Tag Archives: altered

Using the pentatonic scale as chords

In this lesson I am going to construct some 3 note chord voicings with the pentatonic scale and use those chords to play altered dominants, maj7 and m7 chords.

You can get a lot out of this fairly simple approach to finding voicings for chord situations and it will work in songs with lots of chord movement as well as in modal situations!

Creating chords in the Pentatonic scale

The first thing we need to do is to create the chords in the scale. This is quite simple: You can play the scale on one string for the B, G and D strings and then stack the notes to get the voicings shown in example 1:

Using the pentatonic scale as chords - ex 1

You can use these 3 note voicings as chords whenever you would normally apply the A minor pentatonic scale: Am7, Cmaj7, Fmaj7, Bbmaj7, Dm7, D7sus4.

The examples at the end of this lesson I am demonstrating how to use these voicings on a II Valt I progression in the key of G major.

Now we have one we can use on the Am7, and we need to find one for the D7alt chord.

If you look at the D altered scale (which is the same notes as the Eb minor melodic) scale it is these notes: Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C , D. If there is a pentatonic scale in the Eb melodic minor scale it has to be a note where the diatonic chord is a m7 chord, and the only option is then the F. There we do have F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb which is the F minor pentatonic scale.

With the same principle to make voicings for the F minor pentatonic scale we get example 2:Using the pentatonic scale as chords - ex 2

These voicings can work well as chords for the D7alt.

For the Gmaj7  we have two options. As you may know G major contains three minor pentatonic scales: E, A and B. The Am pentatonic is not so useful since it contains the C, but both E and B will work fine.

I have chosen to use the B minor pentatonic scale because it has an F# so it is better at getting the maj7 sound across than the E minor pentatonics scale.

We get these voicings:

Using the pentatonic scale as chords - ex 3

Now we have voicings for m7, Dom7thAlt and Maj7 chords and can start making some music with the voicings.

Using the voicings on a II Valt I

It is fairly easy to start using these voicings. When we use these voicings we rely on using more chord voicings for each chord, and the sum of the notes will give us a complete picture of the sound of the chord.

You might have noticed that we have a scale for the D7alt that does not contain the 3rd of the chord (F#). There is a way to take a pentatonic scale that does contain the 3rd, but you need to use a minor 6th pentatonic scale, something I made a lesson on here:  Minor 6th Pentatonic scale But in this lesson I chose to use the good old pentatonic scale that we are all familiar with, maybe I can return to the min6th pentatonic scale in later lessons.

In the first example I start out with two different voicings from the Am pentatonic. The second you might actually recognize as the top of a standard Am7 drop3 or a 2nd inversion C major triad. The last voicing on the Am7 can be moved up a half step to become a chord from the Fm pentatonic scale which is what we use for the D7alt. The main thing I think about when making these lines is the top note melody, so the movement of that melody determines which chord I will use.

The D7alt is resolved from the Ab triad to a G6/9 voicing that then continues up to a D triad and finally resolves to a Gmaj7(13) voicing.

In the video I also play through the example slowly adding the root notes under the chords.

Using the pentatonic scale as chords - ex 4

The 2nd example is a fairly straight forward melody ascending up the Am pentatonic scale and again moving to the D7alt by moving up a voicing a half step. The melody on the D7 alt is using two identical voicings a whole step apart, and resolving those to a G6/9 by also shifting the voicing up a half step.

Since three of the voicings we get per pentatonic scale are stacks of 4ths we can very often get away with these half step shifts when changing chord which is a very smooth way to move from one chord to the next.

The lin concludes with a Bm triad that skips down and then ends on a 2nd inversion D major triad.

Using the pentatonic scale as chords - ex 5

Using the two stacks of 4th voicings that are a half note apart across more chords gives us the ability to make a movement and then repeat it on the next chord, which is what I am doing in the final example. The motief is stated on the Am7 and simply repeated on the D7 a major third lower. It is resolved there by shifiting up a half step to a voicing from the Bm pentatonic scale and continues down to a D major triad where it ends.

Using the pentatonic scale as chords - ex 6

When you start working on this it can be good to just try each of the sounds out over the root, so for example the Am pentatonic voicings over an A pedal or the F minor voicings over a D pedal and just get a bit of a feel for how each of those harmonized scales sound over that root.

I hope you can use this idea and the examples I went over here to create some new comping lines and sounds for your own playing.

