Tag Archives: improvising

Melodic Minor – Altered Scale

So after many requests it is finally here: A lesson on the altered scale. The 7th mode of the melodic minor scale.

In this lesson I want to explain how I deal with the altered scale in the context of a cadence and how hearing the notes related to where they are going gives a better understanding of how the chord works.

Altered Dominants

What I mostly have heard about the altered scale is how people keep telling me it is difficult and probably the name makes it stand out. But in the end it is of course just a set of notes like any other scale and no more difficult than the rest of them. The only thing that is tricky is the function it has most of the time: To sound out of place. Altered Dominants are meant to be pulled out of the hat to sound out side for a bit and then resolve back to the surroundings at the end of the cadence. The altered chord is a dominant that acts up for a few beats and then settles down nicely to the I chord.

Try to play this:

Melodic Minor - Altered Scale - ex 1

The Eb on the G7 chord is in this case what gives the chord an altered sound, and we need to resolve it to an E or a D on the Cmajor7.

Resolving altered chords

This is in a way all that we need to work on: How to resolve the notes of the altered chord (or scale) to the tonic.

Just to have a reference I am demonstrating everything using this position of the  Ab melodic minor scale or in this case G altered.

 

Melodic Minor - Altered Scale - ex 2

 

The G altered scale contains the notes G Ab Bb B Db Eb F In example 3 I have taken each of these notes and let it resolve to a note on a C major chord, so Ab resolves to G, Eb to E or D etc etc. If you play it in a C major context you can probably hear it. Try playing example 1 to establish the C major context in your ear.

Melodic Minor - Altered Scale - ex 3

 

All these resolution should sound pretty logical to your ear, and my guess is that you’ve already heard every one of them a thousand times before in jazz standards, tv and movie music.

Having done example 3 we can make the simplest altered II V I licks known to man, which are in fact just adding a chord note from the Dm7 to the resolutions above, as I do in example 4:

Melodic Minor - Altered Scale - ex 4

 

Building Altered dominant lines

I think a lot in target notes when I practice improvising and composing. I have a lesson on target notes that demonstrates that, and how I build lines on a turnaround with some altered dominants.

To have some building blocks for your lines we need to solve the problem that the diatonic chord on the G is not a dominant so that is not going to work very well as a starting point.

I often use Fm7b5 and Bmaj7(b5) for G7 altered because the both contain the B and the F so the basic sound of the chord is there and the rest are good altered extensions on the chord:

Fm7b5 is F Ab B Eb which relative to G7 is b7 b9 3 and b13

Bmaj7b5 is B Eb F Bb which is 3 b13 b7 #9.

Here are those two arpeggios in the position we are using:Melodic Minor - Altered Scale - ex 5

 

The idea is that the we can make lines using 7th chord arps, triads and scale fragments like we do on any other chord, we just have to take care that we arrive well on the I chord.

Here are 3 II Valt I lines. In the video I talk a bit about how I constructed them.Melodic Minor - Altered Scale - ex 6

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

Melodic Minor – Altered Scale

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, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

 

Jazz Chord Essentials – 3 part Quartal Harmony

In this lesson I want to demonstrate how I use quartal harmony when I am playing in both modal and moving harmony. I also want to give some ways to practice these voicings and put them to use in those situations.

 

Quartal Harmony

What is Quartal harmony. The chords that w e use are for the most part derived from stacks of thirds as I described in these lessons: diatonic arpeggios, jazz chord essentials – triads. Quartal harmony is derived from stacks of 4ths giving other note groupings as seen in Example 1.

Jazz Chord Essentials - 3 part Quartal Harmony Ex 1

 

Since we get different note groups but still want to use them in situations that we define from a stack of thirds (like a Cmaj7 or Dm7) We need to figure out how to apply them.

The voicings and some exercises

The first thing to check out is the voicings themselves. Here is a harmonized major scale on the 2 top sets of strings.

Jazz Chord Essentials - 3 part Quartal Harmony Ex 2

Once you can play them I suggest you try to play with them over a pedal, so that you have an idea of how each of those voicings sound in a modal context and you can start building up a vocabulary of melodies that you can play. In the beginning you can do this over the basic chords II V and I, but as a pedal so a vamp consisting of a Dm chord, on for G7 and one for Cmaj7, as I demonstrate in the video.

