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6 Feb 2014
Jazz Guitar Basics



Have you ever wanted to learn how to play jazz guitar but didn't know where to start? Ever hear a jazz cat such as Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny or Joe Pass playing a tune and thought, “How does he do that?” Well, if this is the case, then the Jazz Guitar Basics Theory Guide if for you.

In this in-depth guide to the basics of jazz guitar theory, you will learn how to solo over and comp the four basic chord types, m7-7-maj7-m7b5, as well as work these chords together in the very commonly used and cool-sounding ii V I chord progression.

So grab your axe, put on some flatwound strings, turn your tone knob down on the clean channel, and let’s dig into some jazz guitar theory.

To help you identify notes that are outside the key center, chord or scale you are currently playing, all chromatic and "outside" notes in this Guide are written in red so you can easily pick them out in any exercise or lick below.



Intro – Common Jazz Terms



Before we start in on this guide, let's take a look at some common jazz terms so that you are up to speed on the specific terms used by jazzers to describe various elements of music and the jazz genre.

Chorus - The term used to describe playing one time through the entire form of a tune, such as playing 12 bars of a 12-bar blues progression.

Head - Used to describe the written melody of any jazz tune.

Changes - Short form for the chord changes of a tune.

Blowing - Slang for soloing, such as blowing over a tune meaning to solo over a tune.

Comping - Slang for rhythm guitar, such as comp over those changes meaning to play the chords to that song.

Woodshed - A place to practice, used to be a literal woodshed but is now used to refer to any practice room or space.

Outside - Playing a note or series of notes that are not found in the underlying chord, scale or key center that you are playing over.

To get your head around some of the fundamental concepts covered in this Guide, please check out the Reading Notes on Guitar 1, Reading Notes on Guitar 2, Key Shifting for Guitar, Working with a Metronome, Practicing Slowly for Fast Results, and the One Octave Scale Shapes Lessons in the Forum.



Chapter 1 - Minor 7th chords



In this first section, you will learn about one of the most important and commonly used chords in jazz, the minor 7th chord. Found in songs such as “So What” and “Milestones” by Miles Davis, as well as being the ii chord in a ii-V-I chord progression, learning how to play and solo over m7 chords is an essential skill for any jazz guitarist to have under their fingers.


What Are m7 Chords?

To begin, let’s look at how you build m7 chords, and what scale and arpeggio they are related to from a theoretical standpoint.

In jazz, we most often associate the m7 chord with the Dorian Mode, as opposed to the Aeolian Mode, which is more common in rock, pop and classical music. For this reason, we will build our m7 arpeggios and chords from the notes of that mode.

The Dorian Mode is the 2nd mode of the major scale, so it is like playing a C major scale from the notes D to D, and it uses the interval pattern 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7. If you take the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of that scale, you get the notes of a m7 arpeggios and m7 chord, such as the Dm7 shapes you see in the example below, which uses the intervals 1-b3-5-b7.

When building a m7 chord in closed position, meaning all of the notes are in order 1-b3-5-b7, you get the right notes, but the shape is usually tough to play on the fretboard. For this reason, we tend to move the notes around a bit to make them easier to play on the guitar, as you can see in the final bar of the example below.

This is a Drop 2 chord, which we will explore further along with Drop 3 chords later on in this guide. For now, just work on understanding how the Dorian mode can be used to create the m7 arpeggio and m7 chord, which we will then take onto the fretboard in the next section.

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Now that we have looked at where the m7 chord, scale and arpeggio come from, let’s start to takes these ideas and apply them to the guitar, and to your soloing and comping ideas in a jazz context.

To learn more about how to build and play these concepts on guitar, check out my Dorian Mode for Guitar, m7 Arpeggios for Guitar, and m7 Chords for Guitar lessons for more information.


Drop 2 m7 Chords

As was mentioned in the previous section, it’s not easy playing closed position chords on the guitar, especially when we are using 4 notes such as the 1-b3-5-b7 m7 chord configurations. For this reason, jazz guitarists move those notes around to create manageable fingerings while maintaining the sound of the chord at the same time.

One of the most popular chord fingerings in jazz guitar is the Drop 2 configuration. Taking a closed position chord, such as 1-b3-5-b7 for m7, and then dropping the second note from the top by an octave, giving you the intervals 5-1-b3-b7, will give you a Drop 2 chord.

When doing this, you get the following interval patterns for the four inversions of any Drop 2 m7 chord, which you can see in the example below.

Root Position - R-5-b7-b3
1st Inversion – b3-b7-R-5
2nd Inversion – 5-R-b3-b7
3rd Inversion – b7-b3-5-R

Now that you know the interval patterns for m7 Drop 2 chords, try learning the shapes in the example below. In this example, you will learn Drop 2 m7 chords on the 5-4-3-2 and 4-3-2-1 string sets, the two most commonly used for this chord configuration.

You can play Drop 2 chords on the 6-5-4-3 string set, but they tend to sound muddy and so we rarely use them in a jazz guitar context. Instead, when you want to have a root or low note on the 6th string, we used Drop 3 chords instead, which you'll learn in the next section.

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With Drop 2 chords under your fingers, let's take a look at the other most commonly used jazz guitar chord shape, Drop 3 chords.


Drop 3 m7 Chords

Drop 3 m7 chords are built in a very similar way to Drop 2 chords. Starting with a closed position m7 chord, 1-b3-5-b7, you then take the third highest note, the b3, and drop it by an octave. When doing so, you wind up with the interval pattern b3-1-5-h7, which is a first inversion Drop 3 m7 chord.

Here are the interval patterns for each inversion of Drop 3 m7 chords, which you can then see on the fretboard in the example below.

Root Position – R-b7-b3-5
1st Inversion – b3-R-5-b7
2nd Inversion – 5-b3-b7-R
3rd Inversion – b7-5-R-b3

Once you have your head around these inversions, and their interval patterns, try practicing the chords in the example below in all 12 keys around the neck. When doing so, you can name the interval pattern for each inversion you play, as well as name the notes of each chord inversion you are playing in order to take this exercise to the next level in your practice routine.

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Once you have both the Drop 2 and Drop 3 m7 chords under your fingers, try testing yourself by picking a root, say G, and them playing all 16 inversions of Gm7, 8 for Drop 2 and 8 for Drop 3. Repeat this exercise for other root notes, and when you are confident about these chord shapes, add a metronome into the mix to see if you can nail each chord shape in tempo.


m7 Arpeggios

While you had to adjust the configuration of the notes to allow for easier to play m7 chords on the guitar, it is perfectly fine to play m7 arpeggios in note order, 1-b3-5-b7, when playing them on the guitar. In this section, you will learn how to play one and two-octave m7 arpeggios on the guitar.

Since the chords and keys move fairly quickly in jazz, such as a short ii-V-I progression where the m7 and 7 chords last only two beats long, learning how to play one-octave arpeggios can be a valuable asset when soloing over fast-moving changes.

To help you get started with one-octave m7 arpeggios, here are four shapes that you can check out in the practice room, one on the 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd string roots. Learn these shapes over Dm7 first, and then practice them in all 12 keys as you bring them around the fretboard in your studies.

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Though one-octave shapes are very important in jazz, you will also find times when using a two-octave shape will be appropriate, especially in a modal jazz context such as “So What,” where you have 8 to 16 bars of a single m7 chord to solo over.

To help you get started with two-octave m7 arpeggio shapes, here are two examples, one on the 6th string and one on the 5th string, that you can work on in the practice room, first over Dm7 and later in all 12 keys.

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Once you have either or both of these one and two-octave arpeggio shapes under your fingers, try putting on the backing tracks at the end of this Chapter and soloing along to those tracks using only these arpeggio shapes to build your lines.

Learning how to solo over chord changes with arpeggios is an essential skill for any jazz guitarist, as it allows you the most direct connection with the chord tones, and helps you run through tough chord progressions without having to rely on bigger, harder to move around scale shapes.


Dorian Scales

As was mentioned earlier, the Dorian Scale is the second mode of the major scale system. This means that if you take the C major scale, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, and you play it from D to D, the second note in that scale, you will get a D Dorian Mode, D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D.

Though these two scales share the same notes, they make completely different sounds because of their interval structure. When building a Dorian Scale, you produce the intervals R-2-b3-4-5-6-b7-R, which is why this scale is used to solo over m7 chords; it contains the R-b3-5-b7 intervals, which make up the m7 chord tones.

Here are a few sample fingerings for the Dorian Scale to get you started. Once you can play these shapes in a few keys, practice soloing over the backing tracks at the end of this chapter as they will help you take these scale shapes from a technical exercise to an improvisational context.

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You now have the m7 arpeggios and Dorian Scales in your soloing vocabulary, so feel free to improvise over the backing tracks in this Chapter and use both of these concepts to build your lines. So, solo over Dm7 using both the Dm7 arpeggio and D Dorian Scales as you navigate the chord changes in the tracks below.

Mixing arpeggios and scales is something that every jazz guitarist does in their soloing, but it can take a bit of time until you're completely comfortable moving between these two shapes in a soloing situation on the fretboard. So start today and keep at it until you can move between arpeggios and scales with ease in your soloing ideas.


Soloing Technique – Approach Notes Below

Apart from playing strict arpeggios and scales over chords, jazz guitarists love to use chromatic notes, notes that are not in the arpeggio and scale, to create tension in their lines that they later resolve to chord or scale tones in their solos.

To get you started with the concept of applying chromatic notes to arpeggios in your soloing lines, let’s look at adding Chromatic Approach Notes Below each note in the arpeggio.

So, if you have a Dm7 arpeggio, D-F-A-C, you will play one ½ step below each of these notes leading into the arpeggio note directly after. This would look like:

C#-D
E-F
G#-A
B-C
C#-D

As you can see, the first note of each pair is one fret, one half step, lower than each second note, the chord tone. Playing these notes back to back will allow you to create tension over any m7 chord, and then resolve that tension immediately back to a chord tone as not to step too far outside the changes with this concept.

Here is a sample fingering to check out in the practice room. Once you have it down, try applying the approach note below concept to any/all m7 arpeggio shapes that you know or are working on in the woodshed.

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Having learned the Approach Notes Below concept, try soloing over the backing tracks below and applying this idea to your improvised jazz guitar lines over each chord. Adding chromatic notes to arpeggios is something that every jazz guitarist needs to have in their soloing tool belt, so take your time and work on this concept until it's fluid and comfortable in your soloing ideas.


m7 Backing Tracks

Learning how to play jazz guitar means learning how to apply chords, scales and arpeggios that you learn from a technical perspective to a real-world musical situation. Besides jamming with other people, the best way to practice applying these concepts is to use backing tracks in your woodshedding.

To help you work on these ideas over different m7 chord progression, here are a few backing tracks to work on in the practice room. The tracks start off easy, only one m7 chord, and then get progressively harder from there. So start with the first Dm7 track, and when you're comfortable with that then feel free to move on to the next one until you can comp and solo over these tracks with confidence in the woodshed.

Attached File  m7_1_Key.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 2452


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Attached File  m7_2_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 2047


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Attached File  m7_4_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1873


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Attached File  m7_12_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1668


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With these m7 chords, scales and arpeggios under your fingers, you'll be ready to dive into the next popular jazz guitar chord type, dominant 7ths.



Chapter 2 - 7th chords



Since they make up three chords in a Jazz Blues Progression, as well as the middle chord of a major ii V I chord progression, Dominant 7th chords are an essential part of any jazz guitarist's vocabulary.

In this Chapter you will learn how to build and play Dominant 7th chords, how to outline these chords in your solos using both arpeggios and scales, as well as our second Jazz Improv Technique, approach notes from above.

So, let's dive into another commonly used and fun to play jazz guitar sound, the Dominant 7th chord.


What Are 7th Chords?

Dominant 7th chords are built in a similar way as Minor 7th chords, except they are taken from the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the Mixolydian Mode, rather than the Dorian Mode as we say for m7ths.

The Mixolydian mode is the 5th mode of the Major Scale, which means that it is like playing a C major scale from the notes G-G. Here is an example of this in notes to check out.

C Major Scale - C D E F G A B C
G Mixolydian Mode - G A B C D E F G

Though they share the same notes, the interval structure between Major and Mixolydian is slightly different, as the Mixolydian Mode has a b7 as compared to the natural 7 in the major scale.

Here is the interval structure for the Mixolydian Mode.

Root - M2 - M3 - P4 - P5 - M6 - m7 - Root

So the arpeggio and chord tones for 7th chords are built from the Root, 3rd, 5th and b7th of the Mixolydian Mode, which you can see in the example below.

Again, since playing the chord tones in a row on the guitar is hard, we often move them around in order to find easier shapes for these chords on the fretboard, such as the Drop 2 G7 chord in the example below.

Check this chord out to begin with, and then we'll dig into Drop 2 and Drop 3 7th chords in more detail later on in this Chapter.

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To learn more about these concepts, please check out my lessons on Dominant 7th Chords for Guitar, Dominant 7th Arpeggios for Guitar, and Mixolydian Scales for Guitar.


Drop 2 7th Chords

Drop 2 chords are always built in the same way, but they are adjusted to fit the interval pattern for the specific chord they are applied to, such as Dom 7th or m7th chords.

