Tag Archives: jazz theory

The Most Important Music Theory And How It Helps You Play Better

If you know some Simple and Basic Music Theory but you know it well, then you can use that to understand most harmony and find a lot of great sounds for your solos. I think you will be surprised just how far you can go and how much you can do with a few really basic things, but you do need to work on the right things.

What is Music Theory

First I want to look at what Music Theory is and how you can use it, because I think, that is often misunderstood, which makes it more difficult than it has to be, and you might not realize that you already know a lot. Music theory is just like playing music: If you really know the fundamental things, the rest becomes a lot easier.

Remember that you can use the chapters in the video to go back to something or skip ahead if you already know it.

One of the most important things to realize is that you use Music Theory to describe and understand music. It really is about putting describing what you hear. Sometimes people want to make it a set of rules that tell you what you are allowed to play, but that is not really how it works.

Rules might seem useful as a way of learning, but as you will see, being able to describe and understand what is going on is a lot more useful, and in the end, there are no rules anyway.

Let me quickly show you how describing music is incredibly useful an example from a Blues classic.

How Music Theory Is Useful

let’s take this example of an Eric Clapton phrase from the song Hideaway.

Example First Phrase

Level 1 – Clueless

If you don’t know anything about music theory, then he is playing magic notes that sound amazing.

Level 2 – Scale and Chord Progression

If you know a little bit more then you know that the song is a Blues in E, and he is playing the E major pentatonic scale.

Level 3 – Understanding the phrase

if you want to learn to play it then it is useful to realize that he is starting on the 5th and then the next part is him running up the scale ending with bending the 2nd up to the 3rd.

Conclusion

So level by level you go from “Magic notes that sound amazing” to “a scale run with a bend in the pentatonic scale”, and it is obviously easier to learn how to play it if you know that it is this scale with a bend on this note instead of memorizing a lot of magic notes.

And all you do is recognizing and describing what is going on. That is how Music Theory is useful.

#1 The Major Scale and The Notes In It

The first and most basic thing you want to know is something that most of you probably already know. The major scale, how it is constructed, and the notes in it. Really knowing this means that it is a lot easier to figure out most other things you’ll come across so this is incredibly important.

If you construct a major scale then you start with a root note and move up in intervals of whole and half-steps.

The formula is 1 1 1/2 1 1 1 1/2

For a C major scale:

C D E F G A B C

You want to know the notes in there, if you have to use a formula to figure out the notes then you don’t really know this. That is too slow for you to use it when you are playing.

You also want to know this in all keys, especially the ones you play in., in fact, those are the ones you want to start with.

Besides knowing the note names then it is very important that you know the degrees of the scale, you will see why in the next section of the video.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

How Well Do You Need To Know Scales?

Having a solid overview of the scale notes will make it a lot easier to analyze chords or solo phrases which also helps you figure out what is happening in a solo you transcribed and how you can start using the same things in your playing. If you have to calculate what notes are in the scale that quickly becomes almost impossible. If you know them really well then it is like a language you speak. Something you can use and get from information from.

In the long run, you want to know all the scales by heart so that you don’t have to think about what notes are in there, simply because this can be the foundation that you build everything else on, as you will see in the rest of this video.

#2 How To Construct Chords

When you improvise in Jazz then usually you are using chord symbols as a guideline to shape the improvisation. So you need to be able to translate the chord progression to something you can use in a solo, and knowing what notes are in the chords is a really good place to start.

There are two ways you can approach this, you can take a root and then construct the chord from that, just using intervals, but often I find it is better to start immediately by learning the chords you find in a scale since those are the chords you will also come across in chord progressions, and they are connected in a lot of useful ways that you can also use in solos.

From Scale To Harmony

Constructing chords in a scale is pretty simple. A chord is a stack of 3rds and you have two main types of 3rds: major which is 4 half steps (Play) or minor which is 3 half steps(play)

If you construct a triad from C in the C major scale then you start with the scale

the scale: C D E F G A B C

and from C you move up a 3rd to E, and from E up a 3rd to G. – C to E is a major 3rd so it is a major chord. E to G is a minor 3rd. C E G is a C major triad where C is the root, E is the major 3rd and G is the 5th.

