Getting hipness from a major triad or more chord recycling part 3

In part one of this post, I looked at generating different major chord variations based on flatting the root and the 5th.  In part 2, I sharped those pitches and then combined the two approaches to create additional chords and textures.  In this post, I’m going to look at applying these chord tones to  melodic (or lead) ideas.  But first…

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The Relative Minor Explanation:

The second post of this series ended on a cliffhanger when I said that all of the A major upper extensions would work as substitutions for F# minor chords.   You can read the rest of this Relative Minor explanation if you want to understand why this works – otherwise you can just skip ahead to the next section for some melodic ideas.

Here’s the explanation for this.

In a major chord, the 4th is sometimes known as an avoid note.  In the key of C, this means that the note F is usually viewed as a note to avoid either melodically or harmonically.  If we look at a major scale:

C D E F G A B C

the only 1/2 steps in the scale are between E/F and B/C.

Chromatics are powerful things in music.  They tend to act as tonal anchors to where the tonal center is.  If you play a simple ascending C major scale and stop on the note B, most listeners will want you to resolve to C.   In the major scale the 1/2 step between the 3rd and 4th makes the ear think that F major is the tonal center.

(For those of you familiar with ear training, if you sing a c major scale from C to F – it sounds like you’re singing so la ti Do – instead of Do re me fa.)

One innovation that came about in jazz music was to substitute an #4 for a 4 over chords with a major quality.  This put the 1/2 step motion between the 4th and the 5th.  Since the 5th is a chord tone in a major triad, it has less of an effect of moving outside of the key.

Here’s how this is applied:

  • Any Major scale with a #4 is a Lydian mode.
  • The A Lydian mode is taken from the parent Major scale of E Major.
  • The Relative Minor chord of A Major is F# minor.
  • In the key of E Major, F# is the second scale degree and uses the Dorian mode.
  • Dorian is a popular mode for soloing over minor chords.

Here’s the shortcut:

You can change the chord scale with the chord if you want here – but if you’re playing a chord progression that goes between a major and the relative minor chord (and you’re using Lydian for the major chord) – you can keep using the same scale to create a Dorian sound over the minor chord

(and vice-versa).

A Quick Review

Here’s the Major chord shape I’ve been modifying over the first 2 lessons:


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A Major

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If the root and the 5th are strategically sharped or flatted, other chord tones (7, #11, 9 and 13 can be created).

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A major with  additional chord tones on the B and E string

Since the b (9th) on the high E string is available, the 9th on the g string is something that can be incorporated as well.

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A Lydian/F# Dorian Chord tones based on an A major chord shape

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If I’m soloing over A major (or F# Minor)  – all of these notes are fair game. 

Try all the licks below over an A major type chord or F# minor type chord.

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Lick 1 (Double Click any notation to see full size)

Lick 1


I try to stay with consistent note-per-string fingerings on strings when playing melodically, so here I’m going to take the same idea and just move the last note to the g string to create a 3 note per string pattern.

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Lick 1: Three note-per-string shape

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Lick 2:

Here, I’m taking the same notes and breaking them up intervallically into 4ths (except for the 5th in the last 2 notes which adds some variety in the cycle).  Licks like these are easy to visualize (and therefore easy to manipulate when improvising).

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Here’s how it sounds at tempo. 

Note:

When I improvised this- I played it as transcribed – but when I recorded it – I played the last 2 notes as 1/8th notes instead – please take any of the ideas here and manipulate them as you see fit.

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Here’s a similar (but shorter) idea with a scalar pattern at the end.

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4ths lick 2

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

Lick 3:

Here’s an arpeggio idea that incorporates chromaticism.

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arpeggio lick w. chromatics

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed and then at tempo.

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A couple of notes:

  • In the beginning I’m visualizing a C# min7 arpeggio (C#, E, G#, B) starting on the B.
  • The chromatic motion isn’t random – instead it specifically emphasizes the A and the C# in the A Major chord.
  • In the 3rds pattern that ends the lick – I’m skipping the middle note of the 3 note per string pattern in Lick 1.  I like using 3rds in patterns because it breaks up the monotony of just running scales up and down.


Going Further – Dominant Superimposition:

Now that some initial options have been explored – I’ll take a look at the upper notes of the voicing.  If I take the previous fretboard diagram and extend a note on the g string I’ll have something that looks like the diagram below:

Here’s a chord voicing I discussed in part 2 of this series (B7/A)

And here’s how it sounds.

Short cut 1:

Playing a dominant 7th chord on the second scale degree of a major chord will get you all of the upper extensions and the root)

(i.e. B7 over A major)

Short cut 2:

When soloing over a major chord – you can play a dominant arpeggio on the second scale degree (i.e. B7 over A major).

In the example below, I’m combining a B9 arpeggio and an A major arpeggio to create a melodic idea.  The A and C# on the D string are the linking material between the 2 arpeggios (they act as the 7 and 9 in the B9 chord, or as the root and 3rd of the A Major).

The important thing with any superimposition like this is to resolve it to a chord tone in the chord you’re soloing over (in this case A).

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Going Further – Minor Superimposition:

Here’s another chord voicing I discussed in part 2 of this series (G# min7/A)

Short cut 1:

Playing a minor chord on the seventh scale degree of a major chord will get you upper extensions (7, 9, #11 and 13)  of the chord.

(i.e. G# min7 played over A major)

Short cut 2:

When soloing over a major chord – you can play a minor arpeggio on the second scale degree (i.e. G# min7/A).

In the example below, I’m combining a sextuplet idea from the earlier licks and a  G#min arpeggio to create a melodic idea. Again, an important thing with any superimposition like this is to resolve it to a chord tone in the chord you’re soloing over (in this case A).

I’m not a fan of the shift from E to D# in this fingering as it requires quickly barring to get the rest of the arpeggio.  As an alternate fingering, I  recommend this:

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The “picking” is just a suggestion.  (For example: you could also pull off the D# to the B on the g string and then just continue the sweep picking motion.)

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Wrapping it up:

This is really only the beginning of where these approaches can go.  Hopefully this will give you some ideas to explore both in comping and soloing.  If there’s enough interest, I’ll expand this approach to minor and dominant chords in future posts.

Final Tech Note:

For those of you who are interested, these are the approximate settings I’m using in Pod farm for the distorted tone here:

Thanks for reading!

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