Tag Archives: improvising

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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How to Improvise with an Arpeggio

Making good lines with a set of notes like an arpeggio is an important skill to master when improvising. In this lesson I am going to take one arpeggio, a G7 and one scale, C major and give some approaches to make melodies over a G7 chord combining the two. This way you will get much more vocabulary from each arpeggio that you know.

So to demonstrate how you can work on this I chose to keep it really small and simple. For doing this I took one octave of C major (or G mixolydian if you will) and a one octave G7 arpeggio, which is what you would have if you practiced arpeggios like I talk about in this lesson:  Diatonic Arpeggios – how to use and practice them

This is shown in example 1:

How to improvise with an arpeggio ex 1

Just the Arpeggio

Let’s first take a small look at some of the basic ways you can play the arpeggio by reordering the notes:

How to improvise with an arpeggio ex 2

Already here I think you can tell that a lot is possible by just changing the order of the notes and checking out some patterns to play your arpeggios in. This should give you some ideas for your technique practice.

One important thing to also check out is to get used to playing the arpeggio without starting on the root. The exercises in example 3 should help this a bit too.

How to improvise with an arpeggio ex 3

So it is important to keep in mind that you don’t need to play the entire arpeggio every time you use it, and you can start on any note of the arpeggio. You need to practice towards getting an overview and freedom to do this and you

Adding the Scale

If you have a an overview of the arpeggio you can of course start trying to mix in the scale notes. The easiest way to think about this in the beginning is probably to think about the notes in between as passing notes, so you add a scale note between two chord notes (which there mostly is by the design of the arpeggio: It’s made of diatonic 3rds).

In example 4 I am simply going over adding a note between the root and 3rd, 3rd and 5th and 5th and 7th. This is of course a very simple way to look at this and you can do much more and be more free about the other notes, but if you start like this you’ll have an easier time making logical melodies and you can quickly losen the rules of the approach a bit.

How to improvise with an arpeggio ex 4

Improvised examples

In the video I demonstrate how you might work on this while improvising. The improvised examples are partly there to show how I play and give some inspiration for practicing this, but also to show how I work on stuff like this. One thing is to work on exercises but you also need it to lift this into you playing, and doing this is the best step to play.

In example 5 I am playing a short solo with just the arpeggio so the just the chord notes. Practicing like this on a single chord and on progressions is essential if you want to be able to play in a bop based modern jazz style.

How to improvise with an arpeggio ex 5

The lines in example 5 make extensive use of the exercises from example 2.

The next eample is showing how you could work on using one of the diatonic passing notes and the arpeggio. The melodies here are making use of 3 note groupings and motifs, as I explain in the video.

How to improvise with an arpeggio ex 6

In the final example I am using the “entire” octave of the scale and the arpeggio. You should notice that even though it’s now a set of 7 notes, the 4 notes of the arpeggio are still the important ones that I use as a target and place around the heavy beats (ie. 1 and 3).

How to improvise with an arpeggio ex 7

I hope you can use the ideas to make some more lines with arpeggios and to start to integrate them more in to your playing by placing them in the context of the key and not just as a lose set of notes. It is often a problem that we spend a lot of time learning new things and not so much in getting it connected to your other vocabulary.

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here for later study you can do so here: How to improvise with an arpeggio

The Backing track is available here:

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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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:

F Jazz Blues Etude 1 – Basic Arpeggios

In that lesson I am playing a solo on the F blues and talk about how I make the different  lines, applying the melodic ideas that I talk about in this lesson. It is meant as a an extension of this lesson that goes a bit deeper in how you apply this and gives an insight in how I think about melodies and how I improvise.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Get more out of the licks you already know

In this lesson I want to describe how you can make new lines or variations on the licks you already know by analyzing the licks and use the theory and technical exercises you already know to make variations on them.

Taste and Theory, Analysis and Association

Everybody has standard licks or lines that we play all the time. Stuff we’ve practiced and transcribed and that is already in our ears and fingers.

To make these variations we need to analyze the material that is used in the lines and then use that information to replace parts with other things that we already practiced. The analysis is of course not strictly systematical or following a set of rules but just as much based on association and taste so what you end up with is depending on that more than anything else. This means that it is handy to be able to associate for example as many arpeggios as possible with a certain chord, and to be able to see a phrase in several contexts. This should be clear from the examples.

I would suggest you check out these lessons for reference on how to practice some of the building blocks I mention in terms of stacks of 4ths, arpeggios and scales. This should make it easier to have a wide range of options for replacing parts of a line.