If you create a triad from the next note in the scale D then you get D F A which is a minor 3rd followed by a major 3rd from F to A. This is a Dm triad with D F A is root, minor 3rd and 5th.

All the triads are major or minor except the one on the 7th note in the scale, in this case that is B D F, here you have a minor 3rd from B to D and another minor 3rd form D to F. The interval from B to F is called a diminsihed 5th and different from the one from C to G which is called a perfect 5th, and this type of triad is called a diminished triad: Bdim

In this way you can construct the diatonic triads of a major scale:

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

Remember that this order of Major, minor, minor, major, major, minor dim, is the same in all major keys,

so if you have Eb major:

Scale: Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb

then the triads will be

Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm Ddim Eb

This is something you want to automatically know that for the keys you play in, if not just all keys, but keep in mind that this is really just a different way of seeing something that you already know because you know the scale.

Triads are a great resource for solos or for comping, so this is more than just theory, a line using Em and G major triads over a Cmaj7 sounds like this:

and later I will show you how to find those triads for a chord, but first, you need some 7th chords which is, sort of, the basic chord type in Jazz.

Diatonic 7th Chords

You already know the triads and all you need to do to get the 7th chords is to add a 7th.

For the major scale you only have two types: maj7 and b7: For C major: C E G, if you add the 7th: C D E F G A B , you get C E G B. The interval from C to B is a maj7th, written as Cmaj7.

Notice that the 7th is just one step down in the scale, a maj7th is a half-step down, and a b7 is a whole step down.

An example of the b7 is found on the next chord, Dm: here you get D F A and add the C to get a Dm7 chord.

The 7th chords in C major will give you:

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bø

So you get a maj7 on C, a b7 on D, and also on E giving us Em7, on F the 7th is E giving us Fmaj7. The 7th on G7 is an F giving us a major chord with a b7 called a dominant chord. A to G is a b7 giving us an Am7. The B dim also has a b7 from B to A so that is a Bm7(b5) also sometimes referred to as B half-diminished.

Now you have the chords in a scale and you can find them in any key, but again this is stuff you really just want to know. Try practicing the diatonic chords in all keys and also move simple progressions around like a II V I or a I VI II V

When you improvise in Jazz then you usually take the chord and find material that fits on that chord. Let’s look at a great way to find a lot of material in the form of triads and 7th chords for any chord.

#3 Finding More Arpeggios (Crazy simple)

This concept is really simple and is something you can mess around with by just writing out a scale in a different way!

The basic idea is that if you are improvising over a chord then you can use the scale and the arpeggio of the chord, but you need to have more options than just the scale and the arpeggio, and if you check out solos from great Jazz players then you notice them using a lot of other things as well.

These arpeggios and triads they use are not coming out of thin air, it isn’t magic (It is NEVER magic when it comes to note choice), and you can easily use the music theory I covered in this video to find a lot of options.

Let’s first look at the scale in a different way:

Usually, you write the scale out in steps, so C major is C D E F G A B C but now you want to find triads and arpeggios, and they are built in 3rds so it is practical to write the scale as stacked 3rds like this:

C E G B D F A C E G B D

I wrote out a few octaves because that is easier.

Let’s say you have to improvise over a G7. You just need to find triads and chords that have a lot of common notes with G7. Because G7 is what the rest of the band is playing, and if you play those notes that sound good.

So now, instead of G7 and the scale you have

G7,Bø and Em7 + Em, G, Bdim and Dm triads

Each of these arpeggios are triads are really just a very flexible melody that you can work with and you can combine them as well to get an incredible amount of possibilities in your solo.

