Chords as colors

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by jzucker, Oct 27, 2004.


  1. jzucker

    jzucker Member

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    I tend to look at scales as a palette of colors. I believe there is a particular scale or group of scales that fit over a particular chord and are related to that chord in the same way as the arpeggio. Finding the scale for a chord can often be as easy as using your ear to derive the 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th. Some or all of these may be altered on a particular chord. If the chord has plenty of alterations, much of the work is done for you.

    For example, C7#5#9#11

    OK, let's see...You have C E G and Bb (that makes up the C7 part. But wait...It says #5 so that means C E G# Bb.

    Now let's see...The #9 and #11 would be D# and F#.

    Let's sort what we have so far:

    C D# E F# G [no sixth] Bb

    Now you can see that the only note you need is the 13th (6th). In this case we can either use the natural 13th or re-examine the chord as a C7b13#9#11 in which case we would have:

    C D# E F# G Ab Bb
    ----------------------------------------

    Just as two artists can make a rendition of the same scene with a totally different palette of colors, two improvisers can approach a given chord with different chord-scale or tonal approaches.

    The other thing that is hugely important is the function of the chord in the progression.

    For example, C13b9#11 in this progression:

    : Dm7 C13b9#11 : Cm7 F7 |

    is very different than this:

    : Ebm7 Ab7 : C13b9#11 Dbmaj7 :

    You might be able to derive the same chord scale from the chord and even play over it the same but they have different functions in each progression which an experienced improviser will take into account.

    A simpler example of this is the chord progression:

    :Fmaj7 Bb7 : Am7 Dm7 : Gm7 C7 :

    In this chord progression, you would not necessarily sound "wrong" if you used Bb over the Am7 whereas the Bb might stand out as more dissonant in this progression:

    : Am7 D7b9 : Gmaj7 :

    Make sense?

    Jaz
     
  2. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Jack,
    In the simpler changes above, (first one) I would view Fmaj7 as tonic, (I chord) Bb7 (E7) as dominant, (V or flat V of the III chord A-, which is a sub for the I chordF) then Am7-Dm7 as tonic,(III and VI chord are same as I chord) then Gm-C7 as Dom again.
    In the second progression, you just have a II V I. So the A Min is a tonic chord in the first progression (III chord), and a dom in the second progression (II chord). I am kind of lost in the firs examples. Any way you could explain them a little further? Thanks!
     
  3. markp

    markp Member

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    Make sense?

    NO!

    By the time I try to figure out a fingering I forget what the point is or what the question was.

    C D# E F# G Ab Bb
    What is this chord saying (what is the Emotion,or fealing)

    The other thing that is hugely important is the function of the chord in the progression
    : Dm7 C13b9#11 : Cm7 F7 |
    : Ebm7 Ab7 : C13b9#11 Dbmaj7

    Other than functioning differantly in a theoretical,or scale wise.
    What exactly is is the differance (like if you wer using these progressions ,scoring to film ,what sene would you use each one for.


    Jack,
    this one was over my head,
    I could could keep trying to figure it out on paper but trying to put something under the fingers so I can listen to it is very hard.
     
  4. jzucker

    jzucker Member

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    Where is the feeling in English syntax and grammar? It's not there. The feeling comes after you have learned the rules of syntax and grammar and as Bird said, "Just forget that **** and play".
     
  5. RobertMiller

    RobertMiller Member

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    markp, I feel your pain. But fret not.

    I will never have a complete grasp of this stuff, but I do push myself to play new voicings/progressions and hear new sounds/harmonic movement. The best approach for me regarding becoming a better jazz player is to find songs that I like and play the crap out of them. Learn the inversions. Confine yourself to four frets and play all of the chords there. Listen to another players take on the same song. But whatever you do, you have to make it enjoyable, which to me is the entire point of making music.

    Now forget all this **** and play!
     
  6. jzucker

    jzucker Member

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    Good eye Tag. It was a typo and should have been a Gmaj7 instead of Gmin7.

    As an incidental side-note, Bb is fine as a blue-note but holding the Bb over the Am7 can be dissonant.

    Note that it is not wrong to do that. It can be heard/played like that deliberately anticipating a D7Alt chord or just trying to get a sound which is deliberately dissonant. Trane did that all the time.

    The whole point with this stuff is to work it until it is no longer academic sounding. Then it becomes part of your soul.

    Of course it sounds like exercises when you don't know it. Music is a language. How else could it be?!?

    Jaz
     
  7. RobertMiller

    RobertMiller Member

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    Right on Jack - me like music, me want play better, me trying.

    I'll keep loading on more words til it becomes part of my soul.

    BTW, your book is kicking my ass, but it's an enjoyable ass kicking. Am I a musical masochist?
     
  8. jzucker

    jzucker Member

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    I think every great guitarist is part masochist and part obsessive
    -compulsive! :D
     
  9. rh

    rh Robo Sapien Noise Maker Gold Supporting Member

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    I understand the point you're trying to make, but I don't think this is a very good analogy to illustrate it. Any 3-yo kid uses language to express emotion QUITE effectively, but they've got no idea at all what the rules of syntax and grammar are.

