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A practical guide for jazz piano
by Alan Brown
Table of Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................... 3 Voicings in Fourths .................................................................................................. 3 Two Handed Voicings .............................................................................................. 8 Quartals and ‘So What’ Voicings .......................................................................... 10 Pentatonics ............................................................................................................. 12 Quartals and Pentatonics ...................................................................................... 17
Summary .......................................................................................................................... 21
Quartal Voicings and Pentatonic Exercises......................................................... 22 Right Hand Quartal Patterns.................................................................................. 26 Side-slipping ........................................................................................................... 27 Targeting ................................................................................................................. 28
Analysis ................................................................................................................... 34 Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 36 Bibliography ............................................................................................................ 37
© 2009 Blue Train Ltd. Milford, Auckland 0620, New Zealand. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.
Quartals & Pentatonics – a practical guide for Jazz piano Introduction
The use of quartal or stacked-fourth voicings and pentatonic improvisation is nothing new in the world of jazz, as its use as a defining stylistic approach by pianists McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea is well-known. The classic Bill Evans’ ‘So What’ voicing is also built upon the quartal concept, and quartals were used well before that especially by the impressionist composers Ravel and Debussy. This book is intended to provide the student with an understanding of the harmonic use of quartals, by providing various voicing options and usages. The use of pentatonics as soloing devices will be examined both on their own, as well as in conjunction with left-hand quartals. A number of practical exercises will be given to assist in developing this technique and approach to improvisation. It must be stressed that this style of playing should be only a part of the pianist’s vocabulary – tertian harmony, modes, chromaticism, upper structures etc are just as essential tools for the jazz musician. Notwithstanding, there IS a lot of fun to be had with quartals and pentatonics, and it is hoped that this book will provide a foundation for a lifetime of experimentation. Voicings In Fourths Fig 1 shows the standard quartal voicings for one hand. These should be played with both hands across the range of the keyboard until they’re internalised completely. Figs 2 and 3 demonstrate practice techniques to assist both with dexterity and the internalising process. Fig 1
and to gain an understanding of the harmony that can be represented. which gives you: 6. depending on the tensions one wishes to highlight. just to reinforce these shapes. #9. For unaltered chords. the voicings we’ll construct will be purely stacked perfect fourths. The voicings below are single-hand voicings which could be used either with left or right hand. This is part of the charm as various harmonies can be implied in the course of a tune or solo. through all ‘keys’ (as shown in Fig 1). with a high degree of ambiguity. Why Fourths? Quartal chords can be applied to a variety of harmonies. and #5 (also fourths apart). i. 11. A strong sus4 voicing is just the root position quartal (or it can be built from the 5th). An easy way of remembering the choices is by starting on the 6th and moving up by fourths. without clearly stating any particular one. while altered dominants can be built from b7.11th (and even 5th and 6th) although the first three are the most common. 5. Keep the fingering as indicated for each key. Fig 3 Initially. The ‘opening-up’ of the harmony is a contemporary approach. 6th and 9th (again fourths apart).4 These should be practiced with separate hands. even though there may be some unusual movements.e each quartal is a fourth away from the other. Minor 7th chords can be built from the root. 9th. they can be built from the 3rd. This exercise also helps to strengthen the fourth finger. R. not just minor. . which can be seen in the following examples. 9. and provides a good contrast to an otherwise tertian (stacked thirds) construction. Fig 4 There are a lot more choices for dominant chords.
5. 9. e. 9 13.♭3 ♭7.♭13 Dominant 7 Altered Dominant Dominant 7 sus4 Major 7 Minor 7 b5 Note that voicings built from the b3 or b6 could be used for a min7b5 chord. 7.♭13 ♯9. the table below may be of use. 5 9. Fig 5 5 Major 6th or 7th chords can also be represented by quartals built from the 3rd. 11 R. but as the b9 is highlighted. 11. Chord Minor 7 Quartal built from: 6th 9th 5th Root 11th 3rd 6th 9th ♭7th ♯9th ♯5th 5th Root ♯4th 7th 3rd 6th 9th Root 11th ♭7th Scale tones highlighted 6. one only needs to remember the first quartal root in each section.♭9. This summarises the main voicings for the various chord types. 7. 5. Fig 6 To make things a little clearer. 3. 6th and 9th as these voicings do not include the 7th. 6.g.♭7 11. 3 7.♭7 11. R 5. 3. R. 9. 13. Minor chords – build from 6th. 6 3. As the quartals are listed a fourth apart. R R.♭9 ♯5. In other words. 9. R.♭3 3.♭7 ♯4. 5 9. to be able to work out the others. although a quartal built from the 7th is a strong maj 7th voicing. 11. . ♯11 5. 4 R. ♯5. 5 9.♭7. 5. they are best avoided due to the b9 being somewhat of an avoid note. 9 6.♭3. 6. An interesting Lydian chord can also be constructed from the #4. R ♭7.♭7. ♯9. quartal chords a fourth apart in this sequence: #4. 4. 9.
and come up with your own favourites. Play these through. A number of permutations are possible. and cycle them through all keys. Experiment with these in all keys. as well as the maj7 chord. especially useful when used as left-hand voicings. Fig 8 McCoy Tyner – Kongsberg Jazz Festival 1973 ©1973 Gisle Hannemyr Here are the changes for the standard There Is No Greater Love. voiced with quartals. . but here is just a selection of them. but this should give you a better understanding of the usage in a practical context. as shown below. Of course. with the 9th on top. find ones you like. The first set (Fig 8) gives a really nice voicing for the min7 chord. Fig 7 Quartals can also be inverted. in order to keep them within the range of roughly one octave.6 These voicings can then be combined into progressions such as the II-V-I. these aren’t the only possible quartal combinations. with the #4 on top.
