Tag Archives: stacks of 4ths

5 Quartal Harmony licks

An important part of more modern sounding jazz solos is often the use of quartal harmony. In this lesson I am going to take 2 exercises and 5 examples of how I use quartal harmony and demonstrate how you can incorporate the sound into your own playing.

Two exercises and a II Valt I cadence

I have a few lessons on quartal harmony already that you can check out if you want to explore further into the sound both as arpeggios and chords. Here is a lesson on using the arpeggios in solos: Quartal harmony in solos

In this lesson I am first going over to simple exercises of diatonic stacks of 4ths in F major and Db melodic minor (which is the same as C altered). I am then going to use this material in the 5 examples, all on a II Valt I in F major.

Quartal arppeggios are constructed by stacking 4ths in the scale.  When we build chords in a scale we ususally start with 3rds, so in F major if I start from a G. I get:

G A Bb C D E F G – so a G minor triads; G Bb D

If we use quartal harmony we stack 4ths:

G A Bb C D E F G so the stack of 4ths from G is G C F

If we use this structure as an arpeggio that we can move through the scale and play it up the neck on the D,G and B string set we get:


And using the same principle to play the diatonic stacks of 4ths in Db melodic minor:


A few of the arpeggios in the last example are a bit unusual especially the one on the 7th degree of the scale (C) which is actually a C7 shell voicing. The one on the 4th(Gb) is also a not found in the major scale version.

5 Quartal harmony licks

The first example  starts with a Gm7 arpeggio and then continues into a quartal arppgegio from the D which is played in a pattern from the G. The C7alt line is based around an inversion of a Bbm7(b5) arpeggio (Check out this lesson for more ideas: The Altered Scale in Three Approaches) and then resolving scalewise down to the 5th of the Fmaj7 chord.


In the second example, here below, I am starting with a stack of 4ths from the C. You might recognize that as a fairly common Gm11 voicing. From there the line continues with a descending scale run.  On the C7alt the line is starting with a trill using the #9 and the 3rd of C. From there it continues with a line derived from the Db minor triad and resolves via the #9 an octave higher to the 5th(C) of Fmaj7.


Of course we can also use the quartal arpeggios on the altered dominant since we have the material from example 2.

The third example starts with a Dm7 arpeggio that is used to target and highlight the Bb on beat 3. From there the line continues with a descending scale to the 3rd(E) of C. On the C7 we first have a stack of 4ths from the E which is infact the equivalent of a C7(#9) sound. This is a diagonal line on the fretboard and we can actually flip it around and use that as a descending pattern. On this string set that gives us a Gb major triad. This trick works really well in diminished contexts as well. The altered line is the stepwise resolved to the 3rd(A) of Fmaj7.


Another good stack of 4th idea for the C7alt is to use the one on Ab because it gives us a lot of colourful notes: Ab,Db,Gb – (b13,b9,b5).

The line the on the Gm7 is based on a Gm7 arpeggio with a scale note added here and there. On the C7alt I start with the stack of 4ths from Ab, which you could also think of as a Dbsus4 triads. The line then continues with a Bbdim triad and resolves to the 5th(C) of Fmaj7.


In the final example I am using several quartal arpeggios and also making use of that they are 3 note groups to create a cross rhythm in the line.

The example starts out with a scale run down from Bb to G. From the G and from the A we have two quartal arpeggios that work well over Gm7. Over C7 we can use two other stacks of 4ths a half step higher so from Ab and Bb. This means that I can make a pattern of three notes with the bottom notes being G, A, Ab, Bb all with 3 notes in each arpeggio. This gives us a period of 3 note groupings creating osme nice rhythmical tension on top of the meter. The line and the cross rhythm is resolved by encircling the 3rd of F chromatically and resolving on the 1.



That was a few examples of how I use quartal harmony in my playing. When you work on this you will of course get something out of checking out my lines, but don’t forget that you will probably learn more form trying to l take the concept of my examples and make your own lines combining the things you already know. That is also how I work.

