You are on page 1of 8

How High The Moon - Part one

How high the moon (1940) by Morgan Lewis, a nice and easy-going jazz standard, with a
catchy melody. A pretty common tune in the gypsy jazz repertoire as well. Contemporary
guitarist Adrien Moignard plays a good version of it in that tradition on youtube. For a quite
different version check out Louis Armstrongs bassist Arvell Shaw play it here. He plays
both the head and a long solo. It's pretty impressive!
My favourite version is by Sonny Stitt and can be found on the album "How high the moon"
with Sonny Stitt and Friends. Look out for a very cool and straight-to-the-point-intro!
So first of all, why do we chose to learn/play the tunes we do? There can be several
reasons: You've joined a band who plays it, it's a common tune played at jam sessions,
your teacher urge you to learn it, you want to study the theory etc. But I think the best
reason we can have for playing the tunes we do, is that we like them! This is often the best
motivation. But here we go:
For learning this tune (and more or less every jazz standard) the following list would be a
good start:
1: Find a good vocal version.
One you really like and learn the lyrics by heart. It will be easier to remember and you get
a more "personal" approach to the song. Instead of just learning a chord chart. You can
almost always find a good version of the most popular jazz standards by some of the old
masters; Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Anita O'day, Nat King Cole etc. For
free versions use youtube.com, deezer.com or your local library for example.
2: Finding the sheet.
Of course the best thing would be to workout every note and all harmonies by ear, but for
most of us that demands a very good ear, a lot of time and a lot of hard work (although I
don't doubt it will pay of in the end). But until then you can find the basic changes in the
Vanilla book. I think this is a good way to start. Start to learn the changes in their most
simple form: major, minor, dominant, diminished without too many substitutions and
extensions. Later on when you know the fundamental changes of the tune, you can start
re-harmonizing.
3: What is the form and tonality?
Most standards are in AABA, AB, ABC or AAB forms.
Look out for which chord the song is ending on. It is often the first chord in the tune, but
not always!
Tonality in this case is G major, and the form is AB. Where the last eight bars in the B
section differs from the last eight bars in the A section.
4: Study the changes.
A: / G / G / Gm7 / C7 / F / F / Fm7 / Bb7 /
/ Eb / Am7b5 D7 / Gm / D7 / G / Am7 D7 / Bm7 Bb7 / Am7 D7 /

Alternatively we could play the last two bars like this: / G E7 / Am7 D7 / a I-VI-II-V progression and make the II-V in bar 6 lead to the G chord. and then we will have a G in the bass. one bar of a II-V in G major. In bar 7 the melody note is D. And now the B section will start with a G major chord. But in short. So the tonality changes 3 times: From Eb (bar 1) major to G minor (bar 2 and 3) to G major (bar 4-6) to A major (bar 7) to G major (bar 8). which leads to one bar of G major. Let's move on to the B section. with E7 (the 7th). then one bar of the dominant seventh (the V chord) of G major. . without clashing with the melody notes. and voilà! A long elegant descending bass line). This finish the A section and leads to the G major in the first bar of the B section. which then becomes a Ab7. making a II-V in F. Next 8 bars: / Eb / Am7b5 D7 / Gm / D7 / G / Am7 D7 / Bm7 Bb7 / Am7 D7 / One bar of Eb major.B: / G / G / Gm7 / C7 / F / F / Fm7 / Bb7 / / Eb / Am7 D7 / G / Cm6 / Bm7 Bb7 / Am7 D7 / G / (Am7 D7) / A good approach is to take 8 bars at a time and see what happens: / G / G / Gm7 / C7 / F / F / Fm7 / Bb7 / Tonality is G major. So the tonality changes 3 times in the first 8 bars: We have 2 bars of G major. (alternatively you can even make a flat 5 substitution of the D7. but here it's used as a b5 substitution of E7. To bars of G major. but we do it here for the sake of argument. Strictly speaking the Bb7 belongs to the Eb major scale. which leads to the F major of the forth and fifth bar. So both turnarounds will workout fine. And tonality is descending in whole-steps: G to F to Eb. then a two-bar turnaround of descending II-V's in A major and G major respectively. The D note works with the G chord (the 5th). which leads to one bar of G minor. Second: when you substitute chords you have to be aware of the melody note. going to one bar of G minor. which can be seen as a substitution of Em7 which is the 6th in the scale of G major. the important thing is to make a turnaround which leads smoothly back to the G chord. giving you Ab in the bass and therefore the base line: B-Bb-A-Ab. with the Bm7 (the 3rd) and with the Bb7 (the 3rd as well). then one bar of a II-V in G minor. Notice two things! First: turnarounds can be voiced in many different ways. in my opinion is redundant to say we change tonality. 4 bars of F major and 2 bars of Eb major. Bar 7 can also be seen as in the key of G major. and we don’t want that to clash with the chords we are playing. On the other hand the original turnaround (Bm7-Bb7-Am7-D7) gives you a nice descending bass line: B-Bb-A. Again major becomes minor in bar 7 and make a II-V in Eb major (Fm7-Bb7) which leads to the first chord of the next 8 bars. The Bm7-Bb7 could be seen as a II-V leading to A minor. to one bar of C7.

