Tag Archives: Theory

Melodic Minor – Lydian Dominants

In my last lesson on melodic minor I was only talking about how to use it on tonic chords which is a good starting point: Melodic minor.  In this lesson I wanted to give a few examples on how you use it in another context: Lydian Dominants. This lesson will also give a few examples of common progressions that are not standard II V I cadences in jazz, which is what most lessons use as a basis.

Dom7th chords that do not resolve to a I chord

If you play jazz tunes you will quickly come across chord progressions that has a dominant that does not resolve. In this lesson I am using the Bb7 as an example. As you might know Bb7 is the dominant of Eb so a Bb7 chord resolves to an Eb chord if it is part of a standard cadence, but in many cases you have other progressions where Bb7 goes to another chord. In a lot of those cases a good choice of scale would be the lydian dominant scale which is the 4th mode of melodic minor scale.  In this lesson I am making examples using the Bb7 as chord, and Bb is the 4th degree of F minor melodic so that is the scale that we will use in these differents contexts.

The Lydian dominant scale gives you a dominant with a 9,#11 and a 13, so in that respect it’s a fairly neutral sounding scale. Here’s a few voicings for a Bb7 like that and also a possible way to play the F minor melodic scale.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 1


I’d suggest that you make sure to also learn the melodic minor scales in several positions and learn the diatonic chords and triads so that you have an overview of what harmonic options you have in the scale. Just to provide the over view here are the diatonic chords of Fm melodic:

FmMaj7, Gm7, AbMaj7, Bb7, C7, Dm7b5, Em7b5

Lydian Dominant as part of a IV minor progression

Bb7 can work well as a substitute for Fm in some contexts, as is not surprising since we are playing an Fm scale over it. The progression is essentially IV IVm I, but in this case it is harmonized as IV bVII7 I. This is a very common way to harmonize that kind of progression and I think I will leave more explanations on IV minor chords for another lesson, since it is a big subject with a lot of options that are nice for harmonizing songs but also to just throw in as reharmonizations during a solo.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 2The line that I am playing over the Bb7 is based around a Bb7(b5) arpeggio which is not strictly a diatonic arpeggio in Fm melodic but it is a nice sound to use.

Tritone substitution

As I have mentioned before it is possible to substitue the dominant in a II V I with the chord found a tritone away, so in this case we are playing Bb7 instead of E7 in a cadence in A major. You might notice that E7 altered and Bb7 lydian dominant are from the same melodic minor scale, so in this by playing Bb7(#11) you are in fact also playing E altered.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 3


The line that I played on the dominat is btw using a stack of fourths spelling out a Bb7(13) sound. Using stacked 4ths in lines often gives a good slightly modern sounding arpeggio.

You could chose to not play a #11 on the Bb and just use an Eb major scale in a tritone substitution, it will work too and it would sort of be one step further away from the key.

IV dominant Chord

Once in a while I’ve come across songs where this chord is used. I think I mentioned So Danco Samba and Tenderly in the video. It’s fairly straight forward to figure out that if you want the scale on the IV dom7th that is closest to the major scale of the song then you will end up with the lydian dominant scale (since the difference it that you flatten on note to make room for the b7 on the dominant, and end up with melodic minor with the root on the I)

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 4

In this line I am using the Ab augmented triad on the Bb7 resolving the 7th to the third of F. It is also an example on how to melodically connect the lines over two chrods by making a statement on the first and then playing a variation of it on the next.

bVI dominant (The #IV Double Diminished chord in 1st inversion)

This is a chord that you don’t come across that often, but it is quite prominant in the standard Out of Nowhere and in the Star Trek theme. I am not going to try to explain the whole double diminished story but could not resist the name (since it looks long dificult and impressive..) If you are already familiar with what a #IV diminished chord is you can see that this chord shares a lot of notes: in D #IV dim is G# dim which is Bb7 with a B instead of a Bb. I guess that is why I even remember the #IV name, it is a description that I hear in the sound of the chord.

Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 5

In the line I am using a shell voicing on the Dmaj7 chord and I am using the FmMaj arpeggio on the Bb7 chord.

Dominant of the Dominant

This is one of the most common progressions in songs where the lydian dominant sound is used, so in that respect it is maybe a bit weird to put it at the end. In Dutch and Danish this chord has it own name because it is coming along so often, I could not find an English word for it.

