Jazz Guitar Elements Blog

7th scales (Dom7 and Half-Diminished Chords)

Seventh scales (7th Scales) are basically descending mixolydian modes with added notes. The most common way of playing a 7th scales is to add the major 7th between the root and the flatted 7th scale degrees.

Adding this one notes gives you an 8 note scale which is important because it allows you, in this case, to start and end on the same note. This of course assumes you are playing 8th notes in a Bebop style.

As an example, let’s say we are playing a “C” 7th scale over a C7 chord and we are resolving to Fmaj7. If we are playing 8th notes and starting on the first beat of the bar we will end on the same note we start on. We start on a “C” note which means we will also end on a “C.” This is important because it allows us to end on the 5th of the Fmaj7 chord.

Now of course this is not all there is to 7th scales. It is possible to start on any note of the scale. Depending on which note we start on, chromatic notes are added in a way which ensures you will resolve nicely to your next chord. I will not go into every example in this post but will stick to just 2 examples for now. The first will be as described above and the second is as follows: Starting on the 3rd of the chord we will add chromatic notes between the 3rd and 2nd degrees, between the 2nd degree and the root of the chord and between the root of the chord and the flatted 7th degree. More information is also available in my book “Jazz Guitar Elements.”

A “C” 7th Scale (C Mixolydian with added note) is played over a C7 chord.

Next, let’s look at how we can use 7th scales over Half-Diminished chords. The first thing you should do is look at my post on “Chord Substitution.” In this post, we saw how a G9 chord with no root is the same as a Bm7(b5). If these 2 chords are in fact the same, then it stands to reason we can play a “G” 7th scale over a Bm7(b5) chord.

Here is an example of a “G” 7th scale used over a Bm7(b5) chord in a II – V – I chord progression in A minor.

Next let’s look at a standard. Below is a solo on the chord changes to “Stella By Starlight.” I’ve used 7th scales over some of the Dom7 and m7(b5) chords. At times I’ve used the entire scale and sometimes just fragments of the scale. (As in the first couple of notes only) Take a look and listen at how I’ve used 7th scales on both chord types. (Audio track is at the bottom of the post)

  • John Roney:piano
  • Dave Watts: bass
  • Claude Lavergne: drums
  • Michael Berard: guitar

Starting Lines (Early and Late)

In our last lesson, Improvising with Arpeggios (Bebop), we looked at using arpeggios to create lines in a Bebop style. All of our lines started on the beat of bar 1. When we play lines, we want to be more casual. To achieve this, start the line before the first beat of the bar or start the line late. Let’s look at different ways we can start our phrases before the bar and at ways to start our lines late.

To start the line early, the easiest approach is to use a pickup note. Let’s look at one of the lines from our previous lesson and add a pickup note before the line.

Adding just one note like this makes the line feel more natural and relaxed, more like a jazz line should. Let’s add a few more notes. In this example, we will use neighbour tones. Neighbour tones are the notes before and after our target note. In this case it would be the first note of our arpeggio. (F)

Let’s add a full 2 beats. Here I’ve used both diatonic and chromatic neighbour tones. (More on that in a later lesson.)

Next, let’s start the line late. We will add an 8th note rest and make up for the missing note by using a triplet.

Now let’s make the first beat of the line a rest and use 16th notes.

Starting lines before and after the beat helps to make your improvised lines sound more spontaneous and musical. In jazz, this is a must. When you are learning or creating new lines, you probably want to start by playing the lines from beat one. This allows you to more effectively understand what you are playing and how it will sound over the chords. Once you are comfortable playing the lines in this more strict form, work on starting the lines early and/or late to make them sound more musical and true to the jazz style.

Improvising with Arpeggios (BeBop)

In this post I’ll be exploring how we can create jazz or bebop lines using arpeggios. Arpeggios sound excellent in jazz lines partly because they give us the exact sound of the chord we are improvising on. Arpeggios are in fact a chord played melodically or horizontally as opposed to all at once or vertically.

When we look at a transcription of a bebop style solo, one of the first things we notice is that there are a lot of 8th notes. This is especially true for tempos that are medium to up. We will start with the idea that since the style calls for lots of flowing 8th notes, we will build improvisational lines that use mostly 8th notes.

To begin, let’s look at some 4 note arpeggios. There are 4 note arpeggios with no extensions (root, 3rd, 5th and 7th) as well as 4 note arpeggios which include the 9th. In this case we will omit the root and use the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th.

Let’s start with a simple II – V7 – I chord progression in the key of C major.

Next thing we need are some 8th notes to fill in the empty spaces. Notice the change in octave in bar 3 for the C note. When an arpeggio changes direction this is called a “Pivot.” The Pivot allows you to keep your arpeggio within a specified range. Had we not used the Pivot, the range of the line would be much greater and a change of position would be needed. By using a Pivot, the entire line fits nicely within a position.

