You are on page 1of 147


This article is intended to briefly cover some of the materials and concepts that jazz soloists use to achieve what we will loosely call a contemporary sound. This sound is heard in the playing of people such as Coltrane, Shorter, Woody Shaw, McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea, and those who have followed them. It sounds angular and sinuous, often ambiguous although one always gets a strong sense of structure coming through, even if that structure is more oblique than what we are used to hearing in classic bebop.

You need to be aware that this material builds on bebop, it isnt a substitute for it. You have to be familiar with scales, modes, chord tones, rhythmic concepts, bebop scales, arpeggios and encircling techniques all the traditional stuff first. In a sense, the contemporary sound stands against mainstream jazz in the same way 20th century modernism stands against what went before in visual art. It is simultaneously a reaction to it and an extension of it. In practical terms, as has been said ad nauseam about Picasso, in order to paint an abstract you first need to be a solid draughtsman. In fact, keen application of jazz rhythm is the key to making these materials really work, since they are ultimately quite simple sounding structures. Im going to assume that you are familiar with jazz basics, can read simple lines and know enough theory to understand chords. You should be able to construct a credible solo in the traditional bebop/hard bop/mainstream style. Be aware that although these materials may appear as a more or less influential part of any given players style, nobody solos on this stuff exclusively. However, when youre practising these materials be precise. I will often practise solidly on these materials before a gig and then go out and just play what comes to me the influence can then make itself felt when I want it.

At the heart of the contemporary jazz sound are pentatonic (five-note scales) and hexatonic (six-note scales). I will also examine two extremely useful shorthand chordal fragments from melodic minor that form four-note scale-type structures. A couple of introductory remarks. These constructions are sometimes referred to as gapped scales which is a convenient practical description in a jazz context, where they are used to substitute for full modes or scales. Historically however, these sounds have had an identity all of their own in various folk traditions the world over, in which context they are not regarded as gapped or incomplete. The modal ambiguity they invoke is an integral part of the sound of these traditions. For now, though, Ill use the term gapped scales. Two points flow from this. First, you need to overcome the illusion that the scales appear to come with gaps built in. You would no more run indiscriminately up and down them than you would do so with full modes or scales. One of the reasons for employing gapped scales is that they add a lot of structure to your soloing, and a lot of that structure exists across the gaps. Second, the fact that these scales are incomplete renderings of any given mode or scale has important consequences. Any given gapped scale will fit over more than one mode or scale. It follows that you can use different gapped scales to express any given mode or scale.

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Furthermore, these scales are predominantly anti-chromatic. If we are going to use just four, five or six notes to span the octave, it makes sense to make the spread as even as possible large gaps would generally negate the sense of the construction as a scale. Conversely, this means that semitones are kept to a minimum. In part, these scales are attractive for their anti-chromatic nature they thereby provide a welcome relief from the highly chromatic nature of bebop. The problem then arises: how do we reintroduce chromatic interest into such structures? The solution is to take the whole gapped scale structure and shift it chromatically up or down within the context of the same chord. The structure is thus maintained, but chromatic motion introduced to add interest to the line. This practice is referred to as planing or side-slipping. There are many different approaches to planing, but its best to begin with a semitone shift. Whenever you are working on a gapped scale, learn the scale a semitone up from it at the same time and devote some time to practising moving away from and back into the home sound by shifting up and down a gear.

A brief disclaimer. What follows represents a breakdown of some of the most commonly used materials, and those materials that form the basis of my own style in this idiom. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete exploration of what is a vast and fascinating subject. I hope, once you have grasped what is presented here, that you will go on to investigate other types of gapped scale structures as you wish and see fit.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London February 2007


Jason Lyon 2006-7,







Jason Lyon 2006-7,

The basic pentatonic scales are as follows: C minor pentatonic

C major pentatonic

These two structures are linked by relative major-minor relationship: C minor pentatonic = Eb major pentatonic C major pentatonic = A minor pentatonic C minor 6th pentatonic

C half-diminished pentatonic

C whole-tone pentatonic

C diminished pentatonic

The diminished reference is to a C7b9 chord, which expresses the C half-step whole-step diminished scale.

What follows is a breakdown of which pentatonic scales go with which chord types, along with a few observations and tricks to remembering them.


Jason Lyon 2006-7,



The minor flat 7 chord The ii chord in a ii-V progression Can also be used as a minor I A popular tonality for modal tunes as there are no avoid notes

C minor pentatonic C minor 6th pentatonic

G minor pentatonic

D minor pentatonic

A half-diminished pentatonic

Notes: The roots form a II-V-I-VI pattern in the key of the chord youre playing. Note the pentatonic scale qualities: Dm PT, Gm PT, Cm PT/Cm6 PT, A PT This chord is the same as Eb+4 the relative major*. You use the same pentatonics over both. Learn them as a pair. (* Not Eb Ionian = C Aeolian (classical major and minor) but Eb Lydian = C Dorian)


Jason Lyon 2006-7,



The major 7 #4 chord The I chord in a ii-V-I progression A popular tonality for modal tunes as there are no avoid notes

C major pentatonic G major pentatonic

D major pentatonic

A minor 6th pentatonic

F# half-diminished pentatonic

Notes: The roots form a II-V-I-VI pattern in the key of the chord youre playing. Note the pentatonic scale qualities: DM PT, GM PT, CM PT, Am 6 PT Plus a half-diminished chord on the #4 of the key of the chord youre playing. This chord is the same as Am7 (Dorian) the relative minor*. You use the same pentatonics over both. Learn them as a pair. In the Am7 context, the C+4 pentatonic scales are the same as: Bm PT, Em PT, Am PT/Am 6 PT, F# PT Lydian (#4) is always an option on a major chord. But if you dont want the Lydian alteration, just play C and G major pentatonics. The roots form a V-I in the key of the chord youre playing. (* Not C Ionian = A Aeolian (classical major and minor) but C Lydian = A Dorian)


Jason Lyon 2006-7,



The V chord in a ii-V progression The plainest possible vanilla dominant

C major pentatonic E half-diminished pentatonic

G minor 6 pentatonic

Notes: The roots form a I-III-V pattern in the key of the chord youre playing. Note the pentatonic scale qualities: CM PT, E PT, Gm6 PT


Jason Lyon 2006-7,



The four most used chords from melodic minor harmony. Half-diminished, altered dominant and tonic minor form the minor ii-V-I (but not from the same melodic minor key) Lydian dominant is a common secondary dominant substitution Altered dominant and Lydian dominant are the same chord/scale over roots a tritone apart

A / B7alt / C / F7+11
A half-diminished pentatonic B whole-tone pentatonic

C minor 6th pentatonic

D minor pentatonic

D minor 6th pentatonic

Notes: The roots form a I-II-bIII-IV pattern from the root of the half-diminished chord*. The pentatonic chord qualities of the first three go in the order of a minor ii-V-I half-diminished, whole-tone, minor 6th. B7alt and F7+11 are exactly the same thing, just over roots a tritone apart. Think of them as two sides of the same coin. The key to remembering Dorian and Lydian pentatonics was II-V-I-VI. The thinking in melodic minor is ABCD. Its best to learn the chords from each melodic minor key as a group. Incidentally, Eb#5 is also part of the same melodic minor family. This chord type is not terribly common and is best investigated in isolation later. Note that the minor ii-V-I takes chords from three different melodic minor keys: D (from F melodic minor) G7alt (from Ab melodic minor) C (from C melodic minor) It may (or not!) be helpful to note that the roots of the parent melodic minor keys form a minor triad leading up to the final tonic. (* Or more strictly,VI-VII-I-II in the melodic minor key. I-II-bIII-IV from the lowest is probably easier to internalise)
-8 Jason Lyon 2006-7,



Common alteration to the dominant in a V-I context Implies the half-step whole-step diminished scale

C7b9 / Eb7b / F#7b9 / A7b9

C diminished pentatonic Eb diminished pentatonic

F# diminished pentatonic

A diminished pentatonic

Notes: The roots ascend a diminished chord. C7b9, Eb7b9, F#7b9 and A7b9 are the same thing, just over different roots. Learn them as a family. The diminished pentatonic is formed by lowering the fourth on a minor pentatonic. But you may find it easier to think of as a major 7th chord with added #9 (or b3rd) Perhaps more so than the other pentatonic sets, these yield best results when used mixed up together in combination


Jason Lyon 2006-7,



The dominant 7 (Mixolydian) chord but with the natural fourth promoted from an avoid note to a desired chord tone Can function as a V chord, but the V sus chord contains a ii-V progression in a single chord C7sus and Gm7/C are the same thing. A popular tonality in its own right for modal tunes as no avoid notes

Play the same pentatonics as for Gm7 or C sus pentatonic

Notes: The sus pentatonic is formed by raising the 3rd on a minor pentatonic. If you compare Cm PT and C sus PT you can see that soloing on a sus chord can be a bit like majorising a minor 11th chord. When using the pentatonics from the associated ii chord (Gm7 in this case), Gm PT is probably the most useful sound as it emphasises what you might call the sus chord tones: root, natural 4th, 5th and 7th. Some people reckon that in a sus chord the fourth replaces the third, so you dont play the third. Common practice doesnt bear this out.

- 10 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,



Usually functions as a V chord. The V susb9 chord can be seen as a minor ii-V progression in a single chord, so C7susb9 = G/C. In this interpretation the susb9 is the minor version of the sus. Phrygian or Locrian modes can also be played over a susb9

Play the same pentatonics as for G or Play the same pentatonics as for Bb Dorian minor (for Phrygian sound) Or Play the same pentatonics as for Eb Dorian minor (for Locrian sound)

Notes: What you might call the susb9 chord tones are: root, b9, natural 4th and 7th. The 3rd will be minor 98% of the time (unless you want a Spanish Phrygian sound). This leaves the 5th and 13th: Natural 5th, natural 13th gives you the related half-diminished chord (Gh) Natural 5th, b13th gives you the Phrygian sound (same as Bb Dorian) b5th, b13th gives you the Locrian sound (same as Eb Dorian) (For completeness sake, b5th, natural 13th would give you the second mode of Bb harmonic minor another Spanish/Eastern-sounding scale. I havent heard this used in a susb9 context) To recap, for Phrygian play the same as Dorian minor a step down and for Locrian play the same as for Dorian minor a minor third up. Tricky stuff, I know, but were right at the outer limits here

- 11 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


We are going to look at ways of constructing scales from pairs of triads. In order for this approach to yield a hexatonic (six-note scale), the triads must be mutually exclusive they must contain no common tones. Of course, there is no reason why you shouldnt experiment with the use of triad pairs that do have tones in common, or combining two or more seventh chords, or triads, with each other, or simply using other sets of intervals in any permutations that sound good to you. These approaches can lead to very interesting sounds, and can be particularly useful in composition. For now, though, well focus on exclusive triads to generate six-note scales. The triad is a very strong harmonic building block, the foundation of the Western musical tonal system in fact, and the basic element with which most musicians have the easiest familiarity. Consequently, combining different triads is an extremely convenient shorthand method for internalising a wealth of different gapped scale sounds. Furthermore, these gapped scales derive a good deal of their interest from the fact that they combine two simple musical gestures (simple triads) to create a structured more complex whole. They are also interesting for the ambiguity they invoke in comparison to seven-note scales. Obviously, even restricting ourselves to exclusive triad pairs, the number of permutations is enormous. Ill choose here to stick to major and minor triad qualities and highlight those triad pairs that have good clutches of chord tones to apply to a variety of different chord qualities. Different people play, and think, in different ways. If you wish to explore exhaustively the possibilities of the other types of triads in combination, go right ahead. But theres a degree of subjective pragmatism here: I personally feel that its useful to know that major triads on C and D give a C Lydian sound, and not so useful to know that a major triad on C and a diminished triad on D, for instance, give an F melodic minor sound. Of course, its all up to you but what Im asking you to do is begin with the examples I give first, then take things further if you feel fired to do so. The headings I will assign here are given for purely descriptive purposes they arent commonly used terms.

- 12 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,



Combine a major and minor triad a tone apart

This hexatonic scale can be used over F and Dm7. Also possibly Gsus, although there is a better hexatonic option for sus chords shown below.The structure exists in C major and F major.



Combine two major triads a tone apart

Probably the most important of all the hexatonic structures. A very versatile structure, primarily used for solid access to D7sus and C Lydian (major or dominant, since the 7th is absent). It can also be used over Am7, as well as Bb+5 and, somewhat more ambiguously, over E and F#7alt. The structure exists in both G major and G melodic minor, uniquely among the triad pairs. It exploits the points in major and minor harmony where major triad pairs coincide.



Combine major/minor triads, in any permutation, a tritone apart

Major with major, major with minor, minor with major or minor with minor. All these combinations spell out a diminished scale for use over C7b9, Eb7b9, F#7b9 and A7b9.



SPANISH PHRYGIAN HEXATONIC Combining 2 major triads a semitone apart

- 13 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

The structure is from F harmonic minor. A triad side-slipping by a semitone over the lower root (C) is a signature sound of flamenco guitar. Spanish Phrygian differs from modal Phrygian in that it contains a major, rather than a minor, third. Use sparingly, please (Ole!).

LYDIAN #9 HEXATONIC (DIMINISHED MAJOR) The same structure analysed over the upper root, Db, gives a chord quality which some refer to as as Lydian #9 and others as diminished major. Here it is in C:

The tones outlined are root, #9, 3rd, #4th, 5th and major 7th. The scale strongly implies C diminished, but unusually specifies a major, rather than dominant 7th. It also strongly implies C Lydian, but the 9th is sharpened. Use of this hexatonic structure allows you to play a diminished sound on a I chord a sound much used by the likes of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. This hexatonic structure allows you to focus clearly on the crucial chord tones of this sound, while the structure of the pair of triads adds an extra degree of coherence. An often-played reharmonisation of a ii-V-I in this style is to detour at the diminished on your way to the I: || Dm7 | G7 | Cdim (or CLyd#9) | C ||

Miles also often used this chord quality as a substitute for a tonic chord, in the Workin Quintet as a final I, and later on the album In A Silent Way more extensively.


How you choose to assimilate and use these structures is entirely up to you. In my opinion, the most powerful hexatonic combinations involve major triads, and it just so happens that theres a tidy way of organising sets of major triads into a scheme thats useful and easy to remember. Were in the key of C. Lets build major triads a tone apart, starting from that root: C D E F# Ab Bb

The roots ascend a whole-tone scale. Heres how you use them: The first two triads in combination give you C Lydian (dominant 7th optional, sounds good either way). The second and third together give you C+5. The fourth and fifth together give you C7alt. The sixth and first again (the sequence repeats every octave) give you C7sus. Running through major triad pairs in a whole-tone scheme like this, to give different qualities on the same root, is an easy way to assimilate a useful batch of hexatonics. Hopefully it will also prepare you to accurately see, internalise and manipulate triad pairs. You can then expand into other triad and chord qualities, as you wish and need.
- 14 Jason Lyon 2006-7,


There are two gestures, groups of notes, that succinctly and unambiguously define the sound of a melodic minor scale. They are root, minor 3rd, 5th, major 7th and minor 3rd, 5th, major 7th, 9th. Pianists use these structures often as left-hand voicings (theyre known as grips). They are given here in C melodic minor:

They can also be used as four-note scales:


These scales will fit over any chord from the parent melodic minor key in fact, they do more than fit, they describe the tonality very accurately in a minimum of notes. Here is the full breakdown of chords from C melodic minor (the chords that arent often used are given for reference in brackets):

C (Dsusb9) Eb+5 F7+11 (G7b13) A


Having just four notes to work with may seem limiting. But these groups have the virtue of pinpointing the interesting chord tones. They are very useful in situations where the chords are flashing by quickly. You can also cascade them up and down to change register, or work them into other gapped scale lines. As before, when we looked at pentatonics, its best to learn the chords from each melodic minor key as a set. Internalising these four-note structures will help you to see the geography of the melodic minor keys very quickly.

- 15 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Note that in certain cases the root is absent from the four-note scale. In these cases you can expand the scale to five notes by adding it: C


Which effectively gives us another batch of pentatonics to play with. While were on the subject, this idea holds true for pentatonics as well. Wherever the pentatonic is missing the root of the chord youre playing it over, that root is always fair game but be aware that you are slightly disrupting the pure pentatonic sound.

- 16 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


It is often taught that over any given chord we could use this, that or the other pentatonic. True enough, but its better to say that we should use this, that and the other pentatonic. You can get so much more out of the pentatonic sound by assimilating the scales as sets or families. The quick way to remember which scales go with a minor 7th chord is to note that the roots form a II-V-I-VI pattern (a turnaround) to the root. The pentatonic qualities are minor, minor, minor/minor 6 and half-diminished, respectively. Were going to look at Cm7. The scales that go with this chord are: II V I VI Dm pentatonic Gm pentatonic Cm pentatonic & Cm6 pentatonic A pentatonic

The same scales will also serve over Eb+4 the relative major (Lydian and Dorian are in the same relationship as classical major and minor Ionian and Aeolian). Learning the two chords as a pair is a very efficient way of practising, but be aware that each tone from the scales will have a different effect in the context of the relative major. There are ways of connecting the pentatonic scales that fit over each chord by shifting just one note at a time. The exercises shown on the next page demonstrate two examples of this Ive marked the notes that change to make things clearer. Play through the exercises first with a Cm7 playalong, then with an Eb playalong, and keep your ears tuned to hear the different effects of the tones in particular the A, which is the 6th in minor and the #4th in major. You can then take the exercise through the other keys, and use them as models to devise similar ways of linking pentatonics over other chord qualities.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London July 2007

- 17 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Cm7 / Eb+4

- 18 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


This article is intended to give you a basic command of the most useful piano chords voiced in fourths (also known as quartal voicings). This sound is heard in the playing of McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and just about every pianist that has come after them. Its also used by arrangers. These voicings make for a much more open sound than the more traditional voicings based on thirds. The left-hand versions are often used to accompany a right-hand solo (frequently using pentatonic and hexatonic scales), but they also have a lot of applications in comping, both in modal tunes and when playing changes. Its especially useful to practise these voicings, as they allow you to see keys and chords in a different light. Most people find it quite tricky to read/play fourth intervals at first.


As modern as they may sound, the basic fourth voicings are derived from the standard rootless left-hand voicings most jazz pianists are already familiar with. The two inversions of these voicing sets are as follows: Dm7 G7 C Dm7 G7 C

Removing a middle note from these voicings is a popular choice, as it creates a less congested sound. It also converts the second two voicings into stacks of diatonic fourths (diatonic just means from the key could be perfect or augmented, doesnt matter): Dm7 G7 C Dm7 G7 C

Theres no reason why you shouldnt play these voicings as is, but its also possible to adjust the Dm7 voicings to convert the whole batch into fourths: Dm7 G7 C Dm7 G7 C

- 19 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

A note here on range. Its usually best to keep these voicings roughly within an octave of middle C. Much lower and theyre muddy, much higher and theyre thin. To give you more options you can invert them, for instance: Dm7


There are ways of building bigger chords in fourths across the two hands, but you have to take care when constructing them if you want to clearly express the harmony. What follows are the choices that give the most possible diatonic fourths while steering clear of the avoid notes and still giving the strongest possible representation of the chord. (The avoid notes are the 4ths of G7 and C.) On the II chord (Dm7), build five consecutive fourths up from the 5th:

Note that this voicing contains the root (D), 3rd (F), 5th (A) and 7th (C). Extending it either above or below tends to unbalance the sense of D minor. On the V chord (G7), build five or six consecutive fourths up from the 7th:

This cant be extended further either way, because that would mean playing the avoid note (the 4th, C). Note that this is the same as thing as a classic left-hand voicing with the second from bottom tone (A) raised an octave and the 5th (D) and root (G) added on top of the whole lot.

- 20 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

On the I chord (C), build five consecutive fourths up from the 3rd:

Note that this is the same thing as a classic left-hand voicing with the second from bottom tone (G) raised an octave and the root (C) added on top. Note also that this is the same as the II voicing for Am7 (the relative minor of C). The Dm7 voicing we looked at above is, likewise, the same as the voicing for F. Being aware of your relative major-minor pairings allows you to learn two things at once. These voicings are fuller, so can work satisfactorily further up the keyboard than the left-hand fourths we looked at earlier. But of course you can invert them, with the proviso that youd be disturbing the pure sound of stacked fourths. Oh, and the V and I voicings move nicely in parallel together. The II voicing is a bit more problematic, but you can use inversions to achieve smooth voice leading across the whole II-V-I. This is just a brief roundup of the fullest sounds over each chord quality (hint: there are also possibilities for F+4 the Lydian mode of the key and Gsus the Mixolydian mode). You should also explore stacks of four fourths over the different chords. Remember, ambiguity is not necessarily a bad thing in music. This is particularly the case in a modal context. One other possibility is worth mentioning here the tonic minor chord. Building five fourths up from the 3rd of a minor chord (here Dm) gives you the following (which is the same as the G7 voicing we looked at earlier):

This reads (bottom to top) minor 3rd, 6th, 9th, 5th and root. Minor 3rd, 6th and 9th in combination is a great way of representing a tonic minor chord. So this voicing will work well over a Dm which is part of a E A7alt Dm progression, rather than Dm7 G7 C.


Back to left-hand voicings. There are two problems with these voicings both are concerned with ambiguity. First, since chord tones are built in thirds, a three-note voicing built in fourths will only ever contain two chord tones. Second, many stacks of three fourths often dont contain the root. The solution to the first problem is to use fourth chords in pairs (or more), seesawing between them this allows you to more fully represent the chord tones. For the sake of smooth
- 21 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

motion, its best to choose fourth stacks a tone apart. The solution to the second problem is to play a low root and 5th or root and octave, then jump up and follow it with one or more fourth chords. Put the two solutions together and you have the basis of the style McCoy Tyner is famous for: Dm7

Another little point to mention here: if the chord quality were dealing with has a perfect 5th then either a low root and 5th or an octave will sound good. If the chord doesnt contain a perfect 5th (on a half-diminished or altered chord, for instance) then wed usually choose a low octave. An altered 5th played this low tends to muddy, rather than reinforce the harmony. Incidentally, if you think about it, this solution to a very modern use of harmony has its roots in a very old piano style stride. As is so often the case, what seems at first glance like revolution is actually evolution When used together in pairs or more, with or without the low root thump (which is used more in a modal context than in playing changes), these structures are known by some as rides presumably since the hand sort of rides up and down the keyboard. Some pairs of fourth stacks work better than others in different chord contexts.

RIDES IN MINOR Lets start by looking at all the possibilities available over a Dm7 (II) chord: Dm7

You can work out which ones are going to sound best by doing a little maths and letting your ear guide you. The maths part is simple: the combinations that work best are the ones that combine to give you the most strong chord tones. The I-II pairing is quite strong, combining root and 7th with 5th and root. The IV-V pairing is even stronger, combining 7th and 3rd with 5th and root. Others contain varying combinations of chord tones, but these two pairings seem to win out on the ear front, and are the most used:

- 22 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


We can connect these by using the fourth stack built on III. But remember that this voicing is more suggestive of tonic minor (Dm69) than a II chord (Dm7). This doesnt mean it cant be used over a Dm7, however, especially in combination with a neighbour. In a modal context, you have a lot more freedom to play any of the fourth stacks (especially since Dorian doesn't contain an "avoid note) but even so, these sets of rides can be seen as the important hinges in the harmony.

RIDES IN MAJOR Lets now look at which rides might suit a C chord: C

Hmm. Problems already. Anything involving the 4th of the key (the avoid note) is out. There are a couple of possibilities:

Now this may not look familiar but weve come across these choices before, in a different key. Remember how in minor, we found that the rides based on I-II and IV-V worked best in minor? Look again at these four stacks, but see them in A minor instead. They are the same thing as the I-II and IV-V combinations in A minor, which is the relative minor of C. If youve

- 23 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

learned A minor, you already know which rides sound good in C major. Learn major-minor pairs together. Remember we also said that we could connect the two pairs in minor by using the stack on III but with the proviso that it would tilt the sound in slightly in favour of tonic minor? We can do the same here (from A minor) but with the proviso that it turns the chord into C+4, C Lydian:

The Lydian alteration (raising the 4th) always sounds okay in major. The D minor rides we looked at earlier will also work on its relative major, F. Using the middle one (the one suggestive of tonic minor) will convert the chord into F+4. Incidentally, the reason this works is not because were dealing with straight classical relative major-minors (which are the Ionian and Aeolian modes), but with Lydian major and Dorian minor, which are in the same relationship, a minor 3rd apart.

