Jerry Bergonzi's approach to Hexatonics

I ordered Jerry Bergonzi's Hexatonics book, the seventh volume in his Inside Improvisation series. I had looked through some of his previous books but this one looked the interesting to me.
When the box with the book finally came I thought that the distributor got my order wrong because it came in a big and very heavy box. The book is big and just shy of 300 pages.

I was interested in what Jerry had to say about hexatonic scales since I was so intrigued by Gary Campbell's Triad Pairs For Jazz book. Triad pair are basically the same thing as hexatonic scales.
A hexatonic scale is simply a scale of six notes, though these six notes are usually derived from two different mutually exclusive triads. Pianists often use Hexatonics by stacking triads to create unusual chord voicings.

Gary Campbell has a very good explanation of why triad pairs are useful.

I fully describe Mr.Campbell's approach in my Triad Pairs post.

Here is Mr.Campbell's explanation:

1. By limiting note selection to six tones (each triad consisting of three), a more concise sonority is created. For example, the conventional chords used in the Jazz idiom are oftentimes associated with parent chord-scales of seven or more tones (melodic minor, major, minor, harmonic minor, and so on). Rendering these scales in the form of triad pairs yields more variety in tone color and suggests novel melodic possibilities.

2. Each of the triads expresses a tonality. By using two triads, bi-tonal effects are created. This effect is multiplied when the triad pair is used over a root tone that is not present in either triad.

3. The structure and "tensile strength" of triads give the melodic line an independent internal logic. The "stand alone" sound is oftentimes enough to make a strong, effective melodic statement regardless of how it is (or isn't) relating to the harmony over which it is being used. It sounds "right".

4. The triads offer a skeleton structure to base lines on. This can be very helpful in modal settings where there are no diatonic, cycle-forth root movements or resolutions and where each chord change may last a long time (for instance, four, eight, or sixteen measures)"

Bergonzi's book is very well thought out and structured to be very useful as a practice tool. It comes with a CD with several rhythm section tracks of tunes like Blues, Caravan, Maiden Voyage, and Trane's Crescent. The book starts out with a chapter dealing with a Major triad over a Major triad a whole step apart. There is a full page of lines for each triad pair and a page for every key. After playing through a bunch of different keys and permutations of each pair you are able to apply each over a few different tunes. Jerry has the triad pair written above the staff and the actual chord change written below it.

Here are the different chords that you can use with a D/C triad pair:

D/C= D7sus, Cmaj7#11, C7#11, D7, G-69, F#7 alt, A-7

The next pair is Minor over Major a half-step apart:

B-/C= D7 sus, D7, A-/D

Next is Major over Major a half-step up:

B/C= F#-7b5, C#7b9, A-7, D7

The book continues like this, each chapter introducing a new set of triads and then giving you the chords that they may be applied to and finally letting you try to play along with th CD.
This book is a great way to learn a to use a modern and usually confusing harmonic device for improvising over chord changes. This book will keep me busy for a long time, it's really the most useful music book that I've run across in a long time. I have already been able to start applying some of the principles I've learned in just the first four chapters.

Triad Pairs for Jazz: Practice and Application for the Jazz Improvisor

Hexatonics (Inside Improvisation Series, 7)


MonksDream said...

So David,

I was wondering, does Bergonzi have any reasoning as to why he proceeds in such a fashion? In other words, why start with Major a whole step up followed by minor a whole step above a Major triad? Is there some sort of system or are they just presented randomly? Also, does Bergonzi basically cover all of the material in the Campbell book or are they complementary? This sounds highly worthy of investigation, when I get done working with Compound Intervals.

David Carlos Valdez said...

He doesn't write about why he presents the material in a certain order. The first hexatonic is the one most commonly played, and also the one that Walt Wieskof bases his entire book on. Jerry's book is more practical than Gary's book. Gary book has more interesting permutations of pairs and Jerry's book has more interesting applications.

MonksDream said...

Thanks for the info. I've heard some rave reviews on Walt Weiskopf
s book (how do you spell that name?) What I'm gathering from your comment is that Weiskopf limits his study to one hexatonic, Campbell's book is more theoretically oriented and that Bergonzi, in typical Gonzomatic fashion, not only covers all of the possibilities one might think of, in terms of hexatonics, but also shows the musician how to apply the various approaches, which I gather, he does in a fashion similar to those used in his "Melodic Structures," and "Pentatonics" book, so that one can immediately move from theory into praxis.

Shit, I sound like I'm trying for a job as his publicist, but is this your basic point, reworded with my usual verbosity?

David Carlos Valdez said...


Anonymous said...

still use and like the book?

(thanks for the review)

David Carlos Valdez said...

I still think the book is useful and pretty fun to practice with, though honestly I haven't used it if a few months.

Anonymous said...

just out of curiosity...
have you noticed hexatonics getting in your actual playing?

David Carlos Valdez said...

Sure, only a few different ones, but they're coming out. I do plan to work on more of them soon.