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Old 12-23-2012, 04:16 PM   #1
gunsnroses#1
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Jazz Song Theory

So I've been fascinated with jazz music recently and have been experimenting with different 7th chords and whatnot. Through this experimentation, I've managed to come up with a decent little chord progression, complete with a chorus, and have decided it requires a melodic little solo. However, given my limited amount of theoretical knowledge and lack of trial-and-error patience, I am unsure of what key the song is in.

So basically the song goes (please forgive and correct me if chords are mistitled):
Cm7 G7 A7 D7
e|-3--------0--2----
B|-4---3---2--1----
G|-3---3---0--2----
D|-5---3---2--0----
A|-3--------0-------
E|------3------------

With the chorus alternating between these two chords...
EbMaj7 G
e|-6-------3------
B|-8-------3------
G|-7-------4------
D|-8-------5------
A|-6-------5------
E|----------3-----

And eventually leading back into the verse with this chord
G(something)
e|--3------------
B|--3------------
G|--4------------
D|--3-----------
A|--5------------
E|--3-------------

I originally thought the song was in C minor and that the chorus was the relative major of that, but then I end the song on a chromatic shift from A7 to G7, which made me start thinking it was in the key of G minor.

Ideas as to what key it is in? Also, what scale(s) to use to solo over it?
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Old 12-23-2012, 04:22 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gunsnroses#1
However, given my limited amount of theoretical knowledge and lack of trial-and-error patience, I am unsure of what key the song is in.


you'd better change one or both of those or you're not going to make much progress.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gunsnroses#1
So basically the song goes (please forgive and correct me if chords are mistitled):
Cm7 G7 A7 D7
e|-3--------0--2----
B|-4---3---2--1----
G|-3---3---0--2----
D|-5---3---2--0----
A|-3--------0-------
E|------3------------


second chord is Gm7.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gunsnroses#1
With the chorus alternating between these two chords...
EbMaj7 G
e|-6-------3------
B|-8-------3------
G|-7-------4------
D|-8-------5------
A|-6-------5------
E|----------3-----

And eventually leading back into the verse with this chord
G(something)
e|--3------------
B|--3------------
G|--4------------
D|--3-----------
A|--5------------
E|--3-------------

I originally thought the song was in C minor and that the chorus was the relative major of that, but then I end the song on a chromatic shift from A7 to G7, which made me start thinking it was in the key of G minor.

Ideas as to what key it is in? Also, what scale(s) to use to solo over it?


don't worry about scales. write melodies.

if the song ends on G7, and given the prevalence of the G major chord (save for the one Gm7), you'd most likely be incorrect to assume the key is G minor.

it seems pretty standard C minor to me.

work on your voice leading, too. learn more voicings. there's not really a lot of flow here. the chords could easily work, but they need to be voiced better.
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Last edited by AeolianWolf : 12-23-2012 at 04:24 PM.
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Old 12-23-2012, 04:26 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AeolianWolf
second chord is Gm7.



don't worry about scales. write melodies.

if the song ends on G7, and given the prevalence of the G major chord (save for the one Gm7), you'd most likely be incorrect to assume the key is G minor.

it seems pretty standard C minor to me.


Much obliged sir. I was leaning towards C minor ever since I read something about jazz songs ending on a chord that isn't the root. I inquired as to the scale only because I've tried several times and just can't "hear" what the melody should sound like. I thought having the skeleton of the song (scale) would help me envision where I should go with the solo.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AeolianWolf
work on your voice leading, too. learn more voicings. there's not really a lot of flow here. the chords could easily work, but they need to be voiced better.


Like play them in different voicing, or play them an octave higher, or an inversion of one or more of them?

Last edited by gunsnroses#1 : 12-23-2012 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 12-23-2012, 04:29 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AeolianWolf
you'd better change one or both of those or you're not going to make much progress.


Hard at work on the theory part. Just stating where I am at the moment.
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Old 12-23-2012, 04:41 PM   #5
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I'd say you're in G minor (harmonic minor in this case) with the chorus modulating to G major. This is fine as you're using the F# notes in G harmonic minor, and using the dominant, D chord to switch between the minor and major.
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Old 12-23-2012, 05:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gunsnroses#1
Much obliged sir. I was leaning towards C minor ever since I read something about jazz songs ending on a chord that isn't the root. I inquired as to the scale only because I've tried several times and just can't "hear" what the melody should sound like. I thought having the skeleton of the song (scale) would help me envision where I should go with the solo.


try using chord tones as a start. that'll be good for your work at theory, too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gunsnroses#1
Like play them in different voicing, or play them an octave higher, or an inversion of one or more of them?


any and all of these use your ear - certain combinations will always have different effects.
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:14 AM   #7
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how much jazz music have you actually learned?

like, not "jazzy" stuff, actually listened to jazz you enjoyed hearing and breaking it down and transcribing it?
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:58 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AeolianWolf
try using chord tones as a start. that'll be good for your work at theory, too.



any and all of these use your ear - certain combinations will always have different effects.


