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Thread: Playing over Sweet Georgia Brown Tonally vs Modally

  1. #1
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    Jul 2008

    Playing over Sweet Georgia Brown Tonally vs Modally

    My guitar teacher is having me play over the changes in Sweet Georgia Brown, in the key of G.
    E7 E7 E7 E7
    A7 A7 A7 A7
    D7 D7 D7 D7
    G  C  G  B7
    E7 E7 E7 E7
    A7 A7 A7 A7
    Em B7 Em B7
    G  E7(A7 D7)(G B7)
    Now I know how to play over each chord using its corresponding pentatonic scale, but how can I mix in other more outside scales over the different chords. For example can I play out of A over the E7 since a Dom7 chord is always your V (in tonal music).

    But how do I incorporate more a modal feel to this, so I can weave in both elements to my lead playing over the changes.

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Deep East Texas Piney Woods
    The melody follows the chord tones. Sweet Georgia Brown has to be tonal in fact IMHO has to be the established tune. Let the chord tones take you to the melody. I think he wants you to play this in G. G's chord tones are G B D.

    Melody notes:
    G Chord
    G...B.....D.....B....E...D....G....D.....B......A. ..A.....G
    No gal made has got a shade on Sweet Georgia Brown
    Or here is some sheet music in G.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 06-01-2009 at 10:01 PM.

  3. #3
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    Jul 2008
    Well, I'm using it more for the chord changes rather than the actual song. I'm just interested in approaching changes in different ways, and then trying to mix that with the more tonal approach to the song.

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Dec 2002
    Twickenham, UK
    I answered this over on TGP, but I'll add some other thoughts here...

    The traditional context is pretty clear, I presume. These are mixolydian dom7s, with the melody outlining the major pent on the E7, mostly A9 chord tones on the A7, and D major pent on the D7.
    (Malcolm hasn't quite got the melody right, but I don't think it matters for this topic.)
    Technically, in the context of this tune, E7, A7 and B7 are secondary dominants. We would normally expect E7 and B7 to resolve to minor chords (Am, Em respectively) which would mean we wouldn't normally choose mixolydian on either. But here E7 is clearly mixolydian (judging by the melody as well as the following A chord), and first B7 is also a turnaround back to E major. The later B7 alternates with Em, so is (in theory) more complicated (E harmonic minor being simplest option).

    However - I guess the purpose of choosing this tune for the exercise is the first section, where each chord lasts long enough to treat as a tonal centre in its own right. I guess (again) this is what you mean by "modally".
    So we can then forget the original melody entirely. This is not about "Sweet Georgia Brown", IOW, but about what we can play over a string of long dom7 chords.

    The available "inside" scales on E7 (ie including all 4 chord tones) are as follows (additional notes on top of chord tones also shown):

    E mixolydian (5th mode A major) - adds 9, 11, 13
    E lydian dominant (4th mode B melodic minor) - adds 9, #11, 13
    E phrygian dominant (5th mode A harmonic minor) - adds b9, 11, b13
    E mixolydian b6 (5th mode A melodic minor) - adds 9, 11, b13
    E half-whole diminished - adds b9, #9, #11, 13
    E mixolydian b2 (5th mode A harmonic major) - adds b9, 11, 13
    E altered, perfect 5th (6th mode C harmonic major) - adds b9, #9, b13 (no 11)

    Most of these scales normally suggest resolution in specific directions:
    E mixolydian > A major
    E lydian dominant > D#m/Ebm or Eb major
    E phrygian dominant, mixolydian b6 and HW dim > A minor
    E mixolydian b2 > A major (probably)
    E altered P5 > A minor (probably)

    E mixolydian is about the only one that sounds secure as a common modality (outside of an A major context).
    E phrygian dominant has that familiar "flamenco" sound, but still tends to push towards an A minor tonic.

    The normal E altered scale (7th mode F melodic minor) has an altered 5th (Bb or B#=C), so is not exactly "inside" an E7 chord, and probably doesn't make a lot of sense over a sustained E7. (It's very common in jazz, but wouldn't last more than 1 bar usually.) It has a strong pull to resolution on to A minor, but can be taken to A major.

    The other way of thinking - when a chord lasts as long as these do - is "inside" vs "outside". Take an "inside" scale (meaning a scale consisting of chord tones or viable extensions) and use notes a half-step away as contrast, resolving back to chord tones.
    IOW, all 12 notes are available, but each one has either an inside or outside relationship to the chord.
    For E7, the inside notes are obviously the 4 chord tones (E G# B D). To that we can add the 9th (F#) and 13th (C#) as notes that could reasonably be held as extensions without sounding "out". We might also consider the #9 (F##=G) as "inside" in a blues context (but not if we are also including the 9th).
    All the other notes are a half-step away from these - "outside" - and pull back to their "inside" neighbours:
    F > E or F#
    G (unless used as #9) > G# or F#
    A * > G#
    A# > B
    C > B
    D# > E or D

    (* Note that A is "inside" E mixolydian, but is an outside note relative to the chord. Unless, that is, we drop the G# and make an E7sus chord. In that case A becomes inside and G# outside - although G# could still sit in the chord above the A, as a 10th.)

    An easy way to handle inside-outside sounds (if the above is too much to think about!) is just to use chord arpeggios, and move them a half-step up or down to get the outside sounds. Eg, mess around with an E9 arp (which is a 5-note pentatonic scale), then shift up to F9 or down to Eb9 and back.

    Remember that an outside scale or note collection has to resolve back to the chord tones before the chord changes. A normal dom7 scale (including dissonant scales like altered or HW dim) - as used in functional music, not modal music - resolves on to the following chord.

    Anyway, that should give plenty of food for thought...

  5. #5
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    Jul 2008
    First off, thanks a lot Jon for taking the time to write that all out. That's really what I was trying to decipher regarding playing over the dom7 changes. I'm gonna delve into it and see what I get. Thanks again.

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