Hey Jazz Guy, May 2011

Hey Jazz Guy, I’ve got all my scales down pretty good, but I’m still having trouble making all the changes.
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Hey Jazz Guy,
I’ve got all my scales down pretty good, but I’m still having trouble making all the changes. Can you give me some advice on how to put it all together? —Fragmented in Fresno


Dear Fragmented,
One of the most difficult parts of improvising is putting it all together: turning scales into great sounding lines. However, there are some concepts that work every time. In the following examples, we examine the first eight bars of the classic jazz standard “Stella by Starlight.” In Ex. 1, we start with the 3rd of the chord, and play an E Locrian scale with a natural 9 (a derivative of G melodic minor). Every strong beat is a chord tone. For A7b9, we move to the 3rd of the chord by a halfstep and play the altered scale. On Cmin7 in the 3rd bar [Ex. 2], playing an Eb major scale line gives a diatonic sound. When the chord changes to F7, we again target the 3rd. Ex. 3 uses a sequence, involving the 3rds of Fm7 and Bb7. In the final example, Ex. 4, we are using a Bb major pentatonic on the Ebmaj7 chord, bringing out the 3rd of the chord by repeating the note. The line finishes with another melodic minor mode, the Lydian b7 scale in Ab, emphasizing the b7. Building your solos around the chord tones, especially 3rds and 7ths, and connecting those tones smoothly, is a key concept in creating lines. Sequences and repetition serve to highlight important notes. These techniques will go a long way toward helping you connect all those scales you’ve been practicing. In this lesson, we focused on inside sounds. Next time we will put it all together in an outside way, and then formerly fragmented will become ferociously fantastic.


Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the non-jazz world. Send your questions to guitplyr@musicplayer.com. Jake’s latest release is Patterns [Buckyball].