Jump to content


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

Chromatic tones in improv . . . .


shniggens

Recommended Posts

I'll do my best to get my jumbled thoughts into type.

 

How do you use chromatic tones in improv? When is it appropriate?

 

Whenever I try to throw in chromatics, it sound WAAAY to dissonent and innapropriate. Of cours, I'm usually just guessing.

 

Obviously, in a rock or blues setting, the flatted 3rd and 5th resolving to the natural 3rd and 5th are common knowledge to everyone, but what other scale or chord tones do you like approach chromatically?

 

And not even in a jazz sense, let's talk rock, pop and country.

Amateur Hack
Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 72
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Bebop and harbop are full of chromatic tone aproach to the "basic" scale notes. Sometimes a chromatic note can lead to a scale note in order to release the tension, some other times it can just be "THE" note, keepin' the tension high-it's all style.

Modes are full of dissonant chromatic notes - two of them, the half tone/hole tone and the altered are almost full disonant - and two of the most used ones in jazz impro. The hole tone scale is highly dissonant and has it's own character too.

yannis

 

This chromatic approach is less common in a pop/rock context though. If you really want to find paradigms, you should look in jazz/black music in general.

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by mate_stubb:

Listen to Brian Auger. Good use of chromaticism as passing tones between more conventional phrases.

Good call! I have also noticed he uses this technique a lot and have copied a few of his licks. I would hazard a guess brian Auger in turn copied this from the bebop players. I believe many of his chromatic licks are based on "bebop scales" which have add one extra chromatic note to the normal scale.
hang out with me at woody piano shack
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, jazz is the most 'chromatic' style in improvised music, but the principles of adding chromaticism to a melody aren't so different in, say, Brahms or Hindemith.

 

If you are playing on a given chord progression:

 

- You can fill the 'chromatic space' (all semitones) between two chord tones. For example, over a C major chord, you can play E-F-F#-G.

 

- You can play those passing notes in a partial chromatic, partial diatonic way. Again, over a C major: C-C#-D-E.

 

- You can *always* approach a chord note from a semitone below. You can also do this by jumping (from another chord note).

 

- It's also possible to approach chord notes from a semitone above; but this can sound akward if done by jumping, depending on the style you're playing.

 

- Bebop players like to approach a chord note from a semitone above *and* below, startin with either. Ab-F#-G, or F#-Ab-G.

 

- A more complex bebop approach: A-Ab-F#-G.

 

If you're playing on a mode/scale and not strictly linked to a chord configuration, you can do two more things:

 

- You can approach *every* note of the mode/scale chromatically;

 

- You can chromaticize entire phrases, playing them inside the mode first, then in another key, then maybe in a third. It will sound good as long as you know how to land back in the mode with a certain elegance. Requires a bit of study. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

shniggens, if you make sure that beat 1 has a chord tone and you use a bebop scale, you will end up with chord tones on the up beat and non-chord tones on the downbeat. This is how chromaticism is used in bebop.

 

A bebop scale has 8 notes instead of 7. For example in a major scale, you would include b7, 7 to make 8 notes. This evenness in the scale, 2 groups of 4, makes it so that you will naturally land on a chord tone on a strong beat and notes a half step away on a weak beat will sound good (assuming a typical jazz line of 8th notes).

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Jazzwee:

This is how chromaticism is used in bebop.

Well, not exclusively - direct chromatic appoggiaturas are also used in bebop, both of the single and double variety.

 

I'm going to say it: Having done extensive didactic research for my teaching work, the concept of bebop scales, as promulgated by Barry Harris and his followers, has always struck me as a bit too rigid. (Barry's great BTW - It's just this particular point that I don't get)

Chord notes always on the beat? That's not necessary. It would imply that every time you see a C7, you are supposed to play a ascending or descending 'bebop' scale in eights, with no pauses, no triplets, no irregular figures, and no further chromaticisms.

I have other means to reach similar results (I could talk about it if someone is interested); in my opinion, bebop scales can be useful in the early part of jazz studies to help visualize chords and modes, but making clear that that's not the way one phrases in practice.

Just my opinion of course, although I'd say it's an informed one. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't know that Barry Harris also followed this logic. I can name several Jazz educators who follow this line, the primary one being Hal Galper. Then there's Neal Olmstead, Shelly Berg. I'm referring to their books that talk about this.

