Tag Archives: improvisation

Claus Levin Guest Lesson and collaboration

A few weeks ago I was talking to Claus Levin. We decided to work together on some guest lessons for each others channel.

I think it is a great way to meet other YouTube guitarists by having them do a guest lesson and get a small introduction. 

Claus Levin – The Core Of Improvisation!

The videos Claus Levin makes are mostly focused on the psychological and technical aspects of learning the instrument and with some useful insights and philosophies there is a lot to learn from his videos. 

His lesson on my channel is also taking a step back and then looking at what it actually is to improvise. 

You can check out the Claus Levin YouTube channel here: Claus Levin

The videos

 

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Get the 3 Notes Per String Pentatonics PDF!

My lesson on the Claus Levin channel is on using 3 notes per string pentatonics and the PDF that you can download via that is available here:  3 NPS Pentatonic scales

 

 

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales

The II V I is one of the most common and important progressions in jazz. So playing over a II V I is a necessary part of being able to play jazz. One way to get started with this is to use pentatonic scales as a starting point. In this lesson I will give you 3 pentatonic scales to use over a II V I in C, talk a bit about how you use them and give you 3 lines using the pentatonic scales.

The II Valt I Progression

The progression I am going to talk about in this lesson is a II Valt I in the key of C major. The progression can be seen here:

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales ex 1

For each of these chords we can choose a pentatonic scale that will work well to convey the sound of this chord.

For the Dm7 chord it’s failry easy, a D minor pentatonic is a Dm7 with and added G so that gives us this “standard box” Dm pentatonic

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales ex 2

The tricky chord in the progression is the G7alt, since G altered is the same as Ab melodic minor we only have one “normal” minor pentatonic scale: Bb minor. I chose not to use a Minor 6th pentatonic like I talk about in this lesson:  Minor 6th Pentatonic scale Because I wanted to keep it a lesson on material that I expect you already know (which is a bit less likely with a min 6th pentatonic). The scale can be played like this:

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales ex 3

For the Cmaj7 I am focusing on getting the entire upperstructure of the chord (an E minor triad), since the only pentatonic scale in Cmajor (it contains Dm, Em and Am pentatonic scales) that has a B is the Em pentatonic I am using that on the Cmaj7.

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales ex 4

Now that we have three pentatonic scales placed on the same part of the neck we can start making some lines with the scales.

II V I lines with pentatonic scales

In some of my other lessons on improvising over specific progression with arpeggios like this one: How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios I am talking a lot about what notes to target when making a line that goes from one chord to the next. In this example the scales are very different (much less that the arpeggios that are 50% the same notes every time) so it is less important to hit specific notes at the beginning of a bar. That said it is still a cadence and the lines will be stronger if you aim for the E or G on the Cmaj7 to make the resolution to the tonic clear.

The first example is fairly basic in that it is trying yo use some ways of playing the pentatonic scales in ways you are probably already familiar with. On the Dm7 I start out with groups of three notes with a pull off to make it easier to play. The G7alt line is first a descending run in the scale followed by an ascending run which ends in an encircling of the 5th of C(G).

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales ex 5

The second example is making heavy use of the “diatonic” chords in a pentatonic scale. If you stack 3rds(so every other note) in a pentatonic scale you get a set of structures mostly containing stacks of 4ths. I talk about this in detail in this lesson:  Diatonic chords in the pentatonic scale. These structures are great for solos and that is what I am using in the 2nd line.

On the Dm7 istarts of with a stack of 4ths from the D on the 12th fret. After this it descends down the scale and encircles the Eb in the Bbm pentatonic scale. The same structure moved up a half step is found in the Bbm pentatonic scale which is how I start the line on the G7alt.  After this it skips up to a high f and descends down the scale. The line then resolves from Bb to the 7th(B) of Cmaj7. The line on the Cmaj7 continues with another stack of 4ths and descends down to the final 9th(D) of C.

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales ex 6

The final example starts off with another structure found in the pentatonic scale: a minor triad. In this example I play it as an open voiced D minor triad. From there the line continues with a stack of 4ths that encircles the #9(Bb) on G. From there the line descends down the scale and then skips to play a stack of 4ths from the lower Bb. This resolves scalewise to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7. The first for notes of the line on the Cmaj is a sort of blues cliche in an E minor pentatonic, followed by a stack of 4ths from A and finally resting on the 3rd of Cmaj7.