Again I thank you. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail
how much jazz music have you actually learned?

like, not "jazzy" stuff, actually listened to jazz you enjoyed hearing and breaking it down and transcribing it?


I've not broke down or transcribed anything yet, however I have been listening to straight up jazz and I enjoy most of it. I'm running around blind trying to find it though, I'm just searching jazz on youtube and listening to whatever comes up because I don't have any friends who listen to jazz. Don't know where to start.
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Old 12-24-2012, 02:07 AM   #9
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Watch the Ken Burns documentary "Jazz." It gives context and introduces you to the big names of jazz. It can be a good foundation to go exploring from.

I recently took a history of jazz class at school and loved that it sorted some things out because jazz is a damn big genre that can seem intimidating to the uninitiated.
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Old 12-24-2012, 04:02 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gunsnroses#1
I've not broke down or transcribed anything yet, however I have been listening to straight up jazz and I enjoy most of it. I'm running around blind trying to find it though, I'm just searching jazz on youtube and listening to whatever comes up because I don't have any friends who listen to jazz. Don't know where to start.


start by learning some standards. i personally recommend autumn leaves as a good first step - it's a wonderful tune and the harmony is entirely diatonic, so nothing too advanced to confuse you just yet (although you can start getting advanced with it once you get the core concepts down!).

buy a book of standards. real book, fake book -- i forget which one is better. you think i'd pay attention to this crap, but i don't own real books or fake books. i just find the music from somewhere as i need it, but the problem is that sometimes it's inaccurate (much like tabs, whoda thunk?). i have the ear and the knowledge to work through it and donkey punch whoever the shit decided to write the music i'm working with (i.e. correct it), but beginners do not, and i don't know where to point you otherwise. i'll start you with a copy of autumn leaves in E minor (the original key is G minor, but E minor will serve you a bit easier on guitar for now):



learn the melody, then learn the chords. listen to a few recordings of it, see what people have done with it. jazz is a language, and the best way to learn any language is to immerse yourself in it.

jazz is no exception.
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Old 12-24-2012, 04:27 AM   #11
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I don't know how much you've picked up by listening, but I'll tell you just in case. Jazz songs typically follow a common form. They play the initial tune, called a "head" first, then use the chord changes and/or the melody of the head as a jumping off point for improvisation. A head is also called a "chorus" because many jazz standards are just the chorus of other songs and use that as a measuring stick for how long a soloist will play for ("Charlie Parker plays over 4 choruses before the drum solo"). This is how a tune a page long can be extended to far beyond that, depending on how many soloists are present and how long they play for. Then the head would be played at the end to tie up the whole performance.
Keep in mind this is the basic and common set up, but not a strictly followed in all cases.

Check out Joe Pass' recording and see how he takes the basic tune and "jazzes" it up and makes it his, all in two choruses:
show

Even though he isn't following in the typical jazz song set up, notice how he saves the more "out there" variations for the second chorus.
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Last edited by rockingamer2 : 12-24-2012 at 04:28 AM.
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Old 12-24-2012, 07:04 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockingamer2
I don't know how much you've picked up by listening, but I'll tell you just in case. Jazz songs typically follow a common form. They play the initial tune, called a "head" first, then use the chord changes and/or the melody of the head as a jumping off point for improvisation. A head is also called a "chorus" because many jazz standards are just the chorus of other songs and use that as a measuring stick for how long a soloist will play for ("Charlie Parker plays over 4 choruses before the drum solo"). This is how a tune a page long can be extended to far beyond that, depending on how many soloists are present and how long they play for. Then the head would be played at the end to tie up the whole performance.
Keep in mind this is the basic and common set up, but not a strictly followed in all cases.

That's true, but it's mostly idiomatic of Bebop and post bop genres. Didn't happen too much in the 20's and 30's with Swing or Big Band.
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Old 12-24-2012, 07:10 AM   #13
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The song doesn't need to follow a jazz song formula. It can just have that kind of jazz vibe in it. You should categorize your music after you have written the whole song. If you think what's appropriate for a genre, it might limit the song. So just see what kind of song you have written and then decide what genre it belongs to.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:01 AM   #14
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While learning jazz standards can be good for you. Most, if not all, lead sheets(like the one above, "Autumn Leaves") don't give you the necessary color tones(extensions and alterations) to really bring out that sound that is so prevalent in typical jazz tunes.

There are books about progressions and chords, but nothing beats taking music classes. That is probably the most time consuming and possibly expensive method, but it's also the fastest way to learn all that(took me a year/2 semesters). So, you need to figure out you're priorities.

