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#655299 - 08/06/03 08:20 PM About Improvising  
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 101
keyplyr Offline
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keyplyr  Offline
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Southern California
Students ask, "So how do I improvise?"

There is no 'big secret' to Improvisation . Ultimately, one plays what one hears. Listening is key to opening up these endless possibilities. What you hear is comprehensive of what you've heard others play (live or recorded), what you've played before, what your mentors have suggested, what your proficiency allows you and what your heart tells you.

If you want an 'approach' then there are basically 3 Methods of Improvisation


If you dig Jazz visit
http://www.apassion4jazz.net
#655300 - 08/11/03 07:40 PM Re: About Improvising  
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DigJazz Offline
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DigJazz  Offline
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San Diego, CA
keyplyr, Can you give me some advice?

I have a passion for Jazz. Never studied formally, but I dig it. I have a decent knowledge of theory (scales, modes, etc.) I REALLY want to get good at Jazz piano.

I just bought a Yamaha baby grand and want to get the most out of my practice time. How do you think I focus my time?

#655301 - 08/12/03 04:17 AM Re: About Improvising  
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keyplyr Offline
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keyplyr  Offline
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Southern California
Hi ILikeJazz,

Terrific you bought a Yamaha. Most Jazz players I know love that clean, un-muffled, bright sound. I had a C-7 for years and loved it. Last year I bought a new, fresh out-of-the-crate C-3 and had a tech from Yamaha spend 2 days doing prep and fine voicing - sounds remarkable.

Jazz is about harmony. Let me say this again - Jazz is about harmony. Sure, it's about a swing'n beat, and about improvisation, and style... and it really is all these things, but inside all that is the relationship between the notes.

Musical notes are like colors. The color next to it influences it's shade, or texture and visa-versa. Harmony can be shaped, expanded, subdued, directed, restated ad infinitum by what going on next to it, around it, inside and outside it.

Listen to everything you can. Listen to yourself. Educate your ear. Play slow ballads; Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers and experiment with the harmony. Add 9ths, 11ths... sharp the 9ths, the 11ths... listen to what happens. Get to know the song form, the structure. Take notice of where you are in the cadence, the chord progression. Make each tune your own and tell it in your own style. State and restate the harmony in different and interesting new ways.

Then start all over and do it some more smile


If you dig Jazz visit
http://www.apassion4jazz.net
#655302 - 08/14/03 07:13 PM Re: About Improvising  
Joined: Jul 2003
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Jeff Bauer Offline
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Jeff Bauer  Offline
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In addition to what's written above...

Get to know key signatures. identify modes with key signatures.

The fundamental roots of improvisation are composed of playing around what key you are in at the moment, in addition to what chord you are on.


Jeff Bauer | Keyboard Concepts

Yamaha | Schimmel | Bösendorfer | Knabe | Restored Steinway

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#655303 - 08/16/03 02:11 AM Re: About Improvising  
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keyplyr Offline
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keyplyr  Offline
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Quote
The fundamental roots of improvisation are composed of playing around what key you are in at the moment, in addition to what chord you are on.
I think you meant to say "tone centers" instead of "key." A tune is written in but one key, unless of course it modulates to a second key. However, because of the cadencial progressions, the tune will have many tone centers. And this, as you've stated, motivates the solo perhaps even more than the actual chord.


If you dig Jazz visit
http://www.apassion4jazz.net
#655304 - 08/21/03 08:15 PM Re: About Improvising  
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Jeff Bauer Offline
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Jeff Bauer  Offline
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nope - I meant key.

I know music modulates, and some music does not seem to be in any key.

What you classify as "tone centers" others call "Modes".

Phrygian, Ionian, Dorian, Lydian, etc..

Modes are also associated with keys. For example, Dorian in the key of C Major would start on D and end on D an octave above, no #/b. Dorian in the key of Eb would start on F with the following flats: Ab, Bb, Eb. You can, of course, accomplish the same sound by playing an Eb major scale over an F root.

Sometimes, you don't play in one of the 7 modes. instead you alter them slightly, such as harmonic minor, blues scale, or diminished scale..