So back to the Cm6 chord in bar 4.Okay. Next in part 2 I will talk about the melody and improvisation ideas I like. Playing along with recordings is fun and inspiring! So. so no problems here. All notes works pretty well with that chord. In the end it is all about getting « home » in a good way. If you're the only chordal instrument in the given group. E7. understand it and learn it.. All notes works pretty well too. you can do pretty much as you like. Last 8 bars: / Eb / Am7 D7 / G / Cm6 / Bm7 Bb7 / Am7 D7 / G / (Am7 D7) / One bar of Eb major. the 6th of Am7 and the 7th of D7 respectively. but also you're band mates are sure of where you're going. It's really a matter of taste and what you feel like. the mMaj7 and the root of the Cm6 chord. With the Am7-D7 as the Realbook suggest. Enjoy! . In the last bar you normally play a II-V leading to the beginning of a new chorus if you're not ending the song. Cm6 has the advantage of making a descending bass line (C-B-Bb-A. this was the first part. I hope this article can be a help to find or develop these tools. we stay in key of G major. And about Charlie Parker and his piece made over the same changes: Ornithology.). (remember the Cm6 can also be seen as a Am7b5 or F9 without the root). The melody notes is A. and your ears! 5: Practice the changes with a metronome and/or play along with your favourite versions of the tune. To practice with a metronome is maybe hard and sometimes boring. which is the 6th. On the other hand the chord will give us one bar with a whole new tonality: The 3rd in the Cm6 chord (Eb) will stick out. I don't think there's one right way to learn it. In relation to Am7-D7 the notes A. Try to make turnarounds which smoothly leads back to the root chord and don’t clash with the melody notes. one bar of a II-V in G major. It is very important that not only you. feel free to leave a message! Somewhere there's music / how faint the tune.. going to a Cm6 (! I'll get back to that). In this article I'd like to share some ideas on how you can improvise over the tune. I think it's about finding out what you want to say and how you want to do it. B and C are the root. to one bar of Bm7-Bb7. I think that's a good way to see it: To tell a story about something you think is important. B and C. In bar 6 the II-V in G leads “back home” to the tonality and end of the song. G major. which leads to one bar of G major. but very rewarding. In the Realbook they suggest Am7-D7 in that bar. A lot of people describe good improvisation like 'telling a story'. Follow your heart.. Improvisation is a big topic and there are endless ways of doing it. a II-V in A major. Hope you liked this first lesson/guide in my blog and learned something. But before we can tell such a story we need to have the basic tools to express it. the first 8 bars of the B section is the same as the A section. with the Bb7 being a flat 5 substitution of the normal V-chord.

