Модальная джазовая импровизация и гармония


Для модального джаза характерно следующее:

  • Редкие смены аккордов, когда один аккорд может длиться много тактов;
  • Нет строгой, записанной последовательности аккордов;
  • Педали и дроны;
  • Quartal Chords - чтобы избежать случайного звучания тонала.

Модальный джаз , как следует из названия, - это жанр джаза, возникший в конце 1950-х годов и использующий «модальность», а не «тональность». Я объяснил разницу между этими двумя вещами на предыдущем уроке .

Тональность Модальность
Использует мажор и минор Использует все режимы
Функциональная гармония Нет функциональной гармонии
Тональный центр (основная нота) Тональный центр
  • Тональность использует « функциональную гармонию » - когда есть сильная тяга к тоническому аккорду (кажется, что аккорды хотят перейти в тонику).
  • Модальность НЕ использует «функциональную гармонию» - там, где НЕТ сильного напряжения тоника (хотя есть еще слабое притяжение, которое я объясню ниже).


Модальный джаз и импровизация

Идея Modal Jazz - дать солисту большую свободу выбора при импровизации .

  • Тональная гармония ограничивает солиста, потому что каждый аккорд выполняет строгую функцию и неизбежно ведет к тонике.
  • Мышление в терминах аккордов или последовательностей аккордов называется мышлением «вертикально».
  • When you are thinking ‘vertically’ your improvisation is limited or restricted in certain ways. You are generally forced to:
    • Target Guide Tones
    • Avoid Avoid Notes
    • Start a phrase at the start of the progression
    • Build up tension as the chords build up in tension
    • Resolve tension as the chords resolve in tension
    • End the phrase at the end of the chord progression

So in a sense, your solo is already written out for you. The soloist’s goal is just to outline the chord changes. The solo is already preconceived. For example, if you were improvising over a II-V-I in the key of C Major you would generally do the following:

Chords Dm7 G7 CMaj7
Function Pre-Dominant Dominant Tonic
Tension Some Lots None
Guide Tones F & C B & F E & B
Avoid Notes None (B?) C F
Phrasing Start Phrase Build Tension Resolve Tension & End Phrase
One Note Solo A (5th) A (9th) A (13th)

You can also create a relatively interesting sounding ‘One Note Solo’ because the harmony is constantly changing (e.g. playing the note ‘A’ above across all the chords). This is an incredibly boring and unimaginative solo.

Vertical vs Horizontal Thinking

Before Modal Jazz, soloists generally thought ‘vertically’. By removing the ‘functionality’ of chords – modality allows a soloist to focus exclusively on the melody and not worry about the underlying harmony. You focus on creating melodies in a particular scale or key. This is called thinking ‘horizontally’ (i.e. in terms of scales and melodies).

Modality treats the chords as ‘decorative’ rather than ‘functional’. This gives you greater flexibility when improvising and, in fact, forces you to focus on creating interesting melodies – and not about just outlining the chords or modifying the solo to fit the chord progression.

In Modal Jazz, you can:

  • Target any note in the scale (There are no guide tones or avoid notes, though there are character tones – more on this later)
  • Start and finish a phrase whenever you like (so there’s no limitation on phrase length based on some chord progression)
  • Build and resolve tension whenever you like (because there is no fixed chord progression)

So, whereas, in a tonal II-V-I you have to fit your solo around the chords – both harmonically and in terms of timing and phrasing – in Modal Jazz the solo does NOT need to fit a particular chord progression, and instead must just be an interesting and unique melody.

But, even though a Modal Jazz solo is ‘freer’ than a tonal solo, there are, nevertheless, still some restrictions in modal improvisation. You should generally:

  • Stick to the relevant scale/mode (with occasional chromatic passing notes);
  • Avoid the diatonic tritone (as it sounds tonal);
  • Emphasise the root note in the bass (to establish the tonal centre);
  • Emphasise the character tone within the particular mode.


