Tag Archives: Axe Fx

Chords and Walking Bass – part 1

In this lesson I’ll demonstrate how I approach playing walking bass lines and chords at the same time. This is a a way of playing that I use really a lot in situations where there’s no bass player, so mostly duo settings with a guitar player, singer or horn player.

The chords that I am using in this lesson are the shell voicings that I covered in this lesson:  Jazz Chord Essentials – Shell Voicings

Technique

The way I play this type of accompaniment is to use my right hand fingers and use my thumb for the bass line and the rest for the chords. In that way you have a different sound for the two parts and you split the hand naturally in a way that you can play two independent parts.

For me it the important part is the bass line, so I give that priority over the chords probably because I am always using it to accompany others. When I play the bass line I try to give the 2 and the 4  a slight accent and for the rest just have a legato and not too hard attack. I never spend too much energy on sustaining the chords, to me they are added colors but are not necessary to keep the flow of the music going.

The first 3 examples are a very simple II V I in C major.

Chords and Walking Bass lines - part 1 - Ex 1

In this example I am just playing the chord on the first beat of each bar, so that the combination of the bass and the chord is as simple as possible. The way I construct the bassline of these examples is very simple: The Root has to be on the one and the other notes are arpeggio notes except on the 4 where it’s a leading note for the new root if you start with this rule set you can make fairly playable and functional walking bass lines.

It is important to remember that bass lines are in fact improvised quarter note lines outlining the harmony.

Examples 2 and 3 are exercises using the same harmony but putting the chord in another place in the bar so that the chord can have more of a function in the groove.

 

Chords and Walking Bass lines - part 1 - Ex 2

The final example is more of a demonstration of what I might play on a blues in F so for ideas you can analyze it and of course it is also a good etude to get the hang of the sound of this type of playing.

The process for me in learning how to play like this was to sit down and figure out a few songs and then find more solutions for the whole piece so that I could start mixing it up and vary each chorus. This is probably the same way you learned playing chords on a standard too. So the try to analyze the lines that I am playing and try to move to other parts of the neck to play the same thing using the principles I talked about here.

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

Chords and Walking Bass lines – part 1

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.

Jazz Chord Essentials: Triads

In this lesson I’d like to demonstrate how you can play jazz harmony only using triad voicings. It’s a very practical and guitaristic approach but also one that I on guitar is often very practical and beautiful in a lot of musical settings.

Take a look at these chords: Cmaj7, Am7, Bm75 they are all a triad with an extra note, which is fairly easy to see in these voicings:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 1

So if we take the Cmaj7: We get these notes: C E G B so that’s a C and an E minor triad, and we can use it like that when we are comping or soloing.

So if you want to play the chord but not the root, you can use the triad from the 3rd. Using this concept we have these triads to play in C major:

  • Cmaj7: E minor triad
  • Dm7: F major triad
  • Em7: G major triad
  • Fmaj7: A minor triad
  • G7: Bdim triad
  • Am7: C major triad
  • Bm7b5: D minor triad.

So if you know how a chord is constructed it is easy to figure out what triad you can use to play that chord. There’s another concept that is closely related to this which is called upper-structure triads. The idea behind this is that you use a triad as the extension part of a chord to have a strong sounding voicing or melody, but that’s a little more complicated theoretically and for another lesson.

The advantage to this approach it is an easy way to play rootless chords and fever notes makes it more flexible for adding notes and making melodies within the chords.

Triad exercises

The basic exercise you need for this is to learn the triads in inversions on every set of three strings. When using them as chords I play them 90% of the time on the two top sets, but since triads are such a basic resource that you need for soloing as well as chords I’ve chosen to demonstrate all three types of triads that are found in the major scale on all string sets:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 2

Of course you can make a lot more exercises with the triads, playing them in scales and different voiceleading or melodic ideas but for now I just cover the basics. You should check it out in diatonic situations, and work it through songs since triads are one of the fundamental building blocks in most kinds of music.

George van Eps has written a lot of exercises with triads in his books everything with fingerings and in all keys, worthwhile checking out and practicing from.