More advanced "free" jazz breaks free of even these rules to explore juxtaposed harmonies and chords, but keys and modes are still used to give strength to melody and form.

So yes, I did mean key.


Jeff Bauer | Keyboard Concepts

Yamaha | Schimmel | Bösendorfer | Knabe | Restored Steinway

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#655305 - 08/21/03 11:53 PM Re: About Improvising  
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,862
apple* Offline
apple*  Offline


Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,862
Kansas
testing


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#655306 - 08/22/03 01:42 AM Re: About Improvising  
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keyplyr Offline
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keyplyr  Offline
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Quote
What you classify as "tone centers" others call "Modes"
No, I was not speaking of Modes, but none the less, thanks for an interesting rebutal.


If you dig Jazz visit
http://www.apassion4jazz.net
#655307 - 08/22/03 12:17 PM Re: About Improvising  
Joined: Jul 2003
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Jeff Bauer Offline
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Jeff Bauer  Offline
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Los Angeles
Quote
Originally posted by keyplyr:
Quote
What you classify as "tone centers" others call "Modes"
No, I was not speaking of Modes, but none the less, thanks for an interesting rebutal.
In reading my last post I have to say sorry, I came across as a know it all.

In my neverending quest to become the best player I can be, I look for new wisdom that can help me take a new apprach to playing.

What is your definition of Tone Centers and how do you incorporate them?


Jeff Bauer | Keyboard Concepts

Yamaha | Schimmel | Bösendorfer | Knabe | Restored Steinway

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#655308 - 08/24/03 03:51 AM Re: About Improvising  
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keyplyr Offline
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keyplyr  Offline
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Tone Centers referrs to the use of a central tone, around which the evolving cadence forms. Much of the time, this is in fact the key which the piece is written, but any sophisticated composition will have many tone centers, as the chord progressions (cadences) develop.

Let's use Duke Ellington's Satin Doll (key of C) as an example. It's a very simple tune, but it does have several tone centers:

| Dm7 / G7 / | Dm7 / G7 / | Em7 / A7 / | Em7 / A7 / | Am7 / D9 / | Ab 7 / Db9 / | C / / / |

The first 2 chords (Dm7 and G7) are the ii - V of C. Even though they do not resolve to C right away, this section of the tune is said to have the tone center of C.

Then when we get to the Em7 and A7, we are in the tone center of D since these two chords are the ii - V of D.

What do I mean by the ii - V ?

These are the scale chords for that tone center. The chords that can be made using only the notes from that particular Major/minor scale.

Here is a chart: http://www.apassion4jazz.net/diatonic.html

This is a very basic example, and most tunes are a bit more complex.


If you dig Jazz visit
http://www.apassion4jazz.net
#655309 - 08/24/03 04:13 PM Re: About Improvising  
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Jeff Bauer Offline
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Jeff Bauer  Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by keyplyr:
What do I mean by the ii - V ?

These are the scale chords for that tone center. The chords that can be made using only the notes from that particular Major/minor scale.
uh.. I would think you would give me a little more credit by now, lol.

Anyhow, by your last post, tone center and key mean the exacty same thing.

Play in the key of C for the first ii-V progression, in the key of D for the second ii-V progression.

The <b>point</b> of the first post about playing in relation to the current key (as apposed to the chord) would be to get a little more fluid in soloing over faster changes.

For Example - if you took the first two bars of Satin Doll and played over the ii-V progression with a simple C blues scale, it would sound great. The F# of the blues scale in C doesn't lend itself to the ii-V in C. If you played the D dorian scale followed by the G mixelodian, it would sound plain. So taking my originally suggested approach might open up <b>new</b> avenues and approaches to soloing for someone unfamiliar to this technique.

see? the concept of Tonal Center and key is similar. Execpt one thing:

I didn't see how tonal center can deal with modes and define them.


