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Thread: Jazz Soloing, figure out which scales to use

  1. #1
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    Jazz Soloing, figure out which scales to use

    Hello,

    This is my first post here. I hope to have found a nice place to learn and grow as a musician. I play alto saxophone and electric bass.

    My first questions is about jazz and figuring out which scales to play. I have a real book of jazz standards for alto and above the measures there are scales written.

    First quick question: A dash after a scale means minor right? So C- is C minor?

    Second question, since I'm just getting back into alto, I have a hard time staying with the changes. So my goal was to try and figure out if there was one scale I could play for my solos.

    For example: I'm learning Take Five. The main changes are C- and G-7 which I'm taking to mean C minor and G minor 7. Is this correct?

    If so, how do I figure out which scale to use. Do I just look at both scales and try to find common notes and then pick a blues scale that is close?

    Any help is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    For example: I'm learning Take Five. The main changes are C- and G-7 which I'm taking to mean C minor and G minor 7. Is this correct?
    Do you understand key signatures, i.e. # one sharp would be G, or Em.
    ## two sharps would be D, or Bm.

    If you are playing from sheet music more than likely you will have a key signature at the beginning of the clef. for example"
    http://www.freehandmusic.com/Product...?ProdID=380651
    This lead sheet has bb two flats which lets you know the song is in Bb or Gm.

    Or you take the chords (or notes) and write them on a piece of paper, cross out all dumplications, omit all the fancy stuff (Bbmaj7#ll all you really need to worry with is the Bb) then put them in alphebitical order. Once you've done that go to your handy dandy chord (or scale) chart and find which one all the chords or notes fit into. Not some - all. That is your key or scale.

    Your Cm and Gm7 chord would indicate a good chance of fitting into the key of Cm. The chords in the key of Cm are:
    Cm, Ddim, Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm
    Remember what I said about omitting the fancy exytensions -- Gm7 for instance.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-16-2008 at 11:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    Do you understand key signatures, i.e. # one sharp would be G, or Em.
    ## two sharps would be D, or Bm.

    If you are playing from sheet music more than likely you will have a key signature at the beginning of the clef
    I know what a key signature is and yes my sheet music has a key signature which says E flat, B flat and A flat.

    But is there something I'm supposed to extrapolate from the key signature about the C- and G-7?

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Usually takes me awhile to finish a post. I'm looking up stuff, etc. Wait a few minutes and check out my OP again.
    I know what a key signature is and yes my sheet music has a key signature which says E flat, B flat and A flat.

    But is there something I'm supposed to extrapolate from the key signature about the C- and G-7?
    Well Eb, Bb and Ab are the flat notes in the Cm scale. Notice also they are the flat chords in the key of Cm. And the Cm, Gm7 chord was a give-a-way that it probably was the I and V7 of the Cm key.

    If still not clear re-phrase and ask again.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-16-2008 at 11:11 PM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    Do you understand key signatures, i.e. # one sharp would be G, or Em.
    ## two sharps would be D, or Bm.

    If you are playing from sheet music more than likely you will have a key signature at the beginning of the clef. for example"
    http://www.freehandmusic.com/Product...?ProdID=380651
    This lead sheet has bb two flats which lets you know the song is in Bb or Gm.

    Or you take the chords (or notes) and write them on a piece of paper, cross out all dumplications, omit all the fancy stuff (Bbmaj7#ll all you really need to worry with is the Bb) then put them in alphebitical order. Once you've done that go to your handy dandy chord (or scale) chart and find which one all the chords or notes fit into. Not some - all. That is your key or scale.

    Your Cm and Gm7 would indicate a good chance of fitting into the key of Cm.
    Cm, Ddim, Ebm, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm
    Sorry about jumping the gun there. Thanks for the great response.

    And since this song is probably in Cm I can play Cm, Ddim, Ebm, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm and it'll all sound good? How did you figure out that those chords would work? Is there a chart somewhere that lists all compatible chords for a certain key?

  6. #6
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Yep - hold on I'll give you some charts. As everything is built from the Major scale here is The Major and natural minor scale.

    Major Scale Chart
    C D E F G A B...............Notice the C scale has no Sharps
    G A B C D E F#.............and the G scale has one, the F#
    D E F# G A B C#...........and the D scale keeps the F# and
    A B C# D E F# G#.........adds the C#. Then the A scale keeps
    E F# G# A B C# D#.......everything and adds the G#. See how
    B C# D# E F# G# A#.....it builds on it's self.
    F# G# A# B C# D# E#
    C# D# E# F# G# A# B#
    F G A Bb C D E.............Look what happens with the flat scales
    Bb C D Eb F G A...........F has one the Bb, then the Bb scale keeps
    Eb F G Ab Bb C D.........it's self and adds the the Eb. Same thing
    Ab Bb C Db Eb F G.......the sharp scales did...
    Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
    Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F
    Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb

    Some memory pegs --
    See God Destroy All Earth By F#iry C#haos
    Farmer Brown Eats Apple Dumplings Greasley Cooked
    Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds.. figure out how these will help -- that fish thing.

