Thursday, June 19, 2014

Improvising on m7b5 chords

About a year ago in my journal I had written that improvising on m7b5 (half diminished) chords was a weakness of mine, especially when they didn't resolve to something obvious that the ear would help out with.

I did quite some study on this and with the help of pianist Aman Mahajan we came to a scale choice that offers a sound alternative to the standard teaching.

Firstly I was always taught that the best scale to play here was the melodic minor a minor third above. For example:

Am7b5 = C melodic minor = C D Eb F G A B C

I had used this for years but it never gave me quite the feel I was looking for. Then at one point I sat at the piano and looked for an alternative. I started by going through, and experimenting with the different modes of the melodic minor.

After some time I found that the 5th mode offered the best sound for me:

 C melodic minor = C D Eb F G A B C

 5th mode of C melodic minor = G A B C D Eb F G

At this point I can see some people asking me yes, but these are exactly the same notes. Yes, they are but the fact that you base your improvisation around a different key center offers you an entirely different sound. You must try it to see the difference. Improvise over an Am7b5 chord alternating the different modes of the C melodic minor, and there is a big difference, though the notes remain the same. Oddly enough this scale which is known as the Mixolydian b6 is also a scale used in Indian music called Charukesi.

This works for me and may not work for others. I still have a long way to go with this and next I will post I relate this to a minor ii v i progression.  I would be interested to have feedback from anyone who gives this a go.

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