In order to start playing over changes we need to be able to play chords found in the melodic minor scale, so here’s a harmonization of the Ab melodic minor scale, which is also the scale we need to play G7alt:

Jazz Chord Essentials - 3 part Quartal Harmony Ex 3

For this scale it is also useful to check out how the voicings sound on a G7alt, Db lydian domininant or AbmMaj7 pedal point.

Examples for chord progressions

I chose to apply the voicings to a II Valt I in C because it it is an easy key and a vert common progression. Here are some examples:

Jazz Chord Essentials - 3 part Quartal Harmony Ex 4

 

Jazz Chord Essentials - 3 part Quartal Harmony Ex 5

 

Jazz Chord Essentials - 3 part Quartal Harmony Ex 6

 

Jazz Chord Essentials - 3 part Quartal Harmony Ex 7

 

 

In the video I break down each example a bit more and add some more info on how I made them and how I see them.

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

Jazz Chord Essentials – 3 part Quartal Harmony

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, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Melodic Minor – Lydian Dominants

In my last lesson on melodic minor I was only talking about how to use it on tonic chords which is a good starting point: Melodic minor.  In this lesson I wanted to give a few examples on how you use it in another context: Lydian Dominants. This lesson will also give a few examples of common progressions that are not standard II V I cadences in jazz, which is what most lessons use as a basis.

Dom7th chords that do not resolve to a I chord

If you play jazz tunes you will quickly come across chord progressions that has a dominant that does not resolve. In this lesson I am using the Bb7 as an example. As you might know Bb7 is the dominant of Eb so a Bb7 chord resolves to an Eb chord if it is part of a standard cadence, but in many cases you have other progressions where Bb7 goes to another chord. In a lot of those cases a good choice of scale would be the lydian dominant scale which is the 4th mode of melodic minor scale.  In this lesson I am making examples using the Bb7 as chord, and Bb is the 4th degree of F minor melodic so that is the scale that we will use in these differents contexts.

The Lydian dominant scale gives you a dominant with a 9,#11 and a 13, so in that respect it’s a fairly neutral sounding scale. Here’s a few voicings for a Bb7 like that and also a possible way to play the F minor melodic scale.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 1

 

I’d suggest that you make sure to also learn the melodic minor scales in several positions and learn the diatonic chords and triads so that you have an overview of what harmonic options you have in the scale. Just to provide the over view here are the diatonic chords of Fm melodic:

FmMaj7, Gm7, AbMaj7, Bb7, C7, Dm7b5, Em7b5

Lydian Dominant as part of a IV minor progression

Bb7 can work well as a substitute for Fm in some contexts, as is not surprising since we are playing an Fm scale over it. The progression is essentially IV IVm I, but in this case it is harmonized as IV bVII7 I. This is a very common way to harmonize that kind of progression and I think I will leave more explanations on IV minor chords for another lesson, since it is a big subject with a lot of options that are nice for harmonizing songs but also to just throw in as reharmonizations during a solo.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 2The line that I am playing over the Bb7 is based around a Bb7(b5) arpeggio which is not strictly a diatonic arpeggio in Fm melodic but it is a nice sound to use.

Tritone substitution

As I have mentioned before it is possible to substitue the dominant in a II V I with the chord found a tritone away, so in this case we are playing Bb7 instead of E7 in a cadence in A major. You might notice that E7 altered and Bb7 lydian dominant are from the same melodic minor scale, so in this by playing Bb7(#11) you are in fact also playing E altered.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 3

 

The line that I played on the dominat is btw using a stack of fourths spelling out a Bb7(13) sound. Using stacked 4ths in lines often gives a good slightly modern sounding arpeggio.

You could chose to not play a #11 on the Bb and just use an Eb major scale in a tritone substitution, it will work too and it would sort of be one step further away from the key.