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales ex 7

I hope you can use the information and the approach I discussed in this lesson to make lines with pentatonic scales. This approach can easily be used as another option to put to use in later choruses of a solo, which is how I mostly use it.

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

Soloing over a II V I with Pentatonic scales

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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Drop2 Voicings as Arpeggios

Drop2 voicings can be a great way to add some melodic structures that already by themselves have a huge range and since they are basically an arpeggio, they are also easy to insert in to melodies. In this lesson I’ll try to given some tips on how to practice and use drop2 voicings like this and also some examples of how I use them in my own playing.

Using chord voicings as arpeggios

If you follow my lessons through the last year or so you have probably noticed that I like to take my chord voicings and turn them into arpeggios whenever possible. So you are probably not surprised that after lessons on Quartal harmony, shell voicings and open voiced triads I also had to make a lesson on how to use drop2 voicings in solos.

I am assuming that you are already familiar with drop2 voicings. Otherwise you can check out the lessons I’ve made on them here:

In this lesson I am keeping the amount of voicings down a bit by not spending too much time on the inversions, we will take the diatonic chords of a major scale on each of the 3 string sets, and go through them and I will use those in the example lines at the end of the lesson.

For the lowest string set here’s the diatonic chords of a G major scale.

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 1

And on the middle string set we get this set of C major arpeggios

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 2

And finally on the top set you get F major in diatonic chords:

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 3

The way I play this is strictly alternate picking which (to me) has a Steve Morse idea to it since it is alternate picking with one note per string. It is for this alone a very good technical exercise  to go through the 3 previous examples. And if you need some other exercise to get better at playing them then go check out some of Steve Morse etudes and examples, they are also anyway worthwhile.

Since I use one arpeggio in inversion in the examples I’ll just show how you can take a voicing and play through the inversions. The voicing I use in the examples is a D7alt voicing. As you can read about in this lesson: Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 3 We can use a Cm7b5 to make a D7(b9,b13) voicing and from that we can make a D7(#9,b13) voicing which has the inversions that are shown here below:

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 4

It may be useful to realize that sometimes a voicing may be really difficult to play as a chord, but quite trivial as an arpeggio (and the other way around can be the case too of course).

Lines using Drop2 voicings

As I mention in the video, the fact that you play the notes one by one makes it possible to use lower versions that I normally would when playing chords. The first example is demonstrating that quite well, starting with an Am7 Drop2 voicing as arpeggio from the 6th string. After that the line continues down the scale and on the D7 up an Ab7 Drop2 voicing from which it descends and resolves to the 5th(D) of G maj7

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 5

In the second example I am using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord, so I start off with a Cmaj7 voicing from the 6th string. This is something I’ve noticed I do alot when listening to recordings of myself. From there the line continues up via an Am pentatonic run and from there it makes a sort of pivot arpeggiation of a D7 alt voicing, which is the one I talked about in example 4 above. The line continues with an Fm pentatonic fragment and resolves to the 7th(F#) of Gmaj7.

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 6

The final example is not using a drop2 voicing on the Am7 chord, but a more standard Cmaj7 arpeggio followed by a pentatonic scale fragment. On the D7alt I am using an EbmMaj7 voicing and from the top note of that the line descends down the scale to the 4rd(B) of Gmaj7. The EbmMaj7 voicing could be interpreted as one of the approaches from this lesson:  The Altered Scale: Three Approaches.

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 7

I hope you can use the exercises and examples I went over here to make your own lines with drop2 voicings. As I mention in the video it is a device that I use a lot when I want to make lines with a big range, which the lend themselves very well too since they have a 10th range.

Since I didn’t make any examples with inversions I could do that in a later lesson? Let me know if you are interested in that.

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here you can do so here:

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios

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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Triad Pairs – Part 1

In this lesson I am going to go over what triad pairs are and how you can use them in improvisation and try to highlight some of the useful aspects of the lines you can make with them.

Triad Pairs withut common notes

The reason why we use triads to improvise is that it is a very strong melodic structure. This is probably the most important reason why we spend so much time on working on triads and look at them as something we can superimpose on other chords, which is what is often referred to as upper-structure triads.