In Jazz standards with a 32 bar AB form the dominant of the dominant is very often found in measures 13 and 14 before going on to a II V back to the tonic. This happens so often that if you play a song with this form you are surprised if that is not the case.

I actually don’t know why it has become so normal to play this as a lydian dominant, but I suspect that it has to do with the fact that you can get away with it and it gives you an easy way to vary your lines and voicings without clashing with the rest.

Since it is only changing one note from the original dominant scale (#4 in stead of 4) The thing to focus on is probably to make sure to play the #4 very clearly in the lin and maybe resolve it to the 5th of the pursuing II chord, as I do in the example.
Melodic Minor - Lydian Dominants - ex 6

Here’s a downloadble PDF version of the examples:  Melodic Minor – Lydian Dominants

As I mention in the video it you will probably have the most benefit of these progressions if you check out some of the songs that they are used in. The more songs you know the easier it is to hear and understand the chord progressions. Apart from that you can of course also just experiment with them and see what you end up with.

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.

Dominant 7th Chord Scales – part 1

I’ve had a few questions about what options there were for scales and sounds on dominant 7th chords so I decided to make a lesson demonstrating a few of the common ones and talking a bit about what I think characterizes them and how I approach improvising with them.

I set out to just make a few short examples, but in the end I talk a bit about how I use the scales and about the lines so the video became a bit long. In the end I thought the information was useful so I left it in there.

As I mention in the video I often uses the chords when learning scales so if I want to learn to improvize with a certain scale at some point in a progression or song then I find a chord that really sounds like that scale and play that in the context of the song to hear how it sounds.

Mixolydian or F7 from Bbmajor

In this example I am “just” using the Bb Major scale. It seems logical as a starting point and as a reference. I did try to make a melody on the F7 that was at least not cliché. I do that by using Drop2 or Open voiced triads, something that might be a subject for a later lesson too as they are a very good way to incorporate larger intervals in lines without sounding too fragmented.

Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 1

Mixolydian b9b13, F7 from Bb Harmonic Minor

In this example we borrowed the dominant of Bb minor in the cadence. It works well with a lot of different chord types to borrow an equivalent from the minor scale. Mixolydian b9b13 is also more or less the first choice for a scale on an F7 that resolves to a minor chord, so for that it is important to know it. I chose the F7(b9) chord as an example because it has a 5th and a b9 which in context gives paints the F7 from Bb harmonic minor sound (to me anyway).  Part of the line on the F7 is based on the A diminished arpeggio which is also diatonic to Bb Harm min. and is a good arpeggio to check out when using that scale.

Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 2
The Altered Scale

Playing F# melodic minor is on an F7 chord is mostly described as the F7 altered scale. The melodic minor scale has a strong augmented sound in it and the scale also sounds a bit like the whole tone scale as I demonstrate in the video. Making lines on F7altered I find it a good starting point to use the fact that F# melodic minor also contains the B7 which is the tri-tone substitute of F7. As an example I use the  B7 and F#m triad arpeggios in the line. If it is difficult to hear the F7 altered then it can be good to really just play/think B7#11 and resolve that to Bbmaj7 to get used to the sound.
Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 3

The Diminished scale

The diminished scale is another good scale to apply to dominants. It is to me charactereized by the fact that it has alterations on the 9(which to me sounds minor), but has a natural 13 (which sounds like major), which is why it has some things sounding like minor and some like major. This mix of minor and major extensions makes it a bit difficult to use in some situations.

One important aspect of the diminished scale is that it is symmetrical, so everything can be transposed in minor 3rds and still be in the same scale. This is handy in terms of guitar technique because it is easy to move a phrase like that on the guitar, but often the phrases you get when you make melodies like that are very predictable and (to me) not very beautiful.

The way I mostly approach making melodies with the dimninished scale is to mix up the triads that it contains, for the F7(13b9) chord there are 4 major triads contained in the scale: F Ab B and D, so I mix those up to make lines, of course there are many other ways to make lines, this just happens to be what I mostly do (right now anyway).
Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 4

The Whole tone scale

The Whole tone scale was until now a bit of a special effects scale to me. But as has happened before, when I make a lesson on something I get to rediscover shings. In a way the Whole tone scale is the opposite of the diminished scale because it has a natural 9 and altered 5th or 13. Since it is a scale consisiting only of Whole steps there are not that many options for chords, everything is augmennted triads and dominants, so that is what you have to work with when making lines.