IV dominant Chord

Once in a while I’ve come across songs where this chord is used. I think I mentioned So Danco Samba and Tenderly in the video. It’s fairly straight forward to figure out that if you want the scale on the IV dom7th that is closest to the major scale of the song then you will end up with the lydian dominant scale (since the difference it that you flatten on note to make room for the b7 on the dominant, and end up with melodic minor with the root on the I)

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 4

In this line I am using the Ab augmented triad on the Bb7 resolving the 7th to the third of F. It is also an example on how to melodically connect the lines over two chrods by making a statement on the first and then playing a variation of it on the next.

bVI dominant (The #IV Double Diminished chord in 1st inversion)

This is a chord that you don’t come across that often, but it is quite prominant in the standard Out of Nowhere and in the Star Trek theme. I am not going to try to explain the whole double diminished story but could not resist the name (since it looks long dificult and impressive..) If you are already familiar with what a #IV diminished chord is you can see that this chord shares a lot of notes: in D #IV dim is G# dim which is Bb7 with a B instead of a Bb. I guess that is why I even remember the #IV name, it is a description that I hear in the sound of the chord.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 5

In the line I am using a shell voicing on the Dmaj7 chord and I am using the FmMaj arpeggio on the Bb7 chord.

Dominant of the Dominant

This is one of the most common progressions in songs where the lydian dominant sound is used, so in that respect it is maybe a bit weird to put it at the end. In Dutch and Danish this chord has it own name because it is coming along so often, I could not find an English word for it.

In Jazz standards with a 32 bar AB form the dominant of the dominant is very often found in measures 13 and 14 before going on to a II V back to the tonic. This happens so often that if you play a song with this form you are surprised if that is not the case.

I actually don’t know why it has become so normal to play this as a lydian dominant, but I suspect that it has to do with the fact that you can get away with it and it gives you an easy way to vary your lines and voicings without clashing with the rest.

Since it is only changing one note from the original dominant scale (#4 in stead of 4) The thing to focus on is probably to make sure to play the #4 very clearly in the lin and maybe resolve it to the 5th of the pursuing II chord, as I do in the example.
Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 6

Here’s a downloadble PDF version of the examples:  Melodic Minor – Lydian Dominants

As I mention in the video it you will probably have the most benefit of these progressions if you check out some of the songs that they are used in. The more songs you know the easier it is to hear and understand the chord progressions. Apart from that you can of course also just experiment with them and see what you end up with.

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

Jazz Blues Comping

Here’s a short lesson I made to give you the tools to play the chords for a Jazz Blues in Bb and a few directions on how to learn to approach playing chords in a jazz context.

The main difference between Jazz and most other styles of music is that almost everything that is being played both as accompaniment and as solo is for a very big part improvised and related to what is happening in the music at the time. This means that you have to approach playing chords the same way you would playing fills behind a soloist, so you need to be able to play the chord in several different ways to make up melodies and sounds that fits the music.

A 12 Bar Jazz Blues

First let’s have a look at the harmony of a Bb jazz blues, think of songs like Tenor Madness, Straight No Chaser and Trane’s Blues. As you can see in the example the 12 bar blues is very similar to what you are probably familiar with in a standard 12 Blues in Rock, Soul etc. Except for a few II V’s and possibly a dim chord it’s excatly the same. If you listen to Charlie Parker playing blues you can also clearly hear that it was a style that he knew very well, this was one of the things I liked about him when I first heard his playing.

Bb Blues comping - ex 1

Example 1 is written out with standard full chords so that if you play it you should be able to hear how the progression sounds.

 

Scales with chords

In this lesson I am only concerned with improvising with the top note melody, not so much the color of the chord or the rhythm. In order to be able to improvise a top note melody for each chord we need different versions of each chord each with another top note. In example 2 I have made some simple ways to do that with on or two versions of each chord. I tried to get 5 notes per chord and make it easy to play.

Bb Blues comping - ex 2
Bb Blues comping - ex 3

In order to practice playing the chords and making melodies that last across several chords I suggest you try to first compose and later improvise simple exercises like the one I’ve written out here.

Once you can do this on a blues you should probably try to do the same thing with a standard or something similar. From there it can be a good exercise to start to harmonize the melody of a standard, but that is for another lesson I guess.

Here’s a link to the pdf with the examples: Jazz Blues Comping

If you want to check out an example for comping on an F blues I wrote a lesson with two choruses using different types of voicings. It is available for sale in my store: F Blues Comping Etude #1

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

Jazz Chord Essentials: Open Triads

After making the triad lesson I thought I might as well make a lesson on open triads because I use them sometimes as chords and sometimes as arpeggios. I think they can sound great and it is a subject that is not covered that often so it deserved a bit of attention. I guess I’ll do a lesson on how to use them as arpeggios in solos at a later time.

I never really checked them out in any systematical way so making this lesson I found quite a few new voicings to experiment with.

