<![CDATA[bobbysternjazz.com - Blog: B Natural]]>Sat, 06 May 2017 18:34:13 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[Lines in 4ths - The iii-VI-ii-V-I Progression]]>Sun, 23 Apr 2017 15:55:45 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/lines-in-4ths-the-iii-vi-ii-v-i-progressionShort Book of the Month: Lines in 4ths
The iii-VI-ii-V-I Progression

The interval of a perfect 4th has been an important melodic and harmonic component of the improvising musician's language since the early 1960s, being introduced to the idiom and popularized by pianist McCoy Tyner, and featured in the compositions and solos of pianists Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea (among others); B3 organist Larry Young; saxophonists John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter and Joe Farrell; as well as trumpeter Woody Shaw and guitarist Karl Ratzer, to name just a few.

A good bit of info on the subject has already been posted on this site, and in order to avoid a trip to the Office of Redundancy Office, the dozen or so posts are all linked under the "Fourths" category. Check 'em out!

The exercises contained in this post are from a new Short Book
, which is in the form of 12 individual melodic lines in 4ths, over the basic premise of the familiar iii-VI-ii-V-I chord progression and transposed into all twelve keys.

Augmented 4ths (aka diminished or flat 5ths), diminished 4ths (sounds and functions as a Maj 3rd; derived from the Melodic Minor system), as well as perfect 4ths are all featured in these melodic lines.

Due to its strong root movement along the cycle of 5ths, the ii-VI-ii-V-I harmonic cadence is one of the most common in popular music and found in the vast majority of jazz and pop standards. Its use in this book gives the melodic material a sense of form, resolution and familiarity.

However, a few altered variations of iii-VI-ii-V-I form are used for most, if not all of the lines.

As in the first example below, this might be the most common:

                               iii          VI7           biii     IV7(bVI7)     ii                            bii           bII7
The resulting combination of descending chromatic with perfect fourth root movements creates an added sense of tension and release.It gives one the opportunity to break up the cycle of perfect fourths, employing “shifts”, as Walter Bishop, jr described this technique in his book "A Study in Fourths".
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The example below is a bit more jagged, due to the rhythmic variation of the chords themselves, evoking a strong McCoy-ish vibe. It's also interesting to note the relationship between perfect 4th groupings and pentatonics, both real and implied.

In the example below, the first 4 notes of the melody (B-E-A-D), plus the F# at the top of the E9sus chord spells out a D Maj. Pentatonic / E, followed by the same 4 melody notes with an F natural in the E7b9 chord this time, yielding a D Pentatonic b3 (D-E-F-A-B) over E.


C-F-G in the melody + Eb & Bb (Eb6 9) = Eb Pentatonic
Bb-F-C-G in the melody + Eb-Ab-Db (Eb13) = Eb Mixolydian (the whole scale)

D-G-C-A in the melody + F (D-11) = F Maj Pantatonic / D
D-G-E-C in the melody + F & Bb (C7sus) = C & Bb Triad Pair (Hexatonic)
Bb-Eb-Ab in the melody + C + F root = Ab Maj Penta / F (should read F-11)
C-F-Bb-G in the melody + the same (G-7sus) = Bb Maj Penta / G (if added D), resolves to:

B-A-G-E in the melody + D & C (C Maj7 9 13) = G Maj Penta / C
Melody rests + F-G-Bb-C (F9 sus) = Eb Maj Penta / F (if added Eb), Bb Maj Penta / F (if added D)
A-D-G in the melody + E (C Maj6 9) = C Maj Penta, G Maj Penta / C (if added B)
F-C-G in the melody + Eb-A-D (B7alt) = F Maj Pent / B, C Penta b3 / B, G Penta b6/ B, C- & D- triad pair (Hexatonic).

And back to E9 sus, no muss, no fuss, Gus!

Did I miss anything?

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The graphics above with voicing possiilities to the single lines are from the last part of the book, and are in the key of C only. Although they are suggestions meant to justify and support the lines, they often reveal much more harmonically than do the single lines alone.

There's much more where this came from!
42 pages of fresh new material.

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Yagapriya and the Tonnetz]]>Sat, 18 Mar 2017 15:24:06 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/yagapriya-and-the-tonnetzThe Tale of Yagapriya and the Tonnetz
PictureYagapriya and the Tonnetz
This is the tale of Yagapriya and the Tonnetz. Yagapriya was a fair maiden who, while bathing her lovely body in the sun sparkled waters of the stream in the woods, didn't fail to catch the eye of the dashing young Prince Tonnetz, and....(CUT!) ...OK, let's go! Take #2...

Yagapriya is the 31st raga, out of a total of 72, in the Carnatic (South Indian) Melakarta system of seven-note parent ragas, from which other smaller ragas are derived.

Besides its Carnatic origin, this post was inspired as much by my belated introduction to the Neo-RiemannianTonnetz (German for “tone network” and pronounced "tone netz"), which clearly illustrates Yagapriya's internal intervallic and chordal relationships.

I had never heard of the Tonnetz before receiving an email recently from Uruguayan mathematics researcher and amateur guitarist Alfonso Artigue, who's interest in both disciplines lead him to the discovery of the relationship between the Tonnetz and the Yagapriya raga. He had found an earlier post I had done on the scale and contacted me about his discovery. I Thank you, Alfonso!. Yagapriya thanks you, too.

The above graphic shows a zoomed in cutout portion of the Tonnetz, relating to the Western equivalent of Yagapriya. The seven circles, each representing a scale tone, form a hexagon, plus the one in the middle.

Each horizontal line, from left to right, is in perfect 5ths (Ab - Eb, F - C - G, A - E).

The diagonal from top left to bottom right is in Maj 3rds (Ab augmented triad).

The diagonal from top right to bottom left is in min 3rds (A diminished triad).

Each triangle within the hexagon forms a Major or minor triad.
F min., Ab Maj., C min., F Maj., A min., C Maj

These triads can be expanded into four note 6th and 7th chord configurations as well.
F Maj7 (9), F min7 (9), F7 (9), F min(Maj)7 (9), A min7 (C6), A min(Maj)7, A min7b5 (C-6), Ab Maj7, Ab Maj7+5, Ab6, E Maj7+5,

The C in the middle of the hexagon is common to each triad / 7th chord and is, not coincidentally, also the root of the scale formed as “C" Yagapriya :
C – Eb – E - F – G - Ab – A - C

Yagapriya's uniqueness also stems from its scalar interval scheme,
       1 ½ steps½ step½ stepwhole step½ step ½ step1 ½ steps

   (C                 Eb            E             F        ---        G            Ab            A                C)

with the two tetrachords being an intervallic mirror image of each other; a scalar palindrome of sorts.

Prominent derived pentatonics include: C Pentatonic #2 (C-Eb-E-G-A), Ab Pentatonic b2 (Ab-A-C-Eb-F) & F Pentatonic b7 (F-G-A-C-Eb).

It contains four perfect 4ths and one tritone (EbA), which doesn't serve as a function of diatonic resolution (V - I) as it would in the Major scale system. However, a type of ersatz V7 – I movement can be established since the scale itself yields a V7sus b9 9 b13 13 (G-C-F-Ab-A-Eb-E) configuration.

Both the diatonic triadic and seventh chord harmonizations of Yagapriya in the examples below, as well as the arpeggio exercises found in "Yagapriya - A New Look for the Improviser", were conceived with smooth melodic and harmonic movement in mind. In fact, the original concept behind the Tonnetz, nearly three hundred years ago, was as a visual aid for detecting common tones between triads, which results in smooth voice leading.
Yagapriya - Triads
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Yagapriya - 6th & 7th Chords
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The fact that the tonic - C in the middle of the hexagon - is the shared common tone in each and every chord of the scale, means that harmonization of each scale step necessitates that the other two (or three) chord tones change with each subsequent chord, in order to create a sense of harmonic movement and color.

The seventh chord arpeggio exercise (see download, chords above) which harmonizes each scale step, alternates a tonic Maj6 (C6 in C) chord with the Maj6 (Ab6) chord built on the sixth scale degree - or interchangeably, its inversion, a min7 (F-7), from the fourth scale degree. The exception here is the seventh degree, which employs a half diminished chord (A-7b5). In other words, as C is constant throughout, the notes A-E and G swap inversions with F-Ab and Eb (except for the half diminished chord).

The melodic patterns here were conceived as non Carnatic in nature. Instead, they focus, for the most part, on a more familiar blues oriented coloration, due to the presence of both Major and minor 3rds & 6ths.

Once it becomes familiar, this can be a very natural, earthy sounding scale. The absence of a b7 or #4 doesn't prevent Yagapriya from being one funkified pitch collection!

One suggestion would be to play the scale, exercises, patterns, etc. against a drone of different scale tones, know in Carnatic terms as "graha bhedam".

Interesting results are sure to abound!

Want a more in-depth look at Yagapriya and some of its potential uses in contemporary improvisation?
Yagapriya - A New Look for the Improviser
36 pages of scales, sequences and melodic patterns in 12 keys

Only $5.99 cheap
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Bach to Basics - BeBoppin' the 6th / Diminished Scale]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 14:59:15 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/bach-to-basics-beboppin-the-6th-diminished-scaleBach to Basics - BeBoppin'
the 6th / Diminished Scale
PictureJohann Sebastian Bop (1685 – )
For those who are familiar with the so called “Bebop Scale” this may not come as a revelation; but then again - it still just might.

For the uninitiated, a basic Bebop Scale is a Major scale with an added passing tone between the 5th and 6th scale degrees (Ab in C Maj.). The reason for this added half step is so that when the scale is played in eighth or sixteenth notes in either direction over a Major tonality, the Maj chord tones (scale steps 1-3-5 & 6) will fall on down beats. As such, the scale can originate on any of the chord tones with the same effect.

There is also the Dominant Bebop Scale, used over unaltered dominant 7th chords which inserts a passing tone between scale steps 7 & 8 of the Mixolydian mode (steps 4 & 5 of the Major Scale).

Also on the Bebop Scale hit parade is the Dorian Bebop Scale (3 & 4), as well as the Aeolian (Natural Minor) Bebop Scale (7 & 8). Unsurprisingly, all three are modes (V, ii & vi respectively) of the Major version, and while I wanted to point them out, they're not really relevant to this particular discussion; so... (see above picture).

Flatting the 3rd (as was done here in the downloadable pdf example), results in a minor version of the Bebop Scale, which can be viewed as either Melodic Minor with an added b6th, or Harmonic Minor with an added natural 6th.
In each case, we're dealing with an octatonic scale.

The term "Bebop Scale" was first introduced by trombonist, cellist, composer and Jazz Education pioneer, the late David Baker, in the 1970's. I first became aware of it through Baker's three volume series of books titled “The Bebop Era” (still in print). There were several pages at the beginning of each volume presented in the key of C only, with the heading of “Daily Exercises: Major Scales with Added Notes”, consisting of scalar exercises pertaining to not only the chromatic passing tones between Maj scale steps 5 & 6 and 4 & 5, but also 1 & 2 ,2 & 3 and 6 & 7.

Back in b.c. (before computers) these were probably the first cases in which this type of information was made available in any kind of book form and accessible to the general public. Up until that point, I guess, you had to have a private teacher or fellow musician who knew this stuff, or you figured it out for yourself by transcribing solos from vinyl.

Fast forward ahead to the here & now - with the advent of the internet, YouTube vids and unlimited info pertaining to virtually any subject imaginable - enter  legendary pianist and preeminent Bopologist, Barry Harris, demonstrating "the 6th Diminished Scale" system and even half jokingly calling it “his scale”.

Not being a pianist, and not immediately relating fully to Mr. Harris' piano-centric approach, I at first just thought “bebop scale”, until I came across guitarist (and Harris disciple) Roni Ben-Hur's video (below).

Suddenly, my "duh!" sign switched off and I realized that the so called "passing tone" between scale steps 5 & 6 was not just a passing tone, but actually part of an eight note harmonic system, which in turn formed a diminished seventh chord from it's 2nd, 4th, b6th & 8th degrees, as well as a Maj6 chord and its inversions on scale degrees 1, 3, 5 & 6.

