Play The Wrong Notes
Dani - 2015-05-27 09:26:07One of my focuses lately has been on improving my skill as a melodic improviser. My teachers have pointed out to me that I tend to rely heavily on my left hand, the hand that colors the music with harmony and substitutions. But my right hand tends to be lacking in terms of sustaining a listeners interest and in navigating the changes alone. Lately, I've been trying to avoid using my left hand, forcing myself to evaluate the ideas my right hand explores, and causing me to be more selective in what I play.
One thing that I've noticed is that playing the "right" notes all of the time quickly becomes boring. By right notes I mean notes that fit the modality of a chord (i.e. notes that belong to the scale of the chord). There is some interesting patterns that can be explored in just a single scale, but the phrases get lost in a neutrality of harmonic variability, resulting in a sort of stasis that lacks vibrance. I think what I am discovering is that the key is dissonance. There must be dissonance that (in some way) leads to a satisfying consonance. The so called "wrong" notes are the ones the listener hears best, and those notes guide the motion of the soloist. The resolution that comes after a brief passage into a neighboring region is the most rewarding. I'm sure I have this information stored away in the recesses of my brain; some distant past music lesson analyzing Bach's use of dissonance, and others too.
It's simple but effective. Chords need not play a huge role in the left hand. With the right hand, outline a dominant seventh with a flat 9, instead of just C7. Throw in the major seventh on a D-7. If pedaling a major chord, drop down a semitone and outline the neighboring triad: D/Eb. Almost any chord can be substituted for a diminished 7th, and then resolved back to the expected harmony. Be sure to find your way back to the consonance though, unless that's not your thing.