Thursday, October 2, 2008

What to play over jazz changes...

"Yo Bro, what do I play over these chords?" is a question I get a lot from my students.

I usually have some lame answer for 'em, like "well, the thirds and sevenths are the signature tones, arpeggios are nice, keys are better, etc."

However, driving home tonight after a day of teaching and playing music for the local chamber of commerce ("takin' care of business!"), I flipped on the Three Days Grace song Never Too Late. What a great band, and what a cool song.

I lost a friend recently to suicide. This song always makes me think of her. A line from the song sings "And even if I say it'll be alright, still I hear you say you want to end your life."

Sometimes I wish badly that I could go back and tell her just one thing. But I wonder what it would be? That she mattered infinitely more than she realized? (Well, realizing that one mattered at all would be infinitely more to one who sadly fails to see their intrinsic light and chooses to snuff it out.) That "this too shall pass?" Be kind to yourself? What would I say, if I had five minutes to sit at the kitchen table with her? Could I rise to the challenge of trying to express so much in so little? Could the instrument of my voice carry the message I wanted, even if my mind could wrap itself around the task?

Now, what if I was dumb? No, no, boys and girls. Unable to speak. What if I was gagged, and the only thing to communicate this anthology of human thought, emotion, drama, heartbreak, hope, and connection guitar?

That's what I should play over the chord changes. If I could distill this into one note, phrase, or song...That would transcend any theoretical concerns or tonal qualms. It would take on meaning.

I guess it's really the only thing that matters.

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