BY SCOTT MCGILL
THIS LESSON DEALS WITH
dropped-D tuning in jazz guitar. Dropped-D has been used effectively by such diverse
players as Johnny Smith, Lenny Breau, John
McLaughlin, and John Scofield and can allow
guitarists to incorporate a range of sounds
not available in standard tuning. So let’s dive
in and go for it.
Ex. 1 illustrates comping with some hip
descending 11th chord voicings in measure
1 that would be quite difficult in standard
tuning. The tuning also allows for some interesting
chromatic walking bass motion that
embellishes the II-V progressions around
the D7b9b5 and C7b9b5 in measures 2 and
3. The I chord in the last measure is very
modern, physically easy to grab, and sounds
warm and fat due to the lowered sixth string.
Ex. 2 shows a few of the novel harmonic possibilities
within a chord/melody scenario. There are big, luxurious voicings possible in dropped-D and since this ending of an arrangement
style example is in D major, we can really use
the lowered sixth string to our advantage
employing such devices as full resonant block
chords in measures 1 and 3, arpeggios with
melody notes in measure 2 and 3, and bass
pedal tones with triads and impressionistic
open-string voicings in measures 4 and 6,
respectively. Have fun with the Johnny Smith
approved line in measure 5 based on the D
diminished scale (D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, B, C#, D),
which colors the preceding C# triad over a D
natural bass note quite nicely. I hope these
dropped-D examples give you fresh ideas for
your own arrangements. Have fun!
Scott McGill is an instructor and BA Course
Leader at the Brighton Institute of Modern
Music in England.
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