Tag Archives: Theory

The Basic Music Theory You Need As A Jazz Beginner

Having the basics down in music theory is an incredibly powerful tool. If you are playing Jazz then interpreting chord symbols can be very difficult and if you have a solid basic overview of what notes are in there, you can find other ways to play the chord and add notes and fills to it, the things that make it a lot more fun to play!

That’s what I want to show you in this video because an overview like that is going to stop you from sounding like a Pat Metheny Clone, and instead of learning a single Jazz lick, you can figure out how it works and turn it into a recipe for 1000s of Jazz licks. There’s a chance you know a lot of this, but then you can use this as a checklist to see if you have it all under control!

The Most Important Scale For Jazz

The place to start is the scale that you need the most: The Major scale.

I assume you are already somewhat familiar with the but to keep it simple let’s use the C major scale:

The important thing to remember is that a major scale is constructed by a series of whole and half steps, and that recipe is:

On guitar you have a shortcut which is a physical solution where you are just moving a shape around,  that means that if you play a C major scale then you can turn that into an D major scale by just playing the same shape but start on the note D,

but that also means that you don’t really know what notes in there anymore, and when you play songs then it is very practical to know that the next chord is the IV chord in the key and that is THIS note in the scale, so here’s how you can start figuring out the notes in a scale.

I am going to show you this using D major as an example, but it works for any note can think of. It is just about using sharps and flats You need to remember or write down the row of intervals that make up the major scale:

For D major you can write out the notes from D to D . You can then go through the scale and make sure that the intervals fit and then correct that:

D to E is fine, but E to F is a half-step which should be a whole-step, so you turn the F into F#.

Now F# to G is a half-step so that is fine, G to A, and A to B are both whole steps

but B to C should be a whole-step as well

and again you turn the C into a C# to fix that and then you have D major

The next thing to do when you know what notes in the scale is to map that onto any scale position: just start on the root, play the scale, and say notes – in that way this is as much about connecting the things that you know on the neck, because that is where it is useful!


That is the basic construction of the major scale, but what you need is to link this to chords because when you are playing a song then it looks like this:

The Strongest 3 Notes In The World

The Strongest Chord we have isn’t a Jazz chord which would be a chord with at least a 7th, The strongest chord only has 3 notes and it is, of course, the triad.


The basic construction of a triad is a stack of 3rds, so for C then

C major is 1 3 5 – C E G which is really just 1 3 and 5 out of the major scale:


C minor  would be 1 b3 5 C Eb G and the difference is the distance between the two first notes: C to E is a major 3rd

and C to Eb is a minor 3rd

Like this, you can also construct a diminished triad which is: 1 b3 b5 in C that would be C Eb Gb and you can create an augmented triad which is a major triad with an augmented 5th: C E G#

Those are the 4 basic triads, but you probably also want to know these 3:

Sus4 where the 3rd is replaced with the 4th:

Sus2 where the 3rd is replaced with the 2nd:

If you check then sus2 and sus4 are actually inversions of each other, so they are the same structure.

Another triad that is maybe less common in songs but very common in chord structures is major b5:

But right now, this is all just structures without any context, and while it is nice to know then the best way to know this is to place them in a scale.

The Strongest 3 Notes In The World, In The Scale

As I mentioned then chords are created by stacking 3rds, and actually that is easy to do in a scale so to construct the diatonic harmony and place the triads in a context . That tells you which triads go together.

Start with the C major scale:

and we can put 3rds on top using the notes in the scale to get first a row of diatonic 3rd intervals

and then these triads which is another useful row to remember, just like the intervals:

It is incredibly useful to know what triads go together, and as you will see later it is a huge help in finding more arpeggios you can use when improvising over a chord, which means more melodies that you can use in your solos

You can do this with any scale, and you should certainly know the triads of the major scale by heart, so this order:

It is also important to figure this out for Harmonic and Melodic minor which will give you examples of the other triads, you’ll see later.

Enough with the triads for now, let’s get to some Jazz chords!

The First Group of Beautiful 4-Note Jazz Chords!

In Jazz, we don’t work with triads as the basic chords so often, even though we still play triads in solos all the time.

