Tag Archives: advanced

Rhythm Changes – Part 1

In this series I am going to start working on some approaches for improvising over Rhythm Changes. In this first lesson we are going to keep it very basic and lay a foundation that can be expanded in later lessons and also help you deal with this many chords in a high tempo.

Rhythm Changes

The rhythm changes progression is infact the chords of the Gerschwin standard “I got rhythm”. SInce the late swing era it has been used as a chord progression that a lot of new melodies have been written on. It has almost the same status as the 12 bar blues as a form and language that one has to master as a Jazz Player.

Rhythm changes is a 32 bar AABA form where each part is 8 bars. The bridge is a chain of dominants leading back to the tonic, and the A part is a series of turnarounds and a short visit to the 4th degree. In this lesson I am only going to work on the A part, and especially show how to deal with the many chords while soloing and still be able to make some music.

You probably know the A part as this progression.

Rhythm Changes - part 1 - ex 1

The Trick

The key to negotiating this many chords in a high tempo is to simplify the progression so that only the essential chord movements remain. In this case that means that I VI becomes just I and II V becomes just V. If you think this you are still playing the basic harmonic movement of the song and you have a bit more space to breathe while doing so.

The reduced progression would look like this.

Rhythm Changes - part 1 - ex 2

As you can see I already added the arpeggios in the example. All arpeggios are in the 6th position which is a good place to start for a Bb rhythm change in terms of having fairly simple arpeggio and scale fingerings.

The idea of simplifying the progression is not new, I have heard this from several teacher one of them being Barry Harris, and if you check out descriptions of Parker you will find examples of him doing exactly that while playing on this type of progression.

To practice the arpeggios and make sure that you really know them in and out, I suggest you try to play them over the progression as I’ve written out in example 2 above here, but also that you work on connecting them in the way I’ve written out in Example 3. The idea is that you startthe 1st arpeggio and when you played a bar of 8th notes you change to the note in the next arpeggio that is the closest to the one you are one now. This way you not only practice the arpeggios, but also how to think ahead and have an overview of how the next arpeggio looks before you play it.

Rhythm Changes - part 1 - ex 3

Adding the rest of the scale

Since the Bbmaj7 and the F7 arpeggios have two common notes (F and A) it is a bit difficult more difficult to improvise clearly through the progression only using the arpeggios, because it is harder to pick a note to play that makes it easy to hear the chord change. In my lesson on soloing over a blues the difference between the chords is bigger and this is a lot easier.

That said it is still worth while to do this and work on it since it is going to develop you ability to make clear melodies in situations like that with diatonic harmony, and most tunes are tonal so this applies to most songs. I give an example of a solo only using arpeggios in the video.

To make this a bit simpler I chose to here alos add the rest of the scale, so that we have seven notes to use instead of just the four notes of the arpeggios.

Since this lesson is on rhythm changes which is a bit more complex progression than a 12 bar blues I assume that you already know the scales and the basic arpeggios, otherwise you can check out and download charts here: Arpeggios and Scale charts

One way to practice the scales on the progression is to play them from root to seventh for each chord, that fits nicely in the bar and makes it easy to turn our simplified progression into a scale exercise. This is by the way an approach that I learned from American Jazz Pianist Barry Harris, you should check him out! His workshops are very good and he is the real deal when it comes to bebop!

Rhythm Changes - part 1 - ex 4

So now that we have some scales and arpeggios to use on our progression we can start looking at some of the lines you can make with that.

A Rhythm changes solo

In the video I play the solo that is written out in example 5. This is an improvistaion on the first 2 A’s in a rhythm changes form. As I explain in the video I had first written an example, but later decided that it would be better and more realistic if I improvised one and transcribed it, which is what I then did, and what you see under this.

Rhythm Changes - part 1 - ex 5

The lines are for the most part using the arpeggios and a few times also using some of the scale notes as diatonic passing notes. For the first 2 bar phrase I am using the motif of a third, on the Bb, the major 3rd and the root and on developing this on the F7 using first the 5th and 3rd and then later the root. The line then continues to use the root and 7th to create some tension that is resolved to the 3rd(D) of Bb on the 4 and.

