Exploring modal jazz: Tips for improvising over modal tunes

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    Greg PercifieldGreg Percifield
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    Points: 161

    Hello jazz piano community!

    Modal jazz emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a response to the complex chord progressions and fast-paced harmonic movement of bebop. In contrast, modal jazz focuses on exploring the unique sound of individual modes and scales over extended periods of time, allowing for more freedom and creativity in improvisation. Some iconic examples of modal jazz include Miles Davis’ “So What” and John Coltrane’s “Impressions.”

    In this thread, we’ll discuss tips and approaches for improvising over modal tunes and incorporating modal concepts into your playing. We encourage you to share your experiences, insights, and questions on this topic.

    Here are three tips to get the conversation started:

    Familiarize yourself with modes: Understanding the unique sound and structure of different modes is crucial for improvising over modal tunes. Spend time practicing each mode of the major scale, as well as other commonly used modes, such as the melodic minor and harmonic minor modes.

    Focus on the characteristic notes: Each mode has specific notes that give it its unique sound. When improvising over a modal tune, emphasize these characteristic notes to bring out the flavor of the mode. For example, in Dorian mode, the natural 6th is a characteristic note that distinguishes it from the Aeolian mode.

    Experiment with space and dynamics: Modal jazz often features a more open, spacious feel compared to other jazz styles. When improvising over modal tunes, don’t be afraid to leave space between your phrases and explore different dynamics to create contrast and interest.

    Share your tips, experiences, and questions about modal jazz improvisation, and let’s explore this fascinating aspect of jazz piano together!

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