Below on the first stave is a G myxolydian scale in concert pitch.
On the stave below is the same scale but with ‘blue notes’ added – a flattened III and a flattened V (Bb and C sharp respectively).
On the third stave are the chord tones as the chords change – the number below each chord tells you how long each chord lasts.
The mental map I make when soloing on Daisy Roots superimposes the shifting chords onto the scale so that the chord tones in white become the safe notes for the duration of that chord and the ones outside the chord (the non-chord tones) in black are used as passing notes.
And once you can do this mapping with this piece then the system works for any jazz piece though the chord sequence, the mode/scale and the overall complexity of the map may vary.
The chords for this major 12 bar are: G G G G C7 C7 G G D7#9 C7 G G with each chord representing a bar (so 4 bars of G at beginning, etc…)
The slow oscillation between chords II and I here means you can afford to be laid back in your soloing. Both chords are derived from the G major scale, even when you add sevenths (the laid back feel can be enhanced by making both chords into seventh chords) so:
II 7 = A C E G I maj7 = G B D Fsharp
and if there are four chord tones for each chord, out of a seven note major scale, then that means that you have more chance of playing a chord tome than not if you stick to the major scale! My tips:
Explore the scale slowly and try to be melodic, rather than panicking and trying to fit as many notes in as possible. Go for a ‘floaty’ solo.
Try and work around the sax lines that weave in and out of the solos – so leave lots of space
In contrast to the floaty A section, avoid 7ths and stick to the main triad notes for each chord (then fill the gaps between these) so:
G / D / G / E – A
E / B / E / C – Fsharp
C / G / C / C – D
(read this vertically as triads – or see accompanying photo which sets it out in notation).
There are two Moscova soloing videos – one that covers general soloing and one that goes into some more detailed ideas
Soloing is always over A (though we may have soloing over B written material to finish off a solo)
The first four bars are in C minor and second four bars are in Eb. So look at the music (you can download it below) and you’ll see chord notes (white notes) are safe notes and the colour notes (black) are in the key but don’t rest on them, just use them to move between white notes.
Have a play with it and remember soloing isn’t about being flash or fast, its just expressing yourself, so don’t worry about it.
This move, between relative minor major is common in Gypsy, Klezmer and East European music generally.
A bit more complicated?
The 8 th bar has a II-V-I progression to move from major to minor but instead of II being diminished it is MAJOR which gives some nice crunchy notes such as F sharp and B natural. Try this progression as arpeggios and then (on the white notes) gradually add in colour notes to be more melodic.
If you’re feeling more adventurous then there is another II-V-I in bars 6-7 but this stays within the scale of Eb so you could just use the Eb major scale for these and emphasize the chord notes – both will work.
The bottom 2 lines above show a route map through the complicated version but the simple version will work. Mix it up. Start simple and see where your ear leads you.
And remember – all the above is in concert key. It’s A minor and C major for altos and baritone. It’s D minor and F major for tenors and trumpets etc.
You can also try D major pentatonic, or D blues if you’d prefer rather than moving around the chords.
The piece is beat heavy so it’s a great idea to prioritise the rhythm for soloing over it, for example strong crotchet ideas, sticking on the beat throughout, or alternatively throwing in a few upbeat ideas. For example, moving between one phrase with all of the notes on the beat, then adding in one off beat in the next phrase, 2 off beats in the next phrase, then three off beats for the final phrase, and then repeating the sequence.
Have a play with the backing tracks linked below and see what works for you!
Play along with the backing track
There’s a slow version and a fast version so you can practise getting your fingers around the notes of the tune and your solo slowly, then have a go at the faster one when you’re ready.
This is a piece I wrote in the late 80’s and now here it is for Wonderbrass!
Chords are C /// | F/// | G/// | C/// | repeated throughout.
It’s a township swing feel like Mandela – in fact its very similar to Mandela overall except in a different key. So Diatonic is good b(C major in your key), but experiment with flattening the VII, III, and V.
The tune has ‘wrong’ notes i.e. notes that don’t fit the chord that is playing – so be bold, be rhythmic and don’t worry about the chords too much.
Play along with the backing track
A is always 4 bars long B is always 8 bars long. 2 x B played slowly (117 bpm) for an intro
Then these is a drum pick-up into 8 bars establishing the rhythm section at a new speed (133 bpm) then: AAAA BB Solo over A (16 bars) BB AAAA BB (rallentando over last two bars) That’s it.
Silver Sea is a short and intense piece. It’s is intense – it’s a fast tune that is meant to sound relaxed in performance, so to achieve that relaxed feel you have to have the notes under your fingers. It’s quite a workout!
Get it as fast as you can so that, when performing it, it feels slow and easy.
Play along with the backing track
After a bass intro there are three A sections, each one being a repeated 4 bar pattern.
There then follow B and C (16 bars each) sections.
First solo is over A1 – 16 bars of soloist plus rhythm until band joins in playing 4 x A1
Second solo is over A2 and is 16 bars of soloist plus rhythm until band joins in playing 4 x A2
First solo is over A1 and is 16 bars of soloist plus rhythm until band joins in playing 4 x A3 followed by B ad C as for the intro head.
Improvising on Silver Sea
The harmonies are mostly G (tonic) and D or D7 (dominant) with the occasional Am or C (supertonic, subdominant). That means all the chords come from the scale of G major and improvising starts there – the G major scale.
