In this second of three articles on how to solo on chord changes (using jazz guitar scales), we’ll look at this follow up tip:
Use 7-note scales as a tool to learn jazz improvisation!
In fact, this is just an application of the concept we examined in the previous post (one-octave fingerings for jazz guitar scales).
As previously discussed, it’s understood that jazz solos are an attempt to reflect the harmony (the chord progression of the song) as well as possible. We say that our jazz guitar improvisation outlines the chord changes. This looks very hard, but it is manageable once we have the right tools! 😉
In this post, I still want to reinforce the fact that we don’t really need “super fancy equipment” to outline chord progressions while improvising jazz solos. We don’t need:
- Complicated theory;
- Tons of arpeggios and scales;
- To play everything in every positions;
- To learn all fingerings imaginable;
- including playing with your left toe …
- … or to memorize chord symbols that look like Canadian postal codes
(for example: C minor J8M 1S1)
Joking aside, getting to know (and playing around with) 7-note jazz guitar scales is a great starting point when learning to improvise on chord changes. It’s simple enough for a quick-start, yet completely accurate harmonically. Just watch the video here:
Why use 7-note Jazz Guitar Scales?
In very few words, if you learn to play the proper scale at the right time (in 8th-notes) then you’ll be playing the exact notes contained within the chord.
Thus, you simply play all the good notes in the process. This is the result of a natural alignment of the chord tones with the strong beats.
For instance, if you want to play on a C major 7th chord, playing the C major scale up to 7th will have you hear C, E, G and B falling on beats 1, 2, 3 and 4. C-E-G-B are the notes contained in the C major 7th chord. Right?! 🙂
Notice that this won’t happen naturally in a bar of 4/4 if you learn all your scales as “just a bunch of dots” on the fretboard (say, in complete positions). Of if you learn the scales on more than one octave.
How to apply: an example …
Let’s look at an application on a real chord progression now. If you want to outline the II-V-I chord progression in the key of C major: Dm7 to G7 to Cmaj7.
- Play D dorian up (D E F G A B C) on Dm7 …
- Then play G mixolydian up (G A B C D E F) on G7
- And lastly play C major up and down (C D E F G A B A G F E D C)
All of this in 8th-notes, of course! (see the video)
How to apply: your own jazz guitar scales …
As mentioned above: play the right scale at the right time!
So, all you have to do, really, is to learn exactly one scale for each chord in a song. Play up to the 7th (if the chord lasts one bar) or up to the 7th and back down (if the chord lasts two bars).
That’s pretty much it!
Apply this concept to tunes in your current repertoire. Now we’re really going to town with this kind of stuff! You’ll be harmonically accurate and know what you’re doing (instead of simply playing on the blues scale or just memorizing licks). Go on and run through your 7-note scales on ALL standards songs you already know, ASAP.
“ALL my songs!?”
Easier said than done. I know …. That’s why I created this complete course:
The course Jazz Guitar: Painless Scale Positions contains tons of exercises to have you play 7-note jazz guitar scales on the oh-so-important II-V-I progression right from the start. And we’ll do this in all positions, in all keys … (no kidding).
The course contains over 2.5 hours of video, 15 crystal-clear assignments to focus your practice on. Indeed, you get all the PDFs with TABS in the course.