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Maverick Diaz
Maverick Diaz

The Chord Scale Theory And Jazz Harmony

Scales and modes fit into an overarching melodic and harmonic framework that help you to conceptualize melody and harmony in any genre of music. This framework allows you to intellectually understand how specific notes relate to a given chord in terms of consonance and dissonance.

The chord scale theory and jazz harmony

Note that this consonance/dissonance is gauged from the overall scale and not simply judged on how that chord-tone sounds held-out for an extended period of time against the chord. In this example, both the D and Db would sound dissonant if simply held, but the Db sounds more consonant within the overall scale on F minor in this harmonic situation. This can get confusing, as sometimes the more consonant chord-tone choice in terms of the overall scale is actually more dissonant when held for an extended period of time over the chord.

Now, there is no rule that says you have to choose the Aeolian mode in this example, the chord is still just F minor (F-Ab-C-Eb), but the mode gives you a way to quickly think of the most consonant upper structure chord-tones for the overall scale.

To practice forming the correct mental structures and surpassing the parent-scale-shortcut, you need to begin to think of the chord as its own entity rather than a piece of something else. In other words, you must form a mental and physical (on your instrument) relationship with each chord.

Once you overcome the parent-scale-shortcut and begin to form a direct mental connection to each chord, you want to further your mental study on chords, while adding in an aural element to the picture as well.

To turn the Chord-scale system into music, you must immerse yourself in jazz: listening, transcribing, acquiring language, and learning from your heroes. Make sure you understand how to practice.

The basic concept is that every chord comes from a parent scale; or, to put it another way, every chord in a progression can be colored by a related scale. For example, a Dmi7 chord extended to the thirteenth consists of the notes D, F, A, C, E, G, and B, which are identical to the notes of the D dorian mode stacked in thirds (Example 1). Therefore, when confronting a Dmi7 chord in a chord progression, an improvising musician could choose to improvise using the notes of the D dorian mode to create new melodies.

A similar approach to the one above can be used to derive more chord-scale relationships from the melodic minor, harmonic minor, and harmonic major modes. To learn more about this, consult Further Reading below.

Reorganizing these relationships by chord quality reveals the choices listed in Example 7 for matching chord qualities to scales. For example, when improvising on a minor seventh chord, a musician can choose from three chord-scales: dorian, phrygian, or aeolian (Example 8).

Jazz harmony is the theory and practice of how chords are used in jazz music. Jazz bears certain similarities to other practices in the tradition of Western harmony, such as many chord progressions, and the incorporation of the major and minor scales as a basis for chordal construction. In jazz, chords are often arranged vertically in major or minor thirds, although stacked fourths are also quite common.[1] Also, jazz music tends to favor certain harmonic progressions and includes the addition of tensions, intervals such as 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths to chords. Additionally, scales unique to style are used as the basis of many harmonic elements found in jazz. Jazz harmony is notable for the use of seventh chords as the basic harmonic unit more often than triads, as in classical music.[2] In the words of Robert Rawlins and Nor Eddine Bahha, "7th chords provide the building blocks of jazz harmony."[2]

The piano and guitar are the two instruments that typically provide harmony for a jazz group. Players of these instruments deal with harmony in a real-time, flowing improvisational context as a matter of course. This is one of the greatest challenges in jazz.

In a big-band context, the harmony is the basis for horn material, melodic counterpoint, and so on. The improvising soloist is expected to have a complete knowledge of the basics of harmony, as well as their own unique approach to chords and their relationship to scales. A personal style is composed of these building blocks and a rhythmic concept.

Jazz composers use harmony as a basic stylistic element as well.[3] Open, modal harmony is characteristic of the music of McCoy Tyner, whereas rapidly shifting key centers is a hallmark of the middle period of John Coltrane's writing. Horace Silver, Clare Fischer, Dave Brubeck, and Bill Evans are pianists whose compositions are more typical of the chord-rich style associated with pianist-composers. Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Wayne Shorter and Benny Golson are non-pianists who also have a strong sense of the role of harmony in compositional structure and mood. These composers (including also Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus, who recorded infrequently as pianists) have musicianship grounded in chords at the piano, even though they are not performing keyboardists.