The same idea of introducing a motif on the Bb and resolving it on the F7 is used in the next two bars, again using Bb and D over the Bb chord and then using the root and 3rd on the F7. The character of the melodies that I make has more of an emphasis on rhythm, which is natural since we don’t have too many extensions or alterations to use.

In bar 5 and 6 the introduction of the Ab on the Bb7 makes it easy to hear that chord, and just making lines with the arpeggio of this chord in this context gives it a nice bluesy flavour. The line on the Ebmaj7 is simply the arpeggio played descending from the root to the 3rd.

The last two bars for the first A are first a Bbmaj7 arpeggio played as a triplet, and on the F7 the line is more C minor like, since we use a G and D along with the C and Eb.

The second A has a melody for the first two bars which is almost a sort of cascading arpeggio idea. First on the Bb from the 5th to the root via the 7th and then on the F from the 5th to the root before it resolves to the low 3rd on the Bb on the 4 and.

I leave out the any further melodies on the Bb and have a syncopated melody on the F7 which also uses a D as a diatonic passing note. The melodic idea here is to se syncopation to develop tension before this is resolved on the Bb7.

THe Bb7 line is a straight arpeggio idea that emphasizes the 3rd(D) and the 7th(Ab), which signals that we are moving to the 4th degree.

The line on the Ebmaj7 is much more scale based and consists of two encircling movements, of first the F and then on the D, delaying the resolution to the D so that it is used to mark the transition to the Bb.

The final line is a riff like melodic idea just thinking Bb, In a real improvisation on a complete chorus I might add more here to lead into the Bridge, but since I don’t have a bridge in this example I mad a sort of ending phrase. If you check out especially Parker themes on rhythm changes they often have a phrase like this at the end of the 2nd and 3rd A part.

I hope that you can use the ideas and exercises from this lesson to get better at playing rhythm changes solos and feel less stressed out by the tempo.

You can of course also download a PDF of the examples and the solo here:

Rhythm Changes – part 1

You can also check out the rhythm changes lesson I made what includes 2 full choruses, 1 using this approach and one chorus using more chords. It’s available here: http://jenslarsen.nl/product/rhythm-changes-solo-etude-1/ 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.




Turnarounds part 1 – I VI II V

In this lesson I want to talk about the I VI II V turnaround and what you can play over it and how you can practice it. The lesson will give you some exercises and suggestions to make strong melodiclines using diatonic arpeggios and target notes.

The Turnaround

Turnarounds are progressions that are used a lot in standards like Rhythm Changes and Ain’t Misbehavin, The Touch of Your Lips and so on. For that reason alone it’s well worth checking out.

I am going to start a series of lessons on different variations of turnarounds which should include a good portion of most sorts of jazz harmony. It should take us from standard turnarounds and gradually closer to John Coltranes Giant Steps cycle, which can be seen as derived from turnarounds too.

Because turnarounds are so common they are also a good place to start when practicing playing over faster moving changes. By faster moving changes I mean 2 chords per bar which is something that already in medium tempos can be hard to navigate in a musical way, and play something that makes sense melodically. If you have 2 chords per bar and improvise in 8th notes then you have to make a melody with 4 notes from one chord and 4 from the next, this can be quite tricky at times.

In this lesson I am going to work on a turnaround in Bb major. Which is this chord progression:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 1

I am in this lesson using Harmonic minor on the dominant 7th chords. This is something you can also check out in this lesson:  Harmonic Minor Dominant Lines

So in this lesson we have these scales:

For the Bbmaj7 and Cm7 chords:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 2

Since G7(b9) is a dominant resolving to Cm7 it is best to consider it an auxiliary dominant and use C harmonic minor:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 3


And for the variation I chose to do consider the F7(b9) a chord that is borrowed from Bb minor and use Bb harmonic minor over that too.Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 4

Raw materials for lines

The main part of the lines I make on a progression like this are made up of the arpeggios of the chord and the arpeggios found on the 3rd of the chord, so for BbMaj, I have that arpeggio and the arpeggio from D which is a Dm7 arpeggio. I use other things too but these two are probably the most important to know, and the you can of course use them in inversions and as shell voicings and triads too, as you’ll notice in my examples.