20. The V chords are generally altered just to highlight the various voicings.19.12. you should notice the high degree of ambiguity that quartals lend to the harmony and harmonic direction. even when a bass line is included. Similarly some maj7 chords are Lydian. The combination of quartals with standard rootless voicings. if you play this piece through. . 26-28. although one of the beauties of the quartal/pentatonic approach is being able to create your own harmonic direction. Fig 9 7 • • • Note the use of inversions in bars 11. Once pentatonics are utilised in soloing techniques. It is important to note that you wouldn’t exclusively use quartals as left-hand voicings when soloing or comping. ‘shell’ voicings or cluster chords gives the most interest and colour. However. further ambiguity and movement can be implied without sacrificing harmonic integrity. again to demonstrate the quartal shape for those chords. That is one of the strengths of these voicings – lending both an uncertainty and ‘openness’ to the tune.
Fig 10 The second line of Fig 10 shows the changes for the 1st eight bars of There Is No Greater Love once again. perfect quartals are ideal. especially with dominant chords (G7 / Db7alt chord in Fig 10). So far we have only covered quartals constructed from perfect 4ths. the number of usable ones becomes limited by the potential problem of including ‘avoid’ notes such as the natural 4th on major and dominant chords. and from the 5th (Gm7). Fig 11 . Its minor usage is now limited to a minor voicing built from the 9th (Cm7). such as minor chords built from the 9th. and frequently you’ll use both. but featuring some of these dominant voicings.8 Play through a number of standards with just quartal left-hand voicings. Hammond players make good use of this as open voicings generally work much better on the organ. and you will start to find voicing shapes that work well. it no longer becomes a suitable D minor chord due to the presence of the b6. If we allow ourselves to augment a 4th within the voicing. No one approach is better than the other. If we look at an extended quartal built from D (fig 11). The sound will be much more consonant as the voicing now includes the tritone of the 3rd and 7th. Another way of understanding this voicing is that it is just a standard left-hand rootless voicing minus one note (an easy way of finding it!). If you play this through. or that just become ‘favourites’. altered dominants built from the b7 etc. possibly from the 13th (Fm11) – although this gives more of a dominant sus4 chord sound. Be open to the music and the direction you wish to take in your solos. we can cover a lot more options. This is where personal preference comes in – if you want a more ambiguous and less defined harmony. Don’t underestimate the simplicity of this voicing as it is extremely useful – especially to quickly and easily create an open (‘fourth-like’) sound in the left hand. dominant and major chords built from the 13th. you’ll notice how much stronger the harmony is outlined. Two-handed Voicings While quartals can be extended by fourths to create two-handed 5-note voicings. whereas these augmented quartals will create a more obvious harmony. which is a strong minor chord and one which we will use most often.
as well as dominant cycles (Fig 13). practice these in every key and find some other sequences that you like. 13th or 3rd. Practice this through every key until it becomes natural. This then will give more options for available quartals. We can get away with a bit more ambiguity or obscurity with left-handed voicings due to what the right hand would be playing against it. as we will be playing the 3rd with the left hand. and create a stronger tonality in chord progressions. 9 The stacked voicing also gives us some nice major 9 chords. especially in dominant structures. 3rd. Fig 13 The first bar is a useful.e. but both the E7alt and Bb13 sound weak. but we are limited in dominant voicings with this method. The F9sus chord is ok. Again. This gives us the voicings shown in Fig 12 – excellent unaltered dominant chords. so they can be thought of as being built top-down from the Root or 5th. built from the 7th. Here are a couple of options for using altered dominants as quartal/shell combinations. or #4th. II-V-I progression with nice voice-leading. Fig 12 Some like to refer to these voicings as built from the ‘top-down’. 3rds and 7ths. but two-handed voicings should be stronger. especially useful in blues progressions. Referring to the chart on page 5. The second bar shows how quartal/shell combinations can effectively be used in a cycle of fifths dominant sequence. such as the bridge to I Got Rhythm. The last voicing is redundant. The best approach is to combine quartals with ‘shell’ voicings i. we can build quartals from the 9th. Fig 14 .
2006) which details these techniques. Using a major triad in the right hand. here are some II-V-I combinations that are very useful. This voicings has stacked fourths but with a major 3rd interval on top. While it is beyond the scope of this book to delve into all the possible uses of Upper Structures. and a major 7#4 from the 7th. Fig 16 If we combine So What voicings with our two-handed quartal structures. as an example. (Other. less common possibilities are a min 11th from the 4th. we get some nice harmonic movement and voice-leading. such as ‘So What’ chords and Upper Structures.the same voicing as highlighted in Fig 11. Fig 15 Also interesting to note is that the 4th inversion of a ‘So What” chord becomes in effect a quartal . One advantage of this voicing is that it is a strong minor chord in root position. and an altered dominant from the #9). as a 7b9 voicing: . as in the first four bars of All The Things You Are: Fig 17 The best use of two-handed quartal voicings are in conjunction with other voicings. However. as well as a major 7th built from the 3rd. one is recommended to read Jazz Piano Voicings for the Intermediate to Advanced Pianist (Brown.10 Quartals and ‘So What’ Voicings Closely related to quartal structures is the classic ‘So What’ voicing as used by Bill Evans on the original Miles Davis track. a minor 3rd below the root.
a fun variation is shown in Fig 21. Finally. quartals can be similarly stacked to create an interesting min11 voicing. Fig 20 Returning to our quartal exercise on page 4 (Fig 3). as well as a major triad a tritone away as a dom7(b9 #11) voicing (2nd & 3rd examples): Fig 19 Practice these around the cycle of fourths until they become comfortable. Fig 18 11 Using a major triad. by using quartals a tone apart. Play the exercise simultaneously with two hands. as a dom7(#5 #9) voicing. a major 3rd below the root. Fig 21 . in the same way that normal minor 7th chords a tone apart. can be stacked to create a (full!) dorian chord.
