#IVdim suspension of the I chord

In this lesson I am going to explain how I use the #IV dim chord to delay the resolution to the I chord in a major II V I cadence.


This lesson can be a bit tricky if you are not used to playing over cadences with altered dominants and have some understanding of how to improvise on diminished chords. That said this is a really effective way to start playing around with changing the chords of a song during a solo.  There are many ways to work with suspending resolution or changing the harmoniy while improvising, in fact altering a dominant is one such change even if we don’t think of it like that.

Let’s first look at the #IV dim chord. Here is the #IV dim chord in the key of F. The best way to get an impression of how it sounds when used to resolve to the I chord is probably to check some of the songs where it is found. In jazz it is often reharmonized as a IIm7b5 V7(b9) cadence, so in the key of F it would be Bm7b5 E7(b9). To name a few standards that has this progression:  You Do Something To Me, I remember You and Spring is Here.

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 1

If you alter an F major scale ( F G A Bb C D E F) to contain a B dim chord you’ll get this scale F G# A B C D E, which is an A minor harmonic scale. That will be the scale I’ll use in this lesson.

The Cadence

To get an impression of how the lines are sounding it is a good idea to play the cadence as chords as in example 2:

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 2

As you can see I am using an E/F voicing for the Bdim. When I play this in a solo I am depending on the people I play with to react to it while I play it. This is another aspect of playing jazz and communicating while playing that is a bit hard to get into, but I thought I’d just clarify how I use this.

The Lines

The lines that I give here are a bit more square than what I might use in my solos. Often when improvising you can play over the bar line so that one chord is longer than the other and a resolution might appear earlier or later than the one. This is part of jazz tradition and is something you’ll find with Charlie Parker and onward. The pianist Bill Evans used this really a lot to great effect in his solos, that is certainly worth checking out.


#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 3

The II V part of the lines in this examples are not so interesting, they are basic harmony and melodic vocabulary in jazz. Chromatic encircling of chord notes and a scale melody build around the Gm triad on the II chord. The V chord is a quite similar idea but this time developed from the C#m melodic. It’s interesting that now when I look at it it turns out to be a very C#m triad line, since I don’t actually think C#m melodic when I played it, but C altered.

For the #IV line I am using the Am harmonic so I am sort of thinking it as an E7 resolving to the Am triad that is the upper structure of the Fmaj7 chord. In this example that means using an E7 arpeggio and then running up the scale to the A in the F major chord.

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 4

The 2nd example begins with a Gm line that uses a Bb open voiced triad and then an encircling of the 3rd of Gm. The C7 line is using the Dbm and Gb triads in the same pattern. On the dim chord I start of by using the same sort of pattern on an F dim triad and then continues so it becomes a full dim arpeggio, before resolving to the 5th of F major.

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 5

The G minor line in the last example uses a stack of 4ths from C and then a fragment from the Dm pentatonic scale. It continues to a line build around a Dbm triad, first encircling the root and then via the Eb up the arpeggio ending on the Eb. The Eb is “resolved” to an E that is the first part of an E7 arpeggio run followed by an Bdim arpeggio with a leading note. The arpeggio is resolved to the 5th of F.

I hope you can use this idea to get a few surprises in your soloing vocabulary that will at least wake up your rhythm section. To me it is the sort of device that I use a lot though I might not throw it in more than once or twice in a concert. Besides being something to shake up the piano player it is should also help you get better at improvising on the chords in situations like the songs I mention in the beginning.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here:

#IVdim suspension of the I chord

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