1753 Chord Melody: back to basics

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Students regularly ask me about my approach to solo jazz guitar and especially the improvisational part to it. Do I learn licks, special chord runs, is the improvisation actually more like an arranged variation of the piece, can you still play single line and the list goes on. In this post I will have a look at one of the approaches I may take playing a piece and creating room for added lines. I will refer to it as the 17 53 approach.

 

17 53

While accompanying someone or when you are playing and improvising as a solo guitarist, it is good to remember that a lot of guitar playing in those situations is more about implying than actual playing. Chord melody does not mean that every note needs to be played using a chord. One thing that has helped me through is the so called 17 53 approach. I look at the chords of a piece and rather than playing all these fancy chords I stick with the basic seventh chords. These chords always consist of 4 tones: root, 3rd, 5th, 7th. One way of implying harmony and movement is by using the combination root (1) seventh (7) and fifth (5) and third (3) as combination double stops to imply the full chord. the great thing about playing just two notes is that you’ll free up at least two fingers to add in some melodic lines. Besides that the third and seventh of the chords are perfect guide tones for any melodic improvisation that keeps outlining the underlying harmony. You can do this fingerstyle as well as with a pick.

Below I worked out this combination for a Fmaj7, F7, Fm7, Fm7b5 and Fdim.

fmaj7 f7

f7

fm7b5
fdim

Application in Bb Blues

If we use this in a Bb blues this could be one of the outcomes:

1753-bb-blues-1

1753-bb-blues-2

1753-bb-blues-3

Now of course you don’t need to keep it rhythmically stale as set out above, remember that it is an illustration of how things could work out on the harmony side. Also remember that this is a great way to add a sense of movement without going overboard on fancy chords. The options only grow when you start adding in chord substitutions and chromatic passing chords. It creates a nice canvas waiting to be painted upon and leaves at least two fingers free to start painting a picture. In a next post we”ll have a look at this conceptual approach and start making real music.

All the chord examples are available as a pdf here >>>

The blues example can be downloaded as a pdf here >>>

Try it out on your favorite jazz standard. Have fun!

 

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Get more out of that G-run, yeeh-hah

guitarWith  many of my students I work on improvisation and developing  runs. In this lesson In will use a classic bluegrass run to show how you can get much more out of it in terms of developing solo ideas and phrases.  In this lesson we will use a standard run from the bluegrass genre and see where it might take us when creating our own break over a standard chord progression. 

The run we’ll use is a G major run, essentially a G major blues scale (G major pentatonic plus minor third or so you wish the E blues scale started on the G note). Ultimately we will use the lesson material to play a break over the following common chord progression ( BIG SANDY RIVER).

||: G  |  G  |  D  |  D  |

  |  G  |  G  |  D  |  G  :||

||: G  |  C  |  D   |  G  |

  |  G  |  C  |  D   |  G  :||

The G major blues scale run

Ok,  here  we go.

Ex. 1

ex-1

We could also do this run in a closed  position (no open strings)

Ex.2

ex-2

First of all transpose the run to C and D

ex-3

Play it backwards

Ex 4

ex-4

I’ll leave it up to you to play this in closed position and to transpose it to C and D.

Playing around with these six notes we can come up with alternatives.

Playing  around with the notes

Ex 5  Start at a different place in time

ex-5

Ex 6 Leave out the root

ex-6

Adding notes

Ex 7 Adding the flat 7th

ex-7

Ex 8 Adding the flat 7th

ex-8

While all examples are in G I leave it up to you to transpose.

Application of what was learned: Big Sandy River break/solo

Time to apply what we have been doing so far to a real life situation: a break over the chord structure of Big Sandy River, a bluegrass standard. A melody arrangement of the tune can be found here >>>

bsr-1

bsr-2

bsr-3

bsr-4

bsr-5

bsr-6

bsr-7

bsr-8

Experiment with hammer-on pull-off etc, remember that this is alternate picked (on the beat down, off the beat up) and if you have a question let me know. Below a you tube video of Big Sandy River for some extra inspiration.

All the examples and the break are available as a pdf here >>>

 

Have fun!