F. Fig 23 When practicing patterns. Initially. one should become familiar with the scales in every key. G. For a more thorough study of patterns associated with pentatonics. D. 1976). two recommended resources are: Inside Improvisation Series Vol 2 – Pentatonics (Bergonzi. they can actually assist in creating harmonic ambiguity! They have such a strong sound. F. Below is a useful pattern for practicing – both in terms of familiarisation. Here are a few typical pentatonic exercises to experiment with. in conjunction with quartals. as well as implying a particular harmonic direction. However. If five fourths are stacked up from C (or down from Ab). as well as technique. we have an Fmin or Abmaj pentatonic scale. or superimposing another harmony on top of an existing one. through both whole tone scales etc. Fig 22 Pentatonics are extremely useful in terms of creating space in solo construction. that they are often the improviser’s first choice in ‘outside’ playing. Fig 24 . a pentatonic scale is just an extended stack of fourths (Fig 22). and Pentatonic Scales for Jazz Improvisation (Ricker. vary the routine to keep things interesting: Cycle of Fourths. scales and chords through all keys. 1993). but occasionally the minor form is more relevant to the context. up by maj 3rds starting from C. up by min 3rds starting from C. as will be seen. G. formulating patterns. These are major pentatonics – in most cases this book will refer to them from a major construction.12 Pentatonics Pentatonic scales and quartal chords go hand-in-hand – after all.
[altered from #V] dom7b9 bII pentatonic from I dim7 bII pentatonic from II .2. bVII.6 and works well over dominant diminished harmony. dominant from I. as does a dominant pentatonic: 1. up F#. This type of pentatonic is 1.5. build it from the 2 (4. avoiding the 4th. min7 IV.b7 built from 2 Again. down Eb.5.3. dominant from bVI.3. b5 or 6 as everything repeats at the interval of a min 3rd in diminished harmony). while from 2 gives a nice Lydian sound. Building from the 4 gives a slightly ambiguous dorian sound.7). Same b2 pentatonic as for dom7b9. (and can also be built from the b3. Chord Major Pentatonics Notes The most common ones are built from the b3 or b7. we can determine which pentatonics are suitable for each chord type. although an ‘altered’ pentatonic (1. also useful for a min6 or min-maj7 chord. [altered from II].5.g. Taking our common chords. dom7#11 7sus4 maj7. bVI dominant 7. only pentatonics built from 1 and 5 are useable. The table below lists the most useful ones. bIII. the next step is to apply them to standard harmonic contexts. up C.b6. down A 13 Another favourite pattern is this one… Once you have the pentatonics under your fingers. If we wish to avoid the b9. II. V bVI. but in this case. we can only use a tonic pentatonic.b2. maj7#4 min7b5 dom7 #5#9 I. build a pentatonic (major or dominant) from the b6. [altered from bVII] bV. bVII I. Practice this next exercise not just chromatically as pictured.b6) built from the 2 highlights a Lydian dominant harmony.2. but through other cycles such as min 3rds e.3. II IV. while from the bVI is only applicable to Aeolian harmony Avoiding the fourth.
parent scale of G7alt is Ab melodic minor.g. This next exercise demonstrates the altered pentatonic over a dominant 7#11 chord. F7#11. 1. There is an easier way of playing this for pianists which is starting the scale from the 5th of the pentatonic i.e. Basically. Am7b5. Fig 26 The best way to learn the general pentatonic/chord relationship is to practice them over II-V-I progressions. Play this over the standard left-hand 13th voicings.e. G7b13. so G is the starting note.14 A word about the altered pentatonic – this works extremely well with modes of the melodic minor. . A good exercise is featured in the first line of fig 27 – notice the pentatonics ascending by semitones over the sequence. it is probably easier to remember that they start on the 2nd of the parent melodic minor i. Don’t worry too much about practicing patterns – the goal is to get the scales under the fingers and to become familiar with the ‘sound’. 2. To memorise the patterns. 3: Fig 25 These patterns tend to fall under the fingers nicely when constructed from the 5th of the altered pentatonic as above. Practice Fig 25 through all keys until comfortable. D7susb9. as well as within tune contexts. parent melodic minor of Dm7b5 is F. an altered pentatonic from G will work over Cm(maj7) or Cmin6. an altered pentatonic built from the 5th of the parent melodic minor will work over all the modes of that scale e. Fig 27 The second line is just a minor II-V-I but is also a good pentatonic sequence to practice through the keys. Ebmaj#5. so Bb is the starting note. Practice this in all keys and explore the sound of each pentatonic/chord relationship. 5. b6. B7alt.
Db pentatonic gives us 1 ‘wrong’ note – Db. we will have a selection of ‘outside’ scales. Gb pentatonic has 2 ‘wrong’ notes. but is quite ‘outside’ again due to the presence of a maj 3rd and 7th. Of course these aren’t necessarily the best or only pentatonics that can be used in each case. . G pentatonic has only 2 ‘wrong’ notes. E pentatonic has 4-5 ‘wrong’ notes (depending on whether G# or Ab is ‘wrong’). Another approach is that of treating the pentatonic as a ‘note formula’ so we can examine the various tensions highlighted by starting the formula from various scale degrees. pentatonics that fit into a diatonic context. 4. but an understanding of the concept is important at this stage. One term for this could be superimposition. 15 Here are the changes for the standard Stella By Starlight with the major pentatonics written above each chord (altered pentatonics are used on dominant chords where indicated). F# and B. but hopefully it will spur you to explore other standards and internalise the common scales. To illustrate: let’s take a Cmin7 chord – the ‘inside’ pentatonics are built from the b3. This will be explored in greater detail soon. because we are superimposing unrelated scales onto a specific harmony. when quartal/pentatonic combinations are presented. D pentatonic has 3 ‘wrong’ notes – E. and possibly b6. e. the pentatonic scale is such a strong ‘sound’ that the use of ‘wrong’ pentatonics as a means of playing ‘outside’ the harmony is a common technique. but is a strong locrian sound. but it is quite ‘outside’ because it is the major 3rd. C pentatonic over Cmin7 gives us only 1 ‘wrong note’ – E. Fig 28 The pentatonic scale choices shown so far have been ‘inside’ choices i. so is the most ‘outside’ choice. If we build pentatonics from every other chromatic note. However.e. b7. so is very ‘outside’ due to both the maj 3rd and maj 7th. but this sound is less ‘outside’ and is more of a phrygian sound.g. the degree of sounding ‘outside’ depending on the number and quality of ‘wrong’ notes.
