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Jazz Studies With Bill Harrison: Lesson 9 – Using Melodic Minor on the ii/V/i

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The last two lessons I’ve presented in Bass Musician Magazine have hopefully made it clear that you can use the harmonic minor scale for the ii/V/i cadence. One of the benefits of harmonic minor is that you can use the same scale form for all three chords, the same way that we use the major scale to play through the major ii/V/I.

Click to Download: Using the Melodic Minor

As your ears grow more sophisticated, it’s very likely that you’ll want to expand your harmonic/melodic palette to include some of the sounds that musicians have made part of the jazz language in the last few decades. One of the most interesting devices you can learn to use is the melodic minor scale.

Construct melodic minor by simply flatting the third degree of the major scale. Another way to think of it is as a minor scale with both a major 6th and major 7th. * So D melodic minor (to be consistent with the key of our last two lessons) is spelled D E F G A B C#. (Fig. 1) This scale has a lot of cool applications on a variety of chord types, including some altered dominants and the wily M7#5. But let’s stick to our main task, using the sound of the melodic minor on the minor ii/V/i cadence.

Here’s the chord progression: E-7(b5) / A7alt / D-(M7) It turns out that only the tonic chord (spelled D F A C#) exists within the D melodic minor scale. Neither of the other two chords can be extracted from that scale (there’s no Bb, for one thing). If we really want to use melodic minor as our harmonic basis for this progression, we will have to figure out which melodic minor scale contains each of these chords.

If we were still using the major scale system, E-7(b5) (E G Bb D) would shout locrian, the 7th mode in the key of F: E F G A Bb C D.  Do you see how the scale tones fill in the missing spaces between the chord tones? By making one small change in these “in-between” notes we’ll be able to generate a melodic minor sound that embraces E-7(b5). If we raise the F natural one half step to F#, we create this scale; E F# G A Bb C D. With some quick calculating, we can see that this “locrian #2” scale is the 6th mode of G melodic minor. (Fig. 2)

What about this A7alt chord? The designation “alt” is short for altered, and it generally translates to any dominant chord containing both the 5th and 9th degrees altered (b5 and/or #5 AND b9 and/or #9). These sounds are quite common in contemporary jazz, and our old friend mixolydian doesn’t work at all with these altered intervals. Melodic minor to the rescue!

Let’s construct a dominant type scale that includes ALL those altered 5ths and 9ths starting on the root A (keeping in mind that dominant chords are defined by the combination of M3 and m7):

A Bb C C# Eb F G (root, b9, #9, M3, b5, #5, m7). This scale is a thing of beauty. The first half alternates between half and whole steps while the second half contains all whole steps. This scale goes by a few names, most commonly the altered or diminished/whole tone scale. This scale is also the 7th mode of the Bb melodic minor. (Fig. 3)

So the chord/scale matchups for this ii/V/i go like this:

E-7(b5) – G melodic minor.

A7alt – Bb melodic minor.

D-(M7) – D melodic minor.

But what does this mean for us when we’re constructing walking bass lines? As long as you have at least 4 beats for each chord you can make good use of some of the spiced up flavors of the melodic minor. The F# from the G melodic minor is a delightful passing tone on the E-7(b5), for instance. The presence of the altered 5ths and 9ths on the A7alt are also noteworthy (pun intended). And the inclusion of the B natural on the D-(M7) is a welcome change from Bb, the flatted 6th.  See Fig. 4 for some examples of walking lines that use the colors of the melodic minor.

The uses of melodic minor are well documented in recordings and books. Check out pianist Mark Levine’s excellent Jazz Theory in this regard. Start incorporating these sounds into your lines and you will discover some pathways through these changes that might not occur to you otherwise.

* Note that the only difference between natural, melodic, harmonic and dorian minor scales is whether the 6th and 7th degrees of each scale are major or minor.

 

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Travis Book

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Interview With Bassist Travis Book

Interview With Bassist Travis Book…

Bluegrass music has had a very solid following over many years and I am always happy to hear from one of the pioneers in that genre.

Travis Book plays bass for the Grammy award-winning band “The Infamous Stringdusters” and has recently released his first solo album “Love and Other Strange Emotions”. As if he wasn’t busy enough, Travis also hosts a podcast, Plays a Jerry Garcia music show with Guitarist Andy Falco, and is constantly gigging locally in his neck of the woods.

Photo, Seyl Park

Visit Online:

www.thetravisbook.com
www.thestringdusters.com
FB @ TheTravisBook
IG @ travisbook

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