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Staffy
post Jan 28 2010, 11:08 PM
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Comprehensive Jazz Theory - Introduction, Backcycling and the "Parker Blues"

Introduction

In my mid-teens my father tried to pursuate me to listen to jazz - which was a quite hopeless intent
since I was really into Van Halen, Deep Purple and hard-rock stuff. But some years later a heard a
jazz-rock album by the well-known Swedish guitar player Jan Schaffer, where he plays a solo that
totally knocked me off. It wasn't that fast, rather the kind of phrasing he was using, that interested me.
My father had some records with Rune Gustafsson (another weell-known jazz-player in Sweden) were Schaffer
also was present, and I realized where this kind of phrasing and strange notes came from. It was just pure
jazz. (even that some people don't like the term)

I started to listen to players like Jim Hall, Joe Pass etc.
and recorded concerts from the radio. (I still have one with John Scofield on trio, which I didn't understand
a thing about back then) I was also picking up Pat Metheny's legendary record with Jaco Pastorius, and some
others - but still I didn't get it. What were they playing, and why were they playing these notes with a feel
that was completely odd to me? Back then, it was nearly impossible to get any books on the topic, but I managed
to get my hands on one by Joe Pass, which I have never seen since then... I also started to transcribe from
records and was reading some jazz theory and studied chord-progressions mostly on the piano - since that is
more natural in my case. Later I played a lot of modern/classic jazz in different settings, but was forced to
commercial music in order to pay the bills. With this and upcoming articles I want to share some of my knowledge
about this wonderful kind of music - and even that Im not playing it myself rather than occasionally these days -
I hope that it will be inspiring for some of You to read. I will start on an intermediate level and then progress to some very advanced stuff coming up in forthcoming articles. (at least I believe so) So let's start!

In the beginning there was blues - just those three chords in 12 bars we all know. Jazz players early made their
own version that have a more varied style of changing the chords, which is often referred to as a "jazz-blues".
Basically there is a sub-dominant added in the beginning as well as some dominant substitutions and a "turnaround"
at the end. (see below)

In early jazz the players just improvised over the blues scale, rhtytmic approaches and riffs and the notes found in some bluesy themes rather than use a more thinking approach, eg. use specific scales for specific chords. Later, musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie and Bud Powell developed the Be-Bop approach, which consists of a more chordal approach in the improvisations - playing chord notes and lead-in notes to those as well as some scale-runs. Also the chromatism played a major role in their improvisations. But in order to take advantage of this "new" style of playing, they probably felt that the regular chord-progressions was a little too simple as a background for their improvisations, and they developed a system for chord embellishment known as "Backcycling". (at least its the term I use)

Backcycling is based on the fact that You can actually replace one bar in a static chord-progression with the dominant to that chord. Then the dominant itself can be replaced by the dominant to the dominant and so on. This will give us the famous "turnaround" that goes like this in the key of F: F - D7 - Gm7 - C7
Since D7 is dominant to Gm7 and Gm7 is a dominant to C7 (not really, since its a minor chord), we are actually "cycling back" to the root, which is our destination.

Below are three versions of blues in a jazz context that shows how the progression have developed:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Traditional:

|F7 | | | |Bb7 | | F7 | |C7 |Bb7 |F7 |C7 |


"Jazz-blues"

|F7 |Bb7 |F7 | |Bb7 |(Bdim) | F7 |D7 |Gm7 |C7 |F7 D7 |Gm7 C7 |


The "Parker-blues"

|Fmaj7 |Em7b5 A7 |Dm7 G7 |Cm7 F7 |Bb7 |Bbm7 Eb7|Am7 D7 |Abm7 Db7|Gm7 |C7 |F7 D7 |Gm7 C7 |