Open Triads

What is an open triad? Probably some of the most famous examples of open triads on the guitar would be Eric Johnson intro to Cliffs of Dover, Steve Morse string skipping etudes, and a lot of the guitar parts of the Californication-era Red Hot Chili Peppers. They all apply them as triads, but I am going to use them in the same way I approached the triads in my lesson on that.

Here’s an example on how to construct open triads from triad inversions. As you can see the idea is to take the 2nd note of the triad and drop it an octave. This is also sometimes referred to as a drop2 voicing, which I already covered with 7th chords in a few other lessons.

Here are the 3 of the basic sort of triads, the ones found in the major scale. I leave out the augmented triad because it is less useful as an upper structure except when playing minorMajor7 chords and since it is symmetrical it is fairly easy to figure out (This is where you go “Challenge accepted!”)

Basic triads in inversions:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 1

As I mention in the video, there are a few possible choices when choosing where to place the notes on the neck, to me it varies what I prefer and I try to use whatever fits the situation best. That might be influenced by voice-leading, technique and timbre of the strings.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 2

Here are some basic Cadences constructed with the triad found on the 3rd of each chord: II V I in C using F, Bdim, Em. Of course it is possible to use all string sets, but I find myself using the middle and the top set the most for these voicings so here’s the middle one. You should try to do the top one your self, that’s a good exercise.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 3

And if you want to play altered dom7th chords then you can use the diminished triad on the 7th degree of the chord so for G7 that would be F dim: F Ab B which gives you these notes over G7: 7, b9 and 3, so the equivalent of a G7b9.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 4

 

Altering notes in the triad

In order to cover more chords we can start moving away from only viewing the triad as a triad but more as a set of notes over another chord so we can start altering that chord. To me it is handy to have a simple way to construct basic 3 note voicings I can use for any chord type and then it is easier to alter one of the notes while playing becuase there are only three and I know what notes they are in relation to the chord. The way I approach this is the same as what I did in this lesson on drop2 voicings of 7th chords: Drop2 voicins part 2

Here are a few examples:

G7#5 is in this case constructed by taking a Bdim triad and exchanging the D with a D#. Thinking of this in terms of notes over a G7 this is pretty trivial, but thinking of it as a Bmajorb5 triad is complicated.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 5

In the next example I am taking the F dim construction and exchange the b9 with a #9 to play G7#9.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 7

Here’s the same approach using an F major triad where I substitute the fifth(A) with the 11th(G) to have a Dm7(11) chord voicing.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 8

In the same way we can construct a Cmaj7(#11) voicing by changing the G in the Em triad with an F#. so we are playing the notes E F# and B over the C, in a way you could look at that as a Bsus4 triad too.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 9

In this next example I am substituting the 7th(B) of the Cmaj7 with the 6th(A), still using the E minor triad as a starting point.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 10

Of course there more options and things to figure out using these open triads. Actually I got some new info from writing this lesson since I never approached this in a systematical way, so maybe I can make another one later.

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

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

Practicing Scales Through Chord Changes

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

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

Melodies rules the harmonies!

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

The Exercise

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Scales Through Changes - ex 6

 

You can download a pdf of the examples here:

Practicing Scales Through Changes

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

Demo video for Coffee Break Grooves

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

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

Here it is:

Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered chords

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

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

Superimposing – a way of adding extensions to your lines

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

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

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

DA - superimposing and alt ex 1

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

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

DA - superimposing and alt ex 2

 

DA - superimposing and alt ex 3

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

Altered dominants and diatonic arpeggios

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

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

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

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

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

You get these arpeggios:

DA - superimposing and alt ex 6

 

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

DA - superimposing and alt ex 7

 

DA - superimposing and alt ex 8

 

You can download a pdf of the examples here:

Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered chords

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

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

Diatonic Arpeggios – how to use and practice them

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

Diatonic Chords and Arpeggios.

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

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

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

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

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

A few basic exercises

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

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 1

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

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 2
Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 3

If we then start to stack 2 thirds on top of each other we get a triad, which is of course also a useful exercise to go through:

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

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 4

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

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

Some examples on how to apply arpeggios in lines

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

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 1
Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 2
Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 3

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Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 2

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

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

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

Adding extensions to chords

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

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

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

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

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

Altered Dominants

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

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

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

Melodies in the voicings

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

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

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

Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 4

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