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 6

So now we have two arpeggios and a scale for each chord in the turnaround and can begin to start practicing lines on it.

Practicing and composing lines on the I VI II V

When you first try to make lines on the progression you probably need to be concerned with two things: Have clear target notes so that when you play that note on the 1 or the 3 you can hear the chord change clearly, and you need to approach it in a way where you practice playing towards the target note. Playing towards the target note is going to make the flow of your lines much moe logical and will help you make stronger lines whenever you improvise.

To give you some examples of how I might compose lines on this turnaround I wrote this small exercise:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 7

You’ll notice that I am trying to just use basic ideas and movements and keep it quite simple, mostly because it is better to stick to the basics when starting to work on a progression like this. We can always add the fireworks later.

The first bar is using first the Bb triad and then the B dim arpeggio over the Bbmaj7 and G7(b9). In the second bar the lines is first a bit of the Cm7 arpeggio and then chromatically leading up to the 3rd(A) of F7. In bar 3 the Bbmaj line is a descending “Coltrane pattern” or Bb major pentatonic scale, depending on what you prefer calling that. On the G7 the line is again the B dim, but this time ascending. The Cm7 is a scale fragment from the C minor pentatonic scale followed by an inversion of a F7(#5) arpeggio.

The 5th and 6th bar are not using the same target note strategy to make the melody, but instead using arpeggios and voice leading to creat a coherent line. The first part on the BbMaj7 chord is a Dm7 arpeggio which is then altered to a Bdim inversion over the G7 by introducing an Ab and a B. Over the Cm7 the whole thing shifts up to an Eb Maj7 arpeggio which continues up to a C dim triad over the F7. Over the final turnaround the Bbmaj7 line is again a Dm7 arpeggio but this time in a pattern. The line on the G7 is a descending scale fragment from the C harmonic minor scale. The line continues through a descending Ebmaj7 arpeggio in inversion which then is encircling the A of an A dim inversion over the F7. This arpeggio resolves to a D.

I hope you can use the material and the strategies to become more at home over changes like this turnaround. I will make a few different lessons on different sorts of turnarounds which should help categorizing the progression and splitting songs up in bigger parts so that they are both easier to play and easier to remember.

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

Turnarounds part 1 – I VI II V

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.




Across the Fretboard

This lesson will try to give you a strategy and a way to make exercises that should give you more freedom to move freely over the neck of the guitar when you improvise. How long the road to achieve that is depends on how far you are with knowing the notes of the neck, the scales or the chords.

What you need to know in advance

So since I can’t start completely from scratch and I chose to focus more on how you connect the positions and get more of an overview of what notes and arpeggios are found in each one of them there are a few things that you need to know first that I won’t spend too much time on.

The neck covered in major, harmonic minor and melodic minor: fingering positions. That can be caged or 3 notes per string or strict positions. This is a physical or visual way to approach the scales.

Know the notes of the scales and the diatonic chords: So you need to know each note in each fingering and you need to know that in all keys, you also need to know what chords there are on what degree of the scale. Here are a few ways to check and/or get this better:

Try to play the scale on each string. So you need to know for each string what are the notes of this scale on that string and you need to know what the notes are and where they are found on that string.

Across the Fretboard ex 1

Try to play diatonic arps in one position one for each string.

Across the Fretboard ex 2

Try to play triads on a set of strings. This exercise is letting you practice the notes at one of the frets and also what arpeggios are found in the scale for each one of these notes. It is also a welcome change from just playing all the diatonic arpeggios.

Another good exercise that helps getting an overview of the arpeggios and the notes in the scale and in the different positions is to play triads (or any other arpeggio type) on one set of strings up the neck.

Across the Fretboard ex 3

Make sure to do this exercise in a tempo where you can see each arpeggio in one of the scale fingerings you have so that you can add up the visual information of the triad and the scale. Seeing shapes within the scale positions is a very useful thing!