I will approach this from some examples that I analyze and then generate new lines from them.

Diatonic transposition

In my examples I have a one bar lick that I’d use on  Am7 in a G major context. The other bars are the variations I make by moving it around diatonically.

If I was to analyze the line I’d see it as the diatonic arpeggio from the 5th of the chord (so that would be Em7 in this case) and followed by an intervallic structure or a pentatonic fragment from the 3rd(C) of the chord.

As you might already know you can try diatonically transpose a line and if you choose to do so in 3rds you have a fairly big chance that you will end up with something that fits the same chord. In this case we could start by moving the same line to C, so we’ll start with the arpeggio on a C which gives us a Cmaj7 arpeggio (bars 2 and 3).

As for the second half of the line for me there are two obvious options. If you see it as amelody in G and transpose it like that you get the notes A, B, C and E (bar 2) or as part of a pentatonic scale you could get the notes A C D and E (bar 3). Notice how is makes a difference how we interpret the line (even if it is subtle in this example)

Get more out of the licks you already know - ex 1

In the rest of the examples I move the line around in the key of G and it yields lines that then works well with other chords like D7 or Gmaj7. In each case there are a few options in terms of how it sounds good to move the last part of the line.

Replacing building blocks

In the first example I only transposed the line, but since we identify the lines as conisisting of building blocks and that those are in a context we can also take the building block and replace it with something else that will fit in it’s place.

The main line for this is in bar 1. If I was to analyze it I’d say it is build by a stack of 4ths (A D G) from the root, then a 1st inversion triad from the 13 (F#, A and D) followed by a diatonic 3rd from the 3rd so: (C and E).

Let’s replace the first part. I chose to stay close to the original and wanted to use a structure that ends on a G so it moves smoothly to the next part of the line, but of course that is not something you have to do, and you could also take something that ends of for example an E to lead to the D major triad inversion.

bar 2 uses an Am shell voicing (Jazz Chord Essentials: Shell Voicings) instead of the stack of 4ths. Bar 3 uses an Open C major triad inversion, and bar 4 uses a Cmajor 7 voicings played as arpeggio.

In the last two examples I replace the D major triad with a stack of 4ths (bar 5) B minor triad (bar 6)

Get more out of the licks you already know - ex 2

As you can probably already see there are an almost endless amount of options available when working like this. In my examples I deliberately chose to stay a bit close to the original, but more variation is fairly esay to achieve using this method, and it is a good way to get good sounding lines that should be fairly easy to play. This is also a very good way to find a musical way to apply stuff that you have practice like a new sort of arpeggio, inversion or scale.

I hope you can use this approach to come up with some new stuff, and hopefully also use it when applying new ideas like arpeggio inversions in a musical way.

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

Get more out of the licks you already know

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.

 

 

Jazz Blues Soloing

In this lesson I will try to go through how you make lines on a Bb jazz blues using the arpeggios of the chord. First I’ll go through the arpeggios and give some suggestions on how to practice them, and then discuss how you make lines with them.

I got a request for this lesson after having done this lesson on developing your comping ideas: Jazz Blues Comping.  The idea is to give a set of materials that is easy to learn and still give you the ability to play the blues so that you can really hear the changes, which is a necessary skill if you want to be able to play jazz as a style.

Let’s first have a look at the chord progression:

Jazz Blues Soloing - example 1I guess I better point out that I’ve simplified the chords a bit, so that there are one bar II V’s, mainly because you don’t always have to play both chords when you are soloing and it makes it a bit easier in terms of how much time you have to spell out each chord.

The arpeggios

I’ve chosen to show the arpeggios from the 5th to the first string because that makes them 1 bar long and therefore easier to play over the chord progression. If you wish to expand them to the full position then that should not be too difficult. I chose this position because it is close to a place where you can play the chords and associating the chords and the arpeggios with each other is a very good idea.

Jazz Blues Soloing - example 2As I mention in the video it is very useful to practice the arpeggios not onyl up and down but also in sequences of 3 or skipping one note or what ever you can think of. The more you can do the more freedom you’ll have when you start improvising.

Learning the arpeggios on the progression

When you study a progression that you are not yet familiar with it can be a great exercise to play the arpeggios of the chords in a few ways. The first exercise is to just play all the arpeggios ascending on the progression like this:

Jazz Blues Soloing - example 3Another exercise that is very useful in terms of getting an overview of the arpeggios and practicing to connect them already is to play one arpeggio and when the chord changes then start the next arpeggio on the closest note. I’ve also made a lesson on doing this with scales: Practicing Scales through changes.   As I do in this example.

