Q&A1: Simplify, simplify

Why use modal names? are they necessary?

Dear Bob
I was wondering if you could tell me why whenever jazz books tell you how to solo over a ii-v progression they use modal names to indicate which scale can be used. For instance, in your guitar lesson on this subject you state that over a Dm7th you can use D dorian and over the G7th a G mixolydian. Why not just say that over these chords you can use a C major scale and make life easier for us rock and rollers who want to play jazz with the minimum amount of hassle. I have a feeling that I am missing the point with regards to why this is done. I would love an answer. Thanks a lot

Cormac, you're absolutely right. The quickest way from A to B is a straight line. Howard Roberts said that back in the 70s. But there is more to it that just that.

It's good to know that a Major scale will cover a ii-V. But you need to know why. And there are other progressions (in major and minor keys) that demand their own attention. Prevailing thought holds that the student must first become familiar with specific chord/scale relationships in order to understand the later material. Some can dismiss this as the Aebersold effect, but I agree with it. A peek under the hood once in a while is a good thing.

It gets the student to think about chord/scale relationships in a larger context. That way, the simplifications have meaning.

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