Please note that the dominants here that leads to a major chord can be "coloured" with 9'ths, 13'ths and the dominants that leads to a minor chord may be "coloured" with b9, #9, #5 etc. (Also there are options that refers to quartal harmony, but that I will discuss in another lesson)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Charlie Parker took this approach to it's limit in songs like "Blues for Alice", "Confirmation" and others. What he did was back-cycling from the second bar of the blues all the way to the sub-dominant of the blues progression. From there he made a chromatically movement back to the root and ends up in a turnaround. (see fig.) Even this chromatic movement can be explained theoretically with the dominant substitution rule as the following applies: Every dominant can be replaced by it's flatted fifth - eg. a C7 may be replaced by a Gb7, and a F7 may be replace by a B7. Why? Since the notes in a C7#5 will be exactly the same as a Gb9, except for the root, this is just logical. So the progression from the subdominant goes like this: Bb minor is dominant of Eb7 (making it a II-V btw.) - that leads to Am7 that leads to D9 - that leads to Abm7 and Db9 - that leads to Gm7 and C9 and then finally the root with the turnaround. Parker also made the first chord a major chord instead of a minor 7 and the whole progression in the beginning until the sub-dominant is harmonized over the F major scale, even that some notes may stick out.

So how do this apply in terms of improvisation? I will take some examples here based on different approaches found
in other players styles.

The first one here is an excerpt from an early John Scofield solo that just shows the beauty of be-bop lines combined with his legato and unique phrasing style:




By analyzing this example we can see that all is pure be-bop in the terms of playing broken chords over the changes. In the first part all dominants are "minor" -ones, eg. they have a minor "colour" that leads to a minor root. (b9,#9,#5) John Scofield also assumes that when he plays, and plays broken b9 -chords, which applies to the diminished scale of the dominant chord. The rest of the solo is pretty straight-forward and implies broken minor9's all the way in different forms.



The second example is an excerpt from Miles Davis record "Walkin" from the 50's, and is interesting in the fact that Miles never was a be-bop player in the same fashion as Parker & Gillespie. He rather played on scales than relied on the broken-chord concept. Also, his kind of "flow" in his playing was later adopted by many modern jazz players. Please note that this example is 8 bars, Parker re-wrote the blues progression a little bit and added a bridge to compose these classical be-bop tune.




If we use Miles approach to the "Parker-blues" progression above, it's simply fits playing the whole progression with a major F-scale and emphasize some notes that is out of of the scale at the right spots. However, we must step out of F-major when playing over Bbm7 / Eb7 and Abm7 / Db7 which will be II-V's to Abmaj7 and Gbmaj7. In terms of altering the F-major scale, Miles uses the minor 7 as well as the sharp 5 in a chromatic approach which is very useful and can be heard amongst the most jazz-players. This also applies to F-majors relative - the D-minor chord - and when improvising over a static D-minor chord these phrases will sound just great!



The third example is by Michael Brecker played on a record with Will Lee called "Bird House". Michael Brecker uses
a more rhytmic approach and a more modern sounding tonal touch.



In the first bars of the solo Michael picks up notes from the theme, and then in the fourth bar comes a sixteenth-note phrase that begins in C-minor but ends up in a half/whole -tone scale. (see further notes) In the 7'th and 8'th bar Michael plays over Gb7 rather than C7, which is implied by a Gb mixolydian scale. (and broken Gb7)
The next chorus begins with a beautiful repetetive phrase that targets Bb7. He follows the chord movements and uses mostly chord tones. On the following Bb7 he plays a mixolydian scale with a minor 6'th, which is an implementation of the melodic minor scale on a 7'th chord. Further on we have a diminished phrase that land on pure chord notes in the last two bars. Other points of interest is that he several times plays "on" the beat to emphasize rhytm - in contrast to the old way of playing jazz, which the "off" -beat mostly are emphasized. He doesn't either play in a "linear" -approach, in the meaning that large intervals are used. What stands clearly out is that he knows exactly what he's doin here.


The last example is one that I put together myself to show some use of pentatonics and some Pat Metheny -like chromatism to tackle this chord progression. Please note that this example doesn't deal with rhytm - rather a tonal approach in order to show the thinking here.