As I also mention in the video I sometimes use the wholetone scale as an effect in situations where the chord contains an augemented triad, in a way letting the triad decide what Whole tone scale to use even if that does not fit with the rest of the chord. As an example a AmMaj7 where the chord contains the Triad C E G# so you could play C D E F# G# Bb on it, a similar trick could Work on a D7(9#11)).

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the examples: Dominant 7th Scales – 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.

Jazz Chord Essentials: Open Triads

After making the triad lesson I thought I might as well make a lesson on open triads because I use them sometimes as chords and sometimes as arpeggios. I think they can sound great and it is a subject that is not covered that often so it deserved a bit of attention. I guess I’ll do a lesson on how to use them as arpeggios in solos at a later time.

I never really checked them out in any systematical way so making this lesson I found quite a few new voicings to experiment with.

Open Triads

What is an open triad? Probably some of the most famous examples of open triads on the guitar would be Eric Johnson intro to Cliffs of Dover, Steve Morse string skipping etudes, and a lot of the guitar parts of the Californication-era Red Hot Chili Peppers. They all apply them as triads, but I am going to use them in the same way I approached the triads in my lesson on that.

Here’s an example on how to construct open triads from triad inversions. As you can see the idea is to take the 2nd note of the triad and drop it an octave. This is also sometimes referred to as a drop2 voicing, which I already covered with 7th chords in a few other lessons.

Here are the 3 of the basic sort of triads, the ones found in the major scale. I leave out the augmented triad because it is less useful as an upper structure except when playing minorMajor7 chords and since it is symmetrical it is fairly easy to figure out (This is where you go “Challenge accepted!”)

Basic triads in inversions:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 1

As I mention in the video, there are a few possible choices when choosing where to place the notes on the neck, to me it varies what I prefer and I try to use whatever fits the situation best. That might be influenced by voice-leading, technique and timbre of the strings.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 2

Here are some basic Cadences constructed with the triad found on the 3rd of each chord: II V I in C using F, Bdim, Em. Of course it is possible to use all string sets, but I find myself using the middle and the top set the most for these voicings so here’s the middle one. You should try to do the top one your self, that’s a good exercise.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 3

And if you want to play altered dom7th chords then you can use the diminished triad on the 7th degree of the chord so for G7 that would be F dim: F Ab B which gives you these notes over G7: 7, b9 and 3, so the equivalent of a G7b9.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 4


Altering notes in the triad

In order to cover more chords we can start moving away from only viewing the triad as a triad but more as a set of notes over another chord so we can start altering that chord. To me it is handy to have a simple way to construct basic 3 note voicings I can use for any chord type and then it is easier to alter one of the notes while playing becuase there are only three and I know what notes they are in relation to the chord. The way I approach this is the same as what I did in this lesson on drop2 voicings of 7th chords: Drop2 voicins part 2

Here are a few examples:

G7#5 is in this case constructed by taking a Bdim triad and exchanging the D with a D#. Thinking of this in terms of notes over a G7 this is pretty trivial, but thinking of it as a Bmajorb5 triad is complicated.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 5

In the next example I am taking the F dim construction and exchange the b9 with a #9 to play G7#9.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 7

Here’s the same approach using an F major triad where I substitute the fifth(A) with the 11th(G) to have a Dm7(11) chord voicing.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 8

In the same way we can construct a Cmaj7(#11) voicing by changing the G in the Em triad with an F#. so we are playing the notes E F# and B over the C, in a way you could look at that as a Bsus4 triad too.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 9

In this next example I am substituting the 7th(B) of the Cmaj7 with the 6th(A), still using the E minor triad as a starting point.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 10

Of course there more options and things to figure out using these open triads. Actually I got some new info from writing this lesson since I never approached this in a systematical way, so maybe I can make another one later.

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the examples:Jazz Chord Essentials – Open Triads

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.

Target Notes

A target note is a note that you play in your improvisation when the chord is changing so that the change in the harmony is clear in the melody that you’re improvising. So it’s a way to link your solo to the harmony under it, because you play harmonically clear notes on strong beats of the bar.

