How To Improvise Over Dominant Chords Part 1 (Podcast Episode #41)

Posted by: JAZZEDGE on August 3, 2021

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00:05 Hey guys, Willie Myette from jazz edge. Welcome to the confident improviser podcast. This is episode number 41. And today we're going to talk about how to improvise over dominant chords. This is part one. So what I'm talking about is improvisation like this, let me pull up my eye real proud, like just being able to. 00:41 Alright, so how do we improvise over our dominant chords? Alright, so the first thing is, we want to understand that when we're improvising, typically, we're going to be playing those rootless chords, or maybe a baseline or something in the left hand. So depending on what you're going to do in your left hand, it might kind of change around your improvisation a bit, right? What I mean by that is, if you're playing the left hand rootless chords, you might find that some of them kind of get in the way of your right hand. Whereas if you're doing a baseline, you might have a lot more room in between the hands. So with that in mind, pay attention to what I wrote out here in that is that you need to sometimes change the octave of the hand, either the left hand or the right hand. So in this example, right here, you see I have, right, so like, I got my thumb on the D here in my left hand, and then I have to hit it again in the right hand. So what is a player to do? Well, one thing you can do is just play a three note rootless chord voicings. So see here, I have C seven here. So this is E, A, B flat, and D. And all I'm doing is just leaving off the D in the right hand. And when I come up to measure to here, I hit the B flat, right, I can go ahead and bring that D back. And then I can move my thumb out of the way in the left hand again, the only thing you could do is play it up an octave. So that's something to bear in mind that your improvisation might change a little bit depending on where your hands are. Now I'm using these rootless chord voicings because a lot of times we're going to be playing along with a backing track or we're going to be playing along with a bass player or other instrumentalists, right. So today, we're going to be focusing on rootless chords with the left hand, again, that C seven rootless chord in case you didn't catch it, it's A, A, B flat, and D. Right, that's it, we're going to be playing that exact same chord, all throughout today's lesson. So those are the notes, go ahead and get those down with your left hand. Notice I'm using all my fingers except my fourth finger, my fourth finger is not being used. Also notice what I said here, check out Episode 27 on target notes, okay, so if you have not looked at that episode, on target notes, we're going to be talking about target notes today. So make sure you understand what target notes are. And lastly, that left hand rhythm, if you want to change that around, you can go ahead and change right, you can get kind of a comping rhythm there. Alright, so this is just your basic mixolydian scale. Right? Right. So you're just going up and down the mixolydian scale. Why the mixolydian scale? Well, that's a scale that works perfectly for dominant seventh chords. Basically, it's your major scale with a flatted seventh. Now, typically, a lot of students are like, Okay, well, what scales do I use to improvise over a dominant seventh chord? And I'm here to tell you that you could pretty much do almost anything, right? It really depends on the tension and release. And it depends on your target notes, right? So for instance, check this out, I could put on my dominant seventh improvisation shed here. 04:02 I just like messing around here. When my chromatic scale, I could do all of my chromatic notes. Obviously, when I hit a B natural, it's not gonna sound all that great, but if I'm doing I'm doing that as part of a line and I'm not hanging on that note, it's going to sound absolutely fine. In fact, that being natural is part of our dominant seventh bebop scale, right? So you could really use just about any note, you know, you can throw the whole kitchen sink at a dominant seventh chord. So let's talk about a little bit more like kind of bringing this into focus. So the first thing you want to do is find your target notes. I've talked about target notes before. Yes, super, super important target notes really help to define your improvisation and define your lines a lot more. Now what I did here, very simple. I have my third I have my flat seven. I have my fifth and I have my root. Okay. So all I did is I'm just playing that C seven chord in the left hand and the right hand, I'm going to do a third for a half note, the flat seven for a half note, the fifth for a half note and the root for a half note, and I'm just going to do all of this right up an octave up, just real simple, let's just go ahead and play that along with the backing track just to make sure we have it. 05:27 Now the stronger of these notes, the stronger these target notes is most definitely the third and the seventh, right, the fifth and the route are weaker notes, meaning that the fifth and the root don't really define the chord that much, whereas that third and the seventh, really define the chord. Okay, so now you get your target notes. Now it's a matter of let's start to fill them in, I got two exercises here for you. So the first one is, all you do is just fill in the notes in between those