The basic chord type is the 7th chord, but constructing the 7th chords is now super easy, barely an inconvienience: You just add another diatonic 3rd to the triads!

So these:

Become these:

Again the order of chord types is really useful to know, so for a major scale it is maj7, m7, m7, maj7, dom7th, m7, ø

And as you can see you there are 4 chord types in the scale:

The reason that I construct chords in scales is because that added context really tells you a lot about what is going on in the music:

If you take this lick:

As you can see that if over the over a G7 then you can use a Bø arpeggio which is the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of G7, so we are combining the knowledge of the chord with the diatonic harmony.

You can also see that the Em triad sounds great on Cmaj7, but that is just because an E minor triad, E G B, is a Cmaj7, C E G B without a C.

And the same thing applies to chords:

If you play II V I that sounds like this:

Here I am using an Fmaj7 chord, which is giving me the Dm7(9) sound:

and a Bø Chord for a G7(b9) before moving down to Cmaj7, so the diatonic chords become a part of how you learn things, and you cna use the same stuff for a lot of things, it is very efficient.

Of course, at some point you have done that so many times that you will just know what the notes of Dm7 is and that the arpeggio from the 3rd is Fmaj7, but being able to figure it out is a necessary step, and knowing it like this is, of course, a lot better than just having a diagram that you are moving around without knowing what is going on.

The Rest of The Beautiful 4-Note Jazz Chords!

As I said, there are more chord types than just the 4 I already covered.

To find some of those then let’s try to build chords in Harmonic minor, because that should give us some more. To keep it easy, A harmonic minor:

To get you more comfortable with the process then we can start with the triads

A B C D E F G# A

Then you have:

Am Bdim Caug Dm E F G#dim

And once you add a 7th to this then you get:

Notice that the G#dim has a diminished 7th from G# to F, that sometimes a bit confusing because it is the same interval as a 6th

And to immediately show you how useful this is, in the II V I in C I used the arpeggio from the 3rd of G7, and you do the same here and use a G#dim over an E7 because it is almost the same notes and they are from the same scale:

and, that is an great way to play an E7(b9) resolving to Am,

Working on this is something that can really speed up your learning process, because if you start practicing diatonic triads or arpeggios while also being aware of what triad or arpeggio you are playing then you

  • Have a better overview of the harmony and the scale
  • See the shapes you need for soloing on the fretboard
  • Figure out what is being played in Jazz solos so you can get that into your own playing.

All stuff that makes it easier to learn and play Jazz, but it probably isn’t going to be useful if you don’t learn any songs that you can use it on. Learning songs become a lot easier if you understand the harmony, and I talk about that in this video covering how I use Functional harmony but also how Barry Harris and Pat Martino have shortcuts that are opposite of each other, but it will all help you learn and remember songs. ! It doesn’t have to be difficult to learn songs. Check that out

If you start to figure this out for the different keys and practice diatonic arpeggios while also being aware of triad or arpeggio you are playing then you start to connect all of this and that will help you:

  • Know the scale and the diatonic harmony
  • See the shapes on the fretboard
  • Understand how the chords move

You can figure out what is being played in Jazz solos

And, all of these skills are important things that will speed up your learning process, but it probably isn’t  going to be very useful if you don’t learn songs and also learn to understand how the harmony works and that you can check out by watching this video which covers how I use functional harmony for that, but also how Barry Harris and Pat Martino think about chords and make things easier! Learning and remembering jazz songs doesn’t have to be difficult!

How The Pros Think About Chord Progressions (and you probably don’t)

How The Pros Think About Chord Progressions (and you probably don’t)

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Minor II V I options – Melodic Minor, Phrygian Chords and Tritone Substitutions

The minor II V I can be a difficult chord progression to play on and have a varied vocabulary on. In this video I am going to go over how you can approach it in several different ways with Phrygian Chords, Melodic minor and Tritone Substitutions.

In the video I will demonstrate the different Minor II V I approaches and talk about how to use them both in terms of comping, voicing choices et and also soloing and arpeggios.

I also talk a bit about what will fit with the melody of a piece.


