Tag Archives: lesson

Melodic Minor – An Introduction

I’ve had quite a few requests for a lesson on melodic minor so here’s a lesson giving you, what I consider, a good place to start to learn melodic minor: Melodic minor on a tonic minor chord. I’ve tried to give an introduction to some of the sounds of the melodic minor scale here, but also to demonstrate the approach to finding material to play that I described in my lessons on diatonic arpeggios and superimposing arpeggios.

Construction of a melodic minor scale

A melodic minor scale is a minor scale with a major 6th and a major 7th. In my video I’ve chosen to use E minor as an example so E minor is E F# G A B C D E and E melodic minor is then E F# G A B C# D# E.

To understand what chords and sounds are contained in the scale we can look at the diatonic 7th chords in it. See my lesson: Diatonic arpeggios for a bit more insight in how these are constructed.

Here are two ways to play through the diatonic chords in an E minor melodic scale:

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 1
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 2

Learning the scale

For practical reasons I am using this position of the E melodic minor scale, but in the end you will need to learn the scale all over the neck. Don’t forget that each time you need to learn a new position of a scale you already know in other positions it gets easier so don’t get too discouraged by how much hard work it is in the beginning.

Here’s the scale position written out:

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 3
Once you know this position by heart make sure to run through the following exercises in this position (or whatever position you are working on).
Diatonic 3rds:
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 4
Diatonic Triads:
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 5
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 5 2
Diatonic 7th chords:
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 6
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 6 2

 Examples of lines

If we approach improvising over an EmMaj7 or Em6 chord with the melodic minor scale in the way that I have described in my two lessons on diatonic chords, we can easily come up with these 3 arpeggios that will work well as a starting point for composing good lines: EmMaj7, Gmaj7#5 and C#mb5.

In the video I make small rubato improvisations with each one, and then I give these examples:

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 7

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 8

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 9

Download a pdf of the examples here: Melodic Minor – an introduction

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.

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.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152339281″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

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 – 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

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/145505613?secret_token=s-8NTyG” params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

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

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/145505620?secret_token=s-RRkrr” params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

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

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/145505628?secret_token=s-Zkx61″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

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

Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 1

In this lesson series I want to demonstrate a set of voicings that are fairly easy to play on the guitar, but will cover most sort of chords. I also want to talk a bit about how you approach playing chords in terms of interpretation of chord extensions, substitutes, connecting or voice-leading the chords. Hopefully it can help you learn and construct some new chords, and I hope it also helps you find new ways to play songs you already know and expand your ability to play chords freely.

Interpreting Chord Symbols and Improvising

In most jazz styles you are free to improvise with the chords when you are comping. This means that you can (tastefully, I hope) choose the chords (and extensions) you play and the way you play them. One aspect of this freedom means that some chords are so similar that you can group them together. Here’s a list of groups:

  • Major7: Cmaj7, C, C6, Cmaj7(9), Cmaj7(#11), Cmaj7(13) etc
  • Minor7: Cm7, Cm9, Cm11 etc
  • Dom7: C7, C9, C7(#11) C7(13) etc.
  • Half Diminished: Cm7(b5) Cm7b5(9), Cm7b5(11) etc
  • Altered Dominant: C7(b9), C7(b5), C7(b9,b13), C7(b13#9) etc.
  • MinorMaj: CmMaj7, Cm6, Cm6/9, CmMaj7(9) etc

I guess for now the list is more of a reference, but what this means is that when you see one of the chords above you can substitute it with one of the other ones if you want to.

With practice you’ll be able to do this without thinking because you get used to thinking of several voicings as part of the same sound.

Enough talk! Let’s play an example. Here’s a recording of a simple tonal vamp in G:

GMaj7 E7 Am7 D7, I’ll play it a few times with different voicings. The voicings are all Drop2 voicings, I also recorded a simple two beat bassline to make the chords a bit clearer. Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 1
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/142406825″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

It could be that some of these voicings does not come across to you as drop 2 voicings, but they can be derived from them as I well demonstrate in this series. The secondary goal in this is also that you start to think of new ways to get voicings from the ones you already know, by using some of the principles I use here.

A few basic exercises

In general I won’t really spent too much time on the music theory involved, just mention it and you are free to ask or look it up elsewhere if you want to know more. You probably already noticed that I don’t play the root in the bass on all chords. This is because I’d suggest using these type of chords in a context where there is a bass player so leave him to play the bass notes and you can focus on the chord and how that sounds.

Let’s first cover some basic chords on the top 4 strings in drop 2 voicings. In a major scale you have 4 types of diatonic chords: m7, dom7. Maj7 and m7(b5). Here are each of these from the key of G:Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 2

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/142406834″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

I only show this for the 4 top strings since that is what you probably need the most, but you can play these voicings on the middle and bottom sets of 4 strings too. Here’s an overview of those fingerings: Overview of Drop 2 voicings on guitar You can probably leave it for later and just start with the top 4 string sets. The method is the same for all sets of strings…

You need to know these quite wel as they will be the base of everything else you need to do. Try to play them through a scale so that you practice your knowledge of diatonic chords too, that will soon be something you need to know and understand.

Here’s an exercise combining thJazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 3em in a basic II V I cadence.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/142406838″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

And here’s how to take it through the 1st 16 bars of Autumn Leaves, which is a handy tune because it has most of the chords in the key:Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 4
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/142406843″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

I’d recommend that you try this out with several jazz standards to become familiar with finding the right chords and get used to the fingerings and the sounds. That will make it much easier to go to the subject of the next lesson where we’ll start adding more extensions, look at how one voicing can be used over another chord and add some alterations to the dominants.