 

Since my teacher and Hal Galper had the same teacher (Jaki Byard), I presume this also came from him. It is also taught in this fashion at the Jazz program at USC.

 

Just to be clear on this, the idea is not to stick to chord tones on the beat, instead it is to use a chord tone on the strong beat (1 and 3). Or following the same principle, one could play the line an 8th of a beat off so it is the same rule but you maintain your offbeat mode. So the rule is not so hard and fast. Aside from the beat 1 and 3, there is no rule for any other beat. Thus you can go outside and as long as you release on beat 1 and 3, the tune will not sound too far outside. Hal Galper has examples in his book (that one can listen to) demonstrating how picking any note off the scale on any other beat sounds ok as long as beat 1 and 3 are STRONG chord tones (not just any chord tone but 1,3,5,7). Charlie Parker's music follows this rule and he is full of triplets (which I visualize as just appogiaturas on a chord tone).

 

Bebop scale logic assumes stepwise motion to land on a chord tone. Obviously not the case in a leap. So one has to pick the chord tone again. The idea I think here is that if you move stepwise inside a bebop scale, you will always be on a chord tone on a strong beat without any thinking involved. If you leap, then you start the process again of lining it up against the beat.

 

The result of this is beautiful melodies. All I have to do is listen to the application of this listening to Hal Galper's or Shelly Berg's swing style and you can see the application. It sounds good.

 

This logic is fitting for a normal functional chord sequence. In a modal tune, it's a whole different story.

 

Whether this is the only approach or not, I don't know but certainly it is widely taught by jazz educators. The problem sometimes is that one will pick a large quantity of notes at very fast speed but this just puts the focus on thinking about what notes to pick.

 

I think this is just a framework and phrasing then proceeds from here. Phrasing is the very important rhythmic organization IMHO which is overlayed over the note picking. Rhythm of course being the primary focus of jazz.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the clarifications, Jazzwee. To be sure, I met a few teachers who insisted to have chord tones on most, if not all, beats.

I'll try to voice my objections to this system:

 

- Syncopation. Bebop phrases often land an eight before a strong beat (1 or 3). In other words, you don't play a new note on 1 or 3. How do you treat this? Also, you often have simple or multiple sincopations within a phrase. In my view, rhythm is even more important than choice of notes in bebop phrasing.

 

- As you leave the strictly bebop period, you'll find that jazzers started landing their phrases on extensions - ninths, elevenths - without resolving them on a chord note. This happens as early as early 50s. How does this fit in the system?

 

- Even *within* the bebop period, it's not as strict as they say. For a test, I've opened the "Charlie Parker Omnibook" at random, and I got page 90 - Bird's solo on "Klaun Stance". Well, only about 55% of beats 1 and 3 (I've followed your version of the system) in that page have a chord tone. The remaining 45% are appoggiaturas, passing notes (scale or chromatic) and extensions. I did not count strong beats which contain a pause. I'm surprised myself by this ratio!

 

As a side note, I do practice, and make my students practice, eight-note scales for improvisation; but I don't limit them to the so-called bebop scales. Rather, I take a major or melodic minor scale, and practice it adding all possible five chromatic notes (one at a time, of course). From a single tonic, you build nine eight-note scales this way - and when you start thinking of their modes, you just enter a world of possibilities.

 

Gotta go fast now - but I'll be happy to further discuss this. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Marino, the Hal Galper system explains this and I alluded to it earlier. For phrasing purposes, you can stagger the whole phrase by an 8th note to play in anticipation of the beat or playing behind the beat by an eight note. The rule is the same except that the phrasing is off by an eight. He refers to this as very advanced application of Forward Motion and in fact refers to Charlie Parker as an example.

 

So the phrasing itself is a separate element from the base structure, which would be consistent, at least in the original bebop of Parker's time, per Galper. Hal Galper's book of Forward Motion is a must read for jazzers. It really puts a better explanation of the same thing that I've read multiple times.

