Playing arpeggios up to the 13th is a great exercise, but playing them down from the 13th is even better. As a saxophone player I tend to be very “root oriented” in that I often think and visualize harmonic shapes from the root up. By learning to play, hear and visualize from the 13th down, you develop a better understanding of harmony and, over time, it becomes easier to manipulate and embellish harmony creating stronger melodic ideas that utilize voice-leading. This simple exercise takes three hamonic qualities (major 13 #11, minor 13, and dominant 13 #11) and arpeggiates them from the 13th down to the root and back up (13, #11, 9, 7, 5, 3, 1 etc.). The shape is played through all the keys starting with concert C and moving around the circle of fourths. Try to bring your analytical mind along at first, by naming the tensions in your mind while your slowly playing or singing the exercises (i.e. “13, #11, 9, maj7, 5, 3, 1 “, etc.). After you have a comfortable grasp of the Dominant 13th, try improvising with the structure, displacing and breaking up the rhythm and the arpeggio. Lastly, begin altering the arpeggios, adding #5, #9 or any other tension.
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