If you would like me to make more lessons on some of the above subjects you should let me know!

 Technical exercises

If you want to improvise then it can be very useful to practice open ended exercises, so exercises that use things you already know but you need to fit them in on the spot and make choices while playing.

Practicing scales and scale exercises from the lowest to the highest note of the instrument like this can be such an exercise if you try not to learn a certain pattern by heart.

Across the Fretboard ex 4

You’ll notice I don’t play ascending and descending the same. To me it is important to keep pushing yourself to find new ways to move in the scale, so I deliberately try to avoid this. At the same time you can probably also see that I am moving from one position to the next along the way using different bits of the position before moving on. That tends to be the most effecient way to play like this.

Here’s a how I’d suggest you approach this: Practice all keys, each key from the lowest to the highest note on the neck. For each key do another scale exercise, 3rds, diatonic triads 7th chords, shell voicings etc etc. Keep you brain and ear working while playing don’t just run up and down the scale. Make sure to change the other exercise (3rds, arps etc) for each scale so that you don’t just repeat the same exercise. The thing that you practice is to have the overview of the neck not only the arpeggios and the key.

Here’s an example of how you might play the Bb major scale in 3rds

Across the Fretboard ex 5

One way I often extend these exercises is to practice the scales or arps through a progression so a Coltrane cycle or a II Valt I progression. This will help you get even closer to the point where you improvise across the neck.

Improvising exercises

The main idea here is to take something you’re improvising on and force yourself to move around, essentially it can be anything, a chord, a turnaround or a whole  song.

In the beginning you might have to start out rubato or keeping it very simple, just to get used to it, but as you progress you should be able to play quite fluently in time while improvising and moving position in the phrases and in between while still sounding coherent.

Exercise 1: Try to move up and down the neck while improvising on a Bbmaj7 chord. You’ll probably find out if you have spots that you don’t know well enough and you are practicing trying to make melodies that are making sense and are in several positions.

Exercise 2: Try to move up and down the neck while improvising on a Gmaj7, E7alt Am7 D7alt turnaround. This is the same as exercise 1, only now you also have to know some melodic minor scales and another chord sound in the key (in this case the 2nd degree, Am7)

I have spend quite a lot of time on especially exercise 2 since it also is a good way to come up with  new melodies for me. Once I started working on it like this is was very fast getting a lot easier to play in most positions on any progression and still make sense.

You can download the examples here:

Across the Fretboard

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.


Minor Blues Comping

In this lesson I will go through what a minor blues is in Jazz and show some chords so that you can play through it and improvise while doing so. It is also a demonstration of how to apply the material from my lessons on Quartal harmony and Triads

The Minor Blues Progression

All the examples I am working on in this lesson are based on a minor blues in the key of C. You can see the basic progression in example 1 here:

Minor Blues Comping - ex 1

You’ll probably notice that it is very similar to the major blues progression, but that there are a few differences:  There is no IV chord in bar 2, and the ending cadence is not a IIm7b5 V (Dm7b5 G7)but uses a tritone dominant of the V (Ab7 G7). The reason for the dominant might very well be that that chord includes the blue note in the key of C (F#) and it is also a fairly normal progression in minor. In general there are fewer cadences and the structure is a little more basic. I don’t actually know why, but I think it has to do with the fact that the minor blues became popular in a period of jazz where modal playing was being explored more than playing over functional harmony and therefore players preferred to have one chord for longer periods. Of course that is just a theory..

A few voicings for each chord

In example two I run demonstrate a few voicings for each chord that are placed on the neck so that it should be fairly easy tro make melodies with them.

Minor Blues Comping - ex 2

On the Cm7 chord. I chose to use a Cm7 Dorian sound, since the modal aspect of the minor blues lends itself very well to that. You can of course also approach it from a melodic minor angel, but that will be for another lesson. The voicings I chose over the Cm7 are all quartal harmony or derived from that. If you want to check more on that you can look at this lesson: Jazz Chord Essentials: 3 part Quartal Harmony

The C7alt voicings are from the Db melodic minor scale. You might notice that I am using Stacks of 4ths, triads and drop2 voicings on it. In the end you want to mix up all the different kind of voicings that you study, this is a good example of it.

