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BI205 - Jazz Improvisation 2

An improvisational course for bass players that begins where the "Jazz Improvisation 1" course leaves off. This course explores such concepts as harmonic substitution, harmonization of the major and melodic minor scales, phrasing concepts for jazz, analyzation of tunes, and building a repetoire. Establishes scale/chord relationships and helps the aspiring improviser to understand and imply various tonalities. Recommended for players of all levels wishing to further their improvisational skills.

Suggested prerequisite courses: "Jazz Improvisation 1" or "Harmony and Theory 1."

Lesson 01: Review of Level 1: Concepts and Applications

Welcome to Jazz Improvisation for bass, Level 2! If you're taking this course following your completion of my Level 1 improvisational course, then congratulations on your progress so far. In this course we will take up where we left off, adding more concepts and applications to your growing repertoire of improvisational ideas. Also in this course, you will have plenty of opportunities to share your progress with me for critique and feedback if you have the means to do so, and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this MusicDojo feature.

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Lesson 02: The Melodic Minor Scale and its Application

The melodic minor scale and its related components are going to be the basis for many of the concepts that will be covered in Level 2. Like the major scale, melodic minor is a seven tone scale that can be harmonized and used for both composition and improvisation.

The melodic minor scale and its related modes are most commonly used in jazz. Ideas that originate from melodic minor possess a certain degree of 'hipness' not necessarily offered by the exclusive use of ideas derived from the major scale and its harmonization.

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Lesson 03: Melodic Minor Derived Modes and Analysis

By now you have probably become pretty familiar with modal concepts associated with the major scale. Recall that mastery of the modes of the major scale allows you two main advantages over knowing only singular positions for scale forms:

1. The ability to play all up and down the range of the fingerboard while remaining in a single key

2. The ability to stay in a single position on the fingerboard and change keys

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Lesson 04: Harmonizing the Melodic Minor Scale

Just as we were able to harmonize the major scale by extracting chord tones from each of its modes, we can do the same with the modes of melodic minor. Let's review the construction of each of these in figure 1.

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Lesson 05: Implied Harmony and the Altered V Chord

When you listen to a jazz or improvisational recording that has been performed at a world class level, you realize there is a great amount of emotional content that is communicated through both melody and harmonic modulation. The more you learn about chords and scales, the more you will come to understand that certain 'feelings' can be implied by certain note choices or types of phrasing.

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Lesson 06: Melodic Minor Arpeggio Forms and Alternative Chord Forms

In this lesson, we will be learning some more components that will be useful to you in your use of the melodic minor scale and its harmonization.

As you may recall from Level 1, arpeggios are merely broken versions of chords in which their chord tones are played individually, as opposed to simultaneously. They share the the same harmonic function and basic sound as their chordal counterparts; however, their use is of particular importance to us in improvisation, since most of what we will play as soloists will involve playing phrases made up of a series of single notes.

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Lesson 07: Chordal Improvisation: Minor 7 Chord

In our last lesson, we revisited the importance of chord tone placement while improvising. However, most of the work we have done so far has dealt with arpeggio forms that correspond to the individual chord types only. In other words, we have spent a good deal of time learning how to outline changes by using arpeggio forms built from the root of each chord in a progression. Although this is a great way to become familiar with navigating through changes, it still presents considerable limitations, and we want to have the choice of phrasing 'outside the box' in order to become well rounded and versatile.

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Lesson 08: Chordal Improvisation: Major 7 Chords

Today we will cover more chordal improvisation concepts specific to major 7 chords. We will be utilizing arpeggios from the harmonization of the major scale again, but this time we will choose a key center that treats the root of our major 7 chords as a '4', instead.

In our prior studies, we became accustomed to associating the Ionian mode with major 7 chords as a default idea for both improvising and building harmonizations. However, you may remember that in our phrasing approaches, we had to be very careful with the 4th degree of the major scale when improvising.

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Lesson 09: Chordal Improvisation: Dominant 7 Chords

In today's lesson, we will cover chordal improvisation concepts specific to dominant 7 chords. Our ideas that correspond to minor 7 and major 7 chords have so far been based on the harmonization of the major scale, but for dominant 7 chords we are going to use the harmonization of melodic minor to establish our choices of chord types and arpeggios.