    Natural Minor Scale Chart
    A B C D E F G ................Notice how the 6th column of the
    E F# G A B C D................Major scale becomes the 1st column
    B C# D E F# G A..............in the minor scale and how the 7th
    F# G# A B C# D E............column of the Major scale is now the
    C# D# E F# G# A B..........2nd column in the minor scale. And
    G# A# B C# D# E F#........yep, the 1st column in the Major scale
    D# E# F# G# A# B C#......is now the 3rd column, etc. etc.
    A# B# C# D# E# F# G#....Ask your self why?
    D E F G A Bb C
    G A Bb C D Eb F
    C D Eb F G Ab Bb
    F G Ab Bb C Db Eb
    Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab
    Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db
    Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb Gb

    It's hard to find a complete Major and natural minor scale chart all on one sheet of paper so I suggest you keep this for your files.

    Once you know the scale you can then figure out what chords will be in the key. For example:

    Key of C (Major) has these notes:

    Scale interval ..........................1, 2, ..3, .4,.. 5,..6,....7,..... 8
    C Scale ..................................C, D,.. E,. F,. G, .A,... B,..... C
    Major Key structure formula....... I,. ii,... iii, IV, V,. vi, viidim,... I
    Chords in the key of C ..............C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim,... C

    Notice upper case Roman numbers will become Major chords and lower case Roman numbers will become minor chords. That diminished (dim) chord is minor and diminished, however, we normally just call it diminished. Three Major chords, three minor chords and one diminished chord.

    Natural minor key structure formula is i, iidim, III, iv, v, VI, VII, i Again three Minor chords, three Major chords and one diminished chord.

    So if you know the scale you can they apply the key structure formula to that scale and come up with the chords in that key.

    And here is a chart of the Major keys, i.e. the chords in each Major key.
    http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/chords/chordchart.htm

    So --- first thing you do is see if there is a key signature as that will tell you what key and scale is being used in the song. If you do not have access to a key signature then armed with your scale chart and your chord chart you copy down the notes or chords used in the song and then go to your charts and figure out which scale or chord chart they all fit into.
    How did you figure out that those chords would work? Is there a chart somewhere that lists all compatible chords for a certain key?
    You may want to spend some time at:
    www.musictheory.net.
    Lessons then common chord progressions --- As you said, all chords within the same key will sound good with each other, however, some are more compatible than others. At that site I gave you pay attention to what chords like to move to what other chords. That's how I knew Cm Gm7 would probably be in the scale/key of Cm.

    Have fun. The Cowboys are starting, catch you tomorrow.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-17-2008 at 12:23 AM.

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    Thanks! That's really going to help me.

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rubeskies
    I know what a key signature is and yes my sheet music has a key signature which says E flat, B flat and A flat.

    But is there something I'm supposed to extrapolate from the key signature about the C- and G-7?
    Not exactly.
    But you can get all the information you need from various aspects of the written music. To get back to the specific example of Take Five:

    The key signature gives you the scale: Eb, Bb, Ab, plus C, D, F, G. That's generally known as the Eb major or C minor scale. (C minor in this case, because Cm is clearly the "home" chord.)

    The melody should underline the scale, and will often highlight the most important notes, particularly the keynote (at the end of phrases, or the end of the tune). It may also contain useful chromatic notes (from outside the key scale) that you can echo in solos. Eg, Take Five uses the #4/b5 blue note in the main melody (A natural in this key); it has one or two other passing chromatic notes in the bridge. One scale note that is interestingly absent from the main melody (in the A section) is Ab. (You don't have to draw any inference from that, but if you also omit it in solos you will be capturing the feel of this particular tune to some extent, rather than just playing generic "C minor" phrases.)

    The chord sequence points clearly towards the tonic (key) chord: Cm in this case. Other chords will mostly be harmonised from the same scale. In this key, that's Cm(7), Fm(7), Gm(7); Eb(maj7), Ab(maj7) and Bb(7); and D diminished (Dm7b5). The A section of Take Five only contains Cm7 and Gm7, but most of the rest can be found in the bridge.
    In a minor key, a major V chord is also common. You can find this (G or G7) at the end of the bridge.

    When soloing, it's generally good to base phrases on the arpeggio (chord tones) of the current chord, and use other scale notes (or chromatics) in passing. Target your phrases to end on a chord tone, perhaps on the next chord. If you study the melody, you'll find it does exactly that.

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