By alternating inversions of Maj6 (or min6) chords with diminished 7th chords built on alternate steps of this eight note scale, a repeating I6 – V7b9 harmonic movement is created.

As previously mentioned, flatting the 3rd creates a Minor 6th / Diminished Scale.

Below is a harmonized example of a C Minor 6th / Diminshed Scale, using drop 2 voicings. Note the dim7 chord on the added b6th (Ab).

C Minor 6th / Diminished Scale - alternating min6 & dim 7
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While I had been aware of this as a common arranging technique, used to give a static Major or minor chord some harmonic movement, I hadn't, as a saxophonist, considered it as a method for creating single note, arpeggiated lines with an automatic, built in V-I resolution.

So, for my own edification, I created a set of basic scalar arpeggio exercises from this concept, gradually adding permutations. I was surprised at how simple the concept was and how "right" it sounded as an "inside" diatonic melodic exercise.

Basic arpeggios alternating inversions of Cmin6 & D (F-Ab-B) dim7
The downloadable pdf presented here employs the C Minor 6th / Diminished Scale.

Why minor?

Simply because I was in a minor mood for a minor mode. Seriously tho'..., I just felt it had a bit more color, flavor, oo-poo-pa-doo, etc. - not that Major should be ignored. Once you get either one in your ear and under your fingers, it shouldn't be all that difficult to do the other – it's a matter of raising or lowering the 3rd scale degree.

Comparisons have been made between classical music from the Baroque period and Bebop.

Because the alternating min6 & dim7 chords creates an automatic sense of harmonic movement - repeating V7-i (or I) cadence (one of the fundamentals of Western music) -  this is an excellent ear and warmup exercise for single line instrumentalists (and anyone else), regardless of their level.

Check it out!

Want even more Minor 6th / Diminished Scale arpeggio exercises?
 A 26 page mini e-book with arpeggio exercises in all keys
Only $3.99 cheap!

Still got questions about the scale? Guitarist Roni Ben-Hur's video should set you straight.
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Unintended Intro - iii-VI-ii-V Descending Four-Note Sequence]]>Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:50:32 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/unintended-intro-iii-vi-ii-v-descending-four-note-sequenceUnintended Intro - iii-VI-ii-V Descending Four-Note Sequence
Here's an exercise sequence which utilizes a melodic cell of four notes (pentatonic minus one) per measure (except for the 4th & 8th bar, which uses four notes per chord), descending over, under, around and through a iii-VI-ii-V7 cadence.

It's basically a four bar sequence which repeats with rhythmic, melodic and directional variations the second time around.

The idea here is to maintain the integrity of the four note cell per measure / chord, while connecting the following measure / chord via a descending (mostly) whole or half step.

This results in the overall descending shape of the line.

The graphic below illustrates the eight bar melodic line, with chords voiced underneath. The line in the first four bars is comprised of uninterrupted eighth notes. Rests and triplets are employed in the second 4 bars as a way of creating a slight variation of the first four.

The first chord in the graphic below (E-7) should have actually been labeled E-7b5, due to the Bb in the chord voicing.

Playing by the numbers, the line breaks down as such:

Measure #1:          E-7 or E-7b5     4-b3-1-4   b3-1-b7-b3                   4-note cell (A-G-E-D)

Measure #2:           A7alt                 b13-b9-3-b13   b5-3-b9-b5                             (Bb-Db-Eb-F)
Between the the melodic line and the chord voicing, all seven notes of the Bb Melodic Minor scale
(A altered) are accounted for.

Measure #3:           D-7                    1-b7-5-1   b7-5-4-b7                     4-note cell (D-C-A-G)

Measure #4:           Ab7alt                #9-b13-b7-b9                                                  (E-F#-A-B)

                                G7alt                  #9-b9-b13-b7                                                  (Bb-Ab-F-Eb)
When the melody and voicings are combined, both of these chords contain the full compliment of pitches from A and Ab Melodic Minor, respectively.

The Ab7alt (bVI7), is essentially a tritone sub for a D7 (II7), or secondary dominant. The chromatic root movement, from bVI to V7 (commonly found in the 9th & 10th bars of a "Mr. PC" type minor blues), is a bit more interesting.

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Measure #5:           C6 9                   3-5-6-3   5-6-9-5                      4-note cell (E-G-A-D)
Resolving momentarily to the tonic chord, the melodic figure changes shape and direction from its counterpart in measure #1.

Measure #6:           A7alt                  Essentially the same as measure #2, with the first 2 beats modified rhythmically with an eighth note rest and triplet.

Measure #7:           D-7                    An eighth note rest on beat 3 and the second C being omitted from the group is the only difference from meas. #3.

Measure #8:          Ab7alt & G7alt    The eighth note triplet on beat 3, with the final two notes trading position, are the only differences from measure #4.

Modifying the line slightly in the second 4 bars with rests an triplets gives the line some added rhythmic tension, compared to the steady stream of eighth notes in the first four.

Although I didn't intend it as such, these eight bars came out sounding like a pretty straight ahead, bebop iii-VI-ii-V-I intro that you might hear a rhythm section play to kick off a tune, especially since it resolves momentarily to the tonic chord in bar #5.

Anyway, it be what it B, so check it out and see what you can C.

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Diminished Perspective vs. Altered Reality - The Fight For Dominants]]>Mon, 26 Dec 2016 19:56:14 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/diminished-perspective-vs-altered-reality-the-fight-for-dominantsDiminished Perspective vs. Altered Reality
The Fight For Dominants
Dominants”…as in V7, dominant seventh, etc., dig? And I'll bet you thawt I coodent spell!

Referring to none other than the Diminished vs. Altered Scale, I've been privy to recent discussions as to which one is the more suitable choice to express an altered dominant chord.

Therefore, I thought we might get these two dominant scalar heavyweights to slug it out in the ring for 13, or maybe even b13 rounds. This is a telling number, but we’ll get to that momentarily.

In the near corner, wearing the purple trunks, hailing from Symetria, Octatonia – the octatonic Diminished Scale, aka Auxiliary Diminished, Diminished Dominant, Half Step/ Whole Step. He’s been called other things, as well.

This guy is known to have a pronounced split personality, which actually works to his advantage once he swings into full action. If his initial move is a whole step, he falls into predominantly diminished 7th chord patterns.

On the other hand, when he sets it off with a half step, his perfect 5th personality comes out of hiding and his dominant 7th side, with three of the four possible altered extensions (b9, #9 & #11) plus a natural 13, goes into full effect.

He’s akin to a right handed fighter, who normally leads with his left, who can change up at a moments notice and lead with his right, lefty style - a switch hitter of sorts.

He also has the supernatural power to divide himself into two and / or four “mini me’s” simultaneously, making him very formidable in any context.

It’s this unusual style that has, for many years now, confused both friend and foe alike. “What’s wit all da toiminolgy”, is the common cry among the ranks. Half step/ whole step, Whole step/ half step, Inverted, Auxiliary, schmilary…watch that hole...step! Aaarrgh!

I’d like to do my civic duty and add to the confusion.

Anybody who is familiar with Afro-Cuban music and its derivations, will be familiar with the concept of “clave”, the two measure rhythmic “key” - the foundation that everything else is built upon.

It has two perceived sides – either 3-2 (ta – ta – ta/ - ta – ta) or 2-3 clave ( - ta – ta/ ta – ta – ta), depending on where the “one” is perceived to be at.

Not to deviate, but the point here is, that if the two sides of clave can be identified by inverting a number which describes its accents per measure, why can’t we do the same thing, name wise (describing it’s interval order), for the diminished scale?

Because - we can!

How about the 2-1 Diminished (whole step side), or 1-2 Diminished Scale (half step side), in reference to the number of semitones at the start?

Makes sense to me.

We just have to keep in mind that when expressed vertically, as a chord in thirds, the

2-1 Diminished = dim.7 (Maj7) 9 11 b13, "diminished side", and
1-2 Diminished = 7 b9 #9 #11 13, "dominant side".

In mind it’s kept.

It is with his 1-2 (dominant) side that he will be entering the ring. After all this is the “Fight for Dominants”, right?

Now, over here in the far corner, in the gold trunks, the pride of Melodicus Minorus, the scion of its Seventh House, is none other the "Altered Scale", who's true title is "Seventh Mode of Melodic Minor".

Altered indeed. This dude is a direct descendant, although a mutant one, of the Major Scale Matrix, which is in itself a manifestation of the cosmic overtone series, known to one and all as the “Circle of Fifths”.

As legend has it, at birth, one of his genes - the Maj 3rd - was mutated down a half step, so that it became a min 3rd instead, which in turn interrupted the Cycle of Fifths, transforming him into a multiple Tritonian.

This mutation has given him the special powers that he is able to manifest, chief among them being the ability not only to exhibit half / whole step diminished scale characteristics, like his ring partner, but also pure whole tone / augmented tendencies, as well. Hence, the moniker “Diminished / Whole Tone Scale”, often mentioned when referring to his Seventh Mode.

He also answers to Ascending Melodic Minor, Jazz Minor and Ionian b3.

But, since its his Seventh Mode from which his fame is most assuredly derived, as it contains the root, 3rd & 7th of a dominant 7th chord, plus all four of the possible altered dominant extensions - b9, #9, #11 (b5) & b13 – he became known far and wide as the “Altered Scale”.

There are, however, still too many members of the community who don’t realize or recognize that all these names, labels and aliases refer to one and the same entity. And that they all led back to the one – Melodic Minor!

So now that we’ve got the preliminaries for each out of the way, it’s time to weigh in with a physical comparison.
To state the obvious, the Diminished Scale has the longer reach - eight notes; compared to seven for the Altered Scale. But let's not sell the Altered Scale short.

The above graphic illustrates how these two altered dominant favorites, dressed up in their own altered versions of G7, stack up against each other.

First of all, the first five notes, plus the last one, of each scale are exactly the same. The only difference occurs on the sixth degree (and seventh of the diminished). As the arrows in the above graphic point out, the Altered Scale actually "splits the difference" between the Diminished Scale's sixth and seventh scale step, D (5) and E (13); settling on an Eb (b13) as its sixth step.

That, in a nutshell, is the difference between these two scales. That the 1-2 Diminished Scale has a natural 13, while the Altered Scale sports a b13, pretty much sums the difference.

But what does it all mean, Mr. Natural?

Well, for starts, the Eb creates a five-note consecutive whole tone row - from Cb through G - just one note short of a full Whole Tone Scale.

It also cancels the Diminished Scale's total half step / whole step symmetry, although from F through Db, it's still in full effect.

This process, which is really only used here as an example to point out the differences between the two scales, can be reversed as well.


Am I the only one who heard a bell?

B. Stern

<![CDATA['Trane Changing Tracks - Rhythmic Variety]]>Mon, 21 Nov 2016 09:00:46 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/trane-changing-tracks-rhythmic-variety'Trane Changing Tracks - Rhythmic Variety Picture
In belated remembrance of the late John Coltrane's 90th birthday, here's a cute little four bar "digital pattern" exercise based on the Cycle of Descending Major 3rds (a.k.a. Coltrane Changes) through the keys.

As mentioned previously in these pages, 'Trane used these four note digital groupings, played in eighth notes, to better negotiate the rapid tempi of several of his classic originals (Giant Steps, Countdown, Satellite, etc), which were based on the descending Maj. 3rd Cycle.

'Trane had an arsenal of these groupings, many of them variations of simple 1235 on Maj. chords (C-D-E-G on C Maj) and b7123 on dominant chords (Db-Eb-F-G on Eb7), as classic examples.

