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The Madness that is Black Napkins

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
Other guitarist in this group I'm hanging around with really loves Zappa. That's awesome. So we're trying some Zappa tunes. Trouble Everyday is pretty straightforward. But this one...Black Napkins...man is it ever throwing me for a loop. I cannot piece together any coherent phrases for it.

It seems so simple: C#m7 > Dmaj7

That's it.

But those two chords fail to find sympatico ideas in my mental library of licks and phrases. I fumble around like a child trying to figure out their first toy.

Help me out here. What's a good way to approach this? How did Frank tackle such simple chords with such amazing, expansiveness?

For the unfamiliar:

 

bleujazz3

Power User
Sounds like the melody is a brief riff with a full bend. If it were me, I'd try to cop the melody and let the solos take care of themselves. My issue, though, would be trying to sound like Zappa. I noted that Frank does use his pick to tap with, which is trademark Zappa. You could incorporate some of Frank's tricks, but unless your name is Dweezil, you'd need to study a heck of lot more than bust out a FZ tune. What I might suggest though is, I'd say something Lydian, Phrygian, or Locrian. I may be talking out my buttcheeks, but that's all I've got just now.

I did learn from a decent jazz teacher once that if you really want to sound unique, play in Locrian diminished, (e.g. the (#7♭5) scale one step back from your Ionian (I) mode). Although this may not be what Frank is playing, it will lend a different sound to your jazz playing. It may be a starting point for you that will lead you towards a variety of obscure scales that were atypical for the (Frank's) time, and are only beginning to find acceptance among modern fusion or eclectic jazz players.
 

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
C#min7 to Dmaj7 is gonna be D Lydian mode...

Which you probably already know ;)
It’s kind of apparent to me, but i’m not well versed in what to do with it. I end up running up and down scales which is just boring.
 

iaresee

Administrator
Moderator
Or C# Phrygian if C# sounds like the tonic, which it does to me.

About 95% of FZ's playing here is just C# minor pentatonic/blues. There's some Dorian over C#m7 at 1:41 & 1:48 and a few A notes at 2:08.
I flat out didnt think to try anything pentatonic here.
 

bleujazz3

Power User
Or C# Phrygian if C# sounds like the tonic, which it does to me.

About 95% of FZ's playing here is just C# minor pentatonic/blues. There's some Dorian over C#m7 at 1:41 & 1:48 and a few A notes at 2:08.
You've got way better ears/eyes than I. Did you pick up what FZ was playing by watching his fingers, or use your ears to know what notes?

I'm genuinely curious.
 

fractalz

Power User
Other guitarist in this group I'm hanging around with really loves Zappa. That's awesome. So we're trying some Zappa tunes. Trouble Everyday is pretty straightforward. But this one...Black Napkins...man is it ever throwing me for a loop. I cannot piece together any coherent phrases for it.

It seems so simple: C#m7 > Dmaj7

That's it.

But those two chords fail to find sympatico ideas in my mental library of licks and phrases. I fumble around like a child trying to figure out their first toy.

Help me out here. What's a good way to approach this? How did Frank tackle such simple chords with such amazing, expansiveness?

For the unfamiliar:


Key of A major has both C#m7 (III) and D^ (IV).
 

Renderman

Inspired
You could try making phrases around the notes that change from chord to chord.
For Dmaj7 -> C#m7, you could try
D -> C#
F# (3rd of D) -> E (m3 of C#m)
F# -> G# (5 of C#m)
A -> G#

And to change things up, you could try staying on C# over the change, common to both.
 

Renderman

Inspired
This is the sort of thing I had in mind,. although I admit when I listen back it's not exactly setting the world on fire.



(Sort of reminds me of Spinal Tap's 'new direction:)

)
 

Johnnyh64

Experienced
I think it’s been mentioned before but the C# minor pentatonic will give you the sound for both chords. A pentatonic bluesy sound over the C# and a Lydian sound over the DMaj7, so just hang on the C# minor pentatonic for the most part. Of course you can emphasize chord tones over each chord when you want more of a challenge.
 
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