Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Playing 'Outside' Part 2

Over a year ago, I took a few lessons from a teacher from the East Coast and one of the earliest comments I got was my lack of 'hip' colors in my playing. My lines were completely diatonic (excluding passing tones) and I didn't play anything out. He told me to work on that.

A year later, and I'm just beginning to foray using a little bit and there for live performances. It still takes too much thinking so often I have to prepare for it tune by tune (studying the progressions).

So to force myself to apply this in my playing, I'm going to lay out some of the specific exercises I need to do so I can integrate some hip colors in my solo, starting with the easiest.

1.       One of the easier places to play out is in a Dorian mode. This I do apply frequently. In the tune So What, which is in D Dorian, and then Eb Dorian, you have an example of being able to clearly see when you are playing out.

When in D Dorian (Dm), all the white notes can be used in the solo. All those notes are diatonic. So if one uses some black notes, then you are clearly outside of the harmony and you are a half-step up. I saw this done in a video on Youtube and it sounded good. You can control how much you play out by how often you go to a black note (which is in effect playing Eb Dorian over Dm). This one is easily implemented and I do it now for a portion of my solo in So What.

Now where I can take this further is not to think of the scale but actually come up with a melodic line in D Dorian and then translate it a half step up to Eb Dorian. That would be an excellent practice strategy for me to move this up a notch.

2.      Another area that I could easily implement on playing with more colors or more outside sounding lines, is to do diminished cycle substitutions on my dominants. I did practice it before but I slacked off. The idea here is to sub a dominant a minor third away so you have 4 variations, b9, b5, #11, and 13. It's pretty easy to do. Just move the rootless (7)(13) voicing up and down in minor thirds. What I'm not implementing correctly though is the translate the LH voicing to a RH triad shapes which apply to the color of the LH voicing. So more woodshedding to be done here.

3.      An easy trick on dominants is to play a minor triad a half step up from the root. So you end up with a b9-3-#5. This is easy to visualize so I've been doing this a lot now and it's very commonly used (heard it on the AP and Herbie videos too). But thinking about this more, one can modify the triad to 9-3-#5, 1-3-#5, b9-3-5 (in inversions) so that you don't overdo the color. This requires really deep visualization of all the possibilities in real time. I can do it without thinking now on many ii-V's but some are not handy to the fingers.

On a related point, I transcribed a little lick that melodically inserts the  #5 in the dominant. The main feature of the ii-V-I lick was a descending chromatic series of 3 notes where the first note is the 9 of the ii,  middle note lands on the #5 of the V and the last note ends on the 9 of the I.

4.     Specifically applicable to dominants, I need to start implementing playing of alternate scales such as H-W Diminished, Whole-Tone, and ALT. And ALT scale would imply a full Tritone sub, while the H-W diminished gives the next level of outside tones (b9, #9, #11) and then the Whole-Tone scale gives 2 notes of outside tones (#11, #5). So here it's a matter of degree of color needed.

I did transcribe some Chick Corea lines to see how he handled H-W Diminished. It's too easy to think of these as scales. I really haven't worked them to the level of intervallic playing or triad shapes. I need to do that.

This reminds me, someone on the forum was saying that at the Aebersold camp, they were pushing the use of Lydian Dominants (Dom7#11). Maybe I need to find lines that show this is an example since I don't know why they were pushing for Lydian specifically vs. any of the other color options above. I guess Lydian would be the lightest alteration scale wise. Only 1 color tone. Maybe this is the easiest to absorb? I don't know.

5.      Something easily done (and copied from Herbie) was the use of chromatic chord movements on minor chords. For example, if a tune stays for a long time in Cm7, then one can voice C#m7, Bm7 as passing chords. This means the melodic lines can sway back and forth like that too. I've been using this a lot in slower minor blues or Footprints.

6.       A more advanced technique that requires intense practice is the use of Augmented triads. I mentioned this as the technique being used by Alan in the prior video. Basically it involves reharmonization of a ii-V-I along the lines of using augmented triads as follows:
ii --> min(maj)7 #5  - Aug Triad shape centered on b3.
V --> Dom 7 #5 - Aug Triad shape centered on 3
I --> Maj7 #5 - Aug Triad shape centered on 3

So each of the above chords in a ii-V-I receives one note that is outside the expected diatonic harmony. I just transcribed a portion of the use of this in Alan's version of Con Alma. Clearly, one needs to be more aware of melodic movement and not just think of the triad. There's a lot more to learn here.

7.      Rhythmic Displacement is another technique to bring out tension notes. The problem is that I haven't studied were this is best used. It's not so interesting when used for example in delaying the ii in a ii-V (sounds like a Sus chord) or anticipating the V (sounds like a ii(m6) ). It has to be used where the next chord or prior chord is a modulation or at least enough difference in the notes that you know exactly which note is being sounded out as dissonant. I really haven't studied this one deeply enough. It requires a lot more research. All I know is that in a ii-V, there are alternate explanations (like delayed resolution) that translate really to reharms like Sus chords and Cm6 tonic sounds etc.

8.      A specific sound that I learned from Stolen Moments is how the C-7 chord gets some color by playing Dm7(9) voicing underneath as a passing chord. This gets into forays into shifting from major to minor. I don't think this is particularly being outside but it provides color if there's no conflict in playing the 3 instead of the b3 on C-7.

The above is my starting point. I should master the above before proceeding to other things but at least I need to expand the list.

In my early discovery here, I've noticed that one can play with this and work it out on the keyboard. The best outside lines seem to be ones that only highlight a note or two as having dissonance. So one could attack this as upper structure triads too.

I haven't really gone into thinking about this as upper structure triads because I've gone to more specific identification of the alterations. For example playing D/CMaj7  gives as a nice #11. But it's too obvious to me. I already know where the #11 is. I don't need to think of D since the #11 is the more important color. But that's just me.

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