 

The theory that Hal Galper has is that strong beats 1 and 3 are resolution beats in jazz -- not tension beats. For this reason, he states that jazz phrasing should not start on beat 1. Often they start on 3+ or 4. It resolves on beat 1. A chord tone is a resolution tone. Thus tensions are built on the weak beats (and offbeats) to be resolved on the 1 or 3. When explained in this fashion, it really makes the "rule" more understandable. Following this logic, if you choose to play outside for a few bars, I don't think this system says you can't. What it suggests is that your tension does not resolve, which you can make as a purposeful effect of course. And we commonly weave inside and outside anyway such as in tritone moves or half step. So this system just provides a phrasing structure in the bebop idiom of the original masters.

 

Now once we get to Coltrane, I think it is fair to say that he has a different system and of course the sound is not the same as the original bebop. I don't know what rules Coltrane would have if any.

 

What I do understand after learning Hal Galper's stuff is that putting strong chord tones on the strong beat simply means tracking the chord changes on strong beats, and musically, it makes one follow the changes even without a rhythm section. If an improviser sticks somewhat closely to this, I think the ear would detect a similarity to the original melody (most likely ONLY chord tones on the strong beats). Thus, my impression is that although the rule is somewhat structured, in practical use, my ear detects if I'm following the changes.

 

My teacher demonstrated this to me once by asking me to play All the Things that You Are using only 3rds on the 1st beat. Well it so happens that most of the melody is based on thirds so how convenient! But going back to the Hal Galper book, he lays out similar practice methods of using only 5ths, roots, 7ths on beat 1 and 3. After going through this, it is safe to say that my ear recognizes it anyway. In fact, most natural improvisers, I bet, would hear the chords in their ear and sort of base it on that.

 

Just to emphasize an exercise of this nature, think of again using 3rds in All the Things for beat 1. Then let's say we use a passing tone on the prior eight note. So we have this strong leading tone sound (probably 7's and 3's). Very recognizable to most I think. This is also the principle in the bassist selection of notes right? Bass player always plays root on beat1 and leading tone on beat4 right? So it seems to me that we're just "checking" in with the rhythm section every once in a while (at the point of release of tension, i.e. beat 1) as the chord tone of the improviser in beat 1 will be in perfect harmony with the bass player (assuming you're playing a 1,3, 5, or 7 on beat 1.)

 

BTW - None of this even requires playing a Bebop scale in particular. The convenient thing about a bebop scale is its geometry. But on a Dominant 7, or Alt, we're not going to play a bebop scale. However, it still applies that beat 1 (and 3) still be within the realm of the strong chord tones. There are still 6 eight notes left which could sound completely outside and yet resolve to a chord tone on 2 beats only. So I think this is still quite consistent with modes. My reference to a Bebop scale is only to allude to the fact that the structure of picking chord tones has been codified in some sort of scale.

 

Sorry for the long explanation Carlo, but I'm just a freak for this kind of detail and I just love analyzing this stuff.

 

BTW - I also know that in the end PHRASING and the swing feel is more important than note selection so one cannot OD on this note picking stuff ;)

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know about "bassists always playing the root on 1 and 4" idea. I know a lot of bassist who don't do this all of the time. In fact, I recall an article in Bass Player that talked about Paul McCartney leading most of his phrases (on several of the songs on the Sgt Pepper's album). And I think he mentioned something in that article about having picked up that concept from jazz.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh yeah, I meant to also mention that Mingus was all over the place--and he had to be in order to support soloists like Eric Dolphy. :)

 

It's good to be able to lead with a roots on 1 and 4 in the bass line, but that quickly becomes monotanous after a while.

 

I like to lead on whatever seems appropriate at the time, and this depends on where the soloist is, how the other supporting rhythm section elements are playing, and the vibe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by dp2:

I don't know about "bassists always playing the root on 1 and 4" idea. I know a lot of bassist who don't do this all of the time. In fact, I recall an article in Bass Player that talked about Paul McCartney leading most of his phrases (on several of the songs on the Sgt Pepper's album). And I think he mentioned something in that article about having picked up that concept from jazz.

