Dear Great and Magnanimous Professor and Exalted Wise Master, Seer of All Things Jazz Related, Knower of All Things Jazz Edumacational:
I was wondering - do you have alternative ways of approaching sus chords other than the obvious?
-your most humble saxophone student
Dear humble saxophonist,
Please! No need for such pomp and circumstance. "O Great One" is all that's necessary.....or simply, "My Lord"......
I don't know, approaching them sideways? Or just get right in their face.......
So we are talking about how to improvise jazz lines over sus chords. The thing about "sus" is that it implies a 4th in the chord(sus stands for suspended....). So that
would lead one to believe that you can never play the third. It
actually can make the third sound like an extension. If it's just a
You can play E and it's cool.
But I would think that the "sus" implication would depend a lot on the
types of voicings played by the pianist or guitarist. If the pianist
C F Bb(straight fourths)
then you might lean towards 4ths or some pentatonics or some McCoy stuff.
If the pianist plays
C in the bass Bb D F A(like Bbmaj7 over C)
Then maybe you might play Mixolydian or bebop(think Gminor 7, which is
probably what Herbie Hancock would do.....)
However, all of that being said, I think at this stage of the game for
you, you need to go past conventional thinking for this type of thing.
For example, Sus chords voiced in 4ths imply what I said above. Why
not find something more chromatic just to take it in another
direction? And if it's voiced in thirds, why not find a 4 note scale that
uses some unexpected notes?
(For example: C7sus4-which I would
probably write as C7sus11-but sometimes Sibelius gets weird when I do
that-Why not play C EF A Bb? something like that. I was surprised that
Steve Coleman actually used a lot of things like that. THAT combined
with stark chromaticism might yield some interesting results.)
(Hopefully, we(or you at home reading this) can look at some of Gary Thomas' stuff and you might
find that simply ONE of his licks will open up your mind in terms of
possibilities. You should look at his intro solo on Angel Eyes. I have
most of it on paper, and somebody else did a transcription. Maybe at
least listen to it.)
Did we talk about triad pairings? Sometimes I like to use three
triads. For example, over F7sus4(there it is again) McCoy will do F Eb
on and on. But what if you add a D triad to that? what if you added a
B triad to that? Or Ab minor triad? That could open up an entire world
I think the problem with being in a program where most of the
students, and even some of the professionals, are thinking
"Here's some chord-scales that work. Ta Da!" Which is totally fine. But the MUSIC is beyond
that. At least I think so. If we are all playing the same chord scales
and so forth then at a certain point all of this stuff starts to sound
the same. This is why coming up with your own ideas is so important.
That's why you need to compose-so you can sit down and say: "A bunch
of stuff has been done. What HASN'T been done?" And you do that, and
even if it has been done, at least you are using your noggin- rather then letting
Jamey Aebersold tell you how to play. Or even let ME tell you how to
Why don't you write a tune with sus chords and then make it somehow
Lord Colligan, Esq.