Jazz help....please???

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by MGT, Mar 22, 2006.


  1. MGT

    MGT Member

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    I've been studying music/jazz theory for a while now and feel I have a decent understanding of chord & scale theory. My problem is that when I hear a song I like (whether a Diana Krall song with Russel Malone on guitar or an instrumental by Scofield), I am lost when trying to transcribe it. I've played blues, harder rock, etc for years and have no problem transcribing (most) solos but actually figuring out the progressions is really tough for me. I can't tell if someone's playing a maj 6th chord, 3rd inversion of a maj 7th or whatever. It seems backwards to me when I can get most of what DiMeola is playing in a line yet I can't figure out how to play some old standard!!

    Anyone have any ideas in how I could better approach transcribing? Any help or suggestions are appreciated.
     
  2. gennation

    gennation Member

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    Sounds strange but this is what I do when I can't get all "the colors" right out of the box...I learn the bass part, or at least the general function of the bass part.

    It will...

    1. clue you to the Roots or maybe the 5ths,
    2. the walking parts of the bass part will show you the major or minor 3rd's and many times the extentions, sometimes the complete scale the chords where built from or the scale to use to play over the song.

    And you can wipe out the treble and mid controls and focus soley on the bass.

    Sounds strange but it works and the bass part is generally the floor of everything else one way or another. Even when it's a real basic part it will end up laying out the road map of how the song is moving.
     
  3. MGT

    MGT Member

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    Thanks, Mike - I'll give that a try.
     
  4. willhutch

    willhutch Member

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    One thing that I find helpful is to learn the melody. Usually, the notes in the melody line will give you clues about the underlying chords. This, in conjunction with identifying the bass notes as gennation said, will give you a pretty good shot at cracking the changes.
     
  5. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    A good thing to learn is standard substitutions. Like playing a m7b5 based on the third in place of a dom7 chord. Example: Dm7b5 instead of Bb7. When the bass player starts going, your chord turns into Bb9. Or tritone subs. Oftentimes chords are played that are made up of fourths rather than thirds. This can take the harmony up into the uper extensions of a chrod, leaving the main notes out. The bass player is your best friend.

    I play bass and guitar. The best way to figure out the chords is to find the notes of the bass line and the notes of the melody. You can fill in the middle voices and have a progression that fits, but may not be accurate to what someone else plays. NEVER PLAY IT THE SAME WAY TWICE!! Unless you really want to. :D

    As for 3 out of 4, as long as you know why you're playing that 4th note out, fine by me. But gratuitous use of chord tones that clash, no. I played a gig with a guitar player who was bored with "A Train," so he played all the chords off by a tritone. Bad idea in my opinion.
     
  6. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    Yeah, he's my dad. You should have seen my sister and I trying to explain secondary dominants to him after 40 years of guitar playing...:jo
     
  7. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    Yes, sir. And when two of your kids go off to college and get degrees in music, watchout! Before my sister moved to Madrid, we played in a band with my dad and my little brother. All four of us can play, but the communication breakdown sometimes got out of hand.:eek:
     
  8. azgolfer

    azgolfer Member

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    I've had the same problem. I think it is just that I was always interested in the solo, so my chord 'ear' is not nearly as good. One thing that helps is learning standards from a fake book, so you get to know the sound of going say, from Eb7 to Fmaj7 or what a IIV descending in whole steps sounds like. Although at first jazz changes might seem almost random, you start to realize that the same subs are re-used a lot.
     
  9. bbarnard

    bbarnard Member

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    As long as the bass player is playing the root of the dom7 and not something else.
     
  10. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    You mean bass players don't just play the roots and fifths?!?!?


    (I'm just kidding, I'm a bass player...):cool:
     
  11. gennation

    gennation Member

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    I use those chords without the bass/root note and still call it the name of the chord I'm implying. So, that Dm7b5 could be called that Dm7b5, but if I use it playing solo without anybody laying down the Bb and I would still call it a Bb9 chord, if that's the chord I'm implying.

    It's good to have as broad of view on all this as you NEVER know what the composer/transcriber is going to put in front of you. And, you need to think broad like this to come up with a nice part for a tune.

    Yeah, I'm a little :NUTS when it comes to this stuff. But strangely enough, it allows me to be practical to I guess.
     

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