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Lesson 10: More Chordal Improvisation with Dominant 7 Chords

By now you are probably becoming pretty familiar with how to create chordal approaches to soloing based on harmonizations. The key to all of the ideas covered so far is disciplining yourself to not resort back to scalar approaches when you improvise. Remember: We are actually using chord forms to solo over chords; the difference being that our chord forms are implemented through the use of arpeggios, instead.

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Lesson 11: Using Pentatonics

In this lesson we will take a look at a simple scale form that you have probably played a million times, the minor pentatonic scale. In the lessons that immediately follow, we will establish some new uses for it that you may have not seen before. These new ideas displace the starting point of the minor pentatonic scale and allow you to imply different tonalities over different chord types.

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Lesson 12: More Pentatonics

I hope that you are now starting to see the advantages of displacing the starting points of select musical components. The simplicity of the minor pentatonic scale's construction and its fewer notes allow it to be used across a larger variety of harmonic ideas. We'll talk about some more of those in today's lesson.

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Lesson 13: Minor Pentatonics, Altered Chords, and the ii-V-I

The minor pentatonic scale can also be used in chord progressions as well as static chords to create unique sounding ideas. One of my favorite examples is the use of the minor pentatonic scale to improvise over major ii-V-I progressions.

We have already covered individual uses for both minor 7 and major 7 chords, and by now you should be getting comfortable with both the sound and feel of these substitutions. Now we can add to our collection an idea that is compatible with dominant 7 chords, and this will allow us to connect a series of 3 pentatonic ideas that will correspond to each chord in our ii-V-I progressions.

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Lesson 14: Triad Based Improvisation Introduced: Major Triad Forms

Next on the menu in our study of applied shapes is the concept of triad based improvisation. As the name suggests, we will be learning how triads can be used to imply particular sounds based on principles of harmonization. These ideas are actually quite simple, but their sounds can be combined to create really unique phrases. Because we center our focus on only 3 notes at a time, an inventory of triad ideas is easy to build. All we have to do is memorize the harmony associated with each choice.

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Lesson 15: Triad Based Improvisation: Minor Triad Forms

In today's lesson we will continue where we left off yesterday by adding a new triad form to our list of options, the minor triad. We will use the same methods to chart out and classify our many ideas, and you will have the opportunity to practice this new set of ideas.

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Lesson 16: Diminished and Wholetone Scale Applications

In this lesson we will cover 3 new scale forms, the half step diminished, whole step diminished, and wholetone scales. All 3 are examples of what I would consider to be symmetric scale forms. In other words, their construction is made up exclusively of a repeated series of intervals that cycles over and over again.

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Lesson 17: Taking an Inventory of Ideas and Application over Larger Progressions

We have so far spent a good bit of time learning relationships between chords, scales, and arpeggios, as well as learning how different components imply different types of tonalities. We now have a wide variety of options available to us for implying different sounds over common chord types. In order to exercise their use over complete tunes, I like to first break things down into smaller progressions that can be practiced individually and then later applied to larger components.

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Lesson 18: Sus, Dominant Sus, and Altered Dominant Sus Chords

In your 'chart travels' you will also encounter various types of sus chords. 'Sus' is short for 'suspension', and most of the sus chords you encounter will have an open sound that leads well into a resolution. That's not to say that sus chords will always resolve; often sus chords are also used as standard substitutions, especially in jazz.

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Lesson 19: Improving Phrasing, and Basic Analysis of Tunes

Usually when we find ourselves in improv situations on the gig, we don't have the luxury of taking 10 or 15 minutes to look over each tune and decide what ideas we are going to play during each chorus. One of the skills essential to the jazz improviser is the ability to spontaneously recognize what is happening harmonically and react accordingly. All of this really needs to occur while we are playing; in a sense, we have the power to breathe life into the black and white notes, lines, and spaces on the staff and convey what it all means to the audience or listener. I take this responsibility seriously, and I hope that you will, too.

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Lesson 20: Analysis, Continued

I hope that after our last lesson you have now gained a greater understanding of what it means to break down a chart into smaller, more manageable segments. You are probably also seeing how grouping chords into key centers can simplify your approach to improvisation and buy you some 'breathing room'. This is especially helpful in situations in which you have to deal with a whole lot of chords in a little amount of time. One of our examples from yesterday demonstrated this to the tee.

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