When you hear people talking about improvisation referring to triad pairs, what they usually mean is a pair of triads without common notes. The fact that they are without common notes means that we could look at it as a sort of scale with six notes that is naturally split in to two groups.

Let’s first look at a basic example: C major scale, two triads F and G major.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 1

F and G major triads have no common notes (that is always going to be the case for two diatonic triads that are a 2nd apart in a major scale) In example 1 I have written them out first as 2 triads and then as the scale you get if you combine them. In this lesson I am not going to go too much into treating them like scales, simply because I find myself using them more as triads that I chain together.

Triad Exercises

Let’s first quickly go over some useful triad exercises to make sure that we have the flexibility to make lines with the triads.

The first one is a major triad in inversion on a string set, you need to do this for minor, dim and augmented triads and other string sets of course.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 2

Remember that you can practice these as chords and as arpeggios, as I do in the video.

To have a bigger vocabulary of triad inversions you could also try the two varitions that use 2 strings

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 3

Of course you should also try to pracitice diatonic triads in a major scale to be able to place them in the context that you need to use them, and what many often forget is that you should also do this with the inversions which is a really good way to get a better overview of what notes are in what triads. Example 4 is Diatonic triads of C major in the 2nd inversion

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 4

Remember that is not about speed it is about overview and having the shapes in your fingers for later.

Triad Pair Hack

Hopefully this should get you on the road to combine triads. In the 2nd part of this series I am going to give a few more exercises to work on gaining overview and making melodies with this material.

How do we chose a good set of triads for a chord?

In most situations when you encounter a chord it is in a key, which has a scale with 7 notes.  In most cases you have an avoid not in the scale, so a note that does not fit the chord well and that you can not land on.

If you know the avoid note you can easily make a triad pair, let’s do a few examples:

Dm7 in the key of C, depending on the situation you might consider the B an avoid note.

Cmajor without a B is C D E F G A, if we make triads on the notes after the B (C and D) we get C major and D minor

G7(b9) in Cm Harmonic. Here C is the avoid note.

C min harmonic without a C: D Eb F G Ab B , and the triads on the notes after C(D and Eb) are D dim and Eb augmented triads.

Lines with triad pairs

Now that we have a strategy for finding triad pairs and some exercises for playing triads we can try to put the two together in some lines:

In the first example I am using the triad pair from above on a Dm7 chord. The line starts with a second inversion Dm triad and contiues to a first inversion C major triad. The G7 alt line is basically a scale run with a trill at the beginning. It resolves to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 5

The second example is using the triad pair we deduced for a G7(b9) in the previous part of the lesson: D dim and Eb aug triads. The line on the Dm7 is essentially derived from an Fmaj7 arpeggio and leads into the dominant by encircling the 3rd(B). The dominant line is first the Eb aug triad in second inversion and then the D dim triad, after that it resolves down the scale to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 6

The final example is combining all the triad pairs so first Dm and C over Dm7 and then Ebaug and Ddim over G7(b). I added a pair for Cmaj7. Same process as above: The avoid note over the Cmaj7 is an F, if I take that away and construct triads on the two following notes I get G major and A minor triads.

The line consists of playing each triad in a 4 note pattern so that it is first Dm 2nd inversion, then C root position followed by Ebaug 2nd inversion and D dim root position. This resolves to a G root position and Am 1st inversion over the Cmaj7 where it finally ends on the 9th(D)

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 7

As always I hope you can use the ideas and concept I went over in this lesson, as always I’d suggest that you take them as a starting point and use them to make your own lines with triad pairs.

Check out how I use Triad pairs  in this solo transcription/lesson:

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Triad Pairs Part 1

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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.

 

 

 

F Jazz Blues Soloing

It’s always tricky to move from playing pentatonic over the whole blues form to really get into the chords and play something that follows the harmony. In this lesson I’ll present a set of arpeggios, some exercises, target notes and strategies for making solos where you can hear the harmony in the improvisation.

The approach in this lesson is very similar to the approach I presented in the lesson on soloing over a Bb blues: The idea is to present the arpeggios for all the chords in one position so that it is easy to practice them on the progression and later also a lot easier to connect them when moving from one arpeggio to the next.

