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r1p32

Chord Tones

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r1p32    1

I've read many posts mentioning following chord tones or the chord progression in improvisation, and I'm pretty confused....

I've been practicing the Pentatonic Scale for a while now. And I have to say that I really feel like I'm getting closer and closer to being able to improvise. But what I work on is trying to make it sound musical and express myself. I thought playing the scale of the key would be the way to go about improvising or lead guitar; but what does "playing around the chords" mean? Sorry I'm being unclear...

Um..Lets say a chord progression in the key of C like

C, Am, F, G, C

To try some melody over the chords should I just play with the Pentatonic Scale in mind and move the root note to C and play that over the whole progression (which is what i've been doing). Do I move the scale to the root note of the chord being played? (like playing the C pentatonic scale over a C chord, the A pentatonic over the Am. etc). Or do I find the individual notes in each chord and doodle around with those?

Is there anything particularly limiting with playing scales? Even if I experiment with the scale with 'wrong notes'?

As of now I really like playing blues and trying some lead over chord progressions i make up, but I'm asking because I'd really like to start playing Jazz and I keep hearing how 'following chords' are the way to go with improvisation in that genre.

Thanks a Lot!

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bmurnahan    1
I thought playing the scale of the key would be the way to go about improvising or lead guitar

This can only take you so far. Even if all of the chords come from the same key certain notes just do not work well against certain chords. The note C against a G chords for example just doesn't work well at all.

As long as you are moving in a stepwise fashion through the scale at a decent tempo the notes do not have a chance to create these clashes. It's only when you stop on a note that you have to be careful.

To try some melody over the chords should I just play with the Pentatonic Scale in mind and move the root note to C and play that over the whole progression (which is what i've been doing). Do I move the scale to the root note of the chord being played?

Each of these approaches can work. With the first one you have to be careful (see above).

With the second approach, assuming you just use pentatonic scales, it's not much different than just playing through the chords since the pentatonic scales are made up of the 1, 3 and 5 of the chord plus two great color tones in the 6th and the 9th.

Or do I find the individual notes in each chord and doodle around with those?

Playing this way you will always be safe.

Is there anything particularly limiting with playing scales?

Only having one way to approach anything is limiting.

I'd really like to start playing Jazz and I keep hearing how 'following chords' are the way to go with improvisation in that genre.

All great jazz players follow the chords. A good working knowledge of chord tones is the most important thing that you can have. Different scales are valuable because they provide different color tones to fill in around the chord tones.

They really work hand in hand but you really have to be aware of each chord that you are playing on as it goes by. Learning to improvise takes time and there is always more to learn. Be patient and have fun.

Bob

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Kirk Lorange    128

Hi, r1p32.

I'm the chord tone guy. :yes:

Melody loves Chord Tones ... that's just a simple fact of music. If you analyze any great (memorable) melody, you'll find it underpinned by chord tones. That's why it sounds so good. Other notes do come into play, but as lower ranked "go-between" notes that could easily not be there and not affect the overall melody.

If you like the melodic approach, then I recommend that you make sure you can always see the chord that is in play on the whole fretboard. Its tones will be your strongest notes. So if the chord is A9, you'll be seeing the 1-2-3-5-b7; if it's a minor, 1-b3-5. The bigger the chord, the more tones. This is especially relevant when playing music other than the blues/rock genre where you can noodle away on a pentatonic pattern and start to make music. But, once you start playing tunes with more complex chord progressions, you need to do something else: follow the chords. Use each chord's tones as the main notes of the melody during that chord. Otherwise, you'll be hitting bum notes all night.

This kind of approach has nothing to do with scales. You need never know what scale/mode you're dipping into, the chord has already crytallized it.

It's easier than it sounds, you just need to look at it differently, how to see the whole fretboard as the chord. That way, every time the chord changes, you see your fretboard as that chord.

That's the melodic approach, telling a story with your improv/solo, always on track with the chord progression, always knowing what you're playing; in control.

My book PlaneTalk teaches a good way of doing all that. ;)

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hb    0

"So if the chord is A9, you'll be seeing the 1-2-3-5-b7"

Will someone help me with the math here, please. I have read PT about 3 times and I thought I had it pretty well digested, but I guess not. I was under the impression that a "9" meant the same thing as a "2" in terms of it's position on the scale. But by what Kirk said, I read it as a b7 being a 9. What am I missing?

