Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lesson 6: Surrounds

After working on the exercise I gave you in lesson 2 you should be ready for the next step which is to write a solo over the chord progression of a tune but this time using only eighth notes and this time utilizing the full scales rather than just chord tones making the phrases any length you like. Again try writing it without the use of an instrument rather write what you think would sound good. Keep in mind you want to put chord tones on the down beat and non-chord tones on the up beat as much as possible as well as putting to use the device of crossing from one chord to the next using chord tones that are a half or whole step apart. After writing the solo play it to see if it sounds the way you expected it to sound and change anything you don’t like. You can also use your new written solo to practice your swing feel. After you have done this practice playing over the changes (chord progression) again using eighth notes only, chord tones on the down beat etc. which will be more challenging and thus more fun than the exercise in lesson 2. Also utilize the concepts I gave you in lesson 4 which is more difficult than you might think. Hey, who said this was going to be easy? Seriously you will find it easier as you keep practicing and actually begin to think about what you are doing and record, record, record so you can hear what you are doing, hint: melodic lines made up of scales will almost always sound the most melodic and please don’t try to fit your favorite licks into your composition, the idea is to learn how to improvise not play memorized segments of melodies, same goes for musical quotes.

I want to introduce you to a device called surrounds. Surrounds are used by just about everyone in Jazz and are quite useful in adding tones outside the key of a chord and for changing the direction of your melodic lines. Surrounds are used to actually surround or lead to the 1, 3, and 5 of any chord. To surround a chord tone first play what ever scale tone is immediately above the chord tone you are surrounding followed by note that is always a half step below the chord tone you are leading to. You can also reverse this so the half step comes first. If you look at figure 6 I have written two examples of surrounds, notice that the A# and C# notes are not in the key of G Major (Gasp!). You can also use what is called a half surround where you only use the note that is a half step below the chord tone to lead into said chord tone. Try to implement the use of surrounds into your written solo and when you actually practice playing over the chord progression. Of course you have your chord tones memorized so you should have no problem with this, cough. For wind players try using the articulation “N” on the lower note of the surround which is a typical articulation used in Jazz for this type of figure. The “N” is only used on the upbeat when it is leading UP to the chord tone and never on the down beat.

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