Why dont we try looking at all the stacks available from A minor (shown here starting on C): Am7 (aka C Lydian)

This has the same effect as raising the 4th on a C major scale. Experiment and see how other combinations sound in the context of C with sharp 4th. The best way to hear the possibilities is to play a la Tyner, bashing down a pedalled low root and 5th or root and octave then following with the rides. Again, in a modal context, you have more scope the Lydian mode is popular in modal compositions as it also lacks an avoid note.


- 24 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

We have the same problem as we did with C here the presence of the avoid note (the fourth, C) in the scale restricts our choices. Well, sort of. You can always play voicings freely from this scale, which makes it a Gsus chord. This isnt too problematic because in fourth voicings youll never get the 4th of the key voiced above the 3rd, which is the potential source of dissonance in sus/Mixolydian chords. As long as the harmony is voiced as sus as is the case with these fourth stacks, then the Mixolydian mode doesnt have an avoid note, and you can play freely. That said, most players seem to gravitate towards using rides on VII-I-II when playing sus. If you want the straight dominant sound, there are options that avoid the 4th (II-III and VI-VII) and you can focus on those. We cant connect them with the intermediate ride (I) though, because that would make the chord a sus. But as with the major chord, we could also opt to raise the 4th (usually referred to in a dominant context as the 11th): G7+11

Experiment and find pairs that sound good together. Yet again, raising the avoid note in the harmony frees you up to use more of the fourth stacks in combination. Tynerise to hear how the different rides sound together.

RIDES ON CHORDS FROM MELODIC MINOR Weve now arrived at melodic minor the scale in question above (for G7+11) was D melodic minor:

And the question arises, are we still dealing with fourths? The I and IV voicings given above for G7+11 (the ones with G and C# on the bottom) contain intervals that look like major 3rds but are actually fourths within the melodic minor key (ie they are four tones apart). Major 3rd interval: C# (Db) F But in the scale: C# D E F So is this a fourth or not? Yes and no. Sure, the interval looks like a major 3rd, but within the context of the melodic minor key its actually a diminished 4th.
- 25 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

The melodic minor scale goes with a whole family of chord types, which you really need to learn as a set, Here are the chords that go with D melodic minor: D Esusb9 F+5 G7+11 A7susb13 B C#7+9 (aka minor-major, tonic minor) (not much used) (aka Lydian Augmented) (aka Lydian Dominant) (not much used) (aka half-diminished #2) (aka altered, Super Locrian, diminished-whole tone, Jazz minor, Pomeroy scale)

Happily, we dont tend to worry about avoid notes in melodic minor. Just about all the ride permutations are up for grabs over all the chords in this melodic minor family. Have a play around with rides from this melodic minor over the different roots. Be aware of the position of the false fourth interval in melodic minor. As before, the best way to hear the different possibilities is to play a la Tyner (but remember when youre doing the low register thump that some of these chord-scales dont have a perfect 5th). A quick tip: if you need to find a fourth voicing for an altered chord in a hurry, just play the standard rootless voicing and leave a note out. For instance: C#7+9 rootless voicings

fourth voicings

Actually, as we saw at the start, the same holds true for unaltered V and I chords.

RIDES ON CHORDS FROM DIMINISHED HARMONY Since weve arrived at the happy situation where everything works with everything else, lets look at how fourth stacks work with the diminished scale. The predominant use of this symmetrical scale in jazz harmony is over dominant 7b9 chords. The repeating pattern of the scale tones is half-step whole-step. So the scale G Ab Bb B C# D E F is what wed play over a G7b9 chord. Since everything is symmetrical and repeats at the interval of a minor 3rd, we can play the same scale over Bb7b9, C#7b9 and E7b9 the only difference is where you choose to start (and what the bass happens to be playing at the time).

- 26 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Constructing voicings from fourths within the diminished scale yields unusual results, since only every other chord stack is composed of true fourths (Ive marked them T):

G7b9 T T T T

Which is really quite horrible to read (Ive tried to notate it as clearly as possible), but a lot easier to see on the keyboard. The recurring pattern is major 3rd on top of a tritone followed by perfect 4th on top of a tritone. The major 3rd is another false 4th a major 3rd which is actually a 4th within the scale. So if you ride up and down by scale step, youll always wind up playing a major 3rd somewhere. Not a bad thing, just something to be aware of. All of these three-note stacks are interchangeable over G7b9, Bb7b9, Db7b9 and E7b9. As a rule, the stacks containing true fourths tend to be favoured. There are only three diminished scales, each serving four chords. Learn to associate each as a family and youll save yourself a lot of work. By the way, if youre used to hearing silentmovie melodrama from the diminished chord practising these voicings will open up your ears to other possibilities. One more thing. The piano can create visual illusions. Compare the first voicing above (beginning on G) with the second from last (beginning on E). Play them a couple of times and look at the shapes they form on the keyboard. Doesnt the first one look so evenly spread between the notes, whereas the other one looks like theres a yawning gap followed by a smaller one? Its an illusion they are intervalically exactly the same. A clear example of how practising fourths can help you view the keyboard in a different light.


One way of opening up the possibilities for voicings when comping is to use stacks or rides in the left hand and add one, two or more chord tones on top in the right if you use rides, parallel structures can sound great. One quick example, using the I-II ride in the LH with a diatonic 3rd figure moving in parallel in the RH. Recognise this? Dm7

- 27 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Another option is to combine rootless or shell voicings in the left hand with fourth structures in the right. Both these approaches take you out of strict fourth country and open up all sorts of voicings that have a fourthy flavour but are more flexible.

A closing remark. Very rarely in real life will you use fourth voicings exclusively. In the heat of battle, its probably fairer to call this voicing style thinned or open, rather than strictly quartal. Take these voicings around the keys its just as important to practise seeing them as playing them. You should also practise tunes using just strict fourth voicings, to explore the possibilities and get used to them in various contexts. But remember that these voicings also sound great in combination with other types of harmony. Dont get messianic about fourths sometimes your taste will suggest its a good time to use something else. Its always a good idea to listen when your taste is talking.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London July 2007

- 28 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


This is a transcription of the two-chorus solo that pianist Bill Evans takes with the Miles Davis Sextet on Love for Sale. Its taken from the Columbia recording originally entitled Jazz Track, although these days youre probably more likely to find it under the reissue title of 58 Miles. I think this solo is one of Bills very best: beautifully constructed, rhythmically fascinating and if youre used to the more introspective sound of the classic Evans Trio, the sheer exuberance of the swing may come as a surprise. Its natural, in a way, that the facets of this solo that make it so musically powerful also make it somewhat tricky to notate and read. A few pointers. 1. Key The tune is in Bb minor actually, melodic minor is quite strongly implied. For simplicity of reading, Ive given it the key signature of Bb major and flatted the third of the key where necessary. Ive also taken a few liberties with accidentals where I think it makes for easier reading (particularly in the parts of the tune that are in the relative major, Db). Oh, and note the 4-bar tag ending that all the soloists play on their final chorus. 2. Chords Bill takes a very flexible approach to the changes hes as likely to treat the first chord of the A section as Eb rather than Eb7, and also occasionally plays the second chord as Bb. Note that this is in keeping with the subtle ambiguity of Cole Porters melody against the harmony. Hes also very flexible in his approach to alterations on the dominant chords although a general preference for 7b9 chord-scales is evident. His lines involve a lot of passing-note chromaticism (very bebop) and often the chromaticism goes far enough to override the straight changes. The chording underneath the line is usually quite sparse (again very bebop in conception, although Bills style here is based on close LH clusters, dabs of more or less ambiguous colour, rather than classic bebop shell voicings). With all this in mind, Ive decided to give the original changes rather than attempting to notate precisely what Bill is implying in his lines. Its instructive to look at the ways he chooses to depart from the given changes but your LH comping should reflect the harmony implied by his RH line at the time. 3. Rhythm One of the things that really makes this solo is that Bill frequently overlays different time feels. This kind of playing is often much easier to hear than read. In bars 9-14 of the second A section, first chorus, he overlays a 3/4 feel, but displaced by an 8th note. A similar thing occurs in the final A section of the first chorus, but here he overlays a 12/8 feel a 16th note off-whack. Another example of this kind of displacement occurs in the second A of the second chorus, where the fourth chords appear. Try to hear the overlaid time feel, rather than reading all the tied notes. Note that he always resolves these time feels back into the home 4/4. Just leaving them hanging wouldnt be nearly as strong musically. 4. Swing Bill uses lots of different types of swing throughout the solo. You need to listen to the recording to get these nuances down theres really not much point attempting to notate them. In particular, listen for the way he uses different swing phrasing on the ornaments (last A of the first chorus, for instance). These are really just classical turns, but I thought it would be less ambiguous to write them out fully as 16th note groups.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at Jason Lyon London July 2007
- 29 Jason Lyon 2007,

- 30 -

Jason Lyon 2007,

- 31 -

Jason Lyon 2007,

- 32 -

Jason Lyon 2007,

- 33 -

Jason Lyon 2007,


Ive noticed that an awful lot of people learning jazz have a specific weakness when soloing their lines dont really seem to go anywhere, the phrases never really conclude. Theyre usually aware of this problem but dont seem able to fix it. Very often what happens is that a soloist will rip through a nice sounding line around a II-V only to dribble off inconclusively over the I chord. This is a weakness that arises because of a deficiency of practice most people seem to spend a lot of time working on patterns, licks and scales to get them round the II-Vs and never spend enough (or even any) time dealing with the resolution on the I chord. In a sense, they have nice firm II-V muscles but their I muscles are wimpy and underdeveloped. This article suggests a practice approach to give you a way of redressing the balance. It helps to consider whats going on harmonically. Its natural that people should be drawn to II-Vs this is the point in the harmonic progression that contains the most activity and tension, the most appeal to the imagination. By comparison, the I chord is at rest and seems to provide the imagination with much less scope for melodic construction. The result is often a sense of unresolved tension rather like a well-told joke with a fumbled punchline (or no punchline at all!). We need to develop as much melodic interest in the I chord as weve already found in the II-V. It needs to be said at the outset that phrases do not and should not always resolve on the I chord this can lead to a boxy kind of playing. Nevertheless, its true to say that they often do, and practising resolving phrases at this point is essential to train your sensibilities to handle tension and release in a more varied manner. So what were going to do is practise our punchlines in isolation at first, without the rest of the joke... By doing this, were building up our I muscles and, by shifting our focus onto the end of our phrases, were training our imagination to hear towards a conclusion. This will help change the way we conceive phrases were learning to think backwards from the conclusion.


So you may well ask, how on earth am I expected to think backwards in time like this? Ive got two bars of Fm7 Bb7b9 in front of me, right here, right now, and surely if I start by thinking what Im going to play in three bars time over Eb, its just going to paralyse me and stuff up the whole thing. Well, initially yes, maybe thats going to happen. But remember what is involved in the process of practising. We practise a line, a scale, more valuably a concept, on our own at home and we do so consciously and deliberately. This is indeed awkward, confusing and frustrating to begin with. But what were doing on a more profound level is training our subconscious to operate in this different way, so that when were on the stand our deeper mind can use the new approach for us and we can access it without conscious effort. Dont worry about trying to force this shift to happen just practise consciously and carefully and your subconscious will take care of the rest. Well start by taking a look at the notion of melodic cells.

- 34 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


The concept of cells is a universal feature in tonal music, applying as much to Bach, Mozart, Brahms or Wagner as to jazz improvisation. The key to the concept is that the strongest melodic gestures are built from four-note groups containing three defining chord tones plus one other. As with so many other profound musical concepts, this seems more bloody obvious the more you consider it. The sound of the chord will be strongly represented (favoured by a ratio of 3:1), and adding another non-chord tone to the group gives extra motion and depth, implying a scale and taking us away from the rather pedestrian sound of a pure triad or chord tone group. There are a large number of cells to choose from, some common examples being: 1(2)35 13(4)5 135(6) 35(6)7 3(4)57 (2)357 (2)356 3(4)56 356(7)

Ive given the non-chord tone in parentheses. Note that we can choose our chord tones from one of two sets: 1357 or 1356. Both imply a tonic sound. These work equally well in major and minor, and dont forget you can use them in any inversion. You could argue that the ones where the non-chord tone forms a connector between two chord tones sound stronger than the others. Sometimes you have to play the cell in inversion to make the tones connect more smoothly (sometimes that isnt what you want). These gestures are just as effective over other chord types (where, of course, the chord tones may be different), particularly when playing upper structure triads. Theyre also very useful at opening up the sound of the half-tone whole-tone diminished scale. Whats more, because of the strength with which they imply the harmony, they can also be a very effective device for getting outside the changes. Outside playing is all about using strong structures and sequences against the underlying harmony if you dont, itll just sound like a series of wrong notes. It may be more accurate, in fact, to call outside playing bitonal or polytonal playing instead. Rather than trying to exhaust all the possibilities, its best to construct these cells as you go along by thinking three chord tones plus another candidate. That way, youre training yourself to see the possibilities as they come up in real life. Incidentally, a lot of jazz players have done extensive work on using cells in their playing. The classic example was Coltrane, who used this approach to handle the stern (self-imposed) test of Giant Steps changes (interesting how, when he was faced with very unorthodox harmony, his musical instincts guided him into using a strong yet simple form of phrase construction). Arguably, some players have arrived at the sound of cells by sheer intuition, simply because of how strong they sound.

- 35 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Pick a standard tune that contains a number of clear II-V-I progressions (helps if its a tune you like). Make sure youre clear on the harmony dont get fooled, for instance, by the Db and Ab chords in bars 5 and 13 of All the Things You Are these are substitutions, not true I chords. Lets look at What Is This Thing Called Love, which contains seven clean and clear turnarounds to Fm, C and Bb: || | || | || | || | G D G D Cm7 Ab7 G D | | | | | | | | C7b9 G7+9 C7b9 G7+9 F7 % C7b9 G7+9 | | | | | | | | Fm C Fm F Bb Dm7 Fm C | | | | | | | | % % % % % G7 % % | || | || | || | ||

Note that the Fm chords are tonic minor chords (ie minor Is). While you could play them as Dorian (chord tones 1 b3 5 b7), the sound of tonic minor will be better reflected if you choose minor 6th (chord tones 1 b3 5 6) or major-minor (chord tones 1 b3 5 7). What were going to do is go around this chord cycle (using a playalong helps), but only playing at the point where the resolution to a I chord happens playing nothing else. Just the punchlines a cell-based figure to define resolution at the I chords. For instance:

Both very recognisable bebop gestures, in fact. I chose them deliberately to illustrate that cell figures are actually used in the real world. A couple of pointers. Rhythmic variety is very important in creating good lines, particularly since were using very simple harmonic tools. Also, try not to think of playing in those two bars, think more in terms of there being a general area in time where the resolution occurs. This will help you use anticipation or delay to achieve more fluid phrasing:

- 36 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

You may find the four-note cells a little limiting. Good. Stick with them at first, then look to combine different cells or add embellishments:

The second mini-phrase in this line could be seen as approach notes embellishing a line of GFC descending. The whole line was actually conceived as two cells chained together 1345 and 5712 (the latter cell played in inversion). It quickly becomes apparent, when working in this way, that we can easily chain cell figures together to give a more flowing line over the I chords. They chain together very naturally, because different cells will always have tones in common. Spend some time focusing just on the phrase endings outlining the I chords in this manner. The next stage is to add a little pickup made up of a just a few notes from the previous chord, leading into your cell phrase. Then continue the process, gradually reaching further and further back into the sound of the V chord and then the II chord, but always trying to think of the whole line as an increasingly extended pickup into your cell phrase on the I:

You dont have to practise extending exactly the same phrase backwards in this manner you could just think in terms of extending some kind of phrase further and further back. But its well worth trying with exactly the same phrase, and the more of this kind of practice you do, the more youll find yourself able to recall exact phrases and extend them backwards.

- 37 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


As we noted to begin with, you dont always want to resolve on the I chords in a tune. Once youve gained some facility in using cells for phrase endings, you can extend the process. Lets take the same tune and decide in advance on the chords where we want to end phrases. Take some chances and look to avoid the obvious. For example, try landing on and resolving to the starred chords here: || | || | || | || | G D* G D* Cm7* Ab7 G D | | | | | | | | C7b9 G7+9 C7b9* G7+9 F7 % C7b9* G7+9* | | | | | | | | Fm C Fm F Bb Dm7* Fm C | | | | | | | | % % % % % G7 % % | || | || | || | ||

We begin the process again by devising cell figures from the chords weve chosen and going round the whole form just playing the phrase endings. Using cells can help you find strong resolving gestures even on such active chords as altered dominants one good way of doing this is to focus on the upper structure triads and build cells based on them. For instance, the G7+9 chord has upper structure triads on Db and Eb. Combining notes from these two major triads gives you cells very similar to the ones we looked at for a major chord. Then we can practise reaching further and further back into the chords that precede our chosen resolution points. Miles once said that everything in music is a pickup. This kind of exercise is no more or less than that philosophy put into practice.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London July 2007

- 38 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007

Jazz relies on a shorthand system of chord notation, which is not universal, not standard, and not terribly logical or consistent, at least at first sight. This article is intended as a brief general guide to students who are new to this quixotic system and aims to give you a grounding in what any given chord symbol is trying to tell you. Ive also tried to clear up what I see as the most confusing ambiguities in the way chord symbols are written. Hopefully, Ive clarified more confusion than Ive created! In recent years, the international success of various fakebooks has led to a welcome degree of standardisation in the way chord symbols are written but theres still a way to go. In fact, its doubtful the system will ever become totally standardised it has the character of a living language in that respect. This article should also give some insight into the variations youll find on bits of manuscript paper and on published lead sheets that are usually prepared by people not familiar with jazz harmony. Best of luck, and feel free to get in touch with me at: Jason Lyon London September 2007

- 39 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7



The most commonly used symbols for a major chord are: C, C, C7, C6, C69, CM, CM6, CM7, C9, CM9, Cma,(6) (7) (9) Typical use is as the I chord in a II-V-I progression. These different chord variations all perform the same function and are used largely interchangeably. Lets begin by pinning down what is meant by each symbol if they are being used with total precision as per the symbols: C C6, CM6, Cma6 C(7), CM(7), Cma(7) C9, CM9 Cma9 C69 Major triad: CEG Major triad plus 6th: CEGA Major 7th chord: CEGB Major 7th plus 9th: CEGBD Major triad plus 6th and 9th: CEGAD

(Note that the , M or ma needs to be present for a major 9th chord. If you see C9, it means a dominant 7th chord with an added 9th.) Notice that, if played exactly, these give different flavours of major sound. The triad is straightforward, the added 6th acts as an adornment to the triad, the major 7th chord (with or without the 9th) has a modern open sound and the 6/9 combination has a similar, but slightly smoother modern open sound.

One of the key concepts to bear in mind when deciphering chord symbols is that of context the style and period of the composition or interpretation being played. Here are some horrendous generalisations (but then, as someone once said, you cant have a good argument without generalisations). Dixieland, trad and strict-tempo dance music, as well as much of pop and country music tends to focus on the sound of the pure triad although the 6th may be added occasionally. The same is true of classically influenced popular dance music such as French chanson and java, tango and the music of Kurt Weill. Swing, early bebop and much traditional music from Central and South America and the Caribbean tends to focus on the sound of the triad plus 6th. Certain early bebop pioneers also sometimes experimented with the sound of the major 7th. Late bebop, hard bop, modal, cool, modern Latin music and most of what you could loosely refer to as contemporary jazz tends to use the major 7th (with or without the 9th) or 6/9 combination interchangeably. Postbop styles such as fusion and country- and folk-influenced jazz will often contain sections where the improviser is expected to improvise predominantly within the sound of various triads.

- 40 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7

So, for instance, a symbol really has no business being in a Hot Five or a traditional calypso chart the particular chord sound called for by that symbol is stylistically inappropriate. If you come across one in this sort of context, its worth checking with the person who wrote the chart that thats really what they meant. In later jazz and Latin charts, you will often see the simple symbol C or C6. This is just shorthand the generally idiomatic sound expected is C or C69 you are expected to do more than just slavishly obey the written symbol. The C (with or without the 9th) or C69 sounds are used interchangeably, but they are subtly different. Its up to you to choose which to play at any given point. When you see C (most common) or C69 actually specified on the chart, you generally have free rein to play either chord sound. However, some arrangers are very specific when they write chord symbols and it might be polite to play the exact chord sound indicated. In particular, it seems, chord charts written for singers tend to indicate chord extensions with a greater degree of detail than small-band lead sheets. If in doubt, it never hurts to ask.

ALTERATIONS TO MAJOR The two commonly played alterations to a major chord are Lydian and Lydian Augmented.

a) C+4

LYDIAN also written C+4, CM+4, CM#4 , Cma+4, Cma#4, (less commonly C+11, CM+11, C#11, CM#11)

This chord symbol means some kind of major chord with an added sharp 4th (you wouldnt generally play a perfect 4th on a major chord as its dissonant against the 3rd). You are free to add the #4th to a 6th, major 7th (9) or 6/9 combination, but note that often to avoid congestion the #4th replaces the perfect 5th in the voicing. Note also that by convention the + symbol means sharp, not add. Where you are required to add a tone to a chord youll usually see the word add. This is a relatively modern chord sound appearing from early bebop onwards. While you can often raise the 4th on any major chord, the Lydian is most often used on a IV chord, for instance when the harmony is a II-V-I-IV progression. A chart may read: Dm7 G7 C F

In these situations you can play the F chord as F+4, even, as here, when it isnt specifically called for on the chart. This makes sense, if you think about it, since F is the Lydian mode of the home key, C.
- 41 ,
Jason Lyon 2006-7

A common use of Lydian major is as a substitute for the final I in a chart as in II-VbII+4: Dm7 G7 Db+4

This may look odd if youve never come across it before, but youll recognise it instantly when you hear it. In more modern modal and postbop charts, the Lydian chord often appears when chords arent progressing around the cycle of Vs. In these contexts it will usually be specifically called for on the chart. The Lydian chord is sometimes notated by a slash chord (a triad over a bass note): D/C = C+4

b) C+5

LYDIAN AUGMENTED also written C#5, CM+5, CM#5, Cma+5, Cma#5, occasionally C+5

This chord symbol is shorthand. When the 5th is raised on a major chord, it is taken as read that the 4th has already been raised. Again the + symbol means sharp, not add. So this chord symbol means some kind of major chord with an added sharp 4th and sharp 5th. Well, thats strictly true, but in practice, this chord type often sounds strongest with just the #5th. Also, to avoid congestion in the voicing, the major 7th tends to be played more frequently than the 6th or 6/9 combination. A very modern chord type this 1960s jazz onwards. Its function is sort of as a tonic chord on steroids, as it were a chord that isnt so much at rest as sprawled on the floor. So stark is this sound that it is often out of place in straightforward II-V-I situations, except as a final I at the end of a chart: Dm7 G7 C+5

It is also found in modern charts where chords are not progressing by the cycle of Vs. The Lydian Augmented chord is sometimes notated by a slash chord (a triad over a bass note): E/C = C+5

- 42 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7



The logic with tonic minor chords is pretty similar to what we saw with tonic major chords the only difference between the two chord types being the minor 3rd. The most commonly used modern symbols for a minor chord are: Cm, C, Cm6, Cm69, Cmi, Cmi6, Cmi69, CmM, C9, CmM9, C-, C-6 Typical use is as the I chord in a minor II-V-I progression. As before, lets pin down what is meant by each symbol if they are being used with total precision: Cm, Cmi Cm6, Cmi6 C or CmM C9 or CmM9 Cm69, Cmi69 Minor triad: CEbG Minor triad plus 6th: CEbGA Minor-major 7th chord: CEbGB Minor-major 7th plus 9th: CEbGBD Minor triad plus 6th and 9th: CEbGAD

(Note that the or mM has to be in the symbol for a tonic minor 9th. Cm9 means a minor 7th chord with an added 9th.) As before, if played exactly, these give different flavours of minor sound. The triad is straightforward, the added 6th acts as an adornment to the triad, the minor-major 7th chord (with or without the 9th) has a modern open sound and the m6/9 combination has a similar, but slightly smoother modern open sound. Tonic minor chords have the same stylistic and period associations as major chords. Dixieland, trad and strict-tempo dance music, as well as much of pop and country music tends to focus on the sound of the pure minor triad although the 6th may be added occasionally. Swing, early bebop and much traditional music from Central and South America and the Caribbean tends to focus on the sound of the minor triad plus 6th. Certain early bebop pioneers also sometimes experimented with the sound of the minor-major. Late bebop, hard bop, modal, cool, modern Latin music and most of what you could loosely refer to as contemporary jazz tends to use the minor-major (9) or m6/9 combination interchangeably. Postbop styles such as fusion and country and folk-influenced jazz will often contain sections where the improviser is expected to improvise predominantly within the sound of various minor triads. As before, in later jazz and Latin charts, you will often see the simple symbol Cm or Cm6. You are expected in these styles to play either C (with or without the 9th) or Cm69 although it might be argued that the Cm69 is preferred in II-V-I situations. And when you see C or Cm69 you usually have the choice between the two.

