Archive for the ‘Chords’ Category

How to Learn Chord Changes Straight Off a Recording: A Handbook [Free Download]

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Learn chord changes from a recording

Learning a tune straight from a recording is THE way to learn it. But the most difficult part is always deciphering the chord changes…

And it’s certainly not an easy task compared to the alternative of simply grabbing a fake book and looking up the chord changes.

But there are huge benefits to learning the chord changes with your ear straight from the recording rather than just looking them up.

Many times, the chord changes you find in fake books are incomplete or just plain wrong, but the main thing is that you’re missing out on a HUGE growth opportunity every time you just look up the chords, instead of at least trying to figure out the chords for yourself.

The process of figuring out the chord changes to a tune with YOUR ear and mind will help you grow as a musician, greatly improve your ear, and help you to permanently learn the changes on a deep level that you won’t forget.

So if it’s so great to learn the changes straight from the recording, how come people avoid it? Well, simply put: it’s hard.

Or, at least people think it is…

They tried it once, it was difficult, and that was it.

But with the right process guiding you through each step and a little kick in the right direction, you CAN do it.

Download the FREE Handbook on Learning Chord Changes Straight From a Recording

Download the handbook

Download it now and enjoy … Read More

10 Diminished Patterns That Will Transform Your Next Jazz Solo…

Friday, April 8th, 2016


What comes to mind when you hear the word diminished?

A chord? A scale?

“Wait, is it whole-steps and half-steps…or the other way around?”

If you’re like most players, the diminished sound often creates more questions than answers…

But it’s a sound that the greatest players – from John Coltrane to Michael Brecker and beyond – have used to add harmonic complexity and melodic interest to their solos.

And it’s one that you can use in your solos as well…if you have the know-how.

You see, the premise of a diminished chord or pattern is simple, but when you start applying this sound to your solos, the details can get complex very quickly.

And this is exactly what we’re going to look at today…

Stacking minor thirds…

Before we start digging in to these diminished patterns, you need to start with an understanding the structure of the diminished chord.

And luckily it’s pretty straightforward, a fully diminished chord is simply a stack of minor 3rds…

Diminished structure

Because the construction of these chords is symmetrical, there are only 3 diminished options: a stack of minor 3rds from C, from C#, and from D. That’s it – the pattern just repeats itself.

The most common way you’ll use this sound in your solos is over dominant chords. Applying this diminished structure over a V7 sound is an easy way to access the altered notes of a dominant chord in a logical way.

And again, since the construction of the structure is symmetrical … Read More

5 Steps to Becoming A Lyrical Master With Altered Dominants: A Lesson With Stan Getz

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Playing Lyrically Over ALtered Dominant Chords

Alterations are at the heart of jazz…

In no other genre of music can you freely alter chords in a such a fluid and flexible manner. As chords whiz by, the soloist has the freedom to add all sorts of chord alterations to their melodic lines.

But it requires a sense of how these altered chord tones behave and a certain kind of know-how to use them effectively.

The best place to start experimenting with alterations is over the dominant chord because that’s where you have the most options. But, if you’ve ever tried to alter a dominant chord before, you know that it’s not that easy.

Here’s the situation…

You’re about to play over a dominant chord. You see this on a lead sheet, or you know a tune by heart…


… and your thought process might go something like this…

Which scale should I play

Your initial reaction? Scales. You think to yourself…

“What scale am I going to play if I want to alter the dominant chord?” Clearly not the boring old Mixolydian and after a moment of thought, you now believe you have several options to approach dominant alterations, and then even more scales come to mind…

More scale options

So now that you have your scale choices, you think you’re all good. But then when you go to play, why do things not sound right? Why does it sound mechanical? Why does it sound forced?

What are professionals doing that makes their use of alterations sound so good and how can I do Read More

A Lesson With Bill Evans: 14 Techniques to Master the Minor ii V Progression

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

A Lesson With Pianist Bill Evans

What do you play over a minor ii V?

Minor ii Vs are notoriously tricky. As compared to their brother, the ii V in major, the ii V in minor adds quite a few more challenges.

First off, instead of a minor 7 ii chord, it has a minor 7 b5 ii chord. This causes a world of pain for most people. They simply don’t know what to play over this chord.

It’s actually not that difficult if you master the chord tones instead of thinking of scales all the time. Sure, you can do what everyone teaches you to do and think of the Locrian mode, but that will only get you so far. You need to get beyond that and not suck at half diminished chord.

Ok, so once you’ve learned how how not suck at half diminished chords it’s time to understand what’s going on with the dominant chord in a minor ii V…

As you’ll see, I simply label them as dominant chords and don’t add any alterations to the symbol. Why? Because alterations can be implied even on a standard V chord. Simplify your life by just thinking of them as a dominant chord with all sorts of flavors you can add to it or modify.

When you look at charts of jazz standards, you’ll see that the editors add in alterations to the V7 chord in a minor ii V, and in general, you’ll hear alterations at this point, however, who’s to say … Read More

Stuck on Rhythm Changes? Here Are 4 Coltrane Concepts That’ll Set You Free

Thursday, December 17th, 2015


Every improviser has to face it at some point…

We’re talking about those 32 bars of music that you know as Rhythm Changes.