Content of the video:


0:14 Minor II V I The Progression in this video


0:42 Basic II V I – Demonstration

1:03 Scales, Voicings, extensions

2:31 Arpeggios for a m7b5 chord


4:33 Locrian natural 2/ Locrian #2 – Demonstration

4:54 Melodic minor for m7b5

5:15 Chord voicings for m9(b5)

5:54 How does it fit the melody?

6:48 Arpeggios from Melodic minor


7:50 Tritone sub – Demonstration

8:12 Using a Tritone sub dom7th instead of the IIm7b5

8:26 The progression with these chords

8:56 When does it fit the melody?

9:41 Voicing Options and considerations

9:57 The bonus Blue note!


11:51 Phrygian Chord – Demonstration

12:10 What is a Phrygian Chord

13:19 Comping a Phrygian sound

14:06 Soloing on a Phrygian Chord

14:36 How you can use them and where


14:55 Tritone II V – Demonstration

15:17 Tritone substitution of the entire cadence

16:23 Strategies for soloing over a tritone sub


17:27 Borrowing II from Major – Demonstration

17:49 How it works – modal interchange

18:13 Using the brighter sounding II chord

19:34 Voicing considerations

19:56 Soloing over the borrowed II chord

20:43 Do you have a great reharmonization or scale choice for a minor II V I?


21:26 Like the videos? Support me on Patreon!

Triad Pairs – Part 1

In this lesson I am going to go over what triad pairs are and how you can use them in improvisation and try to highlight some of the useful aspects of the lines you can make with them.

Triad Pairs withut common notes

The reason why we use triads to improvise is that it is a very strong melodic structure. This is probably the most important reason why we spend so much time on working on triads and look at them as something we can superimpose on other chords, which is what is often referred to as upper-structure triads.

When you hear people talking about improvisation referring to triad pairs, what they usually mean is a pair of triads without common notes. The fact that they are without common notes means that we could look at it as a sort of scale with six notes that is naturally split in to two groups.

Let’s first look at a basic example: C major scale, two triads F and G major.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 1

F and G major triads have no common notes (that is always going to be the case for two diatonic triads that are a 2nd apart in a major scale) In example 1 I have written them out first as 2 triads and then as the scale you get if you combine them. In this lesson I am not going to go too much into treating them like scales, simply because I find myself using them more as triads that I chain together.

Triad Exercises

Let’s first quickly go over some useful triad exercises to make sure that we have the flexibility to make lines with the triads.

The first one is a major triad in inversion on a string set, you need to do this for minor, dim and augmented triads and other string sets of course.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 2

Remember that you can practice these as chords and as arpeggios, as I do in the video.

To have a bigger vocabulary of triad inversions you could also try the two varitions that use 2 strings

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 3

Of course you should also try to pracitice diatonic triads in a major scale to be able to place them in the context that you need to use them, and what many often forget is that you should also do this with the inversions which is a really good way to get a better overview of what notes are in what triads. Example 4 is Diatonic triads of C major in the 2nd inversion

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 4

Remember that is not about speed it is about overview and having the shapes in your fingers for later.

Triad Pair Hack

Hopefully this should get you on the road to combine triads. In the 2nd part of this series I am going to give a few more exercises to work on gaining overview and making melodies with this material.

How do we chose a good set of triads for a chord?

In most situations when you encounter a chord it is in a key, which has a scale with 7 notes.  In most cases you have an avoid not in the scale, so a note that does not fit the chord well and that you can not land on.

If you know the avoid note you can easily make a triad pair, let’s do a few examples:

Dm7 in the key of C, depending on the situation you might consider the B an avoid note.

Cmajor without a B is C D E F G A, if we make triads on the notes after the B (C and D) we get C major and D minor

G7(b9) in Cm Harmonic. Here C is the avoid note.

C min harmonic without a C: D Eb F G Ab B , and the triads on the notes after C(D and Eb) are D dim and Eb augmented triads.

