Friday, November 15, 2013

Playing outside with Chick Corea

I'd like to share with you a transcription of an outside lick played by Chick Corea on the song Vulcan Worlds from the album Where Have I Known You Before (Return to Forever). I've always found that playing outside is a difficult topic because even though the concept is simple - just add notes from outside the tonality -, it is hard to make it sound good. There are tons of videos and articles on the web that try to teach you how to best apply the concept of playing outside. Some of them are even quite good, but I believe that the best way to learn it is by figuring out how great improvisers play outside.

You can start by taking a look at the lick I've transcribed below. It starts at 2:54 into the song, and it is played over an Em7 groove. The chord scale for Em7 is E dorian, and that's also how the lick starts. In the first measure there are embellished A major and G major triads, both of which are contained in E dorian. In the next measure Chick Corea plays a purely pentatonic melody. However, it is not in E minor pentatonic but in F# minor. This is still inside because all notes the of F# minor pentatonic scale are contained in E dorian. On the second beat of the third measure, he moves to the G minor pentatonic scale. This is the outside part of the lick. He uses a chromatically ascending line to move back to E dorian, and he finishes by a lick taken from the B minor pentatonic scale, which is again totally inside because all notes of the B minor pentatonic scale are part of E dorian.

So why haven't I just transcribed the outside part of the lick, i.e. the G minor pentatonic part? Because I believe that the art of playing outside lies not only in the choice of the outside notes but also in the way you move outside and back inside again. So let's have a look at these 3 components and how Chick Corea made his choices:
  • moving outside: by moving down a half-step, which takes him from F# minor pentatonic to Gm pentatonic. Note that he does not move up, even though the scales move up from F# to G!
  • playing outside: he uses the G minor pentatonic scale, which contains 3 outside notes (Bb, C, and F) and two inside notes (G and D). It is important to connect the outside notes in some 'logical' and musical way, and using the familiar pentatonic scale is one great way of doing this.
  • moving back inside: he plays a chromatically ascending run which adds a lot of tension before it resolves back to E, the root of the tonality. From there he stays inside by playing another pentatonic lick.
 When you check out the lick, also experiment with fingerings and positions because I just chose one possibility that suits my style of playing. In the video below you can hear the original lick with me playing along. Afterwards I also play a slow version, so you can hear and see what's going on. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oz Noy: chord solo over 12-bar blues

Hi everybody,

in my previous post I talked about Oz Noy and the scales he demonstrated over a 12-bar blues in G. Even though his single note solo contains a lot of interesting melodies and note choices, I decided to transcribe the very last chorus, where he plays an improvised chord solo. I really like studying chord progressions, chord voicings, and voice leading. Oz Noy's chord solo was yet another challenge to try to hear (and understand) what's going on. It keeps amazing me how much you can do with a simple 12-bar blues progression. If you check out the transcription below, note the identical voicings for the dominant chords Ab7/#9, G7/#9 and for the diminished chords C#dim7/11, C#dim7/b13. This is a cool sounding voicing taken from the diminished (whole-half) scale (for dominant chords, it is actually taken from the half-whole scale, which is just a shifted version of the diminished scale). Another chord worth noticing is the final chord. Even though the tonic chord of a standard blues is a dominant chord - G7 in this case - Oz Noy switches to a major7/#5 for the final chord, which is basically a B major triad over a G bass note, check it out!

This is me playing the chord solo (with Oz Noy in the background):

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scales over 12-bar blues: great example by Oz Noy

I found this video of a master class by the guitar player Oz Noy where he demonstrates different scale choices over dominant chords. It's a 12-bar I-IV-V blues in G with the chords

||: G7  | C7 | G7 | G7 | C7 | C7 | G7 | G7 | D7 | C7 | G7 | D7 :||

He then plays one or more choruses using only one type of scale to demonstrate the sound of that scale over dominant chords. E.g., when playing mixolydian he would choose G-mixolydian over the G7 chord, C-mixolydian over C7, and D-mixolydian over D7. He continues in this way using the following scales:

  • mixolydian: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
  • minor pentatonic: 1 b3 4 5 b7
  • major pentatonic: 1 2 3 5 6
  • whole tone: 1 2 3 b5 #5 b7
  • diminished (actually half-whole): 1 b2 b3 3 b5 5 6 b7
  • altered: 1 b2 b3 3 b5 #5 b7
The first three scales are pretty much inside and will not cause too much friction. However, the whole tone, the diminished and the altered scales contain quite a few outside notes, and they might simply sound wrong to you if you use them for the first time. Anyway, Oz Noy manages to use them in a very musical way. Check out the video and start transcribing (starts at 6:46)!