In the first two bars, there is a classic Pat Metheny -phrase. It follows in the third bar by D-minor pentatonic and Bb-minor pentatonic on the G7 chord. The reason that Bb-minor pentatonic can be played over a G7, is that if a melodic minor substitution is used on G7 - it will give us Ab melodic minor, and if You build a pentatonic minor scale on Ab melodic minor it will be Bb-minor pentatonic. Same applies to bar 4 where the phrase is simply repeated. In bar six there are Bb-minor pentatonic and a Bb minor pentatonic with the 5'th replaced by the 6'th. (commonly used by Robben Ford on the IV chord in blues progressions). In the 7'th its simply A-minor pentatonic. The same chromatic phrase as in bar 1 is used for Abm7 / Db7 but here it begins at the 9'th of the Abm7 and leads in to the Gm7 in the next bar. In bar 9 a broken Gm7 is played and in bar 10 Db melodic minor is used. (a very common phrase in modern jazz) The last bars consists of chord tones and a Scofield-like string skipping pattern that treats the Gm7 / C7 as one bar of C7#9#5 - which is Db minor melodic respectively.

Tips: For finding the minor pentatonic scale that applies to an altered 7'th chord - think a third above, eg. If the chord is C7#9#5, You may think Eb-minor pentatonic. Or alternatively You can say that You will play the minor pentatonic 1 whole Step behind the root, which may be easier in som cases.


Summin Up:
These examples shows four different way's to handle one of the most common chord-progressions in jazz. The easiest way would be to use Miles approach and is a good starting point if You haven't played this before. (see above) I suggest playing around with rhytm in the phrasing since the notes here may be of less importance if there is a strong rhytmic approach as we can see in the Michael Brecker example. You might be confused of the embellishments in the examples, so if there is any questions, just leave a note here and I will answer right back.

The examples referred to is taken from:
John Scofield - own recording made in Copenhagen early 80'ths
Michael Brecker - "Confirmation", Will Lee "Birdhouse"
Miles Davis - "Confirmation", Miles Davis "Walkin"

EDIT: I forgot to post the vid that was supposed to accompany the article.

In the very first bars I really play the "Superimposing pentatonics" -example.
In the third chorus the "Scofield" -example can be heard.
Otherwise most of the things played are based on the theory's above, with some few exceptions.



Chord progression for backing tracks (Confirmation)
The form is AABA:

|Fmaj7 |Em7b5 A7 |Dm7 G7 |Cm7 F7 |Bb7 |Am7b5 D7b9|G7 |Gm7 C7 |
|Fmaj7 |Em7b5 A7 |Dm7 G7 |Cm7 F7 |Bb7 |Am7b5 D7b9|Gm7 C7 |Fmaj7 |
Bridge: |Cm7 |F7 |Bbmaj7 |Bbmaj7 |Ebm7 |Ab7 |Dbmaj7 |Gm7 C7 |
|Fmaj7 |Em7b5 A7 |Dm7 G7 |Cm7 F7 |Bb7 |Am7b5 D7b9|Gm7 C7 |Fmaj7 |

This post has been edited by Staffy: Jan 29 2010, 10:10 AM
Attached File(s)
Attached File  ConfBacking_140.mp3 ( 8.52MB ) Number of downloads: 235
Attached File  ConfBacking_180.mp3 ( 6.75MB ) Number of downloads: 165
Attached File  ConfBacking_220.mp3 ( 5.52MB ) Number of downloads: 180
 


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NoSkill
post Jan 29 2010, 12:31 AM
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That's a good read, Staffy. Thanks, man!


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zen
post Jan 29 2010, 12:48 AM
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Wow, that is intense .. A wonderful addition to the lessons Staffy.

I'm just beginning to learn the theory and dont even know how to read sheet music sad.gif ... Neither have I stepped onto jazz yet. But my story may turn like yours when i 'discover' jazz in my own time. This is really advance stuff for me but one day I will understand it and then you will have a frustrating time answering my questions laugh.gif

If you can point me to the correct resources on how to learn to read sheet music, it would be very helpful smile.gif

Thanks again ..