- 43 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7



Dm7, Dm9, Dmi7, Dmi9, D-7, D-9 Typical use is as the II chord in a II-V-I progression. The chord tones are as follows: Dm7 Dm9 Minor 7th chord: D F A C Minor 9th chord: D F A C E

The Dm7 chord is more stylistically appropriate up to early bebop, the Dm9 chord belongs more to the late bop sound onwards. Not too many people bother writing Dm9 in charts these days most pianists will just play Dm9 when they see Dm7 anyway. But, as always, be aware of context In some charts, from bebop onwards, youll occasionally see the I chord in a minor IIV-I progression written as a minor 7th. For instance: D G7b9/G7alt Cm7

This kind of notation could be sloppiness the person writing the chart may have meant the C minor chord to be a tonic minor. But throughout the bebop period, the minor 7th (Dorian) sound was increasingly used as a sort of bluesy alternative to the tonic minor sound. You can use this sound whenever you want, even when the chord chart specifies a tonic minor. This is probably why the minor 7th (Dorian) sound was in on the birth of modal jazz So What is based on two minor 7th scales, and many other modal tunes made use of this chord quality. In the modal context, the scale is used for long periods of time and the pianist will usually explore the full extent of the chord scale. So on a modal tune it is usual to play around with the possibilities offered by the upper extensions, such as Dm11 and Dm13, even when the written chord is just Dm7: Dm11 Dm13 DFACEG DFACEGB

Not all of these tones have to be present in the voicing. Note that when you play up to the 13th in thirds like this, youre playing the entire chord scale. These upper extension chords are sometimes specifically called for in arrangements.

- 44 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7



D, Dm7b5, D(#2), Dm7-5 The half-diminished chord can be seen as an alteration to the minor 7th chord and is typically used as the II chord in a minor II-V-I progression. The chord tones are as follows: D or Dm7b5 D(#2) Minor 7th flat 5th chord: D F Ab C Optional alteration of raised 2nd: D E F Ab C

The chord symbol Dm7b5 gives a shorthand indication of whats going on: actually on a half-diminished chord both the 5th and 6th are flatted. The mode implied on half-diminished is Locrian which would include a b2nd. However, this tone is dissonant against the root. So, if the 2nd is played at all it is usually raised a half-step. The D(#2) symbol is rarely used, but if you see it the composer specifically wants this sound. Broadly speaking, in pre-bebop style youd tend to avoid the 2nd in a half-diminished voicing. In more modern styles you are free to add the #2nd if you wish, even when the chord symbol is a straight D or Dm7b5. The 11th can also be played on a half-diminished chord (particularly to accompany the #2nd), though its rarely specifically called for in a chord symbol.



G7, G9, G13 Typically used as the V chord in a II-V-I progression. The chord tones assumed to be present are as follows: G7 G9 G13 Dominant 7th chord: G B D F The same plus 9th: G B D F A The same plus 9th and 13th: G B D F A E

To generalise, the G7 and G9 chords are more stylistically appropriate up to early bebop, the G13 chord belongs more to the late bop sound onwards. Not too many people bother writing G13 in more modern charts most pianists will just play G13 when they see G7 anyway. Remember also that dominant 7th chords function as I chords in a blues (G13 is a popular choice in this context, even when the written chord is a simple G7). This
- 45 ,
Jason Lyon 2006-7

bluesy sound can be imported into standard II-V-Is, where you may see I chords notated as a dominant. Bebop was all about II-V patterns moving at speed. In a lot of older bop charts, they didnt bother including the II chord. Just because a chart reads V-I doesnt mean you shouldnt play the full II-V-I.

ALTERATIONS TO DOMINANTS The dominant chord is the most alterable and most frequently altered chord type. Sometimes specific alterations are called for by specific chord symbols, but jazz musicians dont wait for permission to freely alter the flavour of dominants whenever they like. When writing charts, some people acknowledge this by not bothering to write in specific alterations. Often, where alterations are specified on the chart, they are necessary to match whats going on in the melody (although you should always check for clashes this is the area where people most often stuff up). In this case, most jazz players tend to stick to the written alterations during the melody and use alterations more freely during the solos.



Gsus, G7sus, Gsus7, G9sus, Gsus9, G13sus, Gsus13, Gsus4, G7sus4 Note that the sus in the symbol only ever refers to the 4th, even when 4 doesnt appear. Chord tones are as follows: Gsus, G7sus, Gsus7 Gsus4, G7sus4 G9sus, Gsus9 G13sus, Gsus13 Dominant chord with added 4th: GBCDF The same with added 9th: GABCDF The same with added 9th and/or 13th: G(A)BCDEF

Often, the sus 4th replaces the 3rd in the voicing. Any of the upper extensions may be specifically called for in the chord symbol, but all are freely used, even when the chord symbol is the simple sus or sus4. Sus voicings tend to involve placing the 3rd above the 4th to avoid a dissonant minor 9th interval. Sus chords are quite a modern phenomenon from the 1960s onwards, where they often appear in modal tunes. Having said that, a common substitution to play is to compress a II-V into a Vsus, as in: Dm7 G7 C becomes G7sus C

- 46 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7

Sus chords can also be notated by a number of different slash chords: Dm7/G F/G F/G = = = G9sus G9sus G13sus



Gsusb9, G7susb9 Note that the sus refers to the 4th, not the b9th. The implied chord tones are either of: G Ab C D F (root, b9th, 4th, 5th, 7th) G Ab C E F (root, b9th, 4th, 13th, 7th) A very modern chord type mid 1960s onwards. Its primary use is as a substitute for a minor II-V: D G7b9/G7alt Cm becomes G7susb9 Cm

Different flavours of susb9 are also sometimes rendered as slash chords: D/G Fm/G F/G



D7+11, D7+4, D7#11, D7#4 Used in situations when the dominant chord doesnt resolve down a fifth or semitone (these are technically referred to as secondary dominants). A common example is when the dominant resolves to a minor 7th chord on the II degree of the key, eg: D7+11 Dm7 G7 C

The chord tones are: C E F# G Bb (root, 3rd, #11th, 5th, 7th) Often the #11th takes the place of the 5th in the voicing to avoid clutter. Its also common to add the 9th and/or 13th on this chord type, but youll rarely see this specifically called for in a chord symbol.

- 47 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7



G7alt, Galt7, G7#9, G7+9, G+7 Typical use is as the V chord in a minor II-V-I progression or as the VI chord in a major II-V-I-VI. This chord type implies the following scale (the VII mode of melodic minor): G Ab A# B C# D# F from which the chord tones are freely chosen. Common choices of chord tones are: G B F A# (root, 3rd, 7th, #9th) G B D# F A# (root, 3rd, #5th, 7th, #9th) This chord type is also freely used to embellish any dominant. It is the dominant alteration of choice among postbop players influenced by players such as John Coltrane.



G7b9, G7b9+11, G7b9#11 Typical use is as the V chord in a minor II-V-I progression or the VI chord in a major II-V-I-VI. This chord type also implies an entire scale (the symmetrical eight-note half-step whole-step diminished scale): G Ab A# B C# D E F from which the chord tones are freely chosen. Two popular sets of chord tones are: F Ab B D (7th, b9th, 3rd, 5th) F Ab B E (7th, b9th, 3rd, 13th) Note that the first voicing given above for an alt chord (G B F A#) will also work over a 7b9 chord. These two chord types alt and 7b9 are used for different flavours over minor II-V-I and major II-V-I-VI progressions. This chord type is also freely used to embellish any dominant. It is the dominant alteration of choice among bebop players influenced by players such as Charlie Parker.

- 48 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7



G7+5, G7#5, G7+ Used interchangeable with the altered dominant chord. This chord type also implies a complete scale (the symmetrical six-note whole-tone scale): G A B C# D# F The chord tones usually played are G B D# F (root, 3rd, #5th, 7th).



Bo, Bo7, Bdim Typical use is as a substitute for 7b9 chords to allow the bass to move chromatically: Bo C = G7b9/B C

Actually, this is a case of getting the cart before the horse. The diminished chord was used in older ragtime, jazz and blues styles as well as 1930s show tunes the notion of 7b9 chords came later. There are plenty of examples of genuine diminished motion in blues and older tunes, such as: C Em7 Bb7 C/E Eo Eo F Dm7 Eb7 F#o G7 G/C C

The same voicings are generally used for diminished chords as for the related 7b9 chords. One diminished scale serves four 7b9 chords and four diminished chords. The scale is made up of the roots of all of them in sequential order. For example, the G half-step whole-step scale serves the following chords: G7b9, Abo, A#7b9, Bo, C#7b9, Do, E7b9, Fo



Weve come across a couple of examples of slash chords already, but lets go into a bit more detail.

- 49 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7

Slash chords are a chord over a bass note, and are usually written with an oblique slash. Sometimes the chord on top is a simple triad, sometimes a fuller chord type: E/C Bb/C

Polychords are an extension of the same logic a chord over another chord. They are usually written with a horizontal slash: C D Eb13 Db

A good rule of thumb for pianists is that when you see either of these hybrid chord symbols, you play the simplest possible voicing for each element to give the combination intended although youre usually free to play around with inversions.

People write slash and polychords into charts for a number of different reasons. 1) Simple shorthand the chord is another way of writing a standard chord type. For most people E/C is easier to read and play than C9+5. Db/C implies that the composer or arranger wants a specific inversion of Db, with the major 7th on the bottom. E/F implies that the composer or arranger wants a specific diminished-scale voicing (to go with G7b9, Bb7b9, Db7b9 or E7b9, for instance). The composer or arranger wants a specific voicing, which they can express more cleanly by slash or polychords than traditional notation. Often in the modern context, a series of slash and polychords will be used in combination to notate a harmonic progression that doesnt make much (or any) sense when analysed as traditional harmony, but relies on parallelism or polytonality for its effect. The composer wants you to think in terms of hybrid chord scales when improvising. The commonly used substitute for a final C, B/C, implies that you should combine tones from the elements when improvising. B/C is a hell of a lot easier to digest than something like CLyd+9, or C+4+9, or even C7b9. If you see a slash or polychord that doesnt make sense when analysed traditionally, odds-on you are being instructed to use the two elements to contruct a synthetic non-standard scale or voicing.



Lets compare what you might play over: B/C and B C

- 50 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7

The first (slash) chord is instructing you to play a B triad over a C root. So far so good, but this only gives you four tones to go on most players would look to expand the possibilities in this context. You have lots of choices, but the basic strategies are as follows. You could think to yourself, okay, I have a B major chord, but I can also play a C. But C doesnt naturally occur in the B major scale. So you might choose to play a B major scale with the C added to it: B C C# D# E F# G# A# Or you might choose to play a B major scale with the nearest tone shifted to C. B C D# E F# G# A# Or you could take the view that since there is a C in the bass, this chord should be interpreted as some kind of C chord. The easiest way to reflect this would be to combine the most basic information necessary to express both C and B chords interweaving notes from the two triads as a scale: B C D# E F# G The second (poly) chord is less ambiguous. Its telling you to play B triad over C triad. So your first choice would be to use the same six-note hybrid scale comprising those six tones.

Slash and polychords are often primarily instructions to the piano/guitar and bass (occasionally the pianists chart will contain a slash chord to dictate a precise voicing and the bassists chart will contain a different root altogether). Having said that, a solo instrument may choose to play in the sound of the voicing indicated. But look out for non-traditional sounds notated this way, when you are expected to construct a synthetic scale from the elements given.

- 51 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7


Jason Lyon 2007

The blues is a style and a tradition all of its own, which existed before jazz and continues to exist outside jazz. The blues was, however, a formative influence on jazz and that influence continues to permeate many styles today. The extent to which you choose to incorporate blues into your jazz playing will go some way to defining your individual style.

BLUE NOTES Central to the blues sound is that of blue notes. The blues originated as a vocal tradition and it is characterised by certain tones being flatted but not in agreement with the equaltemperament scale. These can be thought of as half-flatted inflections, and they occur on the 3rd, 5th and 7th degrees of the scale: IN THE KEY OF C

The dominant 7th does not imply that the chord is a V in motion towards another chord rather, we can usefully consider the I chord in a blues to be a dominant chord. Most instruments can generate these half-flat sounds, but the piano has to use tricks to approximate them:

The second two versions involve softening the sound of the sliding note by hiding it underneath a higher tone. Even on instruments that can get these half-flat blue notes, the fully flatted tone is often played. It is effective because it resonates against the unflatted note in the harmony:

- 52 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Note how bluesy some of the full scales sound, because they contain combinations of the blued and unblued tones weve been looking at:

C7b9 x x x x x

C7alt x x x x

C x x x

However, the standard tonality of the blues is the straight dominant (Mixolydian) scale with the blue notes as optional tones: + +

This entire structure breaks down neatly into gapped scales, each of which addresses a single blue tone in detail. Some people refer to these as major and minor blues scales: C Major Blues Scale x x

C Minor Blues Scale x x

- 53 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Note that these are the major and minor pentatonic scales with an added note the flat 3rd on major and the flat 5th on minor. They are also the same structure a minor third apart: C Minor Blues Scale

A Minor Blues Scale

Most people simply think of there being one blues scale the minor and work by combining the home (minor) blues scale with the (minor) blues scale a minor third below. This is easy to remember since the two roots are in a relative major/minor relationship.

MAJOR AND MINOR BLUES Traditional blues is, interestingly enough, almost a modal kind of music. This means that we tend to apply the relevant blues scales of the key in which were playing. The clashes that occur over the chords of the blues progression are largely overriden by the blues scale sound. So C (minor) and A (minor) blues scales can be used over all the chords in a basic major blues C7, F7 and G7, although some care is needed when using the E natural over the F7 chord. The best results come from combining the two scales. C (minor) blues scale can be used over all the chords in a minor blues Cm, Fm, D, G7b9. In a minor blues, the third of the key is always minor, so the A (minor) blues scale (the one which contains E natural) isnt used.

USING THE BLUES SCALE IN OTHER CONTEXTS The blues scale can be used in any context, on any tune. Over C7, play C and A (minor) blues scales. Over Cm7, play C (minor) blues scale. Over a major chord we simply substitute a dominant and play what we would play over a C7. Again, we tend to play the blues scale of the key centre were in at that point in the tune. So, over a II-V-I-VI (or part of it), we would play the blues scales associated with the I, rather than blues scales on the component chords. For instance: Play C and A minor blues scales over the whole of Dm7 G7 C A7b9 Play C minor blues scale over the whole of D G7alt C A7alt

- 54 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Note that you dont have to use the blues scale to sound bluesy. All you have to do is play within any given jazz scale and blue one or other of the key notes by flatting (or half-flatting) them.

TASTE AND JUDGMENT Some people get a bit carried away with the blues scale and tend to overuse it. A commonly used (albeit rather un-PC) analogy is to compare the blues scale to swearing in which context overuse quickly becomes wearing. The blues scale is a very effective and flexible tool but take care not to let this become an excuse to be lazy and rely on it too much.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London September 2007

- 55 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007

Most learning players approach a blues by combining the following two approaches: 1. Using figures from the blues scales over quite straight old-fashioned blues harmony. 2. Using bebop scales and language over elaborated jazz blues changes. Theres another way to go about things, though, and its characteristic of McCoy Tyners approach (as heard on albums such as Inception, Nights of Ballads & Blues, The Real McCoy, Time for Tyner, Reaching Fourth, etc).

BACK TO BASICS The first thing to recognise is that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was something of a backlash going on against the highly complex, elaborated chordal structure of bebop. Players such as Monk, Tyner and Coltrane played a lot of blues, and they generally went back to basics not much more than the old three-chord trick, although often with variations of those three chords. We can propose a very basic blues structure that Tyner in particular made a lot of use of: Blues in Bb ||: | | Bb7 Eb7 F#7 | | | Eb7 / B7 | | | Bb7 Bb7 Bb7 | | | Bb7alt / F7 | | :||

The II-Vs and extended cadences beloved of bebop players are totally absent. This is very much the basic old-fashioned blues progression but with one clear modern twist. Bars 9-10 would usually read Cm7 F7. Tyner very often uses tritone substitutions of both and plays them as dominants. So what we have is a very basic, slabby chord progression. This presents a challenge to players used to bebop the progression seems rather static and doesnt allow for all the II-V tricks and extended harmony bebop players may be used to. Faced with this simplicity, a lot of players go back to basics and start running blues licks like crazy. Tyners sound is notable for not doing this. He occasionally uses a blue note the flat 3rd, but he hardly ever plays figures from the blues scales. His approach is much more modal, scale-based, and the scale he overwhelmingly favours is the straight Mixolydian that youd expect over dominant chords.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE TONIC CHORD ON A BLUES? Before we go further, theres a question we need to ask just what is the I chord on a blues? There isnt a simple answer the home chord on a blues doesnt fit very well with our traditional understanding of a tonic chord. Crucially, the I chord on a blues is a dominant, but its a dominant that doesnt function as a V chord ie, it doesnt want to resolve anywhere.

- 56 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Its also ambiguous between major and minor the 3rd can be either, or both. If we play the 3rd as minor, wed be happy to emphasise the 4th: lines hung around 4th, 3rd, root and b7th are totally idiomatic to the blues sound. What a lot of people dont realise is that we can also emphasise the 4th of the scale in exactly the same way if were playing the 3rd as a major. Tyner does this all the time have a little play around with this principle for a bit if you dont believe me. Youll hear Tyners distinctive sound if you construct little riffs using 4th, major 3rd, root and b7th over a dominant chord. The 9th and 5th can also be used. The surprising upshot is that, over the I chord of a blues, the 4th note of the Mixolydian scale not only isnt an avoid note, its actually favoured you can regard it as a chord tone. Incidentally, this applies to the IV chord in a blues as well. Tyner usually goes even further and isnt shy to emphasise the 4th on the cadence chords as well the tritone-altered chords in bars 9-10.

A SHORTCUT HEXATONIC SUS SCALES Ive remarked elsewhere that a certain modern sound is achieved by broadly treating all dominant chords as sus chords. This is the case in standard II-V-I situations, but it also applies when were dealing with tonic blues chords. This approach works well in this context because one way of looking at a sus chord is as a dominant where the 4th is promoted from an avoid note to a desired chord tone. A nice quick way into the sus sound is to use a hexatonic scale. Hexatonic scales are derived by combining the tones of two mutually exclusive triads. The most commonly used hex scale for a sus sound combines major triads on the root and b7th of the chord. So: Bb7sus

Focusing on combining tones from these two triads gives you all kinds of ways of suggesting the sus sound allowing you to give strong weight to the 4th of the scale. Its as well to practise these hexatonic sounds rigidly, just sticking to the triads, but when playing for real you can be more flexible play the whole scale, but focus on the two triads as a sort of structural overlay, in order to give prominence to the desired tones: Bb7sus

- 57 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

We can produce a kind of scale map using this approach, which I find makes a good visual aid when practising this sound:

We get into the sound of the prominent 4th by focusing on triad pairs over each dominant chord: Bb7sus: Eb7sus: F#7sus: B7sus: Ab / Bb Db / Eb E / F# A/B

ON THE OTHER HAND McCoy typically accompanied these solo line with fourth voicings in the left hand. If youre using to using rootless LH voicings, you can quickly get into this sound by just leaving out the second from bottom voice.

Try this approach out over the basic blues chords in Bb, F and Eb. Tyners blues heads sometimes involve more complex changes (Blues for Gwen, for instance) but he usually solos over very straight changes. Try it out also over other blues that are still simple, but use other variations for the basic chords, such as Miles Freddie Freeloader, Coltranes Cousin Mary and some of the structures on the album Coltrane Plays the Blues.

Best of luck with this approach. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London November 2007

- 58 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007

Its a common problem among people learning how to improvise that they freeze when faced with a sus chord. Ive often found that the reason people dont know what to play over this chord type is that they dont really understand it. Here are a few ways of tackling this mysterious chord type that should give you a few ideas. Try to think melodically, and use repetition and variation, rather than looking for patterns.

MIXOLYDIAN (NO AVOID NOTE) You can think of a sus chord as a dominant chord voiced so that the 4th is promoted from an avoid note to a preferred chord tone. The scale that goes with C7 (with the strong chord tones marked) is: x x x x C D E F G A Bb The scale that goes with C7sus (with the strong chord tones marked) is: x x x x C D E F G A Bb

FOURTHS Extending the same thinking, an important figure defining the sus sound is a stack of diatonic fourths up from the root. You can also start the sequence a fourth lower than the root.. Over C7sus, these defining tones are: (G) C F Bb Hanging a phrase around these fourths can be very effective.

DORIAN OF THE RELATED II CHORD You can think of a sus chord as a II-V wrapped up in one chord. For instance C7sus = Gm7 C7. So you can just play over the C7sus chord as if it were Gm7 ie, play G Dorian (emphasising G, Bb, D and F): x x x x G A Bb C D E F

- 59 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

SUS PENTATONIC There is a useful pentatonic scale that works over a sus chord, comprising the root, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th. C7sus pentatonic is: C E F G Bb Some people maintain that that in a sus chord, the 4th replaces the 3rd. This neednt be the case it certainly isnt the case in the practice of the great players.

PENTATONICS ON THE II CHORD You can also play the pentatonic scales that fit Gm7 over C7sus. So on C7sus, play: Gm7 pentatonic G Bb C D F Am7 pentatonic ACDEG Dm7 pentatonic DFGAC Gm6 pentatonic G Bb C D E

E half-dim pentatonic E G A Bb D A quick way of remembering these is to note that the roots of the first four form a II-V-I to the G. Of course, all of these fit the scale, but some dont describe the sus chord very accurately. The trick is to play these pentatonic scales as a set, flowing through one pentatonic into another. This approach preserves the gapped sound, while allowing a more thorough exploration of the chord scale.

HEXATONIC SCALE There is a hexatonic scale that goes very well over a sus chord. It is formed by combining the tones of two triads, built on the root and b7th. So over C7sus you play C/Bb hexatonic scale: C E G Bb D F combined as a scale: C D E F G Bb

TRITONIC FRAGMENTS There are minimal figures called tritonics (three-note figures) that are often played over sus chords. They are formed from 1-4-5 shapes built on the root and 4th. So over C7sus, you play: C F G and F Bb C

- 60 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

MELODIC CELL PATTERNS The simple yet beautiful logic behind cell playing is the demonstrable fact that the most melodic four-note figures over any chord type comprise three strong chord tones with one non-chord tone. This is universal in music. As weve seen, there arent really any non-chord tones on a sus chord, but we can still apply the principle by combining some permutation of root, 4th, 5th and 7th with any other chord tone. There are lots of possibilities, but two cell structures seem very well suited to the sus chord over C7sus try playing: CEFG and Bb C D F

These make great raw material for building melodic phrases. Play around with reordering the notes and using different rhythms.

THE REAL MCCOY Probably the textbook solo using these materials is McCoy Tyner over his tune Passion Dance (on the superlative 1960s album The Real McCoy). What follows is a series of extracts from this solo. The solos on this tune are played over one chord F7sus. Notice how McCoy uses the melodic materials and creates variety and interest by planing up and down to different keys. Because the patterns he uses are gapped structures they are necessarily ambiguous but Ive given logical best guesses as to the tonality hes using at these planing points.

