Theory vs. What you hear

azgolfer

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One of the most interesting things I've heard on this subject is Scott Henderson giving a lesson on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". After smoking on all the chords (which are all OVER the place harmonically) he gets to a G7 and he can't hear it as a G7 so he doesn't play G7 scales. He makes a comment that he hears a Gmaj7 there and can't hear the G7. Now many of us would say, G7 I can play G mixolydian, G blues, etc.. But Scott Henderson, who I'm sure knows this very well, doesn't do that. He only plays what he hears. The lesson is at
http://www.scottlernermusic.com/ftp/scott-goodbyeporkpielesson.mp3

Thanks to Scott Lerner for hosting (Since this is on the RF discussion I assume it's okay to post here, right Scott ?)
 

Strung Up

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Couple thoughts here:

1. Often theory comes after actual musical practice to explain why it works.

2. Some dominant 7th chords, if implying blues tonality (i.e. a static one that's 'hanging' without being an obvious V going to a I), are bringing 200-300 years worth of history from West Africa, where many of the instruments that later informed the music that informed the blues . . . had 3rds and 7ths pitched somewhere between Western tempered major and minor, hence the ability to use either/both depending on context. e.g., the kora, which is one of the foundation instruments of the Mali/Mandinke music discussed in another thread, has a 3rd and a 7th that's 'between the cracks' of major and minor 3rds (& 7ths) found on a piano.

3. As several theorists say, those chord names are a vertical 'snapshot' of music that's happening 'horizontally', or across time. So the movement of the melodic line and harmony are as important to the note choices as taking an isolated chord name and applying a rigidly prescribed scale (yuk!).

4. Here's a VAST oversimplification, but sometimes it helps to loosen up your lines if you try thinking that all notes are fair game over any chord, it just depends which ones you want to emphasize the most, vs. use briefly in passing.
 

Dajbro

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I'll play it first, and tell you what it is later - Miles Davis

David
 

refin

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I am by no means a schooled player in theory,although I've picked up some things over the years.I just basically try to spell the chord and end on a note that "shakes hands" with the chord.
 

fernmeister

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Strung Up said:
3. As several theorists say, those chord names are a vertical 'snapshot' of music that's happening 'horizontally', or across time. So the movement of the melodic line and harmony are as important to the note choices as taking an isolated chord name and applying a rigidly prescribed scale (yuk!).
very good point. i would guess henderson is hearing the chord function in relation to other chords in a way that does imply the G7.
 

fr8_trane

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Henderson plays outside tonalities so often I wouldn't be suprised if he just likes the way the major 7 rubs against the minor 7. Its a pretty common blue note in Jazz.
 

Rock Johnson

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Strung Up said:
Here's a VAST oversimplification, but sometimes it helps to loosen up your lines if you try thinking that all notes are fair game over any chord, it just depends which ones you want to emphasize the most, vs. use briefly in passing.
Or, as I heard it somewhere else, there's only one scale. It has 12 notes. You just have to decide which ones you like the best at the time.

:AOK
 

jonny guitar

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324
I tend to resort to theory when I get melodically lost...it grounds me and gets me started again. I like to try to forget all the whys when I am playing and just play what I hear in my head. Modes are great to explain what other people are doing but lots of the masters wouldn't know a mode if it smacked em in the face.
 

Strung Up

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1,596
jonny guitar said:
I tend to resort to theory when I get melodically lost...it grounds me and gets me started again. I like to try to forget all the whys when I am playing and just play what I hear in my head. Modes are great to explain what other people are doing but lots of the masters wouldn't know a mode if it smacked em in the face.
+1
An entire industry of jazz pedagogy has grown up around chord/mode relationships. For modal jazz, fine. But for many other styles, while thinking a certain mode over a certain chord may give you 'correct' notes, they won't easily lead you to many of the sounds that improvisers we all love created.
 

azgolfer

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1,082
Well what really smacked me on the head on this one was that Henderson wouldn't even try to use his chord/scale knowledge. He obviously has that knowledge, but he doesn't use it in the way that just about everyone tells you to use it. Another quote on this subject:

My biggest gripe with teaching beginners chord scale theory is that it gives them a way to play lots of notes that will not sound "wrong" when they should be playing a very few notes that sound good.
-Reed Kotler

I'm starting to think the chord/scale approach may be wrong for more than just beginners.
 

Strung Up

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azgolfer said:
My biggest gripe with teaching beginners chord scale theory is that it gives them a way to play lots of notes that will not sound "wrong" when they should be playing a very few notes that sound good.
-Reed Kotler
Excellent quote!

Reed's a big key-center improvising guru. I think most of the jazz players considered 'classic', 'legendary', 'influential' or other such categorical weirdness, used a combination of chromaticized chord-tones; key centers, embellished melodies (check out Konitz 10-step thing on Mel Martin's web site); and yes, some scales. Scales are a lot easier to teach than trying to teach all of the above leavened with: Listen and transcribe until the idiom you want to play is as natural as speaking.
 




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