improvisation / tonal convergence
|getting started||musical resources||theoretical improvisatory concepts||internalizing the resources||shedding|
Ah, the art of creating melodic line, coupled with the theory of converging upon a tonality through the discovery of the varying degrees of the tension / release dynamic as created from equal temper and points in between. So very cool. In practice, a most unique aspect of the purely American styles of music is that in the performance of many of the popular styles, there are oftentimes sections where the all players get to "spontaneously" create or improvise their parts together as the music grooves along, each player potentially becoming the leader of the musical direction of the group ( the soloist ) or contributing their voice to the musical conversation in real time. Not really all that new, players creating their parts from memory, based on their experience, has been done for ages. The classical players do have their concerto, which features a soloist and band, although all the parts usually written out. What is new, well relatively speaking ( the last 250 years or so ), is the emergence of the consistently tuned aural resource of tonal colors available to the improvising artist for sharing their ideas within this age old format of playing from memory.
Present day coolness also emerges for the artist of the American styles in that in many of these performance situations, these improvisations created from memory are the highlight of the musical experience. Historically, jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong is often considered the first of the "American solo voices", blazing new and exciting pathways for the instrumental jazz voice and eventually gaining a global prominence, becoming Americas first "ambassador of jazz." Perhaps it could be said that Mr. Armstrong set the new standard for the importance of the improvisational voice in American music. Today, over 75 years later, the many voices which have followed in Mr. Armstrong footsteps have helped define the course and development of American musical society. In folk, blues, jazz, rock, country, hip hop and rap, and all of their sub genres, improvisation during the performance of the music is so often an integral part of communicating the joy and creative excitement of the players to the listeners and dancers alike.
So, what is meant by the term improvisation in this text? Although the term "improvisation" generally implies a "now happening" present tense, when we hear musical improvisations that we dig, chances are the creators of these improvised ideas have spent mucho, mucho time in preparation. And although what we experience as listeners seems to be spontaneous, which so often it is, as each of the players react to each other within the group, the skills to improvise fluidly are hard earned and deeply respected among the players, who know first hand what it takes to create happening, improvised, interactive musical dialogue in real time in an ongoing, tonally convergent dynamic.
The following improvisation links are for the most part the 90% of perspiration, that along with the 10% of inspiration, can create cool art. The music theory in the following links / topics gets pretty thick in a hurry. Included in these more advanced theoretical discussions are lots of ways back into the "nuts and bolts" of improvisation, providing a look at the essential musical components and artistic concepts used in the following discussions.
So, what is meant by tonal convergence? Tonal convergence simply implies the creation and release of musical tension. Tonal implying a key center, convergence implies the musical route we take to get there. Perhaps think of a bicycle wheel, the hub is the tonal center, each spoke a potentially different line of convergence towards that tonal center, each of which embodies their own unique sense of tonal gravity and emotional essence. So, D min 7 / G 7 / C maj 7 is one "spoke?" Yep. Is Ab min 7 / Db 7 / C maj 7 another spoke or line of tonal convergence to our chosen hub or key center? Exactly. Others? Of course, click here to get there.
Format for this improvisation / tonal convergence section. The topics in this section look at the myriad of different ways we create, sustain and release artistic tension within the various styles of American music, using the melodic and harmonic resources of equal temperament. Choosing which of these pathways sound cool to you will hopefully provide musical elements to create new ways to expand the music you are presently creating. And although stylistically we are hanging mostly in the jazz realm of things, is it safe to say that all of the styles of American music are continually being reinvented as new talent emerges? Is one style immune from using the coolness of another? Ah, the artist at work, continually searching for new elements to better express the art in their heart.
Getting started. These first few links contain information with the beginning improviser in mind and perhaps might also be a quick review for the intermediate improvising artist. Perhaps an idea to always consider regardless of improvising experience, that the artistic embellishment of the melody of the song we are playing is a sure and easy way into the world of the art of musical improvisation. But you knew that right? Like sing the line, play the line yes? With this in mind, here are a few links to various discussions, concepts and ideas for the beginning player to perhaps consider. Reference texts.
|a place to start||looks at using the 12 bar blues for beginning improvisers.|
|call and response||perhaps the oldest and most moving of the improvisatory dialogues.|
|theme and variations||ways to develop the melody of a song in our improvisations.|
|soloing over chord changes||looks at basic pairings of groups of pitches ( scales ) with chords of within various styles of American music.|
|need a chord or scale?||here we simply look at various chords and groups of pitches commonly used for creating melodic ideas over them.|
|3rd and 7th||the determining pitches of chord quality, key pitches for staying inside while modulating key centers.|
|7 / 5 / 12||using this numerical formula, as representative of the 7 pitches of the major scale and the remaining 5 pitches of the 12 available tones of the chromatic scale, we examine the relationships between these two groups of pitches.|
|anything from anywhere?||a simply a way to view our musical resources.|
|quoting||the melody ...? any melody ...?|
Musical resources. These discussions look at the musical resources available to the creative musician and common ways they are manipulated.
