Tag Archives: solo

Drop2 Voicings as Arpeggios

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

Using chord voicings as arpeggios

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

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

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

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 1

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 2

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 3

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

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 4

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

Lines using Drop2 voicings

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 5

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 6

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios - Ex 7

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

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

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

Drop2 voicings as Arpeggios

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

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.

Adding Chords to Single Note Lines – Part 1

In this lesson I’ll discuss a few strategies for adding chords to your solo lines and give you some exercises and ideas to help you practice and figuring out how and when to add chords to your solo lines.

I’ve never really had any lessons on this and have sort of worked it out along the way while improvising so I had to look analyze this and try to remember how I worked on it to try to make some exercises and guidelines for learning this.

Why do we add chords to solos.

  1. To clarify the harmonic sound of a melody note by adding the sound of the chord it’s played over. It gives us the ability to play harmonically vague because we can make the notes sound like the extension of the chord.
  2. Add an extra layer that fills up spaces, so you can use the chords to clarify the harmony between the lines and also convey the groove that is being played under the solo.
  3. Give certain notes an accent within a melody by making them the top note of a chord.

How to practice

In this lesson I’ll be using an Am7 in the key of G major, what is also called A dorian and give you some exercises and ideas to help you practice adding chords and figuring out how and when to add chords to your solo lines.

When I was listening to how I place the chords I realized that for me the chords are mostly  at the end of lines because if they are at the beginning you probably have to mute them right away. If they are at the end of a line they can help reinforce the last note (and maybe the previous melody)

If you get used to knowing where the line you’re playing ends (the target note) then you’ll have an easier time being ready to put a chord under it. I already made a lesson on target notes that you can check out to get better at this.

THe first exercise is a demonstration of how you can put Am7 chords under the notes in A dorian around the 5th position. When you try to play like this you are probably better of not restricting yourself too rigidly to positions. I’ve started with the E on the D string, if you try to harmonize lower notes than that it might get too muddy.

Adding Chords to Single Note Lines - Part 1 - Ex 1

As you can see I us fewer notes the lower the melody this is also to get clear voicings since it can be difficult to get clarity with dense low voicings. The higher the melody is the more notes you can fit under it, but you should of course keep the voicings so easy to play that you can easily add them to the solo, so big stretches and huge voicings are often not too practical.

Another observation I made about my own playing is that I very often add the chord after the line has ended. This is probably for two reasons, it takes away the risk of the melody disappearing in the chord because the top note does not get enough emphasis. The other reason is that if you add the chord afterwards it gives a little more of the feeling that the chords are independent of the melody and therefore more polyhponic.

Adding Chords to Single Note Lines - Part 1 - Ex 2

When you start practicing you should probably just start in rubato and try to add a chord in the way it is done in example 2 at the end of the phrase. Then once that is starting to work try to play lines in a slow tempo and try to always add a chord at the end of the line.

Make sure to record yourself and check that the melody is clear when you start playing chords. The point is to use chords to empasize the solo line, not the other way around (in this lesson anyway…)

Solo Lines with chords

The first example is a fairly straight forward Am7 line. First an Am7 shell voicing as arpeggio and then an Em pentatonic descending scale fragment ending on the 13(F#) that is then harmonized as an Am7(13) chord. Here the chord on the last note makes the somewhat unclear extension clear as n Am7(13) chord and not a D7 or Gmaj7 resolution.

Adding Chords to Single Note Lines - Part 1 - Ex 3

In the 2nd example the chords are used more as accents, so they are there not only there to support the harmonic picture but also to add weight to some of the notes in the melody. The first movement is a scale run from D, via E to B where the first and the last note of the run is harmonized with an Am7(11) and Am9 respectibely. After that the line is resolved with another Am9 chord on the and of 4. This way of harmonizing the low 9 on an Am chord is something I find my self doing quite often.

