Learning how to bring a modern jazz guitar sound into your improvised lines, in the style of great players such as Adam Rogers, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder and John McLaughlin, can be tough. But, with the right focus, and breaking ideas down into digestible chunks, you can learn to bring a sense of tension and release into your playing just like your favorite modern guitarist.
In today’s lesson we’ll be looking at how you can think and play two chords at once over any underlying chord progression in order to bring a modern feel to your lines and phrases. Though the concept and ideas in today’s lesson can be applied to any chord or progression, we’ll be exploring it first over a Cm7 chord, then you can take these ideas further in the practice room from this starting point as you explore them further in the woodshed.
What is the Tritone Side Stepping Concept?
While many of us have checked out side stepping where you move between two chords a 1/2 step apart, you can also bring a modern sound into your lines by playing two different chords a tritone apart over the underlying chord(s) of a given progression.
For example, if you were soloing over a Cm7 chord and you wanted to bring a sense of tension and release to your lines, you could move between the chords Cm7 and F#m7, m7 shapes a tritone apart, to create your lines.
This type of playing is hard to do, see/hear one chord in the tune, but think/play two chords in your lines.
Here are some examples of how you can bring this sound into your practicing and improvising as a jazz guitarist.
Tritone Side Stepping Arpeggios
To begin taking this concept onto the fretboard, a good way to outline these two changes is to use arpeggios for each chord.
Here is how that would look like on the fretboard, beginning with Cm7, then moving through F#m7 and back to Cm7 again.
After you have tried this fingering out in the practice room, take this idea to other m7 arpeggio shapes that you know or are working on in the practice room.
As well, here is a sample lick over a static Cm7 chord, using the tritone side-step arpeggios as the basis for the phrase to help you get started with this concept on the fretboard.
Work this lick as written with a metronome in the given key, and then take it across the neck in all 12 keys. When you’ve worked it out and are comfortable with this line, try writing out a few licks of your own using the tritone side-step arpeggios as the basis for those phrases.
Writing out lines using a specific concept can be a great way to get a handle on a new idea, while bringing new lines and phrases into your vocabulary at the same time.
Tritone Side Stepping 1235
One of the other chordal outlines that you can use when soloing over two chords a tritone apart at once, is the 1235 pattern. Made famous by John Coltrane, who used it in many of his classic solos including his legendary solo on the tune “Giant Steps.”
This pattern uses the triad of the underlying chord, 135, and mixes in the 2nd for good measure. As well as sounding good over chord changes, the 1235 pattern is fairly easy to play on the fretboard, and therefore should be a key element in your vocabulary as you continue to develop as a jazz guitarist.
Here is an example of the 1235 pattern for both Cm7 and F#m7 played over a static Cm7 chord to hear how it sounds when used with the tritone side-stepping model.
To help you get started with this pattern and concept together, here is an example of the 1235 pattern used in an improvised tritone side-stepping line over a static Cm7 chord.
Begin by learning this lick as written, at a variety of tempos, and then take it to all 12 keys to get a feel for it across the entire fretboard.
Tritone Side Stepping Minor Blues Solo
To help you get started with the tritone side stepping concept. here is a sample solo over a C minor blues chord progression that uses this concept to build every m7 line in the solo.
Start by learning this solo as written, then try writing out your own solo etude over a minor jazz blues chord progression in a similar manner. From there, begin to improvise over minor blues chord progressions, in C minor or other keys, and use the tritone side stepping concept to bring a modern flavor to your m7 lines in a musical situation.
If you are trying to add a bit of a modern jazz guitar twist to your improvised solos, then exploring playing two chords a tritone apart is a great place to start when working on these sounds in the woodshed.
Start by looking at m7 chords, since they are a good place to begin with this sound, and then look at ways that you can bring this tritone side stepping approach to your dominant 7th and maj7 soloing phrases as well.
Do you have a question or comment about this lesson? Post it in the comments section below.