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Unread 06-23-2012, 07:55 AM   #1
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Question Watermelon man improv

I'm quite a theory noob and I'm trying to learn some stuff in learning some jazz standards. I've already played some improv live but just minor pentatonic stuff.

Now I want to try to do an improv on watermelon man but I just can't get it . The chords are F7 Bb7 C7 and I read that myxolydian works well on those. Well in this song it doesn't sound good. I get kind of a blues feeling when I listen to it so I ended up playing the blues scale which gave better results (but a bit off sometimes).

So I'm wondering what scale/mode would you guys use to improv on this song. I don't want to play dissonant jazz shred craziness I just want to play a few notes that sound in tune with the song.

Here's a version of the song :

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Unread 06-23-2012, 08:15 AM   #2
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I think the song is in F Major and the progression is an I IV V or Eb Major with a II V VI, but since i'm not a theory buff by any means you'd probably want to ask SW or Solodini,

You could try outlining the changes and outlining the chords with some dom7 shapes.



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Unread 06-23-2012, 10:00 AM   #3
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I don't know the song and don't have headphones with me but, as the gent above me said, it appears to be the I7, IV7, V7 of F major. Also, ass the gent above me said, you're good to use chord tones as the main notes. Over F7 you can try F, A, C or Eb on the main beats (and off the beats, but on the beats will help to imply the chord), for Bb7 the chord tones are Bb, D, F and Ab and for C7 the chord tones are C, E, G and Bb. You can use any note to lead into them and it should work, to some degree. Notes a semitone away from the chord tone generally work well to lead into then but don't just use then all the time.

Similarly, don't feel you need to play the same note value (duration of note) constantly, don't feel that you need to play a different note on every beat and don't feel like you even need to play on every beat. Rhythmic variation is massively important but often overlooked in favour of focus on pitch. Both are equally important. A lot of "jazz" guys are dull to listen to soloing because they'll just play the same note value (often swung quavers) constantly, save for rests between phrases. You rarely talk with the exact same division as it is not very expressive. As such, playing like that lacks expression, thus lacking communication. No communication generally gives people nothing to connect with and turns them off.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you want me to expand on anything. Also, you can do something for your theory noobism, as the full ebook of my book (linked in my sig) is available for free download ATM. Even if you don't end up using it right now, there's no harm in free! If you do face any difficulty with it then I'll happily help you out. That and if you share the link to the free download then I'll give you two free Skype lessons.
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Unread 06-23-2012, 10:08 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nyx Erebos View Post
I'm quite a theory noob and I'm trying to learn some stuff in learning some jazz standards. I've already played some improv live but just minor pentatonic stuff.

Now I want to try to do an improv on watermelon man but I just can't get it . The chords are F7 Bb7 C7 and I read that myxolydian works well on those. Well in this song it doesn't sound good. I get kind of a blues feeling when I listen to it so I ended up playing the blues scale which gave better results (but a bit off sometimes).

So I'm wondering what scale/mode would you guys use to improv on this song. I don't want to play dissonant jazz shred craziness I just want to play a few notes that sound in tune with the song.

Here's a version of the song :

F7 |F7 |F7 |F7 |Bb7|Bb7|F7 |F7 |
C7 |Bb7|C7 |Bb7|C7 |Bb7|F7 |F7 |


"Watermelon Man" is a 16-bar blues, so it's only natural that you'd get a kind of blues feeling. When dealing with jazz or blues I've always found it's better to think of the chords rather than a single overarching scale or mode for the entire song. Keeping the changes in your head rather than just brainlessly shredding for sixteen bars can give your lines a much-needed grounding in the tune. So, think of the chord tones from the progression, and the notes of the melody (which are, with the exception of a few sixes and seconds, mainly chord tones). Embellish as you see fit.

The melody does some fun things with these changing chord tones; in the 8th and 9th bar of the head, this happens:



In the first bar, the melody is outlining a C6 chord; C(r) G(5) A(6), finishing on the 6th. The first note of the next bar is Ab, smack in between G and A. This should sound horrible, right? Wrong: the chord's changed, and that Ab is the 7th of Bb, going down via the 6th (G) and 5th (F) to the 3rd (D) and back up again. We get two chords outlined, and between the bars there's this nice chromatic A > Ab > G line that still remains melodic. That's thinking with chords!
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Unread 06-23-2012, 10:13 AM   #5
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Unread 06-23-2012, 01:43 PM   #6
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^

As Varcolac pointed out, this is a blues, so it's naturally going to sound bluesy. I IV V is a progression that allows for a lot of harmonic freedom, as we generally hear the root movement more than the harmonic color. I second that you should be thinking in terms of chord tones rather than scales, but the harmonic structure also gives you a lot of directions that you can go. My approach to this sort of thing is to play the chord tones, get comfortable with them, then fill the space between the chord tones with other intervals. That way, you can get a lot of interesting extensions and outside notes while staying strongly within the music's framework. And, you know, it's a blues. Know how to work a blues. Don't be afraid to have a little dissonance in the form of split thirds (playing Ab against F7 [F A C Eb] or Db against Bb7 [Bb D F Ab]) or flatted fifths - that stuff is endemic to the style and tends to happen in situations where blues scales are played over a I7 IV7 V7 progression. Ultimately, you need to ear it out.

