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Thread: Stella by Starlight

  1. #1
    JazzRocks! thekid's Avatar
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    Stella by Starlight

    I really like the melody but I can't solo over it at all!
    What tips do you guys have for soloing over this standard.

  2. #2
    Registered User bwv1005's Avatar
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    Stella by Starlight has many small cadences that, put together, can be a little intimidating. Try breaking it up, get each individual part together, and then put it back together. See where the modulations happen and use those for breaking points. When you put it back together, try and erase the seams...

    mo

  3. #3
    Registered User Valerie's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    ah, one of my favorite tunes for many decades!! stick with it!

  4. #4
    Compose /Arranger / Jazz Prod. Phil Kelly's Avatar
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    This is DEFINITELY one of those songs you shouldn't approach by trying to figure out by the Berklee
    "chord /scale" method.

    Because is is such a classic melody ( like All the things you Are ), you should take the time to thouroughly understand ( as BVW suggested ) all the many key centers this song moves through, and then try to construct Thematic Fragments to fit each section that will eventually tie together to form your "own" melody.

    Learn to play the changes on a keyboard and "sing" ideas to yourself.

    In other words: try thinking compositionally instead of improvisationally ... work slowly ( preferably with a pencil and music paper ) as opposed to just
    "blowing over " the changes.

    This approach will pay off big time in your improvising ability.


    Swing ..or I'll kill you ( Bill Potts )
    RIP

  5. #5
    JazzRocks! thekid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Kelly View Post
    Because is is such a classic melody ( like All the things you Are ), you should take the time to thouroughly understand ( as BVW suggested ) all the many key centers this song moves through, and then try to construct Thematic Fragments to fit each section that will eventually tie together to form your "own" melody. :
    So, you shouldn't think in scales while improvising on Stella?

  6. #6
    www.jakehanlon.com Jakeweiser's Avatar
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    lets avoid this constant debate about scales and soloing please.

    Stella is my favorite standard that I know everyone knows. It is not an easy tune and this is because it is deceptive. The melody is diatonic to Bb with 2 exceptions however the harmonic progression is all over the map.

    Think about the chord tones first when starting to improvise over this tune. In fact only think about the triad based off the root. Use those notes and try to connect the changes by 1/2 steps as much as possible. Only think in simple rhythms first.

    Limiting yourself in what to play can be the key to unlocking this tune. Thinking about 7 to 9 note scales will over complecate things as they stand right now. You should be more interested in how to create your own melody over these changes right now rather then running scales

    start simple.
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  7. #7
    JazzRocks! thekid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jakeweiser View Post
    lets avoid this constant debate about scales and soloing please.
    Sorry, man.

  8. #8
    Compose /Arranger / Jazz Prod. Phil Kelly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jakeweiser View Post
    lets avoid this constant debate about scales and soloing please.

    You should be more interested in how to create your own melody over these changes right now rather then running scales

    start simple.

    Thank you Jake:

    That was exactly the point I was trying to make!

    take the first chord: it is an extended diminished pitch set that can work with any number of roots and YES ..a diminished scale ( or any of its extensions ) will work on it ..but just for kicks, this time, try to construct a ,say, four motif for a start:

    ( to this rhythm: 8th note rest > 3 eight notes
    > half note )

    1. C F# G Db
    2. F# G D# E
    3. A Bb C C# ..whatever

    next:

    Try applying this motif to the next pitch set
    ( basically a Cmi11 ) using a similar melodic contour:

    1. Bb D Eb G
    2. D Eb B C
    3.A Bb D Eb

    or, possibly an inversion of the original contour:

    1. C F# G Db
    1a. F G D Eb etc.

    once you start string these motifs together , you'll be creating a MELODY with some internal logic ...as opposed to just running a bunch of scales!!

    try it ..you might like it!

    Swing ..or I'll kill you ( Bill Potts )
    RIP

  9. #9
    Oppressed into submission jazzbluescat's Avatar
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    I like the tune in G concert better'n Bb.
    A lot of good arguments are ruined by some fool who knows what he's talking about.

  10. #10
    Jazz Artist, Author EdByrne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thekid View Post
    I really like the melody but I can't solo over it at all!
    What tips do you guys have for soloing over this standard.
    Kid:

    This is a beautiful through-composed composition in Bb throughout. I play off the melody, guide tone lines, and root progression. I paraphrase these elements while running repeated choruses. BTW, I have written an entire exercize book on this tune (instrument specific), which applies 10 chromatic targeting groups (one at a time) to each of these essential functions on Stella. If interested click on the web site below.

    Best,
    Ed

  11. #11
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    Red face

    Hey man, I'm currently working this song out for the first time aswell, with a struggle, yes.. a teacher at my university explained a good way to play through this song - using continuous pentatonics. that is, over a Cm7 use 1,b3,4,5,b7, - minor pent, and over Ma7's use 12356, and dominants you use 1235b7. the tricky'ish part in this song (at least for myself, anyway..) is the many minor 11-V's. for these, you can use what is called a minor 6/9 pentatonic. this is spelt 1,2,b3,5,6. first you must get this pattern under your fingers all over your instrument. once you know it a little bit, you can start applying. to use minor 6/9 pentatonics over a minor 11-V-1, you use 3 different minor 6/9 pents (for the three chords in the sequence) starting on different notes.

    let's take the first chord of 'Stella', E-7b5 - the '11' in a minor 11-V. for this chord, you can use Gminor 6/9 pent - the notes G,A,Bb,D,E. this is a minor 6/9 pent starting a minor third away from the root note (E -> minor 3rd -> G). if we go back to what we are playing over - E-7b5, we can see this pentatonic scale takes care of the minor 3rd (G), the 4th or 11th (A), the b5 (Bb), the minor 7th (D), and it also has the root, (E). so playing G minor 6/9 pentatonic fits wonderfully over the E-7b5 chord, as you are playing great notes over the whole thing.

