** As featured in issue 50 **
In the last couple of lessons we have looked at soloing over the ever popular Major and minor II V I progression using a Modal/Key centre approach. To recap, this is the method of taking a bunch of chords and finding the key centre they belong in. Before this we looked in great depth at learning how to use arpeggios to solo and really outline the changes. In this lesson I have taken a very popular 16 bar chord sequence that uses both of these progressions and have written two solos over it. One that uses the Key centre approach, and one that uses just arpeggios. You will also find a backing track to practice over, and of course the video to see and hear the examples for yourself.
Solo #1 Key centre approach:
This progression can be viewed as having two key centres. The first 8 bars are in C minor, then the next 4 bars move to D flat major, before returning back to C minor for the remaining 4 bars. By using good phrasing and note choice, you can construct a fairly convincing Jazz solo by just using those two scales. Notice how the solo uses an almost constant stream of 8th notes occasionally broken up with a rest or a couple of 16th notes. This is the rhythmic aspect that will help to give you that authentic Jazz sound. You may also notice that on the harmonic side of things, the intervals between notes are much larger than you may play in a Rock or Blues solo. When playing Jazz (or indeed any style) try thinking in leaps, 5th’s, 6th’s and 7th’s rather than steps, 2nd’s and 3rd’s as this will give greater harmonic depth to your solo. This can be clearly seen with a tricky line over the D flat Major II V I starting on bar 9.
Solo #2 Using Arpeggios:
In the very early days of Jazz, this was the common approach to soloing, changing with every chord and this is very tricky to do especially at a high tempo on a tune with a lot of changes. It was not until the be-bop era that players also started to use the ‘modal approach’ (grouping a bunch of chords together in one key). Being able to improvise using just arpeggios, is a great skill to have, this will make your solos sound much more sophisticated as you outline the chords underneath. However, it can also end up sounding quite predictable as there is only so much you can do with it because there are no “danger notes”. The best approach in a normal situation would be to use a little of both. Using just arpeggios does make for great practice. This is the most technically demanding of the two solos, as the fingering for these arpeggios is not always natural. Also remember this is not an exercise, we are not just running up and down shapes, we are using them in a musical way and this makes for big leaps across the fret board. This can clearly be seen within the first two bars using just a C m7 arpeggio in different positions. You can see a strong outlining moment over the G7 chord in bar 6. Strictly speaking, G7 does not exist within C minor the V chord should be Minor, but it gets changed to dominant 7th in Jazz to give a stronger resolution back to the I chord. Therefore, here we are outlining the major 3rd of G7 a B note and this gives a real impression of the soloist following the chord progression but not just outlining the root notes. Bar 11 is the only straight forward arpeggio run you will find but it has been rhythmically altered to 8th note triplets, this can prove quite tricky to play at 160 bpm. The solo ends with the use of arpeggios high up the fretboard.
Aim to learn the solos but more importantly learn from them and not just copy them ‘parrot’ fashion. Try making some of the licks and lines your own by phrasing them differently as well as trying them in different keys and tunes. Many famous Jazz players, when interviewed have stressed the importance of transcribing a favourite player’s lines, they have learnt from this method and used them in their own playing. Try to get in the habit of deconstructing any solo you learn. Whatever the style, try to understand the thought process behind it. All this can only make for a better player.