maj7. but as it highlights the natural 4. Finally the exercise could be done with a dominant 7th chord. but is less of an issue as virtually all of the ‘wrong’ notes are available tensions. dependent on the strength and conviction of the idea – which is where pentatonics are extremely useful. as is Ab pentatonic. The one pentatonic that should be obvious as being the most ‘outside’ is the one built from the natural 7th degree e. Db pentatonic over Cmaj7 gives us 5 ‘wrong’ notes (if F is counted as ‘wrong’…). and most importantly. is reasonably ‘out’. It is interesting to note that in every case – m7. what degree of tension (and ultimately. you’d probably be kicked off the bandstand! Use your ears as the best guide.g. B pentatonic is quite ‘outside’ with 3 ‘wrong’ notes. Using quartal chords in conjunction with pentatonics will enable you to achieve much stronger ideas and direction when playing ‘outside’. Hold down a chord with the left-hand and play the various pentatonics against it to see how the various tensions work. so is very ‘out’. Again. playing a harmony a semitone above or below the chord. and is very ‘outside’. Gb pentatonic gives 4 ‘wrong’ notes. it is possibly an overly simplistic approach towards ‘outside’ playing – if you consistently played solos a semitone below every chord.e. and is determined by what your ears can handle. The concept of whether a note is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is purely a technical one – your choice of scale or pentatonic is totally subjective. A pentatonic gives 1 ‘wrong’ note and is only moderately ‘out’.e. . Already we know that 1. and the ‘side-slipping’ technique will be explored in greater detail within this framework. don’t be afraid to experiment. release) you wish to highlight. In any case.16 A pentatonic has 4 ‘wrong’ notes. and learn how to resolve ‘outside’ playing successfully. experiment with these. the pentatonic built from the natural 7th will give a very ‘outside’ sound. B pentatonic has 3 ‘wrong’ notes. The success of playing ‘outside’ is more often than not. i. E pentatonic gives 2 ‘wrong’ notes but is nearly a Lydian Augmented sound. B pentatonic over C7. so is the most ‘outside’ Eb pentatonic gives 3 ‘wrong’ notes but is quite ‘out’ due to b3 and b7. F pentatonic gives only 1 ‘wrong’ note. While one therefore could solo with that concept in mind. dominant 7. any pentatonic can work to a greater or lesser degree. This is part of the success of the technique known as ‘side-slipping’ i. so is not too ‘out’. Bb pentatonic gives 2 ‘wrong’ notes but is more out than E pentatonic due to the b7. Let’s do the exercise with a maj 7th chord. 2 and 5 pentatonics are ‘inside’. also quite ‘outside’. In other words. once again experiment by playing the various pentatonics against the chord.
using Fig 31 as a starting point. we now have four different pentatonics (a fourth apart) that can be used in conjunction with a quartal voicing: 4. the quartal is built from C. Bb. we will limit ourselves to perfect 4th quartal construction. Fig 29 17 Thus. b3 (C voicing with Eb pent). b6. 4. try combining some pentatonics over one quartal – moving from one into another while playing the left-hand voicing. . b7. We can now practice the movement between pentatonics as per this exercise in Fig 31. even if a minor chord is not being represented by the quartal.g b3. b7. Endeavour to get some ‘finger memory’ happening. but don’t get too hung up on this – get familiar with the notes and sound. If we look at the first chord in Fig 30. and the pentatonics associated with this are F. b7 (F voicing with Eb pent) or b6 (G voicing with Eb pent).e. The b7. Practice creating a smooth flow between pentatonics. it can be seen that there are already a few quartal chords contained within it. a quartal built from any of these roots could be associated with this pentatonic scale i. Practice just one pentatonic with the quartal around the cycle e. Fig 30 A key factor to being able to combine playing the various pentatonics over one quartal is to understand the relationship between them. If we consider the other pentatonic used over a minor chord (built from the 4). b3. and a root position quartal is often used as a minor voicing. At this stage. As will be seen. these particular pentatonics are the most common association. just around the cycle of fourths. Eb and Ab – in other words. Once you have a degree of ‘comfort’ with these. We need to internalise these combinations… Fig 30 shows quartals around the cycle of fourths with the various pentatonic scales above each – in the order b3. Because of this. b6. move on to another (b7) and so on. each pentatonic is only one note different than the previous! (See Fig 31). You can practice patterns. If we take a pentatonic scale. When this is comfortable. and can even extend the pentatonics to include Db & Gb – the additional pentatonics included in the chart on the next page. Quartals and Pentatonics The first thing is to determine what pentatonics can be used in conjunction with a quartal voicing. b3 and b6 pentatonics are common scales associated with a min7 chord (see chart on page 13).