Lines with triad pairs

Now that we have a strategy for finding triad pairs and some exercises for playing triads we can try to put the two together in some lines:

In the first example I am using the triad pair from above on a Dm7 chord. The line starts with a second inversion Dm triad and contiues to a first inversion C major triad. The G7 alt line is basically a scale run with a trill at the beginning. It resolves to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 5

The second example is using the triad pair we deduced for a G7(b9) in the previous part of the lesson: D dim and Eb aug triads. The line on the Dm7 is essentially derived from an Fmaj7 arpeggio and leads into the dominant by encircling the 3rd(B). The dominant line is first the Eb aug triad in second inversion and then the D dim triad, after that it resolves down the scale to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 6

The final example is combining all the triad pairs so first Dm and C over Dm7 and then Ebaug and Ddim over G7(b). I added a pair for Cmaj7. Same process as above: The avoid note over the Cmaj7 is an F, if I take that away and construct triads on the two following notes I get G major and A minor triads.

The line consists of playing each triad in a 4 note pattern so that it is first Dm 2nd inversion, then C root position followed by Ebaug 2nd inversion and D dim root position. This resolves to a G root position and Am 1st inversion over the Cmaj7 where it finally ends on the 9th(D)

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 7

As always I hope you can use the ideas and concept I went over in this lesson, as always I’d suggest that you take them as a starting point and use them to make your own lines with triad pairs.

Check out how I use Triad pairs  in this solo transcription/lesson:

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Triad Pairs Part 1

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Motif Exercises – F Jazz Blues

Creating melodies that connect and make sense across several chords and scales is a skill that you need to master if you want to be able to make solos that keep the listeners attention and is experineced as musical. In this lesson I am going to have a look at an important tool in achieving this skill: Motifs.

Once you can make your way throught the changes of a tune you are probably going to have to start working making the solo more of a coherent whole, which is a big part of what the listener will experience as a musical solo. Motifs and making variations on motifs is a fundamental tool that keeps the listeners attention by playing something that is recognize and at the same time by making variations is developed and sound surprising. If you want to hear examples of how this is used try to lesson to Beethoven’s 5th symphony, Gary Moore’s Still Got The Blues or practically any Keith Jarret solo.

I’ve chosen to use an F blues as a progression for this lesson because it’s a very common progression where you can harmonically do quite a lot to demonstrate what is needed and how it works.

Moving Motifs in a progression

There are a few ways we can work a motif over a progression. One way to do so is to transpose it so if a motiv start on the 5th of the first chord we’ll transpose it so that it is the 5th of the next chord where we play it. The melodies that we get when doing this are following the harmony in parallel and sometimes it works, but often it does not sound too great.

Another more useful way to move motifs is to keep them as close to the original and only change the notes that need to change to fit the next place in the harmony. This approach will in general sound a little less like an exercise in harmony and create a more varied melody.

The first skill we need to work on is probably to over see the notes of a melodic fragment and then to be able to alter notes to fit on other chords. In example 1 I have done this with a simple F major line. The example is quite simple and sounds a bit exercise like, but is still a good demonstration of how you could move this motif around an F Blues.

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 1

As you can see the first 4 bars keeps the motif: First F major, then F minor over the Bb7, back to major and then an F#m as an F7 altered. In the second line it is againg the Fm version over the Bb7 which then gets an added blue note over the Bdim. After that it returns to F7, and becomes an F# dim like line over the D7(b9). On the Gm7 it is in fact the original motif transposed a whole step, and the C7alt is an F# major line. Then back to F and the final C7 line is a variation from the diminished scale.

There are not really any rules, you need to practice doing this so that it fits the chords, so sometimes that means moving the whole motif, sometimes you only change a single note. It is also a matter of taste as to how much it has to sound like the chord or just be a melodic statement of course. In Example 1 I think I managed to really spell out the harmony though.

Developing the motif

Once you can move a motif like this through the changes you probably need to work on ways to vary it so that you can get to the point where you actually create music without sounding like an exercise. There are numerous ways of molding a melodic statement, and maybe later I am going to go into a few more ways in detail. In this lesson I am going to give 3 fairly simple ways to work with it and a few more in the final example.

When you’re working on this it is probably useful to stick with the same chord in the beginning. In Example 2 I have taken the F statement from example 1 and then make variations by changing the 2nd note of the melody. When played one after the other it becomes clear how this will work as a way of creating melodies with this method:

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 2

Another way is to change the order of the notes. In example 3 I am changing the ending of the line a few times. The fact that I change the ending works well because now when you listen you first hear a part of the statement that you already know, and then it ends in a new way everytime.
Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 3

The 3rd way to make variation is to change the rhythm of the original melody. Again a very powerful tool that is a very good way to get surprising melodies out of a single statement. In example 4 I am not really changing the rhythm, only putting the melody on another part of the bar. There are of course a lot of other ways to change the rhythm. There are a few in the last example.

