Improv Tip Week # 48-Outside-In part 3

Welcome to week #48! We’re only a few more weeks before hitting the one year mark! I’ve got some exciting things to announce in the next coming days and weeks ahead so be sure to continue checking in. In this week’s tip, we’re going to continue in our series on Outside-In. We’ve been talking about how you can create outside lines with structure so they’re not random and have a flow of logic that connects with your audience. This week we’re going to look at tritone substitutions as well as superimposing a progression based off of a way Bill Evans often reharmonized ii-V-I’s.

Let’s first take a look at the often talked about tritone substitution. There’s been a lot of mystery associated with this term and I hope to clear some of that up to show that it’s not as complicated as some make it out. A lot of our recent examples have been in the key of C…so let’s switch it up this week and move to the key of Eb. Let’s start with the ii-V-I in Eb:

A tritone substitution is simply taking the V7 chord and replacing it with the same quality chord a tritone (sharp 4th or flatted 5th interval) away. Instead of having Fmin7-Bb7-Ebmaj7. You now have Fmin7-E7-Ebmaj7. Notice how the root movement descends chromatically. The reason why the tritone substitution works so well is that the Bb7 and the E7 (tritone away) share the same guide-tones (the 3rd and the flat 7th of the chord):

(Quick note: anytime you have a V7 chord that lasts a full measure…you can turn it into a one-bar ii-V. This holds true for tritone substitutions.)

This substitution is the same as what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks in this series by superimposing chord changes. Tritone substitutions are commonplace in chord progressions and reharmonizations, but we’re going to look at superimposing the tritone substitution as a means of structuring our outside lines (i.e. the soloist plays the superimposed line while the rhythm section plays the ii-V-I). Below is a good example of how you can superimpose the tritone substitution over the standard changes:

The next example below is taking the idea of the tritone substitution a step further. The great jazz pianist, Bill Evans, was known for a lot of things in jazz. But, one of the aspects I admired of his was reharmonization techniques. Mr. Evans took an additional step in some of his reharmonizations with the tritone substitution. We can use that for our structure to go outside as well. In this past couple of weeks we talked about the 3-tonic and 4-tonic systems and how they’re connected by their V7 or iimin7 chords and also how they’re dividing the octave by major 3rds and minor 3rds. Bill Evans would take the tritone substitution (with the one bar ii-V, or Bmin7-E7 in our example above) and connect the iimin7 (Fmin7) to the tritone sub’s iimin7 (Bmin7) by ascending the quality of the chord up by minor thirds (Fmin7-Abmin7-Bmin7). That progression is below:

The final example is taking that superimposed progression above and playing lines based on that progression (while the rhythm section plays the standard ii-V-I):

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and this series. You should have a good idea now of what it means to superimpose a chord progression and how we can use the idea of superimposition to play “outside” in a structured way. Always remember: You need to know how to play inside before you can outside and to connect to your audience you need to make sure you’re coming back inside at some point. Please feel free to share this tip/site via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+ or other sites you’re a contributor. For easy social media sharing access, there are easy buttons below!

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Improv Tip Week # 47-Outside-In part 2

Welcome back to part 2 or our outside-in series! We’re going to continue in week #47 talking about some ways you can play “outside” of the chord changes while keeping your lines structured. Last week we started talking about the 3-tonic system. This week I want to expand on that concept and introduce the 4-tonic system. If you haven’t read last week’s post, I would highly suggest you check it out as a simplified foundation was laid in week #46.

Last week we looked at the 3-tonic system and splitting the octave equally into three equal parts (which forms an augmented triad). We then applied the V7 chord of each of those three equal parts: G7 to Cmaj7, Eb7 to Abmaj7 and B7 to Emaj7. However, because we’re super-imposing our changes to the standard ii-V-I, we can alter those changes in a number of different ways. In the first example below we’re going to keep the 3-tonic system how we had it last week. This time-instead of using the V7 chord of each of the 3 equal parts, we’re going to use the iimin7 chord before each of the 3 equal parts:

Notice how the diatonic pattern applied to that chordal movement creates a varied tonal pattern different then just taking the same pattern and moving it down in half or whole steps.

In the next example we’re taking the same thought process of changing the chord quality of the three equal parts, but this time we’re changing the quality of the I chord from major to minor:

You can take this process and change any of the chords qualities (major, minor, dominant, diminished, augmented, etc). As long as you continue to take the structure from outside back to inside…any super-imposition will work!

Now, let’s talk about the 4-tonic system. Much like the 3-tonic system, you take an octave and split it into four equal parts (minor third intervals-which forms a diminished 7th). In the key of C that would be: Cmaj7, Ebmaj7, F#maj7 and Amaj7. Much like what we’ve done with the 3-tonic system, you can apply the V7 chord of each of these or change up the chord qualities. For now, we’re going to keep the 4-tonics major and apply their V7 chords. The picture below shows how we apply the 4-tonic system to the iimin7-V7-Imaj7 in the key of C.

The final step is playing your structured lines on the super-imposed 4-tonic system changes over the original Dmin7-G7-Cmaj7.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and it’s found some benefit to your playing! Please feel free to share this tip (and site) via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor. Also, be sure to check out my book (Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose) by clicking on the book on the homepage or the links above.

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Improv Tip Week #46-Outside-In part 1

Welcome to week #46! This week I wanted to talk about some ways you can play “outside” of the chord changes while still keeping your lines structured. A lot of younger students want to play out, but don’t know how to do it. I always tell them you need a good understanding of how to play inside before you can out because great improvisers can move their lines from outside to inside and vice versa.

To try and keep this as simplified as possible so you can apply it to your own playing-we will use the common iimin7-V7-Imaj7 in C.

We’ve talked in a lot of the past 45 weeks about what you can do over those chord changes. Now, let’s take a look at how we can alter those changes as a soloist (while the rhythm section continues to play the changes as written) and superimpose a new set of changes. One of the ways we can do this is by taking John Coltrane’s idea of a 3-tonic system (i.e. Giant Steps) and implying them over the original changes. I’m not going to go in-depth on Coltrane’s Giant Steps or how we can play over those changes, but I do want to show you how it’s structured so we can apply it to a set of chord changes as a means to play outside.

The 3-tonic system is taking an octave and splitting them into three equal parts (major third intervals). In the key of C that would be: Cmaj7, Abmaj7 and Emaj7 (you can make these different qualities, but for now we will keep them major). After you’ve found the three equal parts-you apply the V7 chord of each of those three equal parts: G7 to Cmaj7, Eb7 to Abmaj7 and B7 to Emaj7.

Let’s apply it to the iimin7-V7-Imaj7 in the key of C. We want to go from outside to inside. To do that, we want the last chord to be the Cmaj7 (since we’re doing the ii-V-I in the key of C). So we arrange the changes above to where they match the Cmaj7 at the end:

The final step is playing lines based on the super-imposed 3-tonic system changes over the original Dmin7-G7-Cmaj7. This gives you a structured way of playing outside that brings your line BACK inside:

Remember, it’s important to first learn how to play inside first before you start applying outside techniques. But, once you do-this week’s tip is a great way to apply some structure to your outside lines. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it adds value to your playing! Please feel free to share this tip (and the site) via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor.

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