- 61 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

- 62 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London September 2007

- 63 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007

Bebop is much more than just one particular style, it is pretty much the grammar of modern jazz, and bebop licks are not so much cliches as essential elements of speech within the jazz language. Players such as Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley and the like all developed original styles that seem far removed from the sound of bebop. But if you take a close look at what theyre playing, youll find its saturated with bebop principles. Theres a good reason for this. The early bebop players developed a system that made it easier to improvise strong solo lines. Theres nothing arbitrary in this system, the rules are there for sound logical and musical reasons. The key elements of bebop are: a) b) c) d) e) f) g) Consistent addition of certain passing tones to scales so that the strong chord tones coincide with the strong beats. Use of encircling gestures to creatively delay the arrival of any given tone. Strong chord tones are approached smoothly across the bar by whole-step, half-step or by extending an arpeggio. Balance between the use of arpeggios and scales. Balance between the use of upward and downward motion. Notes are often doing more than one job eg, appearing as part of an arpeggio and also as part of an extended encircling gesture that follows. Notes used at the point of change between chords either anticipate the chord that follows or work over both chords.

Actually, these are mostly generally useful guidelines that will make any melodic line in any musical style sound good. There are plenty of books out there that will give you the details of bebop scale theory. There are also books containing hundreds of bebop patterns, but it has been my experience that when musicians truly internalise just one single pattern, it can transform their playing. Knowing why the phrase is constructed the way it is, is the key to this deeper understanding. Ive given a little talk-through of whats going on in each of the eight figures that follow. Learn them parrot-fashion if you wish, but youll get ten times more out them if you devote some time to analysing how theyre constructed. The figures given here are composed of lots of different fragments, very common and representative bebop gestures, strung together and designed to repeat across two bars. They fit the major II-V, II-V-I-VI and minor II-V-I progressions that form the backbone of modern jazz. These chord sequences often repeat in real-life music, so its natural to loop them when youre practising. The fact that these are perpetual motion exercises should also help you get more out of your practice time by making the process of repetition logical and musical. Learning fragments strung together as a line like this is very efficient. Once you have a twobar figure under your fingers, you may wish to rattle off the whole thing. A much more creative approach is to use fragments from the complete figure when the occasion demands. Itll also be easier to link fragments in different ways if youve learned some examples of how its done from the very start.

- 64 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7

RHYTHM Another keystone of this style is very active use of rhythm. While bebop is predominantly played in a stream of eighth notes, it is common to mix things up using rests and rhythmic displacement. Someone once said of Charlie Parker (I forget who) that the rhythms he played were so strong that any notes would have sounded good over them. Some specific examples of rhythmic devices, and the players associated with them, are as follows: Use of triplets and classical-style ornaments based on semiquavers (Parker) Use of crotchet triplets (Bill Evans whose style was more influenced by bebop than many people recognise) Use of odd note groupings 5s and 7s to fit extended ideas into the space of two of four beats (Dizzy Gillespie, later Coltrane) The next time youre listening to a good bebop solo, focus on the rhythms its actually quite easy to transcribe just the rhythms if you dont worry about the note pitches, and well worth doing to expand the rhythmic possibilities in your own playing.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRACTICE a) b) Practise the figures round and round as written. Concentrate on what is going on harmonically as you play through them. Experiment with leaving different tones out to isolate the internal fragments and alter the feel of the whole figure. Leaving notes out and/or compressing parts of the figures into triplets is a good way to bring more rhythmic sophistication into your playing. Interchange fragments between the different figures, creatively altering the rhythms to fit them together. Finally, improvise freely over the chord sequences, looking to insert pieces of the figures to launch, extend or end your line.

c) d)

By the way, its best to begin by assimilating these kind of lines thoroughly in one key, before you take them round the cycle of Vs. You will eventually need them in all keys, but youll be able to learn them much quicker in all the keys if you are completely clear about whats going on in one key first. In no time at all, the bebop language will start to appear naturally in your solos. If youve really internalised the why as well as the what, youll soon find yourself constructing more musical lines within the bebop idiom.

Best of luck, and feel free to get in touch with me at: Jason Lyon London September 2007

- 65 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7


The first six notes are a popular fragment using the segment of the bebop scale with the passing tone. The next four are a truncated version of the same fragment, but in a different place in the bar. The line is extended up the G7 chord in 3rds, using a sharp 11th to bypass the avoid note, and then back down the G7 scale (when the 11th doesnt need to be raised because it falls on a weak upbeat. This figure also works the other way round the bars can be reversed against the chords (where the C# is optional).


Variation on the first figure. This figure also works the other way round the bars can be reversed against the chords (where the C# is optional).


Treat the first note as a pickup to a very common bebop gesture which is all about lowering the root of Dm7 by semitone steps, seesawing with the 5th below, to approach the 3rd of the G7b9 chord that follows. The line then climbs the diminished scale that goes with G7b9 in thirds, descends the scale for two tones, and ends with a chromatic approach to the opening pickup. Any of the above three figures can also resolve to C.


The first three notes are another popular fragment which chromatically encircles the root of the Dm7 chord. Then its up the scale that fits both Dm7 and G7 with a skip at the end. The C doesnt need raising over the G7 chord because it appears on a weak upbeat. In addition, the 7th of the C chord (B) is encircled by A and C. Then its down an inverted CM9 arpeggio to arrive smoothly by stepwise motion at the 3rd of A7 (C#). Finally, we skip up to the root and run down a fragment of the A7alt scale which is the same as the Dm7 scale that follows.
- 66 ,
Jason Lyon 2006-7


Descending melodic cell pattern (5321) over the Dm7, then the first four notes of the popular fragment of the bebop scale over the G7. This leads smoothly, upwards this time, to the 7th of the C chord. Then down a CM arpeggio to a seesaw figure on the A7b9 chord between the 3rd and b9th. The three final notes (Bb, G and G#) form an extended chromatic approach to the 3rd of the Dm7 chord (A) that we started with.


That popular bebop scale fragment again, with the first two tones acting as a pickup, then an extended chromatic encircling (G, F, D, D#) of the 3rd of the C chord. The line then drops to the root of C, then anticipates the A7b9 chord by a beat with its 3rd and 5th. Finally up to the 7th and root of the A7b9 chord, arriving back at the pickup.


The first three notes descend the Dm7 scale. The next four notes just ignore the G7 chord altogether and form an extended chromatic approach to the 5th of the C chord. The line then descends a melodic cell (5321) in C and ascends the diminished scale that goes with the A7b9 chord in 3rds.


A little something in minor. The first four notes go up a 7th chord in D, then the next three notes descend the diminished scale that goes with G7b9 or G7alt. The Ab and F# also form an encirclement of G, which is the 5th of the Cm chord that follows. Then down a melodic cell (5321) in C minor, which connects naturally with another melodic cell (431) very bluesy sounding. The Eb, C and C# then form an encirclement back to the D. Note also that the final four notes in the second bar fit both Cm and A7alt (the VI chord).
- 67 ,
Jason Lyon 2006-7

STRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER This is the sort of thing you can come up with by creatively combining the fragments from the 8 figures with some connective material (the chord sequence is Dm7 G7 | CM A7b9 repeating over and over):

- 68 ,

Jason Lyon 2006-7


This is a transcription of the nine-chorus solo that pianist Tommy Flanagan takes on John Coltranes minor blues Mr PC. Youll find it on the classic Atlantic album, Giant Steps. If you dont already own this CD, you really should. Ive posted this solo because someone recently asked me for advice on bebop playing over minor blues changes. I first transcribed it years ago and developed a bit of an obsession with it at the time. I can honestly say that studying this solo really unlocked the minor blues sound for me. I hope youll find it useful. Tommy, faced with the unenviable task of following Trane, turns in a solo that burns with a constant quiet fire. He starts off simple and clear and draws the listener in. This solo is an absolute textbook example of bebop playing over minor blues changes: elegant, melodic, rhythmically inventive, cleanly articulated, beautifully phrased. And it swings like the clappers. NOTES This solo gets an incredible amount of mileage out of simple triads in particular, Tommy hangs most of his lines over the two tonic chords, Cm and Fm, around the first five notes of the respective scales. He treats these chords strictly as tonic minors, emphasising the 6th in the penultimate bar of chorus 2, for instance (or very occasionally, the major 7th), rather than the Dorian minor 7th. Note also the bebop enclosures and approaches throughout. He plays the changes pretty straight, occasionally adding (D7b9) G7b9 in bar two (choruses 2, 5, 6 and 7). In all but the first two choruses, he explicitly uses a C7b9 in bar 4, to lead more smoothly into the upcoming Fm chord even when its not there in the solo line its in the comping. Theres usually a turnaround in the final bar (D7b9 G7b9 or Ab7 G7b9) as well. In bar 9, he usually clearly outlines Ab7 (often just a 1-2-3-5 figure, but occasionally implying Ab7b9), rather than D half-diminished, which is the other option at this pivot point in minor blues form. The moral of the tale is that when youre playing tritone subs (like the Ab7 here), you can play very simply, because the substitution is already hip The shape he uses for the rapid triplet runs in choruses 3 and 8 is derived from the rootless voicing for Ab7, a spread that matches the C minor blues scale. This produces very satisfying runs in C minor. This is a principle worth extracting so you can use the equivalent shape in other keys. But dont get bogged down with these little pieces of flash, theres much more valuable stuff in the rest of the solo. Either approximate them or rest for those bits, and come back and work on them later. Ive taken a logical guess at some of the notes that are ghosted (marked x). The LH comping is bebop vintage, rather than rootless style. Tommy mostly uses octaveseventh shells on the dominant chords and sixth chords on the tonics. Listen to the recording and and play along with it to get the nuances down. You could also do a lot worse than transposing it into the other commonly played minor blues keys, F minor and Bb minor. Eb minor sometimes comes in handy too

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at Jason Lyon London January 2008
- 69 Jason Lyon 2008,

- 70 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

- 71 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

- 72 -

Jason Lyon 2008,


This is a transcription of the two-chorus solo that pianist Tommy Flanagan takes on his own composition Eclypso. Youll find it on the classic album The Cats (with John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell and Idrees Sulieman). The head is played as calypso on the A sections, swing in the bridge. For the solos, the band stays in swing feel. This solo makes a good study for a number of reasons. First, the harmony is very simple as is fitting for a calypso tune (cf Sonny Rollins St Thomas). The A section is just II-V-I-VIs and III-VI-II-Vs in Eb, the bridge is a II-V-I in Ab (the IV of the key), followed by a II-V in Bb (the V of the key), a II-V back in Eb and a C7 chord to lead smoothly back into the first chord of the A section. So its a good place to look for ideas over common harmonic movement. Second, at the start of the second A, Tommy moves into double time and stays there for a full sixteen bars. By transcribing an extended double-time passage, we can put it under the microscope and examine how its constructed. A word about transcribing double-time passages and fast ornaments. Often the rhythms arent played very cleanly at fast tempos, this is often more an expression of individual players swing feel. Also, at this speed, even the best players slip up from time to time. This means sometimes your exact transcription of a double-time passage will contain a note that is clearly against the harmony (but dont forget the possibility of harmonic substitutions). My advice in these situations is to simplify/correct rhythmic and harmonic blips look for the idea the player is suggesting at the time and transcribe the intention, rather than the exact performance. Also, if the solo contains a particularly complex rhythmic figure or dragged time, dont get bogged down trying to notate it exactly write down a rough approximation. The important thing is hearing, feeling and playing it right. Third (a related point), the solo is very diverse rhythmically. Barry Harris has said that triplets are where its at, whats hip he makes the interesting point that English is spoken in triplets go to the store, etc. Tommy artfully combines eighth notes, sixteenth notes and triplet configurations of both throughout this solo. There are some neat syncopations too.

NOTES Tommys strong bebop influences are on display throughout. The rhythmic sense is clearly influenced by Parker, as is a lot of the harmonic content of the lines. The extended double-time passage extends across the break into the B section a very effective way of dovetailing the seam, as it were. It is constructed from diatonic runs and pentatonic fragments in the home key, arpeggios (both diatonic and diminished), and bebop chromatic approaches and encircling figures. You cant really play this stuff up to speed until its well and truly in your hands, so Id advise practising the second A and first B at halfspeed to begin with. Look at the resolutions to EbM at the end of the second A section and AbM at the start of the first B section. This is a very idiomatic major-chord resolving figure that appears in a lot of Parker compositions and solos. Notice how Tommy uses it in different parts of the bar. Its well worth extracting this figure and taking round the keys. Think of it like this: fifth, scale tone/chromatic up to root, scale tone/chromatic down to third, then down the major pentatonic to the fifth below.

- 73 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

What about the descending augmented arpeggio in bars 5 and 6, first B section? Look at whats going on harmonically at this point. Ignore the Cm7 and just focus on the F7 (the F7 chord is structurally whats important here, its companion II chord is just fleshing things out). What we have here is a dominant chord on the II of the home key. There are a couple of useful things to remember about this particular chord. First, it tends to be followed by a minor 7th on the same root (setting up a II-V-I). This motion appears all over the place Take The A Train, Exactly Like You, Girl from Ipanema and it happens in this tune too. Second, a Lydian Dominant always sounds good in this context (A Train even uses this principle in the melody). The G augmented arpeggio Tommy plays here consists of the 9th, #11th and 7th of F7 which is about the most economical way possible of clearly outlining a Lydian Dominant. If you like this lick, learn it over other dominant chords and look for this harmonic motion in other tunes. Its worthwhile spending some time looking at and thinking about the final two bars of the first B section, to appreciate how Tommy comes down from the double-time back into eighth notes. The final A section, first chorus, kicks off with a deliberate quote (another common bebop device) of Jeepers Creepers. Quoting can be great fun, but if you want it to be more than just a little prank, you should strive to integrate it into your solo, just as Tommy does here. Echoes of Jeepers Creepers continue to appear, both melodically and rhythmically, throughout the rest of the solo. (Tommy is fond of quotes elsewhere on this album he works in a deliberate reference to Chopins Fantaisie Impromptu. Tatum did a lot of this. Double-time passages are good places for classical quotes because they tend to be played in straight, unswung sixteenths. Dont forget that a lot of the musicians of this era, especially piano players, had killer classical chops...) Note also, that by extending the quote into the next A, Tommy does another dovetailing manoeuvre this time across choruses. The effect is strengthened by the use of the same figure in thirds at the end of both As. The 4:3 notation at the start of the second chorus is an approximation of the rhythm the sense is one of evenly dragging the time through into the next bar. You have to hear the original to really get this down. The final A is made to sound final by the use of octave bell figures on the root of the key. This is a useful principle to extract and build into your own soloing. Bells are usually played on the root or the fifth of the key. The LH comping is bebop vintage, rather than rootless style. Tommy mostly uses octaveseventh shells on the dominant chords and sixth chords on the tonics.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at Jason Lyon London February 2008

- 74 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

- 75 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

- 76 -

Jason Lyon 2008,


This is a transcription of the two-chorus solo that pianist Tommy Flanagan takes on his own composition Minor Mishap. Youll find it on the classic album The Cats (with John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell and Idrees Sulieman). The tune is a good blowing vehicle: [A1] short turnarounds in Bbm, [A2] short turnarounds in Fm, [B] long turnarounds in EbM and DbM, [A3] short turnarounds in Bbm. Ive given the book changes for comparison, but Tommys a bebopper at heart he usually ignores the II chords and focuses on dominant-tonic motion. Also, even though the written changes give the dominants as 7+9s, Tommys preferred alteration is 7b9. Actually, if you think about it, the alt and diminished dominant scales have more in common than not six tones so a lot of patterns are compatible with both. The book changes are virtually irrelevant to what Tommys doing in the final 4 bars of each A section. The solo line indicates that at these points hes just thinking in Bbm, or in Fm, using the relevant dominant chords (7b9s, natch) to weave out and in again creating and resolving tension. Dont believe everything you read in fakebooks use your ears The minor blues scale is used extensively on the Bbm A sections to generalise over the changes (note how Tommy energises the line with strong rhythms). In contrast, on the Fm A sections he prefers to chase the changes in a more beboppy way. Confused about the Ab7alt voicing in bar 6 of the second chorus B section? Its the same as an unaltered rootless voicing a tritone away (D7). The top voice of this chordal fragment descends the bottom three notes of the Ab7alt/7b9 scale, landing on the 5th of the target DbM. This is a common comping gesture over a V-I and well worth knowing in all the keys. A word on the key signature: the tune is in Bb minor and the classically correct key signature is 5 flats. But jazz tends to use melodic, rather than classical minor. Also, a jazz chart is going to involve a lot of use of the natural 7th of the key which is the 3rd of the dominant chord. For these reasons, its often much clearer and simpler to notate a jazz solo with the major key signature and flat the 3rd where required in the chart (this trick is often employed by arrangers). Thats what Ive done here. By the way, leadsheets in minor tend to be written with the correct classical key signature.

THE BEBOP DESCENDING SCALE RUN Look at what Tommy plays in bar 6 of the second A, first chorus. What hes actually doing here is adding a temporary C7 chord and resolving it to Fm (well ignore the turn at the start): C7 G F E Db C Bb Fm Ab

Tommy is fond of this kind of thing, but its a classic bebop gesture (youll hear it in the hands of everyone from Bud Powell to Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and onwards). Tommy places the line so that he only descends as far as the 3rd of the target chord. The full expansion of this sort of thing is descending a seven-note scale for a full bar and landing on the root. The natural place to start is the 9th. Lets start with the F major scale: G F E D C Bb A G | F This works perfectly with the harmony if we treat the two bars as a dominant-tonic resolution:

- 77 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

C7 F G F E D C Bb A G | F Sounds very tame indeed, doesnt it? Bear with me. What we get is strong chord tones on downbeats (underlined) the 5th, 3rd, root and 13th of the C7 chord, then the root of the F chord. Now the 13th of the dominant (A) belongs to the chord but isnt as strong as the other tones weve been through. However, its the same as the 3rd of the tonic chord that follows. So the harmonic sense here is that the final emphasised tone in the first bar is simultaneously sort of saying goodbye to the dominant chord it is leaving and saying hello to the tonic chord coming up. This is a large part of what makes this descending run work so well. To put this figure into minor, we can just flat the 3rd of the tonic (which then becomes the b13th/#5th of the dominant a perfectly acceptable alteration on a dominant): C7 G F E D C Bb Ab G | Fm F

We are now descending the melodic minor scale. Still not great sounding, but its always an option. The beboppers recognised that the b9th on a dominant is a great sounding alteration, particularly so when leading to a minor tonic. So we flat the 9th and arrive at this: C7 G F E Db C Bb Ab G | Fm F

The best-sounding, and most used, of the lot. We are now descending the harmonic minor scale. Many people choose to see this run in this light and its fine as shorthand. Just remember that in the first bar the chord is actually C7b9b13 its not really F anything, although the choice of these tones strongly indicates that we are in F. Next, look at what Tommy plays over the EbM and Db chords in the B section, first chorus, and the EbM in the B section, second chorus. Again, well ignore the turn as well as the placement in the bar: EbM F Eb D C Bb G F Eb DbM Eb Db C Bb Ab F Eb Db Again, were descending from the 9th of the tonic chord, but this time we skip the 4th. Why? Well, as we heard with the descending run in F major and F melodic minor, descending an unaltered scale sounds rather rinky-dink. It sounds even plainer when were just playing over the tonic, as here, when there isnt even a resolution to look forward to. The 4th is the tone most often omitted from the tonic scale doing that here allows us break up the plain scale and land on more interesting chord tones at strong beats: 9th, 7th, 5th, 9th again. Treating this as a gapped scale and running up and down over three or more octaves is good practice and gives you familiarity with the possible starting positions. There are lots of variations of these descending runs, incorporating different rhythms and interposed chromatics, but its best to get these basic full runs into your hands in all keys first.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at Jason Lyon London February 2008

- 78 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

- 79 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

- 80 -

Jason Lyon 2008,


Jason Lyon 2007

The key to using upper structures is to observe that simple major and minor triads exist in the upper reaches of altered dominant chords. These structures are often used by pianists and guitarists in chord voicings, but they are also very effective in solo lines. The two commonest alterations to the dominant chord are 7b9 and 7alt. The scales that go with each are as follows: C7b9


The upper structure triads that fit these chord qualities, along with the chord tones they describe on the home dominant chord, are as follows: C7b9 Eb F# A



#11 b7 b9

13 b9 3



#9 #11 b7

#11 13 b9

- 81 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

C7alt F# Ab

#11 b7 b9

b13 R





3 b13

#9 #11 b7

Excuse the technically incorrect enharmonic spellings. Note that F# and Ebm triads fit both chord types. Other triads are possible, but not as useful because they dont include enough interesting chord tones. The way to internalise these in all keys is to think of them in Roman numeral notation. So Upper Structure #IV is a major triad built on the #IVth degree of the home chord (in the case of C, this is F#). Upper Structure bIIIm is a minor triad built on the bIIIrd degree (in the case of C, Ebm). And so forth.


7b9 Upper Structures Major triads: Minor triads: bIII bIIIm #IV #IVm VI

7alt Upper Structures Major triads: Minor triads: #IV #Im bVI bIIIm

7b9 / 7alt Upper Structures #IV bIIIm

- 82 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Focusing on these triads in solo lines hits the interesting chord tones over the dominant and allows for strong parallel structures between the II and V chords. The triads can also be made to resolve smoothly into a chord tone on the I chord. Some examples:


C7b9 ---- A -----


--- F#m ----

---- Eb -----




C7alt ----- Ab -----


---- Ab -----

- 83 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,





Combining two or more triads over the dominant becomes more useful in double-length phrases: Gm7 C7alt ---- Ab ----- ---- F# ----FM

Note also that its common to imply first one, then the other dominant alteration on the same chord, even when the alterations dont appear on the chart: Gm7 C7b9 C7alt ----- A ----- ----- Ab ----FM

Oh, and any of these figures can be adapted for use over a minor II-V-I just flat the 5th on the II chord and flat the 3rd on the I chord.

- 84 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

ADVANCED UPPER STRUCTURES The altered chord-scale is a mode of the melodic minor scale. For instance, C7alt is the VIIth mode of Db melodic minor. This means that the upper structure triads that work over C7alt will also work over all the other chord qualities from that parent melodic minor scale. Db melodic minor

The chords that go with this scale are: DbMm, (Ebsusb9), EM+5, (Ab7b13), Gb7+4, Bbm7b5, C7alt (The chords given in parentheses are less commonly used.) So you can use the relevant upper structure triads interchangeably over all these chords: Major triads: Minor triads: F# (Gb) F#m (Gbm) Ab Ebm

Ultimately, you really need to know all the chords from melodic minor as a set or family in every key. Do strive for this, but Ill admit its a bit of a headful, so why not start by picking a few favourite upper structure triads over, for instance the half-diminished and tonic minor chords that appear in the standard repertoire you play. As you look through the chord changes to a standard, decide in advance on certain upper structure triads that youre going to drop in over particular chords. For instance, over the first two chords of Stella by Starlight, you could preplan a D major triad over the Em7b5 and a C minor triad over the A7alt, and aim to hook the two together smoothly when you take your solo. Its probably least confusing to internalise thoroughly the upper structure triads on 7alt chords first and then learn the melodic minor chord families later. This is a quite demanding piece of book-bashing, but its well worth it it will totally change the way you play over modern chord types.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London October 2007

- 85 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007



It stands to reason that the clearer the part you put in front of a musician, the better the chance that it will be read correctly. My own personal motto when writing parts is why give things a chance to go wrong if you dont have to? The following are some guidelines that will help you make your parts clearer and give your compositions and arrangements the best chance of succeeding, even at zero or next-to-zero notice. Of course, clarity is particularly important when youre writing originals, where there is no pre-existing frame of reference for your musicians. Some of what follows are generally accepted principles, some are my own preferences. Some of the points are just common sense, but then common sense can be so bleeding obvious that it gets overlooked

A. Information about the Tune Dont neglect the basics. Give title, composer, a rough tempo (or range of tempos) in beats per minute and a verbal indication of style at the top of the chart. You can never give too much information about style, by the way, and it doesnt have to be in elegantly phrased Italian... The likes of Fats Waller and Erik Satie would give humorous (often over the top) indications as to style on their compositions but you dont have to be musics answer to Jimmy Tarbuck (unless you want to, of course). The charts youll see in a West End orchestra pit can be very verbal indeed when it comes to indicating style I recall once seeing a section marked Tempo di boozed-up hussy The style marking is a valuable opportunity to communicate information about how you want your music to be played. Make full use of it, both at the top of a tune and where the feel changes mid-tune. Some basic style tempo markings: Some basic style markings: Slow, Medium, Medium Up, Fast Ballad, Swing, Straight 8s, Latin, Latin-Rock, Funk, Bossa, Jazz Waltz, Samba, Calypso, ECM

- 86 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Incidentally, most jazz musicians are shamelessly ignorant about the great diversity of distinctive styles in Cuban and Brazilian music. Just calling a tune Latin and straightening out the 8s is okay for a generic Latin jazz feel, but its well worth broadening your horizons by studying the precise rhythms and instrumental patterns that define genuine Latin music styles. A lot of jazz musicians prefer to take a chart away and learn it while listening to a recording, where one exists. So if youve taken the tune or arrangement from a CD, reference that recording on the chart somewhere. This is particularly important when youre dealing with a specific arrangement of a well-known standard. Musicians make a lot of assumptions about standards.