F Jazz Blues

Let’s first look at the 12 Bar Blues progression that I am using in this lesson_

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 1

You might notice that I’ve simplified the progression a bit so that it never contains a II V in one bar. In those places I chose to just play the dominant since that is the main harmonic function in those situations. If you are not familiar with the Jazz Blues you should spend some time trying to play this progresssion to get it into your ears.

Now we have the harmony we can look at the arpeggios for each of the 6 different chords:

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 2

As you can see I am not starting each arpeggio on the root, but instead focusing on covering the same part of the neck. This is very important because when we start making melodies then we it has to be easy to make a natural melody from one chord to the next without skipping around on the neck or have to jump to a different string.

To make it easier to practice the arpeggios on the progression I only includede one bar of 8th notes for each chord. In this way it is very easy to copy/paste the arpeggios on the progression and start playing the arpeggios in the context where we need to use them.

Arpeggio exercises

Besides just practicing each arpeggio it is a very good idea to work on playing the arpeggios in different patterns. I show a few in the video, but playing them in groups of 3 or 4 notes, skipping notes etc are good ways to get more flexible with the arpeggio. You need the flexibilty when you start improvising, and keep in mind that it is about flexibility and overview not about speed when working on this.

The first exercise is to just play through the Blues with the arpeggios from exercise 2:

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 3

The next thing that I’d suggest that you start working on is connecting the arpeggios. Practicing the arpeggios in this way over the progression is a way to get closer to how you improvise, something that you should also strive after when making exercises.

The idea is to start playing the arpeggios over the blues and then when ever the chord changes to continue the movement with the note that is the closest in the next arpeggio. It’s quite tricky to get started with but very rewarding when you start getting the freedom while improvising.

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 4

With an exercise like this you get a completely new exercise if you start on a different note, and if you keep on going it should keep mutating into new exercises, also a very healthy way to keep your ears and mind busy while practicing something as simple as arpeggios.

Target notes

As I demonstrate in the video the thinking behing making harmony clear in a solo line is to target certain notes of the strong beats (in this case the 1). The idea is that a strong and logical sounding line will be a line that has the direction towards a clear target note. I also discuss this way of making melodies in another lesson that you can check: Target Notes

In the video I demonstrate how I use this principle while practicing rubato on the F7 Bb7 change targeting the Ab(7th) on the Bb7. I also do a short solo on the whole blues. The target notes I chose for the chords are in most cases 3rds and 7ths since they are determining the sound of the chord. I am sure you have heard about this before.

Here is an overview of the target notes:

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 5

The only place where I deviate from the 3rds and 7ths targets is the B dim chord which is identical with the   Bb7 chord except for the root, so the root is a useful target note in that case (that does not happen too often).

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

F Jazz Blues Soloing

If you want to check out an example solo that I wrote with three choruses on an F blues only using the arpeggio notes I have one available for sale in my store:

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.

Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop2 voicings – Part 2

In this lesson I want to continue with exploring the Drop2 voicings that I introduced in the 1st part: Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 1. Mainly I want to talk about how you make voicings with extensions and what sort of voicings you end up with.

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 Gmaj7 you have G B D F# and get  A B D F# which is Bm7.

These are vocings you already know, but you still need to get used to thinking of them as another type of chord. While playing you don’t have time to think of a voicing as a Bm7 inversion when the chord is a Gmaj7.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 1

To get used to how the chords sound with 9s I have made II V I cadences in all positions:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 2

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.

In example 3 I employ some more of the rules I listed above to make some more common voicings.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 3

One of the ways I’d suggest you work on this is that you experiment with the voicings in a context, so that you can hear what they sound like. Learning inversions up and down the neck out of context is probably not very useful, and often you will not be practicing associating the voicing with the chord you need to use it for.

Example 4 is demonstrating a few variations of how a Gmaj7 chord can be played using Maj7, 9ths and 6th chords.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 4

To give an example of how this works on a song I made a demonstration of it on the first 16 bars of Autumn Leaves. You could go check out how it compares with the exercise in the first lesson.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 5

In the etude you’ll notice that I used mostly 9 chords through out. I did not add a 9 to the Am7b5 because I think the natural 9  does not fit the context here (it is of course possible, but I’d consider it a departure from the song). On the D7 I added a b9 since that is the most natural sound for a dominant resolving to a minor chord. I chose to use Gm6 and Gm6/9 on the tonic minor chords because I think that is a beautiful sound and it is often done in jazz.

