In this lesson you will learn how to play Four on Six, a standard written by Wes Montgomery. In 1960, Wes Montgomery’s album “The Incredible Jazz Guitar” was released with on it two of his most famous compositions, “West Coast Blues” and “Four on Six”. Four on Six is a great song to play and your audience will love it!
Btw, if you were wondering what the meaning of the song title “Four on Six” is, it refers to a 4/4 rhythm superimposed over a rhythm of 6/8.
Here’s a video of Wes Montgomery performing Four on Six:
Here’s how the complete them sounds like:
Here’s a backing track to practice your solos:
Four on Six – The Theme
Four on Six has a great intro that is made entirely out of fifths and played in unison with the bass and piano.
Here’s is how the intro sounds like:
And here’s how you play it. I mute the strings a bit with the palm of my right hand:
The intro is followed by a break that can be a bit challenging in the beginning:
The melody is a modal line that moves around the notes of Gm9:
The Chord Accents
The melody is followed by a II V sequence with strong accents. The II Vs follow the harmony of the intro:
The accents are followed by the theme again, then the break before the solos start.
Four on Six – Improvisation
Here are the chord changes for the solos:
|Gm7 | | | |
|Cm7 F7 |Bbm7 Eb7 |Am7 D7 |Ebm7 Ab7 |
|Gm7 | | |Cm7 F7 |
|Bbmaj7 |Am7b5 D7 |Gm7 | D7 |
The chords are not very hard to improvise over, although the tempo makes it challenging (202 bpm). Let’s have a look at the harmony:
on the Gm7 part Wes Montgomery generally plays:
G Dorian. Here’s the scale diagram for G Dorian in root position:
Don’t limit yourself to this position though, learn to play the scale over the entire neck, like this:
G minor pentatonic with or without blue notes. Here are the 2 main positions of this scale, but the same applies as above, learn the scale over the entire neck. The blue notes are shown in orange, use them to slide, hammer or pull into D or C.:
Gm(7) arpeggio with extensions, most of the times a Gm9. He often makes big jumps on the fret board, like in this example:
Sometimes the G minor goes to C7, like in the following example:
Gm/maj7 arpeggio (minor/major7: a minor chord with a natural 7). In this example Wes plays a Gm/maj7 arpeggio first, followed by a Gm7 arepeggio resolving into the 3rd of C7:
Here Wes Montgomery uses a unison-interval blues cliche:
These are a series of 4 II-Vs. On the theme, the dominant chords have a natural 9 and a sharp 11 (F9#11). The scale played on chords with these tensions is the melodic minor scale:
- Cm7 F7: play the C melodic minor scale here. On the F7 the name of this scale is lydian dominant scale (4th mode of the melodic minor scale).
- Bbm7 Eb7: Bb melodic minor. Same scale as in the above scale diagram, but shift 2 frets down.
- Am7 D7: A melodic minor
- Ebm7 Ab7: Eb melodic minor
Wes Montgomery doesn’t think in scales on this part, but in melodic patterns. That’s a good idea because the tempo is so fast, which makes it difficult to play scales musically. He usually plays a pattern on the first II V and transposes it down the neck for the rest of the II Vs.
Here’s an example where he uses a minor 9-11 pattern:
Here’s another example, this time Wes Montgomery uses his famous octaves. Wes “strums” the octaves with his thumb, but you can also play them with thumb and index finger:
The same modal part as bars 1 to 4, the only difference is a II V to Bbmaj7 in the last bar.
Nothing special here.
In this example, Wes plays the D altered scale (more about the altered scale) over bar 14:
Learn how to play in the style of Wes Montgomery step-by-step with our in-depth course How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery