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Jazz Blues Guitar: Mastering the VI Chord

Written by Marc-Andre Seguin


Introduction to Jazz Blues Guitar



First off, I'd like to thank JGO for having me as a guest contributor. In this lesson we'll discuss three possibilities in terms of comping and improvising on the VI chord. Adding this chord to your playing is a nice way to make the blues "jazzier".


Where in the jazz blues chord progression do we find the VI chord?

In this lesson we'll be working with a blues in the key of Bb. The VI chord (G7b9 in this case) is found in bar 8 of the blues form. As strange as it may sound, we'll be spending this entire lesson on the VI chord.


Jazz Blues 1


So, what's so special about bar 8 of the jazz blues progression, why do I need an entire lesson about this chord?

  • Bar 8 contains vast potential for rich chords tensions, which brings a “jazzy” sound to the normal 12-bar blues progression.
  • I believe that this bar and this chord are often overlooked in jazz instruction
  • Most people can already play relatively well on the blues in general. The first four bars are easy (bluesy) and most people are already familiar with them. The last four bars contain a II-V-I progression, which is studied at great lengths by guitarists of all levels of experience and backgrounds.

So, we'll be looking at 3 different "Chord Solutions" along with the assorted "Soloing Solutions" to help you navigate the VI chord in a blues chord progression. Are you ready? Alright let’s go!


Accompanying Video

During the course of this lesson I'll refer to the accompanying video below:


Chord Solution #1: VI7b9b13

G7(b9 b13) in the key of Bb.

Here are 2 simple and effective voicings that sound great and sit nicely on the fretboard. Check out the 3:00 minute mark of the accompanying video to play along and hear these chords in action:


Jazz Blues Ex 2

Jazz Blues ex 3

Chord Solution #2: Minor II-V

Playing a bar of Dm7b5-G7b9 works well instead of a single G7b9. Why? Well, a ii-V to C minor like this creates a nice tension with a "need" for resolution. It creates a propelling sense of motion with bars 8-12, don't you think?

See two fun and easy fingerings for this II V in the example below. You can also refer to the video at around 4:50 to play along.


Jazz Blues ex 4


Chord Solution #3: Altered Chord VI7#5#9

Here you are going to play a G7#5#9

Here are 2 simple and effective chord voicings that sound great on the guitar. You can refer to the video at around 6:20 to play along and hear these chords in action.


Jazz Blues ex 5

Jazz Blues ex 6


Soloing Solution #1: C Harmonic Minor

When you look at them on paper, the notes of C harmonic minor are the same as the G7b9b13 which you can see below, and therefore it is a good choice when exploring scales over the VI7b9b13 chord in bar 8 of the blues.


C Harmonic Minor:
G7b9b13 Chord Notes:
C D Eb F G Ab B
G Ab B C D Eb F


Interesting observation: this is the same scale as Bb Mixolydian with a B natural note instead of a Bb note. This is extremely relevant since we are in a Bb7 zone for the blues and the Bb mixo is almost always available. The G7b9b13 is not that far away from the parent scale is it? It’s only one note different, a very cool and easy way to think about these two scales.

Here is a sample fingering for this scale and you can see a demonstration of this scale during an improvised solo at 8:30 in the video:


Jazz Blues ex 7


Soloing Solution #2: Three Minor II-V Licks

These three licks constitute the basis for a lot of beautiful explorations that can you can further develop in that bar when you take them into the practice room. They're at the core of a proper resolution between Dm7b5-G7b9 to Cm and therefore are important to get under your fingers and into your jazz guitar solos.

All three licks are demonstrated at 10:20 of the video, and you can also hear them at 11:00 when these three licks are played in real time within the form of the Bb blues.


Jazz Blues ex 8


Jazz Blues ex 9


Jazz Blues ex 10



Soloing Solution #3: The Altered Scale

Here is the infamous Altered Scale (aka Super Locrian scale) which you may have come across in your jazz guitar study at this point in your development. This scale contains the same notes as Ab melodic minor, though starting on the 7th note of that scale as you can see here:


Ab Melodic Minor:
G7 Altered Scale:
  Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F G
G Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F  


See below for a sample fingering of this scale and refer to the 13:30 mark in the video for a demonstration of this scale over a blues:


Jazz Blues ex 11


I hope these three comping and soloing possibilities will help you create more interesting lines in bar 8 of the blues. Happy comping and blowing and I'll see you soon!


About the Author: Marc-Andre Seguin is the owner, editor and brains behind JazzGuitarLessons.net. You can also hear his music on MarcAndreSeguin.com.



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