If you want to support my videos and check out more examples of how I use quartal harmony and other more modern devices in my solos check out this solo lesson in my webstore:

There will never be another you – Reharmonization Solo

If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here below:


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 them fit what you want to hear.

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Quartal Harmony in Solos

As I promised in earlier lessons, here is my take on putting the chords I talked about in the 3 part quartal harmony lesson and the one on diatonic chords of the pentatonic scale to use in improvisation.

In this lesson I want to demonstrate how I use it in solos by going through some technical exercises and some lines I wrote using quartal harmony.

I am going to demonstrate a few exercises and then give you a few examples and of lines and how I constructed them. In this lesson I am only going to be concerned with the 3 note variation of these chords, since that is the one that is the easiest to put to use.

All my lines and exercises are going to be related to a II Valt I in Bb so we need to check out the Bb major scale and the F7 altered / F# melodic minor scale before we start working on making lines.


First let’s just talk a bit about what you might practice to prepare for making lines with stacks of 4ths arpeggios in them. Here are the chords for the Bb major scale on two sets of strings. I’d suggest you practice them both as chords and as arpeggios to get technically prepared for using them in improvisations.

Quartal Harmony in Solos ex 1

As you might already see we can’t really name the chords in the way we are used to with diatonic chords and triads. You chose them by looking at the notes they contain and how that relates to the chord you are playing them over. This can be a bit heavy if you are not used to think like that, but is actually a very useful skill for “the thinking improviser”. It will also help you to analyze transcriptions and identify what s being played.

In my examples I chose the arpeggios for the Cm7 chord on the criteria that I don’t want it to contain an A, because I want to save that note for the F7. That is a choice, and not even a route that I always take myself, but for now it makes the lines easier to hear.

Since we don’t often make solo lines by only moving up and down a string, but more often make use of positions, it can be very handy to also try to play some scale positions in diatonic stacks of 4ths like the one I have written out here below:

Quartal Harmony in Solos ex 2

Playing stacked 4ths requires a lot of string changing for the right hand which is a bit difficult and for the left hand you need to bar with different fingers to be able to play the them which can also be a bit demanding. Frank Gambale has a few good left hand exercises for this in one of his books. As for the right hand I generally alternate pick the arpeggios as you can see in the video, mostly because I like the sound of that sort of picking better than sweeps or economy when I play these arpeggios.

Here are the chords for the F altered/F# melodic minor scale.

Quartal Harmony in Solos ex 3

I’d suggest you also try to arpegiate these chords and play F# melodic minor in diatonic stacks of 4ths in the way that I did it with the Bb major scale.

II V I lines with stacked 4ths

Here’s the first example of a line on the II Valt I in Bb major:

Quartal Harmony in Solos ex 4

If I break down the construction of the line it is an EbMaj7 shell voicings followed by an stack of 4ths beginning on G. Then on the F7alt I am playing the Coltrane 4 note pattern, and following that up with a stack of 4ths on the A in F#melodic minor. I resolve the high Ab to the major 7 of Bb.

Quartal Harmony in Solos ex 5

The 2nd example is first chaining to stack of 4th arpeggios on the Cm7, one from F and one from D. Then I play a sort of cliché F#m melody which is followed by an F#mMaj7 arpeggio that resolves to F the 5th of Bb major.

Quartal Harmony in Solos ex 6

The 3rd example is beginning with an Ebmajor 7th arpeggio that is then followed by a stack of 4ths from c. On the F7 altered I have made a melody using two stacks a whole step apart: one from Eb and on from Db. This pair is a useful tool when making lines and when playing chords in my experience.

Quartal Harmony in Solos ex 7

I start with a Cm9 arpeggio which I then follow with a stack of fourths played descending from C to D. This arpeggio I then can shift up a half step to fit it on the F7 chrod and then I lead that into an Ebm7 shell voicing which with a few notes from the scale is resolved to the 9 of the Bb.

You can download the examples in pdf format here:

Quartal Harmony in Solos

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.