Jazz melody - I'm confused

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by sws1, Sep 8, 2005.

  1. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    I bought a great series of books on Jazz Guitar. From beginner to intermediate to 2 expert books (one on improv, the other on chord melody). Each chapter is broken down into 2 sections: one focused on chords and harmony and the other on scales and improv. Very well thought out and written.

    Anyway, I jumped ahead to the sections on chord melody. I completely understand the concept of putting the melody at the highest note, and playing chords with the melody notes on top. Use all the good jazz chord subs, and you're ready to go.

    HOWEVER, this all sounds great when using a melody based on a major/minor scale. But at some point in the book, the author starts using example songs where the melody doesn't sound anything like a melody. In some songs, it's borderline haphazard and random: strange intervals, tritones, chromatics. Almost as if someone randomly picked a set of notes, plays them as quarter notes, and calls is a melody.

    What am I missing? Do I have to learn to "enjoy" this melody before I "get" jazz?
     
  2. Why'd you buy the book? - I mean, do you listen to jazz, and therefore want to learn how to play it, or have you just heard some stuff you think is cool and you'd like to work those concepts into your playing? Either reason is fine by me, and especially for the latter I don't think it matters whether you dig the examples he gives or not. If it's the former...what do you listen to? If you don't dig stuff that's more modern/further out than that, again - cool. Essentially, what I'm saying is you don't need to like "Giant Steps" to play "All The Things You Are". But more detail about what you like/what's in the book might be helpful. (Out of curiosity, are the example songs famous jazz tunes, or are they the changes of famous jazz tunes w/rewritten heads for copyright reasons? - probably the latter if they have weird names like "Brontosaurus Walk" or "Some Things You're Not". Maybe they're just bad tunes.)
     
  3. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    I bought it to learn more of the concepts, and someday incorporate the ideas into my playing. I don't listen to alot of jazz guitar, but I do like nice / classic melodies with interesting chords behind them. Think Somewhere Over the Rainbow with some jazzy accomp.

    I don't know the origin of the songs in the book, but in the text, he does describe them as famous jazz melodies/progressions, etc. There's also some other examples that I'm sure he wrote.

    Yes - I don't really aspire to play Giant Steps. It was transcribed in a recent guitar mag, so I downloaded it to hear it. Ouch. I'd be impressed if I could play it, but I really dont' want to play it.

    I had the benefit of hearing ScottL play at SteveK's blues jam this summer. I dug the jazzy chord changes he was able to shove in the middle of a standard I,IV,V tune. Of of course, some of the solos were cool too.
     
  4. Cool. I imagine the book could be quite helpful to you; absorb the concepts and apply them to the tunes you like. I'm honestly not that familiar with too many of the older jazz guitarists, though I really dig Grant Green - I'm more into, say, Scofield and Frisell as guitarists (not that I can play like that!). But you might want to check out some Grant Green (bluesy!), some Wes Montgomery (seemingly everyone's favorite), or maybe some Herb Ellis on guitar, and I find it hard to imagine someone not digging Lester Young on tenor sax, as far as playing sweet melodies over jazz changes. The book ought to be helpful as far as teaching you the concepts to integrate into your playing, but there's no substitute for listening and soaking up the music. There's a lot of stuff that made no sense to me when I tried to apply it directly to my playing, but totally clicked once I paid attention to my CDs. (Oh! That's what a tritone substitution sounds like!)
     
  5. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    I have gone through the same thing and continue to do it. 10 or 15 years ago certain voicings of chords just didn't sound good to my ears, now for some reason those same chords work for me. I'm sure it all depends on how much tolerance you have for dissonance. I wouldn't freak out about it, take what you like and leave the rest.
     
  6. xroads

    xroads Member

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    In Jazz, dissonant chords are often used to build up some tension, in order to lead to sweet harmonics again as release. If a chord sounds too dissonant to me (or : wrong), I play it, but don't emphasize the "wrong" notes too much. Through phrasing I can get around the dissonances to stand out of the context.
     
  7. KHK

    KHK Silver Supporting Member

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    This one is a little tough to explain because it involves training your ear or "learning to appreciate" which can't be done by reading someones explanation.:( I will try and keep it simple and non-theory in nature as I take a crack at it.

    It's natural for you to feel that the material sounds random if the chords and scales that you play are either major, minor, min7, maj7 or dominant 7th. One reason is that the chords tend to have very little harmonic movement from bar to bar. I don't know what standards you are referring to so let's look at the blues.

    In a I-IV-V 12 bar G blues, you might strum a G7 in the fourth bar for 4 beats and then a C7 for 4 beats. There is a simple tonal convergence on the C7 after 4 beats of the G7...very little movement.

    In a jazzier blues, you might utilize the G7 for one or two beats in the fourth bar and then converge on the C7 through two other chords like E7#9 to C#7flat5 to C7. There is a little bit more going on harmonically in this scenario. These two other chords create a melody or hamony line based on the chord voicings as they move which may sound strange until you hear it resolve on the C7. Are you :confused: :confused:?

    I'm probably screwing this up pretty good. I know, big help:)

    The important thing to remember is that you can't hear how they fit if you listen out of context. These strange chords can be viewed/heard as a substitution for the G7 for 4 beats or alternatively as a different tonal pathway to the C7. They are about getting you to the next change and you have to listen for how they converge on the next chord before it will start to sound good to your ear. And you need to play this stuff with the music to get a sense of how they are placed harmonically and rhythmically. It would help if you get a cut of the songs in the book and play over these cuts when you practice this stuff. It should make more sense once you are able to hear how they converge on the next chord. Like anything, it comes with practice and a little time.

    Oh and maybe the guy didn't want you to skip over the boring stuff that you left behind.:D

    Good luck!
     
  8. scottl

    scottl Member

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    thanks!

    anytime you want to swing by, i'd be happy to show you a bunch of stuff....

    i do suggest learning as many chords as you can!

    scott
     

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