Tag Archives: fingering

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.

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Endless new ways to play the same II V I voicings

I made this lesson to bring an aspect of playing chords to your attention that there is a big chance you don’t think too much about, and which can give you a huge number of new ways to play progressions with the voicings you already know.

The progression and the voicings

What I will try to demonstrate here is how many different ways you can play the same set of voicings by arpegiating the voicings and not just playing them all together as a block.

In the lesson I will use this II V I and only these voicings:

5 ways to play the same II V I chord voicings ex 1

As you might notice they are all Drop2 voicings. A subject I’ve already covered in previous lessons. You can check out the series here:  Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 1

If you are used to drop2 voicings you will probably agree that my choice is fairly straight forward.

Arpeggiate you voicings!

So usually we are trying to create melodies and use certain types of voicings to extend the range of sounds we have available while comping, but as I mentioned we can do really a lot by just arpegiating the voicings we already use.

 

Here are 5 examples to illustrate how easily you can vary the sound of one set of voicings.

The first example is quite simple, for each chord I play the voicing spread in two string sets so that you emphasize the sound of two of the contained intervals. On the Fm7 and Ebmaj7 chord that gives us a diatonic 7th and a diatonic 6th. On the Bb7 there are two 7th intervals.

5 ways to play the same II V I chord voicings ex 2

Another way to split the voicing is to have an inner and an outer interval set, which with the drop2 voicings gives us an inner 3rd and an outer 10th or 11th.

5 ways to play the same II V I chord voicings ex 3

So after a few systematical approaches we can also try to make more of a melodic statement by freeing up how each voicing is arpeggiated. In example four I am using the outer voices on the Fm7 and making a short melody with the inner 3rd. On the Bb7alt the chord is arpeggiated in a spread out pattern that almost suspends the sound of it. On the Ebmaj7 voicing I am splitting in strings sets in the same way as in Variation 1

5 ways to play the same II V I chord voicings ex 4

The Fm7 line in variation 4 is first introducing the whole chord and then a melody with the inner voices. On the Bb7 the first part is the 2nd and 4th voice followed by an arpeggiation of the Dmaj7 shell voicing that is the top of the Bb7alt chord. The Ebmaj7 is played by first the lower 3 strings and then as an added melody later the top note.

5 ways to play the same II V I chord voicings ex 5

The final example is using a more traditional way of arpeggiating a chord on the guitar, followed by 2 string sets, which is another way to draw out more sounds within the voicing. Something that is often used in Brazilian guitar music. On the Bb7 the entire chord is first played before a string skipping arpeggio pattern is played. The line resolves to Ebmaj7 with a pattern that is first the Bb melody note and then the rest of the chord.

5 ways to play the same II V I chord voicings ex 6

As you can see there are a lot of possiblities to play even a simple three chord progression. If you are used to arpeggiating chords in different ways then you probably do not need to work on anything in a systematical way, but you can better just try to apply it while playing with others or when practicing a tune.

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

Endless ways to play the same II V I voicings

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 Instagram, Twitter Google+ or Facebook 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.

 

Drop 2 voicing charts, 1st batch

I have added 4 reference charts of Drop2 voicings in the PDF download section of my website:

PDF downloads and charts

Each chart shows the 4 inversions of the chord for each of the 3 string sets both as individual chords and together on the neck.

Drop2 voicings

Feel free to let me know if you have any requests or comments!

You can do so by connecting with me via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter, or sent me an e-mail. Then you will also stay up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Arpeggios in positions derived from 3 notes per string scales

Here’s a list of the pdf’s and pictures with arpeggio fingerings in positions.

This is made in 3 note per string scale fingerings so it might be useful to look at them if you don’t know them already. There are links at the bottom of the page.

The arpeggios are derived from these scale positions:

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to let me know! You can do so by connecting with me via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter, or sent me an e-mail. Then you will also stay up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Melodic minor Scale – 3 notes per string

Here is an overview of the Melodic minor scale in the key of C, using the 3 notes per string system.

It can be useful to think about what fingers to use to limit the amount of positions switches per position. Mostly the trick is to start the lower strings with 1 2 4 if there is a whole step between the first 3 notes.

Melodic Minor Scale 3 notes per string
Scale and Arpeggio charts also as PDF download

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You can also download the chart as a pdf here: Melodic Minor scales 3 nps

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to let me know! You can do so by connecting with me via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter, or sent me an e-mail. Then you will also stay up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Major Scale – 3 notes per string

Here is an overview of the Major scale in the key of C, using the 3 notes per string system.

It can be useful to think about what fingers to use to limit the amount of positions switches per position. Mostly the trick is to start the lower strings with 1 2 4 if there is a whole step between the first 3 notes.

Major Scale 3 notes per string
Scale charts

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You can also download the chart as a pdf here: Major scales 3 nps

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to let me know! You can do so by connecting with me via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter, or sent me an e-mail. Then you will also stay up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Harmonic minor Scale – 3 notes per string

Here is an overview of the Harmonic minor scale in the key of C, using the 3 notes per string system.

It can be useful to think about what fingers to use to limit the amount of positions switches per position. Mostly the trick is to start the lower strings with 1 2 4 if there is a whole step between the first 3 notes.

Harmonic Minor Scale 3 notes per string
Scale and Arpeggio charts also as download

Embed this on your site


 

You can also download the chart as a pdf here: Harmonic minor scales 3 nps

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to let me know! You can do so by connecting with me via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter, or sent me an e-mail. Then you will also stay up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.