Archive for Jazz Guitar

Lesson 26: Blues

Posted in chord changes, Guitar Playing, Jazz Guitar with tags , on May 18, 2009 by Staff Writer

Master covered some territory last week by talking about applications of the Lydian Dominant in two scenarios – resolving and non-resolving progressions, the latter in examples such as a I IV V blues 12-bar.

While discussing this, it occurred to me that I know very little about the basic framework for playing Blues – my standard approach being just to slap the relevant minor pentatonic from the same root over whatever chord is up at the time (wrong!).

Master spent a little time talking about the backdrop and evolution of Blues which I found beneficial, then we launched into some practicalities of how and where to substitute chords over the vanilla standard chord progression, more of which I will lay out as I get through them.  Here’s some for starters:

Standard progression in G : (I G7 IV C7 V D7)

| G7   | %  | %  |  %  |

| C7   | %  | G7 |  %  |

| D7  |  C7 |  G7 | D7  |

First off, changing bar 9 and 10 to create a ii V I movement is quite a jazzy thing to do:

| G7   | %  | %  |  %  |

| C7   | %  | G7 |  %  |

| Am7D7 |  G7 | D7  |

Another common thing is to introduce a ii V I in bar 4 in the key of C (Dm7 G7 C7).

| G7   | %  | %  | Dm7 G7 |

| C7   | %  | G7 |  %  |

| Am7D7 |  G7 | D7  |

Maybe, to create a V-I movement approaching bar 9, we can introduce E7 in bar 8:

| G7   | %  | %  |  Dm7 G7 |

| C7   | %  | G7 | E7  |

| Am7 |  D7 |  G7 | D7  |

There’s still stuff I am struggling with on a theory side. I find it hard to mentally reconcile the use of all the 7 chords and think in a certain key. Master said ‘let that go’. For example, over the I chord, my natural tendency would be to play G minor pentatonic, playing around the dorian, which says to me that we are in the key of F. Master said to throw this kind of thinking out of the window.  Actually, the above progression is in C and we might approach the tonality as G mixolydian, but even this is too static a way to think. Blues breaks a lot of rules and isn’t described well from a theory point of view. It just sounds good, so let’s let it just be so. I hope to understand why things sound the way they do as we progress.


Lesson 25: More Lydian Dominant

Posted in Jazz Guitar, music theory with tags on May 11, 2009 by Staff Writer

It’s been a while since I first learned what the Lydian Dominant and the Altered Scale were and I (erroneously) posted about them here.

Anyway, I told Master that I wanted to revisit this and try to delve into it more as it was floating around at the edge of what I understood. The missing part of the puzzle was that there are a couple of easy scenarios for usage – one where the chord is resolving (say a V-I) and the other where it is not, e.g. a I chord in a blues I-Iv-V.

First off, consider the G Melodic minor (we spent a while just playing this). The seventh mode, i.e. starting on F# is called the Altered Scale (or super Locrian). Playing this over an F#7 chord yields an F#7b13 sound, which is cool in itself. In a ii V I in B (C#m | F#7 | Bmaj7) we can play C# Dorian for a bit, then the F# Alt, then resolve to a note of B. One of the key ways to extract the sound of this mode is to play or home in on chord tones of the G min/Maj 7 chord which is contained therein (harmonize the G melodic minor to derive it). As it turns out these are also notes of F#7#something.

Secondly, consider the blues progression of C13 | F9 etc…  Playing the melodic minor a fifth away from the root over the I chord (C13, so this would be G melodic minor) gives us C Lydian Dominant. In other words, the fifth mode of the G melodic minor is C Lydian Dominant which gives a cool flavour, especially if I home in again on the Gmin/maj7 chord tones.

Gmin/maj7 in a G (ascending) melodic minor scale.


Lesson 24: Rhythm Changes

Posted in Guitar General, Guitar Playing, jazz, Jazz Guitar with tags , , on April 7, 2009 by Staff Writer

Been learning this some more in last lesson and prior.

