J a z z F i d d l e W
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STRING QUARTET MUSIC:
Jammin' Jazz Standards is a collection of jazz tunes arranged for string quartet by Bud Caputo, Bert Ligon, Martin Norgaard, Matt Turner and Thom Sharp and published by Latham Music. It is designed for advanced high school students and gigging string quartets. It includes written out solos and chord changes that can be used for improvisation. The arrangers represented are donating their royalties to the IAJE String Caucus to support string jazz education. The collection includes tunes like Take five, How High the Moon and others.
I arranged the piece It Had To Be You. Below are some suggestions for developing improvised solos. The techniques mentioned are further explained in my book Jazz Fiddle Wizard including chord types, how to analyze a progression, arpeggios, Inner Melodies and bebop scales. The progression used as an example below is similar to the first half of It Had To Be You.
1) Analyze the Progression: To understand a chord progression it is helpful to first analyze the chords. Jazz analysis is similar to classical figured bass though inversions are disregarded (or written as slash chords). Our sample progression is as follows:
Gmaj7 - Gmaj7 - E7 - E7 - A7 - A7 - A7 - A7 - D7 - B7b9 - Em7 - Em7 - A7 - A7 - D7 - D7
The progression includes a short modulation to the key of E minor but it is easier to analyze this section in the key of G. Upper case are major, lower case are minor chord.
Imaj7 - Imaj7 - VI7 - VI7 - II7 - II7 - II7 - II7 - V7 - III7b9 - vi - vi - II7 - II7 - V7 - V7
The next step is to analyze which chords are diatonic to the key of G major. Unfortunately both the VI7 and II7 would have to be minor to be diatonic to the key of G. This means we will have to change scales on each of those chords. The short modulation to vi is diatonic to G major (or E minor). Please see Jazz Fiddle Wizard for further explanations including and easy way to look at the minor ii - V - i cadence.
2) Practicing the scales: The scale that fit the dominant seventh chord is the dominant bebop scale. It is a major scale with both the dominant and major seventh included. The scale therefore contains eight notes and is designed to emphasize the chord by having chord notes on the beat (See Jazz Fiddle Wizard for more on this principle). To play on the progression we would need to know the G major Scale and the E, A and D bebop scales.
Next try to play up and down the scales following the chords in the progression. In other words set a metronome (or better use accompaniment from a program such as Band-In-The-Box) and change scales as follows: two measures of G regular major, two measures of E bebop, four measures of A bebop etc. On the III7b9 to vi use the E natural minor scale.
3) Arpeggios: Next find all the arpeggios in multiple octaves and practice each arpeggio separately. Now play the roots of each chord following the progression using a metronome or accompaniment recording. Then play root and third, then root third fifth and finally root third fifth and seventh. Then try to improvise using only arpeggios following the chord pattern. In other words, add rhythms to the arpeggios and/or play them ascending or descending and/or starting on any note in the chord.
4) Inner Melodies: Now we are ready to look at the progression horizontally instead of vertically. Inner Melodies are chord notes that make a melody. Find one note per chord and see if you can find a whole note melody (since each chord in this instance is a full measure) that makes sense. It is a good idea to use chord tones that represent the note(s) that are non-diatonic to the key. For instance as the chord goes from Gmaj7 to E7 you could use the notes G to G sharp as an inner melody. Jazz Fiddle Wizard contains exercises and explanations on this concept.
5) Putting it all together: Once you know your scales, arpeggios and inner melodies you should be able to improvise on the progression. Using all these tools requires practice, be patient. Other approaches include using the original melody of the tune or sample solos as the basis for your improvisation. Good luck and have fun!
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