D (5th) and F (7th). D. F# F major scale: F. In order to do that we have to see which notes differs from one another in each chord. I will spell out a line over a 2-5-1 in F (Gm7-C7-F). So you hit the Bb note on the first measure of 3 rd bar of the song (the Gm7). 2. 3. 8th notes and strong and weak beats To be aware of 8th notes and strong and weak beats is a way you can create long and elegant lines in your improvisation. When doing this it's a good idea to start simple and practice in a slow tempo and then increase the tempo when you feel you got it. Bb. You'll clearly hear how tonality changes and the shift from major to minor. In jazz the most important notes in the chords are the 3 rd and the 7th. And we have to know which notes is defining each chord the most. the next part here is to connect the chords with the each other throughout the changes. Like this: 1&2&3&4.Playing chord tones. (I highly recommend this approach for everything you practice). C7: C (root). G. An example of how to apply it: When you go from a Gmaj7 to the Gm7. D. Now you can try to make lines where you put the chord tones on the strong beats and non-chord tones on the weak beats. First 8th notes: A bar got 4 beats: 1. A. 4. G major scale: G. We now have 8 beats. A. Now count the four beats but with an '&' between. We can distinguish between strong and weak beats among these 8 notes. Remember we have 8 notes to play for . B. 3. E. C. 2. E (3rd). We call them strong beats because we tend to hear the beats 1. Bb (minor 3rd). This is also called playing the changes. 4 better than the 'off beats' (The &'s). Try to make a simple melody with the chord tones and don't be afraid of pauses. If we compare a Gmaj7 with a Gm7 we'll see that the root and the 5 th are the same in both chords. D (fifth) and an extension: normally a F# (Maj7) or a E (6th). Bb (b7th) G major is the 1 chord of the G major scale Gm7 and C7 are the 2 and 5 chords of the F major scale respectively. If you play a note on each of the beats you're playing in 8th notes. E (Notice which notes differs from the two scales!) Now. try to go from the B note (the 3rd of GMaj7) to the Bb note (the 3rd of Gm7). Gm7: G (root). but the 3rd and the 7th of each chord changes. B (3rd). When you connect each chord with each other you (and the audience) will hear how the chord changes and it will give you a more 'jazzy sound'. but a very effective way of making good melodic lines in your improvisation. In the first 4 bars of How high the moon we have following progression: / G / G / Gm7 / C7 / In order to play chord tones we need to analyse each chord: G major: G (root). C. So lets do the theoretical stuff first and then talk about how we can apply it. G (5th). You'll go from a 'safe' or 'pretty' sound to a more 'sad' or 'sentimental' sound. This is rather simple.