    To use the analogy of language to make this point, I think the equivalency is 'size of vocabulary'. There are many subtleties and depths of meaning that a larger vocabulary provides, although a person can express themselves roughly without a big vocabulary. My 3-yo son doesn't sound like Voltaire when he squeezes me and says, "I wuv you, Daddy," but I don't doubt that he's expressing exactly what he's feeling at the moment. (And when I choke up so badly that all I can do squeeze him back and barely squeak out a little "I wuv you too, tiger" I don't sound like Voltaire either. But something very beautiful is being expressed, eh? Where are the rules of grammar and syntax?)

    This analogy also extends to the motive for, and practice of, increasing one's vocabulary. One can deliberately try to learn more words, and try to use them in conversation. They'll probably sound as if they're forcing these new words into conversation where they don't fit at first. (The musical equivalent is obvious there, eh?) They may never get past that point of forcing big words into small places, in fact, if they're the type of person who is more concerned with words themselves than the ideas behind them. We've all heard players like this too, who play some ridiculous sounding crap over a Muddy Waters groove. Context is everything, in speaking as in music.

    One can also learn new words because they have a strong frustration that the words they know don't quite express what they're feeling or thinking. This is the best possible case, IMO, because the motivation to expand is due to a longing to express something that is inadequately expressed with what the speaker knows. We've all searched for the right word or turn of phrase, sensing that the words we do know don't express some particular thing we have in mind. If we then turn to a thesaurus, we commonly find several new words that fill that gap between what we think and what we know how to express. Very satisfying.

    In music, if I'm unhappy with what I'm expressing over a given chord type or progression, my thesaurus is the body of musical knowledge about things to do over that chord type or progression. "Ah," I discover, "these chord subs are what I'm imagining over that progression." Very satisfying.

    So: I think language provides a great analogy for music. I'd personally just like to see the "rules of syntax and grammar" part replaced with "size of voculary," since I think that vocabulary is really what's going on.
     
  10. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    This post needs to be archived. Big thumbs up!!!!
     
  11. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Agreed. Fantastic post I think almost everyone will agree on. Just like my CT clip. ;)
     
  12. markp

    markp Member

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    Very nice Job,
    You expressed your self Quit well
     
  13. rh

    rh Robo Sapien Noise Maker Gold Supporting Member

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    I want to be sure to point out that my post wasn't intended as a disagreement with what Jack said, but as a hopefully more useful analogy for Jack to use.
     
  14. rwe333

    rwe333 Supporting Member

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    + another.
    What a guy, our Rhudds.
     
  15. markp

    markp Member

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    I was just looking for a easy discriptive labal for differant chords (like major is happy,minor is sad)

    Trying to help my ear,
    So when you hear a altard chord do you just hear that it is altard
    or is there some trick to help hear.? Same question for chords that have more than one alterd note?
     
  16. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    I like using the analogy of language to musical expression - I generally look at scales as the alphabet, and I look at running scales the same way I look at running your ABC's in order - it was a big part of how we all learned in the beginning, but as soon as possible you move on to how you combine those letters into words (or scales into phrases or chords) and string those words together to form thoughts that can carry a great amount of expression.

    One other reason I like this analogy - one need not speak perfect King's English to be an expressive speaker. We all probably know someone with a very idiosyncratic manner of speaking or writing, that even though we know it's not "correct", we're intrigued and charmed by the personality coming through. And like music, language can have its slang, regional accents, colloquialisms, profanities and deliberate distortions, all of which can be used for expressive effect.

    I also relate the obsession over gear to obsessing over the brand of pencil/typewriter/word processor you use...and I equate most of the abstract discussion of "tone", as is so popular over the internet these days, with an equal fascination with the handwriting or type font...

    i.e., they really have nothing to do with the ideas being expressed necessarily, although I can see how someone might be able to make it so if they really wanted...
     
  17. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    Careful. The qualitites are more 'objective' (in a Stravinskian sense) than such generalizations allow, despite what we're told in Music 101.

    Is a passing through a Major III on the way to a minor i still 'happy'?

    As to the other part of your post, while you can hear the quality (M, m, Aug, Dim and extensions) of a given chord in a vacuum, you can't hear it's role as, say, a substitution until you can grok the context (some would call this hearing its function, although not all harmony is functional, thankfully).
     
  18. markp

    markp Member

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    \
    Yes,I am kinda stuck on hearing the funcion and chords in general and dont know how to listen. I will hear 1 4 5s or 2 5s but I really dont know what I am picking up that makes me recognize those even.

    On a positive note my single note hearing gets better all the time.
     
  19. BluWonton

    BluWonton Member

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    I've always seen music in colors, not with chords they're more emotive and have personalities.
    But music in general has always evoked colors.
    I like it :cool:
     
  20. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    The bass line. :)
     

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