When learning how to play jazz blues on the guitar, one of the first steps is to be able to improvise over Dominant 7th chords using at least a few different scales and arpeggios to keep things interesting as you build up your improvisational vocabulary.
One of my favorite ways to do this is to explore a very particular chord shape, a 7th chord with a 5th string root, that sits nicely on the neck and that contains all of the scales and arpeggios you need to outline 7th chords in different keys all across the fretboard.
In this lesson, you'll bring these sounds into your practice routine and out into the jam room as you explore the arpeggios, Major Blues, Mixolydian and Bebop Scales that fit within this chord shape, as well as 3 classic sounding licks that are built from these melodic devices.
So grab your axe, turn up your amp, pour your favorite beverage and dig in to these concepts as you expand your Jazz Blues soloing vocabulary.
Questions or feedback? Head on over to the Jazz Guitar Forum...
To begin, we’ll look at the chord shape that will underline the scales, arpeggios and licks that we will work through during this lesson.
The first two bars in the example below show the open position chords that the moveable shape is derived from. In the first bar you can see an open-position C major chord, and in bar 2 you can see the open-position C7 chord that comes from that C major shape.
We will focus on F7 in this lesson to keep things simple, but you can play this chord on any fret and in any key across the neck of the guitar, the lowest note of the shape tells you the name of the chord that you playing such as C7, F7, Bb7 etc.
In the third bar I have written out the plain F major chord followed by the F7 chord in bar 4 to show you the same building blocks as you saw in the first two bars with the C and C7 chords.
The first melodic device we’ll check out is the 4-note arpeggio that is built around our chord shape, which in this key is F7 (F A C Eb).
Try playing the chord, then running up and down the arpeggio, then playing the chord again to see how the two fit together, doing so in all 12 keys across the neck to get a good fretboard workout as well as learn the arpeggio at the same time.
The goal is to not only see the relationship between the arpeggio and the chord, but to also be able to improvise and create music with the arpeggio in different keys across the neck.
One trick that I like to do with this arpeggio shape is add in the b3 to the arpeggio, bringing in a bit of a blues flavor.
In the key of F, the b3 is the Ab. Adding this note to your arpeggio shape will make your lines more bluesy, and you can use that extra note to slide, hammer or pull-off into the next note in the scale, giving you added textures that you can bring to your jazz blues lines.
The second melodic device we will check out within this F7 chord shape is the Major Blues Scale:
F G Ab A C D
Again, learn the position along with the chord shape, and the arpeggio shape since you already have that down, and then once you’ve worked on the technical side of this scale and memorized it; improvise with it in different keys and progression across the neck.
Feel free to mix in the arpeggio as well as the chord itself when you are soloing with the Major Blues Scale, adding extra layers of melodic and harmonic texture to your lines.
Now we’ll check out the Mixolydian mode, the fifth mode of the major scale, built around this F7 shape.
This is a seven-note scale that contains the following notes:
F G A Bb C D Eb
Once you can play this scale from memory, put on a backing track and use this new scale to improvise over vamps and common chord changes, mixing in the arpeggio and Major Blues Scale when you feel ready.
We can also expand the Mixolydian Mode by adding in one extra note, the major 7th interval or E natural in this key, to produce the Dominant Bebop Scale. This scale also fits nicely under the F7 chord shape we are working with in this lesson.
One word of caution: avoid resting or sitting on the E natural note in your lines. That note is great for passing from the Eb to F and vice-versa, but it will sound fairly harsh if you stop on that note during your solos.
So, use the note as much as your ears are comfortable with, but for now I would say avoid stopping and sitting on that note as you don’t want to create too much tension that it takes away from the overall effectiveness of your lines.
To finish this lesson, I’ve written out three examples of lines that you can use built from the F7 chord shape used throughout the article.
This first lick comes from the Major Blues Scale and is a classic jazz lick that I’m sure you’ll recognize from the solos of some of your favorite jazz guitarists.
Again, learn all of these licks over the F7 chord. Then take them around the neck. Once you have them memorized, improvise with them over vamps and common changes, mixing the licks with the scales and arpeggios we studied in this lesson.
Listen & Play
The second lick mixes brings in some more chromatic notes and Bebop vocabulary, especially in the first half of the first bar and the first half of the second bar. Those two sections are common patterns used by Bebop and Post-Bop jazz guitarists in many different contexts, so if you like those sounds it would be worth taking those patterns out of the larger lick and working them into your playing on their own.
Listen & Play
The third lick uses a variation of the “Honeysuckle Rose” melody in the first bar, followed by the F Dominant Bebop Scale and a Bebop pattern to finish the line. The first six notes of the first bar are again a common Bebop and Post-Bop pattern that would be worth exploring further on their own, out of the context of this larger line as a whole.
Listen & Play
Now that you have checked out all the different scales and arpeggios that you can explore within this one chord shape, you can see why it’s an important device to have under your fingers and why many jazz guitarists use it in their soloing and melody playing.
What do you think of this shape and how does it work for you? Join in on the discussion for this lesson and head on over to the Jazz Guitar Forum...