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Using the pentatonic scale as chords

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Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings part 3

In this 3rd lesson on Drop2 voicings I am going to go over altered dominants and show some more versions of how you add extensions to chords. I will of course also give some example of how you put it to use in cadences and on a standard.

The examples in this lesson are all in the key of G major (except the last example which is an excerpt from a standard in Gm). I chose to keep it simple and only work with the top set of strings. In the long run it can be very useful to also check out the middle set of strings and possibly the lowest set. A complete overview of the drop2 voicings can be found here: Scale charts and chord voicings

Adding more extensions

The first we are going to go over is how to create an m7(9,11) voicing that we can use as for example a II chord in a cadence.

From the 2nd lesson: Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 2 we have a list that I now want to add a rule to:

  • 9th (or b9 or #9) can replace the root
  • 11, #11, 13th, b13th, b5 and #5 can replace the 5th
  • 6th can replace the 7th
  • 4th or 2nd can replace the 3rd

There is one more rule that we can use to make some more voicings, but I’ll save that for a later lesson, it is also making things a bit spacy and hard to play..

In example 1 I have first listed the basic Am7 voicings on the top four strings and then how I construct an Am7(9,11) by substituting the 5th(E) witht the 11th(D) and the root(A) with the 9th(B).

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 3 - ex 1

So now we have constructed a 7(9,11) chord, let’s have a look at altered dominants!

Altered dominants

There are of course many ways to construct or think about an altered dominant, since I started out with demonstrating 4 basic chord types (m7,dom7th,maj7th and m7b5) I want to show how you can use one of these as a voicing for altered dominants.

The reasoning is similar to a lot of other lessons.

If we have an Ab7(9) chord we would play that with the m7b5 voicing from the 3rd of the chord, so that would be Cm7b5.

As you may know the tritone substitue of Ab7 is D7, so the share the 3rd and 7th.

If I write out a Cm7b5 in a not entirely enharmonical correct way it looks like this:

Cm7b5 – C Eb F# Bb

Relative to D that would be a 7, b9, 3, b13 so it’s a very good candidate for a D7alt chord.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 3 - ex 2

Example 2 is showing how D7alt and Ab7 are also very similar as voicings and how that is visible on the neck by only changing the root.

In example 3 I am first using Cm7b5 voicings as D7b9b13 and then showing how we can substitute the Eb with an F to create D7b13#9 chords.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 3 - ex 3

The rule that you should remember (for now) is that you can play an altered dominant by using the m7b5 chord on the 7th of that dominant (so Cm7b5 for D7alt, Fm7b5 for G7alt etc…) When you start using it you will probably quickly start to just think of it as a altered dom7th chord, which is of course also the idea.

Maj7 #11 chords

To also have a bit of variation available on the tonic chord in the cadence I have  aplied the same rule to the Gmaj7(9) chords. As you may remember I used a Bm7 drop2 voicing to play these and in this voicing we can replace the 5th(D) with a #11(C#). This gives us a lydian sound on the tonic chord which is maybe not strictly in the key but it is a bit a nice and fairly common variation.

The voicings are shown in example 4, first the standard Gmaj7(9) and then the derived #11 voicings.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 3 - ex 4

The II Valt I cadences

With the 3 new voicing types we can make a new set of 4 cadences as shown in example 5.
Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 3 - ex 5

It might be wise to also practice these just resolving to the maj7(9) chords because the #11 doesn’t always fit the with what is going on in the song.

Autumn Leaves example

As I did in the previous 2 lessons I applied some of the voicings that I discussed on the first 16 bars of Autumn Leaves. This is shown in example 6:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 3 - ex 6

I start out with a Cm7(11). In this vocing I chose not to add the 9th instead of the root. This is because it would be as the lowest note in the chord and in this place I don’t think that sounds too good. The F7alt is played using an Ebm7(b5) voicing this resolves to aBbmaj7th(9,#11) voicing constructed as in example 4. The Ebmaj7 is a straight Ebmaj7(9) (or what you might call a Gm7) voicing.

The Am7b5 is also just using that voicing. The D7 is played with a D7(#9,b13) voicing  out of the second half of example 3. The two bars of Gm are played with first a Gm6/9 voicing and then the same voicing but without the 9th.