As we learned in the last Chapter, Drop 2 chords are built by taking a closed-position chord R-3-5-7, and then dropping the second highest note by an octave to form the interval structure 5-R-3-7. In the case of Dominant 7th chords, this interval pattern is R-3-5-b7 moving to 5-R-3-b7.

From there, you can build the different inversions of Dominant 7th Drop 2 Chords which you can see in intervals here, and in notes/tab in the example below.

Root Position - R-5-b7-3
1st Inversion - 3-b7-R-5
2nd Inversion - 5-R-3-b7
3rd Inversion - b7-3-5-R

Once you have worked out the following Drop 2 7th chords for G7, try taking them to all of the other 11 keys across the fretboard.

As well, now that you know Drop 2 chords for both m7 and 7th shapes, try moving between the two over a single root to see how they differ on the fretboard, playing between Gm7 and G7 in all inversions on each string set for example.

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Drop 3 7th Chords

Again, Drop 3 chords are built the same for 7th shapes as they were for m7th chords, but you just adjust the interval pattern to reflect the R-3-5-b7 construction of Dom 7th chords.

When doing so, you take a closed-position chord, R-3-5-b7, and you lower the 3rd highest note by one octave to produce the intervals 3-R-5-b7, which is a Drop 3 Dom 7th chord.

You can see the different inversions for G7 Drop 3 chords in two string sets in the notes/tab below, as well as the interval structure for each of these chords here.

Root Position - R-b7-3-5
1st Inversion - 3-R-5-b7
2nd Inversion - 5-b7-R-3
3rd Inversion - b7-5-R-3

As was the case with the Drop 2 7th chords, try learning these shapes for G7 at first, and then take them to the other 11 keys around the fretboard.

You can also practice moving between Drop 2 and Drop 3 7th chords now to hear how these shapes both produces different shades of color with 7th chords.

As you did with Drop 2 7th chords, you can move between Drop 3 m7 and Drop 2 7th chords in order to see and hear how these two different chords sound on the neck.

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7th Arpeggios - One and Two Octaves

Now that you have explored Drop 2 and Drop 3 7th chords on the neck, let's take a look at how you play Dom 7th arpeggios in both one and two-octave shapes on the fretboard.

As was the case with m7 arpeggios, we will start with one-octave shapes as they are easier to play, and quicker to move around, which will come in handy when soloing over fast-moving jazz chord shapes, especially when the tempo is quick and there are 2 chords per bar.

Here are four positions of one-octave G7 arpeggios to get you started, one on the 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd strings. Start with these shapes, in all keys if possible, and then move onto two-octave shapes from there in your practicing.

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While one-octave shapes are great for soloing over fast chord changes, sometimes you'll have more space to experiment and move around the fretboard, and this is where two-octave Dom 7 arpeggios will come in handy.

Once you have these shapes under your fingers, try soloing over the backing tracks below using both one and two-octave 7th arpeggios to outline each chord. Start with the one and two chord progressions, using both one and two-octave shapes to build your lines. From there, move on to the faster moving changes and use the one-octave shapes to move quickly between each chord in the progressions.

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Mixolydian Scales

As well as using arpeggios to solo over 7th chords, you can use the Mixolydian Mode to build your lines and phrases over these chords in a jazz vamp or chord progression.

To help you get started, here are two examples of two-octave Mixolydian Modes to practice and solo with over 7th chords in your practice routine.

Once you have one of these shapes under your fingers, try using it to solo over the various backing tracks. When this is comfortable, with both shapes, try moving between 7th arpeggios and the Mixolydian Mode in your Dom 7th soloing lines and phrases.

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Soloing Technique – Approach Notes Above

You can now add a second jazz soloing technique to your vocabulary, approach notes from above. These notes use the same concept as you learned in the last Chapter, though now you are adding a chromatic note above each arpeggio note when building your lines and phrases.

This means that you can take a G7 arpeggios, G-B-D-F, and add one chromatic note above each chord tone to produce the notes Ab-G, C-B, Eb-D and Gb-F.

Here is how that looks in notes/tab on the fretboard. Start by learning how to play these shapes in various keys, then practice soloing over the backing tracks below while using these approach notes and arpeggio shapes to build your improvised lines and phrases.

When you are comfortable soloing with the half-step above approach notes and arpeggio shapes, try mixing the half-step below and half-step above together in your solos. This will give you two ways of creating tension and release in your jazz guitar soloing ideas, which will help you move beyond scales over chords and get a very "jazzy" sound into your playing right away.

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7th Chord Backing Tracks

To end this Chapter on Dom 7th chords, here are four backing tracks to use in the practice room. Start with the first track, as it uses only one chord, and then move on to the other, more difficult backing tracks from there.

A good way to measure your progress in the woodshed is to record yourself each week soloing over various backing tracks. Then, you can go back and see where you are improving and what items still need focus in the practice room.

Attached File  7th_Backing_Track_1.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 3925


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Attached File  7th_Backing_Track_2.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 3725


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Attached File  7th_Backing_Track_3.mp3 ( 4.54MB ) Number of downloads: 3735


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Attached File  7th_Backing_Track_4.mp3 ( 4.54MB ) Number of downloads: 3687


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With these 7th chords, scales and arpeggios under your fingers, you'll be ready to dive into the next popular jazz guitar chord type, Maj7ths.



Chapter 3 - Major 7th chords



The next chord that we'll explore from a jazz guitar view is the Major 7th chord, often written as Maj7 or as a triangle next to a chord on a lead sheet.

Major 7th chords complete the jazz trifecta of important shapes as, when combined with the m7 and 7th chords you've already looked at, they form the major ii V I progression, one of if not the most important chord progression in jazz history. If the major ii V I progression is new to you don't panic, we'll be covering it in much detail in a later Chapter of this guide.

In the meantime, let's take a look at how to build, play and solo over maj7 chords for jazz guitar.

To learn more about the material in this section, check out the Major 7th Chords for Guitar, Major 7th Arpeggios for Guitar and Major Scale for Guitar lessons.


What Are Maj7 Chords?

Maj7 chords are built by taking the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the major scale and stacking them on top of each other, as you can see in the example below.

Here is the interval pattern for a major scale.

Root - M2 - M3 - P4 - P5 - M6 - M7 - Root

Since this is the first mode of the major scale, also known as Ionian, there is no need to compare it to other modes from an interval standpoint as this is the foundational mode that we derive all other modes from in the major scale.

As you can see, when you take the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of this scale out on their own, you produce the Cmaj7 arpeggio and Cmaj7 chord that you see in the example below.

As as the case with the m7 and 7th chords you've already looked at, when playing a closed-position maj7 chord it can be tricky to finger that shape on the guitar, especially when it comes to inversions of that chord. So, we move things around a bit to produce more workable fingerings on the neck such as the Drop 2 and Drop 3 maj7 chord shapes you'll explore in this chapter.

You can see an example of this in the notation here, where there is a Drop 2 Cmaj7 chord in the last bar of the notation.

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With a bit of background on the maj7 chord, scale and arpeggio down, let's begin our study of how to take these sounds out onto the fretboard and into your jazz guitar playing.


Maj7 Drop 2 Chords

By now you've got the general concept for Drop 2 chords under your belt, so now we just need to apply that formula to the maj7 chord intervals to bring it to this new chord shape.

To build Drop 2 maj7 chords, you take the closed position of the chord, R-3-5-7, and you drop the second highest note by an octave to form a Drop 2 chord, 5-R-3-7.

When doing so, you produce the following interval patterns for each inversion of the Maj7 chord.

Root Position - Root-5-7-3
1st Inversion - 3-7-R-5
2nd Inversion - 5-R-3-7
3rd Inversion - 7-3-5-R

And here is how those four inversions look for a Cmaj7 chord on two different string sets. Again, since the low 4 strings tend to sound muddy, it's best to spend your time on these shapes as you will use them far more often when comping and chord soloing in a jazz style.

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Once you've worked these shapes out in the key of C, try taking them to all 12 keys around the fretboard as you explore Drop 2 maj7 chords further in your studies.


Maj7 Drop 3 Chords

As was the case with Drop 2 chords, the same formula applies to Drop 3 chords, you just apply it to maj7 closed-position chords and you've generated the four inversions of Drop 3 maj7 chords on the fretboard.

To do so, you take a closed-position maj7 chord, Root-3-5-7, and you drop the third highest note by an octave to produce a Drop 3 shape, 3-R-5-7.

When you do this, you produce the following four inversions for Drop 3 maj7 chords on the neck.

Root Position - Root-7-3-5
1st Inversion - 3-R-5-7
2nd Inversion - 5-3-7-R
3rd Inversion - 7-5-R-3

Again, here are those shapes on the fretboard with both a 6th string and 5th-string bass note to explore in your studies.

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When you have these shapes down in C, and all other keys, try playing them back and forth with Drop 2 maj7 chords in order to hear how both sound in your playing when applying them to a jazz guitar setting.


Maj7 Arpeggios - One and Two Octaves

As well as working maj7 chords on the guitar, you can practice maj7 arpeggios which you can then use to solo over maj7 chords in a jazz chord progression or jazz standard tune.

Here are four one-octave maj7 arpeggios to check out in the key of C. Work them from a technical standpoint, but also make sure to practice soloing with them over backing tracks so you learn how to apply them to an improvisational context as well.


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You can also work these arpeggios with two-octave shapes, such as the ones in the example below. Again, learn them from a technical standpoint in twelve keys and then practice soloing over backing tracks with these two octave shapes as well.

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When first starting to solo with either of these arpeggios, start with the one-chord backing track below, and then move on to the harder progressions from there as you become more comfortable with these fingerings in various keys on the fretboard.


Ionian Scales

You can also learn how to play major scales, the Ionian Mode, which you can then improvise with over maj7 chords. Here are a few fingerings to get you started in the key of C.

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From here, try soloing over the backing tracks in this Chapter with these major scale shapes, as well as mixing them together with arpeggios in order to take them further in your technical and improvisational studies.


Maj7 Soloing Technique – Enclosures

We will now take a look at the second type of Enclosure that you can apply to your scale fingerings in order to jazz them up in your guitar fills and solos.

This enclosure starts with a chromatic note above, followed by a chromatic note below the target note, and then landing on the chord tone that you are currently enclosing.

Here is a sample fingering to help you get started. Once you have worked this fingering out, try applying this second enclosure technique to any and all other maj7 arpeggio fingerings that you know in this, and all 12 keys on the fretboard.

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Also, make sure to practice soloing over the backing tracks below with this enclosure technique, as that's where your ears will really hear how these chromatic notes sound against a chord progression, allowing to confidently and comfortably apply enclosures to your jazz guitar improvisational ideas.


Maj7 Backing Tracks

To help you work on these maj7 items in the woodshed, here are four different backing tracks that you can use to start soloing with maj7 arpeggios and scales, as well as practice comping over them with maj7 chords.

If you are new to these concepts, start with the first backing track and move down from there. If you have some experience with jazz guitar soloing and comping, feel free to browse and pick the right practice track for you at this point in your development.


Attached File  Maj7_Backing_1.mp3 ( 4.64MB ) Number of downloads: 1682


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Attached File  Maj7_Backing_2.mp3 ( 4.64MB ) Number of downloads: 1639


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Attached File  Maj7_Backing_3.mp3 ( 4.54MB ) Number of downloads: 1612


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Attached File  Maj7_Backing_4.mp3 ( 4.54MB ) Number of downloads: 1584


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With these maj7th chords, scales and arpeggios under your fingers, you'll be ready to dive into the next popular jazz guitar chord type, m7b5s.



Chapter 4 – m7b5 chords



When you begin to explore soloing and comping in minor keys in jazz, you will quite quickly run up against the m7b5 chord, a sound that is very common in jazz, but not so much in other styles of music such as rock, pop and blues.

Because this chord might be new to you, even if you were already familiar with maj7, m7 and 7th chords, take your time with this part of the Guide, as m7b5 chords are an essential sound and one that usually gives jazz guitarists a few roadblocks when first studying them in their exploration of the genre.

In this section of the Guide, you'll learn how to build m7b5 chords, how to solo over them using both arpeggios and the Locrian scale, as well as how to comp these chords with both Drop 2 and Drop 3 shapes. Since these chords are tricky to get down at first, it is recommended that you use the backing tracks at the end of this chapter for every exercise as this will help you get the sound of each chord, scale and arpeggio into your ears as well as onto the fretboard.

To learn more about these concepts, check out the Locrian Scale for Guitar, m7b5 Arpeggios for Guitar, and m7b5 Chords for Guitar lessons in the Theory section of the Forum.


What Are m7b5 Chords?

m7b5 chords, otherwise referred to as Half-Diminished Chords, are built from the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the Locrian Mode. The Locrian Mode is the 7th mode of the major scale, and so it is like playing a C major scale from B to B.

Here are both of those scales side by side for comparison. Notice that they both share the same notes but have different interval patterns, this is what makes the chords and arpeggios formed from each scale sound different, though they share the same notes in their construction.

C Major = C D E F G A B C
B Locrian = B C D E F G A B

Major Intervals = R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R
Locrian Intervals = R b2 b3 4 b5 b7 b7 R

As you can see, besides the 4th, every interval in the Locrian Scale has been lowered as compared to the major scale, this is what produces the m7b5 chord and arpeggio, as when you take out the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the Locrian Scale you get the following intervals.