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Jazz Reharmonization – How To Make Great Variations of a II V I

There are some really beautiful variations and reharmonizations of a basic II V I progression that you can check out and start adding to your own repertoire. You don’t always want to play the chords exactly as written, especially if you are trying to make a chord melody arrangement or an intro sound better.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:33 The Basic II V I

00:45 #1 Walking up

01:46 #2 Walking down

02:13 #3 Wandering to minor

02:58 #4 Strolling back from minor

03:46 #5 Coltrane’s Detour

04:27 #6 The Walk Down to Another Key

05:11 #7 The “Wrong Chromatic” approach II V

05:59 Make your chord progressions more interesting

06:13 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Two Intervals For Every Note – Why You Need To Know This

This is a video that discusses how to think about the notes that we play. Why I think in note names as well as intervals and why you need different things to play jazz solos.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:23 Not All Notes Are Created Equal

01:30 The Important Details – Visual & Practical

02:32 Losing The Bigger Picture

04:44 It’s About Two Things

05:07 No Real-time Calculations

05:47 Not Only The Scale

06:57 Communicating With The Rest Of The Band

07:48 Fretboard Knowledge That Makes Sense For The Music

08:05 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

 

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Secondary Dominants – What You Want To Know

Understanding what a secondary dominant is and being able to recognize or find them for chords is a powerful tool you can use in your playing and compositions. This video will show you how to use them, understand them and improvise over them

And actually, it is pretty simple if you know your basic scales.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:22 What is a Secondary Dominant

01:52 Not Just Theory

03:25 Finding Them In A Song

05:39 Scale Choices and Extensions- The Two main types

06:36 Examples in the song

07:15 The V of V in major – A special rule

08:05 Secondary Dominants in Comping – Moving Progressions

09:30 Secondary Dominants in Comping – Static Chords

10:22 Adding Them To Solo As Embellishments

11:23 Why You Want To Think in Functional Harmony

11:34 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Autumn Leaves Reharmonization – How To Make It Sound Fresh

One of the most fun parts of playing a Jazz Standard is that you can make your own reharmonization and give it a personal fresh sound. And it is also great to not always sound the same as everybody else who has been playing the song for the last 60 years.

In this video, I am going to go over 5 examples of reharmonizations with a lot of different sounds and level by level becoming more and more exotic.

You can check these out and have a lot of ideas for your own arrangements and never sound predictable again.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:44 Level 1 – The Basic Changes

01:50 Level 2 – A few Tritones Subs and a Surprise

03:22 Level 3 – Attack of the Chromatic II Vs

04:27 Level 4 – Dysfunctional Harmony

06:08 Level 5 – The Aliens Stole My Lunch Money and gave them to John Coltrane

07:44 Searching for Beautiful Chord Progressions

07:53 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

 

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How To Practice And Use Music Theory in Jazz

Music theory can help you learn faster and have more options. Here’s how you work on making that a part of your practice and playing!

I think Jazz is almost considered music theory turned into music by a lot of people, and mostly by people who don’t actually play Jazz. That’s, of course, not really true but at the same time it is really useful to learn some Music theory if you want to learn Jazz and it can really help you learn a lot faster and get much more out of the things that you practice and transcribe. But it is also important that you go about it in the right way so that it does not become a weird set of rules that stops you from using your ears.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:38 Exercises for time on the bus or on the train or maybe an App?

01:23 Useless Music Theory and Double Diminished #IV chords

02:32 Scales and Diatonic Chords

02:55 Easy in Major?

03:26 Tricky in Harmonic Minor?

04:51 The Other way around: Scales with a D7

06:08 Secondary II V’s for Diatonic Chords

06:32 Basic overview of Major

08:01 Finding them in a Song – “I Should Care”

08:54 Making it Easier to Analyze and hear Progressions

09:32 Transposing Songs

11:30 Connecting Theory to Your Ear

11:53 Transposing The Melody

14:12 Reharmonizing All The Things You Are

15:16 Analyzing solo phrases

 

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Beautiful Chromatic Sounds And how to add them to Jazz Chords

When you solo in Jazz you use chromatic passing notes and enclosures all the time, it is really a part of the sound, and actually this is true for Jazz chords as well. There are many ways to use chromaticism in your comping or chord melody and it is a great way to add more movement and color to what you play.