B. Key Signatures Always give the key signature, even on chord parts at the top of the tune and wherever a genuine modulation occurs. This sets the ground rules. In classical music, where a modulation occurs, you would write naturals to cancel the previous key, and follow up immediately with the new key signature. In a jazz chart you dont need to bother with the key cancellation. In modal tunes, its usually clearest to give the key signature of the mode. So What, for instance, is in D Dorian, a mode of C major, so the chart would have no sharps or flats. In some modern tunes, where the structure is based on slabs of different modes, giving a key signature would be misleading such tunes arent really in any specific key at all. Notate this kind of tune without a key signature and just write accidentals where you need them for the melody line (oh, and take care when transposing see later).

C. Number of Bars to a Line Most jazz music is written in eight, twelve or sixteen-bar sections, and within this structure, phrases tend to be two or four bars long. The structure of the music you write will be a lot easier to grasp at a glance if you make it a basic rule to write charts with four measures to a line. There are exceptions to this rule in all cases, its best to try to arrange it so that a new section begins on a new line, where possible. It usually is possible.

- 87 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Where you have unusual section lengths (either within a tune or in an intro/outro or interlude); repeats and first and second-time bars; or a partial bar at the top to indicate a pickup to bar one, you can break this rule. In these cases, spread the music out so that the section ends at the end of a line by writing three, five or six bars to a line. Fewer than three isnt usually necessary, more than six is usually too tight. Experienced players can intuit very complex structure even if youve not written it with clear sections. But why make life harder for everyone if you dont have to? D. Sections and Rehearsal Letters Always include rehearsal letters to indicate new sections and always use double lines to indicate both the start and end of a section (where possible and it usually is at the start/end of a line). This is more of an aid to reading than many people realise. Oh, and theyre called rehearsal letters for a reason its very convenient to be able to call out take it from letter J when rehearsing. This has an added benefit in jazz, where arrangements sometimes get modified on the fly on a gig

E. Repeat Marks Its very helpful to draw extra attention to repeat marks with big friendly brackets, or wings as theyre sometimes known (jazz often gets played in rather gloomy environments, and its all too easy to miss a naked repeat mark). By the way, a lot of people make the mistake of trying to keep a chart on one page at the expense of readability. Nested repeats and more than one DS or DC are a great way to run the unnecessary risk of people mucking up your chart, although one ending mark (a segno) is usually okay. The point is that you should feel perfectly free to spread yourself out over two or more pages if it aids clarity. Oh, and though big band charts often fan out over great big paper concertinas, Ive found that even the most highly arranged jazz chart can usually be kept within the more practical compass of four pages. Maybe five, at the absolute outside.

- 88 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

F. Accidentals In classical music, the rule is that where you use accidentals in the line you should prefer a flat in a flat key and a sharp in a sharp key. In jazz music, things are a bit looser. You should generally adhere to this principle, but there are times when it may be clearer to break the rule. Lets take as an example a tune in Ab, containing a bit where the harmony is F#m7 B7. Strictly speaking, in this context these chords should be written Gbm7 Cb7 but nobody wants to read that. Now jazz musicians often use the accompanying chords as a helpful reference when reading the melody line so in this instance you would write the melody over the F#m7 B7 bit with naturals and sharps. Its not strictly classically correct, but it will stand a better chance of being read correctly, because in situations of doubt the player will always have half an eye on the chords. By the way, classical practice dictates that if the key signature dictates a Gb and you want a G#, you have to write a natural and a sharp symbol ahead of the note. Jazz charts dont bother with this.

G. Rhythms and the Invisible Half Bar Line All players who have become proficient at sightreading rhythms have spent time internalising potential note groupings across two beats half a bar in the most common context of 4/4 time so they can read the groups as a single gesture at a glance. The basic two-beat units are:

(Either notes or rests. There are other possibilities involving triplets and semiquavers.)

- 89 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

The clearest way to notate rhythms over a four-beat measure is to use these two-beat permutations and tie across the invisible half-bar line where necessary. For instance: | u | | | is much clearer than is much clearer than | u | | |

Some exceptions to this bar-splitting business are the simple unsyncopated crotchet-minim-crotchet figure: | | as well as the common Cuban clave figures, the 3-side of son and rumba clave respectively: |

| u | In highly syncopated music, Latin styles for instance, the following common regular off-beat figure is fine: | | Incidentally, I prefer never to split a bar across two lines of manuscript, but if you really, really must do this (hmm), do it in the middle of the bar.

H. Note Tails and Beaming All notes below the middle line of the staff should have tails up, all notes above the middle line should have tails down (except when youre indicating multiple parts on one staff see below). If you have to beam two notes that cross the vertical midpoint of the staff, this rule can be bent. As to beaming, you should always smile when writing parts. (Ouch, sorry.) I prefer to beam eighth notes in twos and sixteenth notes in fours. This is most in keeping with the common rhythmic pulse of jazz music and can help the feel to come through when people are reading. Some people prefer to beam eighth notes in fours fine by me.
- 90 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

However you choose to beam notes, you should always make sure that both the tail lengths and the slope of the beams follow the pitch contour of the line. This is a very subtle but effective aid to reading often, even if a musician doesnt quite nail the specific pitches youve written, theyll play something similar and compatible if you take care with your note tails and beams.

I. Multiple Parts Lets start with the situation where you have a two-part arrangement. Its often useful to your musicians to know what the other part is if youve got your ranges right, you can even allow them the choice of who goes high and who goes low. Actually, its okay but not ideal to go out of range on the other part, for indication purposes. Anyway, when notating two parts: top part tails up, bottom part tails down. Obvious, really. Where you need to use rests in individual parts, mentally split the staff into two vertical halves and place your rests clearly and unambiguously in each half. Where you have a three-part arrangement, it may be useful to indicate all the parts on each chart, but only where the voices move together, in the manner of block chords. Where you have different rhythms or counterpoint between the voices, it just becomes too confusing to notate three parts on the one staff. Where you have more than three parts, dont bother putting multiple parts on each chart. A possible exception might be, for instance, where you have two saxes and two trumpets, to put the sax parts together on each sax chart and the trumpet parts together on each trumpet part. In general, though, when youre dealing with bands this big, best to keep each part separate and single.

J. Cues In some situations it may be useful to indicate figures played by one instrument (or even a few words of the vocal) on the part for another, to act as a helpful cue. On a part for a front-line instrument, treat this as a temporary multiple part and mark the name of the instrument playing the cue figure clearly (but write small). On a part for a rhythm instrument, write the cue as if it were a temporary multiple part, again marking the name of the relevant instrument, and either crunch the chord symbols into the other half of the staff, or if its clearer temporarily house the chord symbols above the line.

- 91 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

K. Chords I always indicate chords above the written line on a melody part. Well, nearly always theres no such thing as always. The reason I do this is because jazz players will often use the harmonic information you give in chord symbols to help when reading the melody. This also means that if they dont get it right in the heat of battle, theyll have a chance of playing something that at least works with the harmony. Take care with upper chord extensions and alterations, particularly on dominants. Most players will interpret dominants pretty flexibly when improvising, but you should take care to include the extensions/alterations necessary to match the melody during that part of the chart. For instance, if the melody is Bb-Ab-G, the chord symbol at that point should specify G7b9 youre leaving the potential of a harmonic clash if you just write G7. By the way, lots of chord sounds can be written in different ways. The way you choose to notate them will affect the way your musicians solo over the changes. For instance: Gsusb9, D/G, Bb13/G, Ab+/G, F/G All mean pretty much the same thing, but people will interpret the symbols slightly differently.

M. Which Octave? Jazz charts tend to be written with a cavalier attitude towards register. A lead sheet will usually be written, as much possible, within the printed staff lines, and the performer is expected to adjust octaves as needed. So far, so good. But theres more. Pianists tend to think of melodies being played around middle C and up. A lot of instruments will actually play a melody an octave below that. Be aware of this when youre writing arrangements. Another point this is more about arranging than notation. Horns have a very different sound in different octaves its not just the same note up or down the octave, the colour and impact of the note is actually very different. This can have a big effect on how your carefully considered unison, octave or harmony line sounds when played by real people.
- 92 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

A lot of jazz horn players are used to adjusting octaves as necessary, but its bad form to make them have to do so because you screwed up on range. This is unnecessary work for them and can breed a certain exasperated disrespect for what youve written. Be warned. Remember that, for a horn player, playing in a different octave means a very different physical and technical experience its not, as on a piano, just the same shape shifted up. Bear in mind that tenor saxophonists and trombonists are completely happy reading great big scaffolds of ledger lines above the staff that pianists would usually avoid by writing down the octave. In fact, its not uncommon to see well-written parts for these instruments that hardly ever use the printed lines at all. For this reason, it can make a lot of sense to write horn parts on manuscript paper that has 10 lines to a page, rather than the more common 12, to allow yourself more room to build scaffolds. Im not making this up. Ive experimented with giving tenor saxists the same chart in different octaves, and the result has been very different. Trumpets are a Bb instrument and so are tenor saxes. But the tenor plays an octave below the trumpet. To get a genuine unison between the two, youd have to write the line in octaves. If you have a Bb part that is meant to do double service between these two instruments (not an uncommon thing), you might consider writing it as an octave multiple part, for ease of reading by both instruments. While were on the subject of octaves, dont forget that the guitar will play an octave below what you write (and what you may assume). This can have important implications as regards the harmony. If you have a band including a guitar which you intend to use as a front-line instrument, it makes sense to think of it in the same way as you would a trombone the ranges are comparable. Oh, and the bass plays an octave below what you write too.

- 93 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,



Okay, here comes one of those highly subjective observations. I understand entirely that some people find it very convenient to write music in sequencing or notation programs, which can then spit out publication-quality parts, automatically transposed and cleanly laid out. Alterations and corrections can be made simply and quickly on sequencing or notation software. Obviously, if you have to write a full big-band score for a West End musical, the convenience of software is clear and I wont dispute it. While I fully understand the benefits of working this way, Ive still always found it best to write band parts out by hand, especially for a small to medium-size jazz ensemble. There are many reasons why I believe this is a good idea, some of which you may not have considered. So please, even if youre addicted to the computer age, let me make my case and then feel free to call me names when youve heard me out. A lot of people just assume that computer-generated parts will naturally look better than anything they could write out themselves. Actually, the reverse is often the case. Handwritten parts are more friendly on the eye. The most used fakebooks out there are either handwritten or try to look like they are. One of the most popular choices of font for music notation goes out of its way to mimic a handwritten look. Why should that be? Music presented in a classic printed font can look rather cold and impersonal in comparison. Its a minor point, but a point nonetheless. It has been my experience that handwritten parts are more immediate and personal. They also indicate that the composer or arranger has put in time and effort, and youll often find that musicians will respond to handwritten charts with greater respect. This is even more the case when your musical handwriting has become more mature. In this day and age, people use pen and paper less and less as a result, most peoples handwriting either never matures, or has become scrappy. Yeah, I know, Im such an old fogey But handwriting, whether youre writing words or music, is something that requires practice. Think how the handwriting affects the way you respond to a written message. The same effect is there with musical handwriting.

- 94 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Its hardly surprising that people tend to have rather immature musical handwriting theyve never had much practice, and if they rely on notation software they never get any practice at all. Making it a point to write out parts by hand is the only way of improving your musical handwriting. Sorry to sound like an old fart again, but this is a good outcome in its own right. So much for legibility, what about clarity? Software will usually do a fair job of laying out your music, but you can always make it clearer by hand. Sure, the better programs allow you all sorts of possibilities to tinker with spacing, line breaks, accidentals, beaming, multiple parts, annotations, etc. But by the time youve fiddled the charts into shape, you could usually have written it out by hand anyway. Whats more, jazz charts can often involve rather unorthodox notation verbal instructions, complex chord structures, partial indications of modes or voicings again, by the time youve got the software to do what you want it to do, you could just as easily have written it out by hand. Doing transpositions by hand is an extremely valuable exercise in its own right so why deny yourself the opportunity? Seeing how lines and chord structures look and work in different keys is great experience at the very least, if youre writing out transpositions for Bb and Eb instruments as well as the concert parts for the rhythm section, youre getting training in three different keys on every tune. After a little of this kind of practice youll also find that transposing at sight becomes a lot easier and thats very useful in a general playing context. You should also bear in mind that not all computer programs are terribly diligent when it comes to making sure instruments stay in range. A computer program also doesnt care how playable a part may be (I find it useful to write out transpositions and then play them into a sequencer to check accuracy and playability). By taking the time to write out the transpositions by hand, youll have a closer connection to the music as regards these and many other aspects. One final thing. Youll sometimes find yourself having to write out and transpose parts during the break on a gig. Do you take your laptop to every gig? If not, youll have to trust your precious tune to Mr Spiderhand

- 95 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,



Never fear, transposing isnt all that difficult its like anything else, a habit, and one that can be quickly acquired. First learn your ranges and transpositions: Approximate Useful Ranges (in concert key)
------------ Saxes ---------------

Tpt/Flugel Trbone



Alto Soprano Guitar Bass


(Some lower tones are available to the brass instruments.)

Transpositions (what you write on a transposed part to get the concert note you want) Trumpet/Flugel Trombone Baritone Sax Tenor Sax Alto Sax Soprano Sax Guitar Bass Bb C Eb Bb Eb Bb C C Write up a tone, in treble clef No transposition, in bass clef Write up an octave plus a major 6th, treble clef Write up an octave plus a tone, treble clef Write up a major 6th, treble clef Write up a tone, treble clef Write up an octave, treble clef Write up an octave, bass clef

Some of these instruments may play lower than youd previously assumed. Even for a trained musician, the ear can be surprisingly octave-ignorant Second youll spend most of your time transposing into Bb and Eb (Im assuming that most people are okay to write a treble-clef line in the bass clef, which is what youd do for a trombone part). Transposing instruments are known as either Bb or Eb instruments for the following reason. When a Bb instrument reads and plays a C, it comes out as
- 96 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

a Bb in the real world (concert pitch). When an Eb instrument reads and plays a C, it comes out as an Eb. Some of these instruments also involve octave displacements. Now here are some handy shortcuts. When youre writing a part for a Bb instrument, you just take each note in the concert part and move it up a tone a Bb becomes a C, a G becomes an A. But the first thing you do is add two sharps to the concert key signature. (In this context, a sharp cancels a flat, by the way.) When youre writing a part for an Eb instrument, you just take each note in the concert part and convert it to its relative minor a Bb becomes a G, and G becomes an E. But the first thing you do is add three sharps to the concert key signature. Transposing is a three-stage process: A. Transpose the key signature. B. Transpose the chords. C. Transpose the instrumental line. When experienced musicians are transposing a part, they are constantly applying a layered multitasking checklist to whats going on during stage C. On one level, youre always checking that the concert note is up a tone for Bb or the relative minor for Eb. This is the equivalent of the C-A-T stage of reading. On another level, youre comparing the note to the accompanying chord and translating it to the transposed chord. For instance, if the concert-part melody has a Db over a C7b9 chord, that means its the b9th of the chord. For a Bb part, the chord is D7b9, so you need to write the b9th of that chord an Eb. This is equivalent to the CAT SAT ON stage of reading. Refer back with stage one for a double-check, and we find, yep, its up a tone. On another level, youre taking a whole phrase over the accompanying chord and translating the shape. For instance, if the concert part melody is DEGB over a C chord, that means the phrase reads 2357 over the chord. For a Bb part, the chord is D, so the equivalent 2357 phrase will be EF#AC#. This is equivalent to the CAT SAT ON THE MAT stage. You can check back to the previous stages for each individual note, if youre not sure.

- 97 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

On yet another level, you are constantly keeping an eye on the accidentals in the transposed part. This is why its important to start by transposing the key signature what this means is that where you have an accidental in the concert part, there will be a comparable accidental in the transposed part. Its a good mechanism for troubleshooting. For instance, if the melody note in concert is an F# in the key of C (involving an accidental) you would expect to find an accidental in the transposed part. Sure enough, in Bb transposition, the key is D, so youd expect an accidental sure enough, G#. And back to basics, yes, its up a tone, so correct and double-checked. By the way, a lot of experienced horn players can transpose concert parts (or even other transpositions) at sight. Dont rely on this, but it can help in a tight spot. Also horn players tend to be much more ear-orientated than pianists or guitarists, and will often be capable of hearing and responding to changes in whatever the key may be. Again, though, dont rely on it. In closing, heres another curiosity. A lot of experienced trombone players can read an Eb treble-clef part. Can you figure out why that may be? Think about it look at an Eb treble-clef part and pretend its in concert but in the bass clef. The notes are pretty much the same, but some of the accidentals need adjusting. The chords still have to be transposed, of course. Once more, useful in a tight spot, but dont rely on it.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London November 2007

- 98 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007

INTRODUCTION On two groundbreaking albums, Blue Train (1957) and Giant Steps (1960), John Coltrane presented a group of original tunes that stretched to breaking point the possibilities of functional harmony. Shortly after these albums he began increasingly to turn his back on the traditional use of chord changes. Of the 11 tunes on these two albums there is only one standard: I'm Old Fashioned. I find that rather ironic. The rest are originals, including a large number of blues and blues-like numbers. The landmark tunes are Moment's Notice, Lazy Bird, Giant Steps, Countdown and Naima. The beautiful ballad Naima is an exercise in extended pedal-point, most probably much influenced by the modal approach of Miles Kind of Blue session. The others are sometimes referred to collectively as Coltranes substitution tunes. It can be very tricky to understand precisely whats going on harmonically with them. This article is intended to help you understand what the hell's happening in these tunes. These revolutionary compositions are the direct result of Coltrane's exhaustive exploration of harmonic theory. He had studied harmony at Granoff, but around this time he had also spent an extensive period studying and playing with Thelonius Monk (culminating in a marathon residency at New York's Five Spot cafe). Monk was an extremely detailed and advanced harmonic thinker and his influence on Coltrane during this period can't be discounted. Influence aside, though, the harmonic discoveries unleashed on these two albums surely belong to Coltrane alone. All of these tunes are primarily concerned with harmony that is to say, the chord changes are what's compositionally most important. It is notable that Coltrane's instinct as a composer directed him towards balance since the chord changes are so unusual and distinctive it makes perfect sense for the melodies to be secondary to the harmony. Anyway, were not going to look at the melodies, just the harmony.

Disclaimer 1: There are many different ways of analysing harmony. What follows is how I have personally managed to make sense of these tunes. Im not laying down holy writ and I certainly cant claim any insight into Coltranes actual thought processes. I do, however, think that there are some interesting observations to be made by looking at these tunes as a group. There is a thread running through them a continuity of purpose. Disclaimer 2: Im preoccupied here solely with the basic harmonic motion. I wont bother to note where a II chord might best be played as half-diminished or Lydian dominant, a V as altered or Lydian dominant, a I as Lydian, and so forth. The derivation of the basic progressions is the important thing.

- 99 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

MOMENT'S NOTICE (on Blue Train) Cadences-a-go-go Apparently, trombonist Curtis Fuller commented on the Blue Train recording session that he couldn't be expected just to blow over these changes at a moment's notice. A glance at the lead sheet makes this legend about how the tune got its name seem highly plausible. The key to unlocking this harmony is to understand how cadences are extended and embellished. These techniques were all tried and tested harmonic resources, used by classical and popular-song composers long before Coltrane got his hands on them.

Extending Cadences The common diatonic cadences in jazz are as follows (#IV qualifies as an honorary diatonic tone in this context): II-V-I III-VI-II-V-I #IV-VII-III-VI-II-V-I We can extend a cadence by condensing chords into half the space and adding preceding IIVs. For instance, to extend: | Dm7 | G7 | CM | / |

we crunch up the II-V into the second bar and add the III-VI in the first: | Em7 A7 | Dm7 G7 | CM | / |

Embellishing Cadences We can also embellish a cadence by preceding the II-V with another II-V a semitone above or below it. Starting with: | Dm7 | G7 | CM | / |

we crunch the II-V into the second bar and add the embellishment II-V in the first bar: | Ebm7 Ab7 | | Dbm7 Gb7 | Dm7 G7 Dm7 G7 | | CM CM | | / / | |

There are other options for the embellishment II-V (a tone below, a minor 3rd away, a tritone away) and we can also interrupt the II-V-I cadence by crunching the starting II-V into the first bar and putting the embellishment in the second bar. In this case, the embellishment II-V acts as a temporary interruption in the movement from the real V to I. There are even possibilities for sandwiching the embellishment II-V in between the true II and V chords. Benny Golson's Stablemates makes very deliberate use of semitonal embellishment and is proposed by some people as a probable influence on this tune. I dont know whether this was ever directly acknowledged, but Stablemates is certainly a tune Coltrane knew. The influence may even have been subconscious.

- 100 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Moments Notice Let's begin with what we can propose as the skeleton structure of Moment's Notice (we'll ignore the bars marked X for now): ||: | | |1st) |2nd) Fm7 Ebm7 Bbm7 Gm7 Fm7 | | | | | Bb7 Ab7 Eb7 C7 Bb7 | | | | | EbM DbM AbM Fm7 EbM | | | | | X X X Bb7 X | | | :|| ||

Im sure Curtis wouldnt have had any trouble blowing over these changes. We have two II-VIs descending by tone, then there's a II-V-I to the IV of the key, then an extended turnaround on the first-time repeat and a final II-V-I coming home on the second repeat. Perfectly straightforward traditional harmonic motion. Could be the changes to a standard (a pretty ordinary one, at that). The first thing we do is take the first two four-bar phrases and embellish the cadences by adding a chromatic II-V (a semitone below) in front of both: ||: | Em7 A7 Dm7 G7 | Fm7 Bb7 | Ebm7 Ab7 | | EbM DbM | | X X | |

Then we take the third four-bar phrase and extend the cadence by adding a III-VI in front of the II-V: | Cm7 F7 | Bb7 Eb7 | AbM | X |

Things are starting to take shape. We now have two chromatic cadences followed by a diatonic cadence, which provides a bit of contrast (relief, if you like). At this stage, we're harmonically implying a miniature AAB structure in the way we treat the cadences. What Coltrane does next is to extend this miniature structure to AABA by adapting the fourth four-bar phrase (the first-time repeat as Ive notated it here) so that it resembles the first two phrases. He shunts the III-VI and the II-V to the beginning and end of the four-bar section, making room in the middle for the II-V-I necessary to mimic the semitonally embellished structure of the first two four-bar phrases. If we ignore the last bar, this is now the same structure as we saw in the first two phrases, just in a different key: |1st) Gm7 C7 | Abm7 Db7 | GbM | Fm7 Bb7 :||

This fourth four-bar phrase has now become a (very) interrupted cadence. The second ending phrase he just extends by adding a III-VI in front: |2nd) Gm7 C7 | Fm7 Bb7 | EbM | X ||

And we're almost there. All we need to do now is fill in the Xs: ||: Em7 A7 | Dm7 G7 | Cm7 F7 |1st) Gm7 C7 |2nd) Gm7 C7 | | | | | Fm7 Bb7 Ebm7 Ab7 Bb7 Eb7 Abm7 Db7 Fm7 Bb7 | | | | | EbM DbM AbM GbM EbM | X | X | X | Fm7 Bb7 | X | | | :|| ||

- 101 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

These points in the harmony are not functionally crucial and there are lots of different ways we could fill these spots. We could even just leave them blank, but this tune is all about elaborating cadences, so why waste these opportunities? Therefore: 1. Putting Abm7 Db7 into bar 4 makes sense, because we are then preceding the following Dm7 G7 with its tritone substitution a common embellishment. 2. Putting Dm7 G7 into bar 8 is logical because it adds a II-V to the Cm7 that follows in fact it extends the existing III-VI-II-V-I in Ab (bars 9-11) into the full #IV-VII-III-VI-II-V-I. 3. Putting Abm7 Db7 into bar 12 is logical because it forms another chromatically embellished cadence this time its a II-V a semitone above the Gm7 C7 that follows. It also fits nicely by minorising the AbM chord that it follows. (Well look at the final X a bit later on.) We could provide further justification for these additions by noting that the real harmonic surprise of this tune comes in the interrupted cadence on line four. By using the II-V of that cadence (Abm7 Db7) twice in two different embellishment approaches before we get there, we're subtly hinting at what is to come at this surprise point.

