorian over the Dm7 chord, G Mixolydian over G7, and C Ionian over Cmaj7. Conversely, one might choose D Phrygian over Dm7 (or D Aeolian), and C Lydian over Cmaj7.

 

Using the first example (D Dorian, G Mixolydian, and C Ionian), what difference does it make where the scale starts and where it ends? At the end of the day, its still the same 7 tones, and the probability of starting a phrase and/or ending a phrase on the scale root tone is mixed at best.

 

Is it possible that the intent of modes is to mix unlike scales with chords (for example, playing C Phrygian over Cmaj7, or G Locrian over G7)? Ive never really explored that, but I would think it would sound very atonal. My belief is that modes are typically suited to playing like tones over like chords.

 

When a jazz chord progression resides in one key (or adjacent chords within the progression are in the same key), does it really make sense to call it modal soloing, or is it really just playing tones in the same key as the chords?

 

Im sure Im missing something, and there are enough jazz fans on this board to help answer this question.

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Todd

 

Sundown

 

Working on: The Jupiter Bluff; They Live, We Groove

Main axes: Kawai MP11 and Kurz PC361

DAW Platform: Cubase

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 10
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Where you are playing in tonal key centres (i.e. major / minor system of harmony), and realising the harmony with subdominant, dominant and tonic chords (e.g. iim7 - V7 - Imaj7) using modes (D Dorian for Dm7, G Mixolydian for G7, and C Ionian for Cmaj7), it is difficult to reason that you are "doing modal improvisation".

 

Of course, D Dorian is a mode, and you are applying it create a melody over the iim7 chord. But that doesn't make the improvisation modal. It remains tonal improvisation, (in this iim7 - V7 - Imaj7 context -- say Rhythm changes).

 

If you apply the same modes to the "So What" changes, now we are "doing modal improvisation."

 

The harmony is determining the issue.

 

Other contributors in this forum have recently brought our attention to the cadences of the various modes, the chords that make up their (the modes') character.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll check out the video Ybyb... Thanks for posting.

 

TrapperJack:

 

I'll have to learn more before I understand the difference with Miles' "So What" (compared to my example of a II-V-I). The changes in that tune are primarily over Em7 and Dm7, which would still result in tonal soloing (if I follow what you're saying).

 

I'll dig more and see if I can understand this.

Sundown

 

Working on: The Jupiter Bluff; They Live, We Groove

Main axes: Kawai MP11 and Kurz PC361

DAW Platform: Cubase

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Musical instruments, back in the day, had few strings, skins, holes, bars, etc. They provided for only a few "scale tones".

 

Possibly from the development of the lyre, pentatonic scales emerged. But no-one really knows.

 

A combination of different instruments, and the inclusion of more instruments, may have led to the use of more melodic tones. Perhaps at this time lines of notes of six and seven tones were "standardised".

 

Different material for making instruments, lengths of materials, and volumes of important parts of the instruments produced their own characteristic and "desired" timbres. This, coupled with the lines of notes idea (if it is accurate) may have been the origin of playing in different "keys".

 

Certainly some lines "modes" were preferred and promoted in the Catholic church. I won't go into detail here, but in the fifteenth and sixteenth Centuries, some musicians began to make clear their preference for particular melodic progressions, and 7 - 1 as a half step was one of these, particularly at the resting points in their church music.

 

Remember, at this stage harmony was an absolute infant, and these musicians were still primarily thinking and writing contrapuntal music.

 

A number of musicians were now using a particular contrapuntal formula quite often: the semitone movement of 7 - 1 in one voice, and 4 - 3 in another, both at the same time.

 

Here we have the genesis of dominant to tonic harmony.

 

Somewhat loosely, where we have the frequent use of this dominant to tonic harmony, we are playing in what we today call tonal harmony.

 

Where all sorts of other (prior) melodic progressions are used, standardised into chords, we are using modal harmony.

 

A lot more needs to be said (discussing the tempering of scales, for example), but this should be enough to make clear the difference between modal and tonal improvisation, or, at least, the origins of this.

 

Today, particularly in rock music, modal centres and tonal centres are mixed freely, very often, and are the heart of many popular, well-loved grooves, genres and styles.

 

You can improvise over practically every chord progression known (and still unknown) using just the chord tones, the major scale of the current key centre, and the melodic minor ascending scale.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Play the chord progressions.. use your ear... and relax about modes. I am not at all happy with all this BS modal chatter. Use your ear, and intelligence.

Modes are from ancient times, and were never ever ever never ever used in the manner people chat about it and "teach" about it now. One pro jazz player ( that is PRO jazz player... a guy who makes a living playing jazz ) told me.. his former bandleader, Freddie Hubbard, did not fill his head up with that chord scale stuff nor modal stuff. But was listening to the Masters.

Just back off of it.. listen to what Frank says, simple and useful.. but mainly use your ear and common sense.

Jazz is a language... listen a lot to the language. and adapt to it. The more you fill your head up with questionable so called theory about modes, the more you will have to forget when it is time to play. use you ear, and common sense

There are only 12 tones. chords are from 3 to 8 notes subtract eg 8 from 12 that leaves 4 notes that you don't know how to deal with. Deal with them, search for places that all 12 notes can be used in a solo. DO not be restricted by jazz music teachers theories. Instead listen to Jazz Masters.. to their language and IMITATE till you don't need to.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And, John, if you want to learn to paint, just go to the art gallery and admire the masters: if you want to learn to do calculus, just go to the bay and look at the bridge: if you want to learn to cook, just go to lunch.

 

This approach will work, genius to genius. But that includes very few of us. And it is advice I have never heard, isolated from instruction, from people who can really play well. They know better.

 

Have you ever heard of the notion that some people are brilliant musicians and lousy teachers? (Every college student has!)

 

I reject the idea that early musicians did not improvise. Heck, they didn't play from charts, I'll say that.

 

Music is not a language: at least, not in the sense that Italian, Mandarin and French are languages. (Just another often repeated but easily deflated bit of fluff.) Music has the capacity to build communal cohesion, to trigger all manner of responses, but that is a far cry from being anything but a very rudimentary language.

 

Oh, and remember our bass line work? Have you learned to program sounds on your synths? Set up your effects chain? PA? Keyboard Amp? How good are your ears?

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OP I agree with the general sentiments you expressed in your opening thread. I said use your ear... I neglected to say... today we have slow down apps so if you happen not to be a genius, you can slow the tempo down, or change the key to an easier register.. and you can repeat the same phrase endlessly until it gels in your mind/ ear. Most musicians by definition, are not genius level, but they still learn how to play jazz. It can be done.

I keep advocating the shortest most direct method.. your ear, and the music slowed down. Find out what notes Wayne Shorter played, he is one of those mixed modes kind of creators.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...