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 4

Putting it all together

Now that we talked a bit about how we can move a motif through changes and a few ways to vary the melodies you should be able to make solos not too far from example 5.

Motif Exercises - F Jazz Blues ex 5

The first bar is the original statement from the Example 1 again. In Bar 2 it is moved to the Fm version that fits the Bb7 very well. It is also moved to another part of the bar. The third time is back in F major with another ending. The F7alt motif has a doubled note which also yields a new rhythm. On the Bb7 I added an F as an upbeat and the Bdim version has two notes doubled. The F7 is back to the original and the D7 is again the original altered to fit a G harmonic minor scale (which is what is being used over that D7). On The Gm7 I am doubling the entire motif and playing it twice (crossing the barline into the C7) This moves the placement of the F# line that is used over the C7alt. In the last two I return to the original and use the C7(13b9) version as I do in example 1 (this is afterall a composed example).

I hope you can use the examples and guidelines that I presented here to start using motifs in your own solo and that it will help you get closer to really create new music and not just play what you already know in your solos.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here for later study:

Motif Exercises – F Jazz Blues

If you want to check out an example solo that I wrote with three choruses on an F blues only using the arpeggio notes I have one available for sale in my store: F Jazz Blues Etude 1 – Basic Arpeggios

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Tritone Substitution

Tritone substitution is a good way to add some new ideas to your II V I lines. It is very closely related to using altered dominants, but the fact that you think another chord will also give you some new melodic ideas. In this lesson I’ll try to briefly explain how it works and also what scales and arpeggios to use before I put that to use in some examples.

Tritone Substitution – Scales and Arpeggios

Let’s first look at what a tritone substitution is, in this lesson I’ll do my examples in the key of G major, though it works just as well in minor of course.

The easy way to look at this is to notice that with shell voicings for dominants (see 3rd bar of example 1) you can change the root but keep the rest of the chord, so the 3rd and 7th of a dominant chord are shared between two roots a tritone substitution. In this example that shows that the tritone substitution of D7 is Ab7, and if you play through example 1 you can hear how it will work in the II V I cadence. You will also probably notice that it is not that effective if the dominant does not resolve to a I chord.

Tritone Substitution - ex 1

So now we have a new option for a chord and a way to place it in a tonal context. The next thing we need to look at is which scales we can use when improvising over it. In example 2 I’ve listed first the key of G major and then the Eb Mel minor and Db Major scale. THe G major scale is mostly there for a reference to the key and not for the Ab7 chord. If you’ve checked out my lesson: Melodic Minor – Lydian Dominants You could observe that the Ab7 is a dom 7th chord that does not resolve a 4th up (or 5th down) so in that way it is a lydian dominant and you can use Eb melodic minor over it. That is the 2nd scale in example 2. Another option would be to just observe that Ab7 is the dominant in Db Major and therefore we can use that scale over it. This is the 3rd scale in example 2.

Tritone Substitution - ex 2

Now we have the scales let’s just quickly go over a few arpeggios. In example 3 I basically move up in diatonic 3rds and list the arpeggio for each note, which is the first way you should look for arpeggios over a chord in any scale, then you need to evaluate each note and try to deal with avoid notes as landing notes when you use the arpeggios. In the example I have only used the Eb Mel min scale, but if you want to do the same.

Tritone Substitution - ex 3

 Example lines with Tritone Substitutions

The first example line is a fairly basic line just to show what the sound of the Ab7 chord can already do in the line. The Am7 line is an Em7 arpeggio (arpeggio from the 5th of Am) followed by a scale run. On the Ab7 I first play a pattern of the Ab7 arpeggio and then another scale run ending with a chromatic encirclement of the 5th(D) of Gmaj7 where it resolves.

