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Jazz Guitar Lessons • Soloing Basics Part Two • Standard Notation, Tab, Theory, Videos, Chords

Updated on June 1, 2018
Lorne Hemmerling profile image

As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.


This is part two of a multipart series of guitar lessons on jazz guitar soloing. Part one explored the use of modes and scales over a basic twelve bar blues jazz progression, as well as a simple solo to get you started. This entry adds dominant chords into the progression and the appropriate modes and scales to play over top of these chords. There is still no altered chords, these will be addressed in future lessons. Remember, the basic concept is to analyze what changes the chords force on the scale. These changes dictate what mode or scale the melody is moving into.

The Chord Progression

This progression is identical to the chord movement in Part One, with the substitution of the dominant G13 and G7 in measures four and eight. The turnaround (measures eleven and twelve), is slightly different from Part One, with the substitution of the Bm7 in measure eleven.

Dominant chords are not in the key of the root note of the chord. For example: G7 is NOT in the key of G Major. G7 is in the key of C Major. This is because of the the flat seventh degree (in this case F natural). Structure of a dominant G7 chord is: G (root), B (third), D (fifth), F (seventh). In the key of G Major, the seventh degree is F♯. Replacing the F♯ with F natural moves the seventh degree into the C Major scale. In this respect, dominant seventh chords and their variations are in a world of their own.

Harmonizing the C Major scale into four note shapes, should make this clear.

Harmonization of C Major:

Traids (three note chords)

C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, B dim, C.

Four note chords:

CMaj7, Dm7, Em7, F Maj7, G7, Am7, B dim7, CMaj7.

Normal substitutions for G7 are; G9, G13, and G11. Altered seventh chords (G7♯5, etc), are often substituted, but these chords would require any accompanying players to make changes too, whereas, unaltered chords can be layered on top of the foundation chords. For example: G13 can be played at the same time as G9 or G7, since dominant thirteen chords are just an extension of the basic dominant seventh chord. Chord spelling for dominant G13 is: G (root), B (third), D (fifth), F (seventh), A (ninth), E (thirteenth).

Modal Breakdown

The modes and scales are the same as Part One, with the exception of the dominant chords explained above. There is a few choices here. The G minor Pentatonic scale would lend a very gritty, bluesy sound to a melody or improvised line, totally taking the listener away from the sound over the previous chords. The G Combination Scale and G Mixolydian would be more of a natural transition from the modes preceding this change. It depends on the sound you are looking for. In the solo that follows, I stuck with the Combination Scale. There are more choices still, as there are are with most chords. For example: G Dorian would fit across these two dominant chords and is used frequently by all players across sevenths, ninths, etc.

The Solo

I have utilized the framework from Part One, and simply, built on the melody, adding notes from the scales, modes and chord tones. This is an excellent way of embellishing a melody, especially a vocal melody.

Listen to a number of horn players in jazz music, and you will hear this happening all the time. In measure one and two, I have led into the melody from Part One using the G Ionian mode. In measure three, since I am already in G Dorian the first note of the run moves to B♭ as opposed to B natural. The B natural would sound wrong played over top of the Gm6 chord.

In the first half of measure five, across the G13, the notes outline a G7 chord: F (seventh), G (root), B (third), D (fifth). In the turnaround, the notes outline a Bm7, even over the GMaj7. Bm7 is a very common substitution for the tonic GMaj7 and the whole turnaround is diatonic to G Major. Once again, I have kept the phrasing fairly simple, and the basic premise is still the same: no matter what the theory dictates, if it sounds right, it is right!


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