Transcribing jazz stuff lines is much harder then blues

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by rich2k4, Jun 30, 2008.

  1. rich2k4

    rich2k4 Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2005
    with blues, i know what the chords are underneath the soloing, i can recognize when they are playing over the IV or the V or the I. so i know the context in which i can use the licks and what part of the progression they sound the best in.

    but for jazz. i can't recognize any of the changes so when i learn a line from someone, i don't know if he played it over a ii-V-I progression, or over a ii-V, or over some other chord. as a result, i end up just knowing the line, but not how to use it in context.

    even when i have the lead sheet of the tune in front of me, with the progression, jazz players like to alter the progression and chords so much, that in the end i'm not really sure what is going on underneath the soloist.

    what did you jazz guys do in order to fix this problem?
  2. ?&!

    ?&! Member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Portland, OR
    In all honesty, when you break down all the alterations and substitutions, most (but not all) jazz progressions are ii-Vs or ii-V-Is. My recommendation is to work on jazz harmony first, then move on to jazz soloing. Knowledge of the underlying harmony is imperative in jazz improv. I suggest picking up "Solo Jazz Guitar: The Complete Chord Melody Method" by Bill Hart, from Hal Leonard publishing. The first section explains chord substitutions and alterations very understandably, and the second section gives solo guitar transcriptions to several standards, with CD examples of each. The basic harmony of each bar is notated above all the alterations and subs, and it makes analyzing the progression much easier. Once you understand the chord theory, the sound of the lines you transcribe will clue you in on how to apply them, because you'll be able to recognize the harmony within the line. I've had great results using this book with my students. Good luck!!!
  3. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    The first step to transcribing anything should be to figure out and understand the underlying harmony. If you "know" the tune but still aren't hearing the changes then you need to work on your ear. Learn to recognize the musical devices within the tune, and to think of the function of the chords. What I mean is- a ii-V-I is a musical device, and each chord in it has a function, and the entire device has a function as well. You should be able to tell the difference between the ii and the V chord- not because they sound different but because they feel different- they have a different function. Once you realize this it makes more sense when a soloist carries a chord over the bar, ignores a chord or uses a substitution.
  4. Mark C

    Mark C Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    El Paso
    Practice playing the chords a lot - you'll start to hear the changes better. As was stated earlier, most standard tunes have a lot of ii-V-I changes. You'll also frequently hear iii-vi-ii-V-I. Often the chords are altered, but if you get a handle on hearing those progressions, it gets easier. I've been trying to get a better handle on this stuff myself, and one thing that has helped a bit is to pick a song, and play the chords along with the CD - use the real book to help you learn the chords to most standard tunes. Lately I've started hearing progressions in jazz a lot better, and I think this type of practice is why.
  5. JonR

    JonR Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    I agree with the others - you need a secure foundation in jazz harmony first.

    You need to be pretty advanced (IMO) to hear changes accurately in a jam. Best to really familiarise yourself with all the popular standards, and use lead sheets as much as possible. You'll soon get a feel for the common changes (the ii-V-Is), but you will need advance warning for the stranger ones.

    Don't worry about all those "alterations" you think jazz players like to make. They all amount to "substitutions", which generally have the same "function" as the original chords.
    So understanding function is crucial.
    Eg, instead of a V7 chord (G7 in key of C) a chord player might sub a bII (Db7). But that needn't make any difference to how you play.
    You might think Db7 is a very different chord from G7, but a lot of the same notes will fit - eg, B, F, G are all OK. Other notes can work as "alterations".
    Eg, the most common instance when a bII7 will get used instead of a V7 is in a minor key. Db7 instead of G7 in C minor. In that case, a soloist will likely play the G altered scale over the G7. This is exactly the same scale as the best scale for the Db7 (Db lydian dominant).
    G altered = G Ab A# B Db Eb F
    Db lydian dominant = Db Eb F G Ab Bb Cb

Share This Page