This example illustrates a slightly different possibility. Continue reading “Improvising with Arpeggios (BeBop)”

Getting Started with Jazz Scales on the Guitar

A Poor Man’s Guide to Jazz Guitar Scales

A Guest Post by Marc-Andre Seguin

Hello and welcome to a little “crash course” on jazz guitar scales, and many thanks to Michael, who has had an big impact on my life and my playing (more than he knows!)

The whole point of this lesson is to:

  • learn scales;
  • apply them on the guitar fretboard;
  • … in a jazz context. (Yikes!)

Improvising blues licks and rock solos can be done relatively easy on the guitar (“Hey, look at that 5th fret pentatonic fierce AC/DC lead!”) … but trying to make sense of scales as chords go by (fast) in a jazz context is a totally different ball game.

Remember your first jam session, the moment the bandleader pointed to you and went “Guitar solo!” on a blues in F or even Autumn Leaves?!? Yeah, me too. I was embarrassed enough already, struggling through complicated chords for strumming, I didn’t need the spotlight!

Ok, enough with the bad memories: let’s cover the M.E.D (minimum effective dose) so you can start walking before you run, without getting inundated with music theory. At the end of this post you’ll know exactly which scales to practice and how to master them.

Materials: Three Scales

To make things simple here, we will focus on three types of scales to fit with the three most common chord types in jazz. Our scales of choice are the major scale, the Dorian mode and the Mixolydian mode. The fit the major chords (or maj7), the minor chords (or min7) and the dominant chords (“plain” 7th) respectively.

For now, each scale will only be conceived of on the fretboard with one fingering. No need to stress out with positions and alternative “boxes” on the instrument. You’ll learn that *one* fingering and then go up on the next string with the same fingering. This will yield more or less the same digits patterns (which is very practical for playing without thinking later on).

It goes without saying, anything and everything you learn here can (and should) be applied in different keys. The guitar is wonderful this way: just learned something in C major and want to play it in D major instead? No problem! Move up two frets!

The Major Scale

Here’s the fingering for the major scale, in the key of C. Notice how we are starting with the 2nd (middle) finger of our fretting hand.

For now, only play the scale up to the 7th degree (sounding: DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI) and back down slowly until it sounds good. Repeat with the three starting string we’ve provided in the TABS, always starting the C note with your 2nd finger. Then see if you can play around in different keys.

It is extremely important that you only play to the 7th degree and NOT attempt to relate this back to any known scale position. You can always do that later. Continue reading “Getting Started with Jazz Scales on the Guitar”

Reading Exercise 28

When it comes to sight reading, it’s important to treat the music you are reading like any other piece of music. In fact, I will also add that it is important to try and read real music and not just from books that are “designed for reading.” “Jazz Reading Elements” is a collection of songs for reading and as you will see in this post, it is also a collection of songs for playing, soloing over and plain old playing jazz.

So when I say read and treat it like any other piece of music, I mean, play the melody with expression, feeling and dynamics, solo over the changes and comp the chords. The best way to do all of this would be to gather a bunch of musician friends together, like in the olden days, and everyone sight reads and solos over the music together.

To give you an idea, I’ve taken one of the reading exercises from my book, “Reading Exercise 28” and put together a recording which illustrates just this. Now unfortunately I didn’t hire all my favorite jazz session players but rather just played everything myself. In todays world this has become an easy enough thing to do. (And I’m a bit of a recording gear nut)

*Update April 28, had the great Dave Watts in the studio today and he added some beautiful double bass. Track has been updated. Thank you Dave!

So here we have the lead sheet for “Reading Exercise 28” from my book “Jazz Reading Elements” along with a transcription of the solo I recorded. The solo is in fact improvised so as with all improvisations, there will be playing that’s behind the beat and 8th notes that seem to have a tempo of their own. The transcription should be seen as a rounding out of all of the imperfections (or musical jewels) and not an exact transcription. To listen to the track, just scroll to the bottom of the page. I’ve also added an 8 bar intro to get you into the piece. Also please note that the classical guitar and piano are not playing the comping rhythm in part 2. Enjoy and feel free to add comments, etc…

 

Melody

 

Continue reading “Reading Exercise 28”

Sight Reading

Sight Reading is probably one of the most important and also most overlooked skills that jazz guitar players need to consider. Think about regular “reading” for a moment and try to imagine the enormous amount of reading we do on a daily basis. We read our emails, Facebook page, Twitter, News Feed and on and on. We read all day!

With all this reading we do on a daily basis, we are taking in vast amounts of information. Reading is like a magic portal to information which stimulates our brains and enhances our lives.

