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Lewis Turner - The Art of Jazz Soloing Part 7: Modal Approach Over Fast Major II V I

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 48 **

So far in this series we have been concentrating on learning arpeggio shapes in order to really outline the chord changes. As we have seen, arpeggios can be quite tricky to get under the fingers and move around quickly as they often involve larger intervallic leaps. When chord changes start to go by quickly, let’s say 2 chords per bar, to still use arpeggios can be quite a challenge. We can hear sax players navigate fast changes with relative ease, but transcribe these for guitar and it presents a whole new challenge. This doesn’t mean you should write it off, as arpeggios are still the most effective way of outlining a change, but there are other ways that we can explore. Also many players find that if they just use arpeggios to solo round changes, then it can start to sound a little predictable and pattern like, especially at higher tempos. Over the next couple of lessons we are going to look at Modal approaches over the popular Jazz progressions that we have already covered, starting in this lesson with the ever popular Major II V I. However, this time we are now talking about fast II V I progressions, what does this mean? So far we have seen this progression where each chord lasts for one bar apart from the final one lasting two bars, so in the key of A we would get:


For a fast II V I progression we half the length of each chord, so we now get:


Resulting in what is known as a fast II V I. We have previously discussed that despite all these chords belonging to the same key, arpeggios sound more “Jazz” as they specifically outline the chord tones, the idea being that if one was to hear a Jazz solo without the chords, they would still hear the chords changing from the soloist’s lines alone. However, in a fast II V I that is also played at a high tempo the harmony becomes harder to hear, and rather than taking each chord one at a time you can start to see things in chunks and approach it in a scale or modal way, let’s say we are required to play over the following progression and the tempo is around 200bpm:


At first glance this could look pretty daunting, but on closer inspection we can see that it’s just a Major II V I progression moving down a tone each time. At a slower tempo using arpeggios would be no problem, but at 200 plus, breaking the sequence into scale or Key centre chunks is much more practical. So for the above we can think; bars 1-2 are in A Major, bars 3-4 are in G Major and bars 5-6 are in F Major. This still only gives you 2 bars to stay in one key, but that’s normally far more manageable and players quite often find they can come up with more melodic ideas, than the arpeggio option.

This is what is meant by a “Modal Approach”, seeing a bunch of chords and being able to figure out what Mode/scale/key they have come from. With time and practice you will be able to spot certain changes and chord progressions straight away without even thinking about it. To start with take a Real Book pick a tune that has a lot of chords and see if you can group them into a bunch of Key Centres for a modal approach. For this lesson I have written a fast II V I in the key of A and have given you a bunch of licks and lines purely from the key of A Ionian (Major). Try the licks over the backing track, but as always understand the concept and experiment with your own ideas, good luck!

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