There are many, many more options out there are far as substitutions go and scales and whatnot, so my suggestion to you is to try as many things as possible. Maybe staying with chord tones is okay, or maybe you want to play F pentatonic, Bb pentatonic, C pentatonic over each respective chord, or maybe you want to try some melodic minor modes, or play scales that are a tritone away from each chord's root (B pentatonic over F7, E pentatonic over Bb7, Gb pentatonic over C7). Cup of a carpenter.
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Unread 06-23-2012, 02:48 PM   #7
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Everyone calls on you to help them out and you seem to help them out pretty quickly, it seems like it would get tiring hah. (sorry for the extreme off topic)
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Unread 06-23-2012, 03:16 PM   #8
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Ah. I thought you meant I was a slave to the music theory, to which my response is "Dude, I don't freak out if I see parallel fifths or anything". The thought of me being this forum's personal theory bitch, on the other hand, hadn't crossed my mind.
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Unread 06-23-2012, 03:22 PM   #9
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understandable aha
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Unread 06-24-2012, 05:26 AM   #10
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Thanks guys for the answers !

Yes I tried to play only the notes of the chords and add more notes from there but it generally led me to play a norwegian wood ish riff .

Quote:
Also, you can do something for your theory noobism, as the full ebook of my book (linked in my sig) is available for free download ATM. Even if you don't end up using it right now, there's no harm in free!
If it's free be sure I'll check it out (I wouldn't mind pay for it but ATM I'm a poor student).

Quote:
In the first bar, the melody is outlining a C6 chord; C(r) G(5) A(6), finishing on the 6th. The first note of the next bar is Ab, smack in between G and A.
When I saw that and listened to the song I went from to . I'll try to work on that 6th on a 7th chord.

Quote:
or play scales that are a tritone away from each chord's root (B pentatonic over F7, E pentatonic over Bb7, Gb pentatonic over C7).
Sounds interesting I'm going to try that too.
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Unread 06-24-2012, 03:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Varcolac View Post
[FONT="Courier New"]
"Watermelon Man" is a 16-bar blues, so it's only natural that you'd get a kind of blues feeling. When dealing with jazz or blues I've always found it's better to think of the chords rather than a single overarching scale or mode for the entire song. Keeping the changes in your head rather than just brainlessly shredding for sixteen bars can give your lines a much-needed grounding in the tune. So, think of the chord tones from the progression, and the notes of the melody (which are, with the exception of a few sixes and seconds, mainly chord tones). Embellish as you see fit.
The second statement in this paragraph really nails it on the head. While you could feasibly play F minor pent over the entire tune, it won't sound quite as good as playing or tailoring your improvisation to each chord change. This can be done by:
1. emphasizing the chord tones on the strong beasts of each measure
2. Make use of resolutions(look back at varolacs post where the 13 of C7 resolves to the b7 of Bb7 in the melody.= as an example)
3. Use the Major Blues scale for a more "inside" sound over each chord.
4. Or if you wanted to play "outside" you could just play in another key signature either a tritone or minor 2nd in each direction. So if you had Bb7, you could play Bb major pent, Bb minor Pent, B and A minor Pent and E minor pent.
5. You could also play a line that mirrors the upper extension triads to each dominant chord. This would also give the harmony the of the piece more color by heavily altering all the dominant chords. These would be:
II/Root, bIII/Root, bV/Root, bVI/Root, VI/root

Or over Bb7 the triads would be C major, Db major, E major, Gb major, and my favorite sound, G major/Bb7. Gmajor triad/Bb7 makes use of the b9,13 sound and if you want you could just right Bb7b913 and it's essentially the same chord. The triad thing makes it so it's easier to conceptualize and voice chords. I will let you figure out the tensions for the rest.

The truth is that there is alot that you could do with this tune. Everyone else has pretty good advice as well. Just experiment with all the advice in this thread.
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Unread 06-26-2012, 10:41 AM   #12
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Quote:
emphasizing the chord tones on the strong beasts of each measure

play a line that mirrors the upper extension triads to each dominant chord. This would also give the harmony the of the piece more color by heavily altering all the dominant chords. These would be:
II/Root, bIII/Root, bV/Root, bVI/Root, VI/root
I did that and it works quite amazingly. Thanks a lot. It sounds so much cooler. When I'll get the feeling behind the triad thing I'll work on the resolutions/chord shifting (I stop each time I try to do it in the flow of the song, I can't think fast enough to know what to play ).
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