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

Drop 2 Voicings for guitar

Since I am talking about drop2 voicings and how to use them in another lesson I thought it might be handy to also supply this overview of the fingerings for the 4 basic chord types.

If you read the lessons you’ll get a lot more information on how to expand and use these voicings in several ways.

Using chords in solos

I was recently asked on the jazzguitar.be forum how I approach putting harmony into my solos as I do in this song (check around 2:25 for a clear example) :

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41252202″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

When I started out playing jazz I listened a lot to Lorne Lofsky who uses quite a lot of chords in his playing, and I also really liked Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans so I tried to find a way to simulate having the left hand on a piano playing chords. In the beginning I did not really get anywhere with that. A few years later I heard Kurt Rosenwinkel’s debut album East Coast Love Affair where he does this really a lot and at that time I had was closer to having the skills to get it into my playing.  So I decided that I wanted to do learn that.

Let’s look a bit at what actually happens. I use chords in two different ways in the solo:

1. As a way to fill up long notes or rests in the single-note lines

2. Ideas that are chords and melody together (similar to a harmonized melodic idea)

For now let’s concentrate on the first one of those, since that is something that basically should fit into anybody’s playing to some degree or other.

A simplified version of that would be let’s practice putting a chord under notes at the end of phrases. So to start with. Let’s play a II V I and put a chord on the note we resolve to on the I chord.

Here’s an exercise to have I chord voicings for all notes of the major scale.  This is not the kind of exercise that you want to practice to tempo 200 etc. It is more the kind of thing that you want to sit down and figure out in different keys, and different solutions in the same key, so it is better to practice it a bit open ended.

Using Chords in Solos - Ex 1 Major 7
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You’ll notice I start with notes on the G string. Most notes lower than that are not that effective when harmonized. The Bb does not fit with Fmaj7 so I chose to harmonize that with a Bbm chord. You could use others too. I tend to use mostly 3 note chords because they are more flexible technically.

Here are similar exercises for Gm7 and C7

Using Chords in Solos - Ex 2 Minor 7
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Using Chords in Solos - Ex 3 Dom7

A lot of exercises like these are possible, staying on one set of strings, ascending through the major scale with II V I chords etc. etc. They are all good to check out.

The next step could be to make lines using these voicings. The best place to start is probably to put a chord at the end of a line, so start composing lines towards a target note where you know what chord to put under it as in the first example. The 2nd example is to put a chord at the beginning of each bar. Eventually it should get easy to make lines using the chords.

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Using Chords in Solos - Ex 4 Line 1
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Using Chords in Solos - Ex 5 Line 2
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Here’s a video of me using this technique in a simple medium tempo II V I VI in F major:


Here’s another video from a few months ago where I am playing I Fall in Love Too Easily and playing a chord on every beat while playing the melody and soloing. This is an approach that I saw Kurt Rosenwinkel do in a masterclass while I was studying at the Conservatory.

Playing over changes with arpeggios

This is a subject that is often a struggle to master for beginning jazz players so I figured I’d write one approach that I use when learning tunes and also that I teach to students who wish to learn jazz. The method is fairly simple, but still requires a bit of preparation technically and theoretically. My blogs are written for guitarists with tabs as well as notation, but essentially it works for all instruments of course.

The goal is to become able to make melodies over chord changes so that it is clear when the harmony moves from one chord to the next. This is obviously not the only way to do this, but just a simple approach that is easy to do on a few chords and fairly easy to move to simple songs.

The Arpeggios

As an example I’ve taken a II V I in Bb, I assume you are familiar with what that is. Since we are trying to practice making coherent melodies in 8th notes over these chords I’ve chosen the following arpeggio fingerings:Arps on Changes Ex 1
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135347537″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
It is important that in the arpeggios are in the same range and pretty much the same position on the neck, that helps getting more freedom while improvising. I found it to be more important than starting on the root. There are many ways to construct fingerings for arpeggios, and I leave that up to you for other examples. You need to know the fretboard and you need to know what notes are in the chords you play on to do this.

Target notes

I was taught by Bjarne Roupé, who I studied with in Copenhagen, that constructing lines that point forward to a target note in the next chord is a good way to build logical sounding 8th note lines. I think Hal Galper has written articles and books on the subject.

In the beginning it is handy to aim for notes that are not in the previous chord so that if you play that note on the 1 of the bar you really hear a new harmony introduced. This is a restriction you can leave out quite quickly though.

For my II V I in Bb we can just take the 3rd of each chord:Arps on Changes Ex 2


In voice-leading you learn that the 3rd moves to the 7th, but in this case that would give you the same note on the Cm7 and the F7 and that is less clear than introducing the A on the Cm7. In general you can use other notes. Melodically the 3rd and the 5th are very strong and clear.

So here are a few examples using the 3rds as targets:  Arps on Changes Ex 3

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135347536″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Arps on Changes Ex 4

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135347538″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]Arps on Changes Ex 5

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Of course the idea is that you sit down and practice making lines like these playing towards the different target notes. Some thoughts on how to practice that can be found here: http://jenslarsen.nl/convert-theory-technique-exercises-solo-lines/

The type of lines you end up with in the beginning will (like my examples) very much be moving through the II V I and then stop which is a very predictable movement, but for learning the harmony it is in part a necessary step. This procedure is not so difficult to move to a simple song like Tune Up, Take The A-train or Blue Bossa. And once you’re familiar with how it works on a cadence like the II V I it is easier to free up the rhythm and amount of notes per bar for more musical lines.

Here’s a final audio example of a solo only using arpeggio notes, but freed up a bit when it comes to target notes and rhythm:

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