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Functional Harmony Applications

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This page provides a starting point for all improvisation students who have asked me about our improvisation clinics and functional harmony discussions.

Currently and as my schedule permits, I am finishing this functional harmony and improvisation book which will be available on this website. This book will illustrate and demonstrate a variety of chord-scale applications and functions for improvisers and students of functional harmony of diverse ability and background.

The focus of my research and subsequent book is to attempt to serve students of improvisation and functional harmony by generating a straight-forward and practical reference manual that explores traditional and alternate approaches derived from my love and study of music and mathematics. As a result of my background, experience and research, I am fascinated by the science of improvising, or creating music spontaneously, compelled by a theory that music is science, and more specifically mathematics, expressed as art in a spontaneous form.

Please refer back to this page often for updates and book release information. I will also be posting a series of video and audio clips that illustrate specific examples as well as practice tips and excersises. It is my sincerest hope that the information found on this page will help students of improvisation and functional harmony save time and assist them in the process of finding their unique voices. The beauty of music is to be shared with listeners. So many have much to say and often lack the tools with which to say it. Humbly, I hope this page will help all of you say what you want to say and afford listeners new voices and stories to hear and enjoy.
Ed

Download the Sibelius Scorch plug-in in order to view the lead sheets and musical examples.
Thesaurus of commonly used chord-scales for improvisation.
Pentatonic scale patterns (C Major).

Chord Chord scales Starting point
CMaj7

C major scale

Any Maj7 chord = Apply the major scale from the root of the chord.
CMaj7 (#11)
G Major scale
Any Maj7 (#11) chord = Apply the major scale from the 5th of the chord .
CMaj7(#5) A melodic minor scale Any Maj7(+5) chord = Apply the melodic minor scale from the 6th of the chord. This is also the same as playing a melodic minor scale starting a minor 3rd below the root of the chord.
Cm7
C-7
C dorian Any min7 chord = Apply the Dorian scale from the root of the chord or the Major scale from the 7th of the chord.
Cmin (Maj7)
C melodic minor Any min (Maj7) chord = Apply the melodic minor from the root. Note: Use the ascending mode exclusively.
Dm7(b5)
Dø7
F melodic minor Any min7(b5) chord = Apply the melodic minor from the 3rd of the chord. This scale, when starting from the root of the m7(b5) chord, is called the super-Locrian scale.

One can also use a Locrian scale from the root of the chord. Note that this is equivalent to using a Major scale from the b9 of the m7(b5) chord.

The melodic minor scale from the 3rd of the chord and the Locrian scale are exactly the same scale except for the 9th degree of the chord. The Locrian scale provides a b9 in the chord.

For me, the b9 of the m7(b5) chord is not as "good" a choice, especially when playing longer notes, as the natural 9th provided by the melodic minor scale.
G7 G mixolydian =
C Major scale atarting on the 5th degree
Any 7 chord = Apply the Mixolydian mode from the root of the chord.
G7(#11) D melodic minor Any 7(#11) chord = Apply the melodic minor scale from the 5th of the chord.
G7alt. or G7(b9,+9,b13) Ab melodic minor Any 7(b9, +9, b13) chord = Melodic minor from one-half step higher than the root. Melodic minor from the b9 of the chord.
G7(b9,+9,13) Ab diminished scale. When playing the Ab diminished scale starting with G natural, this scale is called the G auxilliary diminished scale. Any 7(b9, +9, 13) chord = Apply the diminished scale from one-half step higher than the root of the chord or apply the auxilliary diminished scale from the root of the chord.
C7(#5) C Whole-tone scale Any 7(#5) chord = Apply the whole-tone scale from the root of the chord.
Cº7 C diminished scale Any º7 chord = Apply the diminished scale from the root of the chord.
F/G or FMaj7/G G mixolydian scale Any bVII/I chord = Apply the mixolydian mode from the root of the chord. This is another way of describing or notating a dominant seventh suspended fourth chord (X7sus4).
"Stella by Starlight" chord scale application lead sheet. This lead sheet contains most of the information covered in our clinics in Texas and Minnesota. This lead sheet is written for concert instruments and can be transposed for use with your specific instruments using the transpose button on the Sibelius Scorch plug-in. ¨

Why use these scales? The fact of the matter is that even though the chord-scales mentioned here are not the only possible choices, they do provide excellent choices when attempting to find the "correct" or most "inside" notes for their respective chord(s). The chart below illustrates various chord-scale applications and functions in detail.

Chord Chord scale

Scale notes/
Chord extensions

CMaj7 C major scale
C D E F G A B
Root 9 3 4 5 6 or 13 7
CMaj7(#11) G major scale
G A B C D E F#
5 6 or 13 7 Root 9 3 #11
CMaj7(#5) A melodic minor scale
A B C D E F# G#
6 or 13 7 Root 9 3 #11 or #4 #5
C-7 C Dorian scale
C D Eb F G Ab Bb
Root 9 3 4 or 11 5 6 or 13 7
C-(Maj7) C melodic minor
C D Eb F G A B
Root 9 3 4 or 11 5 6 or 13 Maj7
Dm7(b5)
Dø7

F mel. min.
or
D Locrian

F melodic minor scale
F G Ab Bb C D E
3 4 or 11 b5 6 or 13 7 Root 9
D Locrian scale
D Eb F G Ab Bb C
Root b9* 3 4 or 11 b5 6 or 13 7