Let’s continue by playing a few cadences in C, so Dm7, G7, Cmaj7: Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 3

 

A few useful ideas

To make this approach work we also need to have a way to deal with altered dominants. For that I use the approach that I also talked about in my lesson on diatonic arpeggios: Altered chords and superimposing Namely taking the upper part of the tritone substitute and used that on an altered dominant.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 4

Another way to say that is: Altered dominants: use the dim chord from the 7th degree: G7alt: F dim: F Ab B which is 7,b6,3rd

You can use some of the same substitution rules as I explained in on of the drop2 lessons, so
13 instead of 5 (example: G7/Bdim), b5 instead of 5 and to make a sus4 chord you can suspend the 3rd with the 4th.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 5

 

For minor chords: 11th instead of 5th or #11 instead of 5 on major 7th chords (you could also see that as a sus4 triad in inversion being used over a C bass note, but since I did not talk about sus4 triads and inversions I won’t go furter into that. The last example is how to replace the 7th with the 6th.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 6

 

 Putting it to use

Just so you get an idea about how I incorporate it, here’s an example over a trusted old I IV II V with altered dominants: Dm7 G7alt Cmaj7 A7alt

You might notice that I am trying to play with the different voices within the chords because the triad approach lends itself to this very well.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 7

Here’s the recording of my playing this from the video:

Here’s a downloadable version of the examples: Jazz Chord Essentials – Triads

 

Here’s another video where I play an improvised arrangement of “Body and Soul” using this approach (for the most part anyway..)

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.

Target Notes

A target note is a note that you play in your improvisation when the chord is changing so that the change in the harmony is clear in the melody that you’re improvising. So it’s a way to link your solo to the harmony under it, because you play harmonically clear notes on strong beats of the bar.

Another important aspect of this approach is that It will help having a natural flow in your solo because you are thinking ahead of the harmony and playing towards something instead of trying to keep up with it after it has changed, which is a more important part of playing over changes than a lot of people think.

I already talked a bit about target notes in my lesson on playing over changes with arpeggios. But I thought it deserved a lesson by itself.

Selelcting Target notes

I’ll demonstrate this on a turnaround with altered dominants, because it is easy to make it clear, but it will of course work on all progressions.

Here’s the turnaround:

Target Notes - example 1

I’ll just quickly demonstrate the scales I’ll use:

Target Notes - example 2Target Notes - example 3Target Notes - example 4

 

Important priorities:

  • It has to be an important note in the chord, but try to avoid the root. Color of the chord is important so 3rd, 5th and on an altered dominant for example the b5 will be clear.
  • Pick a note that was not in the previous chord and maybe not even in the previous scale, that simply makes it very clear.

If we compare the scale on the Fmaj7 to the D altered scale we’ll find that three notes are in D7alt and NOT in F Major: Eb F# Ab, so they would be good candidates for clear target notes.

In a similar way we can come up with this set of target notes for the turnaround:

Target Notes - example 5

You’ll notice that since the root for several reasons does not work to well as a target note we are free to have D as a target note on the Gm7.

Playing towards a target note

The way to improvise or compose lines within this approach is to always compose a line that moves to the next target note. So here are a few examples of moving from one note to the next. The strongest melody across the barline is a step wise movement so a whole or half step.

Target Notes - example 6

And here is a more realistic example where I play twice through the turnaround with the target notes I chose in the beginning.

Target Notes - example 7

 

Download a pdf of the examples: Target Notes

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.

Practicing Scales Through Chord Changes

This lesson is about a very simple exercise that should make you better at improvising freely over changing chords.

If you improvise you probably practice scales, and I have already made a few lesson on how you can practice your scales: Diatonic Arpeggios – how to use and practice and Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered dominants. But probably you deal with them one at a time as I do for the most part in these lessons, and not like you do when improvising over for example a jazz standard where the chords changes once or twice per bar.

Melodies rules the harmonies!

When you improvise you need to make melodies on several scales and it should still sound like one melody, not like you and not get stuck in a chord change. The goal is to let the melodies you improvise rule what happens more than the changing harmony. For that reason it’s useful to practice connecting scales because since we want to be as free as possible melodically when we improvise.

The Exercise

The Idea is quite simple: For each chord in a progression you have a scale, play the scale for the duration of the chord. In this lesson I’ve chosen one bar per chord and I am playing the scales in 8th notes.

This approach works the best if the chords are changing in a way that the scales a very different, so it I chose to use a turnaround, a I IV II V with altered dominants as an example. It also works really well with f.ex Coltrane Changes.