In this video, I am first going to show you one way of adding chromatic passing chords that is pretty visual and easy to use and then later I am going to start creating chromatic melodies in the chords and this is a great way to get to know your chords a lot better and also gives you a lot of great-sounding options to add to your playing.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:47 Chromatic Passing Chords – Look where you are going

01:36 You can also move down a half-step

01:46 G7= G7(13) and Cmaj7 = C6?

03:02 Chromatic Chords in Context

03:43 Beyond Shifting Chord Shapes

05:14 Analyzing the voice-leading example

05:48 The Bebop Trick

06:58 Two Types of contrary motion

08:27 Suspending notes in the chord

09:40 Passing Chords And How To Sound Amazing With Them

 

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How To Create Beautiful Chord Progressions

Functional Harmony is almost a secret weapon when it comes to reharmonizing or creating great sounding chord progressions. In Jazz, we sometimes forget that just understanding basic harmony is a very strong tool for creating new sounds, and in this video, I will show you how you can mess around with a simple II V I and get some fantastic results.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

01:07 Diatonic Chords in major

02:14 Progression #1 – bVImaj7

02:49 Minor diatonic chords and Modal Interchange

05:00 Progression #2 – Tritone substitution

06:12 Don’t limit yourself to substitutions

07:03 Progression #3 – Ending in the Wrong Key

09:00 Understanding Modulation a Pivot Chords

09:34 Progression #4 – Another Dominant Alternative

11:20 Reharmonization with only Maj7 chords

11:34 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

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How To Analyze Songs – Music Theory and Functional Harmony

Music Theory and Harmonic Analysis can be great tools when you want to learn jazz and figure out how to improvise over a chord progression. These videos help you get started understanding how to do that, understanding functional harmony, tonal centers, and the rich harmonic language found in Jazz standards.

The videos will give you examples of how to analyze songs and also how to choose scales from that analysis. You will learn a lot from analyzing the songs that you play.

Remember that it is more important to hear the changes and recognize the sound of the theory as it is to know the name, so working on the songs you already know well will really help you. A fancy name probably won’t.

Analyzing Jazz Standards – Understand what you play!

How To Analyze Chords and Progressions – This video uses the song There Will Never Be Another You as an example and discusses the progressions found in there.

All The Things You Are – Harmonic Analysis – All The Things You Are is a great Jazz standard that we all need to have in our repertoire. In this video I am going to go over a thorough All The Things You Are Harmonic Analysis.

Analyzing a Standard: All Of Me – This song is a great example of IV minor chords and secondary dominants

Analyzing a Standard – Stella By Starlight – Functional Harmony in Jazz – I guess Stella by Starlight is in many ways one of the most mysterious chord progressions among the jazz standards. At the same time, it is so beautiful that everybody just keeps at it until they can play it

General videos on Music Theory and Analysis

Secondary Dominants – What You Want To Know Understanding what a secondary dominant is and being able to recognize or find them for chords is a powerful tool you can use in your playing and compositions. This video will show you how to use them, understand them and improvise over them

And actually, it is pretty simple if you know your basic scales.

Jazz Scales! The 3 You Need to practice and How You apply them to Jazz Chords – Jazz Scales can seem like a million options that you all need to learn in all positions and all chords, but there is a way to approach this that is a little easier than trying to learn all jazz scales in all modes. After all the Dorian mode is not as important as the Major or Minor key.

This video has a PDF download of the overview of the analysis – Click Here 

5 Types of Chord Progressions You Need To Recognize and Be Able To Play – Harmonic Analysis – In this video, I will go over 5 types of progressions that if you can use to better understand the functional harmony that you find in a jazz standard.

Music Theory Is The Effective Way For You To Learn Faster – If you know you basic Music Theory well then you can easily start to add another level to how you analyze melodies and chord progressions which will help you work more focused and learn faster when you practice.