So now we have the full changes to Moments Notice: ||: Em7 A7 | Dm7 G7 | Cm7 F7 |1st) Gm7 C7 |2nd) Gm7 C7 | | | | | Fm7 Bb7 Ebm7 Ab7 Bb7 Eb7 Abm7 Db7 Fm7 Bb7 | | | | | EbM DbM AbM GbM EbM | Abm7 Db7 | Dm7 G7 | Abm7 Db7 | Fm7 Bb7 | X | | | :|| ||

Almost there. After all that cadential leaping about, Coltrane delays the arrival of the final EbM using an extended pedal section on the dominant Bb7. This has the effect of clearly affirming the identity of the home key after all the foregoing chromatic motion. Moments Notice, then, is an exhaustive exploration of just about every possibility for elaborating cadences in traditional II-V-I motion. In a single tune, which makes it one hell of an achievement.

- 102 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

LAZY BIRD (on Blue Train) One giant step This tune takes its defining concept from Tadd Damerons Lady Bird. The whole point of Lady Bird is that, both in the tune and the turnaround, there is an unexpected modulation down a major 3rd. This was an unusual harmonic twist at the time although motion by major 3rds does occur in the bridge of the standard Have You Met Miss Jones.

Lady Bird Lets start with this utterly unremarkable and harmless piece of Tin Pan Alley harmony: || | | | CM CM FM Dm7 | | | | / / / G7 | | | | CM Dm7 Gm7 Am7 A7 | G7 | C7 | D7 | Dm7 G7 | | | ||

Again, could be a standard. First, we change the II-V in bars 3-4 well use a substitution known as a backdoor II-V, which is a bluesy cadence on IV-bVII going back to I: || CM | / | Fm7 | Bb7 |

Now well do the same thing (another backdoor II-V but this time going to the IV chord F) in bars 7-8: | CM | / | Bbm7 | Eb7 |

but instead of going to the expected F, well call the bluff, and go instead where Eb7 is supposed to go and there we have it, the surprise modulation: | AbM | / | Am7 | D7 |

Now lets twist the turnaround (bars 15-16) by using tritone subs on everything except the C chord: | CM Eb7 | Abm7 Db7 ||

and switch the Ab chord quality to major. There you have it the same modulation that appears in the tune is now momentarily implied in the turnaround as well. This is known as a Tadd Dameron turnaround, by the way, and these days its often substituted in on any tune. Another common variation has all four chords changed to majors. Listen out for it. So the full changes to Lady Bird are: || | | | CM CM AbM Dm7 | | | | / / / G7 | | | | CM Fm7 Bbm7 Am7 Eb7 | Bb7 | Eb7 | D7 | AbM Db7 | | | ||

Lazy Bird The A section of Coltranes Lazy Bird is really just one big massive tease. The whole thing is a great big cadence in G, extended and altered in order to detour at Eb along the way giving the same downward major 3rd modulation as in Lady Bird. Starting with this:

- 103 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

|| |


| |


| |

Fm7 GM

| |

Bb7 X

| ||

Were in the key of G. Bars 3-4 are a backdoor II-V to the IV chord of the key, C but they go instead where theyre supposed to, to Eb, giving the surprise modulation. But remember that Coltrane is very concerned with cadences at this point in his development. He goes further he decides to sandwich the whole trick inside a great big cadence. The stages of development might have gone something like this. Put in a II-V up at the front: || | Am7 EbM | | D7 X | | Fm7 GM | | Bb7 X | ||

Since backdoor II-Vs are a theme, why not embellish the cadence in bars 1-2 by adding the backdoor II-V of G (this will flow nicely into the Fm7 Bb7 that follows): || Am7 D7 | EbM | Cm7 F7 | X | | Fm7 GM | | Bb7 X | ||

Then overrun the II-V-I in Eb (bars 3-5) to its IV Ab7 (a very common motion) in bar 6: || Am7 D7 | EbM | Cm7 F7 | Ab7 | | Fm7 GM | | Bb7 X | ||

and use a full II-V tritone substitution on that bar (oh, and add a little turnaround to the top chord in the final bar): || Am7 D7 | EbM | Cm7 F7 | Am7 D7 | | Fm7 GM | Bb7 | Bm7 E7 | ||

There is nothing very remarkable about the bridge of Lazy Bird two II-V-Is descending by tone, landing on the home key. Again, this is a bit of simplicity to contrast with all the previous hopping about. By the way, this is the same as the bridge to Lover Man. Note though, that Coltranes preoccupation with cadential expansions is still at work. The final bar of each four-bar phrase contains a semitonal embellishment of the II-V that follows: || Bm7 | Am7 || Am7 D7 | | | E7 D7 | | AM GM | Bbm7 Eb7 | Abm7 Db7 | ||

The full changes to Lazy Bird, then, are: ||: Am7 D7 | EbM || Bm7 | Am7 || Am7 D7 | EbM | | | | | | Cm7 F7 Am7 D7 E7 D7 Cm7 F7 Am7 D7 | | | | | | Fm7 GM AM GM Fm7 GM | | | | | | Bb7 Bm7 E7 Bbm7 Eb7 Abm7 Db7 Bb7 Bm7 E7 | :|| | || | ||

So in this tune, Coltrane has explored Tadd Damerons way of modulating down a major 3rd by use of the backdoor II-V. Just as significantly, hes found a way of getting back up again via tritone substitution Hes found a way of including major 3rd motion within a cadence. Remember bars 5-7 of this tune. Well see them again shortly.

- 104 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

GIANT STEPS (on Giant Steps) Splitting the octave There are lots of different ways of analysing Giant Steps. No method is any more right than any other. Heres one way of looking at the tune. From his Lazy Bird experience, Coltrane has arrived at the notion of modulating by a major 3rd. If we can it once, why not do it several times? Actually, you can only do it three times in sequence then you repeat yourself, because youre splitting the octave into three equal parts by moving in major 3rds. A repeating structure and if you hadnt already guessed it, Coltrane was really quite taken with structure... Remember how the Tadd Dameron turnaround implies a temporary modulation down a major 3rd? Lets see how this type of turnaround looks in G, Eb and B: | GM Bb7 | EbM F#7 | BM D7 | EbM Ab7 | BM | GM E7 C7 | | |

We can interrupt these turnarounds and combine them, by treating the first chord of each second bar as the first chord of a brand new turnaround in practice, this just amounts to reading down the columns instead of across: | GM Bb7 | EbM F#7 | BM D7 | GM etc

A sort of Tadd Dame-Tadd Dame-Tadd Dame turnaround, if you like. Coltrane took this repeating sequence and ordered it in such a way that it pauses momentarily on bar 3, then in bar 4 backtracks upwards (by using the same structure well find in the second half of the tune): | | BM D7 GM X | GM Bb7 | | EbM | Am7 D7 |

He then resumes the sequence from this different point and does the same pause and backtrack manoeuvre on bars 7-8 to lead into the final eight bars (which well look at next): | | GM Bb7 EbM | EbM F#7 | | BM | Fm7 Bb7 |

(of course, this means that bars 5-8 are the same as bars-1-4, transposed down a major 3rd.) So the first half of the tune moves key centres down by major 3rds. The second half creatively balances this by moving up by major 3rds. So how are we going to do that? Theres a classic chord progression of II-V-Is that descends by whole step many popular tunes are based on it. Coltrane himself made use of it in the first and second eight bars of Moments Notice, as well as the bridge of Lazy Bird: Fm7 Ebm7 C#m7 Bm7 Bb7 Ab7 F#7 E7 EbM DbM BM AM etc

(dont be thrown by the fact that we cross the flat-sharp dateline)

- 105 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Lets perform a complete tritone substitution on every other II-V-I: Fm7 Am7 C#m7 Fm7 Bb7 D7 F#7 Bb7 EbM GM BM EbM etc

Were now moving keys upwards by major 3rds, and we repeat ourselves every three times. Treat the II-Vs as pickups to the start of a line, and this is the structure of the final 8 bars of Giant Steps (this produces the same result as bars 5-7 of Lazy Bird sequentially in three different keys): | Fm7 Bb7 | | C#m7 F#7 | | X |

| |


| Am7 D7 | Fm7 Bb7

| |


To finish up the picture, Coltrane adds a turnaround in the final bar of the whole tune to lead back to the top. And there you have the whole of Giant Steps:

|| BM D7 | GM Bb7 | EbM | BM

| GM Bb7 | EbM F#7 | Am7 D7 | Fm7 Bb7

| | | |


| | | |

Am7 D7 Fm7 Bb7 C#m7 F#7 C#m7 F#7

| | | ||

Note how the key centres move: || B down to | G down to | | G down to | Eb down to | | Eb | up to | | B | up to | Eb B G Eb | back up to | back up to | up to | turnaround to | | | ||

Note also how the general direction of the melody line cleverly mimics the way the key centres are descending and ascending throughout the tune. It may seem silly, but its a useful exercise to sing the melody along to these words Incidentally, dont be fooled by the fact that the tune starts with and turns around to a B chord. If its in any key at all, Giant Steps is actually in Eb the chord that falls on the second-to-last bar (although, granted, it doesnt spend much time in its home key). By the way, I dont think Coltrane chose his three keys out of any sadistic desire to punish musicians with the nightmare of playing in B. The whole tune is composed of II-V-Is and V-Is in just three keys. If you think about the possibilities for choosing three equidistant keys, the combination of G, Eb and B is quite possibly the most friendly set Oh, and did you notice that Moments Notice is in Eb, Lazy Bird goes through G and Eb, and Giant Steps goes through B, G and Eb?

- 106 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

COUNTDOWN (on Giant Steps) Coltranes killer cadence

Once were past the analysis stage, the simplest way of looking at Giant Steps changes is just to decide that we want to divide the octave into three equal parts: | CM | AbM | EM | CM |

and simply approach each major chord with its V chord (we do this in the second half of the preceding bar): | CM Eb7 | AbM B7 | EM G7 | CM |

(Some people find it convenient to think of this root motion as up a minor 3rd, down a 5th) If we make the first chord a Dm7, we get a structure which has the look and feel of an elaborated II-V-I cadence and can be played as a substitute for a straight II-V-I in C. Think of it as a II-V-I with the II, V and I chords shoved to either side to make way for the elaboration chords: | | Dm7 Dm7 X | | G7 X X | | X | EM CM G7 G7 | | | / CM CM | | |

| Dm7 Eb7

| AbM B7

Miles Davis wrote a tune called Tune Up in the mid-1950s (its on the Quintet album, Cookin, which Coltrane played on). Oh, and some sources credit the tune to Eddie Vinson wouldnt be the first or last time Miless name found its way onto someone elses tune... Anyway, this is a straightforward blowing vehicle comprising II-V-Is descending by tone, with the final one repeated (with variation): | | | | Em7 Dm7 Cm7 Em7 | | | | A7 G7 F7 F7 | | | | DM CM BbM BbM | | | | / / / E7 | | | |

(Dont worry about the Em7 and E7 in the final line structurally speaking, these chords arent hugely important.) Coltrane reharmonised this tune using the above principle as for the title, well, Miles tuned up, so Trane counted down: | | | | Em7 F7 Dm7 Eb7 Cm7 Db7 Em7 | BbM Db7 | AbM B7 | GbM A7 | F7 | GbM A7 | EM G7 | DM F7 | BbM | | | | DM CM BbM Eb7+9 | | | |

If you think about it, this tune is a natural candidate for Coltrane-style reharmonisation recall that the upward motion of Giant Steps is derived from a tritone-substituted version of exactly this kind of tune structure. Note how Coltrane chose to leave the final four bars unaltered (if you discount the chord on the final bar, which isnt structurally terribly significant). He continued to apply his Giant Steps principles to lots of different standards, sometimes writing new melodies on the reharmonised changes the two most well-known examples are 26-2 (based on Confirmation) and Satellite (based on How High the Moon). But he usually allowed a bit of harmonic relief by leaving part of the original harmony unchanged.
- 107 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

He also used these reharmonisation principles on the fly, when soloing over standards and as a basis for interesting motion when playing modally. Many of todays most accomplished players still follow his lead. Incidentally, on the rarely played coda to Countdown, Coltrane moves the harmony boldly and plainly by major 3rds, between D, Gb and Bb. These are exactly the key centres youd get if you took the first three four-bar phrases of Tune Up and performed a complete tritone sub on the whole of the second phrase. Just in case you were in any doubt as to what the harmonic order of the day was

SPIRAL(on Giant Steps) Chromatics and minor Just a brief note on this one. The structure of this tune is not nearly so clear-cut as the others weve looked at. However, it warrants a minor mention, since the A section harmony is governed by major 3rd motion. We begin in G and descend chromatically to Eb (albeit with a D in the bass shades of Green Dolphin Street), then move into B minor, via the V chord F#7. The second section of the tune plays around with the duality of B minor and D major. I may add a more detailed analysis of this tune at a later point.

A lot of this stuff is contentious, and Im happy to throw things open to debate. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London November 2007

- 108 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007 Before we begin, Ill admit that the approach were going to look at here is actually a real copout. Truly effective soloing over Giant Steps is about clearly outlining the individual changes as you flow through the unorthodox harmonic motion. Nevertheless, this article will introduce you to a scale structure that, as long as we admit a bit of a fudge, does actually fit all the changes in this unorthodox progression. It can work well as just one approach to soloing over these changes and also makes an interesting case study in how to apply the scale structure more generally.

GIANT STEPS CHANGES ||: BM D7 | GM | GM Bb7 | EbM | EbM | Am7 | BM | Fm7 Bb7 F#7 D7 Bb7 | | | | EbM BM GM EbM | | | | Am7 D7 | Fm7 Bb7 | C#m7 F#7 | C#m7 F#7 :||

This tune gives most learning players an attack of the vapours. The chordal motion is weird, the tempo is fast and it involves playing over progressions in the key of B, which most players havent spent very much time with. There are different ways of analysing this tune, but the most important thing to notice is that it moves up and down by key centres a major 3rd apart, which divides the octave into three parts B, Eb and G. The tune contains only nine chords, II-V-Is in the keys of B, Eb and G. As Mark Levine has pointed out (in The Jazz Piano Book and The Jazz Theory Book), this means that its possible to play the tune using just three pentatonic scales F#, Bb and D major pentatonics, which fit all the chords from the II-V-Is in B, Eb and G respectively. To use this approach, all you have to do is keep an eye on which key youre in at any given point note that during bars 1-2 and 5-6, the keys change in the middle of the bar.

THE AUGMENTED HEXATONIC SCALE But we can be much lazier than that. The fact that the keys move by major 3rds gives us an interesting opportunity to use a synthetic, symmetrical scale over the whole tune. The scale in question is the augmented hexatonic scale. Hexatonic (six-note) scales are structures derived by combining the tones from two mutually exclusive triads. There are lots of possibilities, all of which work over more than one chord. The augmented hexatonic is derived by combining two augmented triads a semitone apart: B augmented triad: Bb augmented triad: as a scale: B D# G Bb D F#

B D D# F# G Bb

This scale is symmetrical note the structure of a repeating minor 3rd and semitone that repeats every major 3rd. This means that B/Bb aug contains exactly the same notes as Eb/D aug and G/Gb aug (D# and F# are the same as Eb and Gb).

- 109 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

AUGMENTED HEXATONIC OVER Eb, G AND B MAJOR CHORDS What does this mean over the chords from Giant Steps? Lets look at the major chords first. Heres what the scale means over a Eb major chord: Eb Gb G Bb B D 1 3 5 7 b3 #5 The structure contains a major seventh chord, plus b3 and #5. Both these additional tones can be used over a major chord The b3 is a blue 3rd, the #5 is an optional alteration and often used as a passing tone in the bebop major scale. Since the augmented hexatonic scale repeats every major 3rd, chord-tone analysis will produce exactly the same results over G and B major scales. Actually, even though it fits each chord individually, this structure suggests a polytonal approach, allowing you to effectively suggest three chords all at once.

AUGMENTED HEXATONIC OVER Bb7, D7 AND F#7 CHORDS Heres what the scale means over a Bb7 chord (again, because of the symmetry of the scale, the same chord-tone analysis will apply over D7 and F#7 chords): Bb B D Eb F# G 1 3 13 b9 sus4 #5 Not so straightforward, at least at first sight. First of all, although the scale contains 1, 3 and 13, all tones that appear on a straight dominant chord, the defining dominant 7th (Ab) isnt in the scale. However, the b9, sus4 and #5 are all chord extensions that strongly imply different species of dominant in combinations: 1 3 sus4 13 1 b9 3 13 1 b9 3 #5 1 b9 sus4 13 suggests suggests suggests suggests Bb7sus Bb7b9 Bb7+9 Bb7susb9

You dont really need to focus on hitting these tones for any specific dominant sound using the complete scale will just imply flipping between more than one dominant type within the same line, which is fine. A 7susb9 alteration is, in one interpretation, the minor equivalent of a Vsus reharmonisation of a major II-V so playing Bb7susb9 is a bit like collapsing Fm7b5-Bb7alt into one chord.

AUGMENTED HEXATONIC OVER Fm7b5, Am7b5 and C#m7b5 CHORDS You dont have to play the II when you see a II-V at all. But how would the augmented scale look over the related minor II, Fm7b5?: F# G Bb B D Eb 9 4 b5 b7 b9 13 Four out of six notes apply nicely to the Locrian #2 scale that accompanies a half-diminished chord. The b9 would imply a straight Locrian scale (the b9 would usually be best treated as a passing note). The 13 doesnt belong to a half-diminished chord (13 is flatted on this chord type), but again as a passing tone, its okay.
- 110 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

(Actually, if we play 9 4 13 and b7 together, were implying, very ambiguously, a straight Dorian Fm7 strictly speaking, Fm13 no 3. Oh, and various different permutations of the tones also suggest different species of F dominant. This would suggest a reharmonisation of Fm7 Bb7 to F7 Bb7.) Should we worry that the root and minor 3 are absent? Well, the bass will usually take care of the root for you. As to the minor 3, we can actually get by without it as the simultaneous presence of the 4, b5 (and b7) unambiguously defines the chord as half-diminished.

THE FUDGE So this is the nature of the fudge. By using this scale over the dominant chords from Giant Steps youre either ignoring the II chords altogether or implying an ambiguous reharmonisation of the II-Vs.

THE SCALE AS AN INTERVALLIC RESOURCE It may feel a little limiting to just play these tones. To open up the possibilities, you need to practise seeing the scale simultaneously in all three keys. And its not as limited a resource as you may think. The scale contains: semitones, minor 3rds, major 3rds, perfect 4ths, perfect 5ths, 6ths and major 7ths. The best results from this scale are obtained by being aware of where these different intervals are located so you can combine them fluently.

So there we have it. Using the B/Bb augmented hexatonic scale allows you to treat Giant Steps almost as a modal tune. This scale has a defining sound of its own (just like the other symmetrical scales diminished and whole-tone), which is a sort of polytonal modality. You could opt to use it in any context over a II-V-I. For instance, over Dm7 G7 CM, youd use the augmented hexatonic scale built from C and B augmented triads.

Best of luck, and feel free to e-mail me with any queries or comments at

Jason Lyon London November 2007

- 111 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Jason Lyon 2007

Heres a little synthetic scale resource derived from Coltranes Giant Steps. Take the ascending melody line from the second eight of the tune (a repeating three-note motif ascending by major 3rds, played over the chords Fm7-Bb7-EbM, Am7-D7-GM, C#m7-F#7BM) and overlay the figures to form a nine-note scale structure:

This kind of approach is borrowed from modern classical music. The goal is to improvise within the general sound or sense of a melody. The result is a synthetic structure rather than a scale proper since it contains a lot of consecutive semitones and doesnt really have a leading-tone function. Having said that, this scale is bristling with structure and this makes it a highly flexible resource for improvisation. As youd expect from a structure formed from a motif ascending by major 3rds, there is a definite augmented character to this scale. In fact, the scale can be seen as an overlay of two augmented hexatonic scales:

Put another way, the scale is formed from three semitonally consecutive augmented triads: A, Bb and B. By extension, the scale is also the full chromatic scale minus the augmented triad on C Because of the shape of the motif, there is also repetition at the step of a tone, a minor third and a perfect fourth. Some the structures in the scale: Major triads on F#, G, Bb, B, D and Eb Minor triads on F#, G, Bb, B, D and Eb Major 7th chords on F#, G, Bb, B, D and Eb Minor-major 7th chords on F#, G, Bb, B, D and Eb Dominant 7th chords on G, B and Eb Augmented triads on every tone: F, F#, G, A, Bb, B, C#, D and Eb Stacks of three fourths on F, A and C# Whole-tone scale(s) on F, G, A, B, C# and D#

There are two distinct ways of employing this scale.

- 112 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,



The concept here is one of overlaying a distinctive melodic resource, rather than playing the changes. It is possible to use this kind of melody-derived scale to convincingly convey the overall sense of the tune, regardless of harmonic clashes. Youd be surprised how readily an audience will pick up on this sense of the tune. In certain cases, particularly where, as here, a tune is highly structured and not overly chromatic, choosing a section of the melody and converting it to a scale can make an interesting resource for improvisation. This tends to work best when you adapt a valuable guideline from outside playing. Consider that outside lines sound most convincing when we start inside the harmony, move outside and then bring the line back inside. So the approach would be to begin by quoting the melody, then working around it motifically, increasingly treating the tones that comprise the melody as a scale.



To my way of thinking this scale best fits the following chords: GM+4, BM+4, EbM+4 G7+11, B7+11, Eb7+11 Since the dominant and major 7ths coexist in the scale, you might want to take care to emphasise one or the other to strengthen the identity of the desired chord. The scale also contains minor 3rd and b13th in each case. We found a whole-tone scale family in the scale, so it can also work over: F7+5, G7+5, A7+5, B7+5, C#7+5, D#7+5 Various other dominant alterations are present as well.

Try experimenting with this approach over other tunes as a rule, it will work better if you pick more modern tunes, rather than standards or bebop heads. But dont let that deter you

Best of luck with this approach. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London November 2007

- 113 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007

I have often found it a very useful exercise to sit down and precompose a few choruses of soloing over a tune thats captured my imagination at the time. Its pretty obvious to say, really, but improvising is ultimately nothing more or less than instantaneous composition. Since we dont have the luxury of time when improvising, we have to rely on what our subconscious has learned during practice sessions, as well as using our ears, muscles, emotions, liver (?) to guide us.

WHY BOTHER? So what can we gain by sitting down with our instrument, manuscript paper and a whole afternoon to produce 32, 64 or however many bars of music? By precomposing solos, we are of course exploring the possibilities at complete leisure and discovering our own store of favourite ideas, some of which we go on to use quite deliberately. These ideas become a part of our musical personality, and every great jazz musician has them. Nevertheless, I think the best way to apply this approach is to fire and forget. Compose the solo, practise it, make alterations and improvements as you go along. Then keep it on file for later reference Ill often revisit my precomposed things when I feel my playing is getting stale. Incidentally, your stock of precomposed things can be very useful when it comes to writing arrangements, countermelodies, solis, etc. Bits of them often appear later on in your own compositions. But dont try to learn solos and reproduce them note-for-note on gigs. The idea is to practice the process of composing a solo, rather than learning great big gobbets of music to trot out later. Dont be concerned that this means composing solos is a waste of your valuable time. Youll find, if you take this fire and forget approach, that certain ideas you precompose will appear more or less spontaneously in your playing anyway often altered in interesting and unexpected ways. Theres no need to force it (in fact, forcing things is a very good way to guarantee that things go wrong in performance!) The other reason not to precompose with the aim of reproducing the solo verbatim is to take the pressure off yourself. Its much easier to compose music in the spirit of interested exploration than feeling that you have to come up with a work of art against the clock. (Deadline pressure may have worked for Rossini, but he was an exception. Anyway, there was a man who had a really big store of precomposed ideas)

EVERYBODY CHEATS SOMETIMES Having said all that, I am certainly not the first person ever to sit down with a tune ahead of a gig or recording session and come up with a few general ideas to plug in later particularly at the tricky or unfamiliar bits. If you listen to the more recent reissues of classic jazz albums youll hear a surprising amount of duplicated material between alternate takes. A lot of Charlie Parkers solos, for instance, definitely seem somehow pre-planned, although he does use his homework flexibly. A lot of
- 114 Jason Lyon 2006-7,

the greats have admitted the existence of practised improvisation (as Bill Evans bassist Chuck Israel has described it).

