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Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
#1692528 06/08/11 12:28 PM
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I'm a 17 year old pianist who's been struggling to learn Jazz using Mark Levine's book. I'm an Intermediate-Advanced player.

Here are some questions/conclusions that I hope some people will be able to answer/confirm:

- Basically, in the key of C, with a II-V-I (D, G, C) chord progression, I use the C Dorion, C Mixolydian, and C Ionian modes respectively, paying careful attention to "avoid notes", which is F in the C Ionian and C in the C Mixolydian.

Am I allowed to use accidentals as well?

- What does it mean to say that B half-dimished (C Locrian Mode) has a natural C# in the left hand voicing?

- What's the difference between a 11th and a 4th? It's shown as the same note in a Gsus/G7 chord. What about the difference between a 9th and 2nd? Is there any reason people use different notations for the same note within a mode?

- Hypothetically, I'm playing E-7, A7, D-7, G7 in the key of C. I'm looking at an example within the book where they show a right hand improvised part, and it is riddled with sharps for the E-7 (Labeled as E Dorion) and A7. There is also a flat for G7.

We are playing in the key of C, why is it that there are so many sharps and flats, or are these merely accidentals?


Thanks in Advance!

More questions to come indefinitely!

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Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692573 06/08/11 01:47 PM
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E7, A7, and D7 are not diatonic chords in the key of C, therefore require accidentals. E7, A7, D7, G7, C is a frequently used chord progression in popular music, called a circle of 5ths. 3, 6, 2, 5, 1.


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692577 06/08/11 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Eapfep
There is also a flat for G7.


Something is wrong there. G7 is played with all white keys (G, B, D, F)

If it were Gm7 there would be a flat (Bb) in the chord.


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Studio Joe #1692614 06/08/11 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Studio Joe
Originally Posted by Eapfep
There is also a flat for G7.


Something is wrong there. G7 is played with all white keys (G, B, D, F)

If it were Gm7 there would be a flat (Bb) in the chord.


The flat is probably Ab, and is the b9 of the G7 chord.

As for the other questions, it's best to post one at a time to get more thorough answers to your questions OP.

One thing I'd suggest is to look carefully at the scale choices that Levine states goes with each chord. You'll find the answer to why there are accidentals in the iii vi ii V I progression in some cases.

Further, there are things called bebop scales, and whole/half dim scales, and scales built on the harmonic minor modes of classical theory, to name a few.

As for the 9 and 2 thing. Once you have the root, third, fifth and seventh in a chord, you need to call the 2 a nine. Only if you don't want the seventh in the chord, then you would call a chord CMaj(add2). Same applies for everything over 7 (11th, 13th).


Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.


Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
scepticalforumguy #1692621 06/08/11 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by scepticalforumguy


One thing I'd suggest is to look carefully at the scale choices that Levine states goes with each chord. You'll find the answer to why there are accidentals in the iii vi ii V I progression in some cases.


I'm not familiar with Levine, but the way the OP stated the quesion all the chords were Major.


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692623 06/08/11 04:00 PM
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You need to put the book aside and just sit down at the piano and dig in with both hands and play completely by ear. When you do this, all of your previous experience at the piano, whatever information you've picked up from books like Levine's, your individual musical tastes, what you hear on the radio or in recordings, etc., that is, all of your musical experience, comes into play and influences what comes out when you improvise.

When you improvise by ear like this, you're not consciously trying to imitate any particular player, or play a specific tune, or reproduce a particular style. What comes out should be your own style of jazz piano, different from anything anyone has played before, which is in the proud tradition of jazz piano, the medium for innovation and experimentation. Dig in and play by ear.

Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692658 06/08/11 04:48 PM
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By E-7, I meant Em7. Sorry about the mixup. He uses various different notation for chords.

The chord F7+11, is this chord composed of F, A, B, C, E? [What a strange sounding chord.]


Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692732 06/08/11 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Eapfep
By E-7, I meant Em7. Sorry about the mixup. He uses various different notation for chords.

The chord F7+11, is this chord composed of F, A, B, C, E? [What a strange sounding chord.]



No mix-up from my end, so no worries. As for the F7+11 this type of sound comes from composers as early as Debussy, Ravel and Scriabin among others. I'm pretty sure jazz composers lean heavily on guys from the turn of the century for much of the 'strange' sounding chords.

You'll find if you keep at playing jazz long enough you'll gravitate towards these type of chords because the other more basic sounds won't really move you as much once you've played them 1000's of times.


Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.


Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692792 06/08/11 10:14 PM
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I love love LOVE Levine's book. I'll try to take your questions one at a time, best I can:

Quote
- Basically, in the key of C, with a II-V-I (D, G, C) chord progression, I use the C Dorion, C Mixolydian, and C Ionian modes respectively, paying careful attention to "avoid notes", which is F in the C Ionian and C in the C Mixolydian.

Am I allowed to use accidentals as well?


Yes. You're "allowed". There are all kind of passing tones in the Dorian, Mixolydian, and Ionian modes. Specifically, the raised (major) third in the Dorian, the raised (major) 7th in the Mixolydian, and the flatted (minor) 6th in the Ionian.

Quote
- What does it mean to say that B half-dimished (C Locrian Mode) has a natural C# in the left hand voicing?


I would really have to see what you're looking at to give a concise answer. But in short, with the Locrian scale, the root (in this case B) and the major ninth (C#) will "want" to resolve to the root (C).

Quote
- What's the difference between a 11th and a 4th? It's shown as the same note in a Gsus/G7 chord. What about the difference between a 9th and 2nd? Is there any reason people use different notations for the same note within a mode?


skepticalforumguy gave the best answer: that any number above 7 also assumes the dominant seventh tonality. So a G11 assumes a G7 tonality plus the 11. A Gsus assumes a major tonality, plus the four.

Quote
- Hypothetically, I'm playing E-7, A7, D-7, G7 in the key of C. I'm looking at an example within the book where they show a right hand improvised part, and it is riddled with sharps for the E-7 (Labeled as E Dorion) and A7. There is also a flat for G7.

We are playing in the key of C, why is it that there are so many sharps and flats, or are these merely accidentals?


I think, again, skepticalforumguy answered this, but the e7 A7 progression is actually in the key of D. As for why there is a flat in the G7, I'm not sure. If you want to specify a page number, I will be happy to take a look.

Quote
The chord F7+11, is this chord composed of F, A, B, C, E? [What a strange sounding chord.]


F7+11 is spell F A C Eb B

Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692801 06/08/11 10:31 PM
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Most of the advice people gave seems to be pretty sound - but I have noticed in general this forum isn't the best place for jazz theory answers because you will get many conflicting opinions.. too many cooks tend to spoil the broth. Why don't you find a jazz piano teacher in your area and take a few lessons?

Re: your question of 11th vs 4th or 9th vs 2nd.. they are not the same thing. The extension is the highest note that includes everything below it.
11th would include ( 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11) whereas a 4th would be (1, 4, 5)
9th would be (1, 3, 7, 9) and 2nd would be (1, 2, 5)

Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692810 06/08/11 10:46 PM
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Thanks to all the answers! I'll take the time tonight and tomorrow to digest everything, go back and review everything I learned before moving on.

@Tea Girl
The forums are full of fantastic advice and information, you're totally right on that part. I'd find a teacher for any technical help, but I really enjoy learning theory by my own.

Just the thought of learning things step by step by yourself and being able to eventually improvise and create using what I've learned is just such a exciting idea =)

That being said if in 2-3 weeks by now I'm knee-high in my own confusion and despair, I'll probably find help from a teacher.

Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1692989 06/09/11 01:54 PM
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Eapfep, the reason you're confused is because you have no experience in improvising. That's why what you're reading makes no sense to you. If you have some experience with playing by ear, then all of that theoretical stuff will start to make sense.

When you improvise by ear like this, there is no such thing as a wrong note, or wrong chord, or wrong melody note, or wrong time, or inappropriate progression or voicing or scale or mode, etc. Anything goes when you improvise. This is how you really learn about the piano and what you can do on it, and how you train your ear--you don't get this in formal instruction or from a textbook. You're trying to learn jazz piano from a book, without any experience in playing by ear, which is all but impossible.

Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Gyro #1693030 06/09/11 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Gyro
Eapfep, the reason you're confused is because you have no experience in improvising. That's why what you're reading makes no sense to you. If you have some experience with playing by ear, then all of that theoretical stuff will start to make sense.

When you improvise by ear like this, there is no such thing as a wrong note, or wrong chord, or wrong melody note, or wrong time, or inappropriate progression or voicing or scale or mode, etc. Anything goes when you improvise. This is how you really learn about the piano and what you can do on it, and how you train your ear--you don't get this in formal instruction or from a textbook. You're trying to learn jazz piano from a book, without any experience in playing by ear, which is all but impossible.