Here’s the turnaround.
Scales Through Changes - ex 1

For Bbmaj7 and Cm7 I am using this scale:
Scales Through Changes - ex 2
For G7alt I am using this position of the Abm Melodic Minor scale:
Scales Through Changes - ex 3

And for F7alt I am using this scale:
Scales Through Changes - ex 4

 

Here is a transcription of how I play twice through the turnaround using this exercise in the video:Scales Through Changes - ex 5

As I explain and demonstrate in the video you can use this approach not only while playing scales but also doing other exercises like diatonic 3rds, arpeggios, triads etc.

Here’s a short transcription of a part of what I play at the end of the video:

Scales Through Changes - ex 6

 

You can download a pdf of the examples here:

Practicing Scales Through Changes

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.

Demo video for Coffee Break Grooves

Chris from Coffee Break Grooves was so kind to ask me to make a demonstration video for one of their backing tracks.

I am a bit out of my comfort zone with this type of playing but it was nice to cut an improvised solo on the track and get to use my “new” yamaha guitar.

Here it is:

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.

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 – how to use and practice them

Arpeggios are one of the most important tools in improvising over harmony, since harmony consists of chords and arpeggios are the melodic form a chord, so the chord played note for note.

Diatonic Chords and Arpeggios.

In this lesson I will show some exercises on how to find and play the arpeggios that are contained in the scales you play. Let’s first look at what a diatonic arpeggio is.

If you have a scale like the C major scale: C D E F G A B C, you can build the diatonic 7th chords by stacking 3 thirds on top of each other. A diatonic third is essentially the 2nd note from the note you are on so for C the third above it is E, for D it is F etc. etc. If I stack 3 thirds from C I’ll have these 4 notes: C E G B which is a Cmajor7 chord or arpeggio. From D I get D F A C which is Dm7 etc etc.

It is very useful to learn the order of the diatonic chords in a major scale:

Maj7, m7,  m7, Maj7, Dom7, m7, m7b5 (for C: CMaj7, Dm7,  Em7, FMaj7, G7,A m7, Bm7b5)

and is later just as useful to learn them for Harmonic minor and Melodic minor.

A few basic exercises

As I explain in the video you should aim to have the entire neck covered for each key of the major scale, especially if you play music that changes harmony a lot like jazz, but in the end it is useful to master in all genres. To keep things simple I’ve chosen to use this basic C major scale position at the 8th fret because it is one that is very often used as one of the first.

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 1

So for technical reasons it makes sense to play the scale in 3rds. The 3rds are the building blocks of the diatonic chords, and it is a pretty basic exercise that you should do on all scales (Try a pentatonic scale if you want some surprising sounding diatonic 3rds)

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 2

If we then start to stack 2 thirds on top of each other we get a triad, which is of course also a useful exercise to go through: Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 3

And if we stack three 3rds we have the diatonic 7th chords:

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 4

 

It is also useful to take a few other exercises through the scale like these two:

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 5Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 6

Some examples on how to apply arpeggios in lines

I will leave the explanation of this for the video since I go through it there in some detail. But try to play the lines and see if you can identify the chord notes that I am using and see the arpeggio. The point of the examples are to demonstrate how you mix the arpeggio up with the scale in improvisation, you don’t want to have melodies that sound too much like scale – arpeggio – scale, you want the two to blend in a natural way, similar to how melodies move.

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 1

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 2Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 3

 

Here are the tabs as a pdf: Diatonic Arpeggios – how to use and practice them

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or to connect with me via YouTube, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

 

 

Jazz Chord Essentials – Shell voicings

I thought I’d make this 3rd lesson on Jazz voicings about a simple reduced way of playing chords that then also lends it self very well to situations where you need to play the bass. Being simple and compact also makes it very easy to extend so a lot of things can be build from them. As I demonstrate in the video: full chords with extensions, bass lines. They are also useful for playing bossa novas and sambas as well as typical Freddie Green style 4 to the bar stuff.

