10 January 2016


Something to learn when you are mastering the art of improvisation is that playing the 9th above a chord can be very effective.
Assume that the chord for a couple of bars is C7th. This means the notes in the chord are:
  C  -  E  -  G  -  Bb.

While the rest of the band sustains this chord, try playing the D above it, in effect turning the chord into a 9th. It can be quite exciting. It gives a pleasant sensation of 'floating' above the chord. 

For a simple example on YouTube, 

and notice how (at 36 seconds until 38 seconds) Shaye on the cornet plays a series of Ds above the chord of C7th. It is one of her favourite devices, though she probably does it so instinctively that I doubt whether she herself is aware of it. In other performances, you will find her holding the 9th as one long continuous note.

When improvising, try occasionally playing a D above a C chord, an E above a D chord, a G above an F chord, a C above a Bb chord, etc.

You will also frequently come across moments in songs where the composers themselves use the 9th as the melody note. Here's a simple example. Think of the song from 1930 'I'm Confessing That I Love You'. It begins with the words 'I'm confessin' that I love you. Tell me do you love me too?'

That word 'too' is the 9th of the chord in the harmony at that point. If the song is being played in the key of F (as it usually is), the chord is D7th (D     F#   A    C) but the melody note is E.

You can hear the effect in your head, can't you?