Rhythm changes can be very fun to play over and very difficult as well. Everyone should know them if you aspire to be a great player. Below are three sets of changes that can be used when soloing over rhythm changes. Simply using these different chords as your basis for improvisation will drastically spice up your solo when playing over rhythm changes. I will go deeper into note selection over rhythm changes in later weeks. For now, I would say simply practice using improvisation lines that flow through these harmonies. Enjoy and practice hard!
If you enjoy these posts please subscribe to my newsletter or simply LIKE my facebook page! I would greatly appeciate it! Thanks!
Learning how to improvise can be very overwhelming. Your teachers are probably teaching you about all kinds of scales and modes, which you really have no idea how to use at the time. So, by taking a rhythmic mental approach, you can immediately begin to sound like a pro. This concept by the way, will immediately cure your urge to play lots of notes, scales, and patterns of all the kinds. It allows you to sound truly organic.
In order to start applying this process, let’s use a blues again. I am simply going to pick one type of rhythmic duration and solo just using those rhythms over the blues form.
#1 Quarter and Half Notes
During an exceptionally long small combo rehearsal in college one day, my professor said something to all of us that will stick with me forever. This unfortunate day, none of us were playing well and he said “All of you are just rambling on your instruments! I should be able to sing back any line you play, like repeating a sentence back to you.” This was a glorious day. He was right! Most of the time when people are improvising in jazz, they’re trying to play the new coolest lick, or some pattern that they haven’t practiced well enough. All that ends up coming out is jumbled up garbage. When you first begin to improvise or even if you have been improvising for a while you must always remember to play melodically, with intention, and sing your lines through the piano. Especially with us pianist, its so easy to just let our fingers do the work instead of our inner self. My fingers could play all day long with an ounce of true expression attached to the notes. This is what we must avoid.
In order to work on this we must start by thinking about melodies. Always try to create melodies when improvising, even if they’re very short and simple. By doing this you are creating something that you truly intended and is part of your self expression. Focus on what my teacher said to me by always attempting to play a line that you could sing back to yourself. If you get done playing a phrase and you have no idea what you played….you are rambling.
I’m going to play the notated example below so you can follow along with a simple improvised melody. I will also improvise something new after that by trying to create singable melodies on the spot. The improvisation will be over a Cmaj7, A-7, D-7, G7, also known as a I – VI – II – V. I’m only using notes from the C Major Scale.
As always if you enjoy this content please sign up for the weekly piano tips newsletters, and like my facebook page! Thank you!
Since I started off the first two tips about the blues, I figured I might as well expand on this topic. The blues is a great structure for all players to practice and make progress. The last blues scale I’m going to leave you with is the Major Blues scale. This is my version of a scale that includes the major 3rd of the chord as well as the b3 blues note. The scale also has the major 6th and the natural 9th extension. As one of my students figured out last week, using these notes really gets you away from the beginning blues sound you hear most “newbies” stick too. By adding the major 3rd to the scale you start to reflect the harmonies of the chord more properly which allows you to play with in the changes more. Remember, when soloing, create melodies with the notes, rather than simply playing the scale up and down. More on that in the next post when I’ll combine all the scales together. Enjoy!
With the other two scales you could use those over the entire blues form. When playing the major blues scale you must play the corresponding scale to the chord. For example, if I’m playing a C7 chord I can play my C major blues scale. When I move to F7, I must play my F major blues scale. Be sure to switch the scale when the chord changes.
So after my first post on the natural 6 blues scale I posted for the Tip Of The Week, I received a lot of questions regarding the traditional blues scale I mentioned. Even though I’m sure lots of people know the traditional blues scale I’m going to highlight in this post for everyone in the future. It will be good reference as well for future scales I will base off of it.
The traditional blues scale is going to consist of 1, b3, 4, #4, 5, b7, and 1. This is the blues scale that most everyone knows, and if you don’t know it, now you do. This scale is great for the blues obviously, but it can also be great to throw into jazz standards that have a more major feel to them. You can use the notes in this scale in any combination possible. Adding rhythmic concepts makes the blues scale the most entertaining, otherwise it can become a little boring after a while. We will get into more blues soloing techniques down the road but using the traditional blues scale with the natural 6 blues scale I posted last week combines for a great sound.
Try the following blues scale that uses the natural 6 instead of the flat 7. The natural 6 gives this blues scale a different texture and more majory sound at the end of the scale while still including the blues sounding notes in the beginning. Be sure to practice soloing with this scale in all keys!. Have fun!