Archive for the ‘Music Theory’ Category

It has been SO long since I have updated this website! I really appreciate your patience with this.  There are many updates on events, as well as new content coming.

One very exciting thing is that I have just been added as an S.E. Shires Q-Series trombone artist / teacher, and having the Model Q30GA shipped to me this week. I have been a huge fan of Steve Shires for many years, and am honored to be taking this next step. More to come on this soon.

Also, I just wanted to share a post that I found by Dan Haerle. This is a great tune to learn, especially if you are newer to harmonic analysis in jazz improvisation. The URL of the original post is below, and also included the text from his page below.

Autumn Leaves

Analysis of “Autumn Leaves” – Introduction

Autumn Leaves is a great jazz standard that is an excellent example of a song that moves back and forth between a major key and it’s relative minor key. Originally written in the key of G Major (and it’s relative, E Minor), it is usually played in Bb Major (or G Minor). It offers an opportunity to practice improvising over the II – V – I progression in both Bb Major and in G Minor!

Analysis of “Autumn Leaves” – Structure of the Form

The song is sort of an A A B A form except that the last 8 measures do not repeat the first 8. So it would probably be better to call it A A B C! The chord progression and melody of the C section are both different from the first A!

Analysis of “Autumn Leaves” – The A sections

The first eight measures of the tune comprise the following progression:

/Cmi7 /F7 /Bbma7 /Ebma7 /AØ /D7b9 /Gmi7 /Gmi7 /

The first four measures can be analyzed as IImi7 – V7 – Ima7 – IVma7 in Bb Major. The easiest way to improvise over this progression is to use a Bb Major scale since all of the chords are in the key of Bb Major! Of course, you must give emphasis to the chord tones to identify each chord but you can more or less just move around in the key and you will be getting the general sound. Even better, try to use some digital patterns to get good melodic motion over the progression! You can find some ideas about digital patterns in my blog about the II – V – I progression.

The second four measures can be analyzed as IIØ – V7b9 – Imi7 in G Minor. Similar to the first four measures, the easiest way to improvise over this progression is to use a G Harmonic Minor scale. It includes all of the chord tones of the three chords with one exception: The Gmi7 has an F natural in it and the G Harmonic Minor scale has an F# in it. So the F# in the scale should not be emphasized but can still be used as a melodic approach tone to the note G (root of the Gmi7 chord). Again, emphasize chord tones and try to use digital patterns moving through the G Harmonic Minor scale. Most melodic patterns will sound equally good over either a II – V – I in major or minor. Use the Major scale of the Ima7 chord over the II – V – I in a major key and use the Harmonic Minor scale of the Imi7 chord over the II – V – I in a minor key!

Analysis of “Autumn Leaves” – The B section

The chord progression of the bridge (B section) is just the opposite of the A sections as follows:

/AØ /D7b9 /Gmi7 /Gmi7 /Cmi7 /F7 /Bbma7 /Ebma7 /

The first four measures are a II – V – I in G Minor and the second four measures are a II – V – I in Bb Major. So the same approach as was used in the A sections applies here but is reversed.

Analysis of “Autumn Leaves” – The C section

The C section is mainly in G Minor but has more harmonic activity and some key changes:

/AØ /D7b9 /Gmi7 C7 /Fmi7 Bb7 /Eb7 /AØ D7b9 /Gmi7 /Gmi7 /

The first two and a half measures constitute a II – V – I in G Minor so the same approach used in the first 24 bars of the tune applies here. But the 3rd and 4th bars change keys quickly! The 3rd bar (Gmi7 C7) is a II – V progression in F Major and the 4th bar (Fmi7 Bb7) is a II – V progression in Eb Major. So, as in the II – V – I progression in a major key, you can simply use those two major scales, F Major and Eb Major. However, the Eb7 requires a dominant 7th scale (Mixolydian) that includes a Db. Because there is an A natural in the key of G Minor, the best sound would be a Lydian, b7 scale (Eb F G A Bb C Db Eb). The last three measures may again use the G Harmonic Minor Scale.

Analysis of “Autumn Leaves” – A more complex treatment

Up to this point, I have been recommending “bracketing” chords with a single scale to simplify the process because there are less different scale colors to navigate. But, as you become confident improvising on the tune, you will probably want more variety in the sound! So then you may want to change the scale choice with each chord. Many of these choices are already made for you by the function of the chord, the key, and the context (preceding and following chords). Some of these choices are a matter of fact as is indicated below:

Cmi7 – II function should be a Dorian scale (Bb Major)
F7 – the largest variety of choices, any dominant 7th scale (except Minor Blues)
Bbma7 – tonic function calls for Bb Major scale, Bb Lydian (F Major) could be used
Ebma7 – IV function requires Lydian scale (Bb Major)
AØ – basic half-diminished scale is Locrian (Bb Major)
D7b9 – Should include alterations which predict the key signature of the Imi7 to follow. The two best choices are the 5th mode of Harmonic Minor (G Harmonic Minor) and D Super Locrian (Eb Melodic Minor)
Gmi7 – tonic function calls for G Aeolian (Bb Major). Can also use Dorian (F Major)
Gmi7 – C7 and Fmi7 – Bb7 – It’s best not to alter the C7 or Bb7. The quick key changes provide enough harmonic interest! So use the major scales of the keys, F Major and Eb Major. These two measures also present an opportunity for melodic sequences so try to play the same identical melodic idea in both keys!