I use triads and drop2 voicings to play the Fm7. This is mostly because I want to stay in the same register and place on the neck so that it is easier to make a logical connection between the chords on the C and on the F, and the quartal voicings for F are easier to play somewhere else.

Both the Ab7(#11) and G7alt are constructed from a shell voicing with different notes above it. The Ab7 chord is a lydian dominant which you can read more about here: Lydian dominants. Basically the Ab7 is the tritone substitute of D7, and the scale that you use to take extensions from is Eb melodic minor. The G7alt is in the same way constructed by adding notes from the G altered scale (which is the same notes as Ab melodic minor)  this gives you G7 with extensions like b5, b13 and b9.

Minor Blues etude

In this last example I am playing an etude that I wrote as an example of how I might comp through a chorus on a C minor blues.

Minor Blues Comping - ex 3

The first 3 bars are essential small rhythmical motives with stacks of fourths, here the focus is more on creating rhythmical movement than melodical movement.  That’s why the chords are repeated and often not sustained. On the first Cm7 chord I added the root, something that works well as a sort of resolution, playing a heavy root or even power chord on the one of a four bar period. McCoy Tyner did this very often and is something that I associate with the style of that period.

On the C7alt I play a stack of 4ths followed by a Bbdim triad which resolves to the Fm9 which is anticipated on the 4& in bar 4. I play an Fm11 and an Fm9 to get back to the Cm7 stack of 4ths in bar 7. The movement in bar 7-9 is an example of more emphazis on the melody than on the rhythm since the chords are being played sustained, on the beat and with a clear direction towards the Ab7(b5) on the 1 of bar 9. Then in bar 9-10 the rhythm becomes more important and the chords shorter  moving from Ab7 to G7. The last two chords are both sustained and I include the root to get the McCoy effect that I mentioned earlier.

I hope you can use the material I presented here to make up your own comping patterns and hopefully some perspective on how to use some of the material I have gone over in previous lessons.

You can as always download the pdf of the examples here:

Minor Blues Comping

If you want to check out an example for comping on an F blues I wrote a lesson with two choruses using different types of voicings. It is available for sale in my store: F Blues Comping Etude #1

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.


Fusion lesson for Coffee Break Grooves

Coffee Break Grooves asked me to make a short lesson explaining some of the lines I use in this video:


And here’s the video:


If you want to download the examples you can grab the pdf here:

Coffee Break Grooves – Cm Fusion Track Lesson

Hope you like it!

Pentatonics part 2 – II V progressions

In this lesson I want to demonstrate how you can use different pentatonic scales on a major II V, what kind of sounds and melodies it gives you and how I use that in solo lines.

The Scales

All the examples in this lesson are made on this II V I in Bb Major. Since I already made this lesson on what scales you can use over the I chord: Pentatonics Part 1 – Maj7 Chords I am not going to spend too much time on that.

I am also assuming that you have checked out pentatonic scales in different positions and keys, so I won’t go into that part of the technique involved.

Pentatonics part 2 - II V progressions - ex 1

In a major scale you have 3 diatonic minor pentatonic scales (You can try to build them if this is news to you, that’s a really good exercise for theory and getting an overview of the scales). The scales are on the II, III and VI degree of the scale, so in Bb that gives us C minor, D minor adn G minor pentatonic.

For the II chord in the progression I have chosen these two scales: C minor and G minor. C minor is fairly obvious since it is the Cm7 arpeggio with an added 11. The G minor scale is the same notes as the C minor except it has a D instead of an Eb.

Pentatonics part 2 - II V progressions - ex 2

You can also use the Dminor pentatonic scale on a Cm7 chord, but in this progression where the chords are moving quite fast and has a direction the A in the D minor scale is not so easy to use and I have therefore decided to omit it. In a modal situation where you have a Cm sound for a longer period of time it can work fine.

