We will take this topic to make a general review of everything we have seen on improvisation so far, to serve as a quick reference guide.
First of all, the good improviser needs to know what terrain he is walking on. Therefore, it is important to:
1) Identify the main tonality of the song
Prerequisite: know the natural keys.
2) Quickly identify key changes and cadences, if any
3) Identify transient chords foreign to the tonality, if any
4) Identify the harmonic feel of each chord in the song
Prerequisite: know the harmonic functions
Very well, with these 4 items the improviser already has a great view of the terrain he is walking on. To know how to get the most out of this terrain, it is important that the improviser knows how to use the main scales. We will then organize the contexts in which scales can be applied, highlighting in italics the resources that bring outside notes to your solo:
1) When identifying the tonality (and possible key changes) of the song, the musician can use:
- Natural scales: major, minor, relative, music modes.
- Derivatives of natural scales: pentatonic and blues scales.
2) When identifying transient chords foreign to the tonality, the musician can use them:
- On top of Borrowed Chords: Natural scales (as long as you know what mode this Borrowed Chord came from).
- On top of secondary and second degree dominants: Melodic minor scale a fifth above the chord in question.
- On top of IVm6 chord: Minor scale of the I degree chord of the tonality and/or Melodic minor scale of the IVm chord itself.
- On top of passing diminished chords: diminished scale of the chord itself.
3) When identifying the harmonic sensation of each chord, the musician can use it:
Read the continuation of this article and many other full articles in the Simplifying Theory PDF Booklet.
Go to: Improvisation in blues
Back to: Module 11