The exercise contained in the downloadable pdf is based on 3513, b795b7.(F-Ab-Db-F on Db Maj & D-F#-B-D on E7), which in eighth notes, can be viewed as inversions of a Major triad (Db) and a minor triad (B min) one whole step lower. As these triads transpose down a Maj 3rd in each instance for the next two measures (A Maj | G min and F Maj | Eb min, respectively), this equates to a descending whole tone bass line in as in "Satellite", (in G concert) where the 5fth of the dominant chords (the minor triads here) are in the bass.

While playing the line in this exercise- or any line, for that matter - in constant eighth notes can be great for practicing, it can quickly get tiring and monotonous if done in a real world performance situation.

Rhythmic variety and balance is the ingredient that gives all the other ingredients their dimension.

Below are examples of how one could simply add rhythmic variety to line #1 of this exercise, without changing the melodic content.

The first two bars of the original exercise, shown below in Ex. #1, are all in eighth notes.

Rhythmic motion, tension and release can be obtained by employing rests, by omitting selected notes, and by moving remaining notes so that they fall and accent different parts of the beat, as in Ex. #2.

Ex. #1

Since there are two F's in the first group of eighth notes in the original, and two D's in the second group, we can replace one apiece with eighth note rests, shifting several of the other notes rhythmically by an eighth note (below).

Ex. #2.

Ex. #3 (below) is a variation of ex. #2. with strategically placed rests.
Another method of rhythmic displacement, (Ex. #4), is anticipation. The pickup note to bar #1, sets the tone as it shifts the first group of eighth notes earlier, so that the last eighth of each 4 note group in both measures (the "ands" of 2 & 4), "anticipates" the chord change on the next downbeat.

Ex. #4
Another important and classic rhythmic device used in breaking up eighth note monotony is the judicious use of triplets. That just might be the subject of another post.

These are just a few quick examples, as there are an almost unlimited number of possibilities in general. As an improviser, being able to take a phrase of straight eighth or sixteenth notes and create rhythmic diversity with rests, for example, is an essential skill to develop.

It can make your exercises sound like music and your music sound even more musical.

Download PDF
Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[8 Will Get You Six - A Diminished Scale Hexatonic]]>Fri, 21 Oct 2016 09:46:32 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/8-will-get-you-six-a-diminished-scale-hexatonic8 Will Get You Six - A Diminished Scale Hexatonic
The 8 note (octatonic) diminished scale has been an essential and popular improvisational tool since at least the mid 1950's. Over dominant chords especially, it's been a common “go to” device for creating “inside / outside“ harmonic tension and resolution.

Because of its alternating whole step / half step (and vice versa) interval scheme, a symmetrical scale structure is formed, which divides the octave into 4 equal parts, spaced in minor thirds.

This symmetrical construction not only builds diminished triads and 7th chords on each of its scale steps, but forms, as well, a number of leaner, meaner 6 note permutations of the original 8 note scale, consisting of several combinations of Major and minor triads.

This simple four bar line is fashioned from 2 of these triads (triad pair) found in any of the three diminished scales – namely, a Major triad and the minor triad found a min. 3rd above it (eg. C Maj & Eb min). The resulting 6 note (hexatonic) scale in this case would be (in C): CEbE - Gb - GBb.

Formed vertically as a chord, this configuration spells out a C7 #9#11 (Eb min. over C Maj).

Functionally, if employed as a bII7, it resolves smoothly to Bb min over B Maj. (B Maj7#11) or C# Maj. over B Maj (B 6/9 #11).

Expressed melodically, the ear would perceive it as having both Maj and min 3rds, as well as both a flat and natural 5th. This creates a strong blues oriented flavor.

Although formed from the above mentioned Major and minor triads, this particular line, ascending and descending in diatonic 3rds, might more accurately be considered a hexatonic line rather than a triad pair, as I have sometimes wondered what the difference is, if any, between the two.

So then, what is the difference?

A triad pair, by definition, is two mutually exclusive triads (i.e. no repeated notes between them). A hexatonic scale can be any scale containing six notes.

A triad pair, being comprised of six notes, will always be hexatonic, while a hexatonic scale need not be a triad pair. Also, the order in which the triads are presented is not always important, although it can make a difference as to how one hears the root or tonic of that particular group of pitches..

A line from a triad pair might alternate through several inversions of each complete triad (eg. G-C-E-G, Gb-Bb-Eb-GbE-G-C-E,  Eb-Gb-Bb-Eb, etc.); whereas a hexatonic line, such as the subject of this post, might be expressed in a non-triadic, linear fashion.

The net harmonic flavor would be about the same with both, the difference being the effect that the melodic order and rhythm of the line would have on the listener. 

Or am I just be splitting hairs here?

Also of note is the close relationship this 6 note scale has with the 5th mode of an Eb Pentatonic b2 (C - Eb - E - G - Bb).

In fact it is a Penta b2 with an added Gb.

There are 4 of these mutually exclusive hexatonic / triad pairs found in each of the three diminished scales, making 12 in all.

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Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[For Your High-Ness: An Etude on "Someday My Prince Will Come"]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 14:00:44 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/for-your-high-ness-an-etude-on-someday-my-prince-will-comeFor Your High-Ness:
An Etude on "Someday My Prince Will Come"

Picture"Heah come da Prince!"
This is yet another solo style etude, which I this time fashioned from the chord changes of the popular Standard American Song, "Someday My Prince Will Come".

This tune has been in my repertoire for a while, but I started to take a closer look at it recently, for reasons I'll get into.

The music for "Someday My Prince Will Come" was composed and scored by Frank Churchill back in 1937 for the first ever full length animated Disney movie, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

I don't think I've ever actually seen the whole movie myself, but I think we all grew up knowing about little Ms. White and her seven vertically challenged buddies (Sleepy, Creepy, Peepee, Goofy, Doofy, Humpty & Dumpty....I think - off the top of my head; no?!?!?).

In any case, Someday My Prince has been a staple for improvising musicians and singers and has been recorded often - the definitive version possibly being Miles Davis' 1961 recording on Columbia (featuring tenor solos by both Hank Mobley and John Coltrane) from the album of the same name.

A few of the elements that have made this tune attractive to improvisers (and the classic that it's become) are:
it's 32 bar ABAC song form,
3/4 waltz time and
simple but deceptive chord changes.
One of the first things I had to clear up for myself was how to understand and negotiate the D7 (concert) something in the second bar of of each A section (bars #2 & #17). As it relates to the melody notes - Bb & F# (concert), or b13 & 3 - I suspected some type of altered dominant scale possibility, so I went with D7altered scale material (Eb Melodic Minor) here..

One might first think of a D7 resolving to some kind of G (V7-I), but wait......it deceptively resolves to Eb Maj, which is a Maj 3rd down from G. The A in the melody would suggest an Eb lydian type of scalar approach. Actually, one might still think of it as G natural minor (aeolian) with an Eb in the bass.

The other interesting point - for me, probably the most interesting - is the descending Db dim.7 passing chord which takes place in bars #10 & #14, in the B, or second 8 bar section of the tune. What threw me a bit in the beginning was choosing which diminished scale sounds best here, half tone/ whole tone (Db-D-E-F-G-Ab-Bb-B) or whole/ half tone (Db-Eb-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C).

At first, the former choice of the half/ whole diminished scale seemed to make the most sense, since it contains all the notes of a G7b9#9#11 13 chord which is the V7 of the next chord - Cmin7,
but it just didn't sound or feel right against the recordings, including the Aebersold track used in the audio example (link below) of this etude.


Because, I finally realized that the whole tone/ half tone diminished scale contains the notes of a C7 with a b9, #9, #11 & 13, the dominant of the root of the next chord after Cmin7; which is F7.

In fact, the A in the melody (13th of C7) in that measure is the giveaway, since it is present only in the whole/ half.

In other words, the Db dim7 in bars #10 & #14 basically functions as a C7b9 13 with the b9 in the bass (C13/ Db), or the II7 (V7 of V7) in the key of Bb. The whole purpose of most dim.7 passing chords, ascending or descending, is to facilitate the creation of a chromatic bass line; in this case D - Db - C and possibly F7/ B as a tritone sub in bars #9-12 and #13-17.

Uhh....I think I've got it now.

Getting to the etude specifically, I wrote it from my horn, phrase by phrase as I might play it and then tweaked it, where needed.

Some of my scale choices throughout are:

Melodic Minor over dominant 7th chords (measures #2, 4, 6-8, 12, 16, 18, 20, 24, 26 & 30)

Whole Tone/ Half Tone Diminished over dim. 7th chords in bars #10, 14 & 28.

I managed to sneak in an Augmented scale over the Eb Maj7 in bar #19, and a piece of the same scale again in bar #22.

Bars #11-12 and #15-16 are examples where I express the ii-V7 (C-7 / F7alt, in each case) intervallically - the Dorian mode for the ii and Melodic Minor for the V7alt; using intervals, for the most part, other than that of a second, although there are a few in there.

In bars #29-32, the focus is on the use of "digital type" patterns (i.e. 1235, (b)7123, etc.), a technique frequently employed by John Coltrane from ca. 1957 - 1961, give or take.

Bar #29 (Bb Maj7/ F) starts with a 3 4 5 6 (Bb Maj. scale) sixteenth note pattern the 2nd beat, moves down to a b3 4 5 6 (Ab Melodic Minor) sixteenth note group on the first beat of bar #30 (B dim7/ F, which is the same as G7b9), moving down to the G on the first 16th note of bar #31. This is where it gets kind of interesting. Originally I had the first group of 4 sixteenth notes as G-A-B-D, but removed the A to break up the stream a little bit. With the A still in there, the whole measure would read: 1235 in G;; 8 7 b7 8 over Bb7 (Mixolydian); 3 b3 2 b2 in Eb Maj.

If you didn't catch it already, the superimposed harmony in bar #31 that the line suggests (G - Bb7 - Eb) represents exactly one half of a complete Cycle of Descending Major thirds, or "Coltrane Change cycle, which would continue as (-Gb7 - B - D7) to complete the cycle.

As it is, the cycle continues in bar #32. The original lead sheet might say F7, the line says superimpose 1 2 3 5 in Eb; b7 1 2 3 of F#7; and 1 2 3 5 of B; which is the tritone sub of F7, (the V7 of Bb, the home key) and which resolves perfectly.

All this sounds especially good over these last four bars, since it is over an F pedal, which heightens the tension before going back Bb at the top.

Rhythmically, I felt a lot of triplets, which is something I'm still trying to smooth out the rough edges with.

A triplet feel undercurrent is going on all the time in this music, (listen to Elvin Jones) and there are ways to express it and break it up. I guess I also wanted to avoid steady streams of straight eighth notes and/ or constant 16th note feel. To to achieve a rhythmic balance within the phrases themselves, I've tried to mix it up.

I think there's a lot of practice material here. Maybe take it a line at a time. Isolate some of the ii-V7s and play them through the keys. Use your imagination and have as much fun with it as I did.

For the recorded example, I used a short piece at the beginning of the track from Aebersold Play-a-Long #58 "Unforgettable Standards".

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Bb         Concert         Eb

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Monk's "Skippy" - The Etude]]>Wed, 17 Aug 2016 12:03:11 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/monks-skippy-the-etudeMonk’s “Skippy” - The Etude Picture
Based on a previous post, which included a breakdown of Thelonious Monk's challenging original, "Skippy", I finally got around to putting together a one chorus, 32 bar "solo style" etude, as a means to decipher ways to navigate the changes of this roller coaster ride of a tune.

Monk's only recording of "Skippy" was from the 1952 Blue Note session that was released as part of "The Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 2", and which included an alternate take of the tune, as well.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, composing an etude for oneself can be extremely beneficial, in that it slows down the improvisational process and allows one to better see, hear and comprehend certain melodic and harmonic connections and how they tend to resolve - or not.

It's kind of like transcribing your own mind.

"Skippy" is, in itself, a study in the usage of dominant 7ths and their tritone substitutions (eg. F#7 for C7), moving around the cycle of fifths, as well as descending chromatically.