Sorry so stupid!

hb

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justinthyme    3

@ hb - a 9 is a two - just one octave higher. Whatever the extension is (higher than 7) subtract 7 from it to get back to the note. So a 13 would contain a 6, for instance. You are right with the A9.

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hb    0

So are you saying that this was just a typo by Kirk?....if so, I say, Wheeeew!!! Maybe I do savy some of this after all!

hb

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allthumbs    8

Not a typo. Chord extensions above a 7th chord always have a b7. Kirk just laid out the numbers in a linear fashion. So a 9th,11th and a 13th chord all have a b7 in them.

Chords have different numbers in different orders depending on the chord inversion.

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Noodler    1
Not a typo. Chord extensions above a 7th chord always have a b7. Kirk just laid out the numbers in a linear fashion. So a 9th,11th and a 13th chord all have a b7 in them.

Chords have different numbers in different orders depending on the chord inversion.

A great rule of thumb. Thanks. SO there's no such thing as an extension beyond a major 7th then. Any more rules of thumb like that one re:chord spelling?

I've got a Fender GDec, which has a backing band built in. That has been the best thing to learn what notes sound good "around chords." Put on a track that is in A, for instance (preferably one that stays there!), and play an A barre chord. Keep the shape in your mind, or even better keep holding the shape and reach with your pinky and find what notes sound good with the chord. Some notes will "work" and others will "suck".

Do the same for A shaped barre chords, but forget trying to hold the root (unless you have good pinky reach). Most nice notes will be two frets up from your third finger. You can use a different voicing for this. Instead of holding C on the 3rd fret of the 5th string to play C as an A shaped barre, play this:

---------x--------

---------5------

---------5------

---------5------

---------7------

---------x-------

It is still a C chord (technically C/E, but E is part of C anyway), but it frees your fingers up to explore what notes sound good around the A shaped barre chord.

Hope that helps. There's been lots of great advice in this thread already. Especially kirk. What he is saying is spot-on true.:clap:

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Noodler    1

A question for Kirk,

If someone plays say Amaj7, B11, E9, Amaj7, I find that I can play just about any notes out of the A major scale and it will suit. It's like because the harmony is so complex, the melody doesn't have to do much, you know? Do all of those chords contain the notes of the A major scale? Or is it just because the progression keeps coming back to a major 7?

How many inversions are you recommending to learn for each chord to improvise in terms of jazz? Would 3 cover it (6,5 and 4 root)?

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allthumbs    8

When you play extensions noodles, remember the extension before the current one always contains the last extension. You don't have to play it but be aware that it is a note the fits into that chord your playing. The 11th contains a 9 and the 13th contains an11th.

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Noodler    1

My memory is like a sieve! So if below is right, thanks heaps, I'll never forget now!

So, does that mean you get:

Dom 7: 1, 3, 5, b7

9th: 1,3,5,b7, 9

11th 1,3,5,b7, 9, 11 (or 2)

13th 1,3,5, b7, 9, 11, 13?

How many of those are correct? Do you mean that since a 9th has a major 3rd that they all do, we're just adding another note on top each time?

The 9th you'd normally play, is that a major chord?

It also just occurred to me that as you start playing more complex chords, since "melody loves chord tones", you could almost start playing anything in the lower half of the scale!? ie for a 13th, you've got 1,2,3,4,5, b7 as chord tones!

OK, next rule of thumb: what about minor 9ths, etc. Is it a minor b3 or b9? Or both? Is there a general rule there?

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Fretsource    3
My memory is like a sieve! So if below is right, thanks heaps, I'll never forget now!

So, does that mean you get:

Dom 7: 1, 3, 5, b7

9th: 1,3,5,b7, 9

11th 1,3,5,b7, 9, 11 (or 2)

13th 1,3,5, b7, 9, 11, 13?

How many of those are correct? Do you mean that since a 9th has a major 3rd that they all do, we're just adding another note on top each time?

The 9th you'd normally play, is that a major chord?

It also just occurred to me that as you start playing more complex chords, since "melody loves chord tones", you could almost start playing anything in the lower half of the scale!? ie for a 13th, you've got 1,2,3,4,5, b7 as chord tones!

OK, next rule of thumb: what about minor 9ths, etc. Is it a minor b3 or b9? Or both? Is there a general rule there?

