Author Topic: JA-025 • Altered Harmony - Why and How  (Read 14022 times)

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Offline justinguitar

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JA-025 • Altered Harmony - Why and How
« on: October 16, 2009, 08:15:43 am »
« Last Edit: May 16, 2011, 05:55:21 pm by justinguitar »
"You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room." Dr. Seuss


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Re: JA-025 • Altered Harmony - Why and How
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2012, 11:45:53 am »
Nice lesson, Justin.  I have the book Jazz Theory by Mark Levine and have spent many hours poring over it, especially the sections on Melodic Minor and Altered Dominant harmonies.  I even thought up a sort of "ladder" of alterations, or "out-ness" starting with a straightforward Mixolydian scale:

Myxolidian - all natural notes of parent major (Ionian) key
Lydian Dominant (LD) - replace natural IV (an avoid tone) with a #4.
Diminished - keeps the #4 from LD and replace the 9 with a -9 and #9.
Augmented - Takes the diminished scale but replace the natural 5 with a -5 and #5.

Then of course I forgot to mention the scale derived from the 5th mode of the parent harmonic minor key, a sort of "Gypsy minor" or altered Lydian.  Not sure where that fits into the above ladder.  It has a -2 and a -6 (keeping the natural 5 of the Myx scale).

Although useful for an understanding, I find it daunting to know in what situations each of these will sound good.  Jazz Theory gives lots of written out examples but doesn't tell you what part of the solo they appear in, and I'm still not sure I'd know if I listened to a few.

The minor tunes I'm currently learning are Round Midnight, What is This Thing Called Love, and Blue Bossa.  They all have minor ii-V-i cadences but I don't think they can all be treated the same way.  In some, just playing from the harmonic minor parent minor keys seems to sound best.  Linear Harmony, by Burt Ligget gives a lot of examples of this type of harmony.  However, Levine claims that harmonic minor harmony really isn't heard much in jazz.  Over say G7b5-C7alt-Fmin he would have you play first from the Bb melodic minor scale over G7b5, then Db melodic minor over C7 alt and finally F melodic minor over Fmin.  That's three different keys in two bars of music!  Try connecting that into some kind of coherent line!

Pat Martino says he doesn't really follow any particular scale, he just uses his ear.  Joe Pass says almost the same thing when he says that he just lets the chord shape itself suggest melody patterns.  My son, who's 18 but a very accomplished jazz guitarist, tells me that he thinks I'm trying to speak a language when all I know is the grammer but lack vocabulary and idioms.  Now that's a good analogy!

So I think I understand the mechanics but still clueless as to how to apply any of it to create good lines.

Wondering if you have any comments?

Offline princecharles

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Re: JA-025 • Altered Harmony - Why and How
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2014, 07:21:04 am »
Interesting lesson about deriving a scale.

I was wondering what to do with it? When would you play it?

Offline sophiehiker

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Re: JA-025 • Altered Harmony - Why and How
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2014, 01:05:23 pm »
In Jazz you'll see a lot chord progressions like: V7-I.  When you see a "functioning V chord" (see previous lesson) like that, you can use the altered harmony scale.  The altered harmony scale adds the "tension notes" b9, #9, b5 and #5 to make the resolution of the V7-I stronger.

So if you saw a G7 - C maj7 chord progression in a song, you could use the altered scale to improvise over the G7.

...where the deer and the antelope play.  Well, they're not really playing.  They're fleeing in terror.

Offline BillyBeard

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Re: JA-025 • Altered Harmony - Why and How
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2018, 11:46:03 am »
Hey Justin, the doninant function and related lessons in the Jazz series are great! Thank you : )  I've been knocking around dominant function and secondary dominant function for a while and been confused by some explanations. I've also been obsessing about Segovia scales and really working on my technique training over the melodic minor - of course anticipating uses in my Jazz improvisation. Your white board here clicked with me on a number of levels. All the altered chords (I learned from Mickey Baker) suddenly have a home and a function : ) This part I can put to practice and apply pretty easily. The other part that clicked was your explanation of the parent melodic minor. This one I don't seem to be able to apply. If I start with a C7#5 and play a run of Db melodic minor and drop back to C7#5 or C7#5b9 I can occasionally find something that sounds like it has a modal relationship to the dominant, but following that with the expected resolution doesn't always sound right and sometimes neither does landing on another altered C7. Is it just reference information to think of the half step up to the "parent melodic minor scale"? or can I actually play the parent melodic minor scale over the altered dominant 7? (sorry for the long note, just trying to figure this stuff out). Thanks again!


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