FEEDING THE SUBCONSCIOUS To a certain extent, composing a solo is the ultimate in slow practice. By taking as long we like to come up with a good solo, we are spending considerable time consciously applying the principles of good solo construction. Every time we do this, our subconscious mind is sitting at the back of the class, gazing out of the window (as is its habit) its listening, but not attentively. The subconscious is catlike it can pick up habits, but it cant really be trained. The idea is to drip-feed our subconscious with good principles.

DONT BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING By the way, this process has a lot in common with transcription. In particular, you have the luxury of being non-linear. When transcribing, we aim not to get bogged down on a passage that is tricky, hard to hear or just not very interesting. Similarly, when composing a solo, we can just leave certain bars blank to be filled in later or just to be improvised over when were playing through the solo. I recommend writing out chords above empty bars for the whole solo before you begin (writing four bars to a line). This allows you a birds eye view of the tunes structure. Of course, the basic approach is to proceed sequentially, by writing a phrase then developing, extending, transposing it, altering the rhythm, inverting it, etc. A more interesting approach is to start by writing some things in at preplanned high and low points you can then distil more general motifs from what you write at these points and work up to them. You can actually go so far as to fill in an entire extended solo patchwork-fashion. How useful is this approach in preparing for real life improvising? Youd be surprised how the non-linear subconscious can work towards a future point in the solo.

SOME USEFUL CONCEPTS FOR COMPOSING A WELL-STRUCTURED SOLO All the following concepts are used instinctively by great players. Getting to know how to use them by composing solos is a good way to sink them into your subconscious mind.

Overall shape. Tension and release, climax points, playing across the obvious phrase breaks and section breaks. Phrase lengths. Satisfactory balance between long and short phrases, or development by starting with a short statement, then gradually lengthening it. Mature use of silence. Most beginners dont leave nearly enough space. Development of simple motifs. Usually the most flexible structures to work with are quite short: a melodic motif of no more than five or six notes, a rhythm with no more than five or six hits. These can then be adapted flexibly to provide an underpinning of structure to the solo. Sequencing scalar patterns across changing chords for a continuous line. Balance between held notes and lines, high and low, soft and loud, quiet and busy.

- 115 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Quotes from the tune, or playing close to the melody (and quotes from other tunes and solos). Varying different triad qualities from each chord-scale this is particularly valuable in a modal context. Use of melodic cells a triad plus any other note (eg 1235, 1345, 3567, etc) Varied and balanced use of scales, arpeggios, guide tones, fourths, pentatonics all enriched and extended by using passing tones and bebop-style enclosure figures. Ad-hoc reharmonisations: tritone substitutions, pedal point, modalising the harmony by treating part or all of a section as just being, for instance, in Eb rather than chasing the changes. Use of blues-scale gestures or just blue thirds. Use of upper-structure triads. Distinctive figures from melodic minor scales over many different chord types. Playing call-and-response with yourself. Playing inside, then outside, then back again. Use of sequences or chains of outside triads are useful to maintain a sense of structure against the underlying harmony. Repeated rhythmic vamps. Overlaid time feels implied half-time, double-time, superimposed threes on twos or fours, etc. Effects, atonality, noise.

There are two basic ways to generate ideas (two sides of the same coin, actually): 1. You can start from the ear. Just play around over a section of the tune until you hit on something you like the sound of. Then analyse it to find out whats going on, from a theoretical standpoint. It is the shape of the line, the combination of chord and non-chord tones, the rhythm or a combination of all of these? Once you have a clear idea of which concepts are at work you can then consider how to apply, extend or counterbalance them. 2. You can start from theory. Maybe you choose a certain melodic cell or descending arpeggio and try it out. Does it sound okay, too dry, too theoretical? Okay, then embellish it add a pickup, change the rhythm, insert passing tones, invert it, etc. Then consider how you might want to extend, or contradict what youve come up with. The process of composing solos should be interesting and stimulating. The word play has two meanings.

Best of luck with this approach. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London November 2007

- 116 Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2007

Hold it right there if youve learned jazz within the past twenty years or so, its likely youve been taught the wrong chord tones on tonic chords. People tend to teach from the perspective of chord-scales. Pretty much the first thing were taught is to stack our chord tones in thirds, like this: Dm7 G7 C D G7b9 Cm

Which naturally leads people to conclude that the strong chord tones on all chord types are root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. This is fine up to a point while it is certainly true for minor 7th and dominant 7th chords, it isnt really the case with tonic major and minor chords. Lets review what each chord tone does for a living: The root tells us where home base is. The third indicates the quality of major or minor. The fifth reinforces the root (or is altered to provide interest). The seventh indicates that the chord is active, in progress towards another chord (dominant 7th) or inactive, at rest, (major 7th) The fact is that on tonic major and minor chords, jazz musicians have overwhelmingly used the 6th, rather than the 7th to indicate that tonic chords are at rest, resolved. This is true both of harmony and improvised melody lines. The real tonic chord tones are root, 3rd, 5th and 6th. In fact, the 7th on a tonic chord has a certain abrasive quality. The reason for this becomes more clear when we consider the prospect of a tonic voicing with the root in the melody (as in the first note of Green Dolphin Street, for instance): C

Play these two voicings under the root and compare how they sound. The one with the major 7th in the voicing has a much less smooth feeling. The reason for this is that a dissonant minor 9th appears between the major 7th in the voicing and the melody tone above. Play just the top two notes of the first example (B and C) to hear this dissonance clearly.
- 117 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Now its true to say that sometimes this mildly abrasive quality is actively preferred, certainly in the context of 1960s jazz onwards. Particularly with chords from melodic minor, use of the major 7th was increasingly used from this period onwards. Nevertheless, if were talking about a first choice chord tone to make a tonic chord sound resolved, jazz musicians have always favoured the 6th over the 7th. Dont believe me? Lets look at the evidence.

1. THE PIANISTS LEFT HAND For evidence of how jazz musicians have conceived chord tones in various periods of the musics development, its highly instructive to look at what pianists have played underneath a melody or RH solo. Ragtime, stride and swing piano voicings contained the 6th on a tonic chord, not the 7th. The typical shape is 1-3-5-6: C Cm

The bebop shell voicings used by Bud Powell and his contemporaries are possible with a 7th, but much more common is the 6th: C (or Cm)

The rootless voicings popularised by Red Garland, Bill Evans and Wyn Kelly can use the 7th, but the most common shape is to play 3rd and 5th, add the 6th and strengthen it with the 9th: C Cm

Fourth voicings are inherently more ambiguous. Chord tones are built in thirds (apart from our new friend, the 6th), and the average hand can only span three fourths so youre only going to be able to include two chord tones. This ambiguity is not a bad thing its actually an important part of the sound of 1960s jazz and beyond. The commonest fourth voicing for a tonic chord contains 3rd, 6th and 9th:

- 118 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Again avoiding the 7th in favour of the 6th. Incidentally, for all that they are modernistic, these fourth voicings are really just thinned-out versions of the rootless voicings above. So, while pianists have certainly occasionally used tonic voicings with 7ths, the overwhelming evidence is that they have regarded the finalising chord tone on a tonic as the 6th not the 7th, throughout all periods of the musics history.

2. THE TONIC BEBOP SCALE The rationale behind passing-tone scales, of which the most widely applied have come to be known as the bebop scales, is to add consistent chromatic tones to the basic chord-scale so that chord tones coincide with strong downbeats. This makes for much stronger melodic construction. Again, we find that the bebop scales used over tonic chords consider the chord tones to be root, 3rd, 5th and 6th (not 7th): C bebop scale x x Cm bebop scale x x

(These are usually played descending.) Actually, it isnt possible to add a chromatic tone to a tonic scale so as to emphasise the 7th. The root is a vital chord tone and a semitone doesnt exist between root and 7th, so its impossible to emphasise both these tones in this kind of bebop-style scalar eighth-note line.

3. BLOCK CHORDS AND BASIC ARRANGING PRINCIPLES Lets look at the block chord style developed by Milt Buckner, George Shearing and others for harmonising a melody with parallel moving voicings. The principle is to voice chord tones as tonic 6th chords and all other tones as dominant 7b9 chords: C

- 119 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

Weve added a passing tone so as to smoothly alternate I and V chords. (Flat the 3rd and you have the tonic minor version). This is called four-way close and is also the underpinning of many different styles of arranging for horns. What weve effectively done is harmonise the tonic major and minor bebop scales. Again, the chord tones are considered to be root, 3rd, 5th and 6th.

4. PENTATONIC SCALES The gapped scale sound was explored at length in the 1960s by musicians such as Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and Woody Shaw. If youre tempted to think of the 6th on a tonic as a rather vintage sound, belonging more to swing and bop than modern styles, guess again. Pentatonic scales also overwhelmingly favour the 6th and omit the 7th. Pentatonic scales are very flexible there are many different types of pentatonic and they can be applied over lots of different chord types. Having said that, the basic starting point is the major pentatonic scale: C

This pentatonic scale is a melodic resource that has been used throughout history in cultures the world over. It contains the 6th and no 7th. Granted, there are plenty of other pentatonic possibilities over a tonic chord which do contain the major 7th: for instance, G major pentatonic, D major pentatonic, F# half-diminished pentatonic (these last two convert the chord to CM+4). It is interesting to note, however, that the overwhelming majority of these other possibilities contain the 6th as well .

Once youve taken this principle on board, youll find the improvised lines you play over tonic chords will immediately start to sound stronger. While it is possible to emphasise the major 7th in an improvised line, the 6th sounds much stronger and more idiomatically correct. There are plenty of examples of even very modern players using the 6th in this way. Listen to Tommy Flanagans solo on Mr PC (on the album Giant Steps), for instance. This is a minor blues, where the Cm chords are tonic chords Tommy consistently uses the 6th at these points in his line. Learn how the 6th sounds over a tonic chord and youll start to hear it everywhere.

Best of luck with this approach. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London November 2007

- 120 Jason Lyon 2006-7,


Jason Lyon 2008

If youve found this article, you probably dont need to be told what merengue is. But lets run things down very briefly to start us off. Merengue, the Latin-American musical style originating on the island of Hispaniola (comprising the Dominican Republic and Haiti), has over the past two or three decades become one of the most popular Latin styles on the planet. Why should this be? All Latin styles have their own unique rhythmic drive and excitement, but merengue has a killer advantage its easy for clumsy beginners to dance to. Even shy, uncoordinated rhythm-illiterate Europeans and North Americans. Sure, merengue dancing can be elevated to a beautiful art form, but it can easily be learned and enjoyed by anyone in five minutes flat. Basically, its a fast two-step little or no fancy footwork required. Just cling on to each other for ballast and rock from foot to foot left right left-right, one two one two. Rotate if you like. If you want to get a bit more fancy, try keeping your head roughly still while the rest of your body moves from side to side, one-two one two. Wiggle the hips and twirl your girl from time to time. Sorry girls Latin music is a very macho business Im afraid you have to be willing to be led. Oh, and of course merengue is terribly sexy since it combines easy couple dancing with close-up bump and grind action. A Mexican friend of mine cant be alone in reckoning that while salsa is pretty sultry, merengue is responsible for far more conception situations The UK salsa boom of a few years ago (when it dawned on clumpy Anglo-Saxons that there are types of dancing where youre actually allowed to and supposed to touch each other) demonstrated an interesting little thing to me. A lot of first-timers in those dance clubs went away thinking they loved salsa but what theyd actually been listening to for most of the night was merengue BTW folks, in case youre getting the wrong idea, Im not putting salsa down I love it but thats another article for another day.

A NOTE ON PIANO TECHNIQUE The piano part in merengue is a string of eighth-notes, played fast. Very fast, particularly in the modern style. Classical octave arpeggio technique will come in very handy. You have to start off slowly and rhythmically accurately, and gradually build speed. Play with a clean legato, not hard, and try to be as economical as possible with hand movement. The most important thing is to keep the hands and wrists totally relaxed. Its a natural impulse to tense up when playing faster but tension will wreck your rhythm and hurt your hands. So develop the sensitivity to monitor even the slightest tension in your hands as you play and continually relax when you feel things tightening up. Unless you can eliminate tension in the hands, you wont make it through one song, let alone the night

PIANO OR KEYBOARD? Im one of those people that gets irritated when people describe what I do as playing keyboards. This isnt really snobbery (well okay, maybe a bit) its more that I regard piano and keyboard as different instruments, requiring different skills and played in different ways.
- 121 Jason Lyon 2008,

Now Ive got that off my chest, lets get to the point. While you can play actual piano in a merengue band, its far more common to play a keyboard often standing up. There are two reasons for this. First, the lighter action on a synth keyboard lends itself much more to the rapid arpeggiation essential to this style. Second, smaller merengue lineups often dispense with the services of a horn section (a commercial consideration, more often than not), so the keyboard player takes care of the horn parts. In fact, even when there are horns, the keyboard will often play lines with them at certain parts in the tune. Whats more, the traditional merengue lineup contained button accordion rather than piano a keyboard player can evoke this texture by using an accordion (perhaps even guitar) sound. Typically, during the verse the keyboard player plays simple patterns, or provides hornlike backings or synth/string pads. The fuller arpeggiated piano work is usually reserved for when the music shifts up a gear at the extended chorus section (known as the jaleo). So youd do well to set up your keyboard with at least the following patches easily accessible: piano, accordion, guitar, strings, brass, saxes (although I reckon most synthesised sax sounds are more reminiscent of a warped pitch pipe than a sax)

CLAVE ORIENTATION In common with a lot of Caribbean music, merengue contains the core rhythm of clave, in this case the same figure as found in Cuban son (ignore the pitch): 3/2

Some general guidelines: The 3 side of clave contains more activity/tension/syncopation. Typically, the one on the 3side bar is anticipated by an eighth-note (the final eighth-note of the previous bar) and the two-and is accented. The 2 side tends to be more regular, with more accents placed squarely on the beat and the three is accented. So the beats that get a lot of action are these (again ignore the pitch):

- 122 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

All the patterns below are given in 3-2 direction, which is by far the most common direction in merengue. A word on notation. As the dance steps suggest, merengue is played with a two-feel its often written in 4/4, but always felt in two. Tapping the clave in one hand and the pulse in the other is a good preparatory exercise to internalise this two feel:



HARMONY Overwhelmingly, merengue harmony is just V-I, repeating over and over, in either a major or minor key. On occasion merengue tunes may contain sections of more involved chordal motion, but youll find you spend 95% of your time seesawing between the dominant and tonic chords, so this is where you need to put in the practice. The patterns below are given in minor the chords are G7b9 Cm. To adjust them for use over G7 C, just convert the Abs to As and the Ebs to Es. By the way, typical merengue keys tend to be the piano-friendly ones. The flat keys beloved of jazz horn players are rarer. If youve read any of my jazz literature, youll know that I advise getting things down thoroughly in one key before going through all the others. Its good exercise to take these patterns round the clock, but get comfortable in one key first.

THE PATTERNS The basic chord shapes are similar to what you play in classic Cuban son a four-note octave triad in the RH and a three-note triad in the LH. G (7b9) Cm

We can think in terms of classic and modern merengue the dividing line between the two being roughly the 1960s. There are changes in instrumentation and specific rhythmic patterns, but the main distinction between classic and modern merengue is velocity. Modern merengue is played much faster, and this has implications for the piano part.

- 123 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

You should practise these patterns with at very least a metronome set to tick on one and three. A drum machine is far better there are some pretty useful MIDI merengue patterns out there. To begin with well take a brief look at some typical patterns for classic merengue.

CLASSIC MERENGUE The basic piano pattern in this style is this (remember that the final eighth note in bar four is an anticipation of the downbeat in bar one and should be thought of as belonging to that bar):

There are two common ways to simplify this pattern. The first just omits the top of the octaves in the RH part. You can then adjust the fingering to make the pattern more comfortable to play at speed. This pattern then has a much less frenetic character due to the lack of prominent higher notes. It can be used when the arrangement calls for a less lively, less obtrusive piano part:

The other simplification substitutes the thirds for some of the octaves to avoid some of the fast octave motion. This too is a somewhat less active pattern:

Its common to creatively vary the basic pattern with extra arpeggiation. The fullest expansion of this approach comprises an almost constant barrage of eighth-notes:

Actually, you could take this approach to the extreme and arpeggiate on every eighth note (play bar 1 twice then bar 3 twice, both without the ties). This achieves maximum activity, but results in a clave-neutral pattern.

- 124 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

The RH octave jumping bits (da-da) are very effective, but can get tough at speed. Dont let on that I said so, but its possible to cheat at these bits by leaving out the RH thumb where marked: x x x x x x

Further variation is achieved by altering the notes used for the octave seesaw bits. Its good to get these classic patterns under your fingers, even if your chops arent up to maintaining them at fast tempos. They are often interspersed occasionally to add variety to the more modern patterns.

MODERN MERENGUE At the warp-speed tempos of modern merengue, the classic patterns are not only liable to cause tendonitis, they are also far too busy and tend to obscure the rhythm. What we do in the faster modern style is to split the rhythm implied by the classic pattern between the two hands (rhythm only, ignore the notes): RH

LH Try tapping this cross-handed rhythm for a while. Note that weve slightly smoothed out the classic rhythm by adding the four in the final bar and shifting the anticipated note at the end of the final bar forwards onto beat one of the first bar. The basic modern pattern, then is this:

Start off by practising the hands separately Id recommend starting with the more complicated LH part. Once you have that ingrained, its relatively simple to add the RH part, which is just the downbeat pulse.
- 125 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

So far, so good, but its a bit ordinary. The next step is to arpeggiate the LH triad (the RH stays the same):

This immediately sounds more active. You dont have to do this arpeggiation on just the first and fifth LH hit as written. You can arpeggiate any of the hits in any combination (or even all of them but again, the pattern will become busier and more clave-neutral).

A common RH variation doubles up some or all of the RH hits like this:

As with the LH arpeggiations, these can be freely mixed and matched.

Some of these doubled-up RH patterns sound great with LH arpeggiation. However, when doubling up the RH hits, you often simplify the LH part in one of the following ways:

- 126 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

The four notes of the RH chord dont have to alternate octaves and thirds. They can be divided up in lots of different ways, and you can add 7ths or 9ths to the dominant chord. This can give the pattern more of a melodic flavour (a bit like harmonised horn stabs).

There are also seesawing possibilities (usually in the RH only) such as the following:

And similar ideas that incorporate seesawing or extra chordal motion on extra beats:

And wherever you have a crotchet chord in the RH part, you can arpeggiate it, usually but not necessarily upwards, over two eighth notes.

THE NEXT STAGE Thats pretty much all there is to the basic merengue piano vocabulary. Run through the patterns one at a time at first, then practise improvising by switching freely between them. There are limitless possibilities for variation try using different inversions of the chord voicings in either hand or both hands, for instance. This can make for some interesting harmony between the hands on those occasions where the two parts coincide.

- 127 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

Various syncopations are also used for instance, the classic merengue anticipation over the barline into the 3 side of clave can also be used in the modern style. But its best to do some solid work on the basic patterns before experimenting with more advanced offbeat figures. That way, you internalise the definitive rhythmic figures so that your ear (and gut) can guide you as to what kind of syncopations will best fit. Once youve internalised these patterns, youll hear variations of them all over the place. If you hear a variation you like, transcribe it and add it to your bag of tricks. All good merengue pianists have spent time transcribing dozens of little patterns and partial figures. With the basic vocab given here under your belt, you should find it quite easy to hear variations clearly. But if the piano part is moving too quickly for you to get it, there are some very good computer programs available that allow you to slow down a music clip without altering the pitch. Of course, you should also play around and come up with your own ideas. Occasionally therell be a piano solo, and soloing in this style tends to be the very busiest level of comping, rather than the single-line solo style of jazz.

THE GOLDEN RULE Never forget that merengue is dance music. Groove is all that matters. Everything you play should be directed towards one goal to make that roomful of people move

Best of luck with this stuff. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon Luperon, Dominican Republic January 2008

- 128 -

Jason Lyon 2008,


Jason Lyon 2008

If your experience is anything like mine, you may have struggled to hear clave direction when playing or listening to salsa (and its precursors, son, guajira and mambo). Sure there are differences, but rhythmically these styles are largely the same, theyre just played at different tempos and with different instrumentation. Im aware that its a gross simplification, but so I dont have to write a book, Ill just use the word salsa from here on as shorthand. It took me the best part of a year practising and performing on pretty much a weekly basis with bands that played Cuban music to get totally comfortable hearing and feeling clave. They were very patient with me, but I got a lot of dirty looks (and remarks) along the way from percussionists when I screwed up, and I screwed up often. Hopefully, this article will provide you with some shortcuts so you can get things together quicker than I did. Heres the secret about clave if you want it in a nutshell: YOURE WASTING YOUR TIME LISTENING FOR SOMETHING THAT ISNT ACTUALLY THERE Yup, all that stuff you may have read and been taught about clave is all very well and good, but the problem for a learner is that for experienced salsa musicians these days, clave is so ingrained and obvious that its almost regarded as obtuse to actually play it The clave rhythm is the backbone of Cuban popular music (and many other Caribbean traditions besides). But in all but the most traditional styles, clave isnt played at all. So its very difficult to pick up on exactly how the musicians are orientating themselves around this non-existent (perhaps better to say implied) rhythmic centre. Think of clave as the subconscious of Cuban music. Its there in essence, underpinning all of the instrumental patterns. The musicians feel it totally instinctively and could tap it out for you at any point if you asked them to, but its very rarely actually played. Your goal is to subsume it into your subconscious in the same way so that you dont have to think about it, you just feel it. -----A little digression: I nearly said the musicians and the dancers feel it. But Im afraid it still amazes me that a lot of dancers who have obviously devoted hours upon months upon years learning to dance this style can be so ignorant of the fundamental structure of the music. The number of times Ive watched from the stage as real hotshot dancers take centre of the dancefloor, set themselves and start their fabulous routines on totally the wrong beat The Spanish word for being the wrong side of clave is cruzado (which means crossed), although there are much ruder, more contemptuous terms for the same condition (Ive been called most of them). This means being a whole bar out. But Ive often seen dancers, and very accomplished ones, go one worse and start not only on the wrong bar, but on the wrong beat, sometimes even the wrong half-beat. Dont know what youd call that if were being polite, maybe supercruzado? ------Okay, back to the elusive Mr Clave. So how do you chase the invisible man? You track his footprints and watch how the foliage around him moves. In short, you look for the effect he has on the environment around him.

- 129 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

This is the best way to learn to listen for clave something that isnt there. Even though it may not be present, clave casts a clear shadow on the rhythms played by most of the instruments in a salsa band. This article will give you clear things to listen for in certain instrumental patterns so youll find it much easier to hear and feel clave. By the time youre used to hearing these figures and aligning yourself accordingly, youll have absorbed clave in practice, in action. Youll have learned it backwards. Before long, you wont even be capable of doing it wrong. Before we start, theres one more point to make.

WHADDAYA MEAN YOURE JUST A PIANO PLAYER? (OR BASS/DRUMS/ETC) Cuban music is all about a number of people getting together, each playing something simple and distinct, to create a whole that is communal, greater than the sum of the individual parts. True Gestalt, if you will. One guy playing ga-ga-oom wouldnt turn you on much. One guy going ti-ti-ta-dee-ta-dee-ta-dee wouldnt do it either. Nor would someone going wait boom wait bu-boom. But put them all together, with the groove locked up tight, and you have magic. Cuban music is about celebrating the communal experience. If you want to play Cuban music properly, stop defining yourself by your instrument. Sure, youll always specialise, but everyone will pick up a guiro or bongos and get involved. In fact, salsa musicians will sometimes sit down at the bar at the end of the night with a box of matches, a couple of biros and some (usually full) glasses, and create music. You need to know the music from every instrumental perspective. If you play piano or sax, learn the basics of bongo and campana or guiro. If youre a drummer (or timbalero) or bass player, learn a basic piano montuno or two, and a bass tumbao. Get familiar, get at least competent with everything, every desk. Oh, and youll usually have to sing the choruses as well. Dont sing? Dont speak Spanish? Tough, everyone gets involved on choruses thats what makes them choruses. Well, sometimes the bass player is excused, because the offbeat nature of salsa bass makes it very tricky to sing and play at the same time. Having said that, there are guys out there that play bass and sing, even lead vocals when you see someone doing this, youre watching the best of the best. Go and say hi. Go and say wow. While were on the subject: it can be wonderfully liberating to play an instrument that you dont regard as your specialism. All bets are off, you can concentrate on the basics and just enjoy yourself. Im a piano player, but Ive had a great time in the past joining in on bongos, guiro, bass Ive even played some very rudimentary timbales on occasion. Theres one instrument that is truly a specialism, in my experience the congas. Conga drummers are dedicated experts who can produce an astounding range of different tones from the two drum heads. Ask these guys for a lesson, sure, but dont jump on stage and expect to just join in unless you really know what youre doing.

