Song 7

  1. The Tonal Centre
  2. Cadences
  3. Careless Love
  4. Phrasing - Dynamics
  5. Practice - Major Chord & Scale
  6. Session Materials


Song | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | ?? |

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S 7.1 - The Tonal Centre

The I, IV and V7 chords were introduced in Session 1.

The C major, F major and G7 chords (below) define the C major tonality.

Audio 1.1

The Tonic note C of the C major scale is the melodic tonal centre. It is the focal point for the melody and the note on which the melody usually ends.

The C major chord is the tonic chord for the C major scale and represents the harmonic tonal centre. It is the focal point for the chord progression and the chord on which the melody usually ends.

Most chord progressions (and melodies) in Jazz, Popular music, and traditional Classical music utilise the interplay between two musical forces.

  1. the "gravitational" anti-clockwise flow of the Circle of Fifths, and the

  2. the "magnetic" pull towards a Tonal Centre.

The Circle of Fifths movement is a global musical force (reflecting affinities based on natural acoustics). It operates on all forms of Western music as a whole. You can compare it with the force of gravity.
Chord progressions that follow the natural anti-clockwise direction of the Circle of Fifths produce a sense of musical release. Chord movements against the flow create musical tension.

The pull towards a Tonal Centre on the other hand is confined within the boundaries of a specific song. Very much like a magnet that attracts particles within its vicinity.
Chord movements towards the tonal centre create musical release.
Chord movements away from the tonal centre create tension.

A simple song may have just one tonal centre, but many Jazz standards modulate to two, three or more different temporary centres before returning to the main tonality.


In most cases both types of musical forces operate in the same direction.
In a few cases, like the movements between the I and the IV chord (as shown above), the tonal centre effect goes against the global (Circle of 5ths) trend.

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S 7.2 - Cadences

A Cadence can be defined as "a melodic or harmonic configuration that creates a sense of repose or resolution".
Cadences therefore usually mark the end of a music phrase, or segment ("period") or composition. It represents a musical comma or full stop.

There is of course much more to chord progressions (of both Classical and Jazz music) than just musical commas and full stops. But they are a good start for understanding the harmony of a song, especially if it is one of the numerous 3-chord songs (I, IV and V7).

Below the three most important Cadences as defined in Classical music.
They involve, not surprisingly, the I, IV and V7 chords. Also observe how they fit into the Musical Forces Diagram

Audio 7.1

The Cadences are known under a variety of names.
The Perfect Cadence is also know as a full close, the Imperfect Cadence as a half close.
The Plagal Cadence is also called the Amen Cadence as it forms the ending ("A - men") of many church hymns.

The second line in the Basic Blues progression is a typical Jazz example of the Plagal Cadence.
The third line in the Basic Blues progression is a typical Jazz example of the Perfect Cadence.
The turnaround at the end of the Embellished Blues is a common Jazz application of the Imperfect Cadence.

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S 7.3 - Careless Love

Careless Love is a very popular Trad Jazz standard. The song is 16 bars long and divided into four standard 4-bar phrases.
The first and last phrase are identical. The second phrase and third phrase each are different. The format of this song can therefore be described as A B C A.


With all this talk about Cadences you will no doubt immediately recognise the Perfect Cadence in the first phrase, and the beautiful (I would almost say "perfect") Imperfect Cadence in the second phrase.

Audio 7.2

But what happens in the third line ?
The conversion from F major into F7 immediately modulates the song to the key (and scale) of Bb major, and the F7 gravitates in a Perfect Cadence to the new tonal centre, the Bb major tonic chord.
Hardly have we recovered from this culture shock and the song modulates yet again to another key (simply by changing chord quality again) to Bb minor this time.
In the final line the song returns to its original key, F major.

Audio 7.3

This is a very simple example how chord progressions work.

Note especially the role of the Bb major chord. Although it it is the IV chord in the major scale of F, it does not function as a IV chord in this song!
The F7 chord in front of it converts the Bb chord function to becoming the I chord of its own (Bb-) major scale.

This shows the unique power of the dominant 7th chord :

  • Any dominant 7th chord always functions as a V7 chord and as such always establishes a tonal centre a perfect fifth down.
    (The new tonality is usually major but can also be a minor key. In fact there may not even be a next chord in the new tonality.)

The reason for the above is simple : there is only one dominant 7th scale-tone chord in each major scale. Each dominant chord is therefore unique to the major scale in one key only. The chord can only be formed on the 5th note of that scale (otherwise the chord tones do not fit into the major scale). This means that the tonic chord (and tonic note) of the scale is always a 5th below the dominant chord

Likewise there is (as we shall see in a later session) only one dominant 7th chord in the harmonic minor scale, again formed on the 5th note of that scale.

Let us now look at the "hidden agenda" behind all this modulation in the third line of Careless Love.
The chord tones for each of the four chords in the phrase give away the secret.
The red chord tones form a smooth line descending in step wise motion right through the entire phrase, finally connecting up with a chord tone of the first chord in the final phrase.

Audio 7.4

You can use this descending line in three ways.

  1. as a guide tone line to guide the flow of your improvisation.

  2. bass players can use it as a very powerful bass line
    (for example as repeated
    minims : F F - Eb Eb - D D - Db Db)

  3. keyboard players (and guitarists) can also use this as a left hand bass line, or as a descending line of top notes for successive chord voicings.