Adding Chords to Single Note Lines - Part 1 - Ex 4

For the 3rd example I wanted to demonstrate a bit more of how you might add chords in a way that really emphasizes the 2 layes present in the solo. The first bar is quite straight forward. The A is harmonized with an Am triad and followed by a scale run down to the E which is harmonized as a major 3rd interval. In the 2nd bar I am using a part of the 2nd exercise to add chords right after the melody notes and then finally resolve to an Am7(11) chord on the and of 4.

Adding Chords to Single Note Lines - Part 1 - Ex 5

I hope that you can use the exercises and examples I made here to get started with using Adding chords to your solos. As always you will probably learn more from making you own lines than just copying mine, and you probably need to make your own versions of the voicing exercises too so that they fit the type of chords that you are used to working with.

Download a pdf of the examples for later study here:

Adding Chords to Single Note Lines – Part 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.

 

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.

Review of my Performance at Dutch AxeFest 2013

I came across this review of my presentation and performance at the Dutch AxeFest 2013 on the G66 website.

“No more questions, but all the more enthusiastic applause after he finished playing one of his songs with no backing track, just his fantastic tone. Very impressive!

Review of Dutch AxeFest 2013

 

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) :

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

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

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.


Using Chords in Solos - Ex 4 Line 1

Using Chords in Solos - Ex 5 Line 2

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

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

Arps on Changes Ex 4

Arps on Changes Ex 5

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:

 

 

 

How to convert theory and technique exercises to solo lines

This post comes from a conversation I had with Træben drummer Haye Jellema after a concert. We were talking how a lot of (famous) books contain only information but no or almost no guidance in how to actually internalize it. Other books will contain too many exercises that focus on the technical execution rather than actually applying it. I’d like to try to demonstrate one of the ways I study a theoretical or technical exercise to get it into my playing.

Here’s a video of me practicing improvising on a minor blues in C. If you listen you can hear that I sometimes pick an idea and work with it while soloing, so I am using what I play as a way of creating the next thing I play (try listening around 0:18 or 1:45 for two clear examples). This makes the solo more like a connected whole and not just a bunch of isolated ideas after each other. To me it is important that you learn the stuff you practice in such a way that you can apply it to what fits in that moment in your solo, and I’d like to explain how I practice towards that. Try to keep in mind that I am trying to describe an approach or a concept so for this lesson the material in the examples is less important than the way that I study it.

For now I’ll concentrate on going from an exercise to a melodic idea in a solo. Working on specific skills to manipulate melodic ideas or licks while playing is for another lesson.

Even if I demonstrate this in a jazz harmony situation it is in fact the same for all genres of music so the same concept would apply to a blues or a heavy metal solo.

Composition is improvisation slowed down.

The first step is to have choose a subject and then probably a smaller part within that subject, so if it’s a scale you might pick out an arpeggio (inversion?) or some other melody from the scale. It is of course important to pick something that  is strong enough and contains enough harmonic information for what you are trying to apply it to, f.ex it is probably not going to be easy to compose good lines using an Em7 arpeggio over Dm7 in a II V I in C.

As an example let’s try to look at using pentatonic scales in an improvisation, though I actually practice most things like this, rhythms, chords or improvising lines. Part of using pentatonics will be to be able to play the scalTheory to Solo line ex 1e, so I might have made an exercise like this:

That’s a nice exercise which is pretty easy to play and if played in all keys you have a good overview of the neck with each pentatonic scale.

Let’s assume that we can play the exercise without too much trouble, and now the goal is to use it in a way that it will find it’s way into our improvisational vocabulary.  This process should involve:

  • Finding ways to make good sounding lines with the exercise over a chord
  • Connecting lines to the vocabulary you already have so that it becomes a natural part of it
  • Explore in which contexts it is a useful tool, which notes in the exercise fits which chord etc.
  • Getting the melodies of the exercise into your ear and fingers

The first part of that process is to compose lines. If you are composing you can go back and change a phrase or start over so it sounds good, and there is no pressure by staying in time and keeping track of a form to distract you from hearing what the line sounds like and judging if you think it sounds good. Taste is also an underrated tool in playing and practicing, but that is another story….