Jazz Blues Soloing - example 4This exercise is quite demanding, but at the same time will really get you good at connecting lines across different chords, which is very useful for staying melodic.

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.

In the video I demonstrate how I use this principle while practicing rubato and 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:

Jazz Blues Soloing - example 5The only place where I deviate from the 3rds and 7ths targets is the E diminished chord which is identical with the   Eb7 chord except for the root, so the root is a useful target note in that case (which is not often the case).

A transcription of the solo I play in the video around 8:40 is available as a download for 1 euro here: Jazz Blues Soloing – Solo example at 8:42

I hope you can use the arpeggios and these ideas to get a firmer grip on jazz blues improvising. The material is fundamental, but so worthwhile that is is something that I find myself returning to again and again without exhausting the possibilities. The approach is also really good for other progressions.

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

Jazz Blues Soloing

You can also check out my Bb blues solo lesson with a 4 chorus transcription + lesson:

Bb Jazz Blues Lesson 1

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.

 

 

 

Minor II V I Cadences

In this lesson I want to give some insight into how I approach soloing over minor cadences. The lesson is built around 4 examples over a II V I in Dm. Em7b5 A7 Dm6/9 and I’ll explain what I use on the different chords and how I use it.

The Cadence

A minor II V I consist of a IIm7b5, a dominant and a minor tonic. In the case of D minor a cadence might look like this:

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 1

For this progression you’d typically play D natural minor or F major over the Em7b5 chord, D harmonic minor, Spanish Dominant (or one of the many other names for this scale) over the A7 and D melodic minor over the Dm6/9.

One of the things that many students find difficult in with the minor II V I in the beginning is probably that you need to change scale for more or less every chord. While there is not really a way around that, I find it helps to focus more on the chord than on the scale and think from that. In that way there are fewer notes to worry about than a complete scale where it is harder to keep the overview.

For the dominant there are more options than D harmonic minor, but that is the most natural in this context so I decided only to use that in this lesson. I have also chosen not to  make a line on the tonic chord. If you want to check out how to construct lines over tonic chords using melodic minor you can read this lesson: Melodic Minor – An Introduction

The scale charts are available as downloads on my site here: Pdf downloads and charts. The D minor harmonic that I am using is mostly this position though:

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 2

Minor II V I lines

Here are the 4 examples of lines to give you an idea of some of the arpeggios and melodic patterns I use when making lines like this. I have in this lesson tried to add a bit more rhythm to the lines instead of straight 8th note stuff. It is probably because I am always busy with harmony and notes that I don’t add too much rhythm to the examples, but I thought it fitted this quite well.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 3In line no 1 the Em7b5 part is composed of a sequence of the Em7b5 arpeggio. I use arpeggio sequences quite often, mostly not for longer periods, since there isn’t room and also because it gets tedious very very fast, but I find it very useful to practice so that you don’t always just run up and down the arpeggio. I then encircle the 3rd of A. The arpeggio over the A7 is a diminished 7th arpeggio in inversion. In D harmonic minor the diatonic arpeggio on C# (the third of A7) is a C# dim arpeggio and I use that really a lot on dominants (This is probably something I took from Parker btw)  I resolve the arpeggio to the 5th of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 4Line 2 begins with the Bbmaj7 arpeggio over the Em7b5. This is an arpeggio I use like that really a lot, since it starts with the b5 it is quite clear in the sound. You might notice that I very often use arpeggios with a leading note and then a triplet. That way of playing arpeggios is also quite Parkerish (as in Charlie Parker) and I recommend doing that with all your diatonic arps once in a while it is good practice and a useful thing to be able to do. On the A7 I am again using the diminished arpeggio this time starting on E and ending the line with a chromatic encircling of the 3rd of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 5The third line is using a Gm7 arpeggio in a sequence before going in to the C# diminished and resolving to the 3rd of Dm. The Gm7 is quite good to use on the Em7b5, but often you have to be a bit careful with landing on the F, which does not sound so good if it is emphasized. In the Bbmaj7 arpeggio the F is in the middle of the  arpeggio which somehow makes it easier to use (in my experience anyway..)

The last example is again using the Em7b5 arpeggio but this time in an inversion. On the A7 I am using another good device: the C# augmented triad (diatonically it is actually an F triad, but it sounds like C# to me somehow). I then continue with a typical bebop approach of the 5th of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 6

You can download the examples in pdf format here:

Minor II V I Cadences

I hope that you liked the lesson, and can use some of this information to make your own lines on minor II V I progressions.

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