Part 3 of the series of ear training exercises. In this exercise, you approach each chord tone from a half step below. Now this part of the series of exercises is a bit more difficult because the approach tones are generally not a part of the scale. As a result, they are often quite dissonant and hard to hear. With effort and patience, your ear will eventually become used to them…
Today’s jazz musician has to deal with a peculiar situation. Opportunities to develop under the tutelage of a battle tested mentor or in a stable working band are few. At the same time, there is a staggering amount of educational material available via the internet. While the benefits of personal interaction with a more experienced musician is invaluable, the internet provides many great educational resources.
There are countless You Tube videos of clinics given by master musicians: Kenny Werner, Hal Galper, Clark Terry, Rufus Reid, Bill Evans, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, Stefon Harris, Bruce Forman, Bill Fielder, etc. the list goes on and on and on. They deal with a variety of topics from issues relating to specific instrumental techniques to general concerns about performance and practice.
I go online every so often to see if I can find new material to check out. I’ve been looking at videos by Hal Galper and Kenny Werner because they draw distinct lines in sand regarding the psychology of performance and practice, something that I think about a lot. I’ve especially enjoyed Galper’s videos because he is able to address the two issues within the same lecture…
Galper’s book FORWARD MOTION has given me many ideas about how to create stronger melodic lines. I’ve taken some of that information along with some suggestions given by Garry Dial, one of my college teachers from way back, and Matt Otto, a classmate of mine from college who recently did a clinic about ear focusing on ear training, to address some of my issues with more fully negotiating chord changes.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about ear training, wondering how I can learn to hear more. I’ve always had a pretty good ear. Luckily, my first instructors encouraged me to play what I heard. Because of that encouragement, I feel comfortable relying on my ears as the final judge even when I play things that aren’t “correct”. There are many things I hear well but, even after all these years of improvising, there are things that my ear doesn’t process quickly enough.
While in college, Garry Dial told me about outlining chord tones to build strong melodic lines, approaching them from above and below, chromatically and diatonically. That information now seems so logical but back then, stubborn old me didn’t put any time into studying it. After listening to clinics by Matt Otto and Hal Galper, I’m reviewing Dial’s lessons, practicing them as an ear training exercise.
Here’s what I am working on now:
I use the chord progression of the first A section of “Autumn Leaves”. Since the tonal center is Bb Major, I use a Bb drone (that I downloaded from Matt’s website) as a reference to sing over. Over the drone, I first sing the roots of the progression followed by the 3rds, 5ths, 7ths and so on up to the 13ths.
There are certain rules I think about as I do this, mainly regarding the 11th degree of a Major or Dominant Chord and Dominant Chords that resolve to a i Chord in minor. I sing a #11 on all Major and Dominant Chords unless it specifically states that it has a natural 11th degree (a C7sus4 Chord for example). If a Dominant Chord is resolving to a i Chord in minor, I imagine the chord as a product of an Altered scale. 5ths, 9ths and 13ths are flatted, 11ths are sharped. Also, if a minor Chord is static (not part of a moving progression), I sing the natural 7th degree. I sing a b5, b9 and b13 on min7b5 chords.
I sing the the notes in quotations over the chords listed before them:
Cmin7 “C” F7 “F” BbMaj7 “Bb” EbMaj7 “Eb” Amin7b5 “A” D7b9 “D” Gmin7 “G” G7b9 “G”
Cmin7 “Eb” F7 “A” BbMaj7 “D” EbMaj7 “G” Amin7b5 “C” D7b9 “F#” Gmin7 “Bb” G7b9 “B”
Cmin7 “G” F7 “C” BbMaj7 “F” EbMaj7 “Bb” Amin7b5 “Eb” D7b9 “Ab” Gmin7 “D” G7b9 “D”
Cmin7 “Bb” F7 “Eb” BbMaj7 “A” EbMaj7 “D” Amin7b5 “G” D7b9 “C” Gmin7 “F#” G7b9 “F”
Cmin7 “D” F7 “G” BbMaj7 “C” EbMaj7 “F” Amin7b5 “Bb” D7b9 “Eb” Gmin7 “A” G7b9 “Ab”
Cmin7 “F” F7 “B” BbMaj7 “E” EbMaj7 “A” Amin7b5 “D” D7b9 “G#” Gmin7 “C” G7b9 “C#”
Cmin7 “A” F7 “D” BbMaj7 “G” EbMaj7 “C” Amin7b5 “F” D7b9 “Bb” Gmin7 “E” G7b9 “Eb”
I don’t concern myself with singing rhythmically, I concentrate on hitting the pitches precisely. I use the piano as a reference when necessary. If you have an Mp3 player, you can download the drones and practice these whenever you feel the urge.