target notes with your scalp. So again, we're going to utilize that C mixolydian scale. So look at what I did here, I started on my third. And then I go right up to my seventh, and I come down to the fifth. Right, so I'm just doing all eighth notes. Don't mess around with quarter notes, eighth rez triplets just yet just do eighth notes, it's a lot easier for you, and it's a great way to get started. Okay, so again, if I take a look here, you see that I have my third, right, I have my flatted seventh, I have my fifth. And I have my route. Right now, in between here. What do I have? I have 3/8 notes, right, and then another 3/8 notes, and then another 3/8 notes. Okay, so remember that the third the flat seven, the fifth, the root, those are all half notes. So this is spanning over two measures, right? So I have the third to the seventh, that's a starting on beat one. And then the seventh comes in on beat three. So I have beat one, that's going to be my first eighth note right? This beat one right here. And then I need to move into this flat at seven. So what am I going to do? I'm going to fill it in how many eighth notes Do I have to fill in it? Well, again, if this is b one, I have one and two. And right? So I have 3/8 notes here that I could choose before I get to the flatted seventh, now do I have to just go up like I did here. So literally, I just went up, right? So Third, the 11th, the fifth, the 13th, up to the flatted seventh, or note wise, that's E, F, G, A, B flat, did I have to do that? No, I could have done I could have done that as well. Here's 07:52 E, F, G, C, a flat. 07:56 Alright, so you see how I went up by skipped up, and then I came down. So I could play around with this, I can come up with line after line after line. Right? So just starting with this first measure here, so I had the third and the seventh. The same worry about going on to the rest of this. Alright, so the rest of this would do that later. So we'll just end right here at that fifth. Well, what other line could I do? See, I went a C, B flat. So I'm already hitting the seventh right on beat two, but it's like wait a second, I get that a beat on beat three. So I go down a half step to the a and then come back up to the B flat so nothing says that I can't hit that target note twice. 08:52 What if I did the C DC, B flat then to my left eye to see that there are many different ways in which I can get from Target note to target note, but the idea is that I'm trying to go from that target note the third to the next target note the flat seven to next target note the fifth. Okay, that's the exercise. So again, let me play it for you. 09:23 Now, fingering wise, this is where you're just going to have to figure that out as you go. Okay. And that's important because nobody can tell you the fingering for improvisation, right? It's got to kind of thing that you just have to kind of learn it as you go. And this is a great exercise to practice that. So now played along with the band. Pretty simple. 10:01 I'll give you the fingering that I'm using 123134321 crossover 4321. This is a real quick fingering that I came up with here. You can also do 121234321432. So whatever fingering makes most sense for you, you're going to figure out that fingering on your own. Alright, now, Example two here, this is where it starts to get fun, free form. Okay, so free form, try finding a chord tone every two beats. So here's an example here. And you can see again, I have now the fifth, I have the third, I have the flatted seventh, and then I'm going to my route. So let me play it for you. 10:54 Again, one more time. So this is G, F, E, D, E, F, G, A, D flat, A, G, D, C, right, along with the band. Alright, so there's an example of like, I just kind of move in between different target notes. So now these have all been written out. And what I did was I gave you a space here that you could write out to have your own. But let's just try going through a couple more right now. So what I'm trying to do is do a consistent eighth note line. And with a consistent eighth note line, that's going to give me eight attacks in a four four measure, that basically means I'm going to have 8/8 notes in a four four measure, right? So then my first beat is going to be a chord tone, whatever chord tone, the root, the third, the fifth to the seventh, hey, Willie, can I use a tension there? Sure, you can, there's just not going to be a strong So for right now, if you're working on this exercise, I say stick with one of those four chord tones, the root, the third, the fifth, or the seventh. Okay, I'm going to do that on beat one. And I'm going to do that again on beat three. Now, why do I do it on beat one, and then B three, because I'm trying to like make it so that the, the length of time is not too far, right? So I have that first beat. Okay, first beat, I'm going to do a chord tone here on the first beat, and then the rest is going to be filled in with scale. And then the next one on the third beat, it's going to be again, a chord tone, and then the rest will be filled in with a scale, right, so another way of looking at this is you have a chord tone on beat one, and you have a chord tone on beat three, as well. Everything in between, okay, is scale. Okay, so everything on beat two and beat four. So basically, on the end of three, the end of for the end of one and the end of two, all of those are going to be two scale degrees. Again, you can hit that chord