Now try to image if you replaced all of that “regular” reading  with music reading. Imagine instead that you are now reading tunes, solos, licks, chord changes, songs your friends send you, music you need to learn for a gig and even music you are composing and on and on. What might that be like?

Now instead of taking in vast amounts of information on your Facebook friends’ activities or the latest in crazy political happening in the news, you are absorbing music and sounds from a piece of manuscript paper. Just like with text, reading music is like a magic portal into a vast universe of sound and musical adventures.

So what do you do? Just read everything and anything you can get your hands on. Read the Fakebook, read chord changes, solos, exercises, classical music, jazz music, pop music, Big Band music, anything and everything.

Of course there are all sorts of great books which focus on reading. I always liked “Rhythms Complete” by Charles Collins and “Advanced Rhythms” by Joe Allard. These two books are a great place to get a good start on reading jazz. If you search for sight reading books you will find many other great books as well. If you have friends who play music, borrow their books. This is especially a good idea if your friends play violin or flute. Both of those instruments have ranges which extend into the higher registers. Great practice to read all those ledger lines.

As guitar players we need to focus on reading three important types of music. There are three skills or three areas we must look at. The first is just plain old reading of single note music. This would be what a trumpet or sax player reads. (Melodies) The second type of music we need to read is chord changes. We need to be able to read the chord changes in time, know what types of extensions to add and improvise interesting jazz rhythms to these chord changes as well. The third type of reading jazz guitar players need to focus on is reading polyphonic music. (full chords) Think of Joe Pass chord solos, classical guitar music and so on. Piano players learn to read anywhere from two to eight notes at a time using both hands. We need to learn to read more than one note at a time as well.

As I mentioned already, read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Have sheet music around. Place a pile of books on your music stand or on your desk. Make your practice environment a minefield of music books, charts and manuscript paper. Jump in and read, read, read.

What do you think? Share your music reading experiences with us. What are some other great books for learning to sight read?

I am currently working on a Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Book. I’m putting together a collection of around 40 reading exercises. Each piece will focus on a particular reading element. The exercises will progress from easy to more difficult. I feel there are not enough books which reflect some of the more modern sounds in jazz so I’ve made that the focus of my new book. I’m very excited about this new book and hope to have it available soon.

Happy sight reading!

Drop 2 Chords (Stella)

In this lesson we will look at the chords for the first 9 bars of “Stella By Startlight.” We will use Drop 2 chord voicings to create a comping pattern which is melodically and rhythmically interesting.

We will achieve our goal by following these steps.

  • Learn to play the Drop 2 chords we need.

  • Arrange them so they create a melodically interesting melodic line.

  • Add extensions to the chords.

  • Add jazz rhythms

Take a look at the chord voicings below and make sure you can play all of them. Also important to note is that no positions or chord names such as “Cmaj7” are given. You will need to find the roots for each of the chords. Once you know where the root of each chord is, you will then be able to move them around and play them in any key.

Continue reading “Drop 2 Chords (Stella)”

Improv Lesson 3 (Targeting 3rds)

In this lesson, we will look at soloing in a Bebop style using a technique I call “targeting 3rds.” This technique will help make your soloing sound like you are always right on the changes. The most important aspect of soloing on standards and Bebop tunes is to sound like you are playing on the chord changes and not just wandering around the modes. An important characteristic of a great Bebop solo is that you can hear the chord changes in the soloing even when no one is comping.

The way to achieve this is to always make the first note of a new chord change one of the chord tones. Making the 3rd of the chord the first note you play for each new chord is one of the strongest ways to express the sound of the chord.

The first step is to practice playing only the third of each chord for either a standard or Bebop tune. As an example, let’s look at how we can apply this to the standard “Lady Bird.”

Continue reading “Improv Lesson 3 (Targeting 3rds)”

3 Octave Scales

In this lesson, we will combine 3 scale forms to produce fingerings to play scales across 3 octaves. The scale forms are standard fingerings used to play major scales. First we will look at 3 major scale fingerings.

*Note: White notes are the roots of the scale.

Root 3rd fret

Root 10th fret

Root 15th fret

Visualizing all 3 scales at the same time on the fingerboard, we end up with the following.

Continue reading “3 Octave Scales”

Improv Lesson 2 (BeBop)

Green Dolphin Street is one of my favorite types of standards to improvise on. It mixes modal progressions with Bebop. Take a look at the chart below. The “A” sections will be played using a modal technique and “B” and “B1” will be played in a Bebop style.

Let’s start with the “A” sections. For this modal section, we will use a technique called “Common Tone Approach.” This is a great tune to demonstrate this technique because we have a “C” pedal tone through most of the “A” section. As the name suggests, we will use a common tone to help us generate the modes we need to improvise. In other words, all of our modes will use the “C” note as their roots. Let’s begin. Continue reading “Improv Lesson 2 (BeBop)”