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Still having trouble with altered chords...

Posted By: ZeroZero

Still having trouble with altered chords... - 07/20/19 04:59 PM

OK, So I can play and improvise fluently using all standard chords and scales no problem, all day long. I can play all my scales, including diminiished, atered etc. I can use passing chords too I can even use the daitoic non chord tones - 9ths 4ths 6ths in my imporo, but the atered notes I am still haveing trouble with. Whgat happens is when I play a chord sequence using these notes my ear says "why on earth would you do that?" Hence they don't get returned to. They dont get incorporated into my playing, the olny exception is the raised 5th which seems ot work fine.
What I need is some kind of strategy to incorporate these chords. At the moment I am looking at the minor 251 and using the ii as a major 9, the V as a #9b13 chord and the i as a minor 9. The V chord seems to me to be a chord that I would not reach for and it is awkward to master, but I am persevering, I could take this through 12 keys but I really am not sure what gain I would get. I just feel there is something missing and I need an approach that makes SENSE of these alterternation rather than just learning rote style....

I need a practice regime with understanding - I have band in a box if this helps

Any insights people?
Posted By: Cudo

Re: Still having trouble with altered chords... - 07/21/19 09:15 AM

When alterations occure you should know how to resolve them. Then they start sounding more logical to you.

Listen to Standards with altered chords implied -->

Blue Bossa. Bar 5 to 7.
It Ain't Necessarely So. Bar 7 to 8.
Blue In Green. Bar 6 to 7.
Mas Que Nada. Bar 2 to 3.
Posted By: Wes Lachot

Re: Still having trouble with altered chords... - 07/22/19 02:06 AM


I could go into a bunch of music theory stuff, but somehow I don't think that will be all that helpful, although I do recommend studying music theory as much as you possibly can. Understanding music theory is the key to playing by ear.

I'm going to give you an unconventional but pretty straightforward way to think of an Alt chord. First of all, a V7 alt chord occurs most naturally in a minor key. If you are in the key of C minor, you can take a C natural minor scale and simply drop 2 of the notes a half step, and you'll have your G7 alt scale. Let's look at the notes:

The 7 notes of a C natural minor scale are C, D Eb, F, G, Ab, and Bb. To transform this to a G7 alt scale, we only need to drop the C to a B natural, and the D to a Db.

Why would we want to drop those two notes a half step? Well, the C is swapped for a B natural, since a G7 chord needs a B natural, but shouldn't have a C, which would clash with the B in a chord. (In jazz theory, chords and scales are thought of synonymously, and called "chord-scales", so the thinking is that if it doesn't sound good in the chord, it shouldn't be in the scale. This is a major difference between classical theory and jazz theory.)

And the D can be dropped to a Db because the D itself would clash with the Eb (flat 13 chords need to lose the 5 to sound right, again because of a 1/2 step clash). A flatted 5th on a V7 chord may sound strange at first, but you don't always have to play it just because it's in the scale.

The other 5 notes--Eb, F, G, Ab, and Bb--coexist in both the C natural minor scale and the G7 alt scale.

This G7 alt scale has some advantages over other possible scales one can play on the V7 chord, for certain musical situations. It has a major 3rd like the harmonic minor scale, but also a minor third, so you avoid that augmented 2nd skip that can make the harmonic scale sound too "gypsy". Also, that Db note has a 300+ year tradition in classical music, known as the "Neopolitan" note. So it's a note that sounds good to our ears via tradition if nothing else.

There is a more technical derivation for the V7 alt scale, the one that is often taught in music schools. In this method the G7 alt scale is derived from an Ab melodic minor scale, spelled enharmonically. This is absolutely true, but confusing, I think, to many people, because what on earth has the key of Ab minor got to do with the key of C minor? There is a connection there, but it can be hard to make on the fly when improvising, that is until you become fluent with substitute dominants. Once you realize that the Ab minor can be thought of as a ii of a Db7 chord (substitute dominant for G7), it all makes sense.

