Transmogrifier 2.0 Released

Much to the chagrin of *ahem* certain people, version 2.0 of the Bergonzifying Transmogrifier has been released!

New features include:
  • Adds Treble Clef output with piano sound
  • Adds support for patterns of 8th and 16th notes (in addition to the original quarters.)

And the Transmogrifier doesn't work in IE8. Bummer. So use Firefox, Chrome, Safari or any other browser that doesn't think it is so effing special I need to write uniquely for it. Because that isn't going to happen. Anyway.

Now, since Transmogrifier 1.0, some folks have apparently thought that the way to use this thing was to pick your four notes and then play the entire pattern that was generated as a single phrase in a solo. You could do that. If you were retarded.

That is not, how to say this...the most optimal usage of this thing. While there may be many times where two (or even three or four) adjacent patterns do sound great together, the idea is not that the entire line is a single phrase. The idea is that it generates the different cells created by those four notes. Then, you get to decide how to use them as building blocks in various ways, either in a walking line or for soloing.
  • YOU still have to sit down and play through the patterns
  • YOU still have to figure out which ones sound good in different contexts
This is not computer generated composition any more than using a word processor is computer generated writing. It is just a tool to make the creation of the raw materials easier. It is a utility that lets you skip the grunt work of running the same transformation over and over again and lets you get to the good part of finding phrases that you like. You know, the making music part?

Once you get the idea behind all this, the basic pattern, are you really going to learn it "better" if you have to spend an extra 10 minutes writing each one out by hand, after you have already done 20? Eh, I don't think so. Once you get it, you get it. The fun and valuable part is finding the gold in the patterns, not making them. I would much rather spend my time discovering and playing than just copying out patterns. Don't underestimate my laziness.

Okay. Enough of that.
New Features!
With the addition of the new rhythmic values of 8ths and 16ths, The Transmogrifier works much more like the process outlined Bergonzi's books. You can still use it for quarter notes and make bass lines with it, but Bergonzi's original concept was for soloing.

In a nutshell, the idea is to take a group of notes, figure out all the patterns that grouping of notes can make, and then apply either one pattern to each chord as you move through a song, or to vary the pattern on each chord. But the entire time you use just a set of 4 notes.

The classic groupings of notes for each chord type are:
Major & Dominant Chords - Root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th - so for C Major or C7 it would be C, D, E, and G.

Minor Chords - Root, 3rd, 4th, 5th - so for C Minor it would be C, Eb, F and G.

Minor 7b5 Chords - just flat the 5th of the minor notes so - C, Eb, F, Gb.
For example, here is a classic turnaround, a iii-vi-ii-v in the key of C:


If we Transmogrify the classic four notes for each of the chords in this turnaround, Emin, Amin, Dmin, and G7, but using the snazzy new 8th notes feature we would get -
Emin7 Permutations of Root, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Emin7 8ths.png
Amin7 Permutations of Root, 3rd, 4th, 5th
Dmin7 Permutations of Root, 3rd, 4th, 5th
G7 Permutations of Root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th

Okay, thats alotta notes! Don't freak out on me. Just think of them in one measure chunks, because thats all they are. And, the only reason the time signature changes to 2/4 for 8th notes and 1/4 for 16ths is so that each pattern fits within one bar and it is easier to see them.

Since this turnaround has chords that only last for two beats each, you can play one pattern worth of eighth notes and you have exactly the right number of beats to play one pattern/version of those groupings.

Following through with the classic example pattern, you get this line over the turnaround:

bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Emin7 e-8 g a b Amin7 a c d e | Dmin7 d f g a G7 g a b d | Cmaj7 c1 |


And it fits. You have just enough time to play one pattern of four 8ths notes over each chord.

But it sounds kinda square. Like something a stick player might tap out on their little unnecessary instrument and think was really cool. You can hear the pattern-y-ness of it. Now sometimes you want that, but what if you don't?

Fear not, intrepid explorer! You still have 23 other patterns you have not used yet, so lets go on a hunt for some other patterns that link together a little smoother.

Remember, we are not going to change any notes at all - we are going to use the same classic groupings of either Root, 2nd, 3rd 5th for Major and Dominant chords, and Root, 3rd, 4th and 5th on minor chords, but we are just going to change the order of those same notes so they link together better.

For example:
Example 1
bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Emin7 e-8 g a b Amin7 c d a+ e | Dmin7 f g d a G7 b a g d+ | Cmaj7 c1 |
Example 2
bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Emin7 g8 a b e Amin7 d c e a | Dmin7 g a d- f G7 a g d b | Cmaj7 c1 |
Example 3
bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Emin7 b+ g e a Amin7 c a e d | Dmin7 g f d a G7 d g a b | Cmaj7 c1 |

Get the drift? Again, all those are just different arrangements of the same 4 notes fed into the Transmogrifier. Just pick a different measure and try it. Some suggestions about connecting the patterns together:
  1. Look for half steps to connect with. e.g. the 5th of E is B, and the third of A is C so look for patterns that end on B and start on a C. Find other smooth half-step and whole-step notes like this in the chords you are playing over as connecting points.
  2. Mix up ascending and descending patterns. You can go ascending-ascending, ascending-descending, descending-ascending, etc. mix up all the combinations you can think of for each chord.
  3. You can displace the notes into another octave if you want. If a pattern starts with a low A, you can make that be a high A and the pattern doesn't change. Sometimes that makes them more interesting.