|melodic resources||main page for the groups of pitches from which we create our melodic ideas.|
|interval studies||basic ways of permutating the major scale based on the diatonic intervals used to create it.|
|permutation / sequence||the 90% perspiration of artistic development.|
|clusters of pitches||rapidly articulated selected groups of melodic color.|
|improvising melodic lines||theories and musical examples of creating melodic ideas in an improvisational format.|
|building a solo||introductory ideas for organizing our improvisations.|
|harmonic resources||main page for the discussion of chords.|
|harmonizing melodies||examines diatonic possibilities for harmonizing a melodic line in both the major and minor tonalities.|
|tritone substitute||examines the basic chord substitution possibilities using the tritone interval, oftentimes the first "real" substitution for the emerging jazz artist.|
Theoretical improvisatory concepts. The next grouping of topics explore the theory of the musical elements of equal temper, examining various colors with an eye towards improvisation and tonal convergence. Various artistic properties of essential components are explored individually then combined together to create different pathways of tonal convergence resulting in a tonal convergence chart, some of which get pretty far out there tonally. Perhaps to consider, that by far and away the vast majority of of the coolness we hear in improvisation in any of the styles is simply diatonically generated.
|theory of tonal covergence||examines the structuring of melodic choices for the One / Two / and Five chord types.|
|tonic harmony / major 7th chord type||theoretical properties and melodic colors associated with tonic harmony.|
|Two chord harmony / minor 7 chord type||theoretical properties and melodic colors associated with Two chord harmony.|
|dominant harmony / V 7 chord type||theoretical properties and melodic colors associated with dominant harmony.|
|V 7 / diatonic color / musical proof # 1||examines mainly diatonic / modal melodic choices for the dominant chord type.|
|V 7 / diminished color / proof # 2||examines melodic choices for the dominant chord type based on the properties of the fully diminished seventh chord.|
|V 7 / melodic minor color / proof # 3||explores the colors provided by the melodic minor scale in regards to dominant harmony.|
|V 7 / whole tone color / proof # 4||examines the symmetrical whole tone scale in relation to dominant harmony.|
|tonal convergence chart||cumulative listing of the convergence possibilities created in the musical proofs with links back to the theory.|
|tonal convergence chart realizations||creating four bar musical ideas from each entry of the tonal convergence chart.|
|intervalic / colortone series experiments||documents the aural phenomena of extending the arpeggios of each of the three chord types up through #15.|
|polytonality||examines the triads found in the upper structure of the three chord types.|
Internalizing the resources. These next topics are concerned with musical principles used in applying the resources and begin to outline the potential shedding for the intermediate / advanced improviser.
|internalizing melodic colors||a brief review of getting from the inside to the outside, i.e., from the major pentatonic color to the fully diminished seventh color then back.|
|melodic application / diminished color||shedding the diminished color's resolving possibilities within the major and minor tonalities.|
|melodic application / melodic minor color||shedding the melodic minor color's resolving possibilities within the major and minor tonalities.|
|melodic application / whole tone color||shedding the whole tone color's resolving possibilities within the major and minor tonalities.|
|improvising melodic lines||discussion of artistic aspects of creating improvised melodic lines.|
|melodic examples of musical lines||a cornucopia of melodic ideas within the Two / Five / One cadential motion.|
|internalizing harmonic colors||a brief review of getting from the inside to the outside, i.e., from the major chord to the fully diminished seventh chord.|
|harmonic application / diminished colors||shedding the diminished color's resolving possibilities within the major and minor tonalities.|
|harmonic application / altered dominant colors||softening the diminished color into altered dominant chords and examining resolving possibilities within the major and minor tonalities.|
|harmonic application / dominant 9th color||shedding the dominant 9th chord's resolving possibilities within the major and minor tonalities.|
|harmonic application / whole tone color||shedding the whole tone color's resolving possibilities within the major and minor tonalities.|
|modern Two / Five / One groupings||chordal ideas based upon the principles discovered with the harmonic application discussion within the Two / Five / One cadential motion.|
|modern Three / Six / Two / Five groupings||doubling up the Two / Five / One into Three / Six / Two / Five.|
|tonic #15 and onward||explores the upper reaches of the tonic arpeggio|
Shedding. Putting it all back together at potentially a more complex level. These topics provide ways to manipulate and view the resources, adding additional "grist for the mill" for the advancing improviser.
|interval studies||diatonic ideas based on the intervals of the major scale.|
|advanced permutation / sequence||ideas for creating melodic ideas.|
|artistic filters||running one melodic idea through various tonal environments.|
|melodic substitution concepts||basic diatonic ideas of replacing one element with another.|
|harmonic substitution concepts||diatonic and non-diatonic ideas of replacing one color with another.|
|modernizing chord progressions||examines common harmonic motions used in contemporary music.|
|tonality without a tritone?||what happens to the resource when the tritone goes away.|
With all of this improvisational resource, how about some common but cool artistic techniques used to shape the resources of modern American music? Need a performance format to check out your new ideas? Click jamm loops, tune up and off ya go!
This will be our own reply to violence; to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than before. Leonard Bernstein