Series 2 Installment 2!
This Installment: “Polytonal Pivoting”
Hello once again, this time let’s take a close look at the basic concept of Polytonal pivoting. First, as always, lets examine the theory that we’ll need to apply to make this work. Right away we need to understand that every note has 3 basic identities:
1. It’s harmonic value. This would be how it relates to the direct tonal condition of the key that it represents.
2. It’s intervallic value, this would mean the place that it holds and represents in any tonal condition.
3. It’s non-harmonic value, this would be how it relates as a passing tone to a given tonality.
With this information we can determine what and how we wish to create or imply a tonality to be affected. This can get pretty complicated here so let’s start slow. This can and will be demonstrated in chromatic and Diatonic forms, but just to keep grey matter from being splashed off your ceiling let’s start with a diatonic figure. And as you know by now I have no favourite keys but we’ll use C major just to avoid sharps (#) and flats ( b ) C D E F G A B C. Now the whole idea is to be able to introduce new tonalities be it harmonic, non harmonic, symmetrical, composite, etc. But based on one notes relationship to the melodic device that would be being used. Lets take an easy one, the 2nd or in this case D. D is a consistent interval first off, so lets find another key that D is also a consistent interval. Immediately A minor comes to mind because D is the 4th interval of A minor, and we already know (I hope) that the 4th interval and
the 2nd are the 2 true consistent or “perfect intervals,” because they don’t alter unless we approach it modally, this means that we can
substitute any of the harmonic intervals of A minor in place of D while playing or writing improvised lines.
C A C E / E F G A B C.
This C major has a A minor triad built into it at the 2nd interval you will note that the scale became symmetrical, however it remained diatonically correct let’s go a little deeper. Lets keep that same idea going lets take just for fun the 7th or B major and take one of the 5 non harmonic tones that belong to it like F#, now lets build a triad based off that like F# A# C# and add this to our previous melodic construction and now we have:
C A C E F G A F# A# C# C,
as the structure to work from. Now at this point we almost have a 12 tone structure to work out of also this means that we can begin to use modal ideas (inversions) or more harmonically based ideas (triads, quiads, arpeggios, etc). I think I better stop right here and let this sink in.
This little exercise should keep you busy working out the possibilities of each note for a LONG LONG LONG time. You should work this against ALL OF THE FOLLOWING: modes, scales, chords , arpeggios ,etc. If you find this kind of hard at first consider yourself normal. Once you get the hang of this you’ll be rewarded with a MUCH greater understanding of your instrument, harmony and melody, and most importantly yourself and the musician in you! Scott Henderson just smokes with this stuff as well as Larry Coryell, and the great keyboardist McCoy Tyne. Ritchie Kozton has a real nice way of doing this also. Here’s something to trip on, I’ve heard and watched the amazing Frank Marino do this stuff using this technique in some jazz based turn-arounds in blues tunes (that’s why I call him one of the fathers of progressive / fusion guitar) and once he told me that he had no idea of what it was that he was doing. Which just goes to show, if you live the moment and play that se cond as truthfully as possible, you can rise above technique. But unfortunately we all can’t be like Frank, so for the rest of us earthmen I leave you with this tip:
ALWAYS REMEMBER THE 3 BASIC IDENTITIES OF EACH NOTE!
Well I think that should get us started. As always if you get stumped or you just wanna say hi, I’m always at www.mikhalcaldwell.com and remember if you need to hear some of this stuff in use, there are examples at www.mp3.com/mikhalcaldwell. Till next time C# or you’ll Bb!
Mikhal……The Electric Warrior