Tag Archives: Ultra

Practicing Scales Through Chord Changes

This lesson is about a very simple exercise that should make you better at improvising freely over changing chords.

If you improvise you probably practice scales, and I have already made a few lesson on how you can practice your scales: Diatonic Arpeggios – how to use and practice and Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered dominants. But probably you deal with them one at a time as I do for the most part in these lessons, and not like you do when improvising over for example a jazz standard where the chords changes once or twice per bar.

Melodies rules the harmonies!

When you improvise you need to make melodies on several scales and it should still sound like one melody, not like you and not get stuck in a chord change. The goal is to let the melodies you improvise rule what happens more than the changing harmony. For that reason it’s useful to practice connecting scales because since we want to be as free as possible melodically when we improvise.

The Exercise

The Idea is quite simple: For each chord in a progression you have a scale, play the scale for the duration of the chord. In this lesson I’ve chosen one bar per chord and I am playing the scales in 8th notes.

This approach works the best if the chords are changing in a way that the scales a very different, so it I chose to use a turnaround, a I IV II V with altered dominants as an example. It also works really well with f.ex Coltrane Changes.

Here’s the turnaround.
Scales Through Changes - ex 1

For Bbmaj7 and Cm7 I am using this scale:
Scales Through Changes - ex 2
For G7alt I am using this position of the Abm Melodic Minor scale:
Scales Through Changes - ex 3

And for F7alt I am using this scale:
Scales Through Changes - ex 4


Here is a transcription of how I play twice through the turnaround using this exercise in the video:Scales Through Changes - ex 5

As I explain and demonstrate in the video you can use this approach not only while playing scales but also doing other exercises like diatonic 3rds, arpeggios, triads etc.

Here’s a short transcription of a part of what I play at the end of the video:

Scales Through Changes - ex 6


You can download a pdf of the examples here:

Practicing Scales Through Changes

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.

Demo video for Coffee Break Grooves

Chris from Coffee Break Grooves was so kind to ask me to make a demonstration video for one of their backing tracks.

I am a bit out of my comfort zone with this type of playing but it was nice to cut an improvised solo on the track and get to use my “new” yamaha guitar.

Here it is:

Jazz Chord Essentials – Shell voicings

I thought I’d make this 3rd lesson on Jazz voicings about a simple reduced way of playing chords that then also lends it self very well to situations where you need to play the bass. Being simple and compact also makes it very easy to extend so a lot of things can be build from them. As I demonstrate in the video: full chords with extensions, bass lines. They are also useful for playing bossa novas and sambas as well as typical Freddie Green style 4 to the bar stuff.

Let’s first have a look at how shell voicings are constructed. A shell voicing is the bare necessities version of a jazz chord, so the chord is reduced to three notes. The most defining notes of a chord would be:

  • The Root (what chord is it)
  • The Third (is it major or minor)
  • The Seventh (major/minor/6th)

For voice-leading purposes I’ll make two different sorts of shell voicings. Both have the chord (3rd and 7th) on the 3rd and 4th string and the root is in one variation on the 5th string, in the other one it is on the 6th string. There are rules for voice-leading, but the essence is that if you don’t have to go to the closest note in the next chord when going from one chord to the next. Setting the chords up like this makes it easy to stay in one place with the chord and move the root a 4th or a 5th (which are the most common changes). You will also notice that I am calling the 7th chord m7(b5) even if it does not contain the flatted 5th, so I am naming them according to the key. I do that in the video too.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 1

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/148539057″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 2

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/148539039″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

As usual the best way to learn it is to put it through a song as I do in the video, but here are a few examples on a turnaround in C.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 3

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/148539160″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 4

One of the ways I use shell voicings is to use them as a basis and then add extensions or melody notes on top like this:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/148539069″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

You might notice that especially the sets with the root on the 6th string tend to become drop3 voicings when you add extensions.  And if you watch the video you’ll see several applications of these kinds of chords in different styles.

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Here are the examples as a pdf: Jazz Chord Essentials – Shell voicings

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Review of my Performance at Dutch AxeFest 2013

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

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

Review of Dutch AxeFest 2013


Traeben live video from Haarlemse Jazz Club

I came across this video yesterday from over concert in November. It’s a pretty good version of my song Catatraffic from Push. If you want to skip to the guitar solo it starts around 3:30.

It’s a great video even if they can’t spell the band name 🙂

Hope you like it!



“Top Dog” in Finals at ISC!!!

I am really proud to announce that my composition “Top Dog” from the Træben album “Push” is in the Finals at the International Songwriting Competition!

Now it will be judged along with 9 other compositions by a jury including Joshua Redman and McCoy Tyner.

Here’s the recording from of the song from our album “Push”:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41252202″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Her is a video of us performing Top Dog on Dutch TV in 2012: