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"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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November 19, 2009 | Tonal Centers: a hand up from Ralph Patt

Almost six years ago we wrote a MandolinSessions article on Tonal Centers. (It's also a chapter of the "Getting Into Jazz Mandolin" book as well.) For one to begin to understand jazz or analyze classical music, one must be able to comprehend the mechanics of the Tonal Universe and its impact on chord functions and temporary key changes or "Micro Tonal Centers."


In reviewing the article Understanding the 'ii V7 I': Tonal Micro-centers, you'll note we explored momentary key changes and how they were set up and established with "V7 I" or some variation of 'ii V7 I' in sections. Don't worry about getting too technical for now, the main thing you need to do is "hear" the implied key changes or at least be able to section off the chords that prepare and land in different keys.

This is a great skill to have in improvising, as well as a deeper understanding of harmonic direction and chord substitution. We've enjoyed an additional online resource mentioned before, Ralph Patt's Jazz Web Page. Besides a hefty library of 400+ jazz standard chords, his " Vanilla Book," he's taken on a systematic listing of these familiar tunes and a catalog of Tonal Center "shift" maps. Not just the changes themselves, he's analyzed how some of these routine changes are stated and commonly transposed, a veritable macro map of implied Micro Tonal Centers, highlighting them in yellow.

Take some time to look at these and their links to the songs of the Vanilla Book. It will give you terrific insights into other songs you are trying to internalize and develop, and help make the large world of jazz analysis much smaller.

Enjoy: Ralph Patt Tonal Centers

Understanding the 'ii V7 I': Tonal Micro-centers
Again the Tonal Centers: Understanding the 'ii V7 I'
Fresh Comp'n Part 2: 'ii V7'
JazzMando Webtracks

Posted by Ted at November 19, 2009 5:52 AM

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