Your First Lines: Jazz Edition

Your First Lines: Jazz Edition

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Lyman Lipke here once again. Last couple times I was here, we took a look at some chords. I’ve been putting off talking about single note lines, but if you’ve taken a good look at my previous posts on chords (or at the very least, pretended to), we can look at a few lines. Our study of chords will give us a deeper understanding of how these single note lines relate to the chord-sound we’re trying to play over.

I want to address a concept in jazz called “making the changes”. We’re trying to define what’s going on in the harmony through our single note lines. If there’s a D minor chord, our single note lines should sound like D minor. If there’s a G7 chord, our lines should sound like G7. If the chords are moving from D minor to G7, then your lines should sound like D minor moving to G7.

How do we get our lines sounding like the harmony? Simple, we use chord tones and passing tones between the chord tones. 3rds and 7ths really define the characteristic of of the chord, so we’d definitely like to include those. The nice thing about 3rds and 7ths, is that they resolve to each other when moving by fourths (D minor to G7 is a fourths motion, by the way). We can use this to our advantage when connecting chord-sounds.

So there’s a little bit of theory for you to conceptualize what we’re trying to do, let’s look at a few licks and breakdown how they’re making the changes.

Nerd Stuff Ex.1

Our first one is a relatively simple one. In the first bar, on the downbeats, we’ve got chord tones, 1, b3, 1, and 5. The notes on the upbeats are all diatonic passing tones, except for the and of 4. That’s a chromatic passing tone which leads us to the 3rd of G7. The first two beats and a half of bar two is just a descending scale pattern into a descending G major arpeggio, landing on the root (G) on the and of 4. Those together clearly spell out the sound of G7. Next, in our resolution to C major, we use a small trick called an enclosure. We choose a target note, in this case a C note, and play a note above and below before we hit our target note. It’s a common tactic in jazz to extend your lines.

Nerd Stuff Ex.2

This one is pretty straightforward as well. The first bar just contains notes from D minor 7. We resolve from the 7th of D minor 7 to the 3rd of G7 in the second bar. Then we play an ascending scale fragment leading up to an enclosure on the 5th of C.

Nerd Stuff Ex.3

Our last line actually starts out with an enclosure to the 3rd of D minor, then we jump up one fifth to the 7th of D minor. The second half of bar one is a simple descending D minor add9 arpeggio (add9 is simply adding the 9th or 2nd scale degree to a triad). The next bar has a couple of neat tricks in it. It starts out with a descending D minor 7 arpeggio from the 5th. But wait, we’re playing over G7? This is a technique I use all the time. I like to call it “delayed resolution”. We’re adding an extra half bar of D minor 7 to build tension, before we resolve to G7. We get to the 3rd of G7 on beat 3, and after that we have a line consisting of #9, b9 and 7. These are tones taken directly from the altered dominant scale. When we want to add even more tension to a dominant chord, we can borrow some of the alterations. From the basic 1 3 5 and b7, we also have the alterations b9, #9, #11 and b13 available as well. This #9 b9 motion is another extremely common move in jazz. From the and of 4 on bar two, we move up to the 5th of C major and call it a lick.

Take some time with these lines and learn these shapes. After a little while, you can start make your own changes to these lines. Experiment, see if there are other directions you can move in. Get familiar. Happy practicing.

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