Thanks for creating this discussion thread - a great topic for discussion and it’s also one of my favourite styles of voicing.
I have a couple of questions:
Can you recommend any Barry Harris records/albums where he is using this style of voicing? I haven’t studied as much of Barry Harris’ discography as I would have liked to and it would be great to have some examples of him playing in this style.
Can you recommend any tunes that would be good ‘etudes’ for practicing/applying this style of voicing? In the lesson above you use the tune “There Will Never Be Another You” and the step-wise melody makes it perfect to apply this type of voicing. Do any other tunes spring to mind which are well suited to harmonising in this style?
I understand the construction of the Barry Harris chords and their relationship to each other when you change the bass note. I can play up and down the scales to my heart’s content incorporating the drop two principle but I’m having a great deal of difficulty with their application. I can’t apply them to your example. I therefore don’t understand them as much as I think. I’m missing a link but I don’t know what it is I’m missing! The good news Is that I can at least recognize their sound quality. Maybe I need to listen to more examples.
I understand the above chords and I’ve tried it out. I’d like to tackle All the things you are as I’ve been working on it. I’m not sure where to begin to be honest. What I have managed to do is incorporate Drop two Voicings here and there so that’s something.
Another good place to turn for an example is Bud Powell’s “Bouncing with Bud,” also called “Bebop in Pastel” on some recordings. The bridge to that tune, as usually played, is a great lesson in these so-called “Barry Harris” voicings (which I’ve also heard called "George Shearing " voicings). Especially right at the beginning of the bridge.
@Hayden, I really love that Bud Powell performance of TWNBAY; thanks for sharing that!
Since you mentioned that he harmonizes the entire head using the Barry Harris voicing scheme, can you explain how the Db7#11 chord at 0:23 fits into the scheme? Or maybe @Tuomo would like to take a shot at it?
The reason I ask is that the Barry Harris scheme requires that dominant chords be voiced either as b9 chords using the diminished chord voicings from the scale, or as some kind of m6 voicing over a root note (the non-diminished voicings from the major Barry Harris scale don’t contain a tritone, so they can’t be used to really voice a dominant chord). Those are the only two voicings in the Harris scheme that have tritones in them, and neither of them can be used for a #11 chord – they’re either a 7b9 voicing in the case of the diminished ones, or an aug7b9 or a plain old 9 chord in the case of the m6 structure.
I feel like @Tuomo’s “change a note” approach, while very practical for performance, really moves us a step away from the system of using voicings built from every second note of these scales that are either major or melodic minor with a b6 note added. The need to change a note means we have found a situation where the strict framework of those scales doesn’t apply. Unless I’m hearing it wrong, I think Powell’s #11 chord is a similar situation; you just can’t use the “strict Barry Harris” scheme successfully there. Of course because Powell’s voicing is a lydian dominant voicing, it comes from a melodic minor scale, so technically speaking the Abm Barry Harris scale can give you that voicing with the right selection of notes. But the notes you have to choose are not alternating notes from the scale, and in my understanding this is a departure from the Barry Harris voicing scheme.
In a similar way, the fourth bar of the bridge of “Bouncing with Bud” departs from the scheme with its D7#9 harmony.
I find it useful to know when a beautiful idea works, and when, contrariwise, you need to use a different beautiful idea.
If you want to think of the ‘changing a note’ approach more technically, some people think of them as “borrowed” notes from the related dim chord; in this case:
Db7 = Ab-6
The dim chord that goes with Ab-6 if Bb, Db, E or G dim
So in a sense, we just “borrowed” a note (G) from the diminished chord.
In the end, no system is perfect, as music is a natural thing and not something that we humans can put to a frame (we try hard though…)
I would always suggest to learn to understand a system (in this case Barry Harris voicings), then learn to play them methodically, and then apply it to every possible situation, so you will detect the points where you have to just be practical.