Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Sapphire Ng | Berklee Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz (Week 11) SPRING 2016 [Class Materials & Concepts]

Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz

Berklee College of Music
SPRING 2016 Semester

Class Teacher: John Baboian

[Week 11]

As usual class started with us playing the tune that was assigned the week before - "Oleo" by Sonny Rollins. We played the melody through the form of the tune together as a class, and then we went into individual improvisation. And as the way John usually conducts the class, he would give us specific feedback after our first round of improvisations and thereafter asks us to do a second round of solos by consciously incorporating points he has highlighted. 

In his first round of feedback for our improvisations today, John drew our attention to the B section of the tune and explored the various improvisation possibilities. One of which includes the choice of obtaining the tritone substitution of the dominant chord in the progression and then to play the Lydian b7 mode. Specifically, this means that for the D7 chord, the first chord in the B section of the tune, the b5th note of D would be "Ab", and therefore we can choose to use Ab Lydian b7 mode to solo over the D7 chord; similarly for G7, we could play Db Lydian b7 mode; for C7, we could use Gb Lydian b7 mode to improvise; and we can use B Lydian b7 mode to solo over the F7 chord, the last chord in the B section of the tune. A point to note would be that John mentioned that tritone substitution is a strategy to get the altered sound. 

The other alternative for improvising to the chord progression in the B section would include playing the altered scale, in which the altered scale is known as the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale. Thus we can choose to play Eb melodic minor scale over the D7 chord; Ab melodic minor scale over the G7 chord; Db melodic minor scale over the C7 chord; and to play a Gb melodic minor scale over the F7 chord. 

The third option for improvising over the B section of "Oleo" would be playing the whole tone scale. There are only 2 whole tone scales that exist. Therefore a strategy could be to play D whole tone scale over D7, and then move a half step and play Eb whole tone scale when G7 chord comes around, and then move back the half step to play D whole tone scale over C7, and then to move a half step again to play Eb whole tone scale over the F7 chord. 

The final common and obvious choice for soloing over the dominant 7th chords in the B section of the tune would be to use the Mixolydian scale, i.e. to play D Mixolydian over D7, to use G Mixolydian over G7, C Mixolydian over C7, and F Mixolydian scale over the F7 chord. 

We were then asked to attempt a second round of improvisations paying attention to how we plan to handle the B section of the tune. The final round of playing through the melody and improvising to the tune, John challenged us with speed and have us play the song up to its original tempo. During our improvisations, we were also tasked to play accompaniment when the student to our right is soloing. I have to admit that though I practiced the chord progression of the tune prior to class, I got pretty lost when it came to comping for a classmate who was improvising during class time especially when John was playing basslines that were so active ! I could not figure out where I was in the progression of the song LOL ! I guess that means I'll need greater familiarity with the song and more practice haha. 

After our solos, John commented that he was actually doing pedal tones with the bassline in certain A sections of the song, pedaling on the dominant for a section and on the root in another. He further mentioned another technique that we could try to catch listeners off guard. So he set the context of his question, "Oleo" is in the key of Bb, what other scale can we try to play over the A sections of the song other than the Bb major scale. He said the B major scale, and to use it strategically and sparingly and to interchange it with the Bb major scale. It is a good way to make listeners go "Wow" whether in shock or in amazement as an improviser starts off soloing using the expected Bb major scale and then suddenly moves into the B major scale for a couple of bars, but which eventually is important to resolve into the original Bb major scale. 

Next we moved on to the handout '"Rhythm Changes" with Rhythm Slashes'. It is said that such specific rhythm notations are usually for musical situations such as orchestral or big bands, and totally opposite from the improvisational nature of how we played "Oleo" by Sonny Rollins. We played the rhythms as a class in the AABA form twice through. 

Concepts/content covered in class:

~ We were given the lead sheet of "Cheesecake" by Dexter Gordon. And then we were asked about the form of the tune. The form of "Cheesecake" is AABA, however it is important to note that the A sections in the tune each have 16 bars, whilst the B section of the tune only has 8 bars. The number of bars illustrated in the form of the AABA tune would be 16-16-8-16 bars. The song is also observed to be in the key of C minor. 

[We are then led to explore the degree to which the song is diatonic. We started on the first chord in the song, the C- chord which is the tonic chord of the key. It then moves on to the F- chord, which is the IV chord of the key. At the 9th to 10th bar of the song, the D-7b5 and G7 is the II-V in the tonic key of C minor. For the 11th and 12th bar on the other hand, the F-7 and the Bb7 chord are the II-V of the relative major of C minor, i.e. they are the II-V of Eb major. It is thus observed that the tune is relatively diatonic. 

[At bar 13th however, John mentioned that special attention has to be paid most to this bar in the entire progression of the tune especially during improvisation. The Eb-7 and Ab7 chord in bar 13th is actually a II-V in the key of Db, which is not diatonic to the key of C minor. It is also observed that the Ab7 chord in that bar is a subV of the G7 chord. 

[Moving onto the B section of the tune, at bar 19th to 21st, we have G-9 and C13 resolving to F-9, which is a II-V in the key of F. Thereafter from bar 21st to 23rd, the F-9 and Bb13 resolving to Eb-9, we also have a II-V in the key of Eb. For bars 23rd and 24th, we similarly have the non-diatonic Eb-9 and Ab13 which is a II-V in the key of Db. For the last 2 bars in the B section of the tune, yet again we see the II-V in the tonic key of C minor. The conclusion is thus that "Cheesecake" is a mostly diatonic tune. 

[John mentioned that with the first chord of the tune, the I- chord being 4 bars, which moves into the IV- chord in the 5th bar, listeners could be "deceived" into thinking that the song is a blues tune. He thus highlighted that it is important we do not mistake the tune for blues. However, John said that using the blues scale to solo over the tune is a possible option.]

~ The transcription given this week is Dexter Gordon's solo in "Cheesecake" and this transcription is available as an option to play for the final exam. It is mentioned that Dexter Gordon was a tenor saxophonist, and with saxophonists needing to breathe when improvising, we are asked to notice the phrasing. An audio of the entire song was then played for us as our class session came to an end. 

Class Homework:

~ "Cheesecake" by Dexter Gordon - Melody, Comping and Improvisation

Class Materials/Handouts:

Lead Sheet - "Cheesecake" by Dexter Gordon 

Solo Transcription - "Cheesecake" by Dexter Gordon

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