    Next, the second chord of the song, and the 'V' in the minor 11-V, A7altered. Once again, use of the minor 6/9 pent can be used here - use a Bb minor 6/9 pentatonic over A7altered, that's a minor 6/9 pent starting a minor second away from the root (A -> minor 2nd -> Bb). The notes of Bb minor 6/9 pentatonic are: Bb,C,Db,F,G. over A7altered, they are the: b9 (Bb), #9 (C), natural 3rd (Db/C#), #5 (F), and dominant (flattened) 7th (G). this scale works fantastically well over this chord, as it contains strong altered tones, plus it doesn't contain the root, which we know is a weak tone.

    although the song doesn't go there yet, if we were to complete the minor 11-V-1, we would end up on D-7 as our '1' chord. playing Dminor 6/9 pentatonic works well over this chord aswell.

    one of the most interesting and fascinating parts to this method is the relationship between the notes we use to start each minor 6/9 pentatonic. if we re-look at our minor 11-V-1, it was a D-7 11-V-1 consisting of E-7b5, A7alt, going to D-7. The notes we use to start our minor 6/9 pentatonics were G (for E-7b5), Bb (for A7alt), and D (for D-7). G,Bb,D, the notes we used as starting points for our minor 6/9 pents, spells a minor triad! this relationship makes it a little easier to work out where the starting notes of each pentatonic are.

    the most interesting thing I've noticed about jazz in my short time playing it, is that there definately appears - now more than ever - to be no 'right' way of playing anything, instead, it appears to be about subjective choice. the more choices we have, the more relaxed we can be about what we're playing. I hope this can be one more option for you to play this song with.

    Hope this helped, cheers, Chris

  12. #12
    Registered User Mario Abbagliati's Avatar
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    In order to hear the harmony of the piece I would follow this routine:

    1.Playing the arpeggios in constant eight notes changing to the next available tone of the upcomming chord in the direction I’m moving. If that’s too hard start with quarter notes.

    2.Follow the same method but with the correct chord scale.

    3.All that with the metronome in two and four.

    4.I play guitar so I’ll make sure that I have 5 positions for each arpegio and scale, and run the exercise in each one. Then move it to different keys.

    After that, the ear is ready to start working on the improvisation. Key center playing sounds quite different, and richer, once you have dealt with the chords that way.

    Then it’s just a matter of applying different strategies to get deeper into the song. Hal Crook’s How to Improvise offers a good number of options of what to do, like using the melody as a send off, controling activity (play/rest), motif development, etc. But it all starts with the arppeggios, it’s the fundamental building block.


  13. #13
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    I agree with all the people that said chord tones and melody. When I solo over this tune I play off the melody and use my personalized licks but what makes this tune so fun to play is the all the cycle 5 stuff going on. What I do when I'm first learning a tune is workout 4 bars at a time. The first 4 bars of the tune are Emin7b5|A7alt|Cmin7|F7. Isolate those bars for study and work out some stuff on them. Once you have done that you can apply the same stuff all over this tune. That is the beauty of it. I would recommend Miles version of this tune. Listen to the way he plays the head. Beautiful!

  14. #14
    Jazz Artist, Author EdByrne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phat Boi View Post
    I agree with all the people that said chord tones and melody. When I solo over this tune I play off the melody and use my personalized licks but what makes this tune so fun to play is the all the cycle 5 stuff going on. What I do when I'm first learning a tune is workout 4 bars at a time. The first 4 bars of the tune are Emin7b5|A7alt|Cmin7|F7. Isolate those bars for study and work out some stuff on them. Once you have done that you can apply the same stuff all over this tune. That is the beauty of it. I would recommend Miles version of this tune. Listen to the way he plays the head. Beautiful!
    1. Reduce the melody down to whole notes or half notes, depending on the melodic rhythm of the particular tune. This is done by putting every note squarely on the beat, removing all repeated notes, pick-ups, and non-harmonic tones. This leaves you with the song's essential basic elements.

    2. Play this on the piano.

    3. Sing it repeatedly.

    4. Sing the first four measures repeatedly until it sinks in.

    5. Do the same for the second four.

    6. Put the two phrases together.

    1. Go through the entire tune in this manner: real simple and corny, so it will stick in your memory's sub- or semi-conscious.

    2. Do all the above with a metronome; take care never to add or drop a beat, since you want to program your memory to remember the exact melodic rhythm for later development.

    In this way, especially provided the essential reduced melody is at all interesting, it will sink in and you will remember it.

    Since there are usually repeated sections in the tune, this is not all that difficult a process. It will also help to listen repeatedly to a recorded performance of the tune.

    After you finish with this process, you can then develop your own personal phrasing style and improvisations on the tune without fear of forgetting its' essentials or getting lost.

  15. #15
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    This thread just highlights to me, again, how I just do things unconsciously.

    I actually don't think I could improvise if I consciously made an attempt to think of everything discussed here. I think it would simply paralyze me.

    These kinds of approaches may be occurring on a sub-concious level, but I'm definitely not aware of it.

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