Sometimes it is hard to come up with something that inspires you when you are improvising a jazz solo. There are a lot of things you can use if you want to improvise over a maj7 chord, and in this video, I am going to give you some of my favourites terms of arpeggios, triads, pentatonics and a few special tricks as well.
You should have a lot of things to start working with at the end of this video, and most of it is really just a new way to use the things you already know.
Focus on how it sounds because I think that is how you are going to be inspired by it, and I will also give you some other tips on getting new ideas that are not only about what notes to play.
Cmaj7 – You can always get more out of this!
The basic material in this video is this chord, the C major scale.
And the one Cmaj7 octave arpeggio
Chromaticism – Pure Bebop
A great way to tap into Jazz as a sound and getting this type of melodies into your playing is to use chromaticism.
The example below has two short lines using different chromatic enclosures and a melody build around a Cmaj7 chord. You can check out more information on different types of chromatic enclosures here: 5 chromatic enclosures
There are more examples in this lesson: 10 Great Chromatic Ideas in Jazz Licks (Easy to Weird)
Be creative! Don’t just run up and down arpeggios
Very often when I listen to a great line and check out what it is and how to use it. Often I find that the melody is actually a basic arpeggio melody. Below are some examples of lines like this that I have come across.
You can use a variation of the Rosenwinkel melody like this:
You can also experiment with inventing melodies playing patterns with a one octave arpeggio. Try to mess around and see if you find something that sounds like an interesting melody.
Em7 – Don’t Box yourself in, you are missing out
The Em7 arpeggio is the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of Cmaj7.
If you look at the notes of Cmaj7: C E G B – and look at the notes of Em7: E G B D you can see that they share most of the notes and the Em7 adds a D, the 9th of C. That makes it a great arpeggio to use on a Cmaj7.
In fact the arpeggio found on the 3rd of the chord works great for most chords.
Sometimes you miss great melodies because the focus is on learning in a position, in a scale or in some other shape. This example using an Em7 arpeggio is branching out of the regular patterns and making specific melodies a lot easier to play.
Gsus4 – Not Obivous and Very Cool
The thing with the sus triads is that they sound a little less obvious and that is why they are great to use once in a while. In this first example I am using the Gsus4 triad to make a 5-note group that I can repeat before continuing, another way to change things up in a solo: odd-note groupings.
Another way to play the notes of the Gsus4 triad is this beautiful C quintal arpeggio that is the perfect way to add some larger intervals to your lines. In this case, I am combining it with a sus4 triad which is another great tool on a Cmaj7.
The Esus4 triad is really useful (leave this clip out?)
Esus4 – Complete Chord And some Color!
The Esus4 is really the complete chord, it has an E and a B so the 3rd and 7th of Cmaj7 and also the 13th: A adding some color. Here I am using it as a 3-note grouping and again taking advantage of sus4 triads being less obvious so that it is easier to repeat them in a melody without it getting boring.
Em pentatonic – Quartal Cmaj7 licks
The Pentatonic scale is very closely related to the sound of quartal harmony, and since it is a scale that we guitarists are usually very familiar with then it is a great place to find some interesting lines.
Practicing the pentatonic scale in the way shown below can help you explore melodies similar to what I use in the example.
This triad pair works fantastic for Cmaj7, besides that they are also what I used to make the most annoying picking exercise I ever cam up with…. (B-roll) and the way I usually improvise with triad pairs is by chaining together inversions to get different colors on top of the chords. This has a sound that is different from other types of melodies and still produces very strong melodies.
Putting these concepts in a song
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