Root-b3-b5-b7

Here is how the Locrian Scale, m7b5 arpeggio and basic chord shape look on the fretboard so that you can get an idea of these shapes on the fretboard, which will all be explored in more detail later on in this section.

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Now that you have a bit of background the theory of m7b5 chords and their related scale, let's learn some m7b5 chords on the guitar, starting with Drop 2 chords and their inversions.


Drop 2 m7b5 Chords

As is the case with any chord, Drop 2 m7b5 shapes are built in the same way as every chord we've seen so far. You will take the root-position chord, R-b3-b5-b7, and then drop the second highest note down an octave to form a m7b5 Drop 2 chord, b5-R-b3-b7.

When doing so, you produce the following interval structure for each inversion of Drop 2 m7b5 chords.

Root Position - Root-b5-b7-b3
1st Inversion - b3-b7-R-b5
2nd Inversion - b5-R-b3-b7
3rd Inversion - b7-b3-b5-R

Here are four inversions of Bm7b5 in Drop 2 shapes on both the 5-4-3-2 and 4-3-2-1 string sets to work out in your studies as you begin to apply these chords to the guitar.

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Once you have learned these chords shapes, from memory, over a Bm7b5 chord, make sure to take them to other keys around the fretboard in order to get a better understanding of how these shapes fall on the fretboard, as well as preparing yourself to apply Drop 2 m7b5 chords to any key when you see them in a chord progression or jazz tune you are playing or studying.


Drop 3 m7b5 Chords

As was the case with Drop 2 chords, the same formula used earlier applies here to m7b5 chords. You take a closed-position chords, Root-b3-b5-b7 and drop the 3rd highest note to form a Drop 3 m7b5 shape, b3-R-b5-b7.

When doing so, you produce the following interval patterns for each inversion of a Drop 3 m7b5 chord.

Root Position - Root - b7 - b3 - b5
1st Inversion - b3 - Root - b5 - b7
2nd Inversion - b5 - b3 - b7 - Root
3rd Inversion - b7 - b5 - Root - b3

Here is how those shapes look on the guitar with both 6th and 5th-string bass notes for each inversion.

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As we've done before, start with these shapes for Bm7b5 and then move on to other keys as you take these shapes around to various positions on the neck of the guitar.


m7b5 Arpeggios - One and Two Octave

You can also learn and begin to solo with one and two-octave m7b5 arpeggios in various positions on the fretboard. In this first example, you can see four positions of a Bm7b5 arpeggio that you can learn and take to other keys in your studies.

When you can play these shapes comfortably, try soloing over the various backing tracks at the end of this section in order to hear and feel how it sounds when applying these arpeggios to an improvisational setting as well as a technical exercise on the guitar.

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As we have done with every arpeggio in this guide, you can now move on to two-octave m7b5 shapes in order to provide you with a larger option when applying arpeggios to m7b5 chords in a jazz soloing situation.

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Again, try soloing over any or all of the backing tracks provided using these shapes, first one then two-octave arpeggios, in order to get a sense for how they sound in a soloing situation.


Locrian Scales

As was discussed earlier, the Locrian Mode is the scale of choice when building and soloing over m7b5 chords in a jazz guitar setting. To help get you started with this commonly used jazz scale, here are a few two-octave fingerings that you can practice in multiple keys on the fretboard, and then take into all 12 keys as you work them further in the woodshed.

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Once you can play one or both of these positions in a few keys, take them to the backing tracks below and begin to improvise with them over m7b5 chords. When this is comfortable, try mixing in your m7b5 arpeggios in order to get an idea how these two devices sound when applied together over a m7b5 chord in an improvisational setting.


Soloing Technique – Double Enclosures

To finish up our study of m7b5 chords, let's take a look at a bit of vocabulary that you can apply to your technical and soloing study of m7b5 arpeggios. This chromatic device is called a Double Enclosure, as it starts with a half step above your target note, followed by two chromatic notes below the target note, before finally landing on the target note for the arpeggio you are soloing over.

Because there are three chromatic notes for every one chord tone, this pattern can bring a lot of tension to your lines, so make sure to go slow when practicing this pattern for the first time, and ensure that you resolve it properly when you first begin to solo with it over m7b5 chords on the guitar.

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m7b5 Backing Tracks

To help you get started with comping and soloing over m7b5 chords, here are four different backing tracks that you can use in your personal practice routine.

Start with the one-chord track, then move down the list from there as each one becomes progressively tougher from there.

Attached File  m7b5_1_Key.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1604


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Attached File  m7b5_2_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1611


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Attached File  m7b5_4_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1530


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Attached File  m7b5_12_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1573


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With these m7b5 chords, scales and arpeggios under your fingers, you'll be ready to dive into the next popular jazz guitar chord type, 7alt chords.



Chapter 5 - 7alt Chords


The final chord that we will look at in this Guide is the 7alt chord, and in particular the 7b9b13 version of this chord. Though it is a bit of an advanced chord from a comping and soloing perspective, it does make up a big part of the minor key ii V I's that you'll study in the final chapter of this guide, and so I've included some background on this chord to help guide you through learning about this sound applying it to popular chord progressions.

In this chapter, you will learn about how to build 7alt chords, why we're looking at the 7b9b13 version of this chord, how to comp common shapes for this chord and how to solo over these sounds with both arpeggios and scales. So, let's get started!

To learn more about the concepts in this chapter, please check out the Phrygian Dominant Scales for Guitar and 7b9 Chords for Guitar lessons in the Forum.


What Are 7alt Chords?

To begin, let's look at V7alt chords, where they occur and how we use them in our jazz playing. 7alt chords are any 7th chord that has a b9, #9, b5, #5(b13), or any combination of these notes in it's construction.

One of the most popular versions of this chord is 7b9b13, which you can see in the example below. This chord is built from the 5th mode of the Harmonic Minor Scale, which jazzers refer to as Phrygian Dominant, and the chord comes from stacking the notes of this scale in 3rds, again which you can see below.

When doing so, you take the scale intervals, R-b2-3-4-5-b6-b7-R, and creates the following chord tones:

Root-3-5-b7-b9-11-b13

So, as you can see in the example, this scale produces both the 7b9 arpeggio, the 7b9 chord, and it's further extension, the 7b9b13 chord.

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Notice that in the last measure I've broken down the 7 notes of the full chord and created two common voicings for 7b9 and 7b9b13 respectively. You will see in this Chapter that Drop 2 and Drop 3 chords don't work so well with this many notes in our voicings, so we pick and choose specific notes to create new shapes for 7b9 and 7b9b13 shapes on the fretboard.


7b9b13 Chord Shapes

As I just mentioned, we don't use Drop 2 or Drop 3 shapes for these chords, and so I've put together a number of common 7b9 and 7b9b13 chord shapes that you can learn on the guitar and apply to your playing when using them in a chord progression.

The V7alt chord is found most often in the V7 position of a ii V I chord progression in a minor key, and so these shapes will commonly resolve to a m7 chord or m6 chord when applied to a tune.

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Start by working these shapes on the fretboard in 12 keys, then jump down to the minor ii V I Chapter in this guide and try putting them into a ii V I minor key progression to get an idea of how these shapes sound in a musical situation.


7b9b13 Arpeggios - One and Two Octave

You can now break these chords up into one and two-octave arpeggios in order to take the 7b9b13 sound into a single-note context, as well as give yourself material to use when soloing over V7alt and minor ii V I chord progressions in a jazz context.

To begin, here are five-note arpeggios that cover the Root-3-5-b7-b9 of the underlying chord. I've labeled them as "one octave," though they do go a bit beyond the octave, just to indicate their relationship to the previous one-octave shapes that you've already learned. In this case, you're adding a b9 to the 7th arpeggio shapes you've already got under your fingers.

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Once you've worked out these shapes on the fretboard, try putting on one or more of the backing tracks below and soloing over those chords using this arpeggio to create your improvised lines and phrases.

When you are comfortable with the 7b9 arpeggios, you can move on to these longer arpeggios that cover all of the scale/chord notes up to the b13th.

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Again, work these shapes out on the fretboard, then try and practice adding them to your soloing ideas over the backing tracks below as you take them from a technical perspective and apply them to an improvisational context.


Phrygian Dominant Scales

The last soloing concept we'll look at over V7alt chords, in particular V7b9b13 chords, is the Phrygian Dominant Scale. This is the 5th mode of the Harmonic Minor Scale, which means that if you are playing over E7b9b13, you would play the A Harmonic Minor Scale from the 5th note to the 5th note, E to E.

Here are two sample fingerings for this scale that you can work on in the woodshed in order to get this sound and these shapes in your playing and later on your improvised jazz guitar solos.

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Again, work these scale shapes out in 12 keys on the neck, and then put on some of the backing tracks below and see if you can apply these shapes to your jazz guitar soloing ideas over V7alt chords. You can also mix these scales with the arpeggios from this Chapter in order to combine those two sounds in your soloing ideas as well.


7b9b13 Backing Tracks

To help you take these ideas off the page and onto the fretboard, here are four different 7b9b13 backing tracks that you can use to practice soloing with scales and arpeggios, as well as comping along with the chord shapes you learned in this chapter.

As was the case in previous chapters, start with the first track as it's the easiest, then move down the list from there as each track becomes progressively harder as you go.

Attached File  7alt_1_Key.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1650


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Attached File  7alt_2_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1584


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Attached File  7alt_4_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 1564


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Attached File  7alt_12_Keys.mp3 ( 4.54MB ) Number of downloads: 1559


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With these 7b9b13 chords, scales and arpeggios under your fingers, you'll be ready to dive into the most popular jazz guitar chord progression, the major key ii V I.



Chapter 6 – Major ii V I Progressions


The last two Chapters in this guide will introduce you to two versions of the most common and most important progression in jazz, the ii V I.

Found in countless jazz tunes, these three chords come together to form one of the most recognizable sounds in jazz, and therefore are an essential part of the growth of any jazz guitarist.

Learning how to build, comp and solo over ii V I chords is an important part of any jazz guitarist's development, and so we will look at all of those items in this and the next Chapter in order to give you the tools you need to progress with this chord progression in the practice room and out on the bandstand.

To begin, we'll be looking at the major version of the ii V I, and then take it to a minor key in the last Chapter of this guide. So, let's dig in to learning how to build and play major ii V I chords on guitar.


What Are Major ii V I Chords?

To begin, let's take a look at what these chords are, where they come from, and why we call them ii V I's.

These three chords come from the second, fifth and first notes of the major scale, expressed as Roman Numerals to keep them from getting confused with single notes, which are often expressed as Arabic Numerals.

As you can see in the example below, each note in the major scale can be given a Roman Numeral, with the capital letters being used for Major chords and lower-case letters being used for minor and diminished chords.

When you then build chords on each of these notes, you produce the following sequence of chords.

Imaj7 - iim7 - iiim7 - IVmaj7 - V7 - vim7 - viim7b5

Which means that when you take the ii, V and I chords out of this group, you get the following chords.

iim7 - V7 - Imaj7

These three chord qualities can then be applied to any key, such as the C major ii V I you see in this example, which uses the chords Dm7-G7-Cmaj7.

To learn more about this chord progression, please check out the Common Chord Progressions - Major ii V I Lesson.

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Now that you understand where these chords come from, let's look at an important concept that will help you apply them to the fretboard, Voice Leading.


What is Voice Leading?

To sum up Voice Leading in as simple way as possible, this concept means that when moving from one chord to the next, you use as little movement as possible.

On guitar, this means that rather than moving from one root position chord to the next root position chord, which may cause a leap on the fretboard, you move between chords using inversions that produce very little movement between chords when running through chord progressions, such as ii V I's.

Here is an example of that concept in action. The first three chords show how you might normally jump around the neck a bit when moving from one root position chord to the next, while the second three chords show how using inversions allows you to move smoothly from one chord to the next on the fretboard.

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With a bit of background on Voice Leading in your vocabulary, let's look at how this concept can make playing major ii V I chords easier on the guitar.


Drop 2 Major ii V I Chords

Now let's take a look at how to use voice leading to learn major ii V I Drop 2 chords on the fretboard.

Here are four major ii V I Drop 2 chord groups in the key of C major that use voice leading to keep them close by from one chord to the next.

Besides learning these shapes and memorizing them in order to apply them to tunes later on, notice how the iim7 and Imaj7 always use the same inversion, such as Root and Root, when voice leading is applied to these chords.

This will help you build your own ii V I progressions using voice leading later on as you take these ideas further in the woodshed.

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Here are the same chords, using the same voice leading to connect them, but now on the 5-4-3-2 string group. By learning Drop 2 ii V I's on two string sets, you are giving yourself twice as many places on the fretboard where you can play these shapes, while keeping things close by using voice leading in each group of ii V I chords on the neck.

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Once you have worked out these shapes in the key of C major, try taking them to other keys across the fretboard in order to get a wider scope for how these shapes fit across the neck in different keys and on both string sets.


Drop 3 Major ii V I Chords

You can also use Drop 3 chords to Drop 3 chords to outline major ii V I progressions with voice leading on the guitar.

