Which scales?

This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Willie Willie 3 years ago.

  • Member
    Glenn

    Out of the three types of scales used in the lesson, learning to improvise over the standards in five steps, is any one scale better than the other for playing over G-7 (natural 5) and D-7?

    Member
    ChrisK

    Glenn, the simple or maybe simplistic answer is Dorian mode in the key of the song. But check the key of the song, and know the theory and context.

    G-7 in the key of F is often setting up the C7 chord in what’s known as a 2-5. Improvisational lines based on G Dorian will work over both the G-7 and the C7 chords.

    The G-7 may also be functioning as the vi6 chord in the song if it’s the key of Bb. Like “Let’s Fall In Love” in Bb will have the first four chords as Bb6/G-7/C-7/F7. Dorian won’t work there and maybe it’s best to improvise based on the key center of Bb, which can cover all those chords.

    Finally maybe you’re in a minor key, like say “Summertime” in Gminor. The first G-7 may be acting as the key center itself and can sound good with a natural 7 occasionally dropped in with a G melodic minor mode.

    Willie can maybe do a less wordy answer here.

    Member
    Glenn

    Thank you. Yes, that makes sense. The key of the song is F. Playing the dorian scale does seem to be more pleasing to my ear than trying an altered scale or locrian natural nine scale. This may be because when I play the head, I’m playing it in a sort of bluesy way and so those scales feel a bit too ‘outside’ for me when I improvise. That said, I’m open to new ideas for achieving different sounds and getting some ear-pleasing tensions without having to think too hard!

    Member
    ChrisK

    I’m open to new ideas for achieving different sounds and getting some ear-pleasing tensions without having to think too hard!

    Glenn, I’m taking a jazz combo class at a local community college, and the coordinator is an excellent West Coast jazz trumpet player known for playing at lightning-fast tempos. Those of us in the combo are beginner-intermediate or so, and someone suggested the old Miles cool-jazz tune “Boplicity” which seemed to have a dizzying array of chords.

    The trumpet player gave us this advice on soloing. Figure out the key centers, know the melody in your heart and soul, then TRUST YOUR EARS!

    I’m not saying all of us started blowing beautiful solos over Boplicity immediately. But all of a sudden “Boplicity” went from an impossible 2-chords per bar song to a tune with three basic key centers, F, Bb, and Ab, I believe.

    In no way was he saying in jazz we didn’t need to do the harder work of figuring out half-whole diminished runs over dom7b9 chords or seventh mode of melodic minor over altered chords or trying whole note scales over #5 chords, blah-blah.

    But he was saying with practice and persistence we could do reasonable stuff without “thinking too hard” and learning how to play the melodies singing through our heads as the chords came at us and we remembered the original melody.

    Keymaster
    Willie

    Anytime you have a question as to whether or not to use dorian, natural minor or other scales, look for the common tones and use those first. For example:

    G Dorian: G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F, G
    G Natural minor: G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G
    G Harmonic minor: G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#, G

    So you’ll see that the G, A, Bb, C, D are all safe bets for improvising over G minor without worrying if you have the “right” scale. It’s really the E/Eb/F/F# that are the determining notes.

    Keymaster
    Willie

    I would also add that the absolute best way to feel more confident in improvisation is to know your chord tones. This is easy stuff to practice away from the piano and will help you to create a good sounding solo. And, when playing faster, remember to play lighter. The lighter you play, the faster you can play.

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