The chords look fine except for the (or 2) in the 11th chord as 11 = 4 not 2.

Minor 9ths are 1 b3 5 b7 9

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allthumbs    8

As fret says, no matter how complex a chord, it only takes the 3 to be changed to a b3 to make that chord minor. No other note has that effect.

You seem to have grasped the concept of note numbers pretty well noodles. Good on ya.

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Noodler    1

Thanks so much, that makes things easy to remember. So it is always the 3rd that determines major or minor. Because a major 7th has a natural 7 and a dom 7 has a b7, I was confused into thinking that sometimes lowering the higher notes changed the name to minor (since in a major 7th the major refers to the 7th note). It's so much simpler than I thought then. :yeahhh:

To the OP, a piece of advice if you can, is also just to play lots. Lately, I have a guitar in my hands whenever I can, and often I can almost play a melody I think of straight off. Last night I put on Avenged Sevenfold's Bat County and had it worked out in 2 mins. That's not to bragg, it's just that by playing so much I guess my fingers are starting to just go straight to the notes automatically. If I think about it, it stops! But it's only for melodies. Chords are a different matter entirely, except power chords of course. Sit with a guitar when you watch TV, especially Rage/JTV/Video Hits. If you're a couch poatato like me, eventually your axe will become like an extension of yourself.

Also, if you are using scales to improvise, use different positions. They'll inspire you to play different licks. The main way that people learn to improvise with scales is to learn a "lick library". Then you can just string them together. John Mayer (the nerdy guy) can play just like BB King by doing that, which annoyed BB King quite a bit!

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monk    1

Noodler,

Here a some "general rules" for adding extensions and tensions to chords.

The most common extension for the Major 7 is the 9th.

1 3 5 7 9

The most common extensions for the Minor 7 are 9th and 11th.

1 b3 5 b7 9 11

The most common extensions for the Dominant 7 are 9, 11 and 13.

1 3 5 b7 9 11 13

Some players, mostly jazz, prefer the #11 instead.

1 3 5 b7 9 #11

6 and 13 are the same note. When added to a Major or minor, it's 6. On a Dominant it's 13.

The Major chord can take a 6 or a 6 and 9.

1 3 5 6 or 1 3 5 6 9

The Minor chord can also take a 6 or 6 and 9.

1 b3 5 6 or 1 b3 5 6 9

Dominant 13 is:

1 3 5 b7 9 13

The Major 7 can also take a #11 extension.

1 3 5 7 9 #11

Dominant 7 chords can take b5, #5, b9 or #9.

You would never use a b9 on a Major 7 or Minor 7.

Some modern jazz players use #5 and b5 on Major 7.

The Minor chord can take a natural 7 but it's generally used as a moving line rather than an ending chord.

1 b3 5 7

Some of these harmonies sound good the first time you play them. Others tend to be an acquired taste.

Also keep in mind that in common practice chords are generally "thinned out". In theory, a Dominant 13th chord has 7 notes. Since the guitar only has 6 strings something has to go. First choice is usually the root. Next is the fifth.

Hope this is helpful.

Regards,

Monk

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Noodler    1

I'd like to retract this:

SO there's no such thing as an extension beyond a major 7th then
I don't drink or do drugs, but I have no idea of what I was thinking when I typed that. Sorry :dunno:

Yes, thanks Monk. I have cut and pasted it as a wordpad to ponder over a bit. I am really enjoying different smooth jazz chord flavours at the moment, especially major 7ths (I've always liked 9ths).

Just to clarify, when you have to drop notes, when playing an 11th or a 13th are you saying that the root is the first to go or the first to keep? Which notes are the ones you can drop that the ear still hears, even though you aren't playing them? (ie implied?).

It also occurred to me that since jazz uses extended chords, giving you more chord tones, it makes sense that chromatism goes with jazz.

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Noodler    1
Dominant 7 chords can take b5, #5, b9 or #9.

Some modern jazz players use #5 and b5 on Major 7.

Regards,

Monk

So when can you "slip in" a diminished chord? Obviously the V7 can be substitued for a diminshed from what you've said above, but when else?

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monk    1

Noodler,

I screwed up the spelling of the Dominant 13. It should be

1 3 5 b7 9 11 13.

So you might want to go into your WordPad doc and correct that.

I'll rephrase my statement on thinning out chords to clarify.

