Tag Archives: tonic minor

Don’t sound the same all the time – Minor chords

It’s important to not get stuck in one sound on a chord. If you can play something with a different sound each time that chord comes along. You keep surprising the listener. In this video I am going to go over three different sounds on a minor chord, so scales and sounds. This works really well on a tonic minor chord as in a minor blues, or summertime or invitation.

In the video I am going to go over 3 different approaches to a tonic minor chord. For each one I will demonstrate a comping and a soloing example for each sound. I will try to not talk about the different notes in the sound but also a bit about phrasing and devices that are commonly associated with this sound. This is often just as or more important than the notes.

Melodic Minor

The Melodic minor sound is really the meat and potatoes sound of tonic minor since bebop. It is a very nice strong sounding scale that actually doesn’t really have any avoid notes.

The character notes of the scale is the major 6th and major 7th.

To get this sound across we can make good use of m6 and mMaj7 chords like this:

And the line that I wrote to illustrate this sound is this:

The melodic minor sound is such a huge part of the “modern jazz sound” that we can easily use some of the melodic devices associated with that. In the line above it is first a DmMaj9 arpeggio followed by a line constructed by individual upper structure triads: G, Faug and Em. The line ends on the 9th of the chord to keep a more open ended sound. Notice the use of larger intervals in the triads.


Dorian is probably the most commonly used on a minor chord since Miles Davis Kind of Blue in the 50’s. It is since then also included in compositions like Joe Hendersons Recorda Me or Wes Montgomery’s Four on Six.

The Dorian scale is of course the 2nd mode of a major scale so D dorian is the same note material as a C major scale.

Since all of the examples are D minor they are pretty much the same except for the 6th and 7th of the scale. In Dorian we have the combination of a major 6th and a minor 7th. The comping example I am using the same trick that Wes uses in four on six. Playing a II V and use that as a tonic Dm sound:

In the line I am a very common device associated with more Coltrane/McCoy Tyner era modal jazz: Stacks of 4ths. Stacks of 4ths or Quartal harmony entered jazz with Kind Of Blue and became the foundation for a whole period of Coltranes music. 

The core of the Dorian sound in this case is the 6th(or13th) against the b7 on the minor chord. This note removes the line from being a II V to becoming a minor sound.

The line is constructed with first a stack of 4ths from the root D. Then it continues with a Dm triad inversion that then temporarily emphasizes the 13th(B). It then continues with a Dm7 arpeggio before it again rests on a B.

If you want to see more examples of m13 chords you can check out this lesson: The Minor Chord You Never Use

The Blues

A sound that we often use but never really think of as something separate is the Blues. The blues is of course mostly by defined by a way of phrasing and a feel defined. Which is therefore important to keep in there. For the rest we would characterise by this 6 note scale: 

Since blues is often more associated with dom7th chords in terms of harmony it is difficult to really get it across in chords if the song isn’t in a blues feel. In the comping example I chose to borrow some dorian sounds and try to phrase it in a bluesy way.

The line is in terms of notes really a simple Dm7 line with an occasional Ab as a leading note. In the blues it is clear that it is much more about phrasing and melody. The typical blues phrases emphasizes the beat and has the chord tones on the beat. The phrasing uses dynamics and is using a lot of slides or legato techniques.

Get your sounds together

I hope you can use these examples to get started using different sounds over minor chords. If you check out one of Wes’ solos on four on six you will find examples of all of the sounds. This is in fact the case for a lot of solos on minor chords.

Check out how I use it

If you want to see some examples of how I use these different sounds you can check out this lesson:

Summertime – Tonic minor options – Solo Lesson

If you want to download the examples I went over here you can find the PDF here:

Don’t sound the same all the time! – Tonic minor scales

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment 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 are searching for.

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