Another important aspect of this approach is that It will help having a natural flow in your solo because you are thinking ahead of the harmony and playing towards something instead of trying to keep up with it after it has changed, which is a more important part of playing over changes than a lot of people think.

I already talked a bit about target notes in my lesson on playing over changes with arpeggios. But I thought it deserved a lesson by itself.

Selelcting Target notes

I’ll demonstrate this on a turnaround with altered dominants, because it is easy to make it clear, but it will of course work on all progressions.

Here’s the turnaround:

Target Notes - example 1

I’ll just quickly demonstrate the scales I’ll use:

Target Notes - example 2Target Notes - example 3Target Notes - example 4


Important priorities:

  • It has to be an important note in the chord, but try to avoid the root. Color of the chord is important so 3rd, 5th and on an altered dominant for example the b5 will be clear.
  • Pick a note that was not in the previous chord and maybe not even in the previous scale, that simply makes it very clear.

If we compare the scale on the Fmaj7 to the D altered scale we’ll find that three notes are in D7alt and NOT in F Major: Eb F# Ab, so they would be good candidates for clear target notes.

In a similar way we can come up with this set of target notes for the turnaround:

Target Notes - example 5

You’ll notice that since the root for several reasons does not work to well as a target note we are free to have D as a target note on the Gm7.

Playing towards a target note

The way to improvise or compose lines within this approach is to always compose a line that moves to the next target note. So here are a few examples of moving from one note to the next. The strongest melody across the barline is a step wise movement so a whole or half step.

Target Notes - example 6

And here is a more realistic example where I play twice through the turnaround with the target notes I chose in the beginning.

Target Notes - example 7


Download a pdf of the examples: Target Notes

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.

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.

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.

Diatonic Arpeggios – how to use and practice them

Arpeggios are one of the most important tools in improvising over harmony, since harmony consists of chords and arpeggios are the melodic form a chord, so the chord played note for note.

Diatonic Chords and Arpeggios.

In this lesson I will show some exercises on how to find and play the arpeggios that are contained in the scales you play. Let’s first look at what a diatonic arpeggio is.

If you have a scale like the C major scale: C D E F G A B C, you can build the diatonic 7th chords by stacking 3 thirds on top of each other. A diatonic third is essentially the 2nd note from the note you are on so for C the third above it is E, for D it is F etc. etc. If I stack 3 thirds from C I’ll have these 4 notes: C E G B which is a Cmajor7 chord or arpeggio. From D I get D F A C which is Dm7 etc etc.

It is very useful to learn the order of the diatonic chords in a major scale:

Maj7, m7,  m7, Maj7, Dom7, m7, m7b5 (for C: CMaj7, Dm7,  Em7, FMaj7, G7,A m7, Bm7b5)

and is later just as useful to learn them for Harmonic minor and Melodic minor.

A few basic exercises

As I explain in the video you should aim to have the entire neck covered for each key of the major scale, especially if you play music that changes harmony a lot like jazz, but in the end it is useful to master in all genres. To keep things simple I’ve chosen to use this basic C major scale position at the 8th fret because it is one that is very often used as one of the first.

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 1

So for technical reasons it makes sense to play the scale in 3rds. The 3rds are the building blocks of the diatonic chords, and it is a pretty basic exercise that you should do on all scales (Try a pentatonic scale if you want some surprising sounding diatonic 3rds)

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 2
Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 3

If we then start to stack 2 thirds on top of each other we get a triad, which is of course also a useful exercise to go through:

And if we stack three 3rds we have the diatonic 7th chords:

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 4

It is also useful to take a few other exercises through the scale like these two:

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 5
Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios Scale ex 6

Some examples on how to apply arpeggios in lines

I will leave the explanation of this for the video since I go through it there in some detail. But try to play the lines and see if you can identify the chord notes that I am using and see the arpeggio. The point of the examples are to demonstrate how you mix the arpeggio up with the scale in improvisation, you don’t want to have melodies that sound too much like scale – arpeggio – scale, you want the two to blend in a natural way, similar to how melodies move.

Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 1
Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 2
Scales in Diatonic Arpeggios - ex 3

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Here are the tabs as a pdf: Diatonic Arpeggios – how to use and practice them

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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) :

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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.