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Jazz Guitar Lessons: Donna Lee

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We're going to talk about just one of
the coolest Charlie Parker tunes ever,
Donna Lee.
This is a great example
of a melody to a song
that actually is a great burning pop solo.
It's, and you can get, and I have a lot of
great lines just by learning this melody.
And by the way there are other
Charlie Parker songs.
There's a great book called
the Charlie Parker omni book.
You can get it, you can order through
Amazon and it's a fantastic book.
With a lot of his songs.
And a lot of his songs really
are Bob Solow over a set of chord changes.
And, they become a melody because
he plays them with other people.
But they're really, like a,
just great Bird solo, you know?
Charlie, that was his nickname,
Charlie Yardbird Parker.
They called him Bird.
And so, I'm gonna look at Donna Lee,
you could take one of the other ones and
analyze that and
send me your thoughts about it.
Okay Donna Lee is in A flat.
It is based on the chord changes from, for
an old almost like Dixieland you know,
a Tin Pan Alley song called
Back Home in Indiana.
And the chord changes, you know,
probably back in the day, they'd turn
off the guitar and play it like this.
You know,
it's got that kind of a feel to it.
Bird took it up faster and
played it as a cool jazz, swinging piece.
So the chord changes are pretty simple.
Starts on, one chord for
two bars, boosts to five,
seven of five, for
the next two bars, right.
That's the two, but
turned into a dominant seven chord.
The dominant seventh of the five chord.
You'll go back you can go back and
look at that extended lesson on
that theory that we talked about.
So B flat seven, five seven of five.
It includes the two minor seven,
right in the key.
And then it does a quick
turn-around to the four chord.
five minor seven, and then five,
seven of four.
And we're leading, this chord is
leading us up to the four chord.
Four, six, nine, or four major seven.
Four minor seven.
Kind of borrowed that
from the minor scale.
And then back to the A flat, and it goes
back to that five, seven, and five,
and hangs on it for a couple of bars.
Then two, five, one.
Then we get to the second half.
This is an A, A, A one, A two formed
song so that A is all the same,
the first until the end it's
all the same as the first time.
A flat, B flat and seven, B flat minor,
E flat seven, five, seven.
Then it modulates to
the relative minor key
Goes to G minor seven,
C seven and then F minor.
Then five, seven, of six a C seven
And then back to the F minor.
And it goes up to flat three diminished.
And kind of leads, that leads you, that's.
The diminished chord acting almost
as a dominant seven member.
If you move down one note,
you get a dominant seven.
It's like really a G seven, right?
Leading you to the three,
six, two, five, one, and that ends it.
Now, let's talk about the line
that he plays through that.
Those are the changes, very basic changes.
Never goes to another key,
doesn't modulate.
The only thing,
it does go to the relative minor,
which is really basically the same key.
The whole thing starts on beat three.
Your two beats are empty at the beginning.
One, two
I love that first line.
So it starts on, you remember we
talked about appoggiatura you know,
where you take a little twirl,
take one note in an arpeggio scale and
just do a little turn on it to kinda
make it, give it a little extra glitz.
One, two
so the very first note of the song has
And then it goes right down the scale
with a couple of passing chromatic notes.
So it's basically.
An A-flat major scale,
with a little turn in it, and one passing
tone between the sixth and the fifth.
But it's got a real nice boppy sound.
Now right there,
it plays a little passing tone a chord
going to the five, seven, of five.
He sneaks in an F seven.
So right there, it switches gears and
gets the juicy note from the F seven.
Remember the F seven is five,
seven of two.
Now you're heading towards two, right?
So it's a natural movement.
And he nails the one note that's different
from the rest of the key in that chord.
Which in this case in an A natural.
The three of the F seven.
Check it out.
So that changes it, right.
And says oh,
hey we're going somewhere else.
And then it goes
and takes you to the B flat seven.
Now what that is.
Is the rest of a,
the rest of an F seven arpeggio.
You got the third,
it went to the third right away.
Went to the fifth, went to the seventh,
to the root, okay.
And then a little appoggiatura.
On the flat nine.
And the sharp nine.
That's such a Bird thing,
such a Charlie Parker thing.