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Pedja Simovic
post Jan 29 2010, 01:42 AM
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Beautiful student instructor lesson Staffay!
Thank you for doing this, I am sure many members will find it useful in the future smile.gif


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Caelumamittendum
post Jan 29 2010, 02:30 AM
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Looks like something I'll enjoy reading. Haven't got the time right now, but will find time come one of these days.


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UncleSkillet
post Jan 29 2010, 02:36 AM
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Very well put together lesson Staffy! I hope you will find time to do more of them. Maybe a blues lesson biggrin.gif cool.gif

Congratulations smile.gif


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Staffy
post Jan 29 2010, 08:49 AM
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QUOTE (zen @ Jan 29 2010, 12:48 AM) *
If you can point me to the correct resources on how to learn to read sheet music, it would be very helpful smile.gif


Oh, I dont really know any internet resources for this, if that was what You mean.... The best way to do it imo. would be to learn the basics about sheet music - eg. how it is written, intervals, raised and lowered notes, rhytm. Then just pick songs You want to learn.
Beeing able to sight-read is really another topic, most guitar-players are bad sight-readers due to the nature of the instrument. (same note exists on many places) But this can be trained by picking very easy melodys in the beginning and then move on to harder stuff. The examples above will be hard to sight-read right away, and most people would probably learn them and then throw away the paper....

//Staffay

QUOTE (Pedja Simovic @ Jan 29 2010, 01:42 AM) *
Beautiful student instructor lesson Staffay!
Thank you for doing this, I am sure many members will find it useful in the future smile.gif


Thanks Pedja. I know I'm stepping into Your turf here tongue.gif , and You will probably do this stuff in up-coming lessons.
For most players this is pretty advanced stuff, but since I kinda lack some of this kind of playing/theory on the site, I felt
like doing it anyway.
Btw. I really learned something by doing it also, I realized when transcribing the Michael Brecker example, that he's playing
the Bb-chord with a mixolydian with lowered sixth most of the times. And that in turn gives another implementation of the
melodic-minor that is really interesting. smile.gif



QUOTE (UncleSkillet @ Jan 29 2010, 02:36 AM) *
Very well put together lesson Staffy! I hope you will find time to do more of them. Maybe a blues lesson biggrin.gif cool.gif

Congratulations smile.gif


Thx! A blues lesson? Well, the fact is really that when I play this kind of stuff, I pretty much know what Im doin.
When playing blues - I have no clue at all..... laugh.gif
Seriously, I might go for a blues lesson in the future, since this kind of music are kind of special.

//Staffay


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Staffy
post Jan 29 2010, 10:11 AM
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Updated the post/lesson above with video and backing-tracks. Enjoy! smile.gif

//Staffay


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Ivan Milenkovic
post Jan 29 2010, 05:40 PM
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Great lesson Staffay, well put together, and nicely played! smile.gif


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post Jan 29 2010, 10:35 PM
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I really like your lesson Staffay it is really usefull.... Also I really like your video, great playing.


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Pedja Simovic
post Jan 29 2010, 10:56 PM
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Staffay I forgot to ask you - where did you get Confirmation backing track?


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Fran
post Jan 30 2010, 02:31 AM
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Awesome Staffy!
I'll have this added to the knowledge base SI Portal tomorrow! cool.gif


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Emir Hot
post Jan 30 2010, 03:03 AM
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Awesome work Staffy. I know most of this stuff but I couldn't stop reading smile.gif Just liked the concept.


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Staffy
post Jan 30 2010, 08:27 AM
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QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ Jan 29 2010, 05:40 PM) *
Great lesson Staffay, well put together, and nicely played! smile.gif


Thx. Ivan! The really hard part here is to make some music out of a programmed background.... Programming jazz really stinks, it cannot be compared to the swing real players play with, on the other hand, the intent was not to make any "show off" here, rather to show some different ways to play.

QUOTE (Crazy_Diamond @ Jan 29 2010, 10:35 PM) *
I really like your lesson Staffay it is really usefull.... Also I really like your video, great playing.