rhythm. A 'nice' and 'airy' sound and a good way to outline the changes (remember the 3rd and the 7th are the notes which are defining the . For more info about bebop lines and chromatic lines I recommend this site. When you work with your lines. Cmaj7. He experimented with altered chords. Try to relate each chord to the G chord and see which notes each arpeggio contain. Chi Chi. In other words a Gmaj9 chord without the root note (the G). Scrapple from the Apple. 2) Rhythm changes: Anthropology. To use chromatics is a great way to make your lines flow elegantly through the changes. And the last note is an A. So if we relate those notes to a G major chord we'll have the 3rd (B)... D7. It contains transcriptions of most of his tunes and his solo's. rhythm and syncopation. Ko-Ko. Charlie Parker was the great pioneer in the bebop revolution in the 1940's. Major 7 (F#) and the 9th (A). as an exercise. is a good way to see two very different approaches to the same changes. So over an G major chord you can play any chord from the scale of G major: Gmaj7. Are arpeggios which stays in the given tonality. this is where the notes are connected chromatically. Both 'styles' would be good to use in your improvisation: The rhythmically simple. For further study the 'Charlie Parker Omnibook' is the the 'bible' for most bebop'ers. you can. In this case his 'head' Ornithology is created over the changes of High high the Moon. Django Reinhardt used this technique a lot. 3) The popular tunes of the day: Donna Lee. It's a common technique in bebop improvisation. So here the chord tones are in bold. Bm7. Always good to end you line on a 3rd on the first beat of the bar. syncopation and accent). A study of the head of Ornithology compared to the melody of How high the Moon.. Am7. soloing with the upper extensions of the chords. 'Honeysuckle Rose' and 'Cherokee' respectively. I will divide this in two areas: 1) Inside-arpeggios. His tunes or 'heads' was typically based on 3 different kind of chord progressions: 1) Blues: Bloomdido. F# and A. A Bm7 arpeggio will give you the notes B. It's a great exercise to get familiar with all the chord tones and to be aware of how you end and start your lines. Ornithology. Of course some works better than other. Em7 F#m7b5. tell your self that you have 8 notes and then try to put chord tones on each uneven number. the 3 rd of the F major chord. even though I only see it as a small part of getting the 'bebop sound' (which is indeed also has to do with. This is a good way to “mix up” your lines if you usually play scales. the 5th (D). A good way to spice up your lines is playing notes outside the scale on the off beats when it fits. Notice how I’ve underline some of the notes.. Moose the Mooche.each measure. Was based on the changes of 'Back home again in Indiana'. Playing Arpeggios. D. melodic chord-tone way of How high the Moon and the rhythmically sophisticated bebop way with extensions and altered notes of Ornithology. On the off beats you can play whatever you like. / Bb-C-D-E-F-F#-G-A / Bb-B-C-D-E-F-G-G# / A.

Sometimes you're saying something spontaneous. Lets look at an Em arpeggio and relate it to the G major chord like we did before: Em7 contains the notes E. It's the same interval (minor 3rds) between the notes in the chords. In this case with a Gm7 you can play a G dim7 arpeggio (you can also see it as a Bb. which will give you the sound of a Gm6b5 chord. Start on any given note. I will give a few examples of outside-arpeggios I like to use. so this is only an example to follow in finding sounds you like. 2) Outside-arpeggios: These contains a note or notes which doesn’t belong to the tonality of the changes your playing. So in How high the moon we have / Gm7 / C7 / a 2-5 in the key of F. The dim7 arpeggio is very 'effective'. You can play any arpeggio you like. the minor 3 rd (Bb). the Root (G ). it works on minor. A 'unstable' or 'sharp' sound. G. How to do it: First of all think about you don't have to play everything you can! When we're playing we . dominant and diminished chords and it is pretty easy to apply. The diminished 7th arpeggio has a symmetrical structure. You can use a diminished arpeggio over both chords. the b9 (Db) and the major 3rd (E). Pauses. Bb. B and D. And a 'dark' or 'bluesy' flavour. Consist of minor 3rd intervals and is build from 'stacking 3rds' from the diminished scale. Db or E dim7 arpeggio): G. But there's no need to fear it! It's like a good conversation. A more 'stable' and 'safe' sound and also a very good way to outline the changes. Diminished 7th arpeggios. go up a minor 3rd and you'll have Eb. It should be rather easy to hold pauses in our playing. the 7th (Bb). But which diminished arpeggio? From a minor 7th chord you can start your arpeggio from the root of the chord. If you'll do it again you will be back at the C note. You'll get the 5th (G). I think it's not often we talk about pauses or space in improvisation. Db and E. Then you think about how you can express your self the best way in your next sentence. Related to the G chord we'll have: the 6 th (E). the 3rd (B) and the 5th (D). This will give your lines a sound of a Dominant7b9 chord. You can use the same G diminished 7th scale over the C7 chord. Ebdim7. we are more concerned of what we wish to play than what we not wish to play. Some are maybe not comfortable with the silence. It's a way of letting your lines 'breathe' and to make the audience and the band mates digest your 'story'.chords the most). You'll have a Cdim7. in other words a G6 chord. If you try to 'build' a dim 7th chord you'll see why. F#dim7 or Adim7. That will give you the root (G). In my opinion pauses it's a way of putting more awareness into your music and to listen more. a b5 (Db) and a 6th (E). we can just stop! But I think some are afraid of get lost if they're not playing the changes all the time. So here the outside note is the Db. The notes are the same in each chord. then you take a moment to reflect about what you've just said. This is a very effective way of making your playing more pleasant and laid-back. then F# and then A. That means we basically only got three different kind of a dim 7 chord. C for example. What's matter is if it works and you like the sound of it.