Character Tones

Character Tone = the unique note/degree that makes a particular scale sound like itself and helps distinguish it from the Major and minor scale, and from the other modes.

Character Tones for each Major Scale mode are listed below:

Mode Scale Degrees Modes of C Major Character Tone
C Ionian 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 C D E F G A B F
D Dorian 1 2 ♭3 4 5 6 ♭7 D E F G A B C B
E Phrygian 1 ♭2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 E F G A B C D F
F Lydian 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 F G A B C D E B
G Mixolydian 1 2 3 4 5 6 ♭7 G A B C D E F F
A Aeolian 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 A B C D E F G F
B Locrian 1 ♭2 ♭3 4 ♭5 ♭6 ♭7 B C D E F G A F

Notice that the character tone is always one of the notes in the diatonic tritone (either B or F – which are the two notes that make up the diatonic tritone in the key of C Major).

Modal Jazz Harmony

Now this is where it gets a bit confusing. Even though Modal Harmony does NOT employ ‘functional harmony’, there is still a tonal centre (and therefore a tonic chord) so there is still some pull to the tonic.

With tonal harmony there is a strong pull to the tonic (G7 wants to resolve to CMaj7). In modal harmony, however, because there is no functional harmony there is NOT as strong a pull to the tonic. However, because there still is a tonic, there is still some tendency to want to resolve to it. It is nowhere near as strong as in functional harmony, but it is still there.

As long as there is a tonic chord (that is, a root note) there will be some tendency to want to resolve to it, no matter how weak. This is because, by definition, the tonic chord always feels ‘like home’ or ‘resolved’ or ‘completely at rest with no tension’. This means that all the other chords are heard in relation to the tonic chord and therefore have some level of tension that will feel like they want to resolve back to the tonic.

As such, different chords have different levels of tension. The chords can then be divided into three categories:

Category Tertian Chord (3rds) Quartal Chord (4ths)
Tonic (most stable) Tonic chord Contains root note
NO character tone
Cadential (least stable) Contains character tone
Non-Cadential (passing chord) NOT tonic chord
NO character tone
NO root note
NO character tone

(Note: You can also play chromatic approach chords)

This means chords can be classified as follows:

  • Bold = Root Note
  • Red = Character Tone


Tertian Chords (chords built in 3rds)

C Ionian CMaj7 Dm7 Em7 FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7
Tonic Cad Non-Cad Cad Non-Cad Non-Cad Avoid
D Dorian Dm7 Em7 FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7
Tonic Cad Non-Cad Cad Non-Cad Avoid Cad
E Phryg Em7 FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7
Tonic Cad Non-Cad Non-Cad Avoid Non-Cad Cad
F Lydian FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7 Em7
Tonic Cad Non-Cad Avoid Cad Non-Cad Cad
G Mixolyd G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7 Em7 FMaj7
Tonic Non-Cad Avoid Non-Cad Cad Non-Cad Cad
A Aeolian Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7 Em7 FMaj7 G
Tonic Avoid Non-Cad Cad Non-Cad Cad Non-Cad
B Locrian Avoid

Note that we want to avoid the diatonic tritone as this sounds ‘tonal’ (i.e. it sounds like a Dominant chord which wants to resolve down to the tonic), therefore we want to:

  • Avoid the G7 chord – instead play the G triad
  • Avoid the Bø triad and Bø7 7th chord

As both these chords have the diatonic tritone in them (i.e. they have the notes B & F in them).

Quartal Chords (chords built in 4ths)

C Ionian CMaj7 Dm7 Em7 FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7
Cad Tonic Non-Cad Cad Cad Non-Cad Non-Cad
D Dorian Dm7 Em7 FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7
Tonic Tonic Cad Non-Cad Tonic Cad Cad
E Phryg Em7 FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7
Tonic Cad Cad Non-Cad Tonic Cad Non-Cad
F Lydian FMaj7 G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7 Em7
Cad Tonic Non-Cad Cad Cad Non-Cad Non-Cad
G Mixolyd G Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7 Em7 FMaj7
Cad Tonic Non-Cad Cad Tonic Non-Cad Cad
A Aeolian Am7 Bø7 CMaj7 Dm7 Em7 FMaj7 G
Tonic Tonic Cad Non-Cad Tonic Cad Cad
B Locrian Avoid

Notice here that the Bø triad tonic chord includes its character tone, so you find yourself in the paradoxical situation of having an unstable tonic chord that wants to resolve to itself. This is why the Locrian mode is generally avoided in modal harmony, especially when using tertian chords (i.e. chord built up in 3rds).


