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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."



« Course Corrections | Main | Harmonic Implication »

July 5, 2006 | How do they do that: Transpositions

Not uncommon when working with vocalists to be able to transpose music. Singers have different ranges, and versatility becomes a necessity for the accompanying instrumentalist. Sure you can just write out the chords, but how do you approach simple or complex meloldies?

We feel this skill is a necessity for transposing phrases and tunes, but the question is begged,"Do you literally figure out one note at a time, or are there short cuts using all these goofy FFcP scales that we've been practicing as great finger exercises, but have found no other use for?"

First, understand, it's not a one note-at-a-time mental process. There are more than one ways to skin this hep cat, but it's nearly impossible to think note-for-note transposition with any sort of speed. A much better way is to conceptualize in terms of scale degree. Take the Fiddle Tune Classic "Sailor's Hornpipe."

Don't think G, F#, G, G, G,D, C, B, D, G, G. Just transposing that first line in all 12-keys would be a major brain stretch. (You'd probably pull a muscle thinking that hard.)

A better solution is to think 8, 7, 8 , 1, 1, 5, 4, 3, 5, 8, 8, etc.

Try to frame new tunes in this way as you learn them. You can not only transpose quicker, you can use bits of them for improvisational and melodic fodder for other songs AND other keys.

That may seem like a lot of work if you've never thought of it in this way, but it pays off BIG TIME, on down the line. Fiddle tunes are a great way to get started down that path...

Pentatonic scales? (Ick!!!) I you have to, but don't think G, A, B, C, D. Instead, think 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. This will open some huge doors for your playing, and especially soloing.

Posted by Ted at July 5, 2006 9:55 PM


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