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 Post subject: jazz theory
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:29 am 
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I would like to hear what everyone knows about the mechanics of Jazz music.. like what makes it what it is, how it sounds pleasant without following any traditional theory of tonality or key, etc. Also i was wondering about the crazy atonal sax solo at the end of Walk on the Wild Side by the Velvet Underground. Would that be considered jazz and what the hell key is it in? sorry if this sounds noobish

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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:20 am 
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It has rules. They are just different that the traditional ones.

First, all chords consist of four (or more) voices. By adding different optional notes you can vary the chord's function and makes it necessary to play a different scale on it. That's what keeps it sounding pleasant (as you call it).

Second, you are right that many Jazz progressions don't follow a key. They have "tonal centers", which means that some parts of the progression are in a certain key. But as some chords have the function to lead into another key, you can change the key during a progression and thus have multiple tonal centers.

Third, a common means in Jazz music are modal interchange and reharmonisation. Modal interchange means you change a chord from the key you are in against another chord from another key with the same function. Reharmonisation means to replace a chord with one from the same key and the same function.

So Jazz doesn't use "some" chords. There's a system behind it (which isn't as complicated as many people think).

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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:22 am 
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Freekmo wrote:
I would like to hear what everyone knows about the mechanics of Jazz music.. like what makes it what it is, how it sounds pleasant without following any traditional theory of tonality or key, etc.


Jazz Theory is a topic that would (and does) fill many large volumes. It's an incredibly encompassing topic that covers everything from the most simple and tonal of songs to avant-garde atonal explorations that defy traditional means of explanation. Most jazz is, in fact, a tonal based medium- a great deal of which can be examined, described, analyzed, etc. using "traditional" jazz theory terminology. What your definition of "pleasant" is may be different than mine so I can't really comment in any greater detail as far as that goes. But I would be wary of using the phrase "following any traditional theory of tonality or key" when it comes to describing music. It's important to remember that the theory describes the SOUNDS, not the other way around. It's very important to understand that an interesting note combination that happens to be called an Eb7#5b9 chord is just the musician's way of labeling what a visual artist might call "mauve" an interesting color combination of grayish-blueish magenta. The music should come first and theory is then used to describe those sounds in language terms, whether it be English, Spanish, French, etc.

Some fundamentals to understand about how jazz works is to invest in a serious study into the concepts of intervals and chord construction. One needs to look at how intervals combine to create 3, 4, 5, 6 and even 7 note chords and how the larger, more "colorful" chords (relative to much Classical and pop music) are used. Also, one should look into how certain intervals create "consonances" against chords (unisons, 3rds, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves), how they create "dissonances" (called chord tensions - 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, altered 5ths and 9ths) and how jazz composers and improvisers use both these consonant as well as dissonant sounds to create what it is we recognize as and call "jazz".

Earlier jazz composers were heavily influenced by many Classical-based elements such as tonal based chord motion (emphasizing the Tonic (I), Subdominant (IV), and Dominant (V) chords), root movement up a fourth (or down a fifth) in their chord progressions, and tonal shifts to the subdominant chord (IV) within a given piece in a contrasting or developmental section such as a bridge. Jazz composers slightly altered the traditional IV-V-I cadence of Classical theory by substituting a related chord, IIm or IIm7, for the IV major chord- creating what has become perhaps THE defining chord motion in all of jazz, the IIm(7)-V7-I progression (which features consecutive root motion up a 4th between each chord).

This concept of chord substitution is one of the true innovations of the jazz world and is in itself a fascinating study into the highly subjective realm of complex combinations of consonances and dissonances, often within the same chord. In a tune in the key of C major, how can I get away with playing am Em7, Gmaj7, or even Bm7 chord if the "correct" chord is Cmaj7? The answer lies within the related fields of intervals and chord substitution. This example I have given merely scratches the surface of this very involved topic. The ultimate guide to chord substitution (IMO) can be found here.

Chord-scale theory is another jazz innovation in that it weighs note series' and chord structures against one another on an intervallic playing field, allowing one to quickly assemble a series of individual notes to allow one to improvise on a harmonic, rather than a purely melodic, level. If I'm soloing over that same C major tune and the chord after that Cmaj7 chord is E7, what should I play? What's a (relatively) easy way to think of a series of notes related to that E7 chord rather than thinking one note at a time? There are several but here's one: E mixolydian b9b13. Huh?? Again, think of how visual artists use terms like "mauve" and "fuchsia" to describe the colors they use- the term E mixolydian b9b13 is simply a way we musicians have of labeling a series of 7 notes that happens to sound a certain way (very satisfying IMO) when played against this E7 chord in this context. It may not exactly be pretty but it is a good, concise way of condensing the note series [E F G# A B C D] into a more immediately usable form. The hows and whys behind this and other particular scales and their uses is a long study but it is extremely useful to the improviser, as well as to the composer who wishes to develop and expand his or her melodic, as well as harmonic, vocabulary. Some great books that deal with the concept of chord-scale theory can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

The best book I have come across that deals with the overall topic of jazz theory can be found here.