The V chord has 2 obvious options in the C minor pentatonic and the D minor pentatonic. The C min yields a sort of a F7sus4 sound, but it will work on a normal F7 as well. D minor pentatonic is also F major pentatonic so that will for that reason work just fine. I have omitted the Gm scale because it does not contain the A and the Eb which is the core of the F7 in this example.

Pentatonics part 2 - II V progressions - ex 3

T he third option, Abm pentatonic works as an F7alt sound. F7 altered is F# or Gb melodic minor and the only pentatonic scale contained in that is Ab pentatonic. Which also happens to be the major pentatonic scale of B, the tritone substitution of F.

Putting it all together

Part of what I find useful about using pentatonic scales like this is that the melodies you get when you improvise with them are not the typical hardbop vocabulary consisiting almost only of 2nds and 3rds. In that way it is a nice change from other ways to come up with lines.
Pentatonics part 2 - II V progressions - ex 4

The first example is using the Cm pentatonic on the Cm7 chord and the Dm7 on the F7 chord.

On the Cm it starts with an Eb major triad and moves on to a stack of 4ths, which is infact also a Diatonic chord of the Pentatonic Scale. On the F7 I play a melody which is almost a sequence of 4 notes in the scale before resolving to the 5th(F) of Bb.

Pentatonics part 2 - II V progressions - ex 5

In the 2nd example the Cm line is pretty much a run down the C minor pentatonic. On the F7alt it is first an Abm7 arpeggio followed by a four note scale run resolving to the 5th of BbMaj7. The Cm7 line and the last part of the F7 alt line is a good example of how a pentatonic scale run in this context  will work as a melody because it is not placed in it’s “normal” surroundings.

Pentatonics part 2 - II V progressions - ex 6


A very nice “counterpoint” trick you can apply to a II V I with pentatonics is that you can have chromatically ascending scales over the chords which sound like they are somehow resolving down. In this case you’d get the following scales: Cm7 (Gm) F7alt (Abm) Bbmaj7 (Am). I use this kind of thinking often when I am trying to use pentatonics because you can often make scales move in other ways than the chord and it can be a good effect in the melody.

It opens up with a stack of fourths which (to me) has sort of an Allan Holdworth flavour to it, maybe because of the string skipping and wide intervals. It then descends down the scale. On the F7alt I am again using the Abm pentatonic. The line starts with an Abm7 arpeggio and then moves on to a Gbsus triad. The Abm is resolved to an Am pentatonic line on the BbMaj7. The first part of that line is a standard “thirds” exercise in the pentatonic scale followed by an Am7 arpeggio before it ends on a D.

I hope you can use some of the ideas that I went through here to make your own lines, and maybe get some more mileage out of some lines you thought you’d stopped using.

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

Pentatonics part 2 – II V progressions

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.



Cdim Drop2 Voicings

Here’s an overview of the Cdim as drop 2 voicings on all sets of strings.

I have made 2 lessons on how to use them in a jazz context:

You can also download the chart as a pdf by entering your e-mail here:

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with me!

CMaj7#5 Drop2 Voicings

Here’s an overview of the CMaj7#5 as drop 2 voicings on all sets of strings.

I have made 2 lessons on how to use them in a jazz context:

You can also download the chart as a pdf by entering your e-mail here:

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with me!

CmMaj7 Drop2 Voicings

Here’s an overview of the CmMaj7 as drop 2 voicings on all sets of strings.

I have made 2 lessons on how to use them in a jazz context:

You can also download the chart as a pdf entering your e-mail here:

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with me!

IV minor chords in a major key

In this lesson, I want to explain what I see(or in fact hear) as the IV minor group of chords. I also want to give some examples of how they are used or can be used to reharmonize songs or create new progressions.

Understanding and hearing the key

To me the biggest advantage of learning to understand harmony in terms of a key is that you can group different chords together by how they sound, which is much more useful than having them grouped together by the type of chord. In a major key the IV minor group is one of those groups that contains quite a few different chords but they are closely related and recognizing that they are in this group makes it easier for me to immediately hear what they sound like and how to play over them.