Bb Pentatonics Harmony Gm11 Cmi7 Fm7 Bbm7 Ebm7 C7sus F7sus Bb7 Eb7 Ab7 E7alt A7alt D7alt Bbmaj7 Eb6/9 Ab6/9 Dbmaj7 Gbmaj7#4 Dm7b5 Cm7b5 Totals Root (C) √ 4 (F) √ √ Flat 7 (Bb) √ √ √ Flat 3 (Eb) (√) √ √ √ Flat 6 (Ab) (√) √ √ √ Flat 2 (Db) Flat 5 (Gb) (√) √ √ (√) √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ (√) 11 √ 3 6 11 √ √ √ (√) √ 11 √ √ (√) 6 √ (√) 4 . F. Example in C – quartal voicing C. (Note the relationships of both pentatonics and quartals in groups of fourths). Quartal chords and major pentatonics. The first column is a list of possible chords that a quartal from C could represent. The next columns are major pentatonics built from the indicated scale degrees of C. which could work with the quartal in that harmonic role.18 Fig 31 So now how do we apply this to harmony? A 3-note quartal could represent a number of chords but which ones? And how do the pentatonics relate in each case? The following chart should help.
To a degree. these are the 7 pentatonic scale roots. it’s not really going to sound very musical. b6 and b7 – our initial choices based upon the quartals that exist within pentatonic scale. Gb. b6. while less applicable to a range of chords. F. and practice the b2 and b5 pentatonics. as these have notes that clash with the quartal voicing. What this means in practice. are nonetheless extremely useful. Take the cycle in Fig 30 once more. b2 and b5. and it will sound ok? The answer is: You’re absolutely correct. but potentially awkward. Ab. i. as it is precisely for this reason that they can be used to more specifically create or highlight a harmony. and really it’s all about experimenting and using your ears. It is this that creates the uncertainty in harmonic direction when they are used in an improvisation. Notice how the sound is a little darker and more tense. and the fact that one voicing could represent so many different chords. improvising is often about the strength and conviction of ideas – if you’re not aware of the harmony or the harmonic direction you are trying to create. b7) pentatonics in relation to the indicated chord. These generally provide our more typical (b3. Bb. The b2 and b5 pentatonics. Db. . is that these combinations provide the greatest degree of ambiguity in the harmony.e. less ambiguous than b3. • A quartal voicing could represent at least one chord or harmony from almost any note of the chromatic scale! The only exception is B – unless you are particularly fond of a Bmaj7#4. Eb. • We have now included 3 more pentatonics: the root. as each combination could represent 11 different chords.b9 chord… Notice that the most common pentatonics are those built from the b3. b6 or b7. and why these things work. is vital to being able to use them successfully in improvising. understanding the harmony. As mentioned before. almost any combination will sound good. what is the point of learning all this? Couldn’t I just play any quartal and any pentatonic. if the quartal chord is extended to 7 notes – C. You should have noticed that these combinations have a strong ‘sound’ even in isolation – which is a key to their usefulness in playing ‘outside’ especially. • None of the other pentatonic scales are included. You may be thinking at this stage: With all this ambiguity in harmony. • Interestingly. or the b9 in a m7b5 chord – not wrong. 19 Notes: • The bracketed ticks are ‘use with care’ as they generally highlight the b6 in a minor key. However.
. Play the indicated pentatonics over these voicings. This highlights the importance of balance in the use of harmony – in other words. as well as developing a certain amount of finger memory. and much of the form doesn’t sound like the changes to Stella By Starlight at all. but this time voiced with quartals. and the pentatonic is C. this exercise is useful for accustoming the ear to the sounds. and notice the frequency of certain scale/chord combinations: Fig 32 Note that only major pentatonics have been used. that now there exists a high degree of harmonic ambiguity. we can determine the frequency of pentatonic types relative to the quartal voicing root. therefore it can be referred to as a b6 pentatonic. the b7 six times. the b3 six times. the b6 pentatonic occurs 15 times. In any case. Try playing through a number of standards using just quartals and pentatonics. and the main reason the b6 is used so much is because of it being a primary choice on minor II-V progressions.20 Here’s Stella By Starlight again. In terms of analysis.g in bar one. the quartal is built from E. This just highlights the commonality of these combinations. Contrast and colour are important considerations in any improvisation. and no quartal has been inverted. You will notice in playing through the exercise. So in Fig 32. you wouldn’t solo exclusively with quartals and pentatonics. the 4 four times. e. and the b2 occurs three times.
com . 4. and fun. b3 9. 5. b7. of quartals… Chord Min7 Dom 7th Altered dom 7th Major 7 Quartal R. 9 6. 5. This is why the chapter has mainly focused on formularising pentatonic/quartal relationships – in order for you to create your own harmonic direction without constraints of the existing harmony. R 3. b9. 2. R 3. This is really the freedom. 5 Major Pentatonic from: b7. 4. 5 Chick Corea Mantova Jazz Festival 1999 – Chick Corea & Gary Burton Photo © Manuel Cristaldi www. 9 13. 5 #5. b9 b7. irrespective of the harmony. b7 9. #5. #11 #9. 6. (altered pentatonic from 2) b5. As a number of chords can be represented by one quartal. b3 R. there is an obvious question: What are really the most useful voicings and pentatonics for a particular harmony? Listed below are some personal favourites. Summary 21 This chapter has been an attempt to represent the commonality of certain pentatonic and quartal relationships. but don’t get too hung up on ‘correctness’ as quartal harmony lends itself to experimentation and exploration. R 11. 5. (altered pentatonic from #5) R. 13. 9. 9.manuelcristaldi. #9. #5 9.