As the defining characteristic of a dominant 7th chord is the tritone between its 3rd and b7th (C7 = E & Bb, and its tritone sub; F#7 = A# & E), and being that there are only 2 beats per chord for the bulk of the tune (one beat per chord in measures #25-28), I've included the tritone melodically for each chord, in most cases, usually as part of a 2, 3 or 4 eighth note grouping; of which there are more than a few possibilities.
First of all, check out the pretty colors!

The 3 note shape that makes up the first three dominant chords (D7, G7, C7 concert) is highlighted in yellow in the above graphic. It transposes down chromatically (with slight variations in rhythm) for the first measure and a half, and each chord has a single note placed between its respective tritone.

In the case of the D7, it's a Bb (b13 or +5) between the F# (3) and C (b7) tritone. The symbol for this type of chord usually reads D7+5, referring to an augmented 5th, but I'll stick with b13 this time.

For the next chord, G7, the figure transposes down chromatically, but the root cycles down a perfect 5th. The F becomes the b7 and is on the bottom while its tritone B, is the Maj 3rd and on top. The A, as natural 9th in this case, is placed in between the two.

Had the root also moved down chromatically, in parallel with the rest of the figure, we would have simply had a Db7 (b13), the tritone sub of G7, with the exact same interval relationships as the previous chord.

In measure #2, the 3 note figure again moves down chromatically. The root resolves once more to the next V7 (C7) in the cycle of 5ths. The 3rd (E) is again on the bottom while the b7 (Bb) tritone is on top. The b13 (Ab) is, as before, caught in the middle.

While this 3 note figure could be derived from several scale systems, the most obvious choice would be the whole tone scale (a favorite of Monk's); followed by melodic minor (a favorite of mine). They are both excellent choices for conveying the 7 b13 (or 7+5) sound.

Speaking of melodic minor, the two 4 note groups in measure #3 (purple highlight) which make up Bb7 and A7, are derived from that scale (as well as from the Major scale system). This configuration yields a D Maj 7#11/ Bb, better known as Bb7 #9 b13 (see graphic for note labels), and moves down a half step in parallel (including its root), to A7 #9 b13, the tritone sub of Eb7, the next point in the cycle of 5ths.

The cycle continues chromatically with a descending Ab7 9 arpeggio in measure #4, connecting in anticipation to the b7 (B) of the next cycle point, Db7. The 4 note ascending figure (green highlight) in whole steps (b7-1-2(9)-3, in terms of the root) is an important one, which was often utilized at one point by a well known, former Monk disciple named John Coltrane, as part of his legacy, which became known as "Coltrane Changes".

As previously mentioned, there are more than a few ways to place melodic content in and around a tritone. Some other configurations in this etude are:

b7-1-2-3 (G7) & (F7) meas. #5

3-#4-#5-b7 (Ab7) same as b7-1-2-3 (D7) tritone sub - meas. #7

3-#4-b7-1 (G7) meas.#8

b5-3-1-b7 (F#7) meas.#9

3-2-b7 (E7) meas. #10

b7-6-b7-3 (Ab7 & G7) meas. #11

Can you find any others?

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Bb         C         Eb

Note: The harmonic substitutions in measures 29 & 30 are voiced E-D#-G-B (Eb7+5/ E) and Eb-G-A-Db (Eb7b5) (concert) respectively, each lasting a bar apiece.
Both the melody and harmony from those 2 bars are derived from the E Melodic Minor scale system.
B. Stern
<![CDATA[A Line in Fourths ii-V7 - 027 Trichords]]>Thu, 14 Jul 2016 12:06:36 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/a-line-in-fourths-ii-v7-027-trichordsA Line in Fourths ii-V7 - 027 Trichords
This 4 bar melodic line is built predominantly on the interval of a perfect 4th, wrapped neatly within the confines of various 027 (Major Scale steps 1-2-5) trichords (3 note groupings) and their inversions.

As a technique for melodic and harmonic improvisation, 027s began to show up regularly in the early to mid 1960's in solos and compositions of such pioneers as McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson; Woody, Wayne, Herbie .....y'know; them guys.

The use of the 027 trichord, as a basic melodic unit, was and is a practical way to break free of the standard bebop scalar motif approach. It not only opens the door to a more intervallic melodic line (perfect 4ths, pentatonics), but can easily lead to the creation of an inside-outside (and vice versa) tension and release approach to building improvised and composed melodic lines; not to mention the potential for piquing ones interest in other types of trichord units (013, 025, etc).

First of all, the numerical designations of any trichord are based on the distance, in half steps, ascending from the "root".

Ex: C=0, D=2 (half steps), G=7 (half steps).

In 12 tone parlance, a trichord's inversion is known as a a rotation. Root position (C-D-G) is prime form. First inversion (D-G-C) is called first rotation. Second inversion (G-C-D) is second rotation.

Fair enough?

In this eight bar line, different inversions of 027s are employed over a 4 bar ii-V7-i; with a slight harmonic detour. The time signature is 12/8, which should feel like 4/4 being played in triplets. Tempo:  dotted quarter = 120 bpm.
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The above example demonstrates how this line, consisting of 027s might be harmonized. In this case, I tried descending tritones (dominant 7ths, cycle of 5ths, tritone subs), for the most part, and they seemed to work. In most cases, the bottom note of each chord voicing is the root, which might normally be played by a bassist.

The chord symbols refer to the left hand voicings only and don't take into account the extensions created by the melodic line.

In the second four measures, various eighth notes are replaced with rests. This method of tonal subtraction is an example of how one might break up the potential monotony of a constant stream of eighth notes, and inject the line with a rhythmic life of its own.

Here's a breakdown of the trichords in Measure #1. Remember, "root position" of an 027 is the same as Major Scale steps 1-2-5, with the bottom note determining its so called "key":

A-7       D-A-E desc.   first inversion (rotation)   prime form:  D-E-A

F7b5     F#-B-C#         second inversion              prime form:  B-C#-F#

Bb9  -  This trichord (Ab-Eb-F) is not an 027 (it's an 025). However, if we include the final note of the previous trichord (C#) with the first two of this one, we get C#-Ab-Eb (first inversion of Db-Eb-Ab prime form) trichord. The C# overlaps and is an extension (b13 and #9) to both F7 and Bb7, respectively. This type of anticipation works moving into the next chord, as well: Eb-F-Bb prime form.

Eb7b5  -  Trichord F-Bb-C (second inversion, Bb-C-F) again starts from the final note of the previous group. The trichord under the Eb7 (Bb-C-G) is an 029, but from its second note, it overlaps 027-wise into the next chord D13 (C-G-D descending; prime form C-D-G).

See if you can label the trichords in the next measure? It's as easy as 125 (or 027)!

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B. Stern
<![CDATA[A 'Trane Back@sswards - The Cycle of Ascending Major Thirds]]>Mon, 20 Jun 2016 10:41:29 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/a-trane-backsswards-the-cycle-of-ascending-major-thirdsA ‘Trane Back@sswards - The Cycle of Ascending Major Thirds
"Giant Steps, Giant Steps, Giant Steps"! How we love ya! As one of John Coltrane's best known originals, it's been an obstacle course as well as a right of passage for several generations of aspiring improvisers since its recorded inception in 1959.

Despite its notoriety, "Giant Steps" is but one of 9 known Coltrane originals in which he featured, in whole or in part, the Cycle of Descending Major 3rds, aka "Coltrane Changes ("Countdown", "Satellite" and "26-2" are some of the others).

Originally, 'Trane's intended use of this cycle was as a substitution for the more mundane ii-V7 harmonic movement as well as a device, which in his own words, "...would take me out of the ordinary path".

Since the Cycle of Major 3rds uses three key centers and divides the octave into 3 equal parts, regardless of direction (eg. B-G-Eb / descending or B-Eb-G / ascending), this poses a question: What's the difference in the quality and effect of a descending cycle (Coltrane Changes, aka Giant Steps Changes), as opposed to an ascending one?

To ponder this query, let's take a few giant steps back, so that we might get a more cosmic view of the larger picture. Shall we?

First, let's do an aural and visual comparison of the two versions of this cycle, each of which consists of 3 Maj key centers - each a Maj 3rd apart, preceded by its dominant (V7).

Each of the 4 bar piano examples below contains a complete cycle with repeat, with the last two quarter notes of measure #4, in each case, representing a ii-V7 turnaround back to the top. They are presented here at a slow 100 bpm, using basic shell voicings (root, 3rd & 7th), and written an octave up from where they sound for easier reading.

Both examples are in "Giant Steps" key - B concert.

Ex. 1:

Cycle of Descending Major 3rds (aka "Giant Steps" changes or "Coltrane Changes"):
                                           B Maj  D7 / G Maj  Bb7 / Eb Maj  F#7 / B Maj

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The root movement in the above example goes "up a minor 3rd, down a 5th" (octave displacement due to contrary motion notwithstanding) measure by measure. This translates, unsurprisingly, to 3 Maj chords, descending by a Maj 3rd, preceded by their dominants (V7).

That's the basis for "Giant Steps", "Countdown", "Satellite", etc. But you knew that already, right!?

While an understanding of the root movement can be important, thinking of each chord as its own, separate harmonic entity can give one the impression that there's more here to navigate than there really is.

Because the dominant chord on beats 3 & 4 of each measure and the tonic chord on beats 1 & 2 of the following measure are V7 - I to the same key, there are really only 3 harmonic entities (key centers) to deal with rather than 6.

With this in mind, it becomes much easier to create basic digital (as in fingers, not 1s & 0s) patterns and arpeggios, as Coltrane did, which cover both the dominant and tonic chords and treat them as a harmonic pair. This holds true for both cycles (Ex 3 & 4).

Ex. 2:
Cycle of Ascending Major 3rds:
                                     B Maj  Bb7 / Eb Maj  D7 / G Maj  F#7 / B Maj

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In the example of the "NOT Giant Steps" Cycle of Ascending Maj 3rds above (Ex. 2), the root movement is down a half step, down a 5th (or up a 4th). The order in which the key centers in measures 2 & 3 (Eb & G) appear are now reversed from that in the descending cycle (Ex. 1).

Upon listening to Ex. 2, one's initial reaction might be, "...kinda sounds & feels like "Giant Steps", but...it's different!"; which would be a pretty fair assessment. It's still a Maj 3rd cycle, only the direction has changed; with the obvious difference being in the route taken - low road vs. high road, so to speak.

One thing comes to mind here. Because the Descending Maj 3rd Cycle (Ex. 1) has, what in a classical sense might be considered as being the "stronger" root movement of the two, it's probably no surprise that John Coltrane chose the descending version of the cycle over the ascending one (Ex. 2) for his "device". I think it would be safe to assume that he was well aware of both versions, and he made his choice.

That's not to say that the ascending cycle can't be just as interesting or useful. To the contrary, I feel that its possibilities are definitely worthy of further investigation and exploration, don't you?

Besides direction, another important difference between these two examples is, in each case, the different possibilities for connecting the Maj. and dominant chords melodically in each measure.

To illustrate this difference, the line in the example of your basic "Giant Steps" formula below (Ex. 3) uses a 'Trane-like digital 1-2-3-5 pattern for the tonic Major key and chord (B Maj), for the first 2 beats of measure #1; followed by the dominant (D7) of the new key a Major 3rd lower (G Maj) in bar #2. The 5-4-3-2 numerical annotation refers to scale steps of the new key, and not its dominant, which resolves neatly back to the tonic (G - scale step 1).

This pattern repeats itself for the next 2 measures (the new key centers being G and Eb) with measure #4 being a ii-V7 turnaround, prolonging the movement back to B Maj in measure #1. Coltrane would usually have a ii-V here leading into a different set of key centers ("Satellite", "Giant Steps", "26-2", etc.).

Ex. 3:

Translating, or transposing that formula to the Ascending Cycle works out just fine, as in the example below (Ex. 4) as well as the download.

The connection points between the Maj and dominant chords are different in each cycle - notes F# & D connect chords B & D7 in measure#1 of Ex. 3 (descending cycle) - while at the same spot in Ex. 4 (ascending cycle), notes F# & Bb connect chords B & Bb7. Notice that both connection points are intervals of a Maj 3rd - one descending, the other ascending.

