Decisions when playing Chromatic Triadic patterns

George Garzone is the Sax players sax player. He is a teacher that has taught the best of the crop that is out there right now. I had the privilege of studying with George back in high school. I can honestly say that no subject I studied before or since taught me how to think better than Jazz improvisation.

Back in the time of DVDs, George published his method for building a solo that he called the triadic-chromatic approach. A recent video from Moon Hooch’s Patreon reminded me of this approach.

The simple take of the approach is play a triad, move chromatically, play another triad, move chromatically, and continue. Simple, but not easy. Like the game Go, you can learn the rules in 5 minutes, and then spend the rest of your life trying to master it.

What I would like to do is lay out the set of decisions I need to make when playing this approach so that I can build a structure to practice it better. One idea I had was a dice version, where you roll a die for each decision, and then build from there. The first decision would be to chose a key. Since there are 12 Keys, we’ll roll a 12 sided die and use this mapping:

1=A 2=b c=3 4=d…7=G 8=A# 9=C# 10=D# 11=F# 12=G#

That only has to be done once.

OK, now you have your starting note. That does not mean you have your starting chord. First, lets determine what kind of chord it is. We could limit our selves to major and minor, which we would get by flipping a coin….but since there are other decisions to make here, we’ll hold off on that.

We need to figure out the inversion. This is a number 0-2:

0 = root, 1 = first inversion, 2 = second inversion

These 6 combinations can be generated with a 6 sided die.

1=root maj 2 = first major 3 = 2nd maj 4=root min 5=first minor 6=second minor

We also need to come up with the order of the notes. This where the permutations start to add up. If we are playing Root position, we could play 1-3-5, 1-5-3, 5-3-1, 5-1-3.

We also have to decide if we are going up or down between each note. That gives the following options: Up Up , Down Up Up, Down, Down Down. However, this is going to lead to some pretty big jumps. 5 up to 3 is actually jumping up a sixth. 3 up to one is also up a sixth. We can work that in, but it is a lot less common in playing, and we might want to weight things such that those show up less often. The combinations get complex enough quickly enough that we would want a Dungeon Masters Guide (first edition) lookup table to fine the right combination. For now, we’ll leave it equally spaced. 16 options…easier to keep them separate and roll 2 @ 4 sided dice, one for each decision.

For the chromatic runs afterwards, we are going to keep things simple. They are one, two, or three note runs. We need to determine the length of the run and the direction, up or down. 6 combinations. 1-3 is Up, 4-6 is down. divide the roll by three and take the remainder as the length of the run.

Ignoring our first 12 sided die roll, we have a repeated pattern of

6 * 4 * 4 * 6 = 576

options in each sequence. That is a pretty big option space.

What is going to limit you? Here are some ideas:

Habit: You are going to play the notes under your fingers that are most familiar. We are used to going from G down to E down to C more than from C down to E down to G. But it does sound cool.

Chords: You are going to gravitate to the chords of the tune you are playing.

Ease of fingerings: For the most part, it is easier on the Sax to play a natural than an accidental. Certain fingerings are just more comfortable and easy to hit. It is easier to play a C# than a G#.

Size of the Saxophone: You can only play so high and only play so low. have to turn around at some point or you run out of notes

Humans are not random: We are not going to make all of those decisions all at once every time. We are going to fall back on heuristics like : mostly play 135 up or 531 down, but after a while realized we have not played 1 5 3 down and throw that in.

Making a George Garzone simulator would be a fun task.

So I did:

The Chooch is one of George’s early tunes. It seemed appropriate.

chooch requires abcMIDI. On Fedora:

sudo yum install abcMIDI

And on Ubuntu

sudo apt install abcmidi

Here’s some sample output.

I suspect there are bugs. It seems to get stuck at the bottom of the staff, althoug I tried to reset it to the middle if it gets too low.

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