Sure it’s easy enough to sing the melody…

And you’ve heard all the recordings of famous musicians playing circles around this familiar chord progression.

But when it comes improvising your own solos it can be tough.

A single scale doesn’t work and the chords are changing too quickly to think about music theory or those fancy lines you’ve memorized.

To sound great on this tune you need something else…

Time to learn from an expert

So what are you going to do?

You can look in books for patterns. You can think about music theory. You can even try to fake it with a few scales.

But that’s not music…at least not the kind you would pay to hear at a concert.

To start playing the way you envision, you need to get answers from someone that knows what they’re doing. And that means searching for the best recordings and learning why those players sound great.

When you transcribe the solo of a master musician and figure out why it works it’s like having a mentor tap you on the shoulder to say, Hey, instead of that stuff you’ve been playing, try playing it like this!”

Let’s take a listen to John Coltrane’s solo on Oleo from the album Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet:

Sounds great, right? Now what you can learn from this … Read More

5 Easy Tricks With Approach Notes That Will Make You Sound Like a Pro

Monday, November 30th, 2015


Ever wonder how the best players seem to improvise brilliant lines without any effort?

All while you’re struggling to make even the simplest chord tones sound good…

If you’re like most players you know this frustration. However, the solution doesn’t lie with a hidden secret or advanced music theory – it all goes back to the musical foundation that you already know.

By now you should be able to visualize the root and chord tones of any chord.

But knowing this information is only the starting point. The trick lies in making music out of these harmonic building blocks.

Pat Metheny quote

So how do you start with the basic notes of a chord and turn them into a solo that sounds good? How do you transform a few boring triads into music that people actually want to listen to??

As you’ll soon see, the gap between memorized theory and musical solos is closer than you think – you just need to know a few tricks.

It’s all about your approach…

Many of the complex lines that you hear in your favorite solos aren’t based on fancy scales.

Or even complex chords…

They are rooted in the basic structures found in every common chord: the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th.

One way improvisers create complex lines with limited material is through the use of chromatic approach notes.

For example listen to the opening of Dizzy Gillespie’s arrangement of Blue n’ Boogie:

Blue n' Boogie


Without the ornamentation or 16th notes the line … Read More

How to Turn Boring Theory into Your Next Brilliant Solo…

Thursday, November 5th, 2015


You may think you know music theory…

And you’re probably willing to bet good money that you know the chords to your favorite tunes.

Most musicians would…

Hell, a few years ago I would’ve looked you straight in the eyes and said without a doubt that I knew all the music theory that I need to know.

But here’s the thing – As a performing musician knowing this stuff isn’t good enough…

To create your own music in front of an audience, you have to transform this mental knowledge into living and breathing sound. You need to be able to play it on your instrument.

You need to be able to improvise with it.

And to get there you must do some very specific things…

How to learn anything in 3 steps

In our last post, we uncovered the essential elements of jazz theory that you need to know.

But this information is only useful if you can do something with it in your solos.

Today we’re going to show you how to transform those elements of jazz theory or those tunes you’re learning into usable knowledge. To get you from the point of “knowing it” to the point of improvising with it.

And this process has 3 steps…

For anything that you want to learn the steps are the same: Memorization, Repetition and Visualization.

It could be a scale that you’re learning in your private lessons, a tricky chord in a jazz band chart, or the changes to … Read More

Why Jazz Theory Is Easier Than You Think…

Thursday, October 29th, 2015


Let me guess…

You’re smart. You know your stuff. And you have a sparkle in your eyes when you talk about music.

You take lessons and you play in a band, and when you find a few free minutes you’re practicing your instrument.

But when you improvise it doesn’t sound like you at all.

No matter how hard you try, you’re always stuck at square one thinking about the right notes to play.

You copy licks and insert scales into your lines — but now your solo sounds lame. You try yet another new melodic concept. That’s even worse.

The problem isn’t your effort or even your talent…

It goes back to the same thing that’s stopping many fine players from getting the music that’s inside their minds out of their instruments.

I’m talking about the trap of music theory.

What exactly is music theory?

Music theory means many things to many different people…

To some it’s a confusing mess of letter names and scales. Each solo is a struggle to make sense of F#’s and Ab7’s, melodic minor scales, dorian modes, circles of 4ths and 5ths…

To others it’s a class that they begrudgingly take filled with dry text books and rules about every aspect of a musical line.

And for some it’s a system of notes and chords that they hold on to for dear life so they can play the “right notes” in a solo.

But if you step back for a moment you’ll see that … Read More

How To Create Your Own Jazz Exercises From a Transcribed Line

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Create your own jazz exercises from transcribing

You hear it over and over…

Just transcribe. You want to get better? Transcribe. You want to have a better sound. Transcribe. Can’t seem to play over Rhythm Changes? Transcribe.

And yes, when people tell you this, they’re correct. You can learn pretty much anything you want from transcribing. But