When playing over a progression like the Bb jazz blues you need to be aware of certain things and be able to play different things so that you have the material you need to really improvise following the harmony of the blues: The Chords, the Scales and the Arpeggios. I have also added a transcription of a chorus of me soloing over the blues as an example of using the material covered.
In this lesson I have made 4 choruses of exercises: The chords, the scales that go with the chords. The arpeggios that are the melodic version of the chords and finally a solo chorus which demonstrates how you might use the other exercises when playing over the Bb blues.
To keep it simple I have kept all exercises in one position so that if you go through the exercises you should begin to have a tool set to improvise over the Bb blues in that position.
The chord voicings
To improvise over a song you probably need to be able to play the chords so you can hear the harony and how it moves. In the following example I have written out a set of voicings to play the Bb Blues.
You’ll notice that I in general don’t write out which extensions I use, so I write out the basic type of chord and if whoever is playing a chord he can fill in extensions to his own taste. This is common practice in Jazz in general.
In the 2nd example I added a scale to each chord. The way I am playing the scales is that I start on the root and run up to the 7th, this gives you a bit of time to switch to the next chord. This way of applying scales to a progression is the same as you’ll find in Barry Harris exercises. It is a nice way to add the scale in a musical way so that you hear how they spell out the harmony.
The Bb7,Eb7,Cm7 and F7 are easily understood in terms of where they sit in the key, since it is all mixolydian or dorian.
The E dim scale is in fact an F harmonic minor from E to E. You can see how I arrive by this by looking at it from the Bb7 scale:
Bb C D Eb F G Ab Bb
If I need to fit an E dim in there then an easy way to do that is to replace the D with a Db and the Eb with an E:
Bb C Db E F G Ab Bb which you can write out from F to recognize that it as an F harmonic minor scale.
For the G7(b9) you need to look at it as a dominant resolving to Cm, which tells us that we should use a Cm scale for it. In this context the (actually in most contexts) that means using the C harmonic minor scale. You can use this approach to determine what scale you should use for any auxiliary dominant.
When playing over changing harmony the best way to really follow the chords is of course to use the notes of the chords in your solo. Therefore it is very important to be able to play the chords of the progression as arpeggios. In example 3 I have written out the arpeggios in this position.
To make it easier to connect the different arpeggios I have written them out in a similar range which means that I don’t always start on the root of each chord.
You should practice the arpeggios like I’ve written them out, but you would get a lot from also improvising over the progression just using the arpeggios.
When you solo over the progression the target notes you choose to make lines that clearly reflects the harmony.
As an example of how you can use the material I have written out a short improvised solo on a Bb blues.
I hope you can use the exercises and the materials to get started improvising over a Jazz Blues progression. You can check out some of my other lessons on Blues, arpeggios and target notes for more ideas.
Take You Jazz Blues Skills Further
Do you wan to see how this information can be put to use and look at how you can expand on it as well? Then You can also check out my Bb blues solo lesson with a 4 chorus transcription + lesson:
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