Freekmo wrote:
Also i was wondering about the crazy atonal sax solo at the end of Walk on the Wild Side by the Velvet Underground. Would that be considered jazz and what the hell key is it in? sorry if this sounds noobish


It's very tonal, actually. It was played by the late jazz saxophonist Ronnie Ross. It's mainly comprised of phrases based around the Cmaj pentatonic scale (matching very nicely with the C-G-F chord progression), with some non-diatonic notes (not in the key of C major) in there as well. The non-diatonic notes are in no way random however. Ross is using the (previously discussed) concepts of chord substitution and chord scale theory in his soloing at times to spice up the flavor of his solo, substituting Fm pentatonic based lines over the G (V) and F(IV) chords. This scale choice opens up the chord tensions b9, #9, 11, b13 (or #5) and a basic b7 extension which we hear and digest in our own ways. To some it may sound bluesy, jazzy, "outside" or simply indescribably "cool" in some way. How do you get those sounds? By being able to understand what they are, how they're named, how to recognize them on paper and in your mind's eye- as well as by ear- and, ultimately, how to use them in your own arsenal. A good book that delves into how to use pentatonic scales to create cool, jazzy sounds can be found here.

Say you write a song that you and your bandmates say needs a "Walk On The Wild Side"-style solo, but on guitar. The pressure is on you to do it....but how does one even attempt such a thing? A good way to start is to be able to hear the chords that are going on behind Ronnie Ross' solo, and then be able to aurally and mentally understand how his note selections create the "effect" that they do in our ears. Our "colors" in this case are the notes we call the b9, #9, 11, b13 (or #5) and b7 against the G and F chords. Want more? All of this can be done through a thorough study of intervals, chord construction and the related topics of chord substitution and chord-scale theory. Remember- the theory and sometimes bizarre terminology merely describes the sounds we hear. Some people can do all this without even attaching names and labels to all these notes and structures, but that level of musical genius I won't venture to even attempt to explain....


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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:12 pm 
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Thanks FlatYer5s.

I found these sites with some cool Jazz transcriptions:
http://www.lucaspickford.com/transguitar.htm

http://www.stuntzner.brent.org/Transcriptions.html

I had nowhere else to put this and I didn't want to start a new thread. :mrgreen:

b.

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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:19 pm 
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thanks for all the info!

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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:17 am 
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Yo man,

can you clarify two points for me in this post?

FlatYer5s wrote:
Also, one should look into how certain intervals create "consonances" against chords (unisons, 3rds, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves), how they create "dissonances" (called chord tensions - 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, altered 5ths and 9ths) and how jazz composers and improvisers use both these consonant as well as dissonant sounds to create what it is we recognize as and call "jazz".


Notice the words I bolded. I understand very abstractly that a 6th and 13th are different, but can you clarify a bit more? Why does a 6th sound consonant and a 13th dissonant?

Quote:
If I'm soloing over that same C major tune and the chord after that Cmaj7 chord is E7, what should I play? What's a (relatively) easy way to think of a series of notes related to that E7 chord rather than thinking one note at a time? There are several but here's one: E mixolydian b9b13. Huh?? Again, think of how visual artists use terms like "mauve" and "fuchsia" to describe the colors they use- the term E mixolydian b9b13 is simply a way we musicians have of labeling a series of 7 notes that happens to sound a certain way (very satisfying IMO) when played against this E7 chord in this context. It may not exactly be pretty but it is a good, concise way of condensing the note series [E F G# A B C D] into a more immediately usable form.


If I would look at that scale, I would name it something like E phrygian #3. What would support my argument, in my mind, to my naming it that is that E7 is the III in C major. Why am I incorrect?

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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:26 am 
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moe45673 wrote:
Yo man,

can you clarify two points for me in this post?

FlatYer5s wrote:
Also, one should look into how certain intervals create "consonances" against chords (unisons, 3rds, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves), how they create "dissonances" (called chord tensions - 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, altered 5ths and 9ths) and how jazz composers and improvisers use both these consonant as well as dissonant sounds to create what it is we recognize as and call "jazz".


moe45673 wrote:
Notice the words I bolded. I understand very abstractly that a 6th and 13th are different, but can you clarify a bit more? Why does a 6th sound consonant and a 13th dissonant?