I will let you go play hide and seek on the Transmogrifications and find the measures that I pulled out and used to make each line. Each one is in there.

These combinations never end. Some are not worth keeping, others are going to make you sound sick. All the same 4 notes, just a different order. So even though it looks like a lot of notes, it is just the same juicy ones over and over.

You can use this anywhere you see what has been called a "short" ii-v progression, one where each chord is only two beats like this:

bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Emin7 r2 A7 r2 | Dmin7 r2 G7 r2 |

Oh, 8th notes not enough for ya? Try 16th notes then, tough guy. All you have to do is generate the patterns in 16th notes instead, and then take two patterns per chord and mix them so they connect smoothly.

bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | E b16 a e g a b e g Amin7 a e c d e d c a | Dmin7 g f a d f g d a G7 b a d g b d a g | Cmaj7 c1

This is just the very beginning of all this. We haven't even started varying the notes, or the rhythms or anything like that. Here are some other things to try:
  • You don't just have to use Root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, you can use any notes you want for each chord. Use the b9, #9, #11, and b7 of a C Alt chord. and hear what all the alterations sound like. Alternate a set of 4 "out" notes with a set of 4 "in" notes.

  • Make two groups for each chord, so for Emin7 (in 16th notes) do one set of E,G,A,B and another that is F#,C# B, D and then play one for the first beat, and another for the second beat. Do the same for the rest of the chords.
Here are some additional familiar chord progressions to try this over.

bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Gmin7 r2 C7 r2 | Fmaj7 r2 Gmin7 r2 | Amin7 r2 D7 r2 |

bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Bb6 r2 G7 r2 | Cmin7 r2 F7 r2 |

bass lick tempo 120 4/4 | Bbmin7 r2 Eb7 r2 | Amin7 r2 D7 r2 | Abmin7 r2 Db7 r2|

There is a reason Coltrane worked on this stuff for decades, there is a lot here. Years worth.

And yes, guys do play like this. Corea, Hancock, Brecker, Stern, Evans, of course, Coltrane, and hundreds of others. The trick is - it doesn't sound like they use this. That is because they have practiced this stuff for hours and days and years and it comes out sounding like music, not like a 4 note pattern being played in eighth notes to fit a turnaround. They have worked it up, in the shed, man. That's what the cats say, I think.

So. Happy Transmogrifying.


Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on using this as an ear trainer? It would be cool to hear the pattern and then match it on your instrument.

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Brilliant! I had not thought of that.

This would take a bit of work, but might be helpful -

1) Transmogrify say C,C#,D,Eb and then download the MP3 (right click on the notation and you can grab the mp3).
2) Chop up the mp3 so that each phrase is a different file (this is the work part). Name them if you want, with the order of the notes.
3) Throw the files into any mp3 player with a "random" or shuffle feature.
4) Guess the pattern!

In this case play a C chord to get homebase in your ear, and then this set of notes would be R,b2,2,b3. So you are pretty close to the root. Then after you can nail those, make another set that goes E,F,F#,G, and be able to hear those then G#,A,Bb,B and you would have 4 note chunks that go all the way though one octave chromatically.

Good idea! Works with arpeggios too.

Anonymous said...

Was this inspired by Jeff Berlin's book in any way? It seems to directly connect to his article on permutations of chords as well as Carol Kaye's hammer of understanding chord tones.

Bassist Ridiculoso said...

Well, Berlin also studied with a guy named Charlie Banacos who is usually credited as the original source for this, at least as far as the cohesive organization of it for use in an improvisational context goes. Jerry Bergonzi was also a student of Banacos (as was Mike Stern, Alain Caron, Joe Hubbard, and a bunch of other heavyweights, I think Brecker was too at some point) so yes, Berlin talks about these chord tone techniques a lot and shows variations of them in his chord tone book. He doesn't go through the permutations exactly like Bergonzi explains them or show the actual formula, but it is similar. Lots and lots of guys have mined this area though, most of them non-bass players so it took a while for this to reach us bass players - Hal Galper, Gary Campbell, Jerry Coker, tons of guy, so by now this is a pretty standard approach to getting the notes needed for improv organized and it certainly gets taught at places like Berklee etc. Berlin is the main bass guy known for talking about it (most of the other guys are sax players), but anyone who came out of Berklee or other places with an improv focus has certainly learned this approach and the formulas.

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