The Leader is my shepherd, I shall not starve
He maketh me sit down in powder blue tuxedos
He leadeth me beside shrill vocalists
He restoreth my wallet
He leadeth me in dance halls of gratuitousness
For his names sake
Yea, though I walk through the kitchen or the back hallway
I will fear no evil
For thou art paying me
Thy baton and thy charts they showcase me
Thou preparest a chair for me in the presence of mine audience
Thou countest off my chart with vigor
My beer spilleth over
Surely Goodman and Miller shall follow me all the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of Band forever
Blessed are the poor in cash, for theirs is the wedding gig
Blessed are those who blow changes, for they shall be soloists
Blessed are the sight readers, for they shall inherit the section parts
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for dinner on the break, for they shall be satisfied
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall never play an accordion
Blessed are the pure in tempo, for they shall be drummers
Blessed are the bass players, for they shall be bored
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of playing “In The Mood” one more time, for theirs is the kingdom of Mortgage payments
Blessed are you when men revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my bandstand
Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great at the end of the night
For also did men persecute the trombonists who were before you.
The most powerful and most used progression in music is dropping a 5th in the root. Anyone has merely to play a Dominant chord of a key followed by the 1st chord or Tonic of that key to understand why the monks of Europe in the Dark Ages named the 5th chord of a key Dominant. It is an inherent rule of music that the Dominant chord leads to the Tonic. Anyone can hear the settling of the tone center when this particular chord change is played.
For this particular example of chord substitution I’m going to use an E7 going to an A7 resolving to a Dmaj7. The A7 chord in this progression is going to be substituted by an Eb7 chord which is the same chord type an augmented 4th away in the root. You can hear in the example that this is a pleasing similar sound. I don’t know why this works but it does. It also happens that the 3rd’s and 7th’s of the A7 and the Eb7 are the same notes reversed in position, making the different chords quite alike. What you can realized out of this harmonic device is a chromatically descending chord progression that is different from the cycle of 5th’s with the same amount of solidity and power. When using this device you must adjust the chords to reflect the notes of the melody that are happening when the chord substitution is being played.
There is so much to think about when discussing chord progressions it boggles the mind.
A good starting point in understanding chord progressions is the flow inherent in most any musical piece. Fast or slow, happy or sad, poignant or ludicrous, rebellious or patriotic each tune is built around defining the flow of the piece reflected in style, tempo, rhythmic and harmonic structure.
There are two basic overall rhythmic flow types in music: vertical and horizontal. A good example of vertical music would be a John Philips Sousa march where the rhythm is defined by micro stops in time enforced by emphasis. A good example of horizontal music would be a Bill Evans ballad that magically floats thru time and space. Most tunes are somewhere in between.
Musical compositions are based on establishing a tonal center, going away from it, coming back to it. How you do this is dictated by the style of music and the level of the composer/arranger. There are 3 basic types of harmonic chordal progression: diatonic scale motion (Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7,etc.), cycle of fifthing (C7,F7, Bb7, Eb7, etc.) and going from relative major to relative minor (Cmaj7 – Am7). You must remember that these progression types have been noted in a simplified manner. The amount of sophistication, creativity and inventiveness that can be applied is endless. The goal of jazz progressions is to proceed fluidly forward with no effort.
When I was a young person I was always amazed by anyone who could play anything. Since I didn’t know a lot about the technical, theoretical end of music I was easily impressed by anything that sounded good to my untrained ears. I didn’t realize that that was as far as most people took it, they just liked it or they didn’t and that was all there was to it.
I wanted to play and I wanted to be good but I didn’t know how. What happened, because I didn’t understand how or why, is that I placed myself in a position of un-understanding which hindered my musical growth for many years. I hadn’t been shown and I wasn’t a savant. I lacked a good music education and my musical growth suffered until I came in contact with competent teachers who had experience and knowledge.
It took me the longest time to start writing drum parts. How could I do that? I wasn’t a drummer. It wasn’t until I asked Bill Muha, a drummer in one of my bands, for advice and he told me that drumming really clicked for him when he finally got the basic swing beat. In 4/4 time the snare on 1 & 3, the bass drum on 2 & 4 and the ride cymbal on 1, the and of 2 and 4. I went home and wrote that rhythm into my Finale software program and played it back. Lo and behold my understanding clicked. Here was a rhythmic flow defined by a combination of 3 simple parts. Granted this isn’t the end all of drumming but it allowed me to open my mind and place my feet on solid ground to proceed forward. Thanks Bill.
People often wonder where the “Blues” came from and how it came about. Here’s the story that makes the most sense to me. It seems a curious blending of Western and African culture.
In Western music the scales within the octave are divided by whole tones and half tones, in African music the scales are divided by whole tones, half tones and quarter tones. The end result is different levels of tension within the music. The foundation of Western harmony is the major scale. There is a similar scale in African music where the 3rd and 7th tones of the scale are a quarter tone flat. The result is the 3rd and 7th intervals of the scale aren’t major or minor intervals, they are in between. This scale is not playable on a piano or most Western instruments without the “bent” note.
Eventually some person who was brought over to America as a slave found themselves on a piano. They knew the scale they wanted to play but it wasn’t on the instrument. The closest they could come was playing a major chord in the left hand and playing a minor third in the melody with the right. The missing note still was not there, it was implied. This is the essence of the blues sound. The African 7th was implied by playing the 1st chord of the key as a Dominant 7 and not the Major 7th chord of classical harmony. This is also the essence of the blues sound. The musical style would not have occurred without the crossing of the cultures.
The first use of the word blue in describing a feeling in song lyrics happened in England in about 1720. The first time a blues was written down on staff paper happened in New Orleans in about 1910. The person who did the transcription was a Neapolitan who had been in the country about 6 weeks.