Again, the iim7 and Imaj7 chords always use the same inversion in order to keep them close by on the fretboard, and so you can use that to take these shapes to other keys, and create your own chord groups using voice leading as you move forward with these ideas in your woodshedding.

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You can also use these chords on the 5-3-2-1 string set using voice leading to connect each chord and inversion along the way.

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With both Drop 2 and Drop 3 shapes under your fingers, try and comp through a ii V I progression and move between different string sets, different inversions, and both Drop 2 and Drop 3 shapes as you begin to mix all of these ideas together in your jazz guitar comping ideas.


Major ii V I Arpeggios - One and Two Octaves

When learning how to solo over major ii V I's on guitar, one of the best ways to do so is by using arpeggios, since these items directly dig into the chord tones of any chord in the progression.

To help you get started with these ideas, here are two versions of one-octave arpeggios and one version of two-octave arpeggios applied to a ii V I progression in the key of C major that you can learn and work into your practice routine.

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Once you have one or more of these arpeggio fingerings under your belt, work them in 12 keys across the fretboard, as well as practice soloing over the backing tracks below, using these arpeggio fingerings to create your improvised lines and phrases in the process.


Major ii V I Scales - One and Two Octaves

As well as using arpeggios to outline Major ii V I chords in your soloing ideas, you can also use scales to outline these same chord shapes.

Since scales have more notes in them than arpeggios, don't feel like you have to use every note from each scale in your soloing ideas. Instead, try and play a few notes from each scale in order to leave some space in your lines, while still outlining each chord at the same time.

For the iim7 chord you will use the Dorian Scale, for the V7 chord you use Mixolydian and for the Imaj7 chord you use Ionian, as you learned in previous Chapter's of this Guide.

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Again, work these scale shapes in 12 keys across the neck in order to take them to the entire fretboard in your studies. Then, put on one or more of the backing tracks below and practice soloing over those chords using these scales as the basis for your improvised lines and phrases.

With that down, you can mix together both arpeggios and scales in your soloing ideas in order to practice moving between these two important concepts in your jazz guitar improvisations.

To learn more about major ii V I scale, check out the soloing over Major Chords, soloing over Minor chords and soloing over Dominant 7th chords lessons.


3 Major ii V I Licks

As well as working out scales and arpeggios that you can then use to solo over major key ii V I chords, you can also study classic jazz guitar licks in order to build your soloing vocabulary in this context.

To help you get your vocabulary going with these chords, here are three major ii V I licks that you can use to solo over these chords, as well as adapt them to create your own original ideas based on the building blocks of each of these phrases.

The first lick mixes arpeggios and scale notes over each chord, including a 1-2-3-5 outline over G7 which is a very common soloing phrase used by countless jazz improvisers over the years.

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The next lick begins to mix in some chromatic passing and approach notes in order to spice things up a bit over a major key ii V I in C major.

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The last lick is my favorite ii V I lick and it's inspired by the playing of jazz guitar legend Pat Martino. The key to this lick is the slurred triplets in the second bar, so make sure to work those slow and try to keep them as even as possible from a rhythmic standpoint in your practicing and soloing ideas.

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Once you can play any of these licks in the original key, practice them in other keys around the fretboard, as well as at various tempos as you explore them further in your own study.

Then, put on one or more of the backing tracks below and practice soloing over the changes using these licks as the basis for your improvised ideas. Once you can play them from memory, try altering the rhythm, adding notes, taking notes away and using other techniques to make the licks more personal and less memorized in your soloing.

To learn more about the concepts covered in these licks and how to practice them, check out the What are Triplets Lesson, Learning Jazz Through Improvisation Lesson, and the Breaking out of Pentatonic Box Pattern Lesson.

Major ii V I Backing Tracks

To help you practice comping and soloing over major key ii V I Chords, here are 3 different backing tracks that you can use in the woodshed to integrate these concepts into a musical situation.

Start with the first track, and when that is comfortable with whichever concept you are working on, then move on to the more advanced backing tracks after that.

Attached File  Major_2_5_1_One_Key.mp3 ( 4.56MB ) Number of downloads: 3733


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Attached File  Major_2_5_1_Two_Keys.mp3 ( 4.56MB ) Number of downloads: 3572


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Attached File  Major_2_5_1_Four_Keys.mp3 ( 4.56MB ) Number of downloads: 3584


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Now that you have learned how to comp and solo over major key ii V I progressions, let's move on to the final Chapter in this guide, Minor Key ii V I Progressions.



Chapter 7 – Minor ii V I Progressions


To finish our introduction to Jazz Guitar Theory, let's take a look at the next most popular chord progression in jazz, the minor key ii V I.

Much like the major key progression we just learned, these three chords are made up of a ii, V and I, but this time the chord qualities are a bit different, so they become iim7b5 V7alt im7.

Because of this, soloing over minor ii V I's can be a bit tricky compared to their major-key cousins, as you have to explore modes of Harmonic Minor, as well as extended arpeggios that go up to the b9 and sometimes the b13th in your lines.

Don't fret if this section is a bit over your head for now. This is to act as an introduction to the minor ii V I, so try and get your head around each sub-section of this Chapter one at a time, spending time in the practice room with each concept until it's under your fingers before moving on to the next sub-section.

If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed, try going back to the major ii V I section and spending a bit more time on those concepts, as that usually helps make minor ii V I's easier to digest and play on the guitar.

So, let's take a look at what minor ii V I's are, how to comp and solo over them on the guitar, and explore a few backing tracks that you can use to bring these sounds into your jazz guitar practicing and jamming today.


What is a Minor ii V I Progression?

The minor key ii V I progression is built the same way as the major key version, only this time you are using the 2nd, 5th and 1st notes of the Harmonic Minor Scale to build your chord shapes in the progression.

When you harmonize, write out the chords, for each note in the Harmonic Minor Scale you get the following sequence of chord voicings.

im7 iim7b5 bIIImaj7#5 ivm7 V7 bVImaj7 viim7b5

So, if you take out the 2nd, 5th and 1st chords from this sequence, you get the minor ii V I progression that you can see in the example below.

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When playing these chords on the guitar, we often add either the b9, the b13 or both to the V7 chord, which you just saw in the example above. These chords will be explored later in this chapter when you begin to take these shapes and concepts to the fretboard.

For now, just know that the progression is made up of a iim7b5 chord, a V7alt chord of some sort, usually b9 or b9b13, and a im7 chord.


Drop 2 Minor ii V I Chords

You can now begin to take minor ii V I's to the fretboard by learning Drop 2 chords for this progression using the same voice leading techniques that you learned in the previous Chapter on major ii V I's.

Here are four different Drop 2 groups that outline a minor ii V I progression in A minor, moving to the closest possible inversion for each chord in the progression.

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Notice that, as was the case with the major key chords, the iim7b5 and im7 are always in the same inversion for each group of three chords. This can help you visualize these shapes on the neck, as well as bring them to other musical situations and contexts on the fretboard.

You can also learn these minor ii V I chords with voice leading on the middle 4 strings, as you can see in the example below, all of the same voice leading principles apply to this string set as well as the top 4 which you just learned.

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Once you have these chords under your fingers, try moving between both string sets over the backing tracks below, working on one key first and then through the more difficult tracks as that becomes comfortable in the woodshed.


Drop 3 Minor ii V I Chords

You can also apply voice leading concepts to the Drop 3 versions of these minor ii V I progressions. Here is an example of Drop 3 chords, in inversions, being used to outline a ii V I in A minor.

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Here is an example of the same key, and same voice leading, applied to the Drop 3 chords in the next string set.

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Once you have both string sets under your fingers, try moving between them on the backing track below, and then mixing Drop 3 and Drop 2 chords together as you expand upon both of these harmonic shapes on the fretboard.


Minor ii V I Arpeggios

Now that you have worked out how to comp chords over the minor ii V I progression, let's begin our exploration of how to solo over these fun and challenging jazz chords.

To help you get started, here are a few examples of one and two-octave arpeggios applied to each chord in a ii V I in A minor.

You will notice that over the E7b9 chords, I've replaced the root with the b9 so that you can bring that sound into your arpeggio practice and soloing ideas.

This is a very common practice in jazz guitar, using the b9 in place of the root in a 7b9 arpeggio, so take your time with that arpeggio and see if you can get used to playing an arpeggio over a chord where you aren't playing the root at any time in your line.

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When you can play one or more of these arpeggios on your own, or with a metronome, try soloing over the different backing tracks below and use these arpeggios as the basis for your improvised lines and phrases. This will help get the sound of these melodic ideas into your ears when applied to harmony, as well as give you experience using arpeggios to create improvised lines over a minor ii V I chord progression.


Minor ii V I Scales

As we looked at earlier in this Guide, you can use different scales to outline all three chords in a minor ii V I progression, and now we'll work on putting them together, as opposed to practicing them over individual chords as we did earlier.

Here are a few examples of one and two-octave scales applied to a minor ii V I progression in A minor.

For the Bm7b5 chord you are using the B Locrian Scale, for E7b9b13 you are using A Harmonic Minor, and for Am7 you are using A Dorian.

This is the main reason that minor ii V I's are tougher to solo over as compared to their major cousins, is that you have to change scales with each chord in the progression.

Because of this, it's good to go slow at first, use a metronome to get these scales under your fingers, and when you feel ready, then take them to the backing tracks below and start applying them to an improvised soloing situation.

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After you have worked out some of these scale shapes on the guitar, try mixing them together with the arpeggios that you learned in the previous section in order to begin working on switching between these two important melodic devices in an improvisational context.


3 Minor ii V I Licks

Learning jazz vocabulary through the form of licks is a great way to get material into your jazz guitar solos quickly, and begin to understand how great players used scales, arpeggios and chromatic notes to create memorable lines, phrases and solos over time.

To help you out with this new chord progression, here are three fun licks that you can learn, break down, and use to add a jazz flavor to your next improvised solo.

The first lick uses arpeggios to outline the ii and V, followed by a few chromatic and scale notes over the im7 chord. A fun lick that also directly outlines each chord change.

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This lick is more scale based, and uses a few notes outside of the scale to build a bit of chromatic tension along the way.

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The final lick mixed both arpeggios and scales in order to outline the chord changes. This lick can be a bit tricky to get down, so take your time and really focus on nailing the rhythms along the way.

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With all three of these licks under your fingers, try playing them over the backing tracks below, and after you can do one or more of them from memory, begin to experiment by changing the rhythms, adding notes, or taking notes away from each lick.

This is a great way to keep the fundamental sounds of each phrase in your playing, but adding your own personality into each lick at the same time.

To learn more about the concepts covered in these licks and how to practice them, check out the What are 8th Notes, Shifting Scale Shapes Lesson, and the Combining Scales and Arps Lesson.


Minor ii V I Backing Tracks

To help you practice Minor ii V I soloing and comping ideas at home, here are three backing tracks that you can use in your practice routine. Start with the first track, the one key version, and then move down the list from there as each track becomes progressively tougher.

Attached File  Minor_ii_V_I_1_Key.mp3 ( 2.34MB ) Number of downloads: 3814


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Attached File  Minor_ii_V_I_2_Keys.mp3 ( 4.54MB ) Number of downloads: 3669


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Attached File  Minor_ii_V_I_4_Keys.mp3 ( 4.52MB ) Number of downloads: 3611


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Do you have any questions about Minor ii V I's? Post your thoughts in the comments thread below.




Further learning


Congratulations! Now that you have got the basics down - it's time to get some practical examples under your fingers.

Understanding the underlying theory is one thing, but actually playing jazz is something different. To help you get your jazz chops up to standards as fast as possible, we have gathered some video resources for you:

Jazz Lick Of The Day

Jazz Fusion Guitar Lessons

Jazz Guitar Lessons

Jazz Notes - Video Jazz Guitar Course
27 Jan 2014
Pivot Chord Function and Modulations


One of the most common questions I get from readers of the Theory Forum, or from private students, is “How do I know when a chord progression changes keys?” While there are a number of ways to recognize key changes in a song, one of the easiest, if it’s present, is to find the Pivot Chord.

Pivot Chords also provide a powerful tool for writing songs with key changes.

In this lesson, you’ll learn what a Pivot Chord is, study common progressions that use Pivot Chords, as well as practice finding different Pivot Chords with some self-study progression at the end of the lesson.

So, let’s dig in and discover the wonderful world of Pivot Chords!



Intro - What is a Chord Progression?


To begin, let's take a look at what exactly is a chord progression, where those chords come from and why they are written in both letters and Roman Numerals. If you are familiar with this bit of music theory, take a quick glance to make sure you understand this section of the lesson and then feel free to jump down to the next section to dive right into Pivot Chord Theory.

Most chord progressions are built by taking the notes of any given key, C major for example, and harmonizing those notes by adding 2 or more notes on top of those scale notes. An example of this would be the chords in the key of C major, which you get by adding 2 notes on top of each note in the scale that are a two scale notes higher each time.

The notes in the C major scale are:

C D E F G A B C

So, if you take the first note C, then skip a note you get E, and skip one more note you get G, when played together these three notes, C-E-G, form a C chord, the tonic chord in the key of C major.

If you repeat this process over every note in the C major scale you get the following sequence of chords.

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C

These are the chords that you can use to write a song in the key of C major. To make things easier to communicate between musicians, and to allow you to transpose quickly any chord progression you know, we also talk about chords in a key like this in Roman Numerals.