Gyro, let's be clear about this: he's not wanting to improvise. He wants to improvise within the jazz idiom. So keep in mind that within this idiom there are acceptable sounds (more jazz like) and less acceptable sounds (perhaps more country/blues/rock/pop/classical/you name it). To understand how to play the 'jazz' sounds, one needs to know what others have done, are doing, and will most likely do.

Improvising on one's own without a preconceived goal is an entirely different subject and really should be treated as such.

And Eapfep, keep plugging away. Also try to listen to some of the people on Levine's discography--especially the ones attached to the things you're currently trying to learn.


Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.


Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1693041 06/09/11 03:07 PM
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So you're saying that there is a jazz "idiom" in which only some things are "acceptable"? I disagree with this. If that were so, then jazz piano has become something resembling classical piano, that is, fossilized and stagnated, with a limited audience composed of only those who "understand" the idiom, an audience that will tend to get smaller and smaller over the yrs.

Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Gyro #1693050 06/09/11 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Gyro
So you're saying that there is a jazz "idiom" in which only some things are "acceptable"? I disagree with this. If that were so, then jazz piano has become something resembling classical piano, that is, fossilized and stagnated, with a limited audience composed of only those who "understand" the idiom, an audience that will tend to get smaller and smaller over the yrs.


Yes, essentially this is what I'm saying. And so are you, and have done so many, many times.

Of course, I'm not talking about Avant Garde Jazz, but you seem to think that this type of jazz is clearly and firmly routed in traditional jazz. Well, it's not. It draws upon the improvisational aspects as well as the interplay between musicians, but leaves behind aspects of theory that keeps traditional jazz sounding different.

Again, pay attention to what you are saying, and what you have said if you want to contribute something specific to the topic at hand. No one has asked how to play free improv here. No one has asked about New Age piano (a la George Winston). This isn't about 'digging in' and exploring.

So be it that jazz to you is fossilized and stagnant and only accessible to a small minority of listeners. You might be right in your own way. But it still makes little sense to bemoan that fact here, or anywhere that someone is asking for advice about a particular jazz concept.


Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.


Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
scepticalforumguy #1693090 06/09/11 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by scepticalforumguy
Of course, I'm not talking about Avant Garde Jazz, but you seem to think that this type of jazz is clearly and firmly routed in traditional jazz. Well, it's not. It draws upon the improvisational aspects as well as the interplay between musicians, but leaves behind aspects of theory that keeps traditional jazz sounding different.


Is there a name for what you refer to as 'this type of jazz'?


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1693097 06/09/11 04:56 PM
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He is asking for clarification on some of the jazz theory in Levine's book, not on how to improvise.

Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Studio Joe #1693121 06/09/11 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Studio Joe
Originally Posted by scepticalforumguy
Of course, I'm not talking about Avant Garde Jazz, but you seem to think that this type of jazz is clearly and firmly routed in traditional jazz. Well, it's not. It draws upon the improvisational aspects as well as the interplay between musicians, but leaves behind aspects of theory that keeps traditional jazz sounding different.


Is there a name for what you refer to as 'this type of jazz'?


How far off topic can we go here? Let's put it back in perspective shall we? Mark Levine's book covers a wide range of jazz. He makes reference to stride, discusses bebop, and extends his materials up to and including players like Chick Corea. Since players like Brad Meldhau were not around (or at least relevent) at the time of writing his book doesn't discuss what he or other like him may be doing.

That being said, any decent mainstream modern jazz player, including Brad Mehldau will have extensive knowledge of what Levine and other similar writers are talking about. The theory discussed in these jazz books is what the OP is referring to.

Is this to say that nothing else is acceptable other than what Levine teaches when playing jazz? No, that would be asinine. What I am saying is that if someone is asking for specific information about specific encountered problems then it makes little sense to go into some diatribe about how jazz is therefore irrelevent, fossilized or whatever.

I hope that clears it up.


Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.


Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
scepticalforumguy #1693160 06/09/11 06:30 PM
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so I guess the answer to my question is "mainstream modern Jazz"?

Thanks for the reply


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
Re: Some fundamental theory questions about Jazz...
Eapfep #1693205 06/09/11 08:12 PM
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Eapfep,

You should find a teacher. Working through Levine book alone is like trying to learn Cauculus alone without a teacher. You are probably going to just confuse yourself, and you need someone who can guide you through the steps, and tell you whether you are doing things right or not. It doesn't to be every-week, but it will help to study with someone semi-regularly.

And don't listen to Gyro. think of him as an parent who thinks he/she knows more about medicine then the doctors, and instead of giving their children proper treatment, they have their kids go through some bogus new age medicine or treatment. If he was music teacher at school, he would have probably ruined many talented kids by now.

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