Tony Oreshko jazz and gypsy jazz guitar


by Tony Oreshko
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Jazz Soloing: Lesson 6

Arpeggios Over a Minor Blues

In previous soloing lessons we looked at using m7b5 arpeggios to solo over minor chords, and diminished 7th arpeggios to solo over dominant 7th chords.

We're now just going to pull some threads together and see how we can use both these arpeggio types to solo over a complete chord sequence.

Minor Blues Chord Sequence

Here's a chord progression for a simple minor blues. This is just one example of a sequence that uses a 'three chord trick' in a minor key, so the soloing ideas we'll discuss below will work just as well with the many other tunes that use these same chords.

     Dm    /    /    /   |      Dm    /    /    /   |      Dm    /    /    /   |      Dm    /    /    /   |

     Gm    /    /    /   |      Gm    /    /    /   |      Dm    /    /    /   |      Dm    /    /    /   |

     A7    /    /    /    |      A7    /    /    /    |      Dm    /    /    /    |      A7    /    /    /    |

Blues MP3  Listen to the Minor Blues progression

Some very similar examples are the traditional Russian melody 'Dark Eyes', frequently played by gypsy jazz guitarists, and Django Reinhardt's compositions 'Blues en Mineur' and 'Minor Swing'. Each of these tunes uses the same chords as the blues above, only in a slightly different order, so the arpeggios we'll now look at will work just as well on all of them.

Arpeggios over the Minor Blues Chords

We've already discussed which arpeggios work over each of these chords individually in previous lessons. Here's a short summary:

Chord Arpeggio to Play Sound Created
Dm Bm7b5 Dm6
Gm Em7b5 Gm6
A7 A#dim (= Edim) A7b9

Remember that every diminished 7th has four possible names, so A#dim and Edim turn out to be just different names for exactly the same arpeggio.

Arpeggio Fingering Diagrams

To refresh your memory, here are the arpeggio diagrams that we also covered in previous lessons.

Arpeggios for Minor Blues
Click on a diagram to listen

Bm7b5 arpeggio diagram         Em7b5arpeggio diagram         E Diminished arpeggio diagram        

Putting it Together

You now know which arpeggio to play against each chord, so all you need to do is practice!

Feel free to download the Minor Blues MP3 soundclip above (open Media Player then click File - Save As) and use it as a rhythm guitar part against which to practice your soloing.

Soloing Tips

At first you'll probably struggle a lot to keep up with the chord changes, and will find that by the time you've tried to play the notes of your arpeggio the music will have moved on to the next chord!

My first tip is to just try and play one or maybe two notes from the arpeggio rather than all of them against each chord. Play solos with long sustained notes to give yourself time to think, and to keep up with the changes. You can speed up later!

Once you start getting familiar with the arpeggios and changing from one to the other you'll probably play each arpeggio in the same way every time you use it, and your soloing will sound rather unimaginative. But as you get to know these arpeggios even better you'll start getting more creative and realise that the notes can be played in countless different combinations and with different phrasings and timings.

My second tip is to try mixing up the order in which you play the notes in the arpeggio. For example, start on the third note then drop down to the first then up to the fourth note, and so on - I'm sure you get the idea.

Passing Notes

Another tip you can try is to use what are called passing notes. If you have two arpeggio notes on the same string, then play any notes in between them when moving from one arpeggio note to the other.

So using the Bm7b5 arpeggio as an example, start by playing the first note on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, then play the 3rd and 4th frets before landing on the next arpeggio note on the 5th fret of the 5th string.

When you can fluently play about with the order and timing of the arpeggio notes and add passing notes your playing will start to turn from an arpeggio exercise into real jazz soloing.

Best of luck!

Tony Oreshko

Go to Jazz Soloing Lesson 7

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