 

You can also go through the playlistson YouTube:

Analyzing a Jazz Standard – Harmonic analysis of Jazz Pieces

 

 

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Jazz Blues Chords – How To Make It Sound Like Jazz

If you are trying to learn to play Jazz Guitar and especially comping songs then you have probably already found out that it is not only about knowing the right chords, there is a lot more to it.
In this video, I am going to show you how I comp a slow medium jazz blues. I have transcribed a chorus and I will go over the chords but I will also show you how I play the chords and make the comp more interesting by using melodies, arpeggios and other tricks to color the chords. In fact, it may surprise you how rarely I “just” play a chord.

The Blues Transcription

Let’s first check out my comping with the transcription, then I will break down 5 of the techniques I use to make it sound more like a piece of music and more interesting.

The next thing to do is to have an overview of the voicings. If I play through the blues with just the chords because that is the backdrop for what I am doing.

Just the chords

After that, I am going to talk about how I am using melodies and fills, inner-voices and arpeggiation to make it come alive and I am going to give you some easier examples to work with.

As you can see most of the voicings are really simple and for the most part chords you probably know already.

If there is a chord that you don’t recognize then try to play or imagine playing the root under it.

bar 1 Bb789,13) magic chord

bar 6 Edim

bar 8 Dø G7  – It is a II V, and the movement is done by moving the 7th(C) of Dø down to the 3rd(B) on G7(b9)

Melody is more important than voice-leading

The first two bars are more about the melody I am playing than connecting the chords. I am using the chords to fill in around the melody.

The first chord is just a color, after that, you get this melody and on the long note in bar 2 I add the rest of the chord but I arpeggiate the chord to create a little extra movement.

The same type of thing is happening on the Eb7 moving to Edim. First the chord, then a melody that takes me to a G, and under that, I add the rest of the chord.

Playing Jazz Chords One Note at The Time

In the previous example, you could see how I arpeggiate the chords and in that way get more movement out of a single chord.
This is something that I use quite a lot. Two examples in this blues are bar3:

and bar 7

Both are using the same basic Bb7 voicing and the notes are spread out across the bar.

In bar 6 I do this as well, but here I am adding an extra note while arpeggiating and in that way starting to have two melodic layers, something that I use to create almost a counterpoint in another place.

Notice how I actually use voice leading to go from the Edim to the Bb7 even though it is hidden by the way I play Bb7

Electric Counterpoint (in a Jazz Blues)

In bar 8 we have this fragment:

Here I play a sustained F as the melody on Dø, and then add the rest of the notes and that turns into a second melody under the F that yields the G7(b9) voicing. This is an example of adding the chord tones in arpeggiating and that gradually takes on its own meaning as a melody and I treat it like that as well, not just as an arpeggio.

Grab what is easy to get by

Being efficient is important when you comp, also because you need to be ready to react to what is happening around you.

One of the ways I use block chords in comping is to just change the melody and keep the same chord which is what I am doing in bar 9 on the Cm7.

Improvising with the harmony

Since you are improvising when you comp then you can also change the chords a bit. The final turnaround has two examples of this. The 2nd chord is written out as a Db7, though you would expect a G7 there I play (and think) Db7

Whenever you have a dominant chord that resolves then you can choose to use the tritone substitute. That is what I am doing here. And added bonus is that the Db is the #9 of Bb which makes it sound like a harmonized blue note. That is also why I have that note at the top of the chord. In Music context is everything.

In the last bar, I am also changing the harmony, but I am doing so by delaying the F7. II V cadences are very flexible and you can often get away with leaving out one of the chords or as I do in this case, leave the F7 until beat 4 and then use it almost as a chromatic leading chord for the Bb7 in the next chorus. The quarter note triplet rhythm also adds extra energy by being a sort of tension against the groove.

Learn some amazing drop2 voicings

The majority of chords that I use in this video are drop-2 voicings, and a lot of the other ones can easily be seen as derived from drop2 by being drop2 without a root note for example. So studying drop2 voicings and being flexible with them is very useful if you want to be good at comping and free to choose what to play.

Drop2 Bundle – Build Your Voicing Vocabulary

 

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