Scales, modes & arpeggios
This blog section contains jazz guitar lessons related to the practice of scales and modes.
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Giant Steps is one of those tunes in jazz that sends a bolt of fear through a lot of young or even experienced jazz musicians. It certainly does that to me anyway! The fast harmonic rhythm and the seemingly distant relationships between the chords means it is a very daunting challenge.
However, there is a very cool and simple way of practicing navigating through these changes and it involves using 3 different pentatonic scales.
Learning and playing scales can be an important part of any guitarist’s practise regime. By playing scales in a variety of ways we can develop our familiarity with the fretboard beyond simply going up and down scales. In this tutorial we will look at combining two different scale patterns by shifting between them on various strings. For this we are going to use two patterns of an Eb Melodic minor scale, patterns 2 and 3. The Melodic minor scale consists of the intervals R 2 b3 4 5 6 7 (R is for the Root note).
What's the blues arpeggio ?
Traditionally, when a student learns to improvise over a jazz, blues tune, he taught pentatonic scales, major triads or dominant 7th arpeggios, but there is something missing to get this specific and exciting jazz, blues sound. The blues arpeggio is a very interesting and important device to use over this musical genre. It is a mix of a major triad and a minor triad, it contains both major and minor thirds, representing one of the most vital elements of the blues. In this jazz guitar lesson we will see how to build the blues arpeggio, how to practice it and how to play it on a blues.
When a jazz beginner starts to improvise over a II-V-I progression, he generally plays arpeggios corresponding to the chords of the sequence. In other words, he learns to play minor arpeggios over the minor chord (II), dominant 7th arpeggio over the 7th chord (V) and major arpeggio over the major 7 chord (I). This way the harmony is highlighted without taking risks. Then comes the modes, the basic rules concerning modes is that to play dorian over the minor chord , mixolydian over the dominant and ionian over the major chord. In short, in the long-run there is nothing exciting. That's why there is a nice trick used by number of jazz players to add smoothness to a line over a dominant 7th chord. This is a little tip that makes all the difference, simply play the notes of a major 7th arpeggio over the V7 rooted on its b7 degree.
The minor pentatonic scale is by far the most used scale in the world all styles taken together (jazz, blues, rock, reggae, pop, country). One of the explanation is given by the structure, indeed there are no semi-tones in it. It is easy to play on the guitar and it can be used in a whole lot of very different contexts. This lesson will show you 8 ways to use the minor pentatonic scale over a dominant 7 chord. The principle is easy to understand, this consists to play the minor pentatonic scale starting on each tone of the mixolydian scale (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7). This method helps to highlight certain notes and brings interesting colors to your jazz guitar lines depending on you want to play outside or inside.
Arpeggios are surely the most important devices to master when you want to start improvising. Every jazz players use arpeggios in their improvisations. Great guitarists, all kinds of styles use arpeggios : John Scofield, Kurt Rosewinkel, Birelli Lagrene, Django Reinhardt, and many more. Arpeggios are played extensively because they use only the notes found in a single chord, therefore they create a more harmonized sound when played with their corresponding chord. Arpeggios are very helpful to easily outline the chord changes. This lesson is focused on the most basic form of arpeggios made out of three notes called "triad arpeggios".
In jazz music, there are two different ways of improvisation, the use of scales and the use of arpeggios. Great jazz improvisers as Wes Montgomery, George Benson, John Scofield, Mike Stern, Pat Martino or Barney Kessel master both scales and arpeggios. Arpeggios are very helpful devices to easily outline the chord changes especially in tunes with fast tempos as bebop tunes for examples. The basic use of arpeggios is to play them over their related chord, for example play a Gm7 arpeggio (G-Bb-D-F) over a G minor 7 chord or a C7 arpeggio (C-E-G-Bb) over a C dominant 7 chord. Over a classic II-V-I progression in C major (Dm7-G7-Cmaj7) you will play Dm7 arp, G7 arp and Cmaj7 arp. This way you take no risks and you are sure to underline and hear correctly the harmony. Unfortunately, this can be boring in the long run, that's why, in this article, we will see how to superimpose diatonic arpeggios to open new paths and create original and interesting jazz lines.
In this lesson we will see how to use the minor pentatonic scale over a II-Valt-I sequence. The principle is simple, it consists to play three minor pentatonic scales spaced apart of 1 semitone one from the other. This way you will bring out interesting colors to your jazz lines.
- II chord: Play the minor pentatonic starting on the 5th degree of the II chord. This way you will highlight the fifth (5), the minor seventh (b7), the root (R), the ninth (9) and the eleventh (11) of the minor II chord. (Exemple for Cm7 play G- pentatonic).
- V chord : Play the minor pentatonic scale up a half step starting on the #9 of the V7alt chord (Ab-pentatonic over F7alt for example). Therefore, you will play the main altered tones of the V7alt namely #9, #11, b13, b7, b9.
- I chord : Play the minor pentatonic up a half step again starting on the 7th of the I maj7#11 (Example with A minor penta for Bbmaj7#11). Thus giving the 7, 9, 3, #11 and the thirteenth of the I chord.