Dave Hill Shares the Right Way to Play Wrong Notes, Part 2

November 9, 2012

IN THE JULY ISSUE WE DUG INTO the concept of playing “outside” with Musicians Institute instructor Dave Hill. Picking up where we left off and switching to an E7 vamp, Hill uses Ex. 1 to remind us that symmetrical fretboard patterns can also be quick portals to outside harmony. Notice that the E-G# major third on the line’s opening beat is transposed up the neck in minor thirds until an E blues lick (bar 2, beat two) brings us home to the root. And in Ex. 2, Hill expands from volleying major thirds to superimposing complete major triads over a Dm7 back- drop. “The F and G triads give you a clear D Dorian sound,” says Hill. “The E triads later in the lick take us out of the key, and their 3, G#, provides an edgy #11 tension over D minor.”


If a lick sounds good in its home key, can the same idea sound good shifted up a tritone? “If George Benson does it, then you bet!” exclaims Hill. “That’s where I got this next example [Ex. 3]. Notice Ben- son’s use of diatonic substitution by playing a lick based on a Bbmaj7 arpeggio over the Gm7 background. Those two harmonies combine for a Gm9 sound. Then, on beat three of the first bar, he transposes the same lick up to E. The resulting Emaj7 arpeggio creates three strongly dissonant outside notes that certainly are not found in the G Dorian scale: G#, B, and D#. He then repeats the entire process up an octave in the second bar. That diatonic/chromatic back and forth is fun—it creates a sense of swooping in and out of the key.”

As you are learning the lines of Mike Stern—the inspiration behind Ex. 4—and other iconic improvisers, remember who informed their playing. “A lot of jazz and fusion guitarists borrow heavily from the piano and sax vocabulary of everyone from McCoy Tyner to Michael Brecker,” says Hill, offering up Ex. 5. “This final idea really puts it all together. After a chromatic, jazz-influenced blues line in bar 1, a lot of altered tension is being created through the creative use of the C dominant-diminished scale. This scale is also known as the ‘half/whole’ scale, as it consists of entirely of repeating half- and whole-steps [spelled C, Db, Eb, E, F#, G, A, Bb]. It’s an eight-note symmetrical scale that provides many interesting patterns of inside and outside triads. But remember that with all of these concepts, less is more. Don’t overdo it. Any overused technique or gimmick will quickly reveal its limitations.”

Dave Hill teaches Fusion Masters and other courses at Musicians Institute. To hear tracks from his latest solo album, New World (featuring members of the Yellowjackets), visit davehillmusic.com.

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