32 bar AABA form:

A(i)   Bbmaj7 | G7 | Cmin7 | F7 | Dmin7 | G7 | Cmin7 | F7 |

A(ii)  Bbmaj7 | Bb7 | Emaj7 | Ebdim7 | Dmin7 G7| Cmin7 F7 | Bbmaj7 |

B      D7 |   D7  |  G7  |  G7  |  C7   |   C7   |   F7   |   F7

A(ii)  Bbmaj7 | Bb7 | Emaj7 | Ebdim7 | Dmin7 G7| Cmin7 F7 | Bbmaj7 |

Works with The Flintstones theme tune.

Some 3 note chord forms shown here – figure out how to make them work nicely with some voice leading principles:image

Some 4 note drop 2 voicings on the top strings.


Lesson 23: Nailing Autumn Leaves rhythm parts

Posted in chord changes, Jazz Guitar, music theory with tags , , on March 23, 2009 by Staff Writer

Still hacking away at this tune. Master gave me a chart from an Aebersold set that shows the chords. Finally, I can play a version of it all the way through. The trick for me, with many Jazz charts is to reduce the chords (e.g. an Emaj7 6/9 or an EbmajAdd4) to its basic chord, ie. an Emaj7 or an Ebmaj7 and then work from there.

Consequently, I can now play a straightforward version:

A) Verse

Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7 |

Amin7b5 | D7 | Gm | G7 |

Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7

Amin7b5 | D7 | Gm | Gm |

B) Bridge

Amin7b5 | D7 | Gm | Gm |

Cm 7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7 |

Amin7b5 | D7 | Gm C7 | F7 Bbmaj7 |

Ebmaj7 | AMin7b5 D7 | Gm | Gm

We spent some time playing through this till I felt comfortable with the progression and then spent some time trying to make the rhythm less monotonous, including doing some half-step substitutions.  Will continue to practice this. Leaving soloing aside for now and working on the rhythm in earnest – think this will payback well later.

Master did mention some things around tonality, e.g. we are in the key of Bb and have a minor ii V I (Amin7b5 | D7 | Gm) but we also have a ii Vi ii V in Eb appearing later on, so we can tread in between these tonalities depending on some of the emphasis notes in the melody. I hope to explore this more with Master next week.

Lesson 22: Rhythm Changes – yabba dabba doo!

Posted in chord changes, jazz, Jazz Guitar with tags , on March 4, 2009 by Staff Writer

Trying to get back into the swing of things with some regularity of lessons with Master. Visited him last Sunday. Among other things, we discussed ‘Rhythm Changes’, i.e. some purportedly very common changes used in millions of jazz tunes and especially from a tune called ‘I got rhythm’.  I’d heard of these before and devoured the info eagerly.

We started with the vanilla-flavored progression:

Bbmaj7 | G7 | Cmin7 | F7 | Dm7 | G7 | Cmin7 | F7

Bbmaj7 | Bdim7 | Ebmaj7 | Ebmin7 | Dm7 | G7 | Cmin7 | F7

D7 | % | G7 | % | C7 | % | F7 % |

…back to top.

Anyway, I hadn’t heard of I Got Rhythm. Nor any of Anthropology, Oleo, Lester Leaps Off (?) and about half a dozen other tunes he mentioned. However, we hit the motherlode when he said “Flintstones”.  Yep – this progression is the one that backs that most famous of stone-age cartoon creations (though I prefer the ‘R’ rated version you can find on the web [F*ckstones – go Google it]).

There are many substitution opportunities – zillions, but I’m too lazy to post them. Will eke some out as I learn more.

Homework 1: First Jazz effort

Posted in Jazz Guitar with tags , , , , , on November 22, 2007 by Staff Writer

If Wes Montgomery were a Chinese boy just starting out on the guitar and told to play something over GM7 | Em7 | Am7 | D7 when someone said ‘on your marks, get set GO!‘ then it would have sounded something like this.