13ths are so named because of the presence of the 7th in the chord. The chord structure [C E G A] is simply named C6. It's just a C major triad with a sixth added. But by adding the note Bb to the structure [C E G Bb A] we don't simply have a triad anymore along with the major 6th, we have a C dominant seventh chord- and due to this alteration it would now be more accurately called C13. Think of the 7th's presence in a chord as a "gateway" of sorts to the higher tensions- the 9th, 11th and 13th.

13ths are most commonly found on the dominant 7th chord. They are generally considered dissonances due to the clashing minor 2nd/minor 9th interval (as well as the major 7th interval if inverted) that exists between the b7 chord tone (Bb in a C13 chord) and the 13th (A) in most practical voicings of this chord. 99% of the 13th chords I see in jazz are *dominant* 13th chords and that is the context I was coming from. However, the 13th on a major 13th chord- rare as it is- may not technically be a dissonance due to the fact that the interval between the chord's major 7th (B on a Cmaj13 chord) and it's 13th would be a major 2nd/major 9th (or minor 7th if inverted). The general "rule" is that any inversion and/or voicing of an interval of a minor 2nd or minor 9th in a chord is generally considered a dissonance.

FlatYer5s wrote:
If I'm soloing over that same C major tune and the chord after that Cmaj7 chord is E7, what should I play? What's a (relatively) easy way to think of a series of notes related to that E7 chord rather than thinking one note at a time? There are several but here's one: E mixolydian b9b13. Huh?? Again, think of how visual artists use terms like "mauve" and "fuchsia" to describe the colors they use- the term E mixolydian b9b13 is simply a way we musicians have of labeling a series of 7 notes that happens to sound a certain way (very satisfying IMO) when played against this E7 chord in this context. It may not exactly be pretty but it is a good, concise way of condensing the note series [E F G# A B C D] into a more immediately usable form.


moe45673 wrote:
If I would look at that scale, I would name it something like E phrygian #3.


The names themselves of chord-scales can, theoretically, be completely arbitrary. You wouldn't be wrong if you called it that and it helped you to recall that note set when you needed it. You could call it Frank and that would be perfectly fine if you knew what it meant and it helped you. I like the name mixolydian b9b13 because the prefix "mixolydian" (or mixo as I tend to call it) states very clearly that it is a scale that matches with a *dominant* chord (mixolydian is the naturally occuring mode for a diatonic V chord in a major key). Mixolydian can therefore be considered a dominant scale/mode so, for clarity's sake, I like to be consistent in using that term when referring to chord-scales that can be played over dominant chords of different function.

The "b9" and "b13" part of the name just refer to the notes in the scale that are altered from their naturally occurring selves. Some prefer to think of this scale [E F G# A B C D] as "A harmonic minor from the 5th". And they too wouldn't be wrong in their thinking. I just find it easier to think of the chord (and it's root) that I'm dealing with at the moment and to give the note sets a name that describes it's unique function. This whole concept of naming more complex chord-scales from their chord root is derived from the standard method for naming the modes of the major scale after their diatonic chordal counterparts (such as C Ionian going with the I chord, D Dorian going with the IIm chord, etc). I think of it as "thinking modally" and it just makes a lot of sense to me. The name "A harmonic minor from the 5th" and this kind of practice makes me have to think too much- I have to think around the E7 chord's root and play over the expected resolution chord (A minor) rather than just dealing with the chord of the moment. I tend to gravitate towards the clearest and easiest way to do things so I MUCH prefer looking at a chord progression such as [Cmaj7 E7 Am D7 G7#5#9 ] and think "C major, E mixo b9b13, A aeolian, D mixo, G altered" to get me the right note sets to play- with each chord-scale named from each chord's root- rather than "C major, A harmonic minor from the 5th, A aeolian, D mixo, Ab melodic minor from the 7th- which could be easier to some, but which makes me pause and have to think about the note sets.

moe45673 wrote:
What would support my argument, in my mind, to my naming it that is that E7 is the III in C major. Why am I incorrect?


I just wanted to clarify that the E7 chord would be a non-diatonic III7 chord in the key of C major, or, in secondary dominant terminology, the V of VIm. I'm pretty sure this is what you meant but I just wanted to make sure there was no confusion over that.


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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:05 pm 
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Thanks for clarifying.

Yeah, as soon as I saw you wrote "13th implies a 7th" I had a hand shaped welt on my forehead. Duh. Thanks again, though.

As for the second one, that's interesting. Specifically that the scale does not have to refer to the overall key. I mean, I was aware of this, but I like to think of it like the phrygian for consistency's sake. And yes, I did mean non-diatonic III7, I just wrote it like that because I'm a lazy butt.

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 Post subject: Re: jazz theory
PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 9:40 pm 
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FYI, I went back to my original reply yesterday and added links to some good books that could help enlighten some of you into the topics of chord substitution, chord-scales and general jazz theory. I own all of these books and would highly recommend any of them if you want to learn more about any of this stuff.


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