A Curious Case of Temporary Outness
in the 4th Dimension
Inspired by "A Study in Fourths" by Walter Bishop, jr.
If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Bishop and his contributions to the music and its vocabulary, this is a must see video, whatever your instrument happens to be.
While Walter Bishop, jr. certainly wasn't the first to come up with the concept of using fourth cycles as a tool for improvisation, his legacy as a contributor to the concept lives on, through his book, as well as the above linked instructional video.
In this case, we're talking about working some of these modified fourth cycles over a common, six measure iii-VI-ii-V-I chord progression.
Line 1, Measure #1 = E-7 employs the use of a pair of "shifts" (which break up the continuous P4th cycle), Shifts, in this case, are intervals other than a Perfect 4th (in measure #1, both shifts, D-B and A-F#, are min thirds), which create variations in the line as well as keep it inside, or close to, the underlying harmony.
E (root) - A (11) - D (b7) - B (5th) E (root) - A (11) - F# (9) - B (5th)
This, in reality, spells out D/E or E7 sus. The line in this measure contains 4 intervals of a perfect fourth and two intervals of a minor 3rd. In other words, it's a D Major Pentatonic.
Line 1, Measure #2 = A7, begins with an eighth note rest. Rests, skips and expanded time values are ways of breaking up a line of continuous perfect 4ths in order to mold it to a given harmonic situation. It can be as "'in" or "outside" as you want to make it.
rest - C# (3rd) - G# (M7) - D# (b5) F (b13) - Bb (b9) - C (#9) - G (b7)
With the exception of the G# (M7), this spells out an A7 alt. The G#, or Maj. 7th, is the only tone here that would be considered "outside" against an A7. Since the rest of the altered tones create a considerable amount of tension anyway, the G#, in context, doesn't really sound "out" at all.
The line in this measure contains 5 intervals of a perfect fourth, as well as one whole step skip (D#(Eb)-F) and an eighth note rest.
Line 1, Measure #3 = D-7. Beginning with a whole tone skip from the preceding measure (G-F), and interrupted only by two eighth note rests on the downbeats of 3 & 4, this measure is a straight up 4th cycle (5 uninterrupted P4ths) that spell out a D-11 chord.
F (b3) - C (b7) - G (11) - D (Root) rest - A (5th) - rest - E (9)
The perfect 4th cycle continues along uninterrupted into the next measure, as well.
Line 2, Measure #1 = G7 is similar to the A7 in Line 1, Measure #2; in that a Maj. 7th (F#) is present against a dominant 7 chord. As before, it adds a nano second of "temporary outness" as well as keeps the integrity of the cycle, which includes all of the altered dominant tones inherent to a G7alt.
B (3rd) - F# (M7) - C#(Db) (b5) - G#(Ab) (b9) D#(Eb) (b13) - A#(Bb) (#9) - rest - F (b7)
The line in this measure contains 6 uninterrupted Perfect 4ths. If we go back to the first eighth note of the previous measure (Line 1, Measure #3) to the last eighth note of this measure (Line 2, Measure #1), we've find ourselves with a complete, uninterrupted 12 note cycle in Perfect Fourths, from F to to F, which can be used over a ii-V7; in this case, D-7 / G7alt.
Line 2, Measure #2 & 3 = C. As all good things must come to an end, the final 2 measures resolve to a C Maj7, starting with a rest and a shift, finally breaking the completed cycle. This line actually spells out a G Maj. Pentatonic (G-A-B-D-E) over C.
rest - G (5th) - D (9th) - E (M3rd) A (6th) - D (9th) - E (M3rd) - B (M7)
The line in this measure contains four P4ths, 2 shifts of a whole tone each, and a rest.
There are many roads to Rome with this technique. What might even be more hip as an ending, would be to continue the cycle at the end of Line 2, Measure #3, which ends on the note B (M7 of C) one more descending P4th to F# (#11 in C Maj). Beginning the next measure (Line 2, Measure #3) with an eighth note rest, give the F# a dotted quarter.
Just another possibility.
As with most of these exercises, if you play a non-chordal instrument, it's highly recommended to program the changes into a "Band-in-a Box" type program to hear the basic harmonic movement behind the line. If you play a transposing instrument, don't forget to take that into account when typing in the changes.
Thanks again, Mr. Bishop.