But the shortcut above will get you there while expending fewer brain cells, if that's what you're after.
Posted By: Wes Lachot

Re: Still having trouble with altered chords... - 07/22/19 02:10 AM

Also what Cudo said.
Posted By: indigo_dave

Re: Still having trouble with altered chords... - 07/22/19 09:04 PM

OK Mr. Zero. I'm going to give a try. I came up with 3 little illustrations. I notated and recorded me playing them. I'm going to share the links. The thing I want to point out is that there are 2 types of left hand voicings - augmented 4ths (like in examples A, B and C) and Spread out triads - Eb Bb and G. And 2 types of right hand voicings. 2nd inversion triads, and chords in 4ths. You can chromatically move them around and experiment and find what works and what doesn't. Using your ears.

I think we need some little notation function in the forum software. A notated chord is worth a thousand C E Bb and so ons.

Every altered note (flats and sharps) is notated. If there's NO sharp or flat, it's a natural.
Recorded piano

Written notation
Posted By: Cade

Re: Still having trouble with altered chords... - 07/24/19 03:52 PM

I don't think I have a very sophisticated way of thinking about the alt scale/chords, but I have a fast & cheap way to think about it that works for me at least.

The way I internalized altered chords/scales is just taking the double-diminished scale (i.e., whole-half step scale) and exchanging the 5-6 with a #5, taking it from an 8-note to a 7-note scale and making last three notes all whole steps.

It works for me because I'd already internalized the double-diminished scale, with its harmonic logic that Barry Harris used to talk about incessantly if you look up any video of him teaching. And there are only three scales to remember, each with a very memorable shape. You just think half-step / whole step from the root, and you know immediately which one you're on. Then you just throw in the #5 and it's an altered scale/chord. So getting the feel and sound of it into my fingers was the easy part.

In practice, I use it where I was already using the double-dim scale/chords, dominant V chords & the like, and they both usually fit, I don't want to say interchangeably, but they'll both usually sound good. And then I usually just think about whether I want to (or have to) have a #5 (alt scale) or the natural 5-6 (double-dim scale).
Posted By: Nahum

Re: Still having trouble with altered chords... - 07/24/19 05:41 PM

To feel when and how you can use altered chords, hearing education required ; for example, listen to chordal texture in the Quincy Jones orchestra.


I listened to pianists and big bands for many years until the ear began to stylistically select altered chords. Tutorials don't teach this.
Posted By: ZeroZero

Re: Still having trouble with altered chords... - 08/12/19 11:01 AM

Originally Posted by Nahum
To feel when and how you can use altered chords, hearing education required ; for example, listen to chordal texture in the Quincy Jones orchestra.


I listened to pianists and big bands for many years until the ear began to stylistically select altered chords. Tutorials don't teach this.

Thank you guys. Many of you talk about spelling altered chords. This is not a problem for me, I can play all my altered scales. I can play any altered chord. Perhaps I should have said "chords with altered extensions". What I mean is incorporating chords with these notes, (not necessarily all of them) in my playing. I can use standard 9th's and sixths. Since posting I am beginning to try trhe others more.

It's a hearing thing.

This is what the text books say:

Majors: On a major use 9ths #4 and 6s. I really don't like the #4 as part of a major chord - except in Lydian context.

Minors: Over Minor use 9ths and 4ths. Well here I have always understood that there are 3 modal minors (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian/Natural) and then the melodic and harmonic minors. i use the appropriate 9 or 6 according tro the context.

Dominants: Well here I have heard you can use more or less anything. I tend to go for the 9,11 and 13. Thats a little conservative. Here I need to rethink somehow. I sometimes add the raiosed 5. Beyond that it all; seems like mud.

Slightly off topic, a couple of days ago I discovered this wonderful sub for a V7. Its a simple half dim on the II chord . Yep, in a II V I that Dm, D half dim, C. I cant get over how good this chord is, I much prefer it as a cadence, but it defies all logic. I suppose one might thing it is some form of rootless G7 b9 11 chord, but that seems to stretch a point. This is the sort of chord I am looking for - exotic fancy and stylish!
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