Harmonic Upper Structures and Superimpositions

Stretch your harmonic and melodic possibilities.

by Yaniv Nachum

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12 lessons

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There are different techniques we can use in order to acquire new material into our improvisation. In this course we will give a comprehensive insight into some of these techniques.

We will start by “preparing the ground” and working out the basics of extended harmony. You will learn diatonic and modal upper-structures, the different combinations of upper-structures and the techniques to work these into your phrasing.

As we progress we will practice our timing and phrasing and apply these techniques in context.

You will learn the harmonic function of a “Coltrane changes” progression and apply this as a super-imposed line. We will then create our own super impositions, explain the techniques of creating those and experiment with harmonic rhythm; we will then apply this material over different progressions and jazz standards. This course gives you the possibility of stretching your harmonic and melodic possibilities and extend your improvisational vocabulary.

The lessons will be accompanied by theoretic material, music-sheets, transcriptions and examples. 

2.5 hours

Skill Level

Backing Tracks
15 Backing tracks recorded from pianis Franz von Chossy


Certified from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam

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Content of this course

Lesson 1 - Introduction & Minor chords and Melodic minor and minor blues
In this lesson we will introduce the subject of harmonic upper-structures and super-impositions. We will give a short review of the course and explain what are super impositions and how we will use this technique during this course. We will continue with looking at the first upper-structures possibilities over minor chords. We will go on exploring the upper-structures possibilities over minor chords. We will go on with the melodic minor and the minor blues. We will extract upper-structure, create lines and integrate this material into our improvisation.

Lesson 2 - Minor chords combinations, Major7 chords and Half-dim, Dom7 chords
In this three parts lesson:
- we will look at the minor cords combinations, major7 chords, half-dim chords and dom7 chords. We will start with the different combinations of upper-structures over minor chords, combining all previous upper-structures to one sound.
- We will look at maj7 chords. We will extract new upper-structures based on the minor chords and apply those on maj7 chords. We will use the combinations of Dorian, Melodic, Blues to create new upper-structures over maj7. As in previous lessons we will create lines to accentuate these sounds. 
- We will look at half-dim chords, dom7 chords and start applying our upper-structures over a 2-5-1 progression. We will start looking into unconventional upper-structures which emphasises the tension notes of the chords and work those out.

Lesson 3- Timing, tension and release
To use super-impositions we need to think about its function: "creating tension where tension does not necessarily exists". In this lesson we will work out timing, tension and release elements to be able to put our phrasing into context. We will practice target notes, rhythmical tension, fragmented phrasing, slowing down, speeding up and creating rhythmical ambiguity.

Lesson 4 - Coltrane changes
In this lesson we will start super-imposing. We will look at the coltrane changes progression as an example and a tool of creating a starting and ending point to our super impositions. You will learn the functions and the different possibilities of using Coltrane changes as a super imposed line.

Lesson 5 - Harmonic rhythm
In this lesson we will experiment with the harmonic rhythm of the Coltrane changes progression. We will expand, compress and randomize our progression to look at the different possibilities and to create more versatility in our improvisation

Lesson 6 - Phrasing
In this lesson we will talk about phrasing. We will process the material you learned so far in different ways. We will create inversions, intervals and connect the upper-structures in various techniques. You will practice limitations, lines and apply this material in your improvisation

Lesson 7 - Super impositions over a standard
It's time to put all the material we learned so far into practice! In this lesson we will super-impose over a jazz standard. We will look at the different possibilities of upper-structures, combinations and create super-impositions out of those.

Lesson 8 - Creating your own super-impositions
In this lesson we will create our own super impositions based on tension-release and movement. We will then explain the three main techniques discussed in this this course to create super impositions. Using upper-structures, using symmetry & using tension/release movement.

Lesson 9 - About comping and conclusion
In this very last lesson of this course we will pay attention to the comping instruments. We will give a review of musical and technical elements to help the improviser or the comping instruments to play in context. We will then conclude the course.

How it works

The course is a series of related video lessons, each structured around a specific topic or topics. By the end of this course, you will have developed a strong sense of direction in your daily study routine.

Weekly video lessons
After joining the course, you will be able to view a new video lesson weekly. Each video lesson consists of:
- Examples that musically define the sound of the topic you are studying in each video
- A study routine section in which we first discuss how to study the specific topic of each lesson. We will then play several exercises specially written to show you how to structure your daily study routine
- Assignments that will help you consolidate and practice what you have learned in each video.

Weekly assignments
After each lesson, you will be asked to study, practice and then video record yourself playing an assignment which may consist of several exercises. When ready, you submit the video of your assignment. The process of having to record yourself every week, significantly helps to internalise the material discussed in this course - quickly and naturally.

Weekly feedback
You will then receive a video with individual and personalised feedback to each assignment, every lesson. The personal feedback that you receive will enable you to improve and clarify any questions that might arise during your weekly study. You can view the feedback as many times as you like.