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How to Play Over Dominant Chords


The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Arpeggios

 

Dominant 7th chords are one of the most commonly used harmonic devices in jazz guitar, and learning how to solo over them with confidence is essential for any developing jazz guitarist.

Though you may already know how important these chords are, the choices for what to study can seem overwhelming. The exercises and concepts below cut through to the most essential elements to study when learning how to solo over dominant chords in a jazz situation.

In this lesson you’ll learn how to play over dominant chords using three different arpeggios, two important jazz scales, and a sample solo using these ideas over a Bb jazz blues progression.

Dominant 7th Arpeggios

To begin your study of playing over dominant chords, you will learn how to build and play 7th arpeggios on guitar. When soloing over 7th chords, the most direct way to tackle that chord change is to use a four-note arpeggio, which uses the chord tones from the underlying harmony in note order.

Here is the interval structure for a G7 arpeggio to give you an idea of how this melodic device is built from a theoretical perspective.

 

G7 Arpeggio G B D F
1 3 5 b7

 

 

Now that you know how to build this arpeggio, time to take it to the fretboard. Here are two G7 arpeggio fingerings to learn in your practice routine. Once you have one or both shapes under your fingers, work them in all 12 keys to get a feel for how they sit on the entire fretboard.

As well, make sure to put on a backing track and solo over that track using the arpeggio shapes below in order to take these ideas to an improvisational practice exercise as well as a technical exercise.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 1

 

Here is an example of how you can use a 7th arpeggio to solo over the V7 chord in a ii V I chord progression, in this case in the key of C major. Once you have this line under your fingers, try writing 2-3 lines of your own using the shapes you learned in this section of the lesson.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 2

 

Dominant 9th Arpeggios

As well as playing Root-b7 arpeggios, you can extend those arpeggios up to the 9th to add some color to your phrases. When doing so, you keep the same interval structure as the 7th arpeggios, but just add one note on top the arpeggio to bring that 9th into the picture.

Here is how the interval structure looks for 9th arpeggios over a G9 chord.

 

G9 Arpeggio G B D F A
1 3 5 b7 9

 

 

Because they use 5 notes, practicing one-octave shapes is the best way to begin with your exploration of 9th arpeggio patterns.

Here are four G9 arpeggio patterns that you can learn, practice in 12 keys, and then solo with over various backing tracks in order to expand upon this important melodic shape in your playing.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 3

 

To help you hear this 9th arpeggio in action, here is a sample ii-V-I line in C major that uses a 9th arpeggio over the V7 chord, G7 in this key, over the second bar of the tune.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 4

 

Dominant 13th Arpeggios

You can also extend your arpeggios all the way up to the 13th when soloing over dominant chords. When doing so, you are playing all the notes in the Mixolydian scale, which you will see in the next section, but stacking those notes up in 3rds from the root up to the 13th .

A dominant 13th arpeggio contains all notes of the Mixolydian scale.

Here is how that looks from an interval structure.

 

G13 Arpeggio G B D F A C E
1 3 5 b7 9 11 13

 

 

Now that you know how to build 13th arpeggios, here are two fingerings that you can learn, work in 12 keys, and apply to your soloing exercises.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 5

 

Here is a sample G13 arpeggio lick that you can learn and apply to your technical and improvisational practice routine.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 6

 

Mixolydian Scale

Now that you have explored arpeggios, you can move on to studying scales, beginning with the Mixolydian scale. The Mixolydian mode contains all the chord tones for dominant chords (1-3-5-b7), as well as the 9th, 11th, and 13th, labeled 2-4-6 in the scale shapes below.

Here is an interval chart to visualize the note structure for a G Mixolydian scale.

 

G Mixolydian Scale G A B C D E F
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7

 

 

Now that you know how the Mixolydian scale is built, time to take it to the fretboard. Here is a 6th-string root fingering for G Mixolydian that you can practice in this key, and others, in your studies.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 7

 

The next fingering begins with the root note on the 5th string for the Mixolydian scale.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 8

 

To help you hear this scale in action, here is a sample Mixolydian scale lick over a ii-V-I progression in the key of C major that you can learn in this key, and others..

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 9

 

Dominant Bebop Scale

The final dominant chord soloing concept in this lesson is one of the most important to have under your fingers, the dominant bebop scale. The dominant bebop scale is built by adding one note (the raised 7th) to the Mixolydian scale that you learned earlier.

Here is the interval structure of both scales for comparison.

 

G Mixolydian Scale G A B C D E F x
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 x
G Dom Bebop Scale G A B C D E F F#
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7

 

 

While the added note is (raised 7), is a part of the scale, it is used as a passing tone, either up or down, and shouldn’t be resolved to in your lines.

Here is a 6th-string root fingering for the dominant bebop scale to explore in your studies.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 10

 

Moving on, you can now learn how to play the dominant bebop scale from the 5th-string root note.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 11

 

To help you get the sound of this scale in your ears, here is a sample line written over a ii-V-I in C major, with the G dominant bebop scale being used to build the line over bar two of the phrase, over G7.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 12

 

G Blues Sample Solo

To finish your study of playing over dominant chords, here is a sample solo to practice over a G jazz blues progression. Begin by learning each phrase one at a time, and piecing the whole solo together from there.

Once you have this solo down, try playing the sample solo for one chorus, then you improvise for one chorus, alternating through a backing track like this. This will help you organically integrate the solo lines into your playing, as well as apply other material you’ve learned in this lesson to a soloing situation.

 

Listen & Play

Dominant Chords 13

 


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