Minor subdominant chords

The Minor subdominant chords are an important part of the colors found in the major keys when you play standards. Let us take the key of C major as an example we. I think you probably know this kind of chord progression. C F Fm C, where the 3rd(A) of F is descending to the 5th(G) of C via the Ab creating an Fm chord. If we list all the subdominant chords in C minor we get something like this:

IV minor chords ex 1

Dm7b5, Fm6, Fm7, FmMaj7, Abmaj7, Bb7. The last one, Dbmaj7 you get by also lowering the D to a Db in Dm7b5. The DbMaj7 is often referred to as a Neapolitan Subdominant you can look it up if you want more information.

IV minor chords ex 2

Scale choices

Since they are grouped together as subdominant chords I tend to relate them to a subdominant scale, so in this case, that would be an F minor scale. In the end, the scale choices are depending on what sort of chord it is, but they are all contained in some sort of F minor scale. The two I end up using the most is F melodic minor and F Dorian (which is also C minor). They contain all of them except the Dbmaj7 which I play as a Db Lydian chord (which is incidentally also F natural minor). Some people use the C harmonic major too, but I have never found that too useful because the B is less consonant on the chord than the Bb to me, but that is mostly a question of taste.

 IV minor progressions

The examples that I present here are both the progression and a line played over the progression to give an idea of the kind of stuff I might play over these progressions.

It is important to note that you should recognize these progressions in the standards you know and consider using these progressions if you want to reharmonize a standard that you play. The lines are kept fairly basic because the changes themselves are interesting it is often enough to just play basic solid lines to get an interesting cadence.

The first example is using the Minor Cadence bu resolving to major. Check out a song like “I Love You”  by Cole Porter to hear it used. In general, I find that when I use a minor subdominant chord in a cadence then it works better to also play a dominant from the minor key (so using harmonic minor or what is sometimes called Phrygian dominant)

IV minor chords ex 3

The line I play over this example is not that complicated, the Dm7b5 consists of an AbMaj7 shell voicing and a scale fragment. The G7 line is buil around the Fm7b5 arpeggio that is a good arpeggio to use over the G7(b9b13) chord. You might have to look twice to spot how the frame of the line is that arpeggio 🙂

IV minor chords ex 4

The 2nd example is again using the chord as a substitute for the II chord in a cadence. You’ll find this cadence in another Cole Porter song: “Night and Day”. This progression works well if you have the 11 and the 3rd in melody over the II chord.

In the line, I am making a melody over the AbMaj7 chord with only arpeggio notes. The line over the G7 is a base around the B diminished arpeggio that resolves to the 3rd(E) of CMaj7.

IV minor chords ex 5

The 3rd progression shows how you might come across a IV minor chord (in this case a DbMaj7, but an Fm7 or Bb7 would also work well) in a place where you might expect the V chord. It can be a good way to get a bit of variation by not having only II V cadences all the time in a song, but it has to fit the melody of course.

The line over this progression uses the F major arpeggio and a pentatonic fragment over the Dm7 chord and the DbMaj7 arpeggio and another scale fragment over the DbMaj7 chord before resolving to the 5th(G) of C.

IV minor chords ex 6

The last example is a very common way for a jazz standard to move from subdominant back to the tonic via the IV minor. In that way, it is the jazz version of Example 1.

IV minor chords ex 6

You can find many examples of this progression, most use a Bb7, Fm6, or an Fm7 Bb7 as minor subdominant to go back to C. Check out standards like “There will never be another you” or “It could happen to you”. If you know enough songs you might realize that it is often found in the same spot in a lot of songs. So much that if you ask me to guess what chord is found in bar 10 of a 32 bar standard I am likely to reply bVII dominant.

The line I play consists of an A minor pentatonic fragment followed by an FMaj7 arpeggio in inversion. On the Bb7 it is first n Fm triad arpeggio followed by a Bb major pentatonic fragment before it resolves to the 3rd of CMaj7.

I hope that you can use the material I presented hear in your own arrangements and in understanding the construction of tonal songs like standards.

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

IV minor chords

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