Tritone Substitution - ex 4

In the 2nd example I am using the Ab7 chord as if it is from the Db major scale. Which gives us a Db in the scale which is a bit further away from the G major tonality. On the Am7 chord the line is a melodic sequence of a Cmaj7 arpeggio which sort of changes into an Em pentatonic scale run. On the Ab7 I first play a Ebm7 arpeggio and then run down the scale before resolving to the 3rd (B) of Gmaj7.

Tritone Substitution - ex 5

The 3rd example again using the Eb minor melodic on the Ab7 chord. The line over the Am7 is constructed by first an Em7 shell voicing and then an Am7 triad in 1st inversion. On the Ab7 I first play a pattern of the GbMaj7(#5) arpeggio and then descend through a Cm7b5 arpeggio before resolving to the 5th (D) of Gmaj7.

Tritone Substitution - ex 6

If you want to download the examples for later study I have them here as a PDF:

Tritone Substitution

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.



Across the Fretboard

This lesson will try to give you a strategy and a way to make exercises that should give you more freedom to move freely over the neck of the guitar when you improvise. How long the road to achieve that is depends on how far you are with knowing the notes of the neck, the scales or the chords.

What you need to know in advance

So since I can’t start completely from scratch and I chose to focus more on how you connect the positions and get more of an overview of what notes and arpeggios are found in each one of them there are a few things that you need to know first that I won’t spend too much time on.

The neck covered in major, harmonic minor and melodic minor: fingering positions. That can be caged or 3 notes per string or strict positions. This is a physical or visual way to approach the scales.

Know the notes of the scales and the diatonic chords: So you need to know each note in each fingering and you need to know that in all keys, you also need to know what chords there are on what degree of the scale. Here are a few ways to check and/or get this better:

Try to play the scale on each string. So you need to know for each string what are the notes of this scale on that string and you need to know what the notes are and where they are found on that string.

Across the Fretboard ex 1

Try to play diatonic arps in one position one for each string.

Across the Fretboard ex 2

Try to play triads on a set of strings. This exercise is letting you practice the notes at one of the frets and also what arpeggios are found in the scale for each one of these notes. It is also a welcome change from just playing all the diatonic arpeggios.

Another good exercise that helps getting an overview of the arpeggios and the notes in the scale and in the different positions is to play triads (or any other arpeggio type) on one set of strings up the neck.

Across the Fretboard ex 3

Make sure to do this exercise in a tempo where you can see each arpeggio in one of the scale fingerings you have so that you can add up the visual information of the triad and the scale. Seeing shapes within the scale positions is a very useful thing!

If you would like me to make more lessons on some of the above subjects you should let me know!

 Technical exercises

If you want to improvise then it can be very useful to practice open ended exercises, so exercises that use things you already know but you need to fit them in on the spot and make choices while playing.

Practicing scales and scale exercises from the lowest to the highest note of the instrument like this can be such an exercise if you try not to learn a certain pattern by heart.

Across the Fretboard ex 4

You’ll notice I don’t play ascending and descending the same. To me it is important to keep pushing yourself to find new ways to move in the scale, so I deliberately try to avoid this. At the same time you can probably also see that I am moving from one position to the next along the way using different bits of the position before moving on. That tends to be the most effecient way to play like this.

Here’s a how I’d suggest you approach this: Practice all keys, each key from the lowest to the highest note on the neck. For each key do another scale exercise, 3rds, diatonic triads 7th chords, shell voicings etc etc. Keep you brain and ear working while playing don’t just run up and down the scale. Make sure to change the other exercise (3rds, arps etc) for each scale so that you don’t just repeat the same exercise. The thing that you practice is to have the overview of the neck not only the arpeggios and the key.

Here’s an example of how you might play the Bb major scale in 3rds

Across the Fretboard ex 5

One way I often extend these exercises is to practice the scales or arps through a progression so a Coltrane cycle or a II Valt I progression. This will help you get even closer to the point where you improvise across the neck.

Improvising exercises

The main idea here is to take something you’re improvising on and force yourself to move around, essentially it can be anything, a chord, a turnaround or a whole  song.

In the beginning you might have to start out rubato or keeping it very simple, just to get used to it, but as you progress you should be able to play quite fluently in time while improvising and moving position in the phrases and in between while still sounding coherent.