. While only the b3 is shown (Eb over C quartal).22 Quartal voicings and pentatonic exercises Here are a few exercises to help develop the pentatonic/quartal combinations. followed by one built from the 9th. also practice the other pentatonics – b6. b7. Fig 34 The next exercise takes the same ‘ride’ left hand and the right hand now plays the 4note pattern as above. or anticipate the 3rd chord as in the second two bars. This first exercise just takes the simple pentatonic pattern from Fig 23 and adds the left-hand quartal. when playing more of a swing feel. used to state minor or suspended harmony more explicitly. the minor version seems more grounded with the harmony. but with a pattern like this. these should be practiced through all keys. sometimes referred to in musical terms as a hemiola. You can play the exercise straight as in the first two bars of Fig 34. as well as providing musical patterns that are useful in solos. The left hand starts with a root and 5th then proceeds to a root quartal. This exercise is very musical and useful. Use the indicated fingering for all keys. 4 and even b2 and b5. This is a McCoy Tyner approach. Notice that the pentatonic in this instance is the minor version – it’s a personal choice whether you think in terms of major or minor when using pentatonics. Fig 33 A good alternative is to use the ‘ride’ voicing technique in the left-hand. As with previous exercises. but in a triplet feel.
The combination could be progressed chromatically. take the following ideas and make up your own variations. Fig 35 23 Continuing with the minor pentatonic. This idea is very useful as a means of taking the harmony ‘out’. Examples of these will be shown on the next few pages. Experiment with a few of your own. the next exercise is just one of many pentatonic patterns that can be practiced together with quartals. This highlights the various quartals one particular scale could work with. Fig 37 Fig 38 demonstrates variations on a simple. Fig 36 The pentatonic in the following exercise could be outlined in either a minor or major fashion. or could ascend/descend by tones or min 3rds etc. but for now. but fun pattern that could be used in many situations. or ‘targeting’ chords. depending on preference. .
Sometimes called a “4+2” voicing as it consists of a 4th.24 Fig 38 The right-hand pattern could start on the 2nd (or 5th) from the quartal root:1 1 This right-hand line is a good chord voicing as well. major 2nd and another 4th. Build it from the 6th or 9th for a 13th voicing. Fig 39 . and works as a dominant chord over a 3rd and 7th in the left hand (Fig 39). or from the #9 for an altered voicing.
Be careful of overuse though. The following example is really just a 5-note sequence of quavers superimposed over common time: Fig 41 This could be used over the last four bars of a blues in F. for example. and sounds great almost wherever it’s used even though the right hand is really outlining only minor 7th chords. Fig 42 . as it is based around a whole tone sequence. Fig 40 Practice with the other whole tone scale as well. This is also an ideal pattern for developing into a polyrhythm across four bars. Experiment with different combinations. and so has a very distinctive sound. as well as ascending/descending patterns. Vary the right hand arpeggios between triads and 4-note chords. 25 This next exercise is a particular favourite. Notice how the following pattern now uses the right-hand minor 7th arpeggio a tone above the quartal root.
R 11. or patterns derived from 4ths can be used as a solo idea as well as a chordal outline. 4. R 3. 9. This arpeggiated quartal is useful for spanning the keyboard quickly and highlighting notes or harmony e. 9th. in order to highlight the #5 (top note of the quartal). Reverse the concept of the chart on page 21 – try practicing standard left-hand voicings for each of the chord types. b7. and arpeggiate quartals in the right. and arpeggiate the quartal in the right hand. 5. 9 6. arpeggiating a quartal built from the b7 over a dominant altered chord. . 9 13. 5. Chord Min7 Dom 7th Altered dom 7th Major 7 Quartal R. #5. A couple of II-V-I patterns: Fig 43 A nice minor 3rd pattern which can be used over an altered dominant: Fig 44 Further patterns in 4ths can be explored in the book Technique Development in Fourths for Jazz Improvisation (Ricker. 5 #5. b9 b7.g. #5 9. D and F (Root. 1983). 13. 5. b7 9. 6. Here’s the chart again without the pentatonics. 5 For example. b9. R 3. 9. based from the C. initially using the Fig 2 pattern.26 Right hand quartal patterns The pattern in Fig 38 demonstrates how quartals. play a Cm7 chord with the left hand. b3 9. 11th). #9. Do the same with the other chord types listed and develop control and dexterity with the right hand. #11 #9.
Maintain the right hand pattern or phrase while side-slipping with the left hand chord 3. or playing a semitone above or below the harmony. such as the one given. Side-slipping 27 Side-slipping. Maintain the left hand harmony while side-slipping with the right 2. and not practiced rigidly – experimentation is the key to getting a handle on all this. as greater tension can be obtained by taking the ideas further ‘out’. is a common jazz technique to create tension and colour. either. randomise the quartals used and their rhythmic placement. and is easy to achieve with quartals and pentatonics. Fig 46 . You may even try pentatonic patterns such as the ones given in Figures 36-38. In the second example. Fig 45 A couple of phrases that use side-slipping are shown below. In the first example. Side-slip equally with both hands These techniques need not be purely limited to semitones. The exercises should be starting points only. Don’t be afraid to go ‘out’ further than a semitone as well. and then explore the movement between the pentatonics yourself. start off by using a specific pentatonic pattern. The first two techniques are illustrated in Fig 45. There are three pianistic approaches to this: 1.