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.

In the 3rd lesson on Drop2 voicings I will talk more about alterations and give some examples of some more modern or advanced sounding harmonic choices.

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

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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings part 2

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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.

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios

I thought it was time to look at one of the basic core skills that you need to play jazz: Improvising over a II V I cadence using the notes of the chord. In this lesson, I will take a II V I give you some arpeggios and an approach to make melodies over the progression so that you clearly follow the chords. I also wrote a few examples of the licks using the arps to give you some ideas.

https://youtu.be/PyHXN3Vxhz4

When you play over progressions like a II V I, it is mostly expected that the solo you play is related to the chords that are under it. In other words, you need to hit the notes of the chord on the strong beats of the bar. A good way to measure that is to get used to hearing a solo with no background and if the solo is clear you can still hear the change of chord.

The easiest way to play something that sounds like the chord is of course to play the notes of the chord, so when you play on a Dm7 you use a Dm7 arpeggio etc.

The II V I and the arpeggios

A II V I is named from the degrees of a scale, so in the key of C major, the I is Cmaj7, the II is Dm7 and the V is G7. You can write out the scale and check my math 🙂

So in the key of C a II V I would be this chords:

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios - ex 1

If we play a C major scale in this region that might be:

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios - ex 2

If we play the arpeggios for each of the chords in this position we get this:

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios - ex 3

How to practice

The next thing that I suggest you do is to practice making lines that move towards a target note on the 1 of the next bar. The reason for this is that if you make lines that are moving towards something they sound much more logical and if you choose your target notes so that you clearly can hear the chord change you are practicing making melodies that are clear in the harmony and that are moving naturally from one chord to the next.

To start with you could try taking the 3rd of each chord as a target note:

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios - ex 4

When you practice you should probably spend time working out of time to focus on the melodic movement and to have an overview of the notes and partly in a medium tempo where you can still play the things you figured out without tempo. In the beginning this is probably a bit difficult, but once you get the hang of it you will develop a more natural flow to your lines.

II V I lines with arpeggios

So here are three examples I made with the 3rd of each chord as target note on the G7 and the Cmaj7.

In the first example I start with a sequence on the Dm7 arp before using the 7th and the 5th to encircle the 3rd of G. On the G7 it’s first a G triad and then an descend down the arp to finally resolve to the 3rd(E) of C. On the C it makes a similar line as the first part of the G7 going up a triad inversion and ending on the 7th(B)

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios - ex 5

The 2nd example is using what is essentially a shell voicing as arpeggio before it descends down the arpeggio to resolve to the 3rd of G7. The line on the G7 is first an ascending G7 arpegio and then back down to encircle the 3rd of C where it resolves. The line on the Cmaj7 is a Cmaj7 descending from E to G.

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios - ex 6

The last example starts of with a pattern on a 2nd inversion Dm triad before it descends down a Dm7 arpeggio encircling the 3rd of G7. The G7 arpeggio. On the G7 the line is basically a G7 descending arpeggio, first thorugh the G major triad and then the arpeggio from 3rd to 5th. On the Cmaj7 line is a skipping verison of a Cmaj7 arpeggio that you could see as a Drop2 voicing.

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios - ex 7

My examples are kept very simple, but this subject is something that you find a lot of very experienced playes return to when they are working on songs or just revisit to strengthen their basics.

To show how you might approach this a bit more freely I made this video using the backing track:

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

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios

You can also check out my WebStore lesson on how to improvise over an F Blues:

If you want to practice you can download a backing track from Quist if you sign up to his newsletter here: II V I backing track  You should anyway check out his stuff!

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.

Motif Exercises – F Jazz Blues

Creating melodies that connect and make sense across several chords and scales is a skill that you need to master if you want to be able to make solos that keep the listeners attention and is experineced as musical. In this lesson I am going to have a look at an important tool in achieving this skill: Motifs.