Here is how those same chords would be written out as Roman Numerals.

I ii iii IV V vi viidim I

I usually add in the dim for the vii chord to indicate that it's different from the other minor chords, as upper case Numerals, I IV and V, are used to indicate major chords, and lower case Numerals, ii, iii and vi are used to indicate minor chords.

As you can see, the chords C, F and G make up one of the most common chord progressions in modern music, the I, IV V progression. Can you find any other famous progressions in these chords?

Here you can see an example of both major and minor key chords written as letters, such as C and Dm, as well as Roman Numerals, such as I and ii. Getting to know the chords in major and minor keys both as letters and Roman Numerals will help you understand how your favorite songs are written and organized, as well as allow you to quickly grab a chord in the right key when writing or jamming along to a chord progression.

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Now that you've had a brief intro, or refresher, on chord progressions and how they come about, let's check out what happens when you have a chord progression, or song, that moves between two different keys. When this happens you will need to have a chord that connects both of these keys, and this is what we call the Pivot Chord.

To learn more about how to build and harmonize major scales, as well as learn how to play and build common chord progressions, please check out my "How to Build Major Scales", "What Are Triads", and "Classic Chord Progressions for Guitar" lessons.



What is a Pivot Chord?


To begin, let’s look at what exactly is a pivot chord and see one in action as you modulate keys from C to F in a common progression.

A Pivot Chord is one that is found in two related keys, so the chord C in C major and F major for example. In C, this chord is the tonic, I, chord. While in F, this chord is the Dominant, V chord. Because it occurs in both keys, C and F, you can use the chord C to smoothly modulate from one key to the next.

You can see the two key side-by-side in this chart, with the pivot chords labelled in red. Notice that the C is the I chord in C major, and the V chord in F major, which is where the pivot occurs in the following progression.

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Here is an example to check out that it does just that. Notice in bar 3 that the C chord is functioning as both the I chord in C, and at the same time the V chord in F. This is a Pivot Chord as the next chord, C7, is the V7 of F and you are now firmly in the new key centre.

As well, the same chord, C, is used in bar 8 to bring the progression back to the key of C major, marking another Pivot Chord moment in this 8-bar chord progression.

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As you can see, and hear when you play through these chords, the Pivot Chords allow you to move between the keys of C and F without any hitches or hiccups; both instances have a smooth transition between keys.



Common Pivot Chord Progressions


Here are a few examples of common chord progressions that use pivot chords. As you have already seen movement between the I and IV keys, the first example will start off with movement between the I and V keys, C and G in this progression.

Here is a chart to help you visualize the two keys, as well as the G chord which is acting as the pivot chord in this progression.

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Notice how the G, the V in C, is also the I in G, and so it acts as a Pivot Chord in both bars 4 and 8. Try playing this progression on your guitar to hear how it sounds, as well as see it on paper when studying this Pivot Chord movement in the practice room.

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The next Pivot Chord progression moves between the I key, C in this case, and the relative minor key, A minor, using the chord Dm to Pivot between these two key centres.

Dm is both the ii chord in C, as well as the iv chord in A minor, and therefore it is a natural choice to act as a Pivot Chord between these two key centres.

Harmonic Minor

You will notice that Harmonic Minor is being used for this, and all minor keys, during the lesson. The reason that we use this scale for minor sounds is that it contains the V and V7 chords, as opposed to a v minor chord from Aeolian (Natural Minor).

Moving from one key to the next often involves solidifying that movement with a V7 or V chord of some sort, V to I or V to i is a very strong motion in music. This is why Harmonic Minor is preferred to Natural Minor due to the availability of the V chord which helps us solidify the movement from one key to the next.

If you want to learn more about this scale, check out my Harmonic Minor for Guitar lesson on this forum.

Here is a handy chart for you to check out that will help you see the two keys, C and Am, side by side, as well as the pivot Dm chord which is written in red in both keys.

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Try playing through this progression to hear how this pivot sounds when moving from tonic major to it’s relative minor, which is a common key movement in just about all styles of modern music.

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Though not as common as moving to the IV, V or vi keys, you can use Pivot Chords to move to other key centres such as II major, as in the example below. In this case, the iii of C major, Em, is used to pivot to the key of D major, as it’s the ii chord in that new key.

Again, here is a chart that lays out the two keys, C and D major, as well as highlights the pivot chord, Em, in red so you can visualize both keys and the pivot Em chord before taking them to the fretboard.

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Try playing through this progression to hear how it sounds. It’s not as commonly used as the other examples you studied earlier, but when you’re writing a song, or working out a progression and you want to go somewhere unexpected, a good Pivot Chord can help make that unexpected transition smooth to the listener’s ears.

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Chord Progressions Master Chart


To help you visualize all of the 12 major keys, and see which chords you can use to move between them, here is a master chart that lays out each key, all of the chords in that key, and their letter and Roman Numeral designations so that you can easily compare them between themselves.

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Songwriting Tips For Pivot Chords


To help you get started with applying Pivot Chords to your song writing vocabulary, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you want to switch keys in the middle of a chord progression, or between larger sections in a song as a whole.

1. The tonic chord is often used to modulate to the IV key.
2. The V chord is often used to modulate to the V key.
3. The I chord can also be used to modulate to the V key.
4. The ii chord is commonly used to modulate to the vi key, the relative minor.
5. The iii chord is used to modulate to the II key.
6. Playing I to I7 is a great way to move to the IV key.

Do you have a Pivot Chord tip or favourite modulation chord that you want to add to this list? Post it in the comments section below and we’ll keep the list growing over time.



Find the Pivot Chord


To help you further your study of Pivot Chords, here are three different progressions that you can analyse and find the Pivot Chord and key change in each progression.

The answers are in the spoiler buttons on top of each progression, so try it out first and if you get stuck you can post a question below, or you can check the answers above each example.

For each progression, try and find the pivot chord(s), as well as indicate the two keys, Key 1 and Key 2, in each phrase. Good luck!

Spoiler:
Key 1 – A
Key 2 – D
Pivot Chord – A

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Spoiler:
Key 1 – E
Key 2 – C#m
Pivot Chord – F#m

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Spoiler:
Key 1 – F
Key 2 – G
Pivot Chord - Am

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Add the Pivot Chord


Here are three more chords progressions for you to test your Pivot Chord knowledge with. In these progressions, there are two blank bars in each 8 bar phrase where you need to fill in the missing Pivot Chords. Good luck and if you have any questions, or want to post your answers, you can do so in the thread below.

The first chord progression starts in C and moves to the key of F. Can you add in the Pivot Chords in bars 4 and 8?

Spoiler:
C or C to C7

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The next chord progression starts in C and moves to Am, can you add in the Pivot Chords to bars 4 and 8?

Spoiler:
Dm

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The final chord progression starts in C and moves to G. Can you add in the the Pivot Chords to bars 4 and 8?

Spoiler:
C or G in both instances.

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Do you have a question or comment about this lesson on Pivot Chords?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
31 Dec 2013
Breaking Out Of Pentatonic Box Patterns

One of the most useful devices a guitarist can learn when exploring lead playing is the pentatonic scale, and more specifically, pentatonic scale box patterns. These patterns have been used by countless guitarists over the years to create some of the most important solos in music history, but if we don’t expand beyond these shapes then we can sometimes find ourselves in a guitar solo rut.

To help you break out of only playing pentatonic box patterns, this lesson will lay out five different exercises that you can practice in order to solidify pentatonic scale theory, help you learn your fretboard and break out of box patterns all at the same time.

So, let’s get started!



What Is a Minor Pentatonic Scale Box Pattern?

For those of you who are just starting to explore box patterns, here is a quick overview of these five commonly used scale shapes and how they are built on the guitar. A “box pattern” refers to one of the five main shapes used to play pentatonic scales on the guitar, the name refers to the “box-like” shape each of these patterns has on the fretboard.

Built with the intervals R-b3-4-5-b7, the minor pentatonic scale is usually the first scale we explore as lead guitarists, and so it will be the focus of this lesson. To help you get started, or as a review, here are the five main box patterns for the minor pentatonic scale in the key of A.

The letter “R” has been added into each scale to show you where the root lies within that given shape.

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If you are new to these scale shapes, try learning one and then using it to solo over the A Blues Backing Track provided below. After that, learn a new fingering and repeat the process until you can solos with all 5 shapes over the backing track comfortably.

To learn more about these scales and how they are built, check out my “Minor Pentatonic Scales For Guitar” lesson.

Related video lessons: Minor Pentatonic Scale, Pentatonic Patterns In 5 Positions



Breaking Out of Box Patterns – Shifting

The first exercise that we’ll look at that will help you break out of box patterns is a shifting exercise where you move between two different boxes in a strategic manner, helping to blur the lines between these two shapes over time.

To do this, you simply pick two box patterns that lie side-by-side on the fretboard, as these two do, and review them first to make sure you have them under your fingers.

Once you have these shapes reviewed, you pick a string to shift on; we’ll start on the 1st string. You then play up the first shape, and when you reach the first string, you shift up to the second box pattern and into that shape from there. On the way down you do the same, play down the second shape on the first string, shift to the first shape and continue down from there.

Here is how that would look on paper.

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When you are comfortable with this shifting exercise, you can move on to the second string.

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And then the third string.

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The fourth string.

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Fifth string shift.

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And finally a shift on the sixth string.

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When these exercises are comfortable, you can pick two other box patterns to shift between as you continue to take this exercise to other areas of the fingerboard, and of course to other keys as you move around the fretboard.

As well, with this or any exercise in this lesson, you might want to pluck each note, or use slides and hammer-ons/pull-offs to give your lines a more slippery sound when working on shifting, and later on with one and two-string scales.

To do this with shifting, for example, you simply pluck the first note, then slide your finger up the string until you hit the next note in the scale. Since you are shifting positions with these exercises, this is a great place to start applying the sliding technique as you move from one box pattern to the next, as it will allow for a smooth transition between each shape on the neck.

Here is an example of adding a slide to a second-string shift between positions. Try this example out, and then when it's comfortable, take it to all of the other string shifting exercises in this section to get a full grasp of this concept on the fretboard.

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Related video lessons: Position Shifting, Horizontal Position Shifting, Diagonal Position Shifting, Pentatonic Exercise - Slides



Breaking Out of Box Patterns – 1 String Scales

The next set of exercises that we’ll do will focus on completely breaking out of box patterns as you now play scales entirely on one string, in both technical and soloing practice.

This shift from vertical thinking to horizontal can be tough, but once you get it down you’ll be able to see and play key centers and scales across the entire fretboard with ease, rather than relying on box patterns as your visual guide.

The theory behind the exercise is pretty simple, you pick a key, then play the scale up and down one string, starting from the lowest note in that key on the neck, which may or may not be an open string.

Here is an example of that exercise with A minor pentatonic, A-C-D-E-G, on the 1st string. Start by learning this scale as written, then try other keys on the 1st string up and down, and finally put on an A blues backing track and try soloing over that track using only the A minor pent on the 1st string to build your solo.

For the fingering, any fingering will work so there's no set fingering for these scales when playing on one string. Try a few out and see what you think, then either keep those or switch on the fly, both ways are good. If you are having problems determining which fingering to use, you can use the middle finger for all notes.

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And here are those notes on the 2nd string.

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The same scale on the 3rd string.

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And now the 4th string.

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The 5th string is next.

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And finally the 6th string.

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Try working on one string at a time with one key, and then switch to other keys and strings as you use this fun and challenging exercise to break out of common box patterns and learn the neck at the same time.



Breaking Out of Box Patterns – 1 Finger Scales

This next exercise looks fairly simple on paper, but it can produce big results in the practice room in regards to both learning your neck and breaking out of box patterns on the fretboard.

The premise is as such, you pick one finger on your fretting hand and then solo over a backing track using only that finger to play each note.

Here are the four combinations for this exercise.

1. Solo only with your index finger
2. Solo only with your middle finger
3. Solo only with your ring finger
4. Solo only with your pinky finger

Try this out over a simple progression such as a one-chord vamp, or 12-bar blues progression, and then move on to more complex tunes with keys changes from there.

It’s an easy exercise to get down on paper, but soloing over a track with just your ring or pinky finger, or any single finger for that matter, can really push your playing in new directions as licks that used to be easy are now hard, and you are forced to move outside your comfort zone to make things interesting in the practice room.

Here is an example of a lick worked out with just the ring finger, the third finger, of the fretting hand. So, play EVERY note in this lick with only your ring finger in order to practice soloing with just one finger.

After you have this lick down with your ring finger, repeat the exercise with only your index finger, only your middle finger and then only your pinky finger to work out all fingers through this example.

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To further this exercise, or any exercise in this lesson, you can also use the Minor Blues Scale as the basis for your note choices on the guitar. To build this scale, you simply add a #4 to your Minor Pentatonic Scale and you now have a blues scale.

To learn more about the Minor Blues Scale, how it's built and how to play it on the guitar, please check out the Minor Blues Scales for Guitar lesson on the Theory forum.



Breaking Out of Box Patterns – Two String Scales

As well as practicing single-string scales, working scales and soloing on one string at a time, you can also work two strings at the same time so that you work horizontally on the neck but now add a bit of vertical action to your playing as well.