* In my experience, the b9 is not a very strong choice when improvising on a m7(b5) chord. One can use the b9 when playing moving lines or passing tones. When playing notes of a longer duration use of the b9 on a m7(b5) chord may create conflicts with piano and guitar chord voicings since many m9(b5) chord voicings will include a natural 9.
G7
G7sus4
G mixolydian
G A B C D E F
Root 6 or 13 7 4 or 11 5 6 or 13 7
G7(#11) D melodic minor
D E F G A B C#
5 6 or 13 7 Root 9 3 #11
G7(b9,+9,b13) Ab melodic minor
Ab Bb Cb (B) Db Eb F G
b9 #9 3 #11 b13 7 Root

Note that the pitch Eb, the (b13), can also be thought of as the enharmonic D# or (#5). Personally, I always hear and use the (b13) function with this type of chord. Chords that specifically require the natural (9) and (#5) extensions are better navigated via the use of whole-tone scales.
G7(b9,+9,13) Ab diminished scale
Ab Bb B (Cb) C# (Db) D E F G
b9 #9 3 #11 5 13 7 Root


The diminished scale is a symmetrically-constructed scale. The diminished scale contains 8 notes and is constructed via a series of symmetrical intervals: whole step, half step, whole step, half step, whole step, half step, whole step, half step.

A note for all of the theory geeks: Since the name of the scale is the diminished scale, a half step can and should be described as a diminished second. Yes, we improvisers understand this nomenclature stuff and wouldn't want any of theory police to loose sleep fretting about our lack of theorical understanding.

Symmetrical scales:
There are four types of commonly used symmetrical scales. The four different types of symmetrical scales are called the chromatic scale, the whole-tone scale, the diminished scale and the augmented scale. The number enclosed by parentheses define how many different scales of each type exist. Once again for the theory enforcers, even though there are (12) different names for each of the scales depending on their tonic starting point, the reality is that each of the different symmetrical scales repeat themselves starting on different pitches. For those of us using these scales in a functional manner, it is simply a matter of semantics.

Any dominant7(#5) chord
Whole-tone scales
C D E F# G# (Ab) A# (Bb)
Db Eb F G A B
Root 9 3 #11 or +4 #5 or b13 7

The Whole Tone Scale. There exist (2) unique whole tone scales. The whole-tone scale is constructed by a series of consecutive whole-steps. There exist two unique whole-tone scales containing the same notes as described above. These two whole-tone scales are the:
C, D, E, F#, Ab and Bb whole-tone scales
Db, Eb, F, G, A and B whole-tone scales contain the same notes starting on the respective root tones.
Any º7 chord Play the diminished scale form the root
C, Eb, Gb and A diminished scales
C D Eb F F# Ab (G#) A B
Db, E, G and Bb diminished scales
Db Eb E F# G A Bb C
D, F, Ab and B diminished scales
D E F G Ab Bb B C#
Root 9 3 11 #11 (b5) b13 or #5 6 or 13 7


The Diminished Scale. There exist (3) unique diminished scales. The diminished scale is constructed by a series of whole-steps and diminished seconds. The three sets of related diminished scales containing the same notes listed above are:
C, Eb, Gb and A diminished scales
C#, E, G and Bb diminished scales
D, F, Ab and B diminished scales.
Please note that in each case, the four related diminished scales names define a four diminished chords respectively.

When the diminished scale begins with a half step, it is called the auxilliary dimished scale. For example, the D diminshed scale can also be referred to as the the E, G, Bb and Db auxilliary diminished scales as illustrated below:

E, G, Bb and Db auxilliary diminished scales. This scale or scales can be applied to E13 (#9, b9, #4), G13 (#9, b9, #4), Bb13 (#9, b9, #4) or Db13 (#9, b9, #4) chords.
E F G Ab Bb B C# D
E7 Root b9 #9 3rd #11 5th 13th 7th


  C chromatic scale
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B

The Chromatic Scale. Since the chromatic scale is constructed by a series of consecutive half-steps or semitones there exists (1) chromatic scale that can be named differently by starting it on any of the scale's 12 different pitches.
Any augmented Major7 chord Augmented scales
C Eb E G Ab B
Db E F Ab A C
D F F# A Bb C#
Eb Gb G Bb B D

The Augmented Scale. There exist (4) unique augmented scales. The augmented scale is constructed by a series of augmented seconds (minor thirds) and semitones (half-steps). The four sets of related augmented scales containing the same notes listed above are the:
C, E, and Ab augmented scales
Db, F, and A augmented scales
D, F# and Bb augmented scales
Eb, G and B augmented scales.
Once again, one will observe that the related scales names define an augmented triad.

Dr. Calle's clinician links:
Applied Microphone Technology
www.denouementrecords.com
Heritage Guitar Company
Eric Hewitt
Colin James
Larry Nelson
Alan Shinn - Texas Tech University
www.joeschlesinger.com
Selmer Clinicians page
Selmer (Paris) Sax Legend Number Chart link
Selmer (Paris) Sax Legend Number Chart (PDF)
Temple College Jazz Festival
Trinity Jazz Festival
Mark Watkins - BYU Idaho
Ultimate Beginer's Saxophone Videos - Warner Brothers Publications
University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
Virtual Halloween at the Rialto
Yahoo.com Entertainment - Saxophonists

 


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Updated Thursday, February 3, 2011 10:50 AM