Bruce Arnold Blog for Guitar at Muse Eek Publishing Key Retention

Pitch Class Set Jazz Standards

Pitch Class Set Jazz Standards

Pitch Class Set Jazz Standards is an intriguing idea that I'd like to discuss in this blog post.  There are many ways to apply pitch class sets to jazz and I'd like to start with looking at the Jazz standard "Stella By Starlight" and explore some possible uses.

If we look at the melody to "Stella By Starlight" and analysis the interval content we find a preponderance of the pitch class set "013." (013's contain a 1/2 step and a minor 3rd)  This is not unique to just this jazz standard it happens in many jazz standards because many of the Tin Pan Alley composers where studying with Classical teachers and of course they all wanted to be Stravinsky :)  In any case it is not surprising that many jazz standards have a lot of internal structure.  Most great music does.

Using Pitch Class Set Jazz Standards Information To Play More Compositional

Using pitch class set jazz standards information To Play More Compositional when improvising both chords and melodies is an obvious way to make your playing more connected to the music. Since "Stella By Starlight" melody contains mostly 013 pitch class sets why not use 013 chords and melodies for the tune. Think of it like playing off the melody on steroids. This of course isn't something you can do overnight but if you start to study the use of 013 over various chord types over time you will get enough technique that you can tackle putting this information over an entire jazz standard.

How to Master Pitch Class Set Jazz Standards Information

There are many ways to master pitch class set jazz standards information and I've written quite of few books that show the relationships of how pitch class sets interface with the chords and scales found in jazz standards. Some are reference books and some are methods books directly applying pitch class sets to typical jazz standard chord progressions or actual standards. The important thing is to organize this so that you don't get overwhelmed because believe me it is easy to become overwhelmed when you see all the possibilities.

One Step at a Time

I usually don't start students interested in pitch class set jazz standards on the 013 pitch class set. This is mostly because the learning curve and the amount of time it takes to make this pitch class set sound good is a bit long. I commonly use 027 pitch class set as an introduction because you can start improvising with this within a few weeks. 027 works great on many jazz standards too but certainly not as many as 013 which in the 1st Real Book there are over forty jazz standards that have a preponderance of 013. The next most common pitch class set would be 025 which again weighs in at about 40 jazz standards in the Real Book 1 that mostly use this pitch class set.

Step One Pitch Class Set Jazz Standards

A common way I start students working on 013 is take a hexatonic scale and make that into to trichords. (non-tertial triads) The octatonic scale I call Symmetrical Diminished 1, b2, b3, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7 also contains a preponderance of 013 and is a widely used scale in jazz and heavy metal for that matter. So if we take a C Symmetrical Diminished and only use 1, b2, b3, #4, 5 and 6 we have two 013's. 1, b2, b3 and #4, 5, 6. If you play a chordal instrument like guitar or piano learn the chord voicings of 013. I've written a series of books to help you do this:

Some of these books above also cover other pitch class sets so see the examples and audio files to make your choices.

Technical Exercises for 013 Pitch Class Set

Play the two trichords ascending and descending in the following way:

  • 1, b2, b3
  • b2, b3, (1 up an octave)
  • b3, (1 and b2 up an octave)
  • #4, 5, 6.
  • #4, 5, 6.
  • 5, 6, (#4 up an octave
  • 6, (#4 and 5 up an octave)

If you want a more detailed way of doing this. Atomic Scales shows you how to do this for 027 027 which you can use as a template for all pitch class sets. This is particularly good if you play guitar.

I should also mention that if you want to find out all the information about the 013 013 pitch class sets I just mentioned I would highly recommend the Sonic Resource Guide.  Think of that book as a reference guide to all possible scales i.e. pitch class sets.  It also shows you what chords fit over every possible scale as well as hextaonic/trichord splits for all six and seven note scales.  It includes a primer on understanding pitch class sets.

Composing with Pitch Class Sets

Don't overlook the idea of composing with pitch class sets. I've written over 30 compositions using 013. Check out the Bruce Arnold Composition Compilation to see scores and recordings. You could also check out the two books below which give you detailed analysis of how I composed many of my compositions and organized my improvisations.

Other Pitch Class Sets Books

I've also written some method books to help you see further uses of pitch class sets. Many of them deal specifically with 013


You can see that the idea of pitch class set jazz standards opens up a big subject. I recommend you contact me for recommendations on how to get started based on the amount of time you have available. Please send me an email and I'll give you some advice.

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-5-Pitch Class Set Jazz Standards Blog by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Inc.

This entry was posted in and tagged , by Muse Eek. Bookmark the permalink.

About Muse Eek

Muse-Eek Publishing Company is a publishing house with a broad focus on music education. Muse-Eek also publishes fine art and poetry books, and has its own record label, Muse-Eek Records. Our online presence, specializes in the publication of music workbooks, video courses and sound and video recordings that teach the foundation of good musicianship through groundbreaking and innovative methods along with traditional methods that have been taught for centuries. These historic methods date back through centuries of great musicians and educators. To see these interesting relationship please see Bruce Arnold's Music Education Genealogy Chart which tells you a lot about the where many of his educational ideas took root and some of the educational pillars that are evident throughout the books you find on this website. The Muse-Eek Records catalogue contains a diverse selection of music much of it by Bruce Arnold in collaboration with some of today's best players in classical, jazz, rock and avant-garde music. These are available in CD, DVD and mp3 formats. We believe in a working relationship with our music education customers; they are free to interact with the author after purchasing a book to help them through any material they don’t understand or which they need further clarification. We also have a member's area which contains a wealth of free information to help a student understand music at a deeper level and access additional files for our books. Many of our books offer cutting edge ideas regarding ear training, guitar technique, rhythm and time. These methods have a proven track record. Our main author Bruce Arnold has taught at some of the most prestigious music schools in the world, including Princeton, Dartmouth, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, The New School and NYU. Along with Mr. Arnold's publications on the website he has also written books and appeared in educational DVDs for MelBay and Truefire. Over the years Mr Arnold has used his experiences with his students to develop a program that can elevate a musician's ability to world class caliber. If you have questions about any of our books or recordings please send us an email. Along with general questions about either our record label or our publishing company we also welcome questions to help a student choose the proper materials to reach their goals. We have over 300 products to help you learn any style of music and to develop your musicianship to its peak. We also make recommendations for practice schedules for students who use our methods to get the most out of their study time. This, along with personal interaction with Bruce through email, nurtures the student's ability through a closely monitored situation, ensuring there is no wasted time or misunderstanding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.