The adventurous among you might want to experiment with G blues for downward moving phrases or experimenting with temporary dominants (like using A major scales to move to D) but the safe zone is G major. (E major for altos and baritone, A major for Bb instruments)
There is no written music for this, as we’ll be learning it by ear, but you can find audio recordings for the A section, the B section, the rhythm, bari/trombone section and the Bassline on SoundCloud (below).
There are also backing tracks of the head section, the solo section, and the full track for you to play along with:
There’s an A section, which is an instrumental brass section, and B section which is a basic vocal melody. Both can be played at once.
So the head will go:
A – brass and percussion
A and B – everyone
A and B – everyone again.
If everyone could learn A and B that will give us more flexibility when we perform it. I see it working well as both a street and a gig tune. Just learning one of either A or B is ok though, if you can’t manage both.
On the audio files (embedded above) I talk you through the sections.
The A uses these notes (passing notes in brackets):
F (Gb) G Ab C Eb F
The B section uses these notes (passing notes in brackets):
F (Gb) G C Eb (E) F
Bassline uses these notes
F Bb C and D
Improvising on Boomshakak
Essentially it’s a Blues scale in F but, because it’s Major, then F mixolydian will work too.
This is a common improvisation routing – a strong groove and a simple oscillation between two chords. We’re in D major and the chords are I and IV so we’re oscillating between D major and G major.
This sequence should be familiar to you by now. It’s the same as Hambo Nami and a few other tunes we do. So D major mixolydian works well, especially for upward moving melodic phrases, and blues scale in D (D, F, G, A, C, D – maybe add an E in too) works well for downward moving melodic phrases.
So have fun with it and remember – its all about the bass.
The only other chord in this piece is V – A major – and it only appears three times: in the intro and the outro and at the very end of the third solo, so be aware of that if you are working on the third solo. It’s only fleeting, but choose notes from the A7 or dominant scale.
Also, the flute is audible on the second (middle) solo. This is due to the way we recorded the piece in 2008 and I’m afraid it can’t be changed. Its quiet, but its there.
So here are Doctor Rob’s theory notes for soloing over his tune Funky Sister.
The piece is in G concert, so A for B flat instruments and E for alto saxes.
It’s a mixture between mixolydian (G to G on the white notes – flat 7 major 3) and blues scale in the A section. This means you can flatten 3 and 5, especially on descending melodic phrases, but don’t mess with that 7. It should always be flat.
So I recommend thinking about, and maybe learning, a mixolydian scale with flattened 3rds and 5ths added:
G A Bb B C Db D E F G
The chords for A are a repeated four bar sequence:
G F G F/c bass
So those notes in the scale I’ve given you work for all that, you might just want to change the notes you emphasise if you want to give the feel of fitting around the chords.
The contrasting B section is more definitely mixolydian and less bluesy – as it is all on the dominant chord D7 – all the way through the section. 8 bars of D7.
That’s all you need to solo really – once again it’s the rhythm you play that will make the solo you create sound funky and fit the context of the piece. The beat is what is often called ‘shuffle-funk’ which is (to my mind) like having fast and slow art the same time. The swing is at the level of the semiquaver or 16th notes which means each beat having four sub-beats per notated beat long-short-long-short (although the difference between long and short is infinitesimally small).
Anyway. You’ll all bring your personal style and creativity to it so my advice is just for those that want some. Have fun with it; that’s the main piece of advice.
Play along with backing track
You can choose to play along to either the solo backing or the head backing:
With gigs taking us up and down the country and the Heritage Lottery Funded project keeping us on our toes, we’ve had a busy old year!
Here are just a few highlights from what has been an absolutely fantastic year…so far:
Making music videos Last February, braving the icy temperatures, Wonderbrass teamed up with filmmaker Joe Marvelly to make the music video for Dr Rob’s tune Santes Dwynwen Shuffle.
The video features Jacob’s Market and Tiny Rebel, where we combined our Mardi Gras party gig with a filming session to capture the genuine Wonderbrass gig atmosphere – see how many familiar faces you can spot.
WB25 performanceBringing all of the hard work of the past 18 months together was a definite high point for Wonderbrass. Reuniting members from across the years, showcasing the music we’d all worked so hard to learn and generally celebrating 25 years of Wonderbrass was a truly memorable night.
Volvo boat race
“I loved getting up at 3am for the yacht race! I’ve never played my trumpet at that time of the morning before and it was fun to spend the early hours with the Wonderfamily. We made it a special occasion for the yachts arriving after their epic journey”
Wonderbrass, always eager for a challenge, were on call to welcome the competitors in the Volvo Yacht Race as they arrived in Cardiff Bay. Being on standby to be gig ready at a moments notice at any hour of the day or night was nevertheless one of last year’s most enjoyable moments
Wonder Wedding 2018 saw our pink-haired flute player Caz wedding trombone playing Iain at the famous Wonder-haunt – the Druidstone. A great day of celebration for us all!
Rolling Stones It’s not every day you’re asked to play brass covers of Rolling Stones songs on the radio. So when Mick, Keith and the others were in town for their Cardiff gig we were delighted when Heart Radio Cardiff invited us to do just that. Now we’ve added five new Rolling Stones tracks to our repertoire.
Porters We’ve been playing regular nights at Porter’s in Cardiff, where we try to showcase some of our new material. Join us on the 2nd Thursday of every 3rd month at Porter’s to get a glimpse of our new material!
What’s next? With the Wonderbrass25 project finally drawing to a close we’ll be inviting you all to join us for a night of wine and reminiscence at USW’s Atrium campus.
We’ll be screening the documentary films of the project and sharing stories from the past 25 years of Wonderbrass. Watch this space for more details soon!