Once you are comfortable with singing the Chord tones, try approaching them from above by a diatonic step:
Cmin7 “D” to “C” F7 “G” to “F” BbMaj7 “C” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “F” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “Bb” to “A” D7b9 “Eb” to “D” Gmin7 “A” to “G” G7b9 “Ab” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones (3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th) the same way.
Try approaching the Chord tones from a half step (chromatically) below:
Cmin7 “B” to “C” F7 “E” to “F” BbMaj7 “A” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “D” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “G#” to “A” D7b9 “C#” to “D” Gmin7 “F#” to “G” G7b9 “F#” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones the same way.
Try combing the diatonic step above with the half step below:
Cmin7 “D” to “B” to “C” F7 “G” to “E” to “F” BbMaj7 “C” to “A” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “F” to “D” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “Bb” to “G#” to “A” D7b9 “Eb” to “C#” to “D” Gmin7 “A” to “F#” to “G” G7b9 “Ab” to “F#” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones the same way.
Reverse the order, going from half step below to diatonic step above, then to the Chord tone.
Cmin7 “B” to “D” to “C” F7 “E” to “G” to “F” BbMaj7 “A” to “C” to “Bb” EbMaj7 “D” to “F” to “Eb” Amin7b5 “G#” to “Bb” to “A” D7b9 “C#” to “Eb” to “D” Gmin7 “F#” to “A” to “G” G7b9 “F#” to “Ab” to “G”
Practice the other Chord tones the same way.
Below is a link to the A section of Autumn Leaves” and an Mp3 audio example of the exercise.
After getting the sounds of the Chord tones and Approach tones in your ears, try putting an Aebersold track on and singing them rhythmically. Try them out on your instrument… The good thing about using “Autumn Leaves” as a practice model is that the A section contains many of the chords that improvisors deal with regularly: Major 7, Major 7#11 minor 6, minor 7, minor 7b5 and ii-Vs in Major and minor. These exercises and be adapted to any chord progression.
I really love something that Hal Galper says in one of his lectures: He asks the class, “Do you have problems hearing?” Most of the students say they do. His response to that is, “No you don’t, you play exactly what you hear… You have to learn to hear more vividly to build more sophisticated solos.” He also says that certain players play fast because they are able to hear faster. Practicing hearing is often neglected by musicians even though our ears are our most important asset. I think these exercises are a great way to expand hearing and gain a more intuitive understanding of Chords and progressions.
So there you go…
CHORD TONE EXERCISE (mp3)
Takes 3 and 4 of “Exercise In Swing” from THE COMPLETE SAVOY RECORDINGS… Lester Young was such an amazing improviser. These takes and the ones in the previous post are the same in that they are pristine miniatures of his seemingly effortless melodicism. But each has a slightly different quality. Take note of the rhythmic variety between and within each take. How Young at times floats over, then at other times digs into the groove, sitting firmly in the bull’s eye center of the beat. His emphasis on certain parts of the beat has an incredible effect on the mood of the music…
One of my all-time favorites, Cannonball Adderley, ripping through his version of “If This Isn’t Love”, from the album CANNONBALL TAKES CHARGE. The two things I really love about Cannonball’s playing is the confidence and strength of his beat, and the complexity of his articulation. He just swings so hard, no the matter tempo. I transcribed the first of his two chorus solo.
The Larry Gales solo below is taken from the record LIVE AT THE IT CLUB with Monk on piano, Charlie Rouse on sax and Ben Riley on drums. Although Gales’ solo is composed mainly of quarter notes, it has a deep swing that serves as a great reminder- it’s not how much you play but what you play…
The song “FREEWAY” is from Ralph Moore’s 1989 Landmark recording, IMAGES. He gathered a group of fine musicians- Terence Blanchard on trumpet, Benny Green playing piano, Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on the drums. Moore contributed two originals and filled out the session with some well known and more obscure material (Joe Henderson’s “Punjab”, “One Second, Please” by Elmo Hope, “This I Dig Of You” by Hank Mobley, etc.). Moore’s playing is characterized by a strong, lean sound, inventive melodic ideas and an unwavering rhythmic drive…