Yeah, this is the one I think:

 

'"Then I started listening to other bass players - mainty Motown. As time went on, James Jamerson became my hero, although I didn't actually know his name until quite recently Jamerson and later Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys were my two biggest influences: James because he was so good and melodic, and Brian because he went to very unusual places. With the Beach Boys, the band might be playing in C, but the bass might stay on the G just to hold it a back. I started to realize the power the bass player had within the band. Not vengeful power - it was just that you could actually control it. So even though the whole band is going along in A, you could stick in E," he says, and sings an insistent repeated bass note. "And they'd say: 'Let us of the hook!' You're actually in control then - an amazing thing. So I sussed that and got particurlarly interested in playing the bass."'

 

http://www.macca-central.com/macca-archives/bassplayer.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by dp2:

It's good to be able to lead with a roots on 1 and 4 in the bass line, but that quickly becomes monotanous after a while.

I dunno... still plenty of scope for interesting 'active' basslines with syncopation (itself being another form of tension.) (Although Jazzwee was talking about a leading tone on the 4...)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by soundscape:

Originally posted by dp2:

I don't know about "bassists always playing the root on 1 and 4" idea. I know a lot of bassist who don't do this all of the time. In fact, I recall an article in Bass Player that talked about Paul McCartney leading most of his phrases (on several of the songs on the Sgt Pepper's album). And I think he mentioned something in that article about having picked up that concept from jazz.

Yeah, this is the one I think:

 

'"Then I started listening to other bass players - mainty Motown. As time went on, James Jamerson became my hero, although I didn't actually know his name until quite recently Jamerson and later Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys were my two biggest influences: James because he was so good and melodic, and Brian because he went to very unusual places. With the Beach Boys, the band might be playing in C, but the bass might stay on the G just to hold it a back. I started to realize the power the bass player had within the band. Not vengeful power - it was just that you could actually control it. So even though the whole band is going along in A, you could stick in E," he says, and sings an insistent repeated bass note. "And they'd say: 'Let us of the hook!' You're actually in control then - an amazing thing. So I sussed that and got particurlarly interested in playing the bass."'

 

http://www.macca-central.com/macca-archives/bassplayer.htm

Yep! That's the article. :thu:
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by soundscape:

Originally posted by dp2:

It's good to be able to lead with a roots on 1 and 4 in the bass line, but that quickly becomes monotanous after a while.

I dunno... still plenty of scope for interesting 'active' basslines with syncopation (itself being another form of tension.) (Although Jazzwee was talking about a leading tone on the 4...)
Actually that was in response to jazzwee's comment:

Originally posted by jazzwee:

Just to emphasize an exercise of this nature, think of again using 3rds in All the Things for beat 1. Then let's say we use a passing tone on the prior eight note. So we have this strong leading tone sound (probably 7's and 3's). Very recognizable to most I think. This is also the principle in the bassist selection of notes right? Bass player always plays root on beat1 and leading tone on beat4 right? So it seems to me that we're just "checking" in with the rhythm section every once in a while (at the point of release of tension, i.e. beat 1) as the chord tone of the improviser in beat 1 will be in perfect harmony with the bass player (assuming you're playing a 1,3, 5, or 7 on beat 1.)

I know Mingus didn't always do that, and I suspect--but don't recall at the moment--any others who didn't always do that.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We, including Mingus, tend to put chord tones on beat one and beat three to create a sonic platform for the soloist to extend. When playing with someone like Eric Dolphy, as a bassist, sometimes you have to play a little simply in order to make his ideas sound more dramatic. If the bass follows the soloist too closely the dramatic tension involved in 'outside' lines is reduced.

Here 's a good essay on the subject.

 

I think the above posts give a range of useful ways to use chromaticism. In terms of rock, funk and blues, listen to the way that 'especially' funk keyboardists use chromaticism often by playing a semitone or a flattened third away but witha strong rhythmic feeling.

 

Essentially, we try to take the listener with us. Chromaticism can be a way to create tension and excitement. It tends to work best when the listener perceives some kind of logic to the chromaticism e.g. playing a similar melodic pattern but moving that pattern around; or moving a phrase around in whole tones or flatnened thirds. As long as you resolve the tension.

 

The blues is a great place to experiment with chromaticism as there is a great tradition of out-playing on it and also the audience is familiar enough with the structure for the musician to take a lot of chances and resolve to a familiar plce (typically the IV chord in bar 5).