When embarking on this more complex treatment, be sure to start at a slower tempo and try to emphasize the 3rds and 7ths of chords. These are the most important chord tones in any chord and bring out the quality of the chords (ma7, mi7, dom7,half-diminished, etc.). Listen to recordings by great artists, copy ideas that you like and incorporate them into your solo!

Jazz Trombone Blues Improvisation Scale and Ear Training Video and PDF

I recently shared a post for jazz trombone blues improvisation, showcasing a Barry Harris Masterclass, entitled Practicing the Blues with the horns part1 and Practicing the Blues with the horns part2

Barry Harris is often called the “keeper of the flame” in teaching and playing jazz and bebop. Barry Harris stands out to me because of three important factors that I have identified in his approach.

1. Barry identified the problem. Specifically, starting in the late 60’s early 70s, Barry recognized that jazz was declining in popularity. He knew the solution was to share the message with young people to continue this message to their and future generations. He has dedicated his life to this, and the results are nothing short of monumental.

2. He adds reality to his approach. He offers immediate application through demonstration and participation with clinics. The resume of Barry Harris speaks for itself. What he shares are not just theories that have not been proven. The material he shares is from direct experience, and from conversations with masters like Thelonious Monk. In these videos, this is demonstrated by his presentation in creating and composing the melody with the class.

3. He is adamant about a foundational approach. Barry is very specific about scales, harmony, and rhythm. This is demonstrated in the video below, “Practicing the Blues with the horns part2” where he describes the basic scales and how to practice them for a 12 bar blues progression.

I had comments from readers from the first post I described that they loved the material, but Barry goes so fast that they could not keep up. As a result, I decided to create two PDFs which walk the reader through the video with time reference to the video. Included are the melodies and scales he describes, as well as his verbal reference which is critical to the learning process.

As I was writing this, I started to get excited thinking about the combination of the two videos and two PDFs as a part of a curriculum for band directors teaching jazz band. This would be appropriate for high school, but I am also sharing with some advanced middle school students.

Jazz Band Curriculum Ideas for Band Directors from Barry Harris Masterclass

Please see below for further study from the two Barry Harris videos below. Jazz Band Curriculum Ideas for Band Directors from Barry Harris Masterclass include Ear Training, Basic Essential Scales, and Rhythmic Approach.

Click the link below to download and / or view the PDF outlining the melody that Barry creates with the students. Barry’s presentation is brilliant, and I wrote the chart to include the full melody, but also the text below the melody describes verbal explanation and the stages he presents. Specific start time on the video is included for each stage.
Practicing the Blues with the horns part 1 – Ear Training Melody

Please click the link below to view the PDF file that outlines the basic scales that Barry Harris considers essential in conjunction with the video above, “Practicing the Blues with the horns part2”
Practicing the Blues with the horns part 2 – Basic Scales

I would be grateful to hear your feedback and if you found this to be useful. Also, please let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy!

Jazz Trombone Blues Improvisation Scale and Melodic Ideas

Legendary jazz pianist and educator, Barry Harris really breathes life in how to play bebop lines over a Bb blues progression. Great information, realistic flow, and motivating for students.

In the two videos below, Barry shares some very specific ways to get started in practicing scales, and builds a melody with class participation demonstrating melodic construction. Another point that he drives home is the importance of practicing with good time. He applies this both in commitment to the tempo, as well as which notes land on the beat in scale practice.

Do you find yourself at a loss sometimes for how to practice your scales?  Or, are you just on the look out for more approaches and exercises?

When practicing scales, it is important to be clear with the reason and relevance.  If you are like me, you have spent many hours on what you “should be doing” with technical scale exercises, but in the end was not really clear on why.

The problem many of us have had is that we end up playing certain exercises that we feel will keep up physical technique, but when it finally comes time to practice ideas in developing our improvisation, the session is over, and / or the chops are fatigued and fine motor work is sacrificed at that point.  Or, we say that we’ll wait until tomorrow when there’s more time.  But, tomorrow never comes . . .

Relevant and dynamic scale practice can be a great solution.  Let’s use our dominant scales as an example.  Rather than stopping at just playing the scale up to the 9th and back down in all keys, what about plugging the scales into a song form?

What are one or two song forms that we gain quite a bit of mileage from and can be a lot of fun?  You guessed it, Blues and Rhythm Changes!  If you are unclear regarding the chord changes or are looking for ways to become more comfortable improvising over the Blues progression, be sure to sign up for our Newsletter from the main page.  When you sign up, you will receive a free 7-day eCourse, and two of the lessons will directly help with this.

Feel free to click on the URL below to download two Dominant Cycle scale exercises.

Click here to download

Both exercises in the key of Bb are designed as four bar chord substitutions, thinking ahead to the 5th bar.  The dominant scales are played two chords per bar.

The first exercise starts on the raised 5th of the key of Bb, which is F#7.  This can be used in a Bb Rhythm Changes, where it resolves to a Bb7 in the 5th bar.  An excellent example is Don Byas’s solo with Slam Stuart recorded in 1945.  You can check it out below.

The second exercise uses the same logic as the first, but can be used with a Bb Blues. The four bar substitution starts 1/2 step up from the root on B7, and outlines dominant scales every two beats leading to the Eb7 in the 5th bar.

Next time you are looking to practice your scales, consider what scales are used in songs that you are excited to work on. First, learn the basic scale up and down. Then, take the next step and figure out how to apply them within the context of the song. Feel free to post or contact us if you have questions or ideas.

Happy practicing!