Modal Cadences

Any chord which contains the character tone of the mode creates a weak pull towards the tonic chord – these chords have a ‘Cadential-like function’ (Note: I say ‘Cadential-like function’ because modal harmony does NOT use ‘functional harmony’. This is just a semantic issue, ‘functional harmony’ means a very specific thing – i.e. the type of harmony used during the Common Practice Period [Baroque, Classical & Romantic]. In Modal Harmony chords have ‘non-functional functions’. Apologies for the English language!). This ‘Cadential-like function’ isn’t as strong as a Dominant, but it still has a slight tendency to want to resolve to the Tonic.

The most common cadences for both Tonal (Functional) and Modal harmony are:

Functional Cadence
(Strong pull to tonic)
G7 CMaj7
Modal Cadence
(Weak pull to tonic)
Em7 Dm7

A Cadential chord has a stronger pull to the tonic if the character tone is the:

  • Root (strongest); then
  • 5th; then
  • 3rd; then
  • 7th (weakest)

And so the standard chord progressions in both Tonal (Functional) and Modal harmony are:

Functional Progression Dm7 G7 CMaj7
Pre-Dominant Dominant Tonic
Modal Progression FMaj7 Em7 Dm7
Non-Cadential Cadential Tonic

Модальный джаз

Notice that Tonal chord progressions tend to move through the Circle of Fifths (Circle Progression), while Modal chord progression tend to be stepwise.


An Example

Let’s look at a I-V-vi-IV progression as an example (C | G | Am | F | in the key of C). This progression could technically be both tonal and modal. However you have keep in mind the following points:

  • The chord progression still moves in intervals of fifths: I-V and IV-I (which implies some tonality).
  • Even though there is no V7-I cadence, there is still a V-vi deceptive cadence which sounds tonal because the vi is a tonic functioning chord and a substitute for the I chord (again implying some tonality).
  • If you want this progression to sound modal, make sure the melody is not implying tonality. The melody should avoid using the diatonic tritone or arpeggiating the chord progression. So in the key of C, avoid playing the B and F together or successively.
  • Using tertian voicings (chord built in 3rds) will make it sound tonal, using quartal voicings (chord built in 4ths) will make it sound modal. So for example:

This will sound more tonal (tertian):

  • C = G C E
  • G = G B D
  • Am = A C E
  • F = A C F

This will sound more modal (quartal):

  • CMaj13 = B E A C
  • Gadd9add13 = B E A D
  • Am11 = A D G C
  • Fadd9 = G C F A

Using quartal voicings allows the chord voicings to move by step – making it sound more modal. Notice also that the quartal chords are very ambiguous. This gives the impression that you are playing the sound of a generic ‘key’ as a whole, rather than necessarily specific chords within that key.


Итак, в заключение, в модальном джазе из-за отсутствия последовательности аккордов и недостаточной функциональности аккордов основное внимание импровизации уделяется созданию связной и значимой мелодии, а не простому повторению изменений аккорда. Именно потому, что аккордовое сопровождение так скучно, оно заставляет создавать оригинальную и интересную мелодию. Но, несмотря на то, что у вас больше свободы в модальной импровизации, все же есть некоторые ограничения, которые кратко изложены ниже.

Тональность Модальность
Управляющие тоны Мелодии персонажей
Функциональное напряжение Нефункциональное напряжение
Сильное притяжение к тонизирующему средству Слабое притяжение к тонику