Tag Archives: Melody

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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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.