Thursday, September 19, 2013

Penta and Tonic on the Rocks!

  Ok we all love pentatonic scales right?  When you first started diving into lead guitar playing or improvising I'm willing to bet the first thing you learned was a pentatonic pattern. We all know the blues box pattern that has been used by every player regardless of style preference.  The 5 note scale has been used in music for millennium for good reason, it has been scientifically researched that it is the most pleasing sound to us humans being.  Physically, they are easiest forms to learn on the guitar so super bonus!
  However... Let's face it, we sometimes yearn for a new harmonic sounds. I personally have been on this quest since if first picked up the instrument many moons ago.  Lucky for us seekesr of sounds there are so many palettes to choose from that we should never grow tired of our search.  Let's take a look at a way we can manipulate our basic pentatonic scale to better fit the harmony of certain chord types.  
  A major pentatonic scale contains the intervals 1,2,3,5,6. Which will work nicely over any chord containing a major triad(maj7 and dom7). But notice the 7th is not represented in the major penta scale. Let's say, just for fun, we raise the 6th up a 1/2 step to a b7. We then have a pentatonic scale(5 notes) that will address the sound of a dom7 chord quite nicely.  Since the mode that is most commonly used over a dominant chord is the mixolydian mode, I like to refer to this as a mixolydian pentatonic. You also may hear this refered to as an altered pentatonic scale(a bit of a generalization as there are a number of ways to alter penta tonics).  Ah but let's not stop there, let's take it one step further!
  There are different ways to use this "mixo penta" that actually step outside of the normal mixolydian sound. For example, try using it up a whole step from a maj7 chord.  This will now give you Lydian sound against that chord. Let's break it down...
  A D mixo penta contains the notes D,E,F#,A, and C. If we analyse those same notes against a Cmaj7 chord D=2(9), E=maj 3rd, F#=#4, A=6th and C=tonic. This is the same as a Cmaj penta but instead of the 5th we have a #4 and we all know that this note is the quintessential Lydian sound(maj with #4).  Kool!  So actually we don't need to retool our pentatonic to address the Lydian sound all we have to do is reuse our mixo penta up a whole step and it will already contain the alteration we need for that glorious Lydian sound. (Steve V. and Joe S. would be so proud)!  Ok let's see if we can find another application for our mixo penta...
  "Jeff is there way I can use this in my jazz improvising" you ask?  Well just so happens there is a really cool way you can reuse your mixo penta to address and alt dom7 chord. Let's take a look... 
   Most jazz is based off of the chord changes 2-5-1. The majority of jazz standards will contain these chords in at least one of the sections of the tune. Because of the tension created by the Tritone interval(b7 and maj3rd respectively) found in a dominant chord this create tension and resolution when finally resolving to the 1 chord. However, we can add even more tension to our 5 chord by adding alteration or tension notes not found in the key in said 2-5-1. These tension notes are b2(9), #2(9), b5 and #5 against our 5 chord. So let's say you are playin a 2-5-1 in the key of C. (Dm7-G7-Cmaj7).  Over our G7(5) chord if we play a mixo penta from the Tritone(b5) the we will get 3 of the 4 tension notes that give us an alt dom sound. So over the G7 chord we would play a Db mixo penta. A great and easy way to to get some of that outside tension and resolution once we resolve to our 1 chord!
  This is the tip of the iceberg I assure you, if you would care for me to elaborate further then hit me with a message but for now this has been a bit long winded but always a pleasure share knowledge with fellow music lovers!  Until next time...Cheers!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 of 5?!

  Ok this addition to the "All That Jazz" blog is going to require a leap off faith. It will take a sharp wit and strong will to pull off this concept but with a little confidence and an adventurous spirit you might just find it quit inspiring!
  One thing that is common in jazz is to play a whole tone scale over a functioning five chord. This will give a tension of a b5 and a #5 which will beg for resolution. Now lets suppose you are improvising over a static m7. In this case we will say Bm7. You can imply an alt five(F#7#5) by playing a F# whole tone scale over the Bm7 chord. This will give you an outside sound against said Bm7 chord that will surely perk your listeners ears. Of course it will be up to you how long you want to stay there and you will surely want to eventually get back into that Bm sound preferably something with some strong chord tones such as a simple B minor pentatonic for example.  Now this is nothing new but if this is a concept you have yet to explore I suggest you start there. Btw, since the whole tone scale is a symmetrical scale you can start by simply playing a 1/2 step up from the root of your Bm7. 
  To go one step further you can imply the 5 of 5! In other words the five of F#7 is C#7 so you can play a C# whole tone scale into the F# whole tone scale and THEN resolve into the Bm penta sound. What we have done here is justified both whole tone scale(yes there is really only 2) over your Bm7 chord and as fate would have C# whole tone is also B whole because of the whole step symmetry of the scale. So that means you can play a B whole tone, move up a half step and play a C whole tone(which is also an F# whole tone) and resolve back into a Bm pentatonic. (Ouch my head hurts!)
  As I said at the beginning of this blog it will take some courage and a strong will to pull this off. This is where phrasing and resolution really comes into play but with a little guts and determination you will have the ear of everyone in the room!!  I suggest you stair step into this concept and make sure you have a strong knowledge of chord tones so you can bring this sound back "inside" as not to fall flat on your face. This of course is one of many of these types of concepts. Let me know how you fare and I will try to share more of these ideas in the future!  Rock on!!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Aeolian b5

Continuing the quest for new sounds lets take a look at Aeolian b5. This the 6th mode of Melodic Minor. This mode is just as it sounds, a minor scale with a flat 5(hence the name). This mode can be used in place of the standard minor scale and just gives you a little different flavor. The great thing is, once again you've introduced a new "parent" scale and can draw on some of its harmony to superimpose over a minor chord.
Lets say for example your Rockin over on Am7 chord and you want add a little spice. Try superimposing an Ebmaj#5 over the top of that chord. This will certainly bend the ear a bit but that's the whole point! The parent scale in this case is C melodic minor(the relative major scale turned melodic minor). If you harmonize this scale you will certainly end up with an Ebmaj7#5 chord as its b3 chord. It's is really close to a standard minor blues scale in the application but I promise you it does not sound like a typical blues scale. How long you stay in this mode is up to you of course but I usually just mix it in here and there and it makes for some interesting lines.
One more example is to simply play a Cmin/maj7 arp over your Am7 chord. This is the 1chord in C melodic minor and should also highlight the b5 tone against the Am chord. Lots of possibilities here but I think you get it. That's all for now but check back for some more nuggets and please feel free to leave comments or questions! Make sure you check out the new Bleeding Harp tune "Live to Ride" now available on iTunes! Cheers!