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Lesson 87: Harmony - Static Versus Dynamic

Harmonically Static Situations: Comping

The ultimate harmonically static situation would be one chord, for example Dm7. This doesn't mean that you have to or even should stick to the Dm7 chord when comping. You can choose a scale/ a mode which contains the Dm7 chord and play within that. There are several ways to do this:

Harmonically Static Situations: Soloing

It's both easy and very difficult to solo over static harmony. An advantage is that you don't have to worry about a lot of changes and you can therefore more freely develop your ideas. A disadvantage is that when the background is static, it's entirely up to the soloist to create interest and momentum in the music, and that can be a problem. Ways to create interesting lines over a harmonically static background are:

  • to use triads
  • to use fourths
  • to utilize sequencing and transposition
  • to simulate moving harmonies in the lines
  • to utilize "outside" playing
Check out: Dm7 Licks & Patterns.

Harmonically Dynamic Situations: Comping

In a harmonically very dynamic situation, it's not necessary to grab every chord. Often you have to simplify, ways to do that are:

  • to grab a chord here and there in strategic places
  • to play single note lines
  • to play guide-tones/ guide-tone lines

Harmonically Dynamic Situations: Soloing

When soloing over rapid chord changes, you can take advantage of the chord changes in the background and play very statically yourself. There are several ways to do this:

  • to use just one note - check out One Note Samba by Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • to use "harmonic generalization": play around the tonic or find a scale/ a mode that "just about" fits all or some of the the chords
  • to use the common tones technique talked about in lesson 52
If you don't want to play statically other ways to make it easier are:
  • to go for guide-tones at critical spots
  • to go for melodically strong ideas and follow through with them even if they go a bit "outside"

Tonal Centers

Often it is possible to identify one or several tonal centers in a tune. Check out lesson 46, which goes into this subject.

  • "Coltrane Changes" are considered very hard to solo over. The progression can, however, be broken down into a series of three tonal centers.
  • Rhythm changes is also considered hard to solo over. If you think about it, the rhythm changes A part is all in one tonal center, Bb major.

2006 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.