Archive for the ‘Jazz Music Theory’ Category

— 2016 — Aug 1

Remembering the Modes

by Anton Schwartz

A different, very useful way of ordering the modes of the major scale in your mind… and a trick for remembering the modes in that sequence… [read more]

— 2016 — Jan 8

Pentatonic Scales: A Deeper Look

by Anton Schwartz

Pentatonic (five-note) scales are the basis for simple folk melodies and nursery rhymes all around the world. So how is it that they can be used in jazz so powerfully, to create so many colors and degrees of tension and dissonance? Let’s take a look. [read more]

— 2015 — Aug 12


by Anton Schwartz

An extremely useful word for something we’re all familiar with. [read more]

— 2015 — Jul 28

Sus Chords part II: Their Uses

by Anton Schwartz

In a previous post called “Understanding Sus Chords” I discussed suspended chords—what they are and how to think of them. In this one we look at their uses in songs. [read more]

— 2015 — Jul 14

Dynamic and Static Chords

by Anton Schwartz

Consider these two statements: “When you see a G7 chord you can use the G blues scale.” “When you see a G7 chord you can play a G altered lick.” Are they true? The simple answer to each is an unsatisfying “sometimes.” For a more satisfying answer, we need to understand an important distinction… [read more]

— 2013 — Mar 10

Understanding Sus Chords

by Anton Schwartz

I encounter a lot of musicians who know the definition of a sus chord but who struggle to understand sus chords as clearly as, say, minor or dominant chords. Perhaps this post will shed some helpful light. [read more]

— 2013 — Jan 11

A nameless ii-V cadence

by Anton Schwartz

A look at a cadence where a ii-V progression resolves not down a perfect fifth to the I chord, but up a half step. [read more]

— 2012 — Nov 27

Reverse Engineering Our Dominant Scales

by Anton Schwartz

Have you ever noticed that you can get a bunch of important jazz scales by assembling smaller half-scale “modules” in different combinations? Here’s a fresh way of visualizing some common dominant scales and how they’re “built.” [read more]

— 2012 — Nov 25

Harmonic Brightness & Darkness

by Anton Schwartz

Minor chords are often described as “dark,” major chords as “bright.” In this post I propose a technical definition of musical darkness and brightness that I’ve found very useful for thinking about musical harmony. [read more]

— 2012 — Jul 26

Transcribing Jazz Solos

by Anton Schwartz

Most jazz musicians recognize the enormous value of transcribing solos, but relatively few go about it in a way that lets them milk that value. This post contains many pointers, as well as a step by step example. [read more]

— 2012 — Jul 10

How to Think about Scale Modes

by Anton Schwartz

How often have we heard this? Teacher: Do you know what the C lydian scale is? Student: That’s the same as the G major scale, right? It’s useful to know that a C lydian scale has the same notes as a G major scale. But I find it much more useful to know that a […] [read more]

— 2012 — Apr 16

Harmonic Intervals from Polyrhythms

by Anton Schwartz

Here’s a beautiful audio/video demonstration of a simple acoustic principle which relates the perfect fifth harmonic interval to a 3:2 polyrhythm. [read more]

— 2012 — Feb 27

Blues in Disguise?

by Anton Schwartz

My “Radiant Blue” CD is a collection of ten songs that, in different and sometimes unusual ways, follow the blues form. But you probably wouldn’t notice that, listening to it. “Radiant Blue is a CD of blueses, but it is not a blues CD any more than The Who’s rock opera, Tommy, is an opera CD.” [read more]

— 2012 — Jan 31

The Backdoor ii-V Progression

by Anton Schwartz

We all know how a standard ii-V-I progression works: a Dm7 chord followed by a G7 chord resolves to the key of C. We also hear a lot about the Tritone Substitution ii-V, in which the Dm7 and G7 resolve, instead, to the key of F#. Well, there is another very common resolution of the ii-V progression… much more common among standards than the tritone sub version… which gets surprisingly little discussion relative to the others. [read more]

— 2012 — Jan 16

Around the circle of fifths… backwards

by Anton Schwartz

I was humming Hendrix’s Hey Joe not too long ago and it occurred to me: the harmony song’s chords are a cycle of major chords moving downward in fourths. The world is filled with songs whose chords move around the cycle in the standard direction… down fifths… but I had never noticed one that moved backwards, like Hey Joe. I wondered: are there others there? … [read more]