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Lesson notes: J AZ Z CORNER 1


This sort of groove is common in rock, funk and modal jazz. To keep things interesting, you can’t just
use your favourite old blues scale licks. Over a funky groove in A minor, this solo is mostly blues-based,
but also includes some chromatic lines (bars 14/16), some string skipping and various arpeggios,
suggesting chord changes that aren’t actually there. There’s a G major arpeggio in bars 6 and 10, a D13
arpeggio in bars 12/13 and an E7b9 arpeggio in bar 15.


The first section uses octave melodies (in the style of Wes Montgomery) over a Gmaj7#11-E9 groove.
Remember to angle your index finger so that it mutes the string in between the two octave notes.

The second section is a solo over the same chords, using a modal approach. The G Lydian mode (G A
B C# D E F#) is used over the Gmaj7#11 chord, while the E Mixolydian (E F# G# A B C# D) is used
over the E9.


This solo uses different modes for different parts of the chord sequence. For the first pair of chords
(Cmaj7-Am9) the scale is C Lydian (C D E F# G A B) which also give the effect of A Dorian over the
Am9. In a similar way, the G Lydian (G A B C# D E F#) is used over the Gmaj7-Em9 section. Finally, Bb
Mixolydian (Bb C D Eb F G Ab) is used over the Bb13 chord.


A “dominant” chord is one that contains a major 3
and minor 7
, such as G7 (G B D F). Dominant
chords can also be extended with 9ths, 11ths or 13ths (G9, G11, G13) or turned into “altered dominants”
by sharpening or flattening the 9
or 5
(7#9, 7b9, 7#5, 7b5).

This backing uses a simple II-V-I progression, so it’s the V (the dominant chord) that you need to watch.
In the solo you’ll see the A superlocrian mode (A Bb C Db Eb F G) in bar 2 - this is very common for
creating an altered dominant sound. In bars 6 and 10, you’ll see the diminished scale (A Bb C Db D E
F# G) which is built from alternating half-tones and whole-tones. And in bar 22, there’s a descending line
using the whole-tone scale (A B C# D# F G).


This solo uses the A Dorian mode (A B C D E F# G) and the funky groove gives you plenty of space to
experiment with phrasing. The rhythm has a swing triplet feel, but it’s on the 16
notes, rather than the
notes. So… instead of each beat being split evenly into four 16
notes, you’ll hear a long-short-long-
short pattern.


A lot of jazz features fast tempos in a triplet-based “swing” feel, so it’s important to be comfortable with
this sort of groove. Don’t feel you have to play streams of notes over every beat as you would at slow
tempos… the tempo is so fast, you can safely leave a gap of two or three beats between your phrases,
and it won’t sound wrong.

The main scale used here is the A Dorian (A B C D E F# G) but the underlying harmony is very simple
to allow you to concentrate on the phrasing.


Another harmonically simple solo, using just the G major scale (G A B C D E F#). The main feature is
the 5/4 time signature, which could cause problems if you’ve only ever jammed in 4/4! Take your time,
listen to the backing as you play, and don’t be afraid to leave lots of “breathing space” between the


Without the concept of swing, jazz would sound very different. Basically, each beat is subdivided into
three, creating a triplet feel. However, if you just play the first and third note of each triplet, you’ll get the
familiar “swing 8ths”.


This funky groove in A minor is designed to explore some uses of the A minor pentatonic (A C D E G).
However, the sparse groove means you have space to move around and explore other notes, and bars
8-12 feature the B minor pentatonic (B D E F# A). This generates a whole new sound without straying
from the basic A Dorian (A B C D E F# G) sound of the backing.

In a similar fashion, bars 13-14 feature the E minor pentatonic (E G A B D). This whole technique is
known as “pentatonic substitution” and every major scale or mode contains three minor pentatonic
scales. As we’ve seen for A Dorian…

A Dorian (A B C D E F# G) contains…
A C D E G (Am pentatonic)
B D E F# A (Bm pentatonic)
E G A B D (Em pentatonic)


Just to prove that jazz doesn’t have to be a terrifying trip through complex chords and scales you’ve
never heard of, this solo uses only the A blues scale (A C D Eb E G) but derives its jazz feel from the
funky swing rhythm. Look out for the phrases starting on the off-beat (end of bar 5, middle of bar 11) and
the string skipping (bar 14) and try to create plenty of melodic and rhythmic interest in your own solo.