** As featured in issue 52 **
We have seen how important a Dominant 7th chord is in the world of jazz; it's most commonly used to get us back to the I chord, i.e. a V-1 perfect cadence movement, this is known as a “Functioning Dominant.” We can also have Non-Functioning or “Static” Dominants, this is exactly as it sounds, either a Dominant chord that doesn’t go back to a I chord, or just a Vamp (repeat) around a Dominant chord which is open for solos. There are many different types of Dominant chords, such as 9,11,13, with these you are just adding colour to the existing construction of a Dom7th chord (1,3,5,b7). However, there are also “Altered Dominants” that can contain alterations such as #5, #9, b5, b9, #11,b13 or any combination of these.
These altered chords open up a new world of scale choices for us to use over them. In this lesson, I look at some of the most commonly used Dominant chords in jazz and recommend some scale choices that fit, and give you some licks to try over them. We also take a brief look at implying some more exotic sounding scales over a standard Dom 7th chord to give a more “outside” sound, this is a good skill to have when it comes to functioning dominants as it gives tension before the resolution, but more on that next time. As always be sure to check out the video to hear the scales in use.
#1 G7 (1,3,5,b7)
Starting off with the standard Dom 7th chord which is constructed 1,3,5,b7. The obvious choice over this chord as we have seen in the past is its arpeggio as you are outlining all the notes in the chord. It's all very well knowing all the fancy scales in the world that you could play over this chord, but if you can't create a nice sounding musical solo using just the arpeggio, then I'm afraid you are heading in the wrong direction, get back to the basics!
#2 G13 (1,3,5,b7,9,11,13)
The 13th chord has a mighty big intervallic construction, and on the guitar you will struggle to play a full voicing. Most guitarists tend to play 1,b7,3,13,9 voicing, anything that has the important intervals in there is fine. If you play all these intervals individually, you are essentially playing a Mixolydian scale – 1,2,3,4,5,6,b7, so this mode fits this chord like a glove.
Onto our first Altered dominant. The b13 can also be thought of as a #5, and with any altered chord you can play the altered scale. However, there are specific modes that fit these types of chords, in this case, it would be Mixolydian b6 1,2,3,4,5,b6,b7 a hip-sounding mode that will also sound cool over a normal Dom 7th chord. The line uses a repeated rhythmic motif that resolves to the 3rd of the chord.
Will often be written as G7#11, but it's essentially the same thing. The Major 7#11 chord gives a very dreamy sound, and I'm sure many of you will be used to the Lydian feel against it. Here we have the same thing, but in a Dominant chord setting, so we end up with the mode, Lydian b7 1,2,3,#4,5,6,b7, very hip! As with Mixo b6, this also works great over a standard Dom 7th chord. The line is tricky especially at this tempo, so take your time and build it up gradually.
#5 G Alt
As discussed above an Altered chord can be anything that contains a #9, #5, b9,b5, etc. Or a combination. An Altered chord is great for creating tension before resolving. The Altered scale is also a very tense sounding scale, 1,b2,b3,b4,b5,b6,b7. Its mode name is “Super Locrian, ” but I've always thought that rather silly, as it doesn’t mean anything or explain its use. This mode will sound very strange at first, and if using it over a normal Dom 7th chord will probably sound wrong, until you get used to phrasing with it. As with anything that involves going “outside” the implied harmony, you need to make a mighty strong resolution to a good chord tone to bring home your idea. This line starts on the Maj 3rd and ends on the Root giving a solid foundation to the harmony.
#6 G7 (Whole Tone).
I've added the Whole Tone scale just to mix things up a little, and because I like it! It contains both a #4 and #5 (or b5 and #5) which makes it perfect for altered chords. However, I love its sound over a standard Dom 7th, it's really modern and quirky. All the things mentioned above for the Altered Scale apply for the Whole Tone. The line I have given takes advantage of the scales symmetry, by simply shifting a pattern up a Tone each time before resolving to the 3rd of G, very cool!
Have fun trying these ideas to the backing track, but as always learn the concepts and experiment with your own improvisation.