The authentic cadence (V-I) is the most important one in both classical and jazz harmony, though in jazz it more often follows a ii or II chord serving as predominant. To cite Rawlins and Bahha, as above: "The ii-V-I [progression] provides the cornerstone of jazz harmony"[2]

Other central features of jazz harmony are diatonic and non-diatonic reharmonizations, the addition of the V7(sus4) chord as a dominant and non-dominant functioning chord, major/minor interchange, blues harmony, secondary dominants, extended dominants, deceptive resolution, related ii-V7 chords, direct modulations, the use of contrafacts, common chord modulations, and dominant chord modulations using ii-V progressions.

Analytic practice in Jazz recognizes four basic chord types, plus diminished seventh chords. The four basic chord types are major, minor, minor-major, and dominant. When written in a jazz chart, these chords may have alterations specified in parentheses after the chord symbol. An altered note is a note which is a deviation from the canonical chord tone.[citation needed]

There is variety in the chord symbols used in jazz notation. A jazz musician must have facility in the alternate notation styles which are used. The following chord symbol examples use C as a root tone for example purposes.

The jazz chord naming system is as deterministic as the composer wishes it to be. A rule of thumb is that chord alterations are included in a chart only when the alteration appears in the melody or is crucial to essence of the composition. Skilled improvisers are able to supply an idiomatic, highly altered harmonic vocabulary even when written chord symbols contain no alterations.

Much of jazz harmony is based on the melodic minor scale (using only the "ascending" scale as defined in classical harmony). The modes of this scale are the basis for much jazz improvisation and are variously named as below, using the key of C-minor as an example:

The cube is based on the idea that a chord and a scale are the same kind of thing: a collection of pitches. We call it a chord if those pitches are sounded simultaneously. We call it a scale if they are spread out across a rhythm to make a melodic line.

Most jazz musicians since the 1950s seem to have found this a useful insight. But every cat who got seriously involved in chord-scale theory had their own take on it. There are now several big books, and several jazz education methods based on various versions of chord-scale theory. And this is where the controversy begins.

The chord-scale system is a method of matching, from a list of possible chords, a list of possible scales.[2] The system has been widely used since the 1970s and is "generally accepted in the jazz world today".[3]

However, the majority of older players used the chord tone/chord arpeggio method. The system is an example of the difference between the treatment of dissonance in jazz and classical harmony: "Classical treats all notes that don't belong to the potential dissonances to be resolved...Non-classical harmony just tells you which note in the scale to [potentially] avoid..., meaning that all the others are okay".[4]

The chord-scale system may be compared with other common methods of improvisation, first, the older traditional chord tone/chord arpeggio method, and where one scale on one root note is used throughout all chords in a progression (for example the blues scale on A for all chords of the blues progression: A7 E7 D7). In contrast, in the chord-scale system, a different scale is used for each chord in the progression (for example Mixolydian scales on A, E, and D for chords A7, E7, and D7, respectively).[5] Improvisation approaches may be mixed, such as using "the blues approach" for a section of a progression and using the chord-scale system for the rest.[6]

Originating with George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (1959),[8] the chord-scale system is now the "most widely used method for teaching jazz improvisation in college".[9] This approach is found in instructional books including Jerry Bergonzi's Inside Improvisation series[10] and characterized by the highly influential[9] Play-A-Long series by Jamey Aebersold.[2] Aebersold's materials, and their orientation to learning by applying theory over backing tracks, also provided the first known publication of the blues scale in the 1970 revision of Volume 1 [11] There are differences of approach within the system. For example, Russell associated the C major chord with the lydian scale, while teachers including John Mehegan, David Baker, and Mark Levine teach the major scale as the best match for a C major chord.[8]

The chord-scale system provides familiarity with typical chord progressions, technical facility from practicing scales and chord arpeggios, and generally succeeds in reducing "clams", or notes heard as mistakes (through providing note-choice possibilities for the chords of progressions), and building "chops", or virtuosity.[13] Disadvantages include the exclusion of non-chord tones characteristic of bop and free styles, the "in-between" sounds featured in the blues, and consideration of directionality created between the interaction of a solo and a chord progression: "The disadvantages of this system may become clear when students begin to question why their own playing does not sound like such outstanding linear-oriented players as Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt or Johnny Griffin (or, for that matter, the freer jazz stylists)":[13] 041b061a72


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