Exercise 1: Try to move up and down the neck while improvising on a Bbmaj7 chord. You’ll probably find out if you have spots that you don’t know well enough and you are practicing trying to make melodies that are making sense and are in several positions.

Exercise 2: Try to move up and down the neck while improvising on a Gmaj7, E7alt Am7 D7alt turnaround. This is the same as exercise 1, only now you also have to know some melodic minor scales and another chord sound in the key (in this case the 2nd degree, Am7)

I have spend quite a lot of time on especially exercise 2 since it also is a good way to come up with  new melodies for me. Once I started working on it like this is was very fast getting a lot easier to play in most positions on any progression and still make sense.

You can download the examples here:

Across the Fretboard

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#IVdim suspension of the I chord

In this lesson I am going to explain how I use the #IV dim chord to delay the resolution to the I chord in a major II V I cadence.


This lesson can be a bit tricky if you are not used to playing over cadences with altered dominants and have some understanding of how to improvise on diminished chords. That said this is a really effective way to start playing around with changing the chords of a song during a solo.  There are many ways to work with suspending resolution or changing the harmoniy while improvising, in fact altering a dominant is one such change even if we don’t think of it like that.

Let’s first look at the #IV dim chord. Here is the #IV dim chord in the key of F. The best way to get an impression of how it sounds when used to resolve to the I chord is probably to check some of the songs where it is found. In jazz it is often reharmonized as a IIm7b5 V7(b9) cadence, so in the key of F it would be Bm7b5 E7(b9). To name a few standards that has this progression:  You Do Something To Me, I remember You and Spring is Here.

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 1

If you alter an F major scale ( F G A Bb C D E F) to contain a B dim chord you’ll get this scale F G# A B C D E, which is an A minor harmonic scale. That will be the scale I’ll use in this lesson.

The Cadence

To get an impression of how the lines are sounding it is a good idea to play the cadence as chords as in example 2:

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 2

As you can see I am using an E/F voicing for the Bdim. When I play this in a solo I am depending on the people I play with to react to it while I play it. This is another aspect of playing jazz and communicating while playing that is a bit hard to get into, but I thought I’d just clarify how I use this.

The Lines

The lines that I give here are a bit more square than what I might use in my solos. Often when improvising you can play over the bar line so that one chord is longer than the other and a resolution might appear earlier or later than the one. This is part of jazz tradition and is something you’ll find with Charlie Parker and onward. The pianist Bill Evans used this really a lot to great effect in his solos, that is certainly worth checking out.


#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 3

The II V part of the lines in this examples are not so interesting, they are basic harmony and melodic vocabulary in jazz. Chromatic encircling of chord notes and a scale melody build around the Gm triad on the II chord. The V chord is a quite similar idea but this time developed from the C#m melodic. It’s interesting that now when I look at it it turns out to be a very C#m triad line, since I don’t actually think C#m melodic when I played it, but C altered.

For the #IV line I am using the Am harmonic so I am sort of thinking it as an E7 resolving to the Am triad that is the upper structure of the Fmaj7 chord. In this example that means using an E7 arpeggio and then running up the scale to the A in the F major chord.

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 4

The 2nd example begins with a Gm line that uses a Bb open voiced triad and then an encircling of the 3rd of Gm. The C7 line is using the Dbm and Gb triads in the same pattern. On the dim chord I start of by using the same sort of pattern on an F dim triad and then continues so it becomes a full dim arpeggio, before resolving to the 5th of F major.

#IVdim suspension of the I chord ex 5

The G minor line in the last example uses a stack of 4ths from C and then a fragment from the Dm pentatonic scale. It continues to a line build around a Dbm triad, first encircling the root and then via the Eb up the arpeggio ending on the Eb. The Eb is “resolved” to an E that is the first part of an E7 arpeggio run followed by an Bdim arpeggio with a leading note. The arpeggio is resolved to the 5th of F.

I hope you can use this idea to get a few surprises in your soloing vocabulary that will at least wake up your rhythm section. To me it is the sort of device that I use a lot though I might not throw it in more than once or twice in a concert. Besides being something to shake up the piano player it is should also help you get better at improvising on the chords in situations like the songs I mention in the beginning.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here:

#IVdim suspension of the I chord

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.

