Improv Lesson 1 (Modal Jazz)

Let’s take a look at a simple modal composition. We will concentrate on: finding the scales we need, mapping them out on the fingerboard and working them into a solo.

First, look at the leadsheet below and listen to the recorded example to get a basic feel for the tune.

Let’s look at the scales we’ll need. For all 7(sus4) chords we use Mixolydian. For all maj7(#11) chords we use Lydian. For both m11 amd m6/9 chords we use Dorian.

Practice playing through the scales below on your guitar. To begin, play all of your modes around positions V, IV and III.

Parent Scales

Parent scales are useful in finding the modes you need. Even though we are using the major scales as a guide to finding our modes, it is important to visualize the actual modes you will be using to solo. They may have the same notes but they definately don’t sound the same. Use the parent scales to help you find the correct modes and the positions on the fingerboard. When you are comfortable finding the parent scales, focus on trying to hear the sound of each mode.

  • Eb Mixolydian: Parent Scale = Ab Major Scale
  • C Mixolydian: Parent Scale = F Major Scale
  • Eb Mixolydian: Parent Scale = Ab Major Scale
  • Gb Lydian: Parent Scale = Db Major Scale
  • G Dorian: Parent Scale = F Major Scale
  • B Dorian: Parent Scale = A Major Scale
  • A Dorian: Parent Scale = G Major Scale
  • Ab Lydian: Parent Scale = Eb Major Scale
  • Db Lydian: Parent Scale = Ab Major Scale

This solo chorus is all about playing motivically. The rhythmic and melodic idea from the first measure of the melody is used as a starting point to develope the entire chorus. There is quite a bit of repetition of this motivic idea which weaves in and out of each of the modes. Your goal should be to play “Soaring” (this song) and not just plaster it with licks you already know. Build your solo around the elements contained in this song. There is always enough melodic and rhythmic material in every composition to develop a solo. Your goal should be to play a solo which reflects the mood and spirit of each piece you play.