This basic, symmetrical melodic pattern is just the tip of the iceberg of melodic possibilities. It outlines the harmony and connects the key centers easily. It may not be something you'd use all the way through if you were actually improvising, but as an exercise, it's an excellent way to get this cycle into your ears, brain,  and under your fingers.

Ex. 4:

Ok! So now that you've seen, heard, and got a whiff of both the Descending and Ascending versions of the Maj 3rd cycle, you might be asking yourself, "What's the purpose!?", or "I have enough trouble playing "Giant Steps", why do I need to add this to my headaches?"

My answer to the first question, which applies to the second as well, is that one needs to be reminded once again of Coltrane's original intention for this cycle; which was as a substitution and enhancement device for the garden variety ii-V7-I chord progression. Being fluent in both of these cycles (and others, as well) will only increase your options and open up new avenues of discovery.

To the second question, I would answer simply; put the tune "Giant Steps", to the side for the time being! Focus on learning it's main element, the Cycle of Maj 3rds, descending and ascending, and the universe will open up and "Giant Steps" truths will reveal themselves to you in abundance!

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Treble Clef                Bass Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Shape Up! - A Melodic Minor ii-V7 Shape]]>Sun, 22 May 2016 17:57:38 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/shape-up-a-melodic-minor-ii-v7-shapeShape Up! - A Melodic Minor ii-V7 Shape Picture
Here's a four bar Melodic Minor ii-V7 "shape" that will get and keep you in shape - and you don't even need to join a gym, Jim!

The simplicity and symmetry of this little shape make for a perfect warmup type exercise, especially when taken through all the keys.

If you're looking for a way to familiarize yourself with the sound and feel of a Melodic Minor ii-V (using two different Melodic Minor scales), right here might not be a bad place to start.

As with the vast majority of exercises on this blog, you'll find it transposed to all 12 keys. Here, each key is presented in a pair of four bar phrases - the first in continuous eighth notes (first 2 bars); the second broken up a bit by replacing certain notes with rests, thus introducing an element of rhythmic tension and release to the line.

Adding a suggested left hand piano voicing was done originally for my own edification (I am definitely a non-pianist). As with the line itself, the left hand comping rhythm varies between the first and second four bars - the first 4 is in whole notes; the second 4 broken up rhythmically to compliment the line itself, as well as to add a further rhythmic dimension.

                                                                         Take a look:

                                                                        Have a Listen:
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The basic melodic breakdown goes something like this:

Line #1, measure #1ii - E-7b5 - G Melodic Minor (E Locrian ♮2, hence the F#).

Line #1, measure #2V7 - A7alt - Bb Melodic Minor (A altered - b7 = G, b9 = Bb, b13 = F, root = A, b7 = G, b5 = Eb, 3 = Db (C#), b13 = F)

Line #1, measures #3 & 4I or i - resolves to D..., but D what? If you take a look at the left hand voicing D-A-B-C# (with an E in the melody), you'll notice that the 3rd, either Major or minor (F# or F), has been omitted; so you be the judge. It's purposely meant to be ambiguous here, in order to work with both Maj. & min. melodic material.

In making a comparison of the line between bars #1 & #2 (the ii & V chords), we notice that while both phrases are not exactly symmetrical in their comparative interval relationships, they're virtually identical in regards to their shape. The directions and numerical values of the intervals are all the same; the differences lie only in their qualities (i.e., Maj. vs. min. 2nds and 3rds). Check it out.

Meas. #1 - M3-P4-m3-m2-M3-m2-m3
Meas. #2 - m3-P4-M3-M2-M3-M2-M3

Except for the second and fifth intervals of each measure, all the other interval qualities are reversed. The fact that in measure #2, the altered dominant (altered scale) pattern begins a minor third lower than in bar #1, might have something to do with this phenomenon.

For those of you who are familiar with using different Melodic Minor scales over a ii-7b5 and a V7alt (The Melodic Minor Handbook), a common trick is to transpose exactly what's played on the ii chord, up a min. 3rd to the V. This creates a true symmetrical relationship between the the two phrases, with all their intervals being exactly the same in each case.

In this case, though, starting the second Melodic Minor phrase a minor 3rd lower creates an almost complete inverse interval relationship of sorts.

Kinda gives ya goose bumps, doesn't it?!

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                                                                          Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Playin' the Angles! - An Angular, Intervallic ii-V7-I Line]]>Tue, 12 Apr 2016 11:01:11 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/playin-the-angles-an-angular-intervallic-ii-v7-i-linePlayin' the Angles!
An Angular, Intervallic ii-V7-I Line

Picture"Angular" by Stephen Younts
This nifty little 4 bar ii-V7 line is based on a somewhat angular shape, which is almost identical for both the ii and the V chords.

The line's angularity is due to the absence of any consecutive 2nds (Maj. or min.), with the bulk of its interval content being comprised of different qualities of 3rds and 4ths.

This, however, is not a line built on a four or five note scale. Rather, the ii chord contains 6 out of the 7 diatonic note choices from the dorian mode, while the V7 contains all 7 from Melodic Minor (altered scale).

One of the beauties of this line lies in observing how, while moving from the ii to the V7, the scale tones become altered on the dominant side, while the integrity of its shape remains intact.

Using Line #1 as an example: G-7 / C7alt / F / F | (your basic ii-V7-I with an altered dominant).

The time signature is 12/8, felt as 4 dotted quarters (same as a 4/4 triplet feel). Each measure is comprised of four 3 note groupings.

In Line #1, measure #1, groups 1, 2 & 4 are inversions of 027 trichords (Maj. scale steps 1-2-5); the exception being group 2, which is a root position min. triad.  A trichord is a three note grouping defined by the distance, in semitones between each note, from its root, which is "0" to the other two member tones.

eg.: F = 0, G = 2, C = 7. If we were to put the F on top (G-C-F, ie. two P4ths) we have a first inversion 027 trichord, which happens to be the initial grouping in measure #1.

It's possible to build 5 different 027 trichords from a Major Scale. In F Maj:

F-G-C,  G-A-D,  Bb-C-F,  C-D-G,  D-E-A. The highlighted bottom notes spell out a Bb Pentatonic Scale (IV Mode). In a Major Scale, the relationship between P4s (of which there are 6), 027s (5), and Maj. Pentatonics (3) is intertwined & inescapable (like white on rice; spots on dice, etc.).

Intervallically and directionally, measure #1 also looks like this:

     up: P4 - P4 | down: m3 - M3 - m3 | up: P4 | down: M2 - P4 - m3 | up: P5 | down: M2 / m3

Line #1, measure #2 is based on a C# Melodic Minor scale (C7alt), and all seven note possibilities
are present.

Melodic Minor - and therefore the altered scale - has a unique interval make-up consisting of four P4s, a pair of tritones, and a diminished 4th (which sounds and functions, in most cases, as a Maj. 3rd).

Because of this, the harmonically neutral 027 trichord does not really capture the sound of an altered dominant 7th chord, even though the Melodic Minor system has 3 of them.

eg. C# Melodic Minor (measure #2) - C#-D#-G#,  F#-G#-A#,  G#-A#-D#. So, no 027s here my friends!

Here is the interval breakdown for bar #2 (C7alt):

      up: #4 - P4 | down: m3 - M3 - M3 | up: P4 | down: M2 - M3 - M2 | up: P4 | down: M2 / up: m3

Here's measure #1 once more for a side by side comparison:
     (up: P4 - P4 | down: m3 - M3 - m3 | up: P4 | down: M2 - P4 - m3 | up: P5 | down: M2 / m3)

I count 5 small interval changes (4 by half step; 1 by whole) and 1 directional change. The shape lives on!

Here's how the 4 bars might look when stacked vertically (with the b5 omitted from the dominant):

              G-7                                 C7alt                               F Maj7 #11

This line feels good when played at ca. dotted quarter = 120 bpm (quarter note = 180).
Download PDF
Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Korner Karnataka #7 - Melakarta #45 - Shubhapantuvarali]]>Tue, 15 Mar 2016 10:39:22 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/korner-karnataka-7-melakarta-45-shubapantavaraliA Little Shubhap in Your BeBop?
Melakarta #45 - Shubhapantuvarali

In this post we'll take a look at Melakarta #45 - Shubhapantuvarali (that's shoo-bop pahn-too-vah-rahlly....no really!). "Shubhap" (for short) has the same tonal DNA as another Melakarta, namely, #36 - Chalanata, which is the subject of an earlier post. It might be helpful to check that out for some pertinent background info, as well as any of the other posts in this category (hey, why not? - they're FreeB's).

Due to the process known as graha bedham, which changes the śruti, or tonic, of a scale (Melakarta) to a different note within that scale, Melas #36 and #45 have the same tonal makeup, with each containing the exact same interval relationships. Only the starting point is different in each case.

This is the same type of relationship found between, for example, the Major scale and any of its modes (Dorian, Phrygian, etc.) - same 7 scale tones; different tonic.

As with the other posts on the subject, the objective here is to investigate the usage of these Carnatic (South Indian) Melakartas (there are 72 in all), as one would treat any 7 note western scale - as a melodic improvisational tool.

Shubhap (#45) can be thought as being formed from the 3rd scale step of Mela #36 (Chalanata). Conversely, the tonic of Chalanata can be found on the 6th scale step of Shubhap.

Each scale, however,  has it's own distinct "soul", with Shubhab having, decidedly, the darker vibe of the two; similar to Mixolydian vs. Locrian, for example, in a modal sense.

In actuality, its tonal layout - 1-b2-b3-#4 5-b6-7-8, would equate this Mela to a Phrygian #4, 7, in western terms. The b3, #4 and the resulting diminished triad from the root - helps to give this scale its dark, brooding and mysterious quality.

Referring to the keyboard graphic on the right, the tritone between scale steps 1 & #4; as well as a full Ab7#9, make for a possible bVI7 - V7 - i harmonic movement.

Although lacking a tritone, the V7 (G7 in C) could theoretically come from the scale tones G (root), Ab (b9), B (3), C (11), Db (b9), & Eb (b13).

The 8 two bar melodic phrases on page 2 of the download are but a few possibilities as to how this Mela might be used melodically in this type of improvisational setting.

It's always fun to practice with a drone. Download these shruti box drone tones, or stream them online.

Shubhap! And ya don't stop!

Download PDF
Treble Clef               Bass Clef
B. Stern
<![CDATA[JoHen Tunes Up "Night & Day" - Joe Henderson's Reharm & Solo Transcription]]>Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:52:02 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/johen-tunes-up-night-day-joe-hendersons-reharm-solo-transcriptionJoHen Tunes Up "Night & Day"
Joe Henderson's Reharmonization and Solo Transcription

PictureJoe Henderson w/ Horace Silver in France- July, 1964
Joe Henderson's tenor saxophone solo on his reharmonized version of Cole Porter's "Night & Day" (downloadable transcription below), was recorded for the Blue Note label at Rudy Van Gelder's studio (where else!) in Engewood Cliffs, NJ on Nov. 30th, 1964, ten days before John Coltrane recorded "A Love Supreme" in the same studio.

"Night & Day" would be the final track on the "B" side of the original vinyl LP "Inner Urge", Henderson's fourth as a leader for Blue Note; and featured then current Coltrane Quartet members McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones on piano and drums respectively; as well as Bob Cranshaw, who was pretty much Blue Note's house bassist at the time

The album "Inner Urge" was titled after the now classic Henderson original and the subject of an earlier post. Both the tune and the album are iconic examples of '60's compositional, harmonic and improvisational innovations.

PictureA stamp for JoHen?
At this early juncture of his career, Joe was a busy man; having not only recorded 3 of his own albums as a leader for Blue Note during the preceding year and a half, but having also appeared on at least a dozen albums as a sideman for Blue Note during that period; including the "hit" recordings of Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder" and Horace Silver's "Song for My Father". Henderson also became a regular member of Silver's quintet that Spring; a gig that would last nearly two years.

As guitarist Tim Fischer pointed out in his excellent post on the subject of Henderson's reharm of "Night & Day", Joe's choice of that tune for this session was unique because it turned out to be the only standard he recorded on any of his 5 albums for Blue Note.

Interestingly, Fischer points out composer Cole Porter's frequent use of a ii-V7-I harmonic substitution based on the b6th degree of the parent key at the start of several of his best known standards.

All of You” (iv min. - I), “I Love You”, “What is This Thing Called Love” (ii-7b5 - V7 - I), and “Night & Day” (bVI Maj7 - V7 - I) all use some version of this substitution, which includes Maj. or minor chords with roots in the same diminished triad as the b6.

He also notes how the b6 Maj7 creates a Maj. 3rd key relationship to the home key, reminiscent of Coltrane's use of the  "Cycle of Descending Major Thirds", better known as "Coltrane Changes".

In Henderson's version and key, that translates to:

Bb Maj7 / A7 / D Maj7 / C-7 F7 // Bb Maj7 /

The Maj. 3rd relationship (in Henderson's case Bb and D Maj), had already been established by Cole Porter in his original version. Henderson simply inserted a ii-V7 (C-7 F7) in measure #4 in order to take it back to Bb in bar #5, thus creating a true descending Maj. 3rd (Coltrane Change) movement.

Fischer points out that Henderson does not complete the Maj. 3rd cycle which would temporarily modulate into Gb Maj.  Although he cites examples between Henderson's reharm and Coltrane's "Countdown", it has seemed to me that Henderson's "Night & Day" might have more in common with the tune from which "Countdown" was derived; namely, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's "Tune Up". 

Tune Up (meas. #13-16):
E-7       /    F7         /  BbM7       / A7     /

Henderson's  "Night & Day" (meas. #13-16)
E-7 A7  /  C-7  F7  /  BbM7 A7  / DM7 F7 /

Coltrane's "Countdown" (meas. #-1-4)
E-7 F7 / BbM7 Db7 / GbM7 A7 / DM7

Except for the last measure and a half, Henderson's 4 bar turnaround in bars #13-16 of "Night & Day" is close to an exact match with the corresponding 4 measures of "Tune Up". Joe added the V7 (of D) in the second half of the first bar and the ii-7 (of Bb) in the first half of the second, establishing a 2 beat per chord harmonic rhythm, a la "Countdown".

Henderson then shifts the A7 (V7 of D), originally in measure #16, to the last 2 beats of the preceding bar, resolving up a Maj 3rd (from Bb) to the tonic D Maj for the first 2 beats of bar #16, only to descend back down a Maj 3rd to Bb Maj via 2 beats of F7, its dominant, to begin the second "A" section.

As mentioned previously, Henderson's reharm never moves to Gb, which would complete a full descending Maj. 3rd cycle.

What's curious here is that both tunes are in the same not often played key of D Maj (E Maj for the tenor saxophone). The original key for "Night & Day" is the very common key of Eb Maj concert (tenor key F).

Why then, did JoHen choose D Maj, of all keys; the same key as "Tune Up"?

My guess is that he saw the inherent Maj. 3rd harmonic relationships in both the last 4 bars of "Tune Up", as well as the aforementioned in "Night & Day", and made the necessary harmonic and key change adjustments to successfully fuse the two.

Just a thought!

Anyway, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at the solo.

One of the most notable features of Joe Henderson's playing of this period was his use of "sequencing", whereby he would repeat a short melodic shape and / or rhythmic motif, and take it through a set of harmonic changes.

Joe wasted no time here, as he jumped right in at bar #3 with a descending figure, mainly in 3rds, bouncing lithely and tap dancing through several key centers thru bar #8.

What could be the most memorable, singable (danceable?), etc. part of the solo, comes at the end of the second "A" section of Joe's 2nd chorus, from bars #73 thru #79.  It includes the 4 bar descending min. & dim 7ths as well as the previously mentioned turnaround.

What makes this section so musically satisfying, is that he not only maintains the melodic shape over the changing harmonies, but slight variations in rhythmic placement make it a living statement.

Sweet, indeed!

After McCoy's piano solo, in bars #258 - 263, Henderson arpeggiates descending diatonic 7th chords against the changing harmonies; accenting rhythmically, along with Elvin, and against the pulse.

These are just a few of the things, 50-plus years after the fact, that still make Joe's solo here, as well as the whole album, a timeless gem.

Download PDF
Bb       Concert       Eb
B. Stern
<![CDATA[A Cool Tonic for Your PentaUp b6]]>Thu, 14 Jan 2016 13:25:41 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/a-cool-tonic-for-your-pentaup-b6A Cool Tonic for Your PentaUp b6
Here's another in a series of Pentatonic lines aimed at stomping out the flames "Vitamin" b6 deficiency.

It's not supposed to be some sort of "snake oil" remedy you can sip on or chug down (although that could be hip), or some magic potion you could pour in your ear, so you might be able to "hear the music before it comes", a la Eddie Harris (which would be even hipper).

What it is, in fact, is another way of hearing and approaching a common 4 bar minor ii-V7-i cadence, using 3 Melodic Minor derived Pentatonic b6s, employing the "ACE" method, as described in a recent post.

All things considered, it's tried and true pretty hip, too

PictureA melodic minor (she's only 17)
If you've been reading some of my posts for a while, you might get the impression that I'm fixated on this Penta b6 thing. You could be right!

However, it's not really intentional. It just happens that I often hit upon certain ideas and relationships while in the shed that both sound fresh (to my ears, anyway) as well as pique my curiosity from an intellectual and theoretical standpoint.
In any case, this Penta b6 exercise is a result of that, and it makes as good a subject for another blog post as anything else I can think of at the moment.

So here goes.

The first thing you might notice about each 4 measure line is the time signature, 9/8; which is really the same as if it were 3/4 and the eighth notes were being played as triplets. This way, the page isn't being cluttered with tiny 3s above each of the note groupings.

The Penta b6 is derived from the 5-6-7-9-b3 scale degrees of Melodic Minor
(G Penta b6 = G-A-B-D-Eb = C-D-Eb-F-G-A-B = C Melodic Minor)

A quicker way to arrive at the same conclusion is to take a Maj. pentatonic and flat its 5th degree (Maj. 6th from the root - CDEGA becomes CDEGAb); however understanding it's Melodic Minor derivation is crucial.

As far as the ACE method is concerned; since I don't think I can explain it any better than I already have, I think I'll "plagiarize" myself just this one time (hopefully).

"ACE" refers here to the 3 different Melodic Minor keys used in a 4 bar minor ii-V-i resolving to E min. (ii: F#-7b5 / V: B7alt /i:  E- / E-), where: F#-7b5 = A Melodic Minor / B7alt = C Melodic Minor / E- = E Melodic Minor (see line #9 of this downloadable exercise).

Since Melodic Minor has no "avoid notes", we can therefore use any combination of notes from that Melodic Minor scale / key, including any of its native pentatonics.

In this case, those Pentatonic b6s would be:

F#-7b5 = A Melodic Minor = E Penta b6 (E-F#-G#-B-C)
B7alt = C Melodic Minor = G Penta b6 (G-A-B-D-Eb)
E- = E Melodic Minor = B Penta b6 (B-C#-D#-F#-G)

where the letter names of the Penta b6s would rightfully be a perfect 5th above those of their respective melodic Minor "keys".

In terms of Line #1 of the exercise below, that would translate to:

D-7b5 = F Melodic Minor = C Penta b6 (C-D-E-G-Ab)
G7alt = Ab Melodic Minor = Eb Penta b6 (Eb-F-G-Bb-Cb)
C- = C Melodic Minor = G Penta b6 (G-A-B-D-Eb)

While the letters of the Melodic Minor keys don't spell ACE anymore, the result (FAbC, in this case) always spells out the name of a minor triad.

Each measure contains all 5 notes belonging to that particular Pentatonic b6.

It's highly recommended to practice this, as well as any other exercise on this blog, with some type of play along (Aebersold, Band in a Box, iReal,etc.). If you can, play along with just a simple bass line (or just the roots), to best hear and get a feel for how the line moves against the ii-V.

Download PDF
Treble Clef              Bass Clef
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Korner Karnataka #6 - Melakarta #36 - Chalanata]]>Fri, 11 Dec 2015 17:07:52 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/korner-karnataka-6-melakarta-36-chalanataMela Down Easy With #36

I recently stumbled upon this scale, not quite knowing if it belonged to the 72 scale South Indian Carnatic Melakarta family or not. I discovered that it was, in fact  #36 - Chalanata, the sixth ragam of the sixth chakra, or group of six, and is from the same chakra as the subject of an earlier post, #31 - Yagapryia.

Checking it out from a Western point of view as a tool for improvisational vocabulary, which is my main intention; Chalanata is a seven note symmetrical scale; the two tetrachords being built off of the exact same interval scheme.

C - D# - E - F  /  G - A# - B - C

1 1/2    1/2   1/2       1    1 1/2    1/2    1/2

The sound of Chalanata should already be pretty familiar to many, as 5 of its seven scale tones form a much used minor pentatonic scale:

In C: C - D# - F -
G - A# = C minor pentatonic (aka 5th mode of Eb Maj. pentatonic).

The "soul" of this scale, however, lies in its inclusion of both Maj. & min. 3rds and 7ths, which create some further pentatonic possibilities; eg.:

D# Penta b2 = D#-E-G-A#-C (also found in the diminished scale)

D# Penta b6 = D#-F-G-A#-B (also found in Ab Melodic Minor)

As each of these two pentatonics contains a tritone (E-A# & F-B), some kind of V-I harmonic resolution could be implied in each case.

It's inherent triads, built in thirds are C Maj., C min., D# Maj., D# aug., E min. & E dim.

Because of this scale's interval layout, the common tone among all these triads turns out to be "G" in each case; which means that there are no mutually exclusive triad pairs available in Chalanata.

One of the more interesting
aspects of the Melakarta system of scales is the phenomenon of graha bedham; which shifts the tonal center (root) of a scale to another note of that same scale, while retaining its original notes and interval make up; similar to the Western modal system (D dorian, E phrygian, F lydian, etc. in C Maj.).

A certain set of criteria must
be met in order for for a scale to be considered a legit member of the 72 scale Melakarta family. However, many very different sounding and intriguing scales, legit or not, can be formed by this method.

In the case of Chalanata,
if we take the same 7 notes and hear "E" as the root (and "B" as the 5th) of the scale, we get Mela #45 -
Shubhapantuvarali, which creates a whole different vibe and atmosphere, but nevertheless, very hip and mysterious.

Chalanata, in all it's forms, is a beautiful scale, familiar yet exotic, which lays easily on the ears and in  the fingers and contains an inherently sophisticated, yet funky, bluesy quality.

Cha-la-nata! Sounds kind of "creamy"!

  Download PDF
   (3 Pages)
Treble Clef                     Bass Clef

Before performing the Chalanata ragam, Dr. Pantula Rama, explains its structure and note names, and that the more popular method of performing this scale is through it's offshoot janya raga, known as Nata, which omits the notes "da" & "ga" (Bb & E, in C) while descending the scale.
This video is evidence that MF was hip to Chalanata back in the '70s. This is a pretty cool arrangement, in a Las Vegas-y sort of way.
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Back to the Future 'Trane - Transcription of John Coltrane's 1954 Solo on "In a Mellow Tone"]]>Mon, 16 Nov 2015 10:29:41 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/november-16th-2015Back to the Future 'Trane
Transcription of John Coltrane's 1954 Solo on "In a Mellow Tone"

This transcription of the first chorus of John Coltrane's tenor solo on Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone", was taken from a live (possibly radio) recording from sometime in mid 1954, when 'Trane was on the road with Johnny Hodges' septet. The band included Hodges' fellow Ellingtonians, Harold "Shorty" Baker - trumpet, and Lawrence Brown on trombone.