Drop 2 voicing charts, 1st batch

I have added 4 reference charts of Drop2 voicings in the PDF download section of my website:

PDF downloads and charts

Each chart shows the 4 inversions of the chord for each of the 3 string sets both as individual chords and together on the neck.

Drop2 voicings

Feel free to let me know if you have any requests or comments!

You can do so by connecting with me via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter, or sent me an e-mail. Then you will also stay up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

C7 Drop2 Voicings

Here’s an overview of the C7 as drop 2 voicings on all sets of strings.

I have made 2 lessons on how to use them in a jazz context:

You can also download the chart as a pdf by entering your e-mail here:

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with me!

Minor II V I Cadences

In this lesson I want to give some insight into how I approach soloing over minor cadences. The lesson is built around 4 examples over a II V I in Dm. Em7b5 A7 Dm6/9 and I’ll explain what I use on the different chords and how I use it.

The Cadence

A minor II V I consist of a IIm7b5, a dominant and a minor tonic. In the case of D minor a cadence might look like this:

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 1

For this progression you’d typically play D natural minor or F major over the Em7b5 chord, D harmonic minor, Spanish Dominant (or one of the many other names for this scale) over the A7 and D melodic minor over the Dm6/9.

One of the things that many students find difficult in with the minor II V I in the beginning is probably that you need to change scale for more or less every chord. While there is not really a way around that, I find it helps to focus more on the chord than on the scale and think from that. In that way there are fewer notes to worry about than a complete scale where it is harder to keep the overview.

For the dominant there are more options than D harmonic minor, but that is the most natural in this context so I decided only to use that in this lesson. I have also chosen not to  make a line on the tonic chord. If you want to check out how to construct lines over tonic chords using melodic minor you can read this lesson: Melodic Minor – An Introduction

The scale charts are available as downloads on my site here: Pdf downloads and charts. The D minor harmonic that I am using is mostly this position though:

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 2

Minor II V I lines

Here are the 4 examples of lines to give you an idea of some of the arpeggios and melodic patterns I use when making lines like this. I have in this lesson tried to add a bit more rhythm to the lines instead of straight 8th note stuff. It is probably because I am always busy with harmony and notes that I don’t add too much rhythm to the examples, but I thought it fitted this quite well.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 3In line no 1 the Em7b5 part is composed of a sequence of the Em7b5 arpeggio. I use arpeggio sequences quite often, mostly not for longer periods, since there isn’t room and also because it gets tedious very very fast, but I find it very useful to practice so that you don’t always just run up and down the arpeggio. I then encircle the 3rd of A. The arpeggio over the A7 is a diminished 7th arpeggio in inversion. In D harmonic minor the diatonic arpeggio on C# (the third of A7) is a C# dim arpeggio and I use that really a lot on dominants (This is probably something I took from Parker btw)  I resolve the arpeggio to the 5th of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 4Line 2 begins with the Bbmaj7 arpeggio over the Em7b5. This is an arpeggio I use like that really a lot, since it starts with the b5 it is quite clear in the sound. You might notice that I very often use arpeggios with a leading note and then a triplet. That way of playing arpeggios is also quite Parkerish (as in Charlie Parker) and I recommend doing that with all your diatonic arps once in a while it is good practice and a useful thing to be able to do. On the A7 I am again using the diminished arpeggio this time starting on E and ending the line with a chromatic encircling of the 3rd of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 5The third line is using a Gm7 arpeggio in a sequence before going in to the C# diminished and resolving to the 3rd of Dm. The Gm7 is quite good to use on the Em7b5, but often you have to be a bit careful with landing on the F, which does not sound so good if it is emphasized. In the Bbmaj7 arpeggio the F is in the middle of the  arpeggio which somehow makes it easier to use (in my experience anyway..)

The last example is again using the Em7b5 arpeggio but this time in an inversion. On the A7 I am using another good device: the C# augmented triad (diatonically it is actually an F triad, but it sounds like C# to me somehow). I then continue with a typical bebop approach of the 5th of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 6

You can download the examples in pdf format here:

Minor II V I Cadences

I hope that you liked the lesson, and can use some of this information to make your own lines on minor II V I progressions.

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.