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Theory Archives - Page 2

Playing Over Long Lasting Chords
Ask Damian Erskine

Playing Over Long Lasting Chords

Q: I’ve been messing around with playing over the changes, but I always stumble upon an issue: chords lasting 2, 4, 8 or even 16 bars! I know there’s a ton of different ways to approach this, but I have problems with approaching chord tones. Things like enclosures, double chromatics, diatonic and chromatic approach notes. How can I practice these...

Turning Exercises into Real Music
Ask Damian Erskine

Turning Exercises into Real Music

Q: I’ve been studying for a while now, and I’ve been practicing my scales and modes as much as possible over changes. I’ve also been working through arpeggios, including the methods you talk about in your Improvisor’s Path book. For example, I’ll work arpeggios through tunes in different inversions and so on. However, when I go to solo freely over...

Making Theory Work
Ask Damian Erskine

Making Theory Work

Q: I’ve tried to learn music theory many times. I’ve studied it in a classroom setting, private lessons and on my own, but it just doesn’t click with me for some reason. I’m classically trained, so I can read bass music just fine, but when I play anything that relies heavily on memory or improvisation, I generally just play by...

Quickly Figuring Out Available Notes For Given Chord Types
Ask Damian Erskine

Quickly Figuring Out Available Notes For Given Chord Types

Q: I’ve been trying to learn how to figure out what notes are available for any given chord type. I’ve read columns here (yours are very helpful), Googled it, bought books… I just seem to get more confused at every turn. Once I think I’ve got it, I’ve lost it. Do you have any quick and dirty tricks for remembering...

Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 3 – Practice Material
Ask Damian Erskine

Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 3 – Practice Material

As a follow up to this series on harmonic substitutions, I thought that I would include a few choice pages from my book, The Improvisor’s Path, related directly to what we’ve been discussing. First, here are the pages that relate to my breakdown of some available scaler substitutions. Next is the Wayne Shorter tune, “Nefertiti” with a few scaler options...

Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 2
Ask Damian Erskine

Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 2

In part 1 of this series, we were experimenting with using substitutions that allowed us to play familiar major and minor scale shapes over various basic chord types. Now, let’s move on to melodic and harmonic minor mode choices. First, let’s make sure that we’re all familiar with these two scales: Harmonic minor = Aeolian (natural minor) with a major...

Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 1
Ask Damian Erskine

Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 1

Q: What are substitutions and how can I make use of them? A: The first answer is easy: a substitution is using one chord in the place of another. For example: We might assume that a C Major chord symbol (CMaj7 or C?7) would imply a C major scale: C D E F G A B C But what if...

Playing Bass without Sheet Music: Time, Feel & Harmony
Ask Damian Erskine

Playing Bass without Sheet Music: Time, Feel & Harmony

Q: I’ve been playing bass for about 7 years. Before bass I was a very good tuba player and a halfway decent cellist. My problem is I never learned to play without music notation. I can’t even play tabs. I either need the notation or the chord progression. What’s the best way for me to get to a point where...

Connecting Chords: A Guide to Playing Fluid Bass Lines
Ask Damian Erskine

Connecting Chords: A Guide to Playing Fluid Bass Lines

Q: I would like to ask about voicing/phrases on bass when it comes to chord progressions. How should I step into the next chord when I’m phrasing the actual one? Should I try walking lines? Are there any standard licks that can bring the feel of translating to a next chord? Or they are all built on the same concept...

Getting the Most Out of Music Books
Ask Damian Erskine

Getting the Most Out of Music Books

Q: Do you think you could run through / give some examples of how to make use of rhythm books like Modern Reading Text In 4/4, and theory books like Jazz Theory by Mark Levine or Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slominsky? A: Nice selection of books! Generally speaking, my approach is to combine any rhythm exercises...