Musical Improvisation - Playing with Pitch

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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:


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 Tue Dec 7 09:54:53 2021