Approaching the IV Chord In a Blues
The goal of this series is to actually put a lick under your fingers. Here, there’s no more searching for ideas in the sea of jazz theory information. We’ll give stuff you need to play and be creative. In this lesson, we will be discussing approaching the IV chord in a blues.
Today’s idea is taken from the September 2016 Tune of the Month Club for our “Blues Special”. Here, we will be discussing how to get some interesting sounds when approaching the IV chord in a blues.
How It Works
In bars 3 and 4 of the blues, we can choose to play material over that I chord, or we can set-up the IV chord. That is a matter of taste and what you think the moment is calling for. Or, as I like to put it, “is it time for the main course, or dessert?”
Anyway, enough food analogies!
A great way to set up the IV chord is by using the altered dominant scale. This scale is the 7th mode of melodic minor or, simply put, the melodic minor scale a half-step up from the root of your chord. We don’t use it verbatim here, but you will notice touches of it mixed in with our usual blues content.
The “color options” here are seemingly endless!
Now let’s get into some more examples.
HINT Learning to use chromaticism is a great way to add all kinds of fun colors to your playing!
Here is Example B. In this example, we are circling the 3rd of the chord (A) and playing mostly inside until we get to the B major arpeggio we are superimposing there to approach the Bb7. You can think of this the same way we would use a tritone substitution.
Here is Example C. In this example, we are adding the related ii arpeggio to the Bb7 to make Fm7 – Bb7. Then, we are using descending major arpeggios to get down to the 5th of our target chord. We’re not really thinking theoretically here.
Our ears make sense of the descending arpeggios because of their symmetrical nature. I suppose it’s something like the way our brains make sense of the barrage of visual stimuli coming at us constantly.
Now you try! I’ll take a chorus then comp for you so you can give it a shot.
Once again, remember, if you need help with the improvisation material covered here, we’ve got you covered with our Jazz Improv 101 course!
Thanks for joining us for Hands-On Jazz Guitar, Volume 14. Hopefully, you have some ideas that you can now use to approach the IV chord in a blues.
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Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.