The blues are an ideal form for this. and a combination of random quartal movement in bars 8-10 juxtaposed with a chromatic descending quartal idea in bars 10-12.28 Targeting The application of Fig 42 is an example of targeting. Targeting need not use obvious patterns. and quartals/pentatonics are well-suited to create a strong harmonic sequence. whole tone sequence. In this case. which would normally be the standard ‘turnaround’ section in a blues. As the form is so strong and identifiable. irrespective of the original harmony. and often the unpredictability of a sequence is preferable. We can create that journey with a recognisable sequence such as wholetone or chromatic movement. using a sequence or pattern to get from one chord section to another. Play these through and notice where the harmony departs from the standard blues. The following pages will present some exercises to strengthen the ideas involved with targeting in this manner. but care does need to be taken as that can easily become predictable or cliché. In Fig 47 a brief departure occurs in bar 4 before arriving at the Bb7 chord in bar 5. . Figs 47 and 48 are example improvisations on a blues in F. Note the contrapuntal melodic idea over this. that is. More extreme departure is evident from bars 8 through 12. The improvisation ‘works’ because the progression resolves back to F7. the original II-V-I sequence of the last four bars of a blues is substituted with a two-handed rhythmic. Fig 47 Fig 48 is a similar improvisation. we can also get away with 5 bars of a different harmonic journey. with slightly more ‘outside’ movement before the Bb7 of bar 5.
Developing targeting ideas on a blues. starting with the b3 pentatonic (as indicated). Then do the same with the b6 and b7. with a chromatic quartal movement in bar 3. Develop a smooth flow through the chords. but also randomise the pentatonic notes. and one by minor 3rds in bars 9-12. Fig 48 29 Exercises 1. Initially. Practice patterns such as Fig 37 and 38. just arpeggiate the 1st four notes of each pentatonic over these quartals. Fig 49 . Some targeting movements are shown in Fig 49.
An example progression is shown in Fig 50. as this is just an exercise to improve confidence with the quartal/pentatonic combinations. Fig 51 4. Here’s the section from Fig 7: . For example. is to take some of the left-hand voicings from Fig 7. and apply them with the various pentatonic scales available. Don’t try to be predictable in the movement. II-V Contexts. Fig 50 3. page 6. A good way to initially develop the use of quartals and pentatonics within II-V harmonic structures.30 2. Vary the rate and rhythm of the quartal changes as well. and apply them to the tune Ladybird. Do the same exercise but this time randomise the quartal movements. lets just take the middle line of Fig 7 (as these are chromatic ideas and easy to remember). A minor blues example.
This just means creating longer sections of improvised form within a tune. Once you get really familiar with quartals and pentatonics. but immediately areas of tension are evident. All The Things You Are and consciously use these left-hand quartals. Only the b3. And here are some of them applied to Ladybird along with other left hand voicings. Extended Targeting. b7 and b6 pentatonics are listed. Because the available choices of pentatonics can vary from the written harmony depending on the quartal used. the combinations do work in much the same way as the targeting ideas do in the previous examples. Improvise with the common pentatonics in the right hand and vary which ones are used. while the descending chords are built from the 9th or 6th. with some interesting tensions. 31 etc. such as major pentatonics on a min7! However. b7 and b6 pentatonics initially. Take a tune and strip it down to its basic tonal outline – so for a blues. One of the key approaches to successfully implementing all these ideas. As these particular II-V voicings are chromatic. Fig 52 31 Notice how the use of some of these quartals creates a new harmonic direction.as per Fig 30. Practice the b3. the tendency is to stick with the same chromatic movement in the right hand pentatonic. which could become predictable if overused. and memorise their formation. The ones shown above are easy to form as the chromatic ascending chords are built from the root or 5th of the minor II chord. you’ll find that they become an essential part of your ‘toolbox’ as a jazz pianist. and then incorporate the b2 and b5 ones. Take the left-hand shapes you like from Fig 7. when played through. but look for interesting directions in the harmony. Don’t use them on every II-V. Play through standards that have a lot of II-V movement such as Like Someone In Love. 5. Out Of Nowhere. is to simply practice the quartal/pentatonic combinations . this is one easy way to create an outside ‘sound’. the structure could be defined as follows: || I7 | | | | IV7 | | I7 | | V7 | | I7 | || .
Try it. This is the most common style in which quartals and pentatonics are used. Combining various chordal and scalar techniques works better. This is demonstrated in Figs 47 and 48. Jazz standards are also good for this. Let your ears decide how much ‘works’. Take a blues and gradually open up the form. chromatic etc). Fig 53 Reduce the A section harmony to just Bb at bar 1. Reduce things further by just starting on Bb. if the last four bars of a jazz blues are viewed as a turnaround which could be replaced by any turnaround sequence. . as a way of targeting the Bb7: || Fma7 | Em7b5 A7 | Dm7 G7 | Cm7 F7 | Bb7…. Vary the form between a set direction (wholetone. and this has often been achieved in jazz composition. and create your own journey in between. Treat the B section as starting on D and ending on F. Don’t just limit yourself to quartals and pentatonics either. min 3rds. A classic example is the extended diatonic sequence of the Charlie Parker tune Blues For Alice. probably because the harmonic approach was first evident in jazz at the time Modal jazz became popular. as they are often 32-bar AABA type forms.32 The 1st four bars are an obvious place to create new harmony. Modal. Eb at bar 5. as mentioned. both on an entire blues as well as a section. using purely quartals and pentatonics can sound contrived and lose the impact of this harmonic approach. This will help with dictating the quartal movement and direction. Let the mood and momentum determine the path! 6. In any case. freeing up the harmony in this way can be liberating… Rhythm Changes are an excellent starting point. and end on Bb. At this extreme level. until you are improvising nearly the entire changes with different quartals and pentatonics. target the D for the B section. and random. back to Bb in the last A. and constantly keep an idea of the original form in your head. The form could be opened up even more. and so the entire A section could be seen as a way to target the B section.
