Willie Answers Mingus´s Goodbye Porkpie Hat

Hi and welcome to this Willie Answers. I got a great question from Antonio in the forum and he was asking about Charles Mingus’ Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Beautiful ballad and he was asking the final turnaround is a B7 chord leading to the first chord which is an F7 chord.

So let’s pull up the music for that. So this is what we got here. We got this B7 chord here which then leads to our F7 chord. Let me just play this last part for you. So we have this – we’re just going to do some simple voicing for you, right?

And we go to D flat 7 and then the G flat major 7, right? So now – and actually let me play that last portion a little bit easier for you because I know a lot of times when playing tenths, if students can’t hit those tenths, they get a little upset about that.

So all right, so we have F7 here and the question is why does that B7 work so well going to the F7. What I want to do first of all is I will answer that in one second but I instead want you to go back a couple of measures. Say we’re going to go and take a look at these three measures. So when I’m analyzing something, I’m looking at where I’m going to but then I back up and I try and figure out using my ear but then also using theory knowledge. Try to figure out, “Well, what makes sense?”

In looking at this tune, typically what would be a chord that would lead to an F7? My dominant motion. So I always start there. So if I had an F7 chord and I just went to a C7 chord right in here, how would that sound then finally going to the F7 over there?

So if I go F7 to the D flat 7 and then C. Do you hear how that C7 works so well, that dominant motion leading back to the F? Well, guess what. That D flat 7, that kind of like also strengthens the case for the C7. Why? Because D flat 7 is a sub five that then leads me down to the C7. So that half step resolution moving down to the C7 which then resolves up a fourth, down a fifth to the F7, right?

So now you can see I’m kind of deconstructing the chords a little bit. I’m changing them to try and find some harmony stuff that is a little bit easier and makes a little bit more sense. OK. So now I have F7 to D flat 7 to C7, right? And then that works well for – going to the F.

Now, what is the tritone of C? Ah, kind of interesting. G flat, isn’t it? A lot of times we would do a G flat 7 chord, right? So something like that, G flat 7, while throwing the sharp 11. So now I can try that F7 to D flat and let me go to G flat 7 there and see how that sounds.

Sounds all right except for when we get to the – sorry. That F natural, the F natural that doesn’t so great when you’re playing that G flat 7 chord, right? Kind of rough, OK?

So we could change that to a G flat major 7, right? So now all we do is we’re changing the quality of the chord from a dominant chord to a major chord. So now we have …

Now, could we go from that G flat over here into the F and kind of get in there a little bit earlier? Let’s see what that sounds like.

Yeah, we could do that as well because remember, a lot of times that half step then resolves down but now this is where it gets interesting. It doesn’t go down a half step to F. Instead now we get – we finally get to this B7 chord. What’s going on there? We will always look for the tritone. So go to B and then figure out, “Well, what is the tritone away from B?” It’s what? It’s F, isn’t it?

So B7 is a substitution for F7. OK? B7 is a substitution for F7. So remember how I said, “Oh, we could try going to an F7 there”? Now what happens if we go G flat 7 right here to F7 again? So we have…and a G flat 7. We get a voice that’s going to work for you here, right?

So that does work there. OK? But it sounds a little bit boring going to F7 and then hitting F7 again, right? So you could think about the tritone substitution. So rather than playing F7, you play B7. You could think about it as an alteration to the chord. So, rather than hitting the same chord again, you go to its tritone. It still kind of functions and works the same way, right? But it gives you an alternate sound.

Now this is where it gets really cool. So you can do F7 to D flat 7. Let’s go to our G flat major 7 and then let’s just play an F7 chord right here, right? So I’m going to play that plain old F7 the third, the fifth, the flat and 7 and the – right? I hit F again. I’m not going to change the right hand.

Check out what I do with the left hand. So I have – and so you see how I can go to that B and this is what will happen a lot of times with bass players, they will hit that tritone while you’re still hitting an F7 chord.

They will go to that B instead and they create a whole different sound. Now Charles Mingus, what did he play? He played bass. So can you hear how like all this starts to tie together? Bass player constantly going to those tritones to get an alternate sound. So now as a bass player, he was probably thinking, “Let me get this alternate sound.”

Of course I don’t know what he was thinking but this is kind of like – this is how I’m approaching it. All right. So now rather than playing that voicing, we obviously try and find a better voicing and something like that would work a lot better. So then we have…and now we’re back to F7. OK?

So I look at this B7 chord as just a tritone of the F. It’s just a substitute chord. When you’re playing that, you could do that B altered scale. OK? And if you take a look at that B altered scale, you kind of move it around so that F is the bottom note. Well, what do you notice that you have here? It’s basically an F mixolydian scale with a sharp 11, right? So this is what we call an F Lydian flat 7 scale. Lydian flat 7. OK?

So again Lydian flat 7 scales work well on dominant chords. See all of this starts – as you start to understand more and more of this, it all starts like, oh, OK, yeah. I could see it from here. I could see it from here. I can see it from here, right? This is a pretty challenging tune to analyze. So if you don’t fully get this, don’t worry. You can watch this video again and try and pick up some more of this.

Of course this is my take on this. Everybody is going to have their own take because sometimes with songs like this, you use your ear. What’s interesting is this G flat major 7 there. That’s an interesting choice. I wouldn’t have made that choice as a composer. But he made that choice. I will be honest with you. That’s a beautiful sound, isn’t it? Now, this G flat – going up a half step and playing a major 7 chord is another common technique but it’s kind of interesting moving down to the dominant. A lot of times when you go up to that major up a half step, you then come down a half step to major as well.

So it’s kind of interesting to go up major and then come down to dominant, right? So all interesting things that you will find as you analyze more and more. So anyway, that’s it for me. Thanks for watching and I will see you in the next Willie Answers.

Post in our student forum at forums.jazzedge.com and get your piano and music questions answered. Thanks for watching.

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Willie President
Willie Myette is a pianist, serial entrepreneur and author of over a dozen books on piano and music education. He received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music and graduated in under 4 years. Willie is the creator and president of online piano instruction sites Jazzedge® Academy, Jazz Piano Lessons and HomeSchool Piano.

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