Its Language - So Here Are Some New ii-v Words

Victor Wooten talks about how music is a language, so do Branford and Wynton Marsalis, so does Pat Metheny (if you have ever heard his infamous guitar lesson mp3). They all talk about how there is a grammar-like structure to learning how to play over chord changes. How you develop that vocabulary is just like how you develop speech, you imitate, you hear a word you like and if you don't understand it, you look it up and then you file it away for when you want to use it again. Improv works the same way on some levels. You learn some basic phrases, you build your vocabulary by imitating others and copying words you don't know yet until you know how to use them. The absolute best, hands down, fastest way to get this vocabulary is to transcribe off of records the solos you like. Now we live in an era where we have books and DVD's and other things that the people that came before us did not have, so to that end, here are some phrases and new words in the language of improv for the electrified bass guitar, translated from treble clef from David Baker's How To Play Bebop Vol. 2. If this book exists in bass clef...I haven't found it, I only have a treble clef version so I converted 25 of his 101 ii-v patterns into bass clef and analyzed what notes the licks use and put the scale degree under each note of the lick. Yea, you are welcome.

No way man, you read how the jazz cats can channel consciousness and get so in the zone that pure spontaneous music erupts from the bowels of ones true karmic energy center when it is at oneness with the vibrations of the universal chi and it all just, like, happens, man.


Everybody has licks they play and phrases that they have spent time working up to play over chord changes. It's part of the myth that improv just happens, everyone works on phrases. Everyone. No matter how heavy they were or are.

To go with the language analogy, the licks below are "sentences" for use over a ii-v progression, so in the key of c, from Dmin7 to G7 each chord for one measure.

Now, are these music sentences the kind that sound like "The burnished mahogany chest sat regally on its column like legs, with its dark, hand hewn contours accenting its orthogonal placement to the intersecting walls of the library chamber."

Not exactly.

They sound more like "There was a dark wooden box in the corner of the book room." But that is okay, they are still good and solid phrases to learn and explore and use as vehicles to figure out why you like certain ones. Some things you might want to ask yourself when you look at them:
  1. Wait, what's with all the wrong notes? How come some have an F# on the Dmin? How come some have an Ab on the G7? What the hell!?
  2. What beats are the chord tones on?
  3. What is the starting note of the lick? Is it always the root? spoiler: no.
  4. How many non-chord tones are there in the lick?
  5. What is the range, or how wide is the distance between the highest note in the lick and the lowest note in the lick?
So bust out Band-in-a-Box or an Aebersold track with ii-v's on them and play through these. Keep the ones you like, ditch the rest. If some of these are cornball, so what, it is still good solid grammar practice. Analyze the ones you like and figure out how come they sound cool. Mix them up, take a lick from the Dmin chord and put it with a different G7 line from a different lick. Change one note. Change 2 notes. Start the lick a beat early. Start it two beats early and add a note at the end. You get the idea. Plenty here to keep you occupied for a while. There are actually 101 ii-v's in Baker's volume 2, this is only the first 25. When I have these nailed these myself, I will post the rest in the same format. Now go practice.


Anonymous said...

I have this series of books also. Good treble clef reading practice, but nice to see it in bass clef. :)
And very nice of you to transcribe some of it to bass clef. It's a very good series.
I have several other books by David Baker. All good stuff.

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Yes, this entire series is worth getting, and they are usually available very inexpensively compared to other books, also they have been around a long time so there are a lot of used copies out there. Even if they are not in bass clef, (I havent found any that are) they are pretty much in the must have category if you want to get into improvising.

Anonymous said...

Very nice and 'thank you'. I needed something new to work on!

Anonymous said...

Hey Basso, thanks for this! Just a quick question: I'm used to using chord tones on strong beats in my solos (or at least trying to). But in many of these patterns on the V chord I see 9ths (all three types), 6ths, #11ths and 11ths, all falling on beats 1 and 3. Any idea what's up with this? Some sort of chord subs, or anticipation? Got me quite confused....


Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Yup, a lot of those are substitutions of different kind, because the V chord is the biggest free-for-all type of chord there is, you can literally play just about any note over it if you want (see the Bill Evans lick up here where he plays all 12 notes over a dominant chord).

And there are some cases like #19 where that one is a melodic pattern and to keep the line going over the V chord, it STARTS on the 4, usually considered the biggest avoid note for V chords, but it makes the entire line sound intentional because of the pattern, even if it has some odd notes on strong beats.

For the others, it is probably either that those notes are setting up something that is going to resolve later, either in that measure or on the downbeat of the 1 chord, or they are subs. For instance on #23, the last 4 beats, Ab, Bb, D, Ab, is almost a Bb7 chord, Bb, D, (F), Ab, just without the fifth, so he is outlining other triads/sevenths/arpeggios for some of them, and when you look at it in that what, he is playing strong chord tones of those sub chords on strong beats. Get the circle of thirds out, and you can probably find a lot more of those chord parts inside those lines.

And for some of them, they just kinda break the rules. But in general they do follow the chord tones on strong beats rule. Some of these are actual lines that were transcribed and some were made up using the formulas he discovered so guys have played lines like this at various points.

As always, if you don't like the sound of some, dont use those ones, but keep the ones you like and make your own. Some of these are kinda corny and are definitely cliched licks, but how they get made is the important part.

But you are right on with the chord tones on strong beats thing, it does make a difference and when you look at solos by the masters you see that is what they do, even if they were not doing it consciously.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply (and I love the whole ridiculoso site in general btw, hang around here a lot).

So, to check I've got it right in my head, you're basically saying that the general "chord tones on strong beats" rule holds unless:

1.) A non-chord tone fits with the contour/direction of the line.

2.)Delaying a resolution to create tension.

3.) Superimposing some other harmony.

Guess I'll just have to keep building up my vocabulary and start trying to work out what the greats are doing in these situations.... Need to nerd out and get to know my substitutions a little better!

Anonymous said...

Hey Basso,

Don you still have the examples for this, as I can't view them in this post?


Anonymous said...

nor can I

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Updated this post with a link to the file, the old location has been removed.

Sorry guys!

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great resource/ thanks. But dropbox can't be found. Do you have a new link?

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