Thx. CD! Yeah, the approaches I'm speaking of here, can be applied to most music/styles and not only jazz. I'm glad You liked it! smile.gif

QUOTE (Pedja Simovic @ Jan 29 2010, 10:56 PM) *
Staffay I forgot to ask you - where did you get Confirmation backing track?


Oh well..... That is nothin special. I just took some drum patterns from the EZ-jazz drums, played the bass with my MIDI-guitar and the new TRILIAN, then I added the chords on piano.... on purpose I played the piano straight so it would be easier to hear the harmony, rather than played it as a piano-player would....

QUOTE (Fran @ Jan 30 2010, 02:31 AM) *
Awesome Staffy!
I'll have this added to the knowledge base SI Portal tomorrow! cool.gif



Cool Fran ! smile.gif

QUOTE (Emir Hot @ Jan 30 2010, 03:03 AM) *
Awesome work Staffy. I know most of this stuff but I couldn't stop reading smile.gif Just liked the concept.


Yeah, I'll bet You know Emir! smile.gif Most seriously educated musicians do, but since I haven't seen much of this theory stuff around at the site, I thought it was a good suggestion to have some of this... smile.gif (maybe I will try to do one, that You DON'T know, even that it will be nearly impossible... laugh.gif )


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zen
post Jan 30 2010, 11:04 AM
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QUOTE (Staffy @ Jan 29 2010, 06:49 PM) *
Oh, I dont really know any internet resources for this, if that was what You mean.... The best way to do it imo. would be to learn the basics about sheet music - eg. how it is written, intervals, raised and lowered notes, rhytm. Then just pick songs You want to learn.
Beeing able to sight-read is really another topic, most guitar-players are bad sight-readers due to the nature of the instrument. (same note exists on many places) But this can be trained by picking very easy melodys in the beginning and then move on to harder stuff. The examples above will be hard to sight-read right away, and most people would probably learn them and then throw away the paper....


Thanks for the guidance Staffy smile.gif .. video is groovy smile.gif

This post has been edited by zen: Jan 30 2010, 11:04 AM


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Fran
post Jan 30 2010, 02:56 PM
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Lesson wikied:
https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/wiki/inde...heory_SI_Lesson



I'll portray it on the SI portal soon too cool.gif
Looking forward to the next lessons Staffay! smile.gif


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post Jan 30 2010, 03:22 PM
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Thanks a lot staffay for this excellent read. I am right in the middle of getting a grip on doing this type of stuff so it was a very welcome good read!



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post Jan 30 2010, 04:09 PM
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Thanks a lot for this useful information, Staffy!
Great playing, too! smile.gif
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Emir Hot
post Jan 30 2010, 07:23 PM
Post #19


Instructor
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QUOTE (Staffy @ Jan 30 2010, 07:27 AM) *
Yeah, I'll bet You know Emir! smile.gif Most seriously educated musicians do, but since I haven't seen much of this theory stuff around at the site, I thought it was a good suggestion to have some of this... smile.gif (maybe I will try to do one, that You DON'T know, even that it will be nearly impossible... laugh.gif )

I don't know everything smile.gif I also learned a lot from this site. I am sure you know stuff that I'd be interested to find out about.


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Staffy
post Jan 30 2010, 08:16 PM
Post #20


Learning Tone Master
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From: Genarp, Sweden
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QUOTE (Emir Hot @ Jan 30 2010, 07:23 PM) *
I don't know everything smile.gif I also learned a lot from this site. I am sure you know stuff that I'd be interested to find out about.


Well, I know.... We learn something new everyday, both in terms of music and bout life! I was just kidding! biggrin.gif


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Guitars: Ibanez AM-200, Ibanez GB-10, Fender Stratocaster Classic Player, Warmouth Custom Built, Suhr Classic Strat, Gibson Les Paul Standard 2003, Ibanez steel-string
Amps: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, Marshall JMP 2103, AER 60
Effects: BOSS DD-20, Danelectro Trans. Overdrive, TC-Electronics G-Major, Dunlop Wah-wah, Original SansAmp, BOSS DD-2
Music by Staffy can be found at: Staffay at MySpace
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