Let’s first have a look at how shell voicings are constructed. A shell voicing is the bare necessities version of a jazz chord, so the chord is reduced to three notes. The most defining notes of a chord would be:

  • The Root (what chord is it)
  • The Third (is it major or minor)
  • The Seventh (major/minor/6th)

For voice-leading purposes I’ll make two different sorts of shell voicings. Both have the chord (3rd and 7th) on the 3rd and 4th string and the root is in one variation on the 5th string, in the other one it is on the 6th string. There are rules for voice-leading, but the essence is that if you don’t have to go to the closest note in the next chord when going from one chord to the next. Setting the chords up like this makes it easy to stay in one place with the chord and move the root a 4th or a 5th (which are the most common changes). You will also notice that I am calling the 7th chord m7(b5) even if it does not contain the flatted 5th, so I am naming them according to the key. I do that in the video too.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 1

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 2

As usual the best way to learn it is to put it through a song as I do in the video, but here are a few examples on a turnaround in C.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 3

One of the ways I use shell voicings is to use them as a basis and then add extensions or melody notes on top like this: Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 4

You might notice that especially the sets with the root on the 6th string tend to become drop3 voicings when you add extensions.  And if you watch the video you’ll see several applications of these kinds of chords in different styles.

Here are the examples as a pdf: Jazz Chord Essentials – Shell voicings

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

“Top Dog” receives honourable mention at ISC!

I am very proud to announce that my song Top Dog has received honorable mentions at the international songwriting contest 2013! Quite an achievement since the international songwriting contest has a total of more than 20.000 entries.

 

WinnersButton_2013

 

 

 

 

Here’s a recording of the song from the 2012 Træben album “Push”:

Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 2

So now you have an overview of the basic drop2 voicings from the previous lesson: Jazz Chord Essential Part 1.

Here’s a short video on how I might use chords in a solo on a blues in C.

As you can probably hear I am not only using the chords in their basic form, but I am using different versions of the same type of chord to make simple melodies that then make up the solo. In order to expand the drop2 voicings from the last lesson and build other skills to play something like this we need to work on a few things:

Adding extensions to chords

Let’s look at how we can add more colors to the voicings we already have and a few tricks that will help you use and expand what you already know.

So far we’ve been concerned with the basic chords so Am7 was simply root, third, fifth and seventh, but as I explained in the first lesson you can use Am9 or Am11 instead of Am7. Instead of making 5 or more note voicings we can use these rules to exapand the sounds:

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

This means that if we want to make an Am9 voicing you take the Am7 voicing and change A to B. You might notice that this means that you’ll be playing the notes B C E G which is a Cmaj7, so you can use Maj7 voicings to play minor 9 voicings. If you use the same approach to D7, you have D F# A C and that becomes E F# A C which is F#m7(b5). On Gmajor7 you have G B D F# and get  A B D F# which is Bm7.

You’ll notice that I prefer just using the “category” Chord symbols Am7 even though I am playing the 9th. Think of it as part of the process of not having a one to one combination from chord symbol to voicing, something you probably already had to abandon with several ways to play a C or a G chord.Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 1

Altered Dominants

One way to vary the sound of cadences is to use an altered dominant. This almost only works when the dominant is in fact resolving to a I chord, but that is for another lesson on theory.

One observation that is handy is that if you play a D7(b9,b13) having substituted the root with b9 and the fifth with the b13 you have these notes: Eb F# Bb C which are exactly the same notes as Cm7(b5) (or Ebm6) . So that gives us this set of II V I Cadences: Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 2

Of course these are just examples on how you can change the voicings to get other extensions.

Melodies in the voicings

When I play chords behind a soloist I am often playing melodies with the top voice of the chords to make the harmony more logical to the listener. I also sometimes play parts of a solo in chords. One way to develop the skills needed for this is to use chords to play a melody. The simplest possible melody is probably a scale on, so let’s do a few exercises with that: Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 3

As you can see there are a few notes in the G major scale that are tricky to harmonize, and there are several options on how to deal with them. The note C is never going to sound like a Gmaj7 chord so I chose to play an Am7 there. I could have substituted it with a C# and used a Gmaj7(#11).

Let’s make a similar exercise using a turnaround: Am7 D7alt Gmaj7 E7alt. With this exercise I am just forcing myself to move up the neck in small steps, not really any system, even if it’s almost chromatic. I guess for all of these “melodic” voicing exercises the goal is to be able to make your own more than actually play mine!

Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 4

I hope you like the lesson. Feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, G+, YouTube etc. if you have any questions or if you want to stay up to date with lessons, cd releases and concerts.