While transcribing is good. It only works when you already know jazz theory and ur not gonna know that without knowing basic music theory and it's even harder if you can't even match pitch(Sing) with your instrument.

In the end, nothing is better than sitting down, playing and singing with your instrument.

If classes are out of the question, I recommend getting Artist music books that come with chord voicings. Lead sheet books(AKA Fake or Real Books) come with only the basic chords and the melody and are for players that already know about voicings, extensions and alterations.

Last edited by Deadds : 12-27-2012 at 04:03 AM.
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deadds
While transcribing is good. It only works when you already know jazz theory and ur not gonna know that without knowing basic music theory and it's even harder if you can't even match pitch(Sing) with your instrument.
.



that's why we transcribe

it gives our ear the ability to understand music as we work on it. a music class is great for establishing a basic vocabulary and getting a headstart on breaking down the music, but the only way to truly solidify the information is practice, and when breaking down music, i find it's far easier to just look up terms as your ears and musical logic develop. it's far easier to grasp at your own pace than the other way around.

conventions should be under your mental thumb just like notes, keys, time signatures, et al. the classroom will give you a heads-up, it'll give you a routine, it'll give you a schedule, but it's all for naught if you don't practice and hone your understanding of music, and that practice comes exclusively from learning a musical context and breaking it down

of course, intervals, chord construction, keys, these are all extremely important subjects. but it's important to learn to play music as it is before you try and throw in labels you don't fully understand.
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:02 PM   #16
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No point hating on lead sheets, Deadds. They're a bare skeleton to work with. If you understand the melody you can embellish the chords whilst thinking about voicings, efficiency of motion, timbre, bass movement, etc. later. Building a chord vocabulary and improvisation skills. This is all what I'm currently trying to do with my playing... Maybe because I have a bad ear and suck at transcribing...
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:17 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deadds
While learning jazz standards can be good for you. Most, if not all, lead sheets(like the one above, "Autumn Leaves") don't give you the necessary color tones(extensions and alterations) to really bring out that sound that is so prevalent in typical jazz tunes.


things that do you very little good as a beginning jazz student - he doesn't even know the standards and you're telling him to study extensions and alterations?

i suppose i should go tell my piano students to practice their legato octaves while they haven't even finished a two-part arrangement of hava nagila.
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Old 12-28-2012, 04:17 AM   #18
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Transcribing only works when you either have a good ear(which he may or may not) and when someone has working knowledge of music theory.

Telling someone that just got started studying jazz and is just started working with 7th chords to sit down and figure out what someone else is playing is completely ass-backwards. Inversions, root-less chords, secondary dominants, and key changes are gonna be a pain in the ass to work out, and just because you know what notes are being played it doesn't mean someone understands what is being played.

That's why i recommend taking classes that include theory and singing with a jazz guitar class to put common voicings into his hands.

Metal4all:

No one is hating on lead sheets. I got a shit load of them. I'm just pointing out how useless they can be to someone without a working knowledge of music and jazz theory.

AeolianWolf:

Yes. I learned all about extension and alterations way before i even played a single lead sheet. Once i had the common voicings in my hand, that i learned from jazz guitar classes, all i had to do was look at the lead sheet, mark the key changes for soloing purposes, practice some of the awkward changes, and i was ready to play with extensions and alterations.

The price i paid for that was a year and a half of concurrent classes in music theory(basic, classical, romantic) and jazz theory composition and jazz guitar.

If a year or 2 of classes is not something he can do, i still recommend Artist jazz books that come with voicings in standard notation and in tabs.

Also the reason why i recommend Artist books is because the chord voicings come from actual working guitarist and they're not gonna be using overly complicated or theoretical chords

Last edited by Deadds : 12-28-2012 at 04:30 AM.
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Old 12-28-2012, 06:06 AM   #19
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So I've been fascinated with jazz music recently and have been experimenting with different 7th chords and whatnot. Through this experimentation, I've managed to come up with a decent little chord progression.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:57 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deadds
Transcribing only works when you either have a good ear(which he may or may not) and when someone has working knowledge of music theory.

Telling someone that just got started studying jazz and is just started working with 7th chords to sit down and figure out what someone else is playing is completely ass-backwards. Inversions, root-less chords, secondary dominants, and key changes are gonna be a pain in the ass to work out, and just because you know what notes are being played it doesn't mean someone understands what is being played.


it doesn't matter what genre of music you're playing. you get a good ear by learning music by ear. they're only a pain in the ass the first time you encounter them. a working knowledge of "music theory" comes from being able to understand a musical context, and that comes from immersion within a musical context, as well as a natural curiosity for description. intervals, keys, chord tones, dissonance, consonance, major, minor. there's a vocabulary list. if you can define those words, you have enough to learn any genre. if you can't, look it up. if it still isn't sticking, learn more music, and come back later.
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