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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds So we’re going to have a look at improvising on “Moanin’” now. And we’re going to use a very simple device. We’re just going to improvise all the way through on one scale, F dorian.

Skip to 0 minutes and 24 seconds Now, let’s first of all analyse the chords. So you will see the first two bars consist of split bars – F minor 7, A flat 7, G7, C7. Let’s have a look at the voicings that I’ve written there as an example of one position of voicings. So F minor 7, 3rd inversion A flat 7 13th, G7 13th, C7 the 9th. What is actually going on there, because those two bars repeat, and then repeat, and repeat again, so you’ve got eight bars. That’s the A section. What’s going on as a matter of fact, it’s a turnaround. A turnaround is something where the roots go –

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds I, VI, II, V. But the VI, which is a chord rooted on D, is now a chord rooted on A flat, A flat 7. So what’s happening there? If you take the scale that goes with D, get to the 5th measure, which is A, and flatten it, you get A flat. So a chord on D has been substituted by a chord on A flat. And it’s called the flat 5 substitution. And we’re going to be looking at that in some detail when we get to the “Clock of Keys”. So if I just tell you functionally that that chord is a kind of alternative to D, then really what we have is a turnaround.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds Now as you know, a turnaround – when we were talking about major keys – a turnaround is a device where you can play over just one scale – one major scale, previously we’ve mentioned, while that turnaround unfolds. And it’s the same thing here. The parent scale, though, in this case is the scale that goes with F minor, because we’re in F minor. And it’s F dorian – which is E flat major rooted on F. Or it’s F major, with a flattened 3rd and a flattened 7th. So that’s got three flats. If you think about it, the scale that goes with A flat 7, the major scale, is D flat. That’s got five flats.

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 seconds The scale that goes with G7 is C major. That’s got nought flats. The scale that goes with C7 is F major, and it’s got one flat. So how come we’re playing on a scale that’s got three flats, where it goes three flats, five flats, nought flat, one flat? And the answer is because this is a tonal music, you get tension and release. So you get tensions built up because you’re playing notes that don’t, strictly speaking, fit the chord. But you get release when eventually everything comes back to the tonal centre, which is F minor for this piece, or at least F minor for the chord sequence.

Skip to 3 minutes and 16 seconds Let’s have an example. Supposing you’re playing G7, 13th shape. And in the right hand you’re playing

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 seconds B flat, which is in F dorian.

Skip to 3 minutes and 33 seconds What happens is you’ve got this –

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds major 3rd, minor 3rd simultaneously like we’ve met before with a sharp 9. And so you get a bluesy tension, which is really what you want in this blues-inspired music. So there will be other notes that don’t quite fit. But, nonetheless, in the end you will get resolution. Let’s just have a quick look at the middle eight. The middle eight is B flat minor 7, because I’m suggesting here that you play the 3rd inversion. A flat 7, again we’ve met that 13th, G7 13th, C7 9th. Then G minor 7, 3rd inversion, C7 9th, F minor 7, 3rd inversion. Then B7, or B7 with a flat 5, to get you the note F. I’m playing the 13th.

Skip to 4 minutes and 29 seconds And that’s going to – as before – chords we met before – B flat minor 7, 3rd inversion, A flat 7, 13th, G7 for two. Two of those – four beats. 13th, G minor 7, 3rd inversion. Again, two chords for four beats. C7, two chords for four beats. So I’m just really going to run up and down the dorian mode with my playback. By the way, a really surprising thing – well, it surprises me anyway– is I discovered that Aebersold doesn’t have a play along track for “Moanin’” – one of the most frequently used tunes in jazz. So I’ve made one out of iReal B.

Skip to 5 minutes and 15 seconds If you don’t have access to that, then really, as long as you play in time, then you can more or less ignore the roots for this and just play the voiced chords and hope to get the sound in your ear.

Skip to 5 minutes and 36 seconds The major thing, though, is that you must stay in time. So if you do that, then use a metronome or a click track – something that keeps you in time. So we’re going to have a look now at just improvising on F dorian. And see what you think – see if you think that it’s vaguely acceptable.

Skip to 6 minutes and 12 seconds Second A.

Skip to 6 minutes and 26 seconds Now the middle eight.

Improvising on "Moanin'" with a playalong using F Dorian

We analyse the chord sequence of “Moanin’” and improvise on it with a playalong using the F Dorian scale. Click here for a playalong for “Oleo”.

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This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards

Goldsmiths, University of London