Right, so
that kinda takes it into
the chromatic realm right there.
By including those tensions, so
Down the A flat scale with
just that one passing tone
Switch to the F seven
throw those,
the flat nine sharp nine arpeggio
and then
that's B flat seven.
The three, that's the juicy note in that,
because you changed it to,
in order to make it five, seven of five.
You changed it,
the two chords normally
would be a minor seven.
We made it a B flat dominant seven, which,
has, has a raised third.
And that's where you start.
Right on the juicy note that
gives it it's different flavor.
And the rest of those are in the,
in the scale really.
All right, so
I'm going to take it back nice and
slow, play along with me if you
have the guitar in your hands.
Isn't that cool?
It's outlining the changes as you go.
The next part takes you to
the B flat minor seven.
And he, perfect, perfect example
of chromatic neighbor tones.
The next line starts here, okay?
He just surrounds the fifth of the key
with the neighbor above, chromatic.
A neighbor below chromatic,
neither one is in the scale, so
you get a little chromatic flavor
and then he,
to go to the two chord,
he gets a chromatic neighbor tone below
so that whole thing, is neighbor tones.
That whole passage
And then he starts
He goes right up the B
flat minor seven arpeggio
including the tensions.
So he goes, one, three,
five, seven, nine, 11.
You get every tension, except for
the 13th,
right away?
Isn't that cool?
Love that line.
And then he goes back to the arpeggio
and then walks back from the ninth to
the five chord.
Let me play that for you again.
And then that takes you to the five chord.
So let me sum it up
until we're there again.
That's the F seven,
flat nine, sharp nine
B flat seven.
The chromatic neighbor tones.
Leading you to the two chord up the.
All the entire arpeggio
including the tensions
And that's another extension
of the B flat minor arpeggio.
let me go through the next part,
and it goes up to the ninth on that.
And then goes to a little
darker note to get you
on the five chord back to the one
Now what that is,
is on the five chord, it's just,
instead of just playing a straight
diatonic one, he plays a flat five and
then a regular third, and
then the sharp nine flat nine and one,
so you notice you used that twice already
there, and here
Okay, so up until
there it is
Okay, so once we get there we
go back to the beginning and
we play basically
the same first line as the first time.
We get to the second ending.
It's gonna take us into F minor.
Check out how he does this.
So, that's,
takes you right to the C seven.
It's all a scale, but it has the note
that's different from the key
that leads you to the F minor.
This, in, normally, the three chord
would be a three minor seven.
In this case, it's a C seven,
the five seven of six,
leading you to the sixth chord,
to the relative minor.
Back to the flat nine,
sharp nine appoggiaturra.
Loves that, or uses that all the time.
Lot of people throw in this chord.
And the next line is the ultimate
chromatic connector line.
You just use
That's all chromatic.
Starting on the fifth of the minor,
F minor chord,
it's all chromatic neighbor tones,
isn't that cool?
Cuz it's such a cool song but
really all it is is the dramatic scale
All based on the F minor note collection.
And then
that's just a scale pattern in F minor.
And then remember I said
because that diminished cord.
Chord, you just go straight
up the diminish chord
that's straight up the diminish arpeggio.
A little chromatic line leading
you back to the three chord.
now that line is one of exact bebop lines
that I showed you when I was
showing you some bop licks.
You remember that,
I was showing you
that's what that line is.
And it just takes you right
through the three six two five
And then
that's, that's the B flat minor,
the two, arpeggios straight up.
Little sa a scale fragment.
One, three, two, five, on the five chord.
And ends on the root.
So I'm gonna play this through at a nice,
moderate tempo.
This will give you a chance to play it.
You can loop this.
Play along with me.
And then you know,
once we get into the play along track
it's at a little faster tempo than this.
So take your time with this and really
play through, through it a few times.
Here it goes.
And one, two, a one, two, three.
I, I changed up to the end to my,
make my own ending out of it.
But these,
these lines are gonna be so valuable,
as you see them, in, you see these
kind of chord changes in other songs.
You'll be able to use a lot of these
licks over and over and over again.
That's the great Donna Lee,
by Charlie Parker.