When practicing scales and soloing on two strings at a time, you can choose from any of the following combinations of strings during this exercise. Notice that you are only using two strings, but there are a ton of different combinations that you can use to keep things interesting in the practice room.

1. 1st and 2nd strings
2. 1st and 3rd strings
3. 1st and 4th strings
4. 1st and 5th strings
5. 1st and 6th strings
6. 2nd and 3rd strings
7. 2nd and 4th strings
8. 2nd and 5th strings
9. 2nd and 6th strings
10. 3rd and 4th strings
11. 3rd and 5th strings
12. 3rd and 6th strings
13. 4th and 5th strings
14. 4th and 6th strings
15. 5th and 6th strings

Here is an example of how you would play the A minor pentatonic scale on the 2nd and 4th string. Notice that the first time through the notes are played together as double stops, and then separately as single notes. Practicing two-string scales in both of these ways will allow you to apply them fully to your soloing, riffing and chord work as you bring this concept into your practicing and performing situations.

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Try picking a different set of two strings each day and work a minor pentatonic or minor blues scale across these strings. Then, once you can play the scale from memory in one key on these strings, put on a backing track and solo over that progression using only these two strings.

From there you can expand to other keys if you like, and then try a new string combination and key the following day, repeating this concept until you’ve covered all the string sets.



Breaking Out of Box Patterns – Jimmy Page Scale

The next exercise we’ll look at combines each of the different box patterns into one long scale, which was a favorite fingering used by Jimmy Page in many of his classic Led Zeppelin guitar solos.

The scale shape starts on the first note of the 5th box pattern and then climbs up to the high E, which is a part of the 4th pattern, moving through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd shapes along the way.

When doing so, you play a symmetrical fingering pattern with your fretting hand. This means that you play the fingers 1-3, 1-2-3 and continue that up the scale until you reach to highest note.

Here is how that looks on paper, try learning this scale in A first, as written, and then take it to other keys across the neck.

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Here is that same scale descending, which uses the symmetrical fingering pattern 3-2-1, 3-1, which you then carry down the fretboard from the highest to lowest note.

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This scale is not only a great way to break out of box patterns, you are also learning your neck, working on your horizontal playing, and getting a Jimmy Page vibe into your solos at the same time.

Try this scale out on your own to begin, then put on a blues and jam along using this fingering to build your lines and phrases using this scale as the basis for your ideas.

Related video lessons: Led Zeppelin Double Neck Guitar, Led Zeppelin Solo Style



Backing Tracks

To help you continue your work on breaking out of box patterns with the Pentatonic and Blues Scales, here are a few backing tracks that you can use in your practicing at home.

The first backing track is a blues in A that you can use the A minor pentatonic and A minor blues scale to solo over with any of the above exercises in your practicing.

Attached File  Blues_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 5.25MB ) Number of downloads: 3567


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The next backing track features a Country Groove and uses an 8-bar chord progression in the key of G major. You can use the G minor blues and minor pentatonic scales to solo over this track, as well as the E minor blues and minor pentatonic scales.

Attached File  Country_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.56MB ) Number of downloads: 2203


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The last backing track is a Rock Groove in E, so you can use the E minor pentatonic and E minor blues scales to solo over this track as you work through the various exercises in the above lesson.

Attached File  Rock_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 11.52MB ) Number of downloads: 2864


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To learn more about these genres of music and these chord progressions, please check out my Blues Theory Guide for Guitar and my Country Guitar Theory Guide.

Now that you have worked out these fun and engaging exercises in the practice room, share your thoughts on which exercise helped you the most when it came to breaking out of box patterns.

If you have any questions or comments about this lesson, or want to post audio or video of you playing any of these exercises to get feedback, please post your thoughts in the comments section below.
6 Dec 2013
Country Guitar Theory Guide


Welcome to the Country Guitar Theory Guide where you will find all the background information you need to bring that country twang to your solos, riffs, licks and chords as you dive into this fun and popular musical style in the practice room.

Learning how to play in the country style means learning how to use scales such as the major blues, major pentatonic, Mixolydian and Ionian in a comfortable and authentic fashion. As well, you will need to become comfortable with getting 7th and 9th arpeggios and chords under your fingers and onto the fretboard.

In order to ensure that you have a strong understanding of how these melodic and harmonic devices are built, how to play them and how to apply them to a Country song in both a solo and comping context, I have put together this Country Theory Guide so that you will have all the theoretical info you need to be confident and comfortable with this material.

So, if you are a fan of Albert Lee, Brent Mason, Brad Paisley, George Jones, or any of the great country guitarists, grab your axe, put on your favorite Stetson hat and let’s go country!

Country vs Blues


For those of you that have already checked out the Blues Guitar Theory Guide, you will notice that there are a lot of similarities between the Country and Blues genres. Both of these genres use similar chord progressions, scales and chord fingerings as they rely heavily on major and minor blues scales and Dominant 7th sound in their riff and chord construction.

Knowing this will allow you to take any material you’ve previously learned in the Blues genre and transplant it over to your Country guitar playing, including scale fingerings, chord-scale relationships and common chord progressions and musical forms. What will be the biggest difference between the two genres is going to be your rhythmic feel, both chords and soloing, as well as the tone you use on your guitar when moving between Blues and Country on the fretboard.

When playing in a Blues style, you are often using a “shuffle” groove in the rhythm section, which is based on a triplet feel and you will be laying your notes back on the beat a bit more than you would in the rock or country genres. In Country music, the rhythm is a bit more “driving” and “straight”, based on 8th notes and 16th notes played in a straight ahead fashion, rather than in the laid-back shuffle groove of the Blues.

As well, Blues players, and I’m generalizing here a bit, prefer the warmer tone of a Gibson Les Paul or Fender Start, or even a semi-hollow body guitar, as compared to the more biting and clean sound of a Telecaster that Country players look for in their guitar tone. That’s not to say you can’t use any guitar to play Blues or Country, but when playing the Blues a solid, warm tone is usually preferable, and for Country a more sharp, cutting tone is commonly used.

Both Blues and Country music share similar scales, chords and progressions, but it is the tone you use on your guitar, the rhythmic approach to take to the groove of a song as well as to the notes you play in your solos and comping that will help you use similar material to cover both of these fun to play musical genres.



1. Country Scale Theory and Application

When learning how to play country lead lines, riffs and licks, there are a number of important scales that you will have to get under your fingers, as well as understand how, when and where to use in order to get that proper country sound in your playing.

While country players don’t use as many scales and modes as their jazz guitar friends do, they do tend to play more modes and scales than most Blues players, especially the Mixolydian, major pentatonic and major blues scales, which are the staple diet of any lead country guitarist.

In this section of the country theory guide, I’ve laid out many of the popular scales used to solo in a country style. If you are new to soloing in a country style, start from the first scale and work your way down the list from there. But, if you are an experienced player, you can look through these scales and find one you don’t know or need a refresher on and start from there.

As well, make sure to practice soloing with these scales after you have one or two fingerings under your belt on the guitar. You can do this by applying them to the backing tracks provided at the end of this guide, just scroll down to find those audio files to practice with.

Keeping a balance between practicing scales from a technical standpoint and an improvisational view will ensure that you are able to play these important devices across the neck, as well as quickly and comfortably apply them to a lead guitar situation the next time you’re jamming on a country tune.


1.1 Minor Pentatonic Scales

Though you might think of this scale as being more in line with blues and rock music, you can find the minor pentatonic scale in the riffs and solos of many great country players.

Used to solo over 7th chords, major chords and minor chords, this scale is used less than the other modes in this section, but is still an important one to get under your fingerings when exploring the country genre on guitar nonetheless.

The minor pentatonic scale is built with the R, b3, 4, 5 and b7 intervals, and you can picture it as being the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th notes of the Aeolian Mode, which we’ll look at later in this guide, or an Aeolian Mode minus the 2nd and 6th notes.

Try putting on one of the backing tracks below, perhaps the blues is best to start, and then soloing over the blues using the tonic minor pentatonic scale, using C minor pentatonic over a C blues progression for example.

Once you've explored this scale, you'll be ready to dive into more complex melodic devices as you continue your country guitar journey on the fretboard.

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To learn more about Minor Pentatonic Scales, how they are built, when you can use them in your country guitar solos and how to finger them on guitar, check out What Are Minor Pentatonic Scales and the following video lessons : Southern Comfort, Trainbeat Acoustic Slide, Minor Pentatonic Scale.


1.2 Minor Blues Scales

In a similar vein to the minor pentatonic scale, the minor blues scale is used by Country guitarists to solo over 7th, major, and minor chords as they use this common scale to build their solos and riffs

Built in the exact same way as a minor pentatonic scale, you simply add in the b5(#4) blues note to complete this six-note scale, producing the intervals R, b3, 4, #4, 5, b7.

To begin your exploration with this scale, try soloing over a C blues progression and use this scale to create each of your improvised lines, basing your ideas off of the C minor blues scale.

From there, try playing one 12-bar chorus using the minor pentatonic scale, and one 12-bar chorus using the minor blues scale, in order to begin to hear the similarities and differences that these two scales make when you apply them to a soloing situation.

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To learn more about Minor Blues Scales, how they are different from Minor Pentatonic Scales, and how you can use them to enhance your country soloing chops, check out What Are Minor Blues Scales and the following video lessons: Beginner Country Solo, Hot Country, The Blues Scale.


1.3 Major Pentatonic Scales

Now that you’ve learned/reviewed the minor pentatonic and blues scales, let’s dig into their major sounding cousins, which are a staple of the country guitar soloing sound.

If the minor pentatonic scale is the go to scale for rock and blues players, defining the sounds of those genres, then the major pentatonic scale is the equivalent melodic device for country players.

Whereas minor pents can be used to solo over an entire chord progression as long as you're in a given key, such as using A minor pent over an A blues progression, the major pentatonic scale needs to be treated a bit differently.

When using this scale in your soloing, which is built with the intervals R, 2, 3, 5 and 6, you need to be careful that you change the key of the scale if/when the key of a song changes.

If the key remains in A major for example, then you can use the A major pentatonic scale throughout that progression. But, if you are playing over an A blues progression, then each chord needs to have it’s own major pentatonic scale, meaning you use A major pent over A7, D major pent over D7 and E major pent over E7 when soloing in this situation.

To begin, try working on applying a major pentatonic scale to the I IV V or I vi IV V backing tracks below, and then when you are comfortable using this scale in one key, try applying it to a blues progression where you have to move between keys every time the chord changes in the song.

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To learn more about Major Pentatonic Scales, how to play them on the fretboard, and when you can switch between Major and Minor Pents, check out What Are Major Pentatonic Scales and the following video lessons : Fast Country Lead, Country Voicing and Chickin' Pickin' Madness.


1.4 Major Blues Scales

Along with the minor pentatonic scale, a great way to bring a country vibe into your solos, or to authentically navigate any country chord progression when improvising, is to use the Major Blues Scale.

Built by adding one note to the major pentatonic scale, R, 2, b3, 3, 5 and 6, this scale instantly brings to mind the licks of great players such as Albert Lee and Brad Paisley when used over a country groove in your solos.

Once you have learned how to play the major blues scale, try soloing over a I IV V backing track, which you can find below in this guide, and switch between the major pentatonic scale and the major blues scale in order to hear how these two scales can produce similar, yet unique, sounds in your solos.

Again, as was the case with the major pentatonic scale, you need to switch the major blues scale every time the key changes in a song. So, if you are playing over an A blues progression, you need to play A major blues over A7, D major blues over D7, and E major blues over E7 in order to make sure you’re hitting all the right changes at the right time.

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To learn more about Major Blues Scales, how they are different from Major Pentatonic Scales, and how to use them to bring a swing, jump country sound to your soloing ideas, check out What Are Major Blues Scales.


1.5 Soloing With Pentatonic Scales

Now that you have the minor and major pentatonic scales under your fingers and in your ears, it’s time to work on applying them to your solos and riffs in a country style.

One exercise that you can do in order to learn how to solo with these common Country scales, is to learn licks and common phrases that use these scales and apply those to your soloing ideas.

Once you have a few of these licks down, maybe two to three minor pentatonic and two to three major pentatonic country licks, write out 4-5 of your own licks in a similar style in order to begin composing your own country lines using these two scales.

Here is an example of a mixed pentatonic country lick to get your started. Learn it as written, then take it to a number of different keys as you begin to explore this line around the fretboard.

In the lick below, you can see the note A being bent up to a Bb in the first bar, giving it a bluesy sound that comes from the Major Blues Scale. As well, beats two and three of the second bar move between G major and G minor pentatonic respectively, which is a common Country lick device that is worth exploring further in the woodshed.

Notice as well the use of 16th-notes during this lick. Learning how to solo with a steady, 16th-note pulse is an essential tool in the soloing kit of any Country guitarist, so keep working on these rhythms as you move forward with your country skills in the practice room.

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Once you can play this lick on its own, try soloing over a country chord progression, such as in the backing tracks below, and use these two lines during various sections of your solo.

When that is comfortable, and you’ve written out a few licks of your own, try and come up with your own minor and major pentatonic country licks on the spot as you are creating lines during an improvised solo.

