Mikhal Caldwell

Passing Tone Study

Lets pickup with a new set of ideas for this time around, I think (hope) that we already understand that passing tones or the non-harmonic intervals can be used to identify a given tonal condition or even a key center. Also it is important to understand that that these notes when assembled form tonal conditions that are sometimes unique to the harmonic structure that they are derived from. These nonharmonic structures or tonalities if you will can be used in some very interesting ways .Some of which we will concern ourselves with in this study will be:

1. Modal; this means we will use the same melodic vehicle (scale), however we will start at different intervals of that particular scale.

2. Interval dispersion: a technique that I mentioned some lessons back, this means that we would actually break away from the idea of inversions (which would include the idea of modal playing too, because the whole idea of modes comes from inverting the scale that it is that is used, in the case of the western music system that would be the diatonic major scale) and spread the intervals out in ways that they would not normally occur. Example: we'll take a A minor scale: A B C D E F G A, an inversion of this would be called a mode, however if we use the technique of interval dispersion we can remain harmonically or non harmonically (for this study) correct by using the same intervals being placed in different intervallic positions. Example: still in the key of A minor : A D B G C F E A.

3. Also just to make it easy, all the non harmonic tones usually form a pentatonic scale forms ( 5 notes) the exceptions being symmetrical scales dim, composite, etc.

OK, let's jump in. We might as well stay in A minor so let's just identify the non harmonic tones for this tonality, Ab Bb Db Eb Gb. It is once again important to note that these notes are just as unique to this tonality as the ones that are actually being played, because just like you can identify the notes that are part of a tonality, you should also be able to recognize the non harmonic tones. This offers endless possibilities of harmonic and melodic opportunities. Here is an exercise that I still do all the time for my mind and my ears, this allows you to hear how to relate to playing inside or outside of a harmonic structure. First list all the possible ways to play the non harmonic tones, Example AbBbDbEbGb / AbDbBbEbGb / AbEbBbDbGb /AbGbBbDbEb / AbDbEbBbGb / AbEbDbGbBb / AbGbDbBbEb / AbBbEbGbDb / EbAbDbGbBb / GbDbAbEbBb / BbGbDbAbEb / etc............. As you should see the list of possibilities is crazy!!!! It is also important to note that each one of these can be inverted, which would allow us equally as vast a world of possible things to work with, from a modal point of view Example: Ab Bb Db Eb Gb starting from the 2nd interval Bb Db Eb Gb Ab, from the 3rd Db Eb Gb Ab Bb, etc. This way of thinking about non harmonic intervals was first introduced as a whole concept that was proven to be musically useful by Ornette Coleman, who later incorporated it as a part of the Harmelodic concept. They are known as the "non harmonic pentatonic modes". It was later taken to its highest form of usage by the great Anthony Braxton and Farouq Z Bay. Today it is an art form seldom touched on by most musicians ESPECIALLY GUITARISTS. I would venture to reason that this would be because this requires some serious study time, and a real solid understanding of melody and harmony and most guitarist tend to listen to each other and "cop" each other's stuff as opposed to searching other avenues and investigating other instrumentalist outside of the guitar. It really comes as no surprise that sax players and pianist are all over this stuff. A great example of a cat who just makes this stuff sound easy is Allan Holdsworth, another would be John McLaughlin, and Shawn Lane. Pat Martino has a very slick version of pulling this off as does John Schofield. However if you want to get some crazy chops to blow the hair off of peoples head pick up a copy of John Coltranes 'Excursions", it doesn't matter what style of music you may be into, this cat wrote the book on shredding .That applies on ANY instrument . The whole reason I even did this study is I hear all the time people talking about getting "out there or outside" but if you've got no idea of inside how is that even a possibility. I pose you this question, how can you know where you're going if you don't know where you were already at, there is no way to tell direction, which is super important to gaining mastery over the fretboard . Work it, don't let it work you! Get used to hearing different sounds, this will increase your musical vocabulary for sure and therefore increase your effectness when improvising. Till next time, SpaghettiO's or Arpeggios, That is the question!!!!!

Mikhal........................The Electric Warrior .... will have some examples of some of the techniques that have been discussed. Got questions? I've got answers at