I transcribed the solo to ATTYA by Tony Greaves in his excellent Pentatonics lessons.
There are some great things to take note of such as:
-chromatic encircling of chord tone before ascending the triad (eg. Db triad over Bbm7, Eb triad over Eb7 encircling the 5th in both cases)
-Triads over Cmajor7 chord – C major triad, D major triad giving you the #11 (F#) for Lydian sound.
-pentatonic lines over the ii-V-Is (Am7-D7-Gmaj7) and F#m7-B7-Emaj7 with 5th and 4th intervals
As rock players many of us know a pentatonic box or two. But there is more we can do with our knowledge of pentatonics. We can apply different minor pentatonic scales over chords to target certain chord tones or altered tones. Below is an example of a Am7-D7-Gmaj7 progression (ii-V-I) using the following minor pentatonic scales. I transcribed this from Tony Greaves on YouTube you can check out his excellent lessons on pentatonics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf0Ks8-g3sU
Am7 – our friend A minor pentatonic
D7 – F minor pentatonic (this gives us #9, #11, #5, b9)
Gmaj7 – F# minor pentatonic – a Lydian sound due to #11 which is C# as well as 9
Notice the use of sequences (pentatonic patterns). Try making up your own phrases using these scales. You can also try Em pentatonic over Am7 (up a 5th) and Bm pentatonic over Gmaj7. Experiment with other pentatonics as well especially over the D7.
See tab below:
Update: here’s another tab of Tony’s soloing featuring pentatonics over a ii-V-I in G major. Same idea with the superimposed minor pentatonics. You might start to see similarities in each phrase/solo as you study this. ii-V-I Pentatonics cont’d
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Autumn Leaves has a lot of ii-V-I progressions in both G major and E minor (minor ii-V-i) so you might be tempted to plug in your favorite jazz guitar licks, especially if you’re a beginner. It’s great to be able to play something, anything over a jazz guitar standard especially if you come from a rock/blues background. Once you have fun plugging in your favorite licks, the next step would be to provide more cohesion to your solo. One way to do this is to repeat the lick that you played over Am7-D7-Gmaj when you play F#m7b5-B7-Em. When I say repeat I don’t mean note for note but tweak it in a way that fits the minor progression. Luckily G major and E minor are related (E minor is the relative minor of G major).
Also we want to work on playing over the bar line instead of playing two separate phrases over each progression. So adding a few notes during the C major bar approaching the F#m7b5 is a great way to start. So enough talk, let’s get to the phrase!
The phrase starts with an ascending A minor arpeggio then continues to F# over the D7 (the 3rd). The notes over D7 basically outline a D7 arpeggio with the root being approached from a chromatic step above and below. Then we hit the B over G major7 (the 3rd) ending on the root (G). Over the minor progression we approach the F# with a descending scale (over Cmaj7) then play a similar phrase but this time encircling the D# since we’re playing a B7 (the 3rd). Then we land on G over the Em7 (the 3rd).
This phrase is easily explainable as it uses mostly arpeggios (chord tones) and we repeat the melodic idea to give the listener something to grab onto. Playing one line after another that aren’t related can get really boring. Try changing the notes over Cmajor7 to approach the F# note (eg. from below, triad instead of scalar approach, etc). Also try changing the ending phrase over Em7.
Also take small pieces of the lick and use them in shorter phrases before playing the full lick. In other words, take some essence of the lick and use it in other parts of the solo, it could be as small as an interval or idea (eg. chromatic encircling, rhythm, etc).
I have another example over Blue Bossa where I create a short, melodic phrase and repeat the idea.
This blog post is for you if you are struggling with soloing over chord changes. You’re either totally lost, or if you’re like me you understand and enjoy analysis and theory but have trouble applying it to a chord progression, especially ones that change keys like in jazz or jazz fusion.
I’ve explained many techniques in the past such as chord tone soloing (target chord tones on strong beats), superimposing arpeggios and other methods but they all require one thing: that you create your own lines from the basic concepts. In general I’ve found that most people are not able to do this, in their stage of development. It’s not your fault because the stages of learning should be imitation, assimilation then innovation, in that order.
So it’s time to get out of your own head and get back to the music. Transcribing or learning solos from the masters is the most inspiring and effective way to learn to improvise. And it’s the most direct – bypassing all the teachers, misinformation, extraneous exercises and lessons. The answers are on the cds! So if you’re struggling with a chord progression, find a solo you like and learn the phrases. This is really easy in jazz as the standards have been played by all the greats. And many of the progressions are similar so you can reuse and tweak the ideas you learn on multiple songs.
Soloing over chord progressions can be a daunting task. Especially if you get into jazz when you’ve had a rock/metal background. You might know how to solo over common chord progressions such as ii-V-I’s, but what happens when you come across a different chord progression? If you’re like me you can tend to get stuck, or overanalyze the progression – not getting anywhere with the work you’ve put in.
An incredibly effective method to deal with this (but often forgotten) is to listen to what others have done over the same progression. Then steal the phrase and then tweak it to make it your own. I had to write this blog post because I’ve spent years struggling with anything that wasn’t a ii-V-I that everybody teaches you. Or what if the ii-V doesn’t go to a I but repeats or change keys?!?
I recently revisited Charlie Parker’s Scrapple From The Apple and in the second 4 bar phrase there is F / Bb Bdim / F / F (each / separates a measure). It’s also written F / Bb G#dim7/B / F / F. This type of progression trips me up. I see how the bass line moves going from Bb to B to C which could be used to make a line but generally I’m not sure what to do.
So I found a version by Tom Harrell in which Kenny Garrett also improvises. Here’s a nice 4 bar phrase that you can use in your own solos and tweak if you want. I get it up to a decent speed and play it with Band in a Box to see how it sounds.
Here’s the tune. The phrase begins around 36 seconds in:
Of course we can analyze the notes if we want but we don’t need to 😉
Improvising over chord changes can be daunting if you’re used to using blues and minor pentatonics over rock/blues progressions. But for jazz, country and for better outlining of chord changes, we can use chord tones and approach notes.
In the example sheet music/TAB at the bottom of the page I’ve used the first few chords from All The Things You Are, but this can be applied to any changes. These ones move in the cycle of fourths. First we target the minor 3rd of the chord then the root for the first two measures using half notes. Beats 1 and 3 are typically seen as the strong beats. According to Forward Motion theory by Hal Galper (affiliate link – I own the book too) these are actually end points rather than starting points. This changes how you hear a solo. So if these are the target points, we have 1 and a half beats with which to approach these strong beats, which gives us 3 eighth notes in this example (down the road we can use alternate rhythms and other approach techniques).
On the second line, we fill in the basic chord tones with approach notes, using arpeggios. Depending on how you look at it, these can be seen as major 7th arpeggios starting on the minor 3rd of the chord and ascending to the major 9th of the chord. For Fm7 that would be Ab ascending up to the G before landing on F, the target tone.
Note that the arpeggios are, and can be displaced by an octave to fit the range of your instrument or location on the neck. The arpeggios over the Fm7 have been displaced (after playing the target tone, the arpeggio is dropped down an octave), but over the Bbm7 the first arpeggio was not displaced. So note that Ab, C, Eb, G forms an Abmaj7 arpeggio with the last 3 notes displaced down an octave).
Another thing to note is that the two notes before the target tones (beats 1 and 3) encircle the chord tone (one note below and one above). This results in a strong resolution.
Also note the movement of the target tones themselves. We go from Ab down a minor 3rd to F, down a major 3rd to Db and up a major 6th to Bb. So using octave displacement, we descend a minor 3rd. Not using octave displacement we ascend a major 6th (the inverse of the original interval).
Later I will be discussing using other target tones including higher intervals (9ths, 11ths, 13ths and alterations) as well as voice leading (smooth movement between target tones). Also using different approach techniques, rhythmic variations and other techniques to enhance the improvisations.
Work this example through the entire progression or other tunes, styles you like. A great book I own that uses lots of different melodic cells is Building a Jazz Vocabulary (affiliate link)
Here’s a jazz guitar lesson intro to chord tone soloing for creating melodic solos that work over chord changes. I use distortion in this example but it works in jazz and fusion as well.
Check out Barrett Tagliarino’s excellent book on the subject Chord Tone Soloing: A Guitarist’s Guide to Melodic Improvising in Any Style