To learn more about soloing with major and minor pentatonics scales, how they sound similar and different to blues scales, and how to use these scales to outline different country genres in your lines and phrases, check out Minor vs. Major Pentatonic Soloing Application, Solo Challenge - Major vs. Minor Pentatonic Scales and the following video lessons : Fast Country Solo, Country Licks, Hot Country Licks in G.


1.6 Mixolydian Pentatonic Scales

One of the most commonly used sounds besides pentatonic and blues when soloing in a country style is the Mixolydian mode.

While you can learn the Mixolydian mode, a 7-note scale, you can also begin your exploration of this sound by checking out a 5-note version of this melodic device, the Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale.

Containing the intervals R, 2, 3, 5, b7, the Mixolydian pentatonic scale will allow you to produce a Mixolydian sound over any chord progression you are soloing over, while keeping things simple on the fretboard at the same time.

When soloing with the Mixolydian pentatonic scale, you will need to treat it as a major pentatonic scale as far as changing scales when the key changes. This means that if you are playing over an A or A7 chord, you can use the A Mixolydian pentatonic scale in your solos. Then, if you move to a D or D7 chord, you will need to switch to a D Mixolydian pentatonic scale over those chords.

Once you have this scale under your fingers, try switching between the minor, major and mixolydian pentatonic scales in order to begin hearing how each of these 5-note scales function over different chords and chord progressions in the country genre.

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To learn more about Mixolydian Pentatonic Scales, how these scales differ from major and minor pentatonic scales, which fingerings are best for guitar and how to add them to your country soloing chops, check out What Are Mixolydian Pentatonic Scales and Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale video lesson.


1.7 Mixolydian Scales

After you have checked out the Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale, you are now ready to dive into it’s 7-note cousin as you begin to learn how to build, play and apply the Mixolydian Mode to your country guitar riffs and solos.

The fifth mode of the major scale, the Mixolydian Mode can be thought of as a major scale from the 5th to the 5th notes, such as G mixo being the C major scale from G to G, or you can build it with the following interval pattern, R, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7.

Since this mode has the Root, 3rd, 5th and b7th built into it, you can use it to solo over 7th chords, as well as major triads, when you begin to bring a country vibe to your lines using this particular mode.

As was the case with the Mixolydian pentatonic scale, you will need to move from chord to chord as you apply this mode to tunes that have multiple keys, such as a blues chord progression. So, when soloing over a blues in A for example, you will need to play A mixo over A7, D mixo over D7 and E mixo over E7 in order to properly outline the chord changes.

Once you have a few fingerings for this commonly used country guitar mode under your fingers, try applying it to any of the backing tracks below as you begin to explore applying this sound to your country guitar licks and solos.

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To learn more about Mixolydian Scales, how these 7-note scales differ from pentatonic scales, which fingerings sit best on the fretboard and how to add them to your country guitar solos, check out What is the Mixolydian Mode, Mixolydian Soloing Concepts for Guitar and the following video lessons: Country Chops & Double Stops, Country Picking, Hybrid Rhythm, Stylish Country, Rockabilly Rhythm, Introduction to the Mixolydian Mode.


1.8 Ionian Scales

If the Mixolydian scale is the go to Country mode for outlining 7th chords, then the Ionian mode is one of the most common ways to outline major and maj7 chords in a country guitar setting.

Otherwise known as the Major Scale, the Ionian Mode is built with the intervals R, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, providing a direct outline of major triads and major 7th chords when applying this mode to your country guitar riffs, licks and solos.

To get an idea of how this mode sounds and works in a soloing situation, try putting on a single-chord vamp, such as just an A chord, and practice soloing over that chord with the A Ionian and A Mixolydian Modes.

You will hear how both of the modes sound correct over this chord, but that you can get a more “melodic” and smooth sound out of the Ionian Mode, while the Mixolydian Mode has more of a bite to it, with a bit more edge to your lines using that mode.

As well, since the Ionian Mode outlines the key center of a major key chord progression, you can put on a I-IV-V or I-vi-IV-V backing track and solo over all of these chords using the tonic Major Scale from that key.

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To learn more about Ionian Scales, how this mode differs from pentatonic scales, which fingerings are best on the guitar and how to add them to your country guitar solos, check out What is the Ionian Mode, Ionian Soloing Concepts for Guitar and the following video lessons: Ballad Country Solo, Modern Country, Single String Ionian Workout.


1.9 Aeolian Scales

Again, as the Mixo mode was your go to country sound over 7th chords, and the Ionian mode was your go to for major chords and maj7th chord, the Aeolian Mode is your first choice when using a mode over minor and m7 chords in a country guitar style.

Also known as the Natural Minor Scale, this is the 6th mode of the major scale system, so it’s like a C major scale from A to A, and it contains the intervals R, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, and b7. As you can see, the notes of the minor triad, 1, b3 and 5, as well as the m7th chord, 1, b3, 5 and b7, are all built into this mode, which is why it works so well over these chord changes.

To test this scale out in a country context, try soloing over an Am chord vamp, or a minor chord progression such as Am-G-F, where the key center is based on a minor sound.

Knowing the Aeolian mode, how to build it, apply it and play it on the guitar, will allow you to delve into a 7-note scale when soloing over a minor key country tune, which will help expand your solos beyond the typical minor pentatonic and minor blues sounds that we often fall back upon in our country guitar playing.

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To learn more about the Aeolian Mode, how it is different from other 7-note modes, which fingerings sit best on the fretboard and how to add them to your country guitar solos, check out What is the Aeolian Mode, Aeolian Soloing Concepts for Guitar.


1.10 Scale Soloing Examples

To help get you started on applying these scales to a Country soloing situation, here are two licks to check out in the practice room as you explore the Mixolydian scale in a soloing context.

This first lick uses the A Mixolydian Scale to bring a Country vibe to an A triad. Notice the use of open strings, something that you’ll see in many great Country licks, and the use of 16th-notes, which as we saw earlier is a staple rhythm for the Country guitarist.

There are no notes being used outside the A Mixolydian Scale in this lick, but the use of repeated patterns, in this case three-note pull-offs to open strings, creates a syncopated feel that really drives this lick forward when used in a soloing situation.

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The next Country Mixolydian lick uses a few chromatic licks as this phrase climbs up and down the fretboard over a G7 chord. Notice the use of F# and C# in the first bar, which are used to lead into the root and 5th of G7, G and D, respectively.

As well, there is a C# passing tone in bar 3 that is used to bring a blues vibe to that part of the line, as C# is the #4 of G7, often called the “blues note.” Finally, there is another blues note, A#(Bb) in the last bar of the phrase that helps end the line with a bluesy touch.

I have written this lick in 8th notes to make it easier to read, and for beginner players to work at that tempo. The lick can also be played in 16th notes to provide a goal to work towards, and for the advanced players to check out as well.

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After you have worked out these two lines in the given keys, practice taking them to all 12 keys across the fretboard, as well as begin to add them to your Country soloing solos and riffs. When you’re ready, try writing out 3-5 licks in this same style of your own as you take these ideas further in the woodshed.


1.11 Country Double Stops

One of the must-know scale techniques when learning how to play country guitar is the double stop. A double stop is when you play two notes at the same time, mostly 3rds and 6ths, to create a sound that is somewhere between a single-note and a full chord.

To help you get this cool country sound into your playing, here are a few sample exercises that you can do in order to explore double stops in the practice room, and begin to take these ideas out into your lines and improvised solos over Country grooves and tunes.

Double Stop 3rds

First, let’s look at playing 3rds through a G Mixolydian Scale. These double stops can be applied to any scale, but since the Mixolydian sound is so prevalent in Country, let’s start with that scale and move on from there.

When playing 3rds, this means that you play one note, such as the G on the first beat of bar one, and then a second note that is a diatonic third higher. The easiest way to think of this is that you skip a note in the scale, so G-B means you start on G, skip A, and add B, a diatonic 3rd above G.

There are two main ways to play double stops on the guitar, horizontally and vertically. Here is an example of both to get started. Try them out and see which one suits your hands and playing better, then expand upon that fingering in the practice room from there.

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Double Stop 6ths

You can also use 6ths to create double stops on the guitar in a Country style. To do this, you play one note from the scale, such as G, and then a note that is 6 higher from that scale, so in this case it would be the note E, producing a double stop 6th.

Again, here are two examples of how to play 6ths through the G Mixolydian scale both across the neck horizontally and up the neck vertically. Try both out and see how these sit under your fingers and on the fretboard.

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Double Stop Lick

To help get you started, here is a double stop lick that mixes up 3rds and 6ths over a G Mixolydian Scale. In bar two, I have used 6ths but broken them up so that they are picked separately, this is a common variation of Country double stops, picking one note and then the next, and is something you can explore further in the woodshed as well.

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To learn more about double stops, 3rd and 6th intervals, and how to use them in your country playing, check out How to Build Major Intervals and How to Build Minor Intervals.



2. Country Arpeggio and Chord Theory

Now that you have learned how to build, apply and finger common Country scales on your fretboard, it’s time to dive into the harmonic side of the Country genre.

As you saw with the scale section of this guide, learning how to play Country music means moving from chord to chord when soloing and riffing, so that you outline the individual chords as much as you outline the key center as a whole.

For this reason, learning how to play arpeggios and chord shapes for 7th and m7th, as an example, will go a long way in helping you outline each chord in any progression as both of these devices contain only the notes of the chords you are on, rather than having chord tone and color tones as scale shapes do on the guitar.

So, check out these arpeggios and chord shapes, apply them to the backing tracks below, and begin to explore the chord tone side of the Country guitarist.


2.1 Dominant 7th Arpeggios

Since the blues form, Dominant chords and Mixolydian sounds are very important when learning how to play Country guitar, the first arpeggio we’ll look at is the 7th arpeggio.

Built with the Root, 3rd, 5th and b7th of the underlying chord, this arpeggio perfectly outlines the chord tones in any 7th chord, and therefore will help you outline each chord in a 12-bar blues progression, as well as any V7 chord you encounter on your favorite Country tunes.

As well, you can use this arpeggio to color any V chord, such as the V in the I IV V progression in the backing track section below. When you reach the V chord, you can add the 7th to create a bit more tension, which is then resolved to the next chord in the progression.

So, start by learning a few fingerings for 7th Arpeggios on the guitar, and then apply them to the V chord in a I IV V, or I vi IV V progression, as well as to each chord in a 12-bar blues progression, since all three of those chords are Dominant 7ths.

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To learn more about Dom 7th Arpeggios, how these shapes differ from scales, which fingerings are best for various octave shapes, and how to mix them with your blues scale ideas when soloing, check out How to Build Dominant 7th Arpeggios and Double Stop Lick video lesson.


2.2 Dominant 9th Arpeggios

Now that you have looked at a four-note outline for a Dominant chord, you can now add a bit of color by including the 9th in your fingerings and soloing ideas over any Country tune you are playing.

To bring in the 9th, you simply add one note to the Dominant 7th shape you learned in the previous example, to form the Root, 3rd, 5th, b7 and 9th interval pattern.

Once you have a few fingerings down for these 9th chords, try soloing over a one-chord vamp to begin, say G7, and move between using the G7 arpeggio and the G9 arpeggio so that you begin to hear how these two sounds are similar and different when applied to a soloing situation.

From there, try applying the 9th arpeggios to a 12-bar blues progression as well as to the V chord in a I IV V and I vi IV V chord progression.

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To learn more about Dom 9th Arpeggios, how these shapes differ from 7th arpeggios, which fingerings are best for these arpeggios on the fingerboard, and how to mix them with your scale ideas when soloing, check out How to Build Dominant 9th Arpeggios.


2.3 Dominant Arpeggio Soloing Example

Here is a G7 arpeggio lick to help you bring these technical items into your soloing chops as you explore Country improvisation further in the practice room. The lick is fairly straight-forward from a note choice perspective, it uses only the notes from the G7 arpeggio, G-B-D-F.

But, the key to this lick is the steady 8th-note pulse that the line generates, as well as the use of single and double pull-offs to open strings, something that is found in countless Country guitar licks and phrases.

I have written this lick in 8th notes to make it easier to read, and for beginner players to work at that tempo. The lick can be played in 16th notes to provide a goal to work towards, and for the advanced players to check out as well.

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Once you have this lick under your fingers over G7, try taking it to the other 11 keys, using barred notes instead of open notes as you bring this idea around the neck. As well, try writing out 4-5 similar licks of your own in order to get a feel for creating 7th arpeggio licks in a Country style.


2.4 Minor 7th Arpeggios

The next arpeggio that we’ll explore is used to outline m7 chords, or to add color to any minor chord when soloing in a Country style.

Built with the interval pattern Root, b3, 5 and b7, this arpeggio can be used to create single lines over any minor triad or minor 7th chord when soloing over a Country chord progression.

An example of this, and a good place to begin with this shape, is the vi chord in a I vi IV V chord progression. Try putting on the backing track in the last section of this guide, and use a m7 arpeggio so create your solo lines over the vi chord in that progression in order to hear how this shape sounds in a practical, musical situation.

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To learn more about m7th Arpeggios, how these shapes differ from 7th arpeggios, how to play them on guitar, and how to apply them to your solos, check out How to Build m7th Arpeggios.