Go through the standard Practice Routines for this song and include the descending bass line as an alternative in the chord root tones practice.

Scale practise for the various instruments required for this third phrase is :

Instrument1st bar2nd & 3rd bars4th bar
C instr.F major scale
F G A Bb C D E F
Bb major scale
Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
Bb Dorian mode
Bb C Db Eb F G Ab Bb
Bb instr.G major scale
G A B C D E F# G
C major scale
C Dorian mode
C D Eb F G A Bb C
Eb instr.D major scale
D E F# G A B C# D
G major scale
G A B C D E F# G
G Dorian mode
G A Bb C D E F G

Here are the C instrument scales for the third phrase of the song.

Audio 7.5

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S 7.4 - Phrasing : Dynamics

Besides the obvious importance of tone quality there are two other musical aspects that are essential in generating emotion into your improvisation. They are articulation and dynamics. In this session we focus on dynamics, but first two warnings.

  • Always keep control of your emotions when performing.
    The typical example is of the beginning sax student (I have been there myself) who uncontrollably pours his (her) heart and soul out through the instrument. The result is an terrible noise similar to a cat in heat.
    You need to project emotions to the audience, but you only do this successfully when you stay cool yourself.
    Always be aware that making music is an active form of meditation, a state in which body, mind and spirit are relaxed and in perfect equilibrium. Uncontrolled emotions disturb this equilibrium. Used in a controlled manner emotions can be a powerful and energising force that drives your performance.

  • Exaggerate dynamics, accents, etc.
    You need to put twice as much energy into these than you think in order to get the intended effect across the audience.

Dynamics are too often entirely overlooked in solos and small Jazz ensemble playing, and yet this aspect can provide spectacular results.
How to play a song in terms of dynamics is a very personal matter. It is entirely up to your own taste and interpretations. This makes the way you play it quite unique.

Dynamics refer to the loudness of music.

p stands for piano, which means soft

f stands for forte, which means loud

These signs are placed under the staff. Here is the full range :


"Hair pins" indicate a gradual increase (Crescendo, cresc.) or decrease (Diminuendo, dim.) of sound.

Careless Love is a good song to work on dynamics. My own treatment would be :

  1. Start the first line moderately soft (mp)

  2. Step up the second line a level to moderately loud (mf)

  3. Build a crescendo from moderately soft (mp) at the beginning of the line to loud (f), or even very loud, on the high D in the third bar. This is the obvious climax point in the song.
    Then a diminuendo back to mp.

  4. Complete the last line moderately loud (mf)

Audio 7.6

Wind instruments as well as, organs, accordions, mouth organs, violins and vocalists have the ability to change dynamics (swells, crescendos, diminuendos) over long sustained notes.

A great effect can be created by starting a long note at the end of a phrase very softly, then increasing it to loud near the end. This creates enormous energy, excitement and forward motion in a song, an effect brilliantly mastered by one of my favourite baritone sax players, the late Gerry Mulligan.
This is how it looks at the end of the first phrase for Careless Love.

(Sorry, can't simulate sustained note dynamics properly on my midi program.)

Pianists and guitar players obviously cannot do this. Once the note is struck it has only one way to go : diminuendo.
These players must therefore take advantage of note runs to go up or down in dynamics.

To cater for all I have included another page of Rhythm Patterns (Audio 7.7). First play then until you are confident with the rhythm, then experiment with various dynamics.

Audio 7.8

Over the three Rhythm Pattern pages so far in this course I have steadily increased the length of the first not of each phrase, so that you get used to starting on a long note.

Let me repeat again!
Always work on one aspect at a time. When you focus on dynamics this week do not worry about what is happening with your accents from last week. This will only confuse you.

Practise systematically a range of different improvisation skills, one at a time for a week or so, then go onto the next skill. Eventually all aspects will come together quite naturally.

Midi files have rather limited capability in respect of dynamic variation. The midi files for this Course are therefore all at a steady dynamic level. You should however work regularly on this aspect.

If you play in a regular Jazz band you should also incorporate dynamics in the whole group performance, and not just for the first melody chorus ("head").
In a good Jazz ensemble the whole group follows the dynamics of the improvising soloist. This enhances the dynamic effect enormously, and lifts the quality of the group to a much higher professional level.

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S 7.5 - Practice : Major Chord & Scale

The major scale is the most commonly used scale over a major triad, major 7th chord and major 9th chord. (A major 9th chord consists of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th note of a major scale. The 9th is the same note as the 2nd but located one octave higher.)

Practise the combined major 9th chord and major scale in all keys in two ways.

1. Chord tones up to the 9th, then the scale down.

Audio 7.9

2. Major scale up to the 9th, then chord tones down.

Audio 7.10

To fit a 4 bar segment play the exercise as shown above. This way you can use the Circle of 5ths Play-a-Long track (major) for the exercise.

When practising without a backing track go up and down the pattern three times in each key.

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S 7.6 - Session Materials

ItemMidi filesSheet music
Careless LoveDemo P-a-L 120
P-a-L 160
C instr.Bb instr.Eb instr.
Major Chord and Scale practiceDemoP-a- Lp.1p.2
Rhythm Patterns DemoRP 3Blanks

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© 2003 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)