Play fast! (Check out Sonny Stitt on Just Friends 1:15 . . Then start your lines on the second beat of the bars. It's better than the usual licks we more or less mindless normally pulls off. try to stop it. Then count along the recording (tap your foot or your finger in 1. We could also call this 'building a climax'. Another good exercise is to do like this: Take a good tune you like. . Make a pause. check his solo on Alone Together 3:19 . Confirmation by Charlie Parker is a good example.1:28).1:16). For a simple exercise to get started. quiet and calm. So when you're playing over a certain chord or passage and you start to use your usual 'tricks'.Play notes outside the tonality. louder more intense. .Play soft. and in literature there's tons of stories with the Home-away theme. as pointed out in the first part of this guide to How high the moon. In How high the moon. try to do it in the end of the A section (bar 15 and 16) and the B section (29 and 30) and release it when you “get home” on the G chord. For example when playing over a turn around or at the end of the A or B sections. There are endless possibilities of doing it. . . The important thing is to have some variation and have a good sense of time. Tension and release. listen to the groove and see if some new idea spontaneous comes to mind and do that instead. Next you can experiment with different places to you start and end your lines. Get use to the feeling of letting the first beat start before you do something. It can seem a bit awkward to do it like following a manual like this example. .Play 'stable notes' or 'inside notes'. (Guitarist Grant Green was great at this. So how do you create tension? There are several 'tricks' you can use: . The idea.Use silence. but it's a good place to start until it begins to feel natural. now you can release by showing you're 'home again': . You'll hear how it feels like 'getting home' when you end on the 1 chord: It's safe and stable. You'll start your journey and experience all kinds of exiting things and get home as a new man! So how do we apply that? It's a big and very interesting subject. One of the ways we can make interest in our improvisation is to create tension and then release it. Practice time! As mentioned earlier I think the very best way to practice is to start slow and simple and . is about getting home in a good way. If you listen to the old masters you've hear how they do it.Play harder. After you've created tension. And it's a good way to avoid monotony in your playing.4) and listen to where on the beat he starts his lines. This is a good way of breaking up our usual licks and habits.Play a repetitive pattern.3:32 ). It's like a telling good story. For example an outside-arpeggio.Play melodic or a small part of the original head (It will make it obvious to everybody that you're home again). Play it slowly and pay attention to each note of each chord.3. (Check out Django Reinhardt's solo on 'I'll see you in my dreams' from 1:09 .2.have all our personal vocabulary which we use in different situations. So it's typically over dominant 7 th chords you would create tension. you can do like this: start a backing track with a tune you know well. so I will only talk briefly about it and give a common example: First take your instrument and play a 2-5-1 in any key.

but of course in the right doses. you can use this one (Be aware of a mistake in the displayed chord changes). lock the door. The best ones I've used so far is by Jamey Aebersold. I play the good kind”. You can also find How high the Moon and a lot of other good backing tracks here. I guess we all have to find our own 'golden mean' which work for us. In his vol.then increase the tempo when you got it. turn off the phone and kick out your girlfriend – for a while! Or throw out your TV and buy a metronome! As a fellow guitarist once told me. If you're in to a jazz-manouche style of backing track. isolation and focus on only one thing can get you very far. So. A just go for it. swingin' music. Use backing tracks. 6 “All bird” you'll find Ornithology and other Parker backing tracks. “There is two kinds of music the good and bad. . But in all seriousness. Play along your favorite recordings of the tunes. I'll finish this guide to How high the Moon with a Louis Armstrong quote.Yes you did! . which I think expresses what it's all about: Playing good. honest.