In a complex chord, the first note to be eliminated would be the root. The next note to be eliminated would be the fifth.

This holds true for comping, rhythm or chord soloing. The important thing to remember is that context is important. You could slip some "jazz chords" into a Chicago Blues or Western Swing tune and no one would bat an eye. But if you drop a "ruptured 13 with a demolished 9" into a Bluegrass song you might get lynched.

As far as diminished chords go, I tend to think of them as dominant chords. Some theory/chord books describe them as "connecting" chords but when used this way they actually function as dominant7b9 chords.

Cmaj7-C#dim7-Dm7-D#dim7-Em7.......

In this example, the C#dim7 is functioning as a rootless A7b9 resolving to its Tonic, Dm. The D#dim7 functions as a rootless B7b9 resolving to its Tonic, Em.

An example of a diminished chord functioning as a connector would be G6-Gdim7-Am7. In this progression, the two lowest voices are static while the two top voices move down in half steps.

At the 2nd fret this would be:

GxEBDx GxEBbDbx GxEACx

In this case, the harmonies are a result of voice leading.

Chromaticism, like a good Chianti, goes with anything.:laughingg:

Regards,

Monk

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Noodler    1

I've just updated my wordpad doc. Thanks. Is it correct that a 6/9 is 1,3,5,6,9 ?

if you drop a "ruptured 13 with a demolished 9" into a Bluegrass song you might get lynched.
:laughingg: Classic quote. Love the demolished 9!

I'll have to grab my guitar and play that example. Cool.

In this example, the C#dim7 is functioning as a rootless A7b9 resolving to its Tonic, Dm. The D#dim7 functions as a rootless B7b9 resolving to its Tonic, Em.
Being friday evening, I'll just take your word for that. I am aware that chords which can be seemingly unrelated in name can share the same notes, but my brain is too fried to go through the notes, and "check it" to absorb it right now. I will though. It always amazed me how people say, "Oh well, you can just substitute a rootless A7b9 for a C#dim there, or something similar. Especially when the root is not the same. My head nearly explodes, like it is about to now! :helpsmili

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monk    1
Is it correct that a 6/9 is 1,3,5,6,9 ?

Yes, that's correct. The major 6/9 chord is also the harmonic representation of the Major Pentatonic scale.

My head nearly explodes, like it is about to now!

Apologies for lighting your head's fuse.

Here's how that works.

1. A7b9= A C# E G Bb

2. C#dim7 = C# E G Bb

So, C#dim7 is A7b9 without a root.

Regards,

Monk

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Noodler    1

Dear Monk, I trusted you when you said the notes were the same, it still bakes my Noodle though!

Nice example above with the Cmaj7 to C#dim7, Dm7 to D#dim7. Just like Aint Misbehavin, one of my favourite songs ever. The Em7 doesn't seem to fit as well, but I am probably just hearing Aint Misbehavin', or playing a bad inversion. I Normally play it as C, C#dim, Dm7, G7. So let me see:

Gdom7 = G, B, D, F

D#Dim7 = F#, C, D#, A.

Um :dunno: , I wasn't expecting that! I was expecting them to share lots of notes, because either sounds really good as the fourth chord!

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monk    1

Noodler,

Both of these progressions do sound good and they would both work with Ain't Misbehavin'. But in this case, we are dealing with 2 different progressions that are moving in different ways to arrive at the same spot.

The progression I gave you is being driven by the bass line, C-C#-D#-E. The one you wrote starts that way C-C#-D then moves from D to G via the Cycle of Fourths.

The D#dim7 is not substituting for G7. It is, instead, functioning as the V7 of a substitute for the I chord. That's why they don't have common notes.

In harmony, there are 3 sounds. Major, Minor & Dominant. There also 3 Functions. Tonic, Sub-Dominant & Dominant.

The progression C-C#dim7-Dm7-G7 would end on C. G7-C (V7-I) is a harmonic inevitability in tonal music.

With C-C#dim7-Dm7-D#dim7-Em7, the last chord, Em7, is functioning as a substitute for C.

CMaj7= C E G B

Emin7= E G B D

So, in this instance, Em7 functions as CMaj9.

Harmony is a big subject. Any time you spend studying it will pay off in large dividends.:claping::yeahhh:

Hopefully this is clear. If not, shout back with questions and I'll try to clarify.

Regards,

Monk

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