This version of "Mellotone" was originally released, to my knowledge, in on a "bootleg" vinyl in the 1970's on the "Enigma" label. A friend of mine had it and I promptly copied it to cassette (remember those?.....OK, maybe not).

Then as now, 'Trane's solo here blew me away for several reasons.

First of all, through this recording, we get a glimpse of a 27 year old John Coltrane, who was still a little more than a year away from the start of his historical association with trumpeter Miles Davis. In the second chorus of this solo, which is not transcribed here, we hear a portent of things to come; i.e. sixteenth note scalar runs, which he seemed to be hearing as if from a distance, but didn't quite have the concept, which we would later know as "sheets of sound", under his complete control yet.

The first thing that should be apparent to anyone listening to this recording is: "Ain't no bebop bein' played here!". The rhythmic pulse of this music is of the Ellington and Armstrong era: quarter note bounce; swinging and danceable.

Coltrane, who almost certainly grew up hearing Ellington's music, and so was intimately familiar with it, was originally a Charlie Parker inspired alto saxophonist, switching to tenor more or less for good in 1949 or '50, while as a member of the big bands and small groups of one of bebop's co-founders', Dizzy Gillespie.

So it's like pre-Bird meets post-Bird; and in the middle.....no-Bird!

Also importantly, leading up to his tenure with Hodges, 'Trane was the tenor saxophonist with popular Rhythm & Blues (the original R 'n' B) saxophonist, Earl Bostic, for which Coltrane had great respect.

The saxophone, alto and tenor, was the main solo instrument in R 'n' B and pop music, before the advent and popularity of the electric guitar in the next decade. This is notable because 1950s R & B is in unmistakeable evidence in Coltrane's approach here.

So it's against this backdrop that Coltrane's solo on "In a Mellotone" takes place.

Coltrane takes the third solo, behind Hodges and Shorty Baker. Both solo's are swing era in style and content; Hodges' typically lithe and bouncy and Baker hitting you with his melodic and rhythmic inventiveness, blues, growl and a timely placed quote from Khachaturian's, "The Sabre Dance".

Enter Coltrane, who comes on like the "Tenor Player Who Fell to Earth"; heralding things to come. The first thing you notice, as always, is his presence. His sound is big and robust with his familiar edge; evident even though the recording quality is less than one might be used to by today's standards. Also evident is his typical sense of urgency and insistency in his phrases.

His vocal sounding "hoy, hoy"
on the "high G" of the tenor saxophone in bars 12 and 13 induce the shivers.

For me, the beauty of this chorus is in its relative simplicity
and in the way 'Trane outlines each chord change. Then there are, of course, the intangibles (tone, nuance, etc.) that made anything Coltrane did greater than the sum of its parts.

I think they call that "soul".

This is a very singable chorus and not
that technically challenging. It's a fun solo to memorize, study and try to emulate. It's taught me how certain basic chordal structures can sound really great in the right context.

It's also fun to realize that this is the same guy who, less than 5 years later, gave the world "Giant Steps", and then "A Love Supreme" some 5 years after that.

Space", anyone?

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Bb                Concert                Eb

This video is of the complete album. "In a Mellotone" starts at ca. 9:13
Coltrane's solo starts at ca. 13:10

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Slide, Glide & ACE a Ride on the Wild Side With This Penta Flat-6 Two Five]]>Wed, 21 Oct 2015 16:16:25 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/slide-glide-ace-a-ride-on-the-wild-side-with-this-penta-flat-6-two-fiveSlide, Glide & ACE a Ride (on the Wild Side)
With This Penta Flat-6 Two Five

In automotive terms, a flat-6 is a six cylinder, horizontally opposed engine used by Porsche, among others.

Since automotives is not really my thing, the flat-6 (b6) referred to here is none other than an old "5 cylinder" friend
and Melodic Minor derivative, the Pentatonic b6.

As explained in several previous posts on the topic, The Penta b6 can be thought of either as a Maj. Pentatonic with a flatted 6th degree from the root (ie. C Pentatonic b6 = C-D-E-G-Ab), or; as being built from the 5th-6th-7th-9th-b3rd scale degrees of F Melodic Minor, in this case.

It can also be built simply from scale steps 1-2-3-5-b6 of the Harmonic Major Scale, but it's the Melodic Minor derivation that we'll be dealing with here.

This exercise is the latest of several posts which deal with the Pentatonic b6 as applied over a 4 bar, minor ii-V7-i cadence, using the "ACE" three Melodic Minor "scale / key" approach.

"ACE" refers here to the 3 different Melodic Minor keys used in a 4 bar minor ii-V-i resolving to E min. (ii: F#-7b5 / V: B7alt /i:  E- / E-), where: F#-7b5 = A Melodic Minor / B7alt = C Melodic Minor / E- = E Melodic Minor (see the next to last line (#11) of the downloadable exercise).

Since Melodic Minor has no "avoid notes", we can therefore use any combination of notes from that Melodic Minor scale / key, including any of its native pentatonics.

In this case, getting back to line #11, the three Pentatonic b6s used for the ii-V7-i would be:

F#-7b5 = A Melodic Minor = E Penta b6 (E-F#-G#-B-C)
B7alt = C Melodic Minor = G Penta b6 (G-A-B-D-Eb)
E- = E Melodic Minor = B Penta b6 (B-C#-D#-F#-G)

The "ACE" acronym, referring to the applicable Melodic Minor scale / keys, is cool because it spells an identifiable word, at least in this particular key.

However in all cases, the letters used spell out the notes of a minor triad a perfect 4th above the tonic minor (i) key. (eg. A-C-E for the roots of the scale /keys and E-G-B - the actual letters of the tonic (home key) minor triad - for the roots of the applicable Penta b6

As a further exercise, label each measure of the downloadable PDF with its appropriate Melodic Minor scale as well as its Pentatonic b6.

The first measure of each line is actually missing a single scale tone from being a true Penta b6. Can you find the missing note in each case?

Is there an appreciable difference in sonority, with and without?

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Treble Clef          Bass Clef
B. Stern
<![CDATA[A Plus in Your Scale Arsenal - Augmented Scale ii-V7-I]]>Tue, 15 Sep 2015 13:44:38 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/september-15th-2015A Plus in Your Scale Arsenal: Augmented Scale ii-V7-I
This is the latest post in the Augmented Scale category, this time with an exercise that negotiates a common ii-V7-I with a single augmented scale, which is:

A six note scale (hexatonic), formed by:

2 augmented triads a minor third apart (C-E-G# & Eb-G-B = C-Eb-E-G-Ab-B)

2 augmented triads a half step apart (C-E-G# & Db-F-A =

A Major triad and a minor triad a Maj 3rd below (C-E-G & Ab-B-Eb = C-Eb-E-G-Ab-B)

A minor triad and a Major triad a Maj 3rd above (C-Eb-G & E-G#-B = C-Eb-E-G-Ab-B)

3 min 2nds a Maj 3rd apart (C-Db, E-F, G#-A)

3 min 3rds a Maj 3rd apart (C-Eb, E-G, Ab-B)

There are also Perfect 4ths and 5ths, as well as Maj & min 6ths, plus Maj 7ths included.

Check 'em out.

This exercise came about as an altered, Augmented scale version of the typical 1-2-3-5 or 1-2-3-4 type major scale "digital" scale patterns, made up here exclusively of scale tones from a single Augmented scale, over a ii-V7-I chord sequence.

One of the more interesting (and challenging) aspects of using the Augmented scale in this manner is the fact that the Augmented scale has no tritone (eg, F - B), which makes its tendencies toward normal resolution (as in Major or minor scale harmony) somewhat ambiguous.

But hey, ambiguous is good in this case; as in "inside-outside" and vice versa.

The Breakdown:

The whole first line uses the Bb (D, F#) Augmented Scale (Bb-C#-D-F-Gb-A) over
C-7b5 / F7 / Bb / Bb /

Line #1, Measure #1 - C7b5 (Parts of the chord in parenthesis):
D (9) - F (11) - Gb (b5) - Bb (b7)   A (6) - Bb (b7) - D (9) - F (11).

Pretty consonant (inside), actually.

Line #1, Measure #2 - F7sus:

C# (#5) - D (13) - F# (b9) - Bb (11) - A (3) - Gb (b9) - Db (b13) - F (root).

As mentioned previously, the Augmented scale is devoid of tritones, but melodically, in this case, it still pulls toward a resolution to Bb; with the root and 3rd of the V chord being present. The Bb in the scale also supports this.

Line #1, Measures #3 & 4 - Bb Maj7

A straight up Bb Maj7 with a C# (#9 or b3) and Gb (b13 or #5)
thrown in for flavor.

As the Augmented scale divides the octave into 3 equal parts
, the result is 4 different Augmented scales. The exercise is transposed by ascending half steps into all 12 positions (keys), the basic scale repeating every 5th line (ie. line #1 & line #5 are from the same Augmented scale).

If you have a sequencer (Band in a Box, iReal), try practicing first with just the bass notes or bass line, then add shell voicings (3rds and 7ths).

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Treble Clef            Bass Clef
B. Stern
<![CDATA[NOT Peanut But Uhhh... - Thelonious Monk's "Skippy"]]>Thu, 27 Aug 2015 21:01:57 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/not-peanut-but-uhhh-thelonious-monks-skippyNOT Peanut But Uhhh...
Thelonious Monk's "Skippy"

"Skippy", which was originally recorded by Thelonious Monk for Blue Note on May 30th, 1952, might be considered (no, is!) one of his most challenging compositions.

The melody alone, which is uncharacteristically dense by Monk standards, is a workout in and of itself.

Harmonically, the descending cycle of 5ths and chromatic tritone subs
require considerable "'shedding" in order to confidently negotiate improvised lines through the changes.

In this post, we'll just concentrate on the head, with the rest to follow.

"Skippy" is 32 bars long
with what appears to be an A1-B-A2-C song form. The tune is Monk's reharmonization and abstraction
of Vincent Youmans' well known standard, "Tea for Two", which due to the melodic consistency between the sections, comes off more like an A1-A2-A3-B form.

I think the term, "abstraction" is very appropriate here, as Monk definitely created his own very special blend of "Tea". Because of the exclusive and constant movement of dominant 7th chords, both in 4ths as well as chromatically (tritone subs), there's never much of a harmonic resting place, as the line and harmonic motion just keep on skipping along.

The original "Tea", being in the key of Ab, moves temporarily to C for the second eight bars, then back again to Ab.

With all the cyclic motion in "Skippy", which starts on a D7 chord (the bV7 of Ab), the perceived key center of the melodic line still seems to be Ab, as in the original; especially for the first, third and last 8 bar sections.

The key center or the second 8 (measures #9-16) of "Skippy", however, is somewhat more ambiguous.

As in "Tea for Two",
the start of the second 8 bar section of "Skippy" modulates up a Maj. 3rd
, (starting on an F#7 in measure 9, again a bV7 chord, this time of the key of C). It seems as if Monk just used this as a starting point, because any subsequent harmonic or melodic reference to the key of C in this section, to my eyes and ears at least, is anecdotal at best.

Instead, Monk employs three 2 bar descending chromatic mini-cycles, each moving up a whole step from the previous one (Gb7-F7-E7-Eb7,  Ab7-G7-F#7-F7, Bb7-A7-Ab7-G7 before cycling neatly and logically back to D7 (bV7 of Ab again)
via F#7-B7-E7-A7 in measures #15 & 16.

Measures #17-22 are a facsimile of #1 through 6, with #23 & 24 setting up the mad dash to the finish line in bars #25-32, including the doubled chromatic eighth notes, with descending dominant 7th chords on every beat.


I compiled a downloadable lead sheet from several transcriptions which were already available. The minor discrepancies between
them seemed to stem from whether the transcriber used Monk's piano version of the head at the beginning of the original 1952 recording, or the ensemble horn version at the end of it, which has several small notational and rhythmic differences. See if you can hear them in the linked vid below.

For the most part, I tended to favor the former, since Monk, of course, wrote it; but used bits of the latter as well.