  1. This is intentionally one single take with no correcting and overdubbing so I can home in on the horror of my playing under the harsh light that a live audience might – there will be no room for error when I finally get on stage. So, yes, I know it sucks, but that’s part of the point.
  2. Backing track created with my Yamaha QY70 sequencer (God, I love that thing).
  3. Recorded with my Boss Micro BR (God, I love that thing also).
  4. Timing sucks very badly at the beginning (God). Rhythm is a major weak point for me.
  5. I’ve deliberately tried to ‘make it swing’. Not sure how successful I’ve been…
  6. Progression is I vi ii V in G major, so GM7 | Em7 | Am7 | D7
  7. Didn’t do too badly at landing on the right chord tones for the most part.
  8. Playing is almost entirely diatonic with only a couple of Jazzy chromatic grace notes.
  9. Only a couple of truly horrendous fuckups. See if you can spot them.
  10. No distortion pedals were harmed in the making of this track.
  11. If you can bear it, I loosen up towards the end (2 mins+) and ‘just play’ and I think there are better results here than at the beginning when I’m thinking too academically about chords and scales and stuff rather than just letting the music come out.

Ok – so overall it’s not *too* nasty. No doubt in 5 years I’ll be thinking ‘Jesus H. Christ that was appalling’ but for now, I’m reasonably happy that my efforts in my bedroom with my magazines (guitar magazines) have at least given me a grasp of the rudiments of playing over changes. 

Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny…*

Posted in jazz, Jazz Guitar with tags , , , on November 20, 2007 by Staff Writer


Well, I finally caved in and did it – I got desperate and got a Jazz guitar teacher. Books and magazines are great up until a point but they can’t take you where a grizzly 50-year-old gig-hardened Mississippian (go check the spelling and see) veteran can in terms of imparting experience, anecdotes, knowledge and spontaneous licks.

The problematic part is this – I don’t actually like Jazz – at least, for the most part the stuff I’ve heard (and trust me, I’ve been in plenty of elevators) doesn’t really stimulate me as much as say a wild ‘n’ heavy thrash metal riff from Megadeth or a wailing distorted Yngwie Malmsteen solo, or a fusionesque and tortuously twisted Allan Holdsworth lead might. No – my musical interest and motivation is in IMPROVISATION, i.e. spontaneously making up some music on the spot without any premeditation and the Jazz realm is where this happens in its most refined and evolved form I suppose.

So, having already said that I don’t like Jazz let me qualify that by saying that generally, those Swing and Bebop tunes don’t really appeal to me though I do appreciate the harmonic sophistication and the musicianship that comprises a lot of it – I want to learn these techniques and apply them in a way that doesn’t sound quite so happy and jolly as a lot of Jazz does (of course I’m deliberately showing my ignorance here – no offence intended :)). Maybe I’ll dive into this in future to avoid too many flames on a new blog – (wishful thinking that there are even any readers out there…). Commentators may feel free to suggest Jazz which is non-happy and non-jolly sounding.

In browsing various magazines I happened across this (highly paraphrased) quote from Pat Martino: “sooner or later the guitarist is confronted with having to learn how to play over changes” – so that’s where I am now. A player for 20 years in various rock and metal styles, the time has come when I’m faced with a chord chart that shows more than just a static E minor chord vamp, but instead has a G7#5b9, B7+-\G, Em7, F+, C13#4b2sus3 and I am scratching my head saying ‘huh? How the heck do I play over this without looking like an idiot?’ – albeit an idiot with a fuckin’ bitchin’ looking pointy-headstocked metal guitar.

Part of the effort of this blog will be to document ‘before and after’ scenarios so I’ll be posting examples of my playing as I progress through my journey with my new guitar teacher and hopefully will be able to demonstrate some kind of improvement. I’ll also try to lay down some of what I was shown so if you’re so inclined you can copy some of it too.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.

*attributed to the late great Frank Zappa – another totally bitchin’ guitarist and a unique improvisor.