** As featured in issue 24 **
Hey guys! Welcome back to my guitar lesson column and this eighth part of ‘playing over changes.’ In this guitar tutorial we’re going to be mixing things up a little bit and concentrating on some music theory ideas that will give you a number of new ways to approach soloing over the V chord in our II-V-I chord progression. I hope that by now you are becoming very familiar with this common jazz chord progression and have also done some work developing your altered scale guitar improvisation vocabulary thanks to the material from the last lesson. If not, I recommend going back at least four or five issues and checking out as much of the previous material as possible before moving on with these concepts.
If you’re all ready and studied hard we’ll proceed! For this tutorial I’m going to introduce you to four different types of V chord, two of which we’ve come across before and two of which will be new to the vast majority of you. For the hardcore Jazz guys out there these may all be familiar but for some of you guys these two new chords may represent something of a challenge in terms of their dissonance. When learning new sounds such as these it can take a while for your ear to understand and accept the dissonance involved and learn the character of the tension and resolution involved in the progression.
Teaching your ear to accept and understand more dissonance is a great tool and will expand your improvisational palette greatly. The key here is to not panic if you listen to these sounds and have a negative reaction to them, at least initially. Stick with it and try to sing through each of the scales presented in the tutorial and really listen to the progressions until you can really understand the sounds you are hearing.
Let’s start by listing the four types of dominant chord that we’ll be dealing with and then I’ll take each of them in turn and explain where they come from and why they work. The four chords will be described by the scale that they originate from, allowing us to describe the extensions that we can place on each chord type. Here they are: Mixolydian, Altered/Superlocrian, Dorian b2, Lydian Augmented The chords that are generated from each of these four scales can all act as resolving V chords in our II-V-I progression and can be used to colour the harmony in different ways to create more tension or a darker/brighter sound.
If we play a Mixolydian dominant chord we must solo over it using a Mixolydian scale, so the scale and chord must match with each scale giving a unique set of extensions over the basic Dominant chord. Let’s look at the Mixolydian fi rst, since it’s the most familiar to most people. The Mixolydian scale gives us the intervals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7 forming a Dominant 7th with 9th, 11th and 13th extensions. The 11th can also be thought of as the 4th or sus4 interval so in my II-V-I progression (in the key of C on the video) I play a G13sus4 or G9sus4 as my V chord. G7, G9 or G13 would also work here and allow us to use the Mixolydian scale to great effect. The Mixolydian scale is very melodic and easy to work with, just be careful with the 4th and 3rd relationship.
The next scale/chord combination that is available to us is the Altered/Superlocrian scale and we took an in depth look at this in the previous issue (GI23). If you checked out that issue you’ll remember that the Altered scale gives us the intervals 1, b9, #9, 3, b5, #5, b7. If that makes no sense to you be sure to check out issue 23 where this is explained fully. From this scale we get all kinds of altered dominant chords such as G7b9, G7#9, G7b5, G7#5, G7b9b5, G7#5#9 that create a beautiful tension leading into our I chord - Cmaj7.
The next two scales will be the newest sounds to most of you guys - let’s start with Dorian b2. The Dorian b2 scale is the second mode of melodic minor so, since we’re dealing with a G root note for our V chord, we’ll be using the second mode of F melodic minor - G Dorian b2. The scale is called Dorian b2 because it shares all of the same intervals with a Dorian scale but the 2nd note has been flattened by one semitone - hence Dorian b2.The intervals we get are 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7. There’s no major 3rd in this scale so we stack up the Root, 4th and b7 to get a 7sus4 chord with b9th and 13th extensions. This gives us the chord symbol G13sus4b9. This sounds complex but don’t be scared off by the name, just learn the sound using the accompanying TAB and associate the name with the sound of the chord and scale. The name is just a way of communicating a particular scale/chord sound to another musician - you needn’t be afraid of it. This is a super melodic and dark sounding V chord that resolves beautifully to the I chord and is used a lot by Jazz musicians such a piano player Keith Jarrett.
The final chord/scale type is a Lydian Augmented chord/scale. This is actually mode 3 of melodic minor so, since we have a G root note, we’ll be dealing with E melodic minor, although I like to think of everything from the root note of the chord so I refer to it as G Lydian Augmented. This scale gives us the intervals 1, 2, 3, #4, #5, 6, 7 producing a Maj7 chord with a #5th and 9th, #11th and 13th extensions. You may be wondering how on earth we can use a Maj7th as a V chord when you’ve always been told that a V chord has to be a Dominant 7th sound. Well, in this case it’s all to do with voice leading. The notes of the Gmaj7#5 chord lead beautifully by semitone step into the Cmaj7 chord. Check out the voicings in the video and TAB to see this in action and above all, listen to the sound so that your ears can understand how this resolution works. In the video I demonstrate each of these sounds with a small improvisation so that you can hear them in action.
I recommend that you learn each of these sounds in turn, taking time to get used to them and their unique sound worlds. Have fun and until next time keep shredding those changes!