Jeff Bauer | Keyboard Concepts

Yamaha | Schimmel | Bösendorfer | Knabe | Restored Steinway

My soundcloud page
#655310 - 08/24/03 04:59 PM Re: About Improvising  
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keyplyr Offline
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keyplyr  Offline
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Quote
Anyhow, by your last post, tone center and key mean the exacty same thing.
No, they are quite different as I explained.

I invite you to consider further study in basic music theory if you have the interest. Otherwise, being stuck in misunderstanding only tends to limit your musical experience.


If you dig Jazz visit
http://www.apassion4jazz.net
#655311 - 08/24/03 11:12 PM Re: About Improvising  
Joined: Jul 2003
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Jeff Bauer Offline
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Jeff Bauer  Offline
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Invitation accepted.

let's start here - quiz away!


Jeff Bauer | Keyboard Concepts

Yamaha | Schimmel | Bösendorfer | Knabe | Restored Steinway

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#655312 - 09/06/03 12:36 AM Re: About Improvising  
Joined: Nov 2001
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SteveY Offline
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SteveY  Offline
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NJ
Quote
No, they are quite different as I explained.

I invite you to consider further study in basic music theory if you have the interest. Otherwise, being stuck in misunderstanding only tends to limit your musical experience.
Keyplyr: I don't think you can make a sweeping statement that the terminology you're using (tone center) is the only correct way to describe harmonic movement. In fact, depending on whether you went to Berklee, North Texas, or __________, you may have been taught a different term for the same concept. There is no definitive harmonic theory system (as of yet) for jazz that is universally accepted.

For what it's worth, I learned it as "key" (not "tone center"), but I think "tone center" works just fine. I studied with guys like Russ Ferrante, Terry Trotter, Dick Grove, Clare Fischer, Victor Feldman, etc. and none of them could agree on terminology.


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#655313 - 09/08/03 07:44 AM Re: About Improvising  
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Posts: 88
Jamie Offline
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Jamie  Offline
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I think you are both right to an extent with the key vs tonal centre thing. I think what you are both trying to say is that any piece will be written in a certain key (unless the key signature changes throughout the piece) but the progression of the piece may temporarily wander from that key centre to introduce other "centres" in the progression. The piece has not changed key, though, the initial key signature is still there. Think of the variations as accidentals in terms of key change.

Another important concept in improvising you've not emphasized, and this is true for soloing as well as chords, is the emphasis that these pieces places on scales, especially major and minor pentatonics. Seems every good jazz or blues solo riff has a pentatonic emphasis someway or another. Hammering these scales into muscle memory is a key thing to have, and should be included anytime you sit to the keys and practice or play.

Jamie

#655314 - 09/08/03 11:00 PM Re: About Improvising  
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Kreisler Offline
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Iowa City, IA
I've heard all of these pretty much interchangeably:

key center
tonal center
key
tonality

...and I've even heard "keyality" in some circles.

However, I do think "tonal center" is probably the most widely accepted term for what keyplyr is talking about.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#655315 - 09/10/03 01:01 PM Re: About Improvising  
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Chris W1 Offline
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Its interesting to go back and forth on these terms and how we discover the tonic. What I thought was kind of cool, a long time ago, was discovering that the note I very frequently took to be the tonal center when picking keys was actually the 5th. To learn that, for hundreds of years, that note has been called the dominant opened up doors for me in understanding resolution and some very fundamental concepts of harmony. This stuff has been pretty neat for a long time.

Jazz still goes over my head when it comes to impovisation. I could never get to the point where I could "hear" the changes enough to spontaneously come up with a melodic fit. Its intimidating, IMO. Easier was blues and more traditional I, IV, and V chords with use of flatted thirds, sevenths and sometimes augmented fouths. Sounds fancy to someone who hasn't got a clue, but its just scratching the surface compared to actually trying to handle most jazz literature. Those harmonies are TOUGH.

Chris


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#655316 - 11/11/03 01:33 PM Re: About Improvising  
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mzm Offline
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Singapore
hi,
What are the 3 methods of improvisation ?? I've always wanted to play be ear but can't...... Can anyone give some tips as to how to do it ?? Btw, I do hv problems understanding cadences and chords progression. Greatly appreciate !!


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