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Chris Spencer >> Evolution of Jazz Guitar >>
Guest Teacher - Chris Spencer




Today's lesson is the first of four lessons focusing on improvising in the jazz idiom. We will start with the basic building blocks of jazz harmony, the II-V-I chord progression. It is essentially the most common chord progression within the style, and it is consequently the logical place to begin. You will first learn some simple voicings for the progression in the key of Bb. Then you will extend the harmony a bit and add a walking bass. After the chords are under your fingers, we will look at some corresponding scales, arpeggios and related licks to play over the progression. But before we begin, lets take a look at some of the musical theory behind the II-V-I progression. The roman numerals ( II - V - I ) refer to the scale degrees in which the chords are constructed. For instance, the II-7 chord refers to a minor seventh chord ( -7 ) whose root is the second degree ( II ) of a major scale. The V chord, or V7 as is usually the case, is constructed with the fifth degree of the same scale as its root. And of course the I chord uses the first degree of the same major scale for its root, it is in essence the proverbial "home base" for any key. So if you are in the key of C, you will see these chords in a II-V-I progression:

D-7 G7 Cmaj7 II-7 V7 Imaj7

Constructed from the following 1st, 2nd and 5th degrees of the C scale: C D E F G A B C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8(1)



ChrisS: here's a jam track to work on the first few chord progressions. There's a lot of info in the first paragraph, so you can always check that out later. Here's the first II V I chord progression, short and simple.



ChrisS: Use this to familiarize yourself with the sound of the progression. Remember, these are the building blocks of 90% of all the jazz tunes out there. Is everyone familiar with the " II -jV - I" progression?

Steve: I know mostly I-IV-V

ChrisS: OK, so we have a mixed bag here



ChrisS: try this variation on the same progression, you are adding a couple of tensions and adding a little bit of melody, try both of these with the looping jam track, after you are familiar with both, try merging the two back to back.



ChrisS: Here's another variation, with bass notes. Here's an audio sample with all three variations of the progression.



MB: That one is familiar

ChrisS: I thought it might be, good, so now lets add a walking bass line to the last chord progression.



ChrisS: Walking bass lines are important for jazz guitarists. Horn players will love you if you can accompany them with this stuff.

mehl: arpeggio's(sp?) sound cool also

ChrisS: Yes on the arp's, we will hit some of those a little later today. Notice how the walking bass line is using the same chords that you have worked out. Remember you don't have to sustain the chord, the bass line is actually more important for holding down the fort.

Steve: isn't it difficult to juggle the bass and chords?

bluesurf: yes for me until it flows...the bass is the timeline.

ChrisS: Here's another chord/bass line progression



ChrisS: This one has some new chords to add to your arsenal. Some of these voicings are missing the root which is just fine, In fact, since the bass line is most important, you want to find voicings that are close by. Here's a video clip of the second walking bass progression



Support: Hank has joined us today! Welcome, we are covering jazz this month Hank, which is right up your alley

Hank_Garland: Hello everyone! Chris, I played in Bb a lot

ChrisS: Hi Hank, boy you sure did, in fact I think you should have some stock in the key of Bb! Hank, feel free to comment on any of this material, I would love your input.

Hank_Garland: sounds great Chris

ChrisS: How's it going with the bass lines out there, are you ready to look at single note stuff?

Ed: it's tough for me

MB: Give me another week or two...

ChrisS: These things will take a little time,

bluesurf: as you said 'new chords' :)

ChrisS: Here's a new jam track for the second half of tonight's lesson



Steve2: any tips on juggling both the bass and chords?

ChrisS: Practice very slowly, and remember that the chords don't have to sustain. Lets start out with some scales. We're going to be soloing in Bb for this segment, so here are some Bb scales.



Ed: what guitar are you playing?

Hank_Garland: sounds like a Gibson

ChrisS: It does sound like a Gibson, but its a Jay Turser

Stephen: any suggestions for which effects to use for a jazz tone? Reverb and Chorus for sure right? What else?

ChrisS: Reverb more than chorus for a traditional sound

Stephen: especially if you DONT have a hollow body jazz guitar

ChrisS: Yes Stephen thats right, Hank, what do you think about getting a good guitar tone

Hank_Garland: It always helped with good pick ups, strings and and good amp

Steve2: I like the ES335 because you get the some of both, hollow body sound and solid feel

Hank_Garland: I rewound all my pick up and changed them to Charlie Christian

Stephen: heavier gauge strings like 11's for thicker sound, and a good clean amp

ChrisS: Here's another Bb scale, a tough one



ChrisS: It uses four notes per string and is a great one to practice. Not only does it stretch your fingers out, it helps familiarize yourself with the fretboard, and gets you moving about. Using these two scales, we can start to get a feel for improvising melodies over the II V I progression, here's a lick that illustrates the point.



ChrisS: The lick starts off with a little chromatic passage. Chromatic means moving by semitones, or frets for us guitarists. Fingers speed will come with time, the important thing is to get the lick internalized. Lets take a look at some arpeggios



ChrisS: Arpeggios give you some more options for soloing, They also help strengthen the chord progression by outlining the chord tones, the same things you build chords out of. This Cm7 is made out of a 1,b3,5& b7 scale degrees. Notice that it is really close to a minor pentatonic scale.

Ed: that one I know inside-out

ChrisS: Here's a variation on the same arpeggio, the same notes but with a different way of playing.



ChrisS: Notice that the line has a downward motif as it ascends, You can use this arpeggio over the II chord in the jam track. Here's an arpeggio for F7, what were calling the V chord on our jam track



ChrisS: The F7 arpeggio contains the 1st, 3rd, 5th and b7th scale degrees. Now your going to learn the Bb maj7 arpeggio for the I chord.



ChrisS: So now you have an arpeggio for each chord in the II V I progression, This gives you another alternative to just playing within the Bb scale. Crank up Jam track 2 and give these a whirl...] The first measure of the jam track play the Cmin arp, The second measure plug in the F7 and over the third and fourth measure, play the Bbmaj7 arp

Ed: do you suggest memorizing a few select arpeggios, or should we be able to do any arpeggio?

ChrisS: Ed, you have start somewhere, so at first you should try to memorize a bunch, Since progressions are composed of maj7, min7, dom7 and min7b5 you should start there. Today we have covered three out of the four. Here's the last lick, it uses the three arpeggios under your fingers



ChrisS: The first measure over the Cmin 7 comes right out of the minor pentatonic. So we have built up the II V I progression from the ground up, You now have some chords,

Hank_Garland: Chris, if I might ask, who were your influences?

ChrisS: Hank, I have to say that I have been influenced by many players yourself included, I really enjoy Jim Hall, Joe Pass etc.

mehl: Hank, guess what today is??

Hank_Garland: Elvis Presley Birthday!

mehl: thought you'd know that one

Ed: I saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show today, where you there Hank?

Hank_Garland: I played in the back ground on one of his shows,,I took Scotty's job only because Elvis asked me to, We were best of friends

ChrisS: Next week, we will look at extending the harmony of the II V I. Thanks everyone, gotta go. Good luck and I'll see you next week.

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