The information on the enclosed pages was given at the lecture on nomenclature given by Jamey Aebersold at the 1990 I.A.J.E. convention held in New Orleans, January 13th.
This represents an attempt to codify chord/scale notation for the improvisor, teacher, composer, copyist, computer operator, and music publisher.
This is not an attempt to notate specific voicings. It is intended to help organize the choice on scales and chords which jazz improvisors have used for years into usable symbols representing the basic sounds which make up our music.
I am recommending the formation of a committee to look into the possibility of arriving at a standard set of chord/scale symbols to represent our music. Input is welcome from all sources and may be addressed to me. This should be fun!
1211 Aebersold Drive
New Albany, IN 47150
Evolution of fake books
The goal is to make jazz more accessible to a wider audience through the use of a clarified notation system. Jazz education is friendly and our chord/scale evolution proves this as it attempts to unify the music, the actual sound of jazz, visually on the written page.
Jazz musicians have been responsible for the evolution of chord symbols. As their musicianship evolved, so did their music, and so did their chord symbols. Iím not sure when someone first thought of chord symbols as also being scale symbols(possibly George Russell). I believe Jerry Coker was the first person I saw use chord/scale symbols in print. I immediately recognized the utility of this as I was teaching improvisation and the words "chord symbol" were new exactly correct because we spent a lot of time running scales based on the given chord symbol. I feel "chord/scale symbol" is a valid term but may be reduced to chord symbol in verbiage because itís quiker and easier to say. With novice students you may have to remind them several times that each symbol they see actually represents a chord, built in thirds, and a scale, usually consisting of seven tones, usually built of a combination of whole and half steps.
*Older fake books put guitar and ukelele tablature above the music to help guide the novice.
Suggested Basic Chord/Scale Symbols
Major = C triangle
Dominant 7th= C7
Minor = C-
Half-dim = C with a slashed tiny zero to the right
Diminished = C with a tiny circle to the right
+4 use +4 instead of +11 because of easier, quicker scale construction and the novice improvisor can find the 4th much quicker than the 11th.
+ use +sign instead of the sharp sign to indicate a raised note. It is quiker to write and takes up less space on the page.
Flat 5 notation flat five in a chord/scale symbols is not correct. It is a hold-over from an era when musician thought in terms of arpeggios instead of scales.
C7flat5 scale = C, D, E, F, G-flat, A, B-flat, C (not sound we want)
C7+4 scale = C, D, E, F-sharp, G, A, B-flat, C (this is the sound)
_ I like the dash to represent minor, not an indication for lowering a note Ĺ step. Use the flat sign to lower a tone.
All alterations should appear after the root, third, and seventh are established. How about using a T to indicate a triad? It wouldnít be confused with other symbols. Do we really need parenthesis around alterations?
The number seven is redundant. If the symbol states C major, it is implied that there is a seventh. Jazz is based on tetrachords, Rarely are three note chords used and if one is required it must be notated for the performer otherwise a seventh will be assumed. C9 and C13 should never be state as such, but merely C7. We know that all tones in the scale may be used. When a +5 is call for, a +4 is also implied, thus creating a whole tone scale.
When possible, the actual tone in the melody should correspond to the chord symbol. Example C7+4 should have a Fsharp in the melody, not a G flat.
Lets encourage transcribers and publishers to use chord symbols over each measure of a solo not just the first chords, Also, numbered lines are helpful in class analysis.
If we were at the stage of development weíd love to be at, there would probably be little need for symbols because our ears would hear the tonality and quality and respond accordingly. However, since weíre not quite there yet, there is a need for nomenclature, chord/scale notation. Also, jazz education has taken the jazz sounds into peopleís minds who never dreamt they would be trying to improvise using their ears and eyes. The object of chord/scale notation, as I understand it in todayís educational jazz setting, is one of allowing the musician to know exactly, in advance, the classes which are available to him or her. Not only the root, third, and seventh, but all alterations, thus giving them a firm sense of the sound before it is actually sounded. Each chord/scale symbol is just that. It expresses the entire scale as well as the chord tones. Itís like a road sign without doubt.
When dealing with the study of improvisation, a "chord/scale" symbol is an abbreviation for a general sound, not a particular voicing.
A chord symbol represents a larger chord symbol, which represents a scala, which represents a sound, which represents an emotion.
The eye should first see the root, then, together, the third and seventh. This instantly gives the player the main ingredients of the sound. These are the basics and I feel must come first in the notation.
Software manufacturers would all use the same fonts. It would be similar to the design of the cassette. Phillips patented the cassette and now we can ship our music all the way around the world and know that it can be played on a similar system. It has worked wonders in communication.
Jazz education and recorded jazz has established the fact that all tones of a chord/scale symbol are playable. Thus, we should take for granted sevenths and ninths! They are the rule not the exception! If we want a triad sound we should indicate it with a "T" or some other symbol. We donít need to keep putting 9ís, 11ís, and 13ís, on every chord symbol. Itís a fact of our music, but we keep acting like no one knows it. They should be taken for granted and do not need to be constantly notated. C7 suffices.