Musical Improvisation - Playing with Pitch

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Introduction

Bad Ideas

Rhythm

Embellishments

Pitch

Volume

Tempo

Put It Together

Okay, now we get into the chord stuff. Yeah, you knew it was coming. But, don't get too worried! Remember, there are only twelve possible pitches in a song (assuming that we don't count octaves). And, most chords have four notes—so the biggest mistake you can make is to be two semi-tones away from a “proper” note. If that happens just slide down or up to the right one. And, remember, no one is going to take you out for a disciplinary session.

Returning to our simple example, here is one way you can manipulate the pitches to make it sound a little different. Note, we're not changing any timing here:

mupex/pitch-1.png

Now, if you know your chords you'll see a couple of potential problems. In the first bar there are two 'a's played against a G major chord. In the third bar there is a 'c' played against a G major and a 'b' played against a D7. If these were long, sustained notes you'd probably have a problem; however, for a short note it sounds just fine. In these cases you have what is called a “passing tone” and everyone listening will assume you're a pro who really understands music.

If you agree that the passing tone is great, try changing the 'a's to 'a#'. Hmmm, not so nice. The difference is that the 'a' is part of a G major scale (the scale the G chord is based on); however, an 'a#' isn't.

A simple rule to use is to only play notes defined in the key signature of song. So, if the song is in the key of G (which this one is, the single sharp tells us that) then you are, probably, safe to use the notes g, a, b, c, d, e, and f#. Other notes may not fare as well.

If you get totally confused, lost or desperate you can always just play the root note of the chord. So, if there is a D7 chord, play a 'd'. A Gm7+? Don't worry about what it is, just play a 'g'.

As you get better at this stuff (by practising a lot) you'll find yourself using more and more notes outside of the key signature. More and more fun!

Challenge: combine what we learned about changing the note durations with the pitch changes discussed here.

Next: Vary the Volume.

And let me know if this article helps.

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This page "pitch.html" was last modified on Wed Dec 11 15:19:52 2013