Most interesting (and challenging) to me is the phrase in bars #9-10. All of the notes in that 2 bar phrase belong to an
A# half tone / whole tone diminished scale and which is transposed up a whole step in measures #~11-12 (C ht / wt dim scale). Don't forget, this is 1952 and the diminished scale was not yet a common part of the music's still growing vocabulary. The phrase still sounds as hip now as it might have sounded strange then.

Likewise, bars #13-14, which employ descending chromatic trichords
in perfect 4ths; also not common at the time.

A note to tenor players:
"Skippy" was obviously not written with the tenor saxophone in mind and therefore, some range adjustments are necessary. In the Bb lead sheet below, I didn't make any range adjustments, which as a consequence, necessitate interval jumps to high G, G# & A; challenging but by no means impossible; something that I'm striving for. Use whatever range is comfortable for you.

Please excuse any C flats, F flats, B sharps & E sharps. I know that several of them got away on some of the parts.

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Bb       Concert       Eb
Skippy on the Tube
Monk's original from 1952

Steve Lacy (not 'Trane) on soprano from 1957 (w/ Elvin Jones & Mal Waldron).
Anthony Braxton on Alto
Ravi Coltrane's group, live from 2012
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Dig it All! - Melodic Minor "Digital" ii-V7-I Exercise]]>Fri, 31 Jul 2015 10:41:20 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/dig-it-all-melodic-minor-digital-ii-v7-i-exerciseDig it All!
Melodic Minor "Digital" ii-V7-I Exercise

I'm going to try and keep this brief, so I'll refer you to an earlier post for the basic premise of this exercise.

The difference here is that:
1) this one focuses on "digital patterns" starting on the 3rd degree of the Melodic Minor scale (scale steps 3-4-5-7 / 6-7-8-4; ie. F#-7b5 = A Melodic Minor = C-D-E-G# / F#-G#-A-D), and

2) as a ii-V7-I, the pattern transposes up exactly a minor third from the ii7 to the V7 chord (B7alt = C Melodic Minor = Eb-F-G-B / A-B-C-F. It should be noted that the order of the two 4 note cells can be reversed with no change in effect
(A-B-C-F / Eb-F-G-B).

This is a nifty little device, which if not overused, can be quite effective over a ii-V. It is also a good sounding "altered" alternative to your typical Major Scale ii-V7 melodic patterns.

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Treble Clef                 Bass Clef
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Spring's the Thing! - An Etude Based on Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring"]]>Tue, 23 Jun 2015 15:17:27 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/june-23rd-2015Spring's the Thing! - An Etude Based on Freddie Hubbard's
"Up Jumped Spring"

Seasonally speaking, I realize I'm a few days late, but one tune I've always enjoyed playing is Freddie Hubbard's classic jazz waltz, "Up Jumped Spring" - so I wrote a "solo style" etude based on its changes, which I present here.

Freddie Hubbard was not only one of the music's all-time great trumpet voices, he was also an accomplished and prolific composer who contributed a number of classics to the repertoire (Little Sunflower, Birdlike, Red Clay, etc.), as well as some great lesser known gems (Lament for Booker, Blue Spirits, among others).

"Up Jumped Spring" has a form of A1-A2-B-A3. Each "A" section  is 16 bars long and has a different ending. The bridge, or "B" section, is 8 bars long, which adds up to and makes this a 56 bar tune.

Can you name another tune with the same form?

One tune which immediately "springs" to mind is Kurt Weil and Ogden Nash's "Speak Low" (Shhh! It has the same AABA, 16-16-8-16 = 56 bar form, in 4/4).

"Up Jumped Spring" also contains several slick deceptive cadences whereby, to my mind at least, it seems that Freddie was trying to avoid the common, expected root movements.

The tune starts out with a typical I-VI7-ii-V7 (Bb / G7 / C-7/ F7 concert) for the first four bars
, with the expectation being a return to Bb.

But on the last beat of bar 4 (of the tune, not the PDF, which is numbered starting with the pick-up measure) Freddie inserted an F# diminished 7th passing chord (I messed that up on the PDF. It should be a half step higher than labeled, see note below).

The F# dim7 passing chord is really a D7b9 without the root, which is in turn the V7 of G minor, which happens to be the root of the next chord.

The changes then descend very nicely via G-7 / F-7 / E-7 / A7
over the next four bars until we get to
D-7 /Eb-7 /D-7 / Eb-7, which might be the most challenging part of the tune.

As an improviser, repeating,
parallel chromatic changes can be challenging to navigate because of the scarcity of common tones....but we'll get through it - only to wind up at B-7b5/ E7b9 / C-7b5 / F7b9.

The B-7b5/ E7b9 here is another "deception", as it looks like
Ready Freddie was trying not to go back to to D-7, the iii7 of Bb, which would have begun the typical, and expected iii7/ VI7/ ii7/ V7 turnaround back to Bb..

Instead, he
substitutes the ii7b5/ V7b9 a minor third below D-7 (
B-7b5/ E7b9), which has it's roots in the same diminished 7th chord (B-D-F-Ab), which sounds as good as it is unexpected, and at the same time, moves seamlessly to the second half of the turnaround, ii7b5/ V7b9 (C-7b5/ F7b9) and back home to Bb for the second 16 bar "A" section.

The last 4 bars of the second "A" do exactly what Brother Hub was trying to avoid the first time around: a straight up ii7/ V7/ I (C-7/ F7/ Bb Maj7) before two fiving (A-7/ D7) into G min, which itself becomes a ii7 (G-7/ C7/ F Maj7/ D-7) for the first four bars of the bridge, or "B" section.

Once on the bridge, the composer then returns to his deceptive ways with a straight up, parallel tritone substitution for the iii7/ VI7 (Ab-7/ Db7 for D-7/ G7) before two fiving it (C-7/ F7) back to Bb again and the third and final "A" section.

The last four bars of the tune take a final twist:
ii-V7 in the first two bars and then a very slick and unexpected bII Maj7 (Cb, "you can call me B" Maj7) with the melody (A#, enharmonically Bb) as the Maj 7th, resolving on the second beat of the final bar to the Maj. 7th (A) of the tonic I Maj7 (Bb Maj7) chord.

I kept the final two notes of the original melody in the etude, also, as well as the melodic rhythm of the last 2 bars.

This is one very cool tune. Logical, intelligent, beautiful melody, challenging but not intimidating. Plus it's got a clever title.

Well done, Frederick, my man!
I only regret I didn't know more about this stuff when you let me sit in back in '81. I would have had a much sharper pick with which to have picked your brain! Thank you, man & R.I.P!

Ooops, talking to the spirits again!

The etude itself is a combination of improvised and composed lines, which were then edited as needed in order to create rhythmic balance in and between the phrases.

Hope you likes!

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Bb         Eb
Concert        Bass Clef
Please Note: The Diminished 7th passing chord in measures 5, 21 and 45 of the etude should be one half step higher than what is shown on the PDF (ie,. F# dim7 concert and not F dim7 concert, as is erroneously labeled.).
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Diminishing Perspective - A Diminished Scale Line]]>Fri, 22 May 2015 10:51:41 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/diminishing-perspective-a-diminished-scale-lineDiminishing Perspective - A Diminished Scale Line
Here's a nifty little four bar line, best served over a modal type vamp, which utilizes the complete 8 note symmetrical diminished scale.

Because the diminished scale is devoid of avoid notes, and due to its symmetry, is essentially polyphonic in nature (hosting 4 Major and 4 minor triads, 4 dominant 7th chords, as well as 2 distinct non enharmonic diminished 7th chords), a single tonal center can be somewhat ambiguous and not always immediately apparent. Nor does it need to be.

However, for the purpose of this exercise, letting my ear be the guide, a tonal center was chosen which felt natural, with alternates, based in the same diminished 7th chord (listed in parentheses).

They all "work", in both theory and practice, and are only suggestions in any case.

In line #1, measure #1, notes 2 through 7 (Ab to A natural) spell out a descending Tritone Scale, which is a hexatonic (6 note) scale formed from a Triad Pair; in this case, 2 Major triads spaced a tritone (an augmented 4th or diminished 5th) apart. The Maj. triads here are Ab and D.

In measure #2, the tritone scale idea continues.....almost (absent the note Eb), and in measure #3 transposes down a minor 3rd (missing the note C).

The line is presented in groups of 4, each line in that group belonging to the same diminished scale, and therefore, interchangeable.
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Treble Clef             Bass Clef
B. Stern
<![CDATA[Three's a Pair! Pt. 2 - Melodic Minor Triad Pairs - Rhythm Changes Bridge]]>Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:03:56 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/threes-a-pair-pt-2-melodic-minor-triad-pairs-rhythm-changes-bridgeThree's a Pair! - Part 2
Melodic Minor Triad Pairs - "Rhythm Changes" Bridge

Back on the subject of Triad Pairs in general and Melodic Minor derived triad pairs in particular, this previous post would be a good preliminary read, containing the basic premises for this post.

As mentioned in that article, the pair of adjacent triads which most captures the sound of Melodic Minor are the Major & augmented triads, built off of the 4th and 5th scale steps, respectively.

(In C Melodic Minor = F Maj.(F-A-C) & G aug. (G-B-Eb) triad pair).

However,  the quality of the pure diatonic triad built on 5th step of Melodic Minor is not augmented, but Major - G Maj. = G-B-D, which is exactly the same in C Major.


In order to differentiate this triad pair from Major and give it the distinct MM flavor, the D in the G Maj. triad is raised a half step to the all important Eb (minor 3rd of minor key!), creating a G aug. triad.

In fact, he only augmented triad occuring diatonically in Melodic Minor is based on the 3rd scale degree, or Eb (Eb aug. = Eb-G-B) in C MM.

Because the inversions of an augmented triad are symmetrical, G aug., Eb aug. (as well as B aug) are all interchangeable. I just thought it more accurate, given the diatonic nature of the augmented triad in MM, to refer to it as forming from the 3rd scale degree, rather than the fifth.

Regardless how you call it, the premise of this exercise is based on the bridge - the middle 8 bars - of "I Got Rhythm" changes.

Because the harmonic structure of these eight bars is made up of 4 dominant 7th chords moving along the Cycle of Fifths at a rate of 2 bars apiece, the exercise can be pieced together in groups of 3 to complete a full cycle.

Anyway. it breaks down like this:

Line 1, Measures #1 & 2- The first line is simply made up of ascending triads, with one inversion. Since the bridge to "Rhythm Changes" begins on the III7 of the key in question, we're looking at E7alt in this case (Rhythm Changes in C).

Since the "altered scale" of choice for this E7alt would be - you guessed it - the E altered scale, or the 7th mode of F Melodic Minor, the triad pair derived from the 3rd & 4th degrees of F MM are Ab aug. & Bb Maj. In this case, however, we begin the line on the Major triad, which doesn't really impact its overal tonal flavor.

Measure #2 continues the ascending line, offering the next inversion of both the Bb Maj and the Ab aug. triads.

Line 1, Measures #3 & 4 is similar to the first 2 bars, with chord, scale, and triad pair transposing down a Perfect 5th (or up a P4th) - A7alt = Bb MM = Eb Maj. & Db aug. triad pair.

Line 2, Measures #5 & 6 is a bit different in that the line begins with a descending augmented triad. The triads change direction and rhythmical shifting is employed as it spirals downwards.

As in the previous measures, each chord, scale and triad pair transpose down P5th from the last.

Measures #5 & 6 - D7alt = Eb MM = Ab Maj. & Gb aug. triad pair

Measures #7 & 8 - G7alt = Ab MM = Db Maj. & B aug. triad pair.

I guess the "Rhythm Changes" part of this exercise is really only incidental. The real purpose is to practice Melodic Minor triad pairs over dominant 7th chords through the Cycle, and this works well on the bridge of "Rhythm"

Try alternating the order and direction of the Maj. and augmented triads, as wel as of the line itself
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Treble Clef       Bass Clef
B. Stern