WHAT IS CLAVE? Cuban music, with its rhythmic roots in West Africa, is based on a two pulse for dancing one-two one-two. Overlaying this on 4/ 4 time, the strong pulse occurs on beats one and three of two consecutive bars. In addition, there is a repeating pattern of emphasis that gives each of these two bars a contrasting rhythmic character the clave. In the true tradition of all good music, this pattern elegantly balances tension and release, complexity and simplicity, excitement and rest, puzzle and solution, tease and kiss, punchline
- 130 Jason Lyon 2008,

and joke. This structure is designed for one purpose and one purpose only to compel people to dance. There are many different types of pattern that are called clave (some are fitted to 6/8 time, rather than 4/4). But the two claves that dominate modern popular Cuban music are called son clave and rumba clave: Son clave (2/3)

Rumba clave (2/3)

The majority of salsa is based on son clave, more modern styles such as songo and mozambique are based on rumba clave. Well focus solely on son clave in this article. Here is son clave again, shown with the pulse (your first exercise should be to tap clave in one hand with pulse in the other): Son clave (2/3)

One side of the pattern has three hits, the other side has two as a result, they are referred to as the 3-side and 2-side of clave respectively. The 3-side is characterised by tension, syncopation, excitement, activity. The 2-side is characterised by release, downbeats, resolution, rest. Clave is thought of being in either 3/2 or 2/3 direction which means that any given section (introduction, verse, horn mambo, chorus, solo) starts on either the 3 or the 2-side of clave. How does clave direction change? Well, its a two-bar cell that repeats over and over, and once it starts it doesnt change. Clave direction is perceived to have changed when an arrangement uses an odd-bar break between sections. For instance, you may start in 3/2 direction for the verse and then therell be a three, five or seven-bar arranged interlude, after which the chorus will be in 2/3 direction. The structure of the music has shifted but the clave has stayed constant. This sort of odd-bar switch can happen a number of times within a single song. To put it another way, once you start the clave, it continues without interruption in the same direction perceived changes in clave direction happen as a result of odd-bar interludes. Well, almost. In very recent times, some bands have jumped or switched the clave. This is the very rare exception to the rule. First, learn the rule.

- 131 -

Jason Lyon 2008,


Cascara (2/3)

This pattern is mainly played on the sides of the timbales (the two metal drums the word cascara means shell), but it can also be played on various bells, woodblock or cymbal. The most easily distinctive clave characteristic of this pattern is the strong accent on the two of the 2-side this beat is played on the 3-side, but lightly and is immediately followed by a strong hit on and-of two. Note also that the 3-side is much more actively syncopated than the 2-side. There are any number of minor variations, but all of them include this strong two hit.

Timbal Bell Pattern (2/3)

This pattern is mainly played on the bell mounted with the timbales, but also on the cymbal or handheld campana (bell). It has the same strong two on the 2-side as cascara, and again the 3-side is much more active. Again, there are variations, but the strong two is always present.

EXERCISE Practice tapping these patterns in one hand while tapping clave in the other. For an extra challenge, do the same thing while tapping pulse (one and three) with your foot. This will take a little while to get together, but once youre comfortable with it, your sense of clave will automatically be 200% better. Of course, this kind of independence exercise is what drummers and percussionists do all day, every day.

Heres some good news. Once you have the above two patterns down, youll have everything you need. But your understanding of the music will deepen and your clave sense will become more sophisticated if you take things further and listen for more detail. Some instruments play very freely (bongos), or clave-neutral patterns (maracas, guiro, bass). But the following patterns
- 132 Jason Lyon 2008,

are clearly based on clave, and are well worth learning. Practise tapping or singing them against clave (and then add the pulse).

Bongo Bell Pattern (2/3)

The bongo player (bongocero) plays drums during the verse and shifts to bell during the choruses and solos. This is the pattern played on the bongo bell. The accented hits are played near the mouth of the bell with the hand holding the bell relaxed to let it resonate. The other hits are played on the body of the bell, with the other hand muffling the bell to produce a higher, less sustained tone. You might vocalise is like this: DONG dit DONG di-di | DONG di-di DONG di-di. This pattern is designed to reinforce the pulse of the music (one and three), but it also contains a clave characteristic in that the 3-side is more active. This becomes even clearer if you think of the two eighth notes on the fourth beat of the first bar as anticipating and belonging to the second bar. Its also important to notice that the two and three on the 2-side (dit-dong) coincide exactly with the clave.

Tumbao (2/3)

Tumbao is the pattern played by the conga drummer. The conguero in a salsa band is a genuine artist with the prodigious technique necessary to produce a huge variety of different tones from the drum heads. This pattern is notated in a very simplified way, to highlight the most noticeable accented hits. It could be vocalised a bit like this: ta-ka ta-ka ta-ka DU-DU | ta-ka ta-DU DU-ka-TA-KA. Actually, the main point of the tumbao pattern (in conjunction with the bass) is to accent the four on every bar as you can see from the accented pairs of eighth notes. Incidentally, the bass in salsa tends to play on two-and and four of every bar. This can be confusing if youre used to hearing the bass play on the downbeat (as in jazz and pop) so until youre used to hearing salsa bass, dont use the bassline to orient yourself rhythmically. Anyway, sometimes, the congas will play just the first bar of the figure given, repeating over and over, as a clave-neutral pattern. There are lots of tumbao variations but theyre all characterised by strong accents on the four of each bar and some emphasise the two-and on the 3-side of clave.

- 133 -

Jason Lyon 2008,

Montuno (2/3)

The montuno (sometimes also called the guajeo) is the busy arpeggiated pattern played by the piano player (or guitar or tres player). The pattern given is very simple but rhythmically very typical. Montuno playing is stuffed full of variation and syncopation, but in its purest form it has the clear clave characteristic that there are downbeats on the 2-side only. The majority of the notes in the pattern are offbeats, apart from the first two, which hit one and two on the 2-side only. Basically, when you hear the piano play on one, thats the start of the 2-side bar.

LACKING DIRECTION? Okay, finally, heres a cheat. An awful lot of salsa is in 2/3 direction. If youre totally lost and you have to play something, your first guess should be 2/3 (dos-tres).

GUIDE TO PRONUNCIATION Son Rumba Clave Cascara Cruzado Montuno Guajeo Timbal Timbales Timbalero Bongocero Conguero Campana Tumbao Guajira Mozambique as in gone, not gun ROOM-bah (capitals denote the stress) CLAH-veh CASS-cuh-ruh, not cass-CAR-ah croo-ZAH-doh mon-TOO-noh wah-HEY-oh tim-BAHL tim-BAHL-ez tim-bah-LAIR-oh bongo-SAIR-oh con-GEH-roh cam-PAH-nah toom-BAH-o wah-HEAR-ah moe-zam-BEAK-eh, not moe-zam-BEAK

Best of luck with this stuff. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London January 2008

- 134 Jason Lyon 2008,

Jason Lyon 2008

INTRODUCTION Bebop is all about being able to play any chromatic tone on any chord. Obviously, if we just play chromatically with free abandon, the harmony goes out the window. Theory dictates that we place strong tones on strong beats to best convey the harmony. The principle is simple these exercises are designed to help you get that theory into your hands and ears. The exercises should be taken round the keys but dont write them out and learn them by rote. What were after is mindful, rather than mindless repetition. Take the following figure as an example: C7

Our mental process when practising this figure is something like this: Okay, starting on the downbeat with the dominant 7th, we play a scale tone down to the 6th (or 13th) and then approach the 5th our target destination by playing a semitone above and below it. It can actually be very helpful to speak this kind of analysis aloud while practising (the first sign of madness). At any point you should be able to name the chord tone being played and the beat it falls on. Once weve got these figures into our bloodstream by learning them with this kind of mental process, they (or bits of them) will become easily available to us when were up there soloing for real. Take them through all the keys. This will help you to learn the geography of each key.

135 ,

Jason Lyon 2008

i. Bebop scales (down and up) The bebop scales add a chromatic passing tone to the basic scales so that strong chord tones occur on the strong beats. The strong chord tones are root, 3rd, 5th and 7th on the dominant chord and root, 3rd, 5th and 6th (not 7th) on tonic major and minor chords. C7 bebop scale (natural 7th added)

C tonic major bebop scale (sharp 5th added)

C tonic minor bebop scale (sharp 5th added)

ii. Bebop scales (with direction changes) This exercise develops flexibility in changing the direction of a bebop scale line. C7



136 ,

Jason Lyon 2008

iii. Diminished scale descending The use of a half-step whole-step diminished scale over the dominant chord is very common in bebop. Note that the top four notes of this scale are the same as the straight dominant scale the bit you have to work on is the bottom four notes. Think of it like this: root, split the 2nd (more commonly described as the 9th) in half raise it and lower it, 3rd, raise the 4th (more commonly described as the 11th). This exercise will work over either a II-V-I or a V-I. C7 FM

Its good to play the whole diminished scale like this to get the whole picture, but as long as youre totally solid on your dominant scales, you could condense this exercise by just playing the bottom half of the scale (descending from the sharp 4th).

iv. Diminished arpeggio-scale figures This exercise features ascending arpeggios and descending scales on the V diminished followed by the nearest possible chord tone of the following I chord. C7 FM C7 FM





v. Upper extension arpeggio-scale figure The same sort of up the arpeggio, down the scale figure is also commonly used from the 7th of the V chord (or the 3rd of the II). This exercise will work over either a II-V-I or a V-I. C7 FM

137 ,

Jason Lyon 2008

vi. Chord tones enclosures This exercise uses the pattern of scale tone above then semitone below the target chord tone. C7



Other possibilities are: scale tone above then scale tone below, semitone above then scale tone below and semitones above and below. These enclosures can also be inverted, approaching the target tone from below then above. Its also possible to use this kind of enclosure with non-chord tones, but if you play them on the downbeat, the line will resume with the chord tones out of sync. When this occurs you add another chromatic tone, skip a scale tone or syncopate the line to get things back on track.

vii. Chromatic dithering between chord tones This exercise is all about taking four, rather than two notes to get between chord tones. The pattern is: descend by scale tone, then approach the target tone by upper and lower chromatic neighbour with two exceptions. When descending from the 5th to the major 3rd, we have to play down chromatically first in order to leave room for the chromatic enclosure of the target tone. When descending from the 6th to the 5th theres even less room to manoeuvre, so we have to first descend chromatically then ascend to the target tone. In this context its useful to include the descent from the 9th to the 7th on the dominant and minor 7th chords. C7




138 ,

Jason Lyon 2008

A common variation on this pattern is to switch the penultimate chromatic into second place, like this: C7

There are many other possible permutations listen out for them, dig them out from transcriptions or just figure them out for yourself (the best option by far). Remember, though, that whatever you come up with has to sound good to you. It has to have the bebop ring to it.

viii. Short II-V-I (V-I) pattern This exercise is a classic bebop lick that fits over either a V chord or the whole of a short II-V, rounded off by a resolving figure using chromatic enclosure of the root of the I chord. Dm7 G7 CM

ix. Long II-V-I pattern We play the previous exercise over the V chord and precede it by a simple cell figure (1 2 3 4 5 3 2 1) clearly outlining the triad of the II chord. Dm7 G7 CM

x. Long I-VI-II-V pattern We take the previous exercise and precede it with a phrase to cover the I and VI chords. The pattern over the I chord is the same cell figure as weve used over the II chord (1 2 3 4 5 4 3 1). The pattern used over the VI chord can be thought of in the following way: second, root, chromatic under root, root, fifth, chromatic above fifth, third, fifth. Note that the final two notes of this phrase form an enclosure of the root of the II chord that follows. This exercise is a very good way of assimilating the geography of each key. CM A7 Dm7 G7 CM

139 ,

Jason Lyon 2008

xi. Descending dominant pattern This exercise combines a variation on the downward dither from 7th to 5th with a descending triadic cell (5 3 2 1) and finally a descending diminished scale line. As this example demonstrates, there are all sorts of great sounding combinations of these exercises and principles. C7

xii. Ascending dominant pattern This exercise begins with an ascending scale pattern then uses an ascending chromatic enclosure of the 5th. We then play a four-note arpeggio up from the 5th, descend three notes of the diminished scale and approach the target tone (the root) by lower chromatic neighbour. C7

xiii. Resolution patterns This exercise gives two common figures for resolving on the tonic chord. The first figure can be thought of as a descending pentatonic, but with the target tone (the 6th) enclosed by upper and lower scale tones. The second figure is a descending scale with chromatic approach to the 3rd (in major) or chromatic enclosure to the 3rd (in minor). CM


Then theres this figure, which is very typical of Parker. Its commonly used in major, but can be adapted to minor. Think of it like this: 5th, scale tone/chromatic up to root, scale tone/ chromatic down to 3rd, then down the major pentatonic (note how it exploits the point in the major scale where scale tones are the same as chromatic approaches). One option then has the line returning to the root (still within the pentatonic scale), as shown: CM optional extension

140 ,

Jason Lyon 2008

WHY PRACTISE THIS STUFF? Dont want to learn patterns? Want to be a genuine original? Learning patterns would be pointless anyway, because youd never remember them when youre soloing for real? Sure, we practise these patterns and fragments so that theyll be available to us when were up there, in action, in the spotlight. But as long as were mindful while we practise as long as we have the right attentive attitude, were also training ourselves to apply sound musical principles, and thats far more important than the lick we happen to be working on at the time. The process is the thing, the lick or pattern is merely the raw material. The journey really is more important than the destination. And the journey never ends. Michael Brecker never stopped practising, so why should you? Id advise against trying to regurgitate great chunks of memorised bebop lines when youre performing, for two reasons. First, however well youve practised it, a trotted out line will tend to sound false if you force it. Second, youll screw it up anyway. Your expectations will get in the way. But, and heres the point, DO practise great chunks. To paraphrase Charlie Parker, explore the possibilities at home then go out and just play.

IF NOT NOW, WHEN? Be aware that when you put in place a programme of practice in order to change the way you play, its going to disrupt your playing for a while. Its just like the way your body builds muscle tear, build, heal, tear, build, heal. So the initial impact of this kind of practice will be to make your playing worse. Dont panic stick with it. What you work on now will start to appear in your playing after a few months. If you genuinely want to learn and improve, accept the fact that you have to break the way you play now. Have faith that what youre working on now will eventually sink into your subconscious and then it will appear in your playing. In fact, youll find this stuff will start to inform your playing in all kinds of interesting ways that you couldnt consciously dictate.

Best of luck, and feel free to get in touch with me at: Jason Lyon London January 2008

141 ,

Jason Lyon 2008

by Jason Lyon
This etude is a study in extended bebop chromaticism over a C7 chord, inspired by Lennie Tristano. Your goal is 270bpm. You can download a MIDI file of The Knot at

142 ,

Jason Lyon 2008


Jason Lyon 2008

This article will give you a simple, easy to remember, but very effective formula for taking a solo line outside the changes. When I say simple and easy to remember, I mean it. Youll grasp the principle inside 10 minutes, and be able to put it into practice within an hour. If this werent one of my free online articles, Id offer a money-back guarantee

WHAT MAKES GOOD OUTSIDE PLAYING? 1. The notes you play should be identifiably and clearly against the underlying harmony. 2. Some sense of structure should be evident when youre against the harmony. 3. You should resolve back inside logically and smoothly. The clearest structures for indicating harmony are triads, particularly major ones. Theres the added benefit that most musicians have an easy familiarity with triads in fact, people learning to play jazz usually spend ages trying to get beyond playing in simple triads. So what are the most promising triads for use in outside playing? Put another way, which triads sound the most revolting against the harmony, or provide the fewest consonant chord tones? Well begin with a dominant chord, Bb7. The tones will either be consonant tones (C), alterations (A), or outside tones (O). Triad Bb B C Db D Eb E F F# G Ab A Analysis R(C) 3(C) 5(C) three consonant tones. b9(A) sus4(A) #5(A) three alterations. These particular alterations dont often go together, but they do convey a susb9 or Spanish Phrygian sound. 9(C) #11(A) 13(C) two consonant tones, one alteration. Lydian Dominant a legitimate alteration. #9(A) 5(C) b7(C) two consonant tones, one alteration. Can be seen as either 7b9 (diminished scale) or m7 alteration. 3(C) #5(A) maj7(O). one consonant tone, one alteration, one outside tone. sus4(A) 13(C) R(C) two consonant tones, one alteration. Sus Dominant a legitimate alteration. #11(A) b7(C) b9(A). one consonant tone, two alteration. 7b9 (diminished scale) or Altered Dominant legitimate alterations. 5(C) maj7(O) 9(C). two consonant tones, one outside tone. #5(A) R(C) #9(A) one consonant tone, one alteration. Altered Dominant A legitimate alteration. 13(C) b9(A) 5(C) two consonant tones, one alteration. 7b9 (diminished scale) a legitimate alteration. b7(C) 9(C) sus4(A) two consonant tones, one alteration. Sus Dominant a legitimate alteration. maj7(O) #9(A) #11(A) two alterations, one outside tone.

When we play upper structure triads like this, the ear simultaneously understands the notes as part of the underlying chord and as a coherent triad in their own right.

- 143 -

Jason Lyon 2008

The most promising candidates for outside playing, then, are B, D and A triads. The triad on E is also very effective, even though it spells out a legitimate dominant alteration, because it lies a tritone away from the root. The way to remember this set of useful outside triads is to move up a semitone from the root of the dominant chord and continue round the cycle of fifths: BEAD To use this approach, you dont even have to be aware of the identity of each tone from these triads over the home chord (although youll soon acquire this). To begin with, just work out the triads you need in advance over a given chord and treat them as your outside options.

USING THE TRIADS FOR AN OUTSIDE LINE We get a good outside effect by simply stringing these triads together in random order and different inversions just letting our ears guide us. Mix and match. We dont have to play each triad fully before moving into another, but the line will seem more structured if we convey at least some sense of the triads. This approach naturally works well because we are using three-note structures in a string of eighth notes, so well tend to flow asymmetrically through a number of different triad sounds. We can think in terms of two different types of resolution: 1. Having got outside the Bb7 sound, we can bring the line back in to the Bb7 itself. In fact, where we have an extended section of a dominant chord we have the time to weave in and out of the chord sound repeatedly. 2. We can resolve to the expected I chord, EbM. (The tritone sub resolution, AM, isnt really a suitable context for this kind of approach, because the outside stuff is actually just the sound of the A that follows. A good rule of thumb when using tritone subs is to play very simply over the substitute chords. The substitution is hip enough on its own attempts to hip it up further will usually result in unhipping it...) Resolving this kind of line is simplicity itself, because all the triads are a semitone away from a consonant triad in either the Bb7 or EbM scales. Just shift up or down a half-step and youve resolved into a strong chordal figure. Incidentally, we can always opt to treat a II-V as a V: Over the whole of: Play: Fm7 Bb7 B E A D triads

APPLICATIONS a) Any II-V (long-form where each chord gets a bar to itself is best, since theres more time to convey the outsideness and bring it back in). Ignore the II, play straight into the V, take the line outside and aim to bring it back in on the I chord. Tune Up is a good practice vehicle. Incidentally, its an excellent idea to practise this tune in different keys. The original is in Bb work on it also in Db, E and G, and youll have practised II-V-Is in all keys. b) One-chord funk or Latin tunes.

- 144 -

Jason Lyon 2008

c) Blues think in terms of the very simplest blues form: ||: Bb7 | | Eb7 | | F7 | % | % | % % | Bb7 | % % | Bb7 | F7 | | :||

and treat the whole thing as a workout on this approach. The in-and-out motion provides an interesting counterweight to the simplicity of the changes. d) Caravan the A section sits on C7 for 12 bars before resolving to Fm. The bridge is a cycle of dominants, F7, Bb7, Eb7, leading to the relative major, AbM. e) Rhythm changes: the bridge is a chain of dominants, but you can also play the A section as just being in Bb, and treat it in a semi-bluesy fashion by playing Bb7. f) The Bb7 pedal section at the end of Moments Notice. This approach can sound rather odd if the comping uses the original diatonic triads underneath you. A sensitive rhythm section will pick up on what youre doing and adjust (or just stroll), but it might be worth a word in advance.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES And thats it. Start by mucking around with these four triads over a constant dominant backing it may sound strange at first, but youll get the hang of this approach very quickly. Incidentally, lobbing one of these outside triads into a more conventional bebop line can sound great too. Ive focused here on the dominant chord, simply because it provides the most possibilities for alteration. You can work out similar triad groups for use over other chord types. You can also investigate the use of minor triads in this context as well.

Best of luck with this approach. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London February 2008

- 145 -

Jason Lyon 2008

Jason Lyon 2008 Jazz musicians dont use the harmonic minor scale, right? Wrong. Of course, everyone would admit there are occasions where the harmonic minor is specifically called for, to evoke a sort of Eastern promise sound (as in Nardis, for instance). But actually this scale is commonly used in all sorts of non-ethnic situations as well. Heres a clue. People who think that you dont use the harmonic minor scale in jazz often struggle (though theyll probably not admit it) when playing over diminished chords Well start by looking at the sort of places diminished chords appear in functional harmony.

Diminished chords as dominant substitutes Diminished chords are very often just substitutes for dominants, which imply the use of a diminished scale and allow for chromatic bass motion. For instance: Bo CM G7b9/B CM are the same thing, and youd play the G half-step whole step diminished scale over the first chord in both situations: G Ab A# B C# D E F (note that this is the same thing as the B whole-step half-step diminished scale)

Diminished chords for passing chromaticism There are other uses of diminished chords that you tend to find in older standards (Body & Soul, Night & Day, Heres That Rainy Day, for instance) and some bossas (How Insensitive, Corcovado). Typically, they are used to add extra chromatic steps when ascending or descending in the lower reaches of the tonic scale. For instance, in the key of C: Em7 Ebo Dm7 G7 CM C Dm7 Ebo Em7 That sort of thing. These figures were sometimes substituted on the fly by pianists, to add interest when the harmony rests on the tonic for a bar or more.

Diminished chord on the tonic Motion between Io and I was a fairly common harmonic device during the Tin Pan Alley era in modern times these diminished tonic chords are usually substituted as #IVm7b5 VII7b9 instead. The classic example here is Stella by Starlight, which originally began: Bbo but is usually played today as: Em7b5 A7b9

- 146 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,

You can play the whole-step half-step diminished scale over any of these diminished chords. But you can also play harmonic minors. There are a few simple rules to remember to determine which harmonic minor to play.

RULE ONE Over a diminished chord on the root, b3rd or b5th, play the harmonic minor of the 3rd degree of the scale. For instance, in the key of C: Over Co, Ebo and F#o play E harmonic minor: E F# G A B C D#

RULE TWO But, if the diminished chord moves up a semitone, play the harmonic minor scale of the note youre resolving to instead. So, over C#o going to Dm7 play D harmonic minor: D E F G A Bb C# Actually, rule two gives us another way of playing over dominants resolving down a fifth. Since C#o Dm7 can also be seen as a bassline substitution for A7b9 Dm7, we could play D harmonic minor over A7b9 as well. Doubtful? Pick any Parker solo you like, and youll find this kind of scale sound in it somewhere. So we can restate rule two as a sort of rule three.

RULE THREE Over a minor V-I, play the harmonic minor of the I over the V chord. Actually this harmonic minor scale can be used over the whole of a minor II-V (the half diminished chord as well) a useful simplified gloss, particularly when the chords are whipping past at speed. So, over a minor II-V-I in C, for instance: (Dm7b5) G7b9 Cm

C harmonic minor C melodic minor (or whatever takes your fancy) This harmonic minor scale can also, although less commonly, be used when you have a minor II-V resolving to a major I.

Best of luck with this approach. Free to e-mail me with any (preferably constructive) comments at

Jason Lyon London April 2008

- 147 -

Jason Lyon 2006-7,