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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."



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September 10, 2009 | 4 and 7. The Committal Notes.

We've explored the notion of note significance within the Major and Minor Scale. Our emphasis has always been on the importance of identifying and communicating the chord tones, in other words, expressing the vertical or harmonic qualities of the music. Thinking chords is very important, but another concept is categorizing the notes in between the chord tones. We can broadly label these as "passing tones," but we should also recognize that these can be further categorized as "benign" or "committal."

The first is easy. Benign notes are just filler notes that don't really require a definite chord tone follow up. Think the 2nd (better, the 9th) and you have a note that you could just as easily sit on in more contemporary genres, jazz and pop music. The 6th is also gentle note that at worst, demands no compelling resolution, at best, offers significant flavor in the form of a Maj6th chord, highly used in Western Swing and Brazilian Choro. It can be inserted willy nilly, with little recourse.

The second class requires a response, the "committal" tones of the 4th and 7th scale degrees. This category of passing tones can't really end a phrase, and left unresolved, virtually exposes a musician's incompetence. Try it sometime. Play a major chord, fool around with notes of it's major scale and end on the 4th or the 7th. There's tension that needs attention.

Critical Decisions in Improvising: 'Gravity' Notes

Why is this significant? Take a close look at the Major Pentatonic Scale, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. These committal tones are conspicuously absent, and for the Folk/Bluegrass musician that depends on Pentatonics for improvisation fodder, a huge element of horizontal drive is absent, without these committal tones, 4 and 7. Sure, you can express the chord, but you're not propelling the melody without these guys.

Gravity is good. Learn to identify these notes in your scale practicing, and listen closely to the call and response qualities of these indivdual tones. Your soloing will be significantly more compelling if you can exploit their dynamic nature.

Further:
Critical Decisions in Improvising: 'Gravity' Notes
Jazzed Pentatonics
The blur between intent and mistake
Harmonic Implication
More Appropriate

Posted by Ted at September 10, 2009 8:05 AM


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