 

One idea is to play a phrase moving up in whole tones e.g. (blues in C - one chord per bar) phrase over C7, phrase over D7, E7, F#7, F7

or to use the diminished scale over the one chord e.g. phrase over C7, Eb7, Gb7, A7, F7

 

The lydian dominat scale (e.g. C7#11 can also work well in blues structures.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You'll have to give me examples in jazz where a bass player does not play a root on beat 1 (syncopation aside, or position on the beat - like jazz Crusader Wilton Felder played ahead of the beat). In a complex form like jazz, I feel that if the bass is not outlining the changes with beat 1 and a leading tone then we're getting into the Free Jazz territory. At that point all these rules fall into the trash. But as Phil W, verifies, this is my understanding and this is what I was taught.

 

The exception I can think of is Hiromi. She covers the bass (roots) on her left hand, while the bassist wanders. So there is still someone covering the changes.

 

And just to be clear - I said Root on beat 1 and leading tone on Beat 4. Not two roots.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by kanker, apparently:

What would you consider free jazz out of curiosity?

Free jazz. Ahhhh. Where they play and nobody pays :D (because people think the music is too obscure).

 

And I'll probably be one sitting there alone watching it. :D

 

Actually, I've never seen an actual live "free jazz" gig (i.e. that style) Not a lot of them. But you'll see some of these famous jazzers just go free for a short time.

 

Kenny Werner said what is free jazz? He said people think you have to play a certain way to be free jazz. In which case it is not free. To deliberately play only outside is not free. Free as he defines it may mean that normal harmony may be there too. So I think Kenny plays free jazz at some moments then he weaves himself back to a normal progression.

 

It doesn't always have to be a complete Cecil Taylor or Ornette Coleman style. At least for me.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by kanker, apparently:

Heck, just listen to Paul Chambers.

I don't know man. I transcribed the bass on Slowtrane (Coltrane) and that's probably Paul Chambers on bass. Very nice lines. Root on 1 though and mostly leading tones on 4. Sometimes we don't realize how great it sounds based on what's in the middle, not just beat 1. Beat 1 can stay true to form (root) and yet these great bassists make it flow.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by kanker, apparently:

Originally posted by Jazzwee:

Free jazz. Ahhhh. Where they play and nobody pays :D

Heh, and Freebird is playing a Parker tune and not expecting a tip.
:D:D

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by shniggens:

How do you use chromatic tones in improv? When is it appropriate?

 

Whenever I try to throw in chromatics, it sound WAAAY to dissonent and innapropriate. Of cours, I'm usually just guessing.

how about forgetting the scales and sh*t and using your ears? :D

There is only one scale, the appropriate one.

:thu:

♫♫♫ motif XS6, RD700GX
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Major Bebop Scale

 

1 2 3 4 5 #5 6 7

 

Dominant Bebop Scale

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Jazzwee:

Originally posted by kanker, apparently:

Heck, just listen to Paul Chambers.

I don't know man. I transcribed the bass on Slowtrane (Coltrane)
Here's one - check out the tune Blue Train. Chambers walks from the 5, the 7, the 3, even throws a pattern based off the tonic under the IV chord.
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

agreed, Jazz+.

Though I studied my David Baker bebop scale stuff and agree with Jazzwee's posts I also agree with Marino that, in practice, improvisers used a much wider pallette. I like the idea of putting in different chromatic notes intoo scales to get them to resolve right and I'm gong to practise your melodic minor modes with extra notes concept.

Actually Paul Chambers did tend to be fairly conservative about his walking note choices; his thing was about the swing annd rhythmic feeling (see the article I linked above).

Jazzwee, leading tones - fine but we doo often use the third, fifth oor even seventh on the first beat too, if nnot as often as the root.

 

Even the 30s bassists such as Pops Foster and Wellman Braud commonly used the fifth on the first beat. WalterPage in Basie's One o'Clock Jump even has a line which rarely uses a root on the one.

 

Israel Crosby wiith Ahmad Jamal was a very melodiic walker - very frequently using triad tones and sevenths in this way. Just abouteverybassist uses otes other than the root oon the one to improve the flow and melodic contour of the line. Many of Oscar Pettiford's lines are goood examples.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

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

×
×
  • Create New...