It is possible to compose lines and write them down to play or analyze later, but personally I almost never do that. To me the emphasis is in constructing lines that sound good and practicing that process which in this case is connecting the exercise to my other lines. Writing it down does not really serve a purpose.

I usually just spend a bit of time doing this on a II-V-I-IV or similar. I also don’t try to control how much time I spend on this, but mostly I’ll be busy with making lines and then try to play them in a song. Since I mostly play jazz and since jazz is generally an 8th note base music I tend to write lines in 8th notes with harmony changing every half or whole bar.I also often aim the melody at a target notes in the harmony on beats 1 and 3 so that the chord change is clear. If I try to make the melody go towards the target it often sounds stronger and more logical.  I might write a bit about this approach to constructing lines later but it is as far as I know an approach taught by HaL Galper called forward motion.

So for me this is not a very structured approach, but it is the best way I’ve found to get new melodic devices into my improvisation.

I guess the examples hereunder are more to give a complete picture of what I’d do with an exercise like this.

I transcribed the first line I play in the example, after that I just try to use the exercise over the turnaround. Since having the harmony there is a bit clearer I did record it in time and with a backing track. The second example is the same idea except without the background and it is rubato, which is probably closer to how I mostly practice this.

Theory to Solo line ex 2

So this is an example of how I work and how I integrate ideas from exercises into my playing, there’s nothing magical about it but it is a process that many people use but for some reason is not that often described.

I hope you like it, and feel free to leave a comment on your own approach etc.

Triads and Triad pairs in improvisation Part 3

In the 3rd part I’ll have a look at some of the possibilities you have when making your lines from a pair of triads without common notes. Again the idea is to use the strong melody that a triad is by itself and choose triads that fit the chord in this song.

First it might be useful to have an overview of all possible triad combinations:

I have given the combinations and also a suggestion to the kind of scale or chord sound that it might be used for.

Triads without common notes

halfstep apart:

C    Db            F harmonic Min
C    Db+            F harmonic Maj

Cm    Db            F aeolian
Cm    Dbm            Ab harmonic Maj
Cm    Db+            G gypsy Min

Cdim    Db            Db major
Cdim    Dbm            Db harm/mel min
Cdim    Dbdim            C7 dim
Cdim    Db+            G gypsy min

C+    Db+            Db augmented

Whole step apart:

C    D            G major
C    Dm            C major
C    Ddim            C harm min/F mel minor
C    D+            G mel minor

Cm    D            G harm min/maj
Cm    Dm            G aeolian
Cm    Ddim            Eb major
Cm    D+            G harm min

Cdim    Dm            D7 dim
Cdim    Ddim            D7 dim

C+    D            A mel min
C+    Dm            A harm min
C+    D+            C whole tone

Minor third apart:

C    Ebm            C7 dim
C    Ebdim            C7 dim

C+    Eb            C augmented
C+    Ebm            Ab harm maj
C+    Ebdim            Db harm min
C+    Eb+ (= C+ Db+)

Major third apart:

Cm    E            C augmented

Cdim    E            E harm maj
Cdim    Em            E harm min
Cdim    Edim            C7 dim

Fourth apart:

C    Fdim            C harm maj/F gypsy

Cm    Fdim            C harm min

Cdim    Fdim            F7 dim

Tritone apart:

C    F#            C7 dim
C    F#m            C7 dim
C    F#+(= C D+)

Cm    F# (= C F#m)
Cm    F#m            C7 dim
Cm    F#+ (= Cm D+)

C+    F#  (= C F#+)
C+    F#m (= Cm F#m)
C+    F#+ (= C+ D+)

38 combinations

When I write C augmented, I am referring to this symetric scale: C Eb E G G# B