4.7 – good for a Lydian outline from the root. or a Lydian sound when built from the #4.b6 – a dark. Start the scale from the II of the parent melodic minor.3.3 (Fig 25. especially pentatonics such as the: Insen 1.5. they are worth investigating. Chinese 1.1.5.b2.this scale is nearly identical to the altered pentatonic in the inversion 5.2. using the root and 5th of each minor chord but vary the subsequent quartals as the example in Fig 54 demonstrates.b7 – useful for a Dorian sound when constructed from the 6th of the chord.b6. Experiment with inside and outside pentatonics as discussed on pages 15 & 16.4. pg 14). Milestones and create varied quartal movement within each section. let the music and the moment be your guide.b7 .b2. as well as altered pentatonics.5. Don’t just rest with Western pentatonics either. the use of tension and release… .b5. Here’s the same exercise as in Fig 25. and a Lydian outline when built from the major 3rd. Aeolian sound when built from the root. Take a tune such as So What / Impressions.#4. As always. While exotic scales are beyond the scope of this resource. Hirajoshi (3rd mode of Kumoi) 1. and can also be used on any melodic minor mode.2. Fig 54 33 Another approach is to keep the left-hand reasonably static. Remember too. but vary the righthand pentatonics over the top. Try using the ‘Ride’ left-hand technique (Fig 34 page 22).b3. and an interesting Dorian sound built from the minor 3rd of the chord. but using the Insen scale: Fig 55 Iwato (4th mode of Kumoi) 1. a Dorian sound when built from the 5th of the chord.
34 Analysis Excerpt from Matrix by Chick Corea. Transcription from Pentatonic Scales For Jazz Improvisation (Ricker. 1976). from Now He Sings. . Pentatonic Scales for Jazz Improvisation. Now He Sobs (Corea. 1968).
13) Standard quartals built from 3rd and 9th for E major chord (bars 15. . and the augmented quartal for the Bb7 (bar 5). • • • • • • 35 Note the use of the root quartal for the F7sus (bars 2. Transcription from Jazz Improvisation .16). Bars 6 & 7 demonstrate a IV pentatonic (D) over the A quartal. Bb triad and F pentatonic combined over F7sus quartal (bars 12. 4). with a simple V (B) pentatonic descending pattern. Descending ‘targeting’ sequence to F7sus (bars 9. 1967). Excerpt from Passion Dance by McCoy Tyner from The Real McCoy (Tyner.10). Bars 19 & 20 demonstrate side-slipping from an Ami7 quartal to Abmi7. which resolves to F over the Gmi7 harmony. with corresponding bVII pentatonic phrase (G to Gb).McCoy Tyner (Unknown).
although only the first 3 notes of each scale (or pentatonic) are used as a triplet ‘pattern’ with the right hand. and extending. and applying exercises to internalise them. A high degree of tension is achieved in bars 15 and 16 due to the pentatonic scales being predominately b2 in relation to the quartal (B over Bb quartal. don’t attempt just to regurgitate the specific examples – discover your own approaches and licks which work for you. Ab over G). Avoid the trap of always falling back on quartal ideas as a way to extend the harmony and playing ‘out’. Ab and then chromatically down to G in bar 16. and thus become part of your ‘voice’. suddenly releasing the tension built up in bars 13 through 16. Bb. B. Tyner and even Larry Young – from an organ perspective) and transcribe their solos. Db. The quartal harmony ascends chromatically at first. A thorough study of McCoy Tyner’s playing technique is essential to really understand quartals and pentatonics. Listen to the players that utilise this style (such as Corea. Notice also the bottom note of the F quartal is left out. instead of your left hand harmony leading your right. harmony – and enjoy the journey! . Conclusion This book has been an attempt to provide a conceptual approach to utilising quartals and pentatonics. In addition. as most jazz pianists use at least some element of quartal and pentatonic ideas in their playing. Be open to your right hand lines dictating your left hand chords.36 • • • • • • • Note the use of the trademark ‘ride’ approach (root & 5th followed by quartal) in bars 1-12. You should aim to move between harmonic approaches seamlessly and easily. The right hand moves through pentatonics: D. A over G#. as was mentioned at the beginning of this book. Explore and understand the many different ways of moving through. The harmony reverts abruptly back to the F7sus idea at bar 17 (not shown). A. and then moves by a combination of whole steps and semitones. Above all. The combination practice techniques described will strengthen that approach to improvisation. Listen for these techniques in other players. The right hand outlines Eb and F pentatonics over the F7sus harmony. possibly to lighten the sound. by isolating the common combinations. it is hoped that some of the patterns and exercises will find their way in some form into your playing. As always. always use these concepts alongside more standard tertian harmony and modes. Bars 13-16 demonstrate Tyner’s ability to take the harmony quite outside using quartals.
Mastering Quartal Harmony and Voicings. The Jazz Piano Book. M. P. (2007). Inside Improvisation Vol. F.Pentatonics.html Recordings: Corea.McCoy Tyner. Jazz Voicings For The Intermediate to Advanced Pianist. Now He Sobs. [CD]. Alfred Publishing. 2009 from www. pp. DVD: Mylette. Lyon. (1997. (2008). (1976). (1968). Unknown. J. W. Pentatonic Scales for Jazz Improvisation. Quartals and Pentatonics. Blue Note. M. Now He Sings. Jazz Books and Articles.opus28. Brown.com.uk/jazzarticles. (1997). (Composer). Sher Music Co. Ricker. 2 . (1967). Technique Development in Fourths for Jazz Improvisation. (2006). Annual Review of Jazz Studies. Jazz Improvisation . Rittor Music. Articles: Rinzler. R. . (1993).co. J. 37 Bibliography Books: Bergonzi. (1989). Keyboard . Advance Music. May). [CD]. The Real McCoy. The Quartal and Pentatonic Harmony of McCoy Tyner. Ricker. A. (Composer). A. JazzPianoLessons. C. Auckland: Blue Train Ltd. Levine. Tyner. Mantooth. 61-78. Blue Note. R. Hal Leonard Corporation. LaVerne. Voicings For Jazz Keyboard. (1983). Retrieved August 17. CPP/Belwin. (1999).
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