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Lesson 52: Common Tones

The Common Tones Technique

Some difficult cadences and chord progressions can be handled with the common tones technique. Identify the tones common to the chords - hopefully there are at least two or three or even more of them - and use them as tone material for your improvisation.

Difficult Cadences/ Vamps

A typical cadence in latin jazz is Cmaj7 - Db9b5. Identify the common tones, also look for "OK" tones ( ones not necessarily in the chords, but that will fit the chords anyway):

Now, start creating lines using the common tones. You can add tones that fit each one of the chords, respectively, this gives momentum to the lines:

A common variation of the above cadence is Cmaj7 - Fm/G. Fm belongs to the so-called "Subdominant Minor Chords" group. Identify the common tones and look for "OK" tones.

Now, start creating lines. You can add tones that fit each one of the chords, respectively. These lines use less common tones, but they are nice, nevertheless. They are the kind of lines that you can vamp on forever:

Difficult Chord Progressions

Now, let's look at the first eight bars of E.S.P. by Wayne Shorter. E.S.P. is obviously composed using the common tones technique - the melody dances around wonderfully in fourths and the chords move chromatically underneath:

2005 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.