tone, anywhere it within that, and to end or the end for end, that's fine, just as long as you get back to it for beat one and beat three. Alright, so let's, let's put this into practice. Let me start with saying he is going to go one and two. And Okay, so now I can go back to E again, right, three and four, and one, and see how I did the the B flat. So what did I do here, so I did one, E, D, C, D, E, right, so now I'm on beat three. So this is one and two and three. Now I'm going to get down to my B flat, so I'm on three, and which is D, four, which is C. Now I'm going to get over to B flat so what can I do I got one more note to choose, I could go underneath and go to the a and then come up to the B flat or go down to that B natural and hit that B flat on beat one of the second measure so that gives me a line like this. Now from the B flat let's say I want to go up to the fifth appear the G see what I could do that. Now notice I leapt out of this note right so I did B flat C D E then I leaped up to G okay did a skip up there to G now skips in loops are fine, as long as they're coming out of your chord tones. Let's see what happens if I did that skip from like the ninth, up to the G, right? The D up to the G, it's not as strong as the E up to the G. So when you're leaping or skipping, right, not a stepwise motion, right? Remember, scalar motion is stepwise motion. When you're skipping, skipping notes, or leaping from one note to another, usually it's best if you skip or leap out of a chord tone, right? You don't obviously have to do this all the time. And as you get better at this kind of stuff, you'll break the rules like all of us do. 15:45 But when you're first learning, you want this stuff to sound good, right? So the best way for it to sound good is to follow some of these, you know, rules of thumb to make sure that you're you know, setting yourself up for success. So, again, let me just go ahead through and I'll show you just like doing this every two beats 16:24 oops, I wish I could just practice just trying to really get some solidness in my improvisation. Why is this important, right? And why am I just doing so much teaching on target notes? And you know, having that solid line in your improvisation? Because typically, how I learned improvisation was a teacher said, Okay, you got a dominant seventh chord. It's a mixolydian scale, go ahead and improvise. Well, okay, great. But what notes do I choose, right? What rhythm do I use? All right, we're taking away the rhythm question. Right away. It's all eighth notes right now. What notes do you choose? While you know you're going to use the notes from the C Mixolydian? scale? That's one option. Of course, remember, there are many different options of scales that you can choose. And that's confusing as well. So I know I'm going to use the notes of the C MCs c Mixolydian. scale, but what notes Am I going to start with, right? And what notes Am I going to use in my solo to make it sound good, that's where those target notes come in. Right? You start with the target notes, you try and get between target note to target note to target note, and what it does is it creates a solo that Yeah, you know, you might not be blowing the doors off, you know, anyone's house, you know, when you're solo, but it's gonna sound good, right? It's gonna sound good, it's gonna sound alright. Whereas, I could also just go ahead and improvise like this, and just simply say, Alright, this is C Mixolydian. Scale. Does this sound like it sounds like I'm doing nothing sounds like I'm literally just playing notes and nothing is really happening. But now listen to what happens when I do the chord tones. 18:51 Every now and again, I'll hit the wrong note on a downbeat or one time I hit the F, because I just kind of ran out of notes there and I didn't want to put any chromaticism in just yet. And that happens, it's okay. But you hear how for the most part that improvisation sounds a lot more solid in together than if I just randomly play that mixolydian scale. Okay, so anyway, a couple of things I want to let you know is that all of these episodes now for the podcasts are now going to be on my YouTube channel. So just do a search for the word jazz edge. And then they'll get take you to the channel and you'll be able to see the confident improviser podcast, be sure to subscribe to the channel. So you get updates. And there's a whole bunch of other great stuff on the channel, including jazz piano daily, right? If you have not checked out jazz piano daily, daily yet, this is free daily jazz piano lessons. Yes, I said free jazz piano lessons every single day, covering some fantastic topics. And guess what sheet music is included. So You just can't beat the price, right? So if you're interested in jazz piano, and other styles because I don't just teach jazz in jazz piano daily, we're talking about other things as well. So if you're interested in learning the piano, and you want to get started with my lessons, this is a great way of doing it can't recommend it more because the price is just right. Right. So anyway, check out jazz piano or take a look at the jazz piano daily lessons right on my YouTube channel. Alright, so that's it for me guys. Thanks a lot. Remember, if you are a member of the jazz edge site, you're welcome to join me every other Thursday for my jazz edge core training. So with that, I will see you guys soon.

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