The 2nd 8 bars start with a Cm7(9,11) voicing in the 8th fret. It then continues to an F7alt voicing and a Bbmaj7(9,#11) voicing. This cadence is a Bb version of the first bars of example 5. The Ebmaj7 is played with a Gm7 voicing, but I substituted the Bb with a C so that the sound is an Ebmaj7(13) sound.

This moves nicely up to an Am7b5(11). This voicing is with the 11th replaceing the 3rd, but in the context you still have the sound of the chord. The D7alt is again played with a D7(#)b13) voicing now in the 8th fret, and this resolves to a Gm6 and Gm6/9 voicings in the final bars.

I hope you can use the exercises to expand your Drop2 voicing repertoire and come up with some nice new chord voicings for the music you play.

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

Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings part 3

Check out how I use Drop2 voicings in this 3 chorus transcription/lesson:

Drop2 voicings on There will never be another you

I hope that you liked the lesson. 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, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered chords

In this lesson I’ll discuss a standard approach to get more arpeggios you can use over a chord, using the diatonic 7th arpeggios. I’ll also go over how I use diatonic arppegios over altered dominants.

I guess I can assume you already read this lesson: Diatonic arpeggios: how to use and practice them, so you should at least know you what a diatonic arpeggio is and how it is constructed and be able to play them in a few positions and a few keys.

Superimposing – a way of adding extensions to your lines

Hopefully you have some idea on how to make a line using the arpeggio and the scale, so this next idea should help you develop a lot of new lines.

Let’s look at a Fmajor7(9): F A C E G, if you take away the F you have the notes of an Am7 so if you apply that so f.ex a II V I in F major: You have the chords: Gm7, C7, Fmaj7 and you can use the arppegios Bbmaj7, Em7b5 and Am7 over them  in you lines.

Obviously this works because the notes that make the color of the chord (3 and 7) are still being played so the overall sound of the chord is still there.

DA - superimposing and alt ex 1

Using other arpeggios that have a lot of chords in common with the chord you play them over will often work to so you could look at the one that is from the 5th and the one that is from the 6th which is the same as a third under the root. In some cases they are not working too well, f.ex a C7 arpeggio is very strongly sounding like something that is not a Fmaj7 sound, and something similar could be said about using Em7b5 over Gm7.

Here are two examples using the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord:

DA - superimposing and alt ex 2


DA - superimposing and alt ex 3

I am not going to write too much about the examples I’ll explain a bit in the video. What you can learn from them is analyzing what arpeggios I play and how I use them melodically.

Altered dominants and diatonic arpeggios

In jazz you often come across altered dominant 7th chords, which are not a stack of diatonic 3rds in so you need to approach them differently. Let’s take a C7altered Usually we play the altered scale on a chord like that, so the same notes as C# melodic minor. But in C# melodic minor the diatonic chord on the C is a Cm7b5, not a C7altered chord so we don’t have a built in diatonic arpeggio for that chord and the system of taking the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord is not as strong.

Let’s first play an altered scale, ie Melodic minor. In this case C# melodic minor:DA - superimposing and alt ex 4

So here’s a practical solution to that problem: If you look at a C7altered chord voicing like one of these: DA - superimposing and alt ex 5

You can see that they are identical to F#7 voicings so if we think of the C7altered chord as a F#7(#11) with a C in the bass, we can use the arpeggio from the 3rd of that one: A#m7b5. That arpeggio contains the 3rd and 7th of C7, the b9 and the b13 so it gives you a pretty good set of notes for C7 altered lines.

The C7alt/F#7 relationship is what is called a tritone substitution, but I won’t go into the theory on that here, it is explained in various places on the net so you can easily look it up, and is for the rest not that relevant in this context, since we are just looking for an arpeggio to play over an altered dominant.

You get these arpeggios:

DA - superimposing and alt ex 6


Here are a few examples where I use an A#m7b5 arpeggio over C7alt.

DA - superimposing and alt ex 7


DA - superimposing and alt ex 8


You can download a pdf of the examples here:

Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered chords

As an experiment I have recorded a backing track of me playing 0:30 seconds of II V I in F major. If you follow me on soundcloud you can download it to practice the lines you make. If you post a recording or video of you playing lines using the material in this over the backing track and let me know I’ll try to leave you a comment on what you’ve come up with and maybe give you some advice.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152339281″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

I hope that you liked the lesson. 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, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.