May 21st 2013
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By Frank Caruso
I wrote an article some months ago about chromaticism in harmony. In that article I did a reharmonization of “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” The focus of that reharmonization was to demonstrate that a I-V7-I progression may be converted into a progression using all twelve tonalities of the chromatic scale while leaving the melody unchanged.
I use this example to drive home the fact that all harmony is potentially chromatic. Remember it was Charlie Parker who said, “There is no note you can’t play.” I’m sure he was referring to the principle discussed here, along with some other methods he used, to create the wonderful music he played. I like what Dizzy Gillespie said the first time he heard Charlie Parker: “That’s how music should sound.”
As constantly developing jazz improvisers, it is important to be able to look at a chord symbol and intellectually and physically be able to respond to it. It is also necessary to be meticulous in the approach and handling of a composer/arranger’s chord changes, in order to express that composer/arranger’s full musical intent. Great jazz musicians are highly considerate of this in much the same way great classical musicians are very sensitive to the composer’s intent in the interpretation of the music.
Below are listed a series of chords and their corresponding scales. These are basic scales and are by no means the only scales that can be used. As with all of my articles this may be common knowledge to some of you. However, I constantly welcome reviewing any aspects of improv and interpretation principles. Jazz is a music form that is constantly evolving. Let’s examine the list.
Cma7 (Major Scale or Lydian Scale)
B7b9#5 (Diminished Whole-Tone Scale)
Bb13#11 (Lydian Dominant)
A7b9 (Diminished (half-step), Diminished Whole-Tone)
Ab13#11 (Lydian Dominant)
C/G (Major Scale, Lydian, Major Pentatonic)
F#m7b5 (Locrian #2)
Em7 (Dorian, Aeolian, Minor Pentatonic)
Eb7b9 (Diminished (half-step), Diminished Whole-Tone)
Db7b9 (Diminished (half-step), Diminished Whole-Tone)
Abma7 (Major, Lydian, Major Pentatonic)
Dbma7 (Major, Lydian, Major Pentatonic)
C2 (Major, Lydian, Major Pentatonic)
Note: Diminished (half-step) refers to the Diminished half-step/whole-step scale.
The Diminished Whole-Tone Scale is also commonly referred to as an “Altered Scale”––the 7th mode of the ascending melodic minor scale.
Studying these scales and learning them in all twelve keys will help you to internalize the sounds of the scales and build your confidence in the handling of them and their changes. A good practice routine is to start on different tones of each scale to develop fluidity in execution.
If you have any questions about these you should consult with your private teacher or a jazz educator who is experienced in their usage. There are several great players in Chicago who can be very helpful in learning the various aspects of these scales and chord changes, and there are some very good books available that can be helpful in your mastery of these.
By using these in relation to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” you will begin to perceive how much more colorful and interesting the music can be by using these changes and their resulting scales. From there you may apply these sounds to any of the tunes you are already playing.
Frank Caruso currently serves on the jazz studies faculties at North Central College and Elmhurst College. Frank also teaches at his home studio and has recently finished writing a book on piano improvisation which is available inline at pianoimprovisationsystem.com Frank can also be contacted at email@example.com.
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