2.5 Minor 9th Arpeggios

As was the case with the 7th chords, you can add a bit of color to your m7th arpeggios by bringing in the 9th on top of the chord.

Again, you can simply take a m7th arpeggio and add one note on top of that shape to create a m9th fingering that you can then use in the same way as a m7th arpeggio in your Country soloing ideas.

This fingerings, using the intervals Root, b3, 5, b7 and 9, can be used over both m7 and m9 chords in a progression, as well as to add color to any minor chord you are soloing over.

So, try soloing over a I vi IV V progression and use a m9th arpeggio to solo over the vi chord in that series of changes in order to hear how this arpeggio sounds over a harmonic progression in the Country style.

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To learn more about m9th Arpeggios, how these shapes differ from m7th arpeggios, which fingerings are best for these arpeggios on the fingerboard, and how to use them in your blues soloing ideas, check out How to Build m9th Arpeggios.


2.6 Minor Arpeggio Soloing Example

This Em7 arpeggio lick in a Country style uses pull-offs to open strings, as well as pull-offs to fretted notes as it climbs up the fingerboard. When playing a lick such as this one, make sure to keep the rhythm steady as that is the key to making a lick like this work out in your Country solos and riffs.

I have written this lick in 8th notes to make it easier to read, and for beginner players to work at that tempo. The lick can be played in 16th notes to provide a goal to work towards, and for the advanced players to check out as well.

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After you have worked out this minor arpeggio lick in Em, try playing it in all 12 keys across the neck, bringing in fretted notes when needed instead of open strings, and then write out 4-5 similar licks of your own in order to take it further in the practice room.


2.7 Dominant 7th Chords

With the common Country arpeggios under your fingers, let’s look at some common Country chords to add to your repertoire of harmonic vocabulary.

The first shape we’ll look at is the Dominant 7th chord. Often used for all three chords in a 12-bar blues progression, as well as the V chord in a I IV V or I vi IV V chord progression, 7th chords can be found in countless Country classics over the years, and therefore are an important tool when learning how to play this style of music.

In the same way that the 7th arpeggios were built, 7th chords use the notes Root, 3rd, 5th and b7 in their construction, and you can think of them as being “block” versions of 7th arpeggios, meaning all of the notes are played at once.

To help you get started with these important Country guitar chords, here are a few 7th shapes on the fretboard to check out in your practicing, country chord work and songwriting in the practice room.

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To learn more about Dom 7th Chords, how they differ from Dom 7 arpeggios on the fretboard, what chord inversions are, and how to mix them with your triads when comping, check out How to build 7th Chords for Guitar and the following video lessons: Country Rhythm in A, 7th Chords.


2.8 Dominant 9th Chords

You can now bring in a color tone to the 7th chords you just learned by adding in the 9th to each of these shapes. Now that you have 5 notes to choose from, Root-3-5-b7-9, you can’t always have every possible note in your 9th chord shapes.

Because of this, we will begin to eliminate some notes from these five choices when constructing 9th chords on the fretboard, as you can see in the examples below.

When doing so, the first note to leave out, usually, is the 5th, followed by the root of the chord. Because the 5th isn't that important to defining the sound of this chord, whereas the 3rd and 7th are, it is usually the first to go.

As well, since the bass player is covering the root note of the chord, you can take that note out most of the time and replace it with the 9th, providing you with a new color as the bass player holds down the root of the underlying chord for you.

Here are a number of common ways to play 9th chords that you can then add to your Country rhythm playing, using them anytime you have a V7, V9 or V chord and you want to bring an extra layer of color to your harmonic output.

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To learn more about Dom 9th Chords, how they differ from 7th chords on the fretboard, how to play them on guitar, and how to apply them to a jazz blues context, check out How to build 9th Chords for Guitar.


2.9 7#9 Chords

As is the case in Blues guitar comping, Country players will use the 7#9 chord to spice up their Dominant sounds when songwriting or playing through changes. Built in the same way as a 9th chord, only with a raised 9th, Root-3-5-b7-#9, these chords have the same issue as the previous ones you learned, in that they have 5 notes so sometimes one must be left out when played on the guitar.

Here are some common 7#9 fingerings to check out in the practice room. When you have a few of them down, try applying them to your V and V7 chords when playing country chord progressions in order to hear how they sound in the context of a song.

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To learn more about 7#9 Chords, how to use them in your blues playing, where they fit best in a blues form and how to finger these chords on guitar, check out How to build 7#9 Chords for Guitar.


2.10 Minor 7 Chords

When looking to add some color to minor chords, Country players will sneak in m7 chords as their first choice in this situation. Built with the intervals Root, b3, 5, and b7, these chords can sound great in a Country ballad situation, or whenever you want to try adding a different shade to your minor sounds.

After you have checked out the fingering examples below, put on a I vi IV V backing track and add in the m7 to the vi chord in order to hear how these shapes sound in the context of a chord progression.

Though not used every time, the m7 chord can be an important sound for any Country guitarist looking to expand beyond the basic minor triad in their playing.

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To learn more about m7th Chords, how these shapes differ from 7th chords, which fingerings are best for these chords on guitar, and how to apply them to chord progressions, check out How to Build m7th Chords.


2.11 Minor 9 Chords

The final Country guitar chord that we'll look at is the m9th, which is used to add color to your minor and m7th chord ideas. Again, it is built by adding a 9th to the basic m7 chord, Root-b3-5-b7-9, and can be used whenever you have a minor or m7 chord in the progression.

Try playing through a I vi IV V progression, such as the ones in the examples later in this guide, and alternate between a vi, vim7 and vim9 in order to hear how these three similar chords can bring new and exciting colors to your chord work.

To help you get started, here are a number of examples of m9 chords to check out in the practice room.

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To learn more about m9th Chords, how these shapes differ from m7th chords, which fingerings are best for these chords on the fingerboard, and how to mix them with m7th chords over a minor blues, check out How to Build m9th Chords.



3. Country Chord Progressions

As well as being able to solo over chords and chord progressions, learning how these famous Country progressions are built, how you can transpose them to other keys, and how they can fit on the fretboard, are all essential steps in the learning process for any Country guitarist.

In the following lessons, you’ll learn three of the most commonly used Country progressions so that you will be able to understand, analyze, and quickly learn any Country tune that is based on these chords, or any variations of these progressions.


3.1 Major Blues Progressions

One of the most common chord progressions, the Major 12-Bar Chord Progression is a staple of the Country guitarist’s diet, just as it is for any player exploring Rock, Blues or Jazz styles.

Composed of the I7, IV7 and V7 chords, the 12-Bar Blues can pose a bit of a challenge for Country guitarist’s as they prefer to outline each chord in the phrase, rather than use just one minor blues scale for the whole progression.

This means that when you solo over a blues form as a Country guitarist, you will need to use major pentatonic, arpeggios, major blues and Mixolydian sounds as you move from one chord to the next in the progression.

For this reason, the blues is a good place to start when exploring Country forms for those players that have experience with soloing in key centers, and that are looking to expand their soloing chops to specific chord outlines and licks.

Attached File  Blues_in_G_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.56MB ) Number of downloads: 3701


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The next blues progression that you can practice when working on country soloing and comping is in the key of C

Attached File  Blues_in_C_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.55MB ) Number of downloads: 2662


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The last blues backing track that we’ll use for practice purposes when exploring country soloing and chord work is in the key of A

Attached File  Blues_in_A_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.56MB ) Number of downloads: 2618


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To learn more about Major Blues Chord Progressions, what Roman Numerals are, and how to transpose these important chords to different keys, check out Major Blues Chord Progression Theory and the following video lessons : Blues Shuffle, Blues Rhythm Guitar.


3.2 I IV V Progressions

Another classic progression that can be found in may Country songs, just as it can be found in countless Rock and Pop songs, in the I-IV-V progression.

Containing only major chords, this progression can be used in both 8 and 16 bar compositions, as well as the often-used 4-bar phrase.

Here are a few examples of common chord progressions using I-IV-V chords in a country style. There are backing tracks for both of these chord progressions in the next section of this Country Guitar Theory Guide.

The first progression, written over 8 bars, is in the key of D and features a commonly used layout for the I, IV and V chords over an 8 bar phrase.

Attached File  I_IV_V_In_D_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.56MB ) Number of downloads: 3221


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The next progression, in the key of G, is written out over 16 bars and, again, uses a common sequence of the I, IV and V chords in the Country style.

Attached File  I_IV_V_in_G_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.86MB ) Number of downloads: 2920


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Once you have these chords under your fingers and the progressions in your heads and ears, try writing your own progressions based on these three classic-sounding chords.

To learn more about the I IV V Chord Progression, how it is constructed and how you can add these changes to your playing, and learn to solo over this series of chords, please visit the What is a I IV V Chord Progression lesson page, Johnny Cash Style video lesson, and cool variatons of this progression with the Bon Jovi Country Lesson and Travis Picking Lesson.


3.3 I vi IV V Progressions

The last progression we’ll look at is also found in many genres of popular music, and of course is often used in the Country genre to write memorable songs and chord riffs, the I vi IV V progression.

Adding a minor chord, the vi, to the I IV V chords we explored in the previous example, you can hear how that one new sound breaks things up and provides you with a new avenue of exploration when writing and soloing over these common chords.

Here is an example of this progression in the key of A, with the backing track included below.

Attached File  A_Turnaround_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.55MB ) Number of downloads: 2704


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Finally, here is a short turnaround track in E for you to work on in the practice room. The chords are as follows.

Attached File  E_Turnaround_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.55MB ) Number of downloads: 2251


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Once you have this progression under your fingers, try writing a song or chord progression using both the I, IV, V and the I, vi, IV, V chord progressions as they are two of the most commonly used in the Country genre, and having a good handle on them as a soloist, comper and songwriter will go a long way in mastering the genre on guitar.

To learn more about the I vi IV V Chord Progression, how it is built and how you can solo over this series of chords, please visit the What is a I vi IV V Chord Progression lesson page, as well as a cool variation of this progression with the Country Rhythm Lesson.


3.4 Cut Time Groove

As well as learning how to play common Country chord progressions, there are a few odd time signatures that you should have under your fingers when jamming over various Country tunes.

The first one that we’ll look at is called Cut Time, or 2/4, as it uses half as many beats as the 4/4 bar. When playing in this time signature, feeling the groove move from 1 to 2 in each bar will help you stay locked in and comfortable, even at faster tempos, which is often the case with 2/4 time.

Here is a sample chord progression and backing track to get you started with playing cut time in a Country music style.

Attached File  Country_Cut_Time_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.71MB ) Number of downloads: 3094


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3.5 Country 6/8 Groove

You can also do a “shuffle” version of cut time, where instead of playing 12/8 as you would in a blues shuffle, you play 6/8, so half as many beats but the idea remains the same.

This groove can be tough to get down, so try out the progression below and work it with the backing track so that you begin to hear and feel how this time signature effects the way you think and hear the chord progression.

Attached File  Country_6_8_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 4.26MB ) Number of downloads: 2976


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4. Country Guitar Solo

To sum up this Country Guitar Theory Guide, here is a 12-bar solo based on a I IV V chord progression in the key of G. The solo is the same progression as a Blues in G, though here there are no 7th chords, just triads, as that is also something you will hear and find in the Country guitar genre.

This solo uses scales, arpeggios and licks that you have previously learned in this guide, but now they are all together in one musical collection so you can hear and learn how these concepts sound in a practical situation.

Here is a breakdown of the different scales and arpeggios used in this solo so you can see what is going on while you listen to the example track, as well as take it to the fretboard and get your fingers around this cool-sounding Country solo.

Bars 1 and 2 – Here, the line is based on a G minor pentatonic scale, with the very last beat of the second bar bending up to the major 3rd, which when coupled with the note D, the 5th of G, implies a G arpeggio.

Bars 3 and 4 – This faster run focuses on a steady 16th note pattern, and is based on the mixed scale lick you learned previously in this guide, only now applied to a full solo situation. The first two beats of bar 3 are major blues sounds, beat 3 is a minor blues, followed by more major blues sounds to complete that two-bar phrase.

Bars 5 and 6 – This riff over a C chord, the IV chord in this key, comes from the Mixolydian Scale and uses double stops, double stop bends and contains a strong focus on the 6th note of the scale, all major components of the Country soloing vocabulary.

Bars 7 and 8 – Here, bar 7 starts with four notes from the G minor blues scale, followed by two beads from the major pentatonic scale, again mixing these two common sounds in one phrase. Bar 8 starts with two beats on the major blues scale, and then finished with a G Mixolydian run. So, this lick covers three major Country sounds all within 8 beats of the solo, well worth checking out further in the practice room.

Bars 9 and 10 – This lick is based on another important Country concept, the use of open strings when playing scale licks. The line is based on the G major scale, with a few blues notes, Bb, thrown in for good measure. The crux of these two bars is that whenever you have a note that can use an open string, you use that open string. This means that G, B, D and E are all played on open strings to create a cool banjo-like sound on the guitar.

Bars 11 and 12 – The last lick in this solo is based on the minor pentatonic scale, with a B natural, the 3rd of G, thrown in to tie this lick to the opening phrase of the solo, which was based on the same concept.

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Do you have a question about these country guitar theory lessons, or a suggestion for a future addition to this theory guide? Share your thoughts in the comments
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