Once you can make your way throught the changes of a tune you are probably going to have to start working making the solo more of a coherent whole, which is a big part of what the listener will experience as a musical solo. Motifs and making variations on motifs is a fundamental tool that keeps the listeners attention by playing something that is recognize and at the same time by making variations is developed and sound surprising. If you want to hear examples of how this is used try to lesson to Beethoven’s 5th symphony, Gary Moore’s Still Got The Blues or practically any Keith Jarret solo.

I’ve chosen to use an F blues as a progression for this lesson because it’s a very common progression where you can harmonically do quite a lot to demonstrate what is needed and how it works.

Moving Motifs in a progression

There are a few ways we can work a motif over a progression. One way to do so is to transpose it so if a motiv start on the 5th of the first chord we’ll transpose it so that it is the 5th of the next chord where we play it. The melodies that we get when doing this are following the harmony in parallel and sometimes it works, but often it does not sound too great.

Another more useful way to move motifs is to keep them as close to the original and only change the notes that need to change to fit the next place in the harmony. This approach will in general sound a little less like an exercise in harmony and create a more varied melody.

The first skill we need to work on is probably to over see the notes of a melodic fragment and then to be able to alter notes to fit on other chords. In example 1 I have done this with a simple F major line. The example is quite simple and sounds a bit exercise like, but is still a good demonstration of how you could move this motif around an F Blues.

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 1

As you can see the first 4 bars keeps the motif: First F major, then F minor over the Bb7, back to major and then an F#m as an F7 altered. In the second line it is againg the Fm version over the Bb7 which then gets an added blue note over the Bdim. After that it returns to F7, and becomes an F# dim like line over the D7(b9). On the Gm7 it is in fact the original motif transposed a whole step, and the C7alt is an F# major line. Then back to F and the final C7 line is a variation from the diminished scale.

There are not really any rules, you need to practice doing this so that it fits the chords, so sometimes that means moving the whole motif, sometimes you only change a single note. It is also a matter of taste as to how much it has to sound like the chord or just be a melodic statement of course. In Example 1 I think I managed to really spell out the harmony though.

Developing the motif

Once you can move a motif like this through the changes you probably need to work on ways to vary it so that you can get to the point where you actually create music without sounding like an exercise. There are numerous ways of molding a melodic statement, and maybe later I am going to go into a few more ways in detail. In this lesson I am going to give 3 fairly simple ways to work with it and a few more in the final example.

When you’re working on this it is probably useful to stick with the same chord in the beginning. In Example 2 I have taken the F statement from example 1 and then make variations by changing the 2nd note of the melody. When played one after the other it becomes clear how this will work as a way of creating melodies with this method:

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 2

Another way is to change the order of the notes. In example 3 I am changing the ending of the line a few times. The fact that I change the ending works well because now when you listen you first hear a part of the statement that you already know, and then it ends in a new way everytime.
Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 3

The 3rd way to make variation is to change the rhythm of the original melody. Again a very powerful tool that is a very good way to get surprising melodies out of a single statement. In example 4 I am not really changing the rhythm, only putting the melody on another part of the bar. There are of course a lot of other ways to change the rhythm. There are a few in the last example.

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 4

Putting it all together

Now that we talked a bit about how we can move a motif through changes and a few ways to vary the melodies you should be able to make solos not too far from example 5.

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 5

The first bar is the original statement from the Example 1 again. In Bar 2 it is moved to the Fm version that fits the Bb7 very well. It is also moved to another part of the bar. The third time is back in F major with another ending. The F7alt motif has a doubled note which also yields a new rhythm. On the Bb7 I added an F as an upbeat and the Bdim version has two notes doubled. The F7 is back to the original and the D7 is again the original altered to fit a G harmonic minor scale (which is what is being used over that D7). On The Gm7 I am doubling the entire motif and playing it twice (crossing the barline into the C7) This moves the placement of the F# line that is used over the C7alt. In the last two I return to the original and use the C7(13b9) version as I do in example 1 (this is afterall a composed example).

I hope you can use the examples and guidelines that I presented here to start using motifs in your own solo and that it will help you get closer to really create new music and not just play what you already know in your solos.

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

Motif Exercises – F Jazz Blues

If you want to check out an example solo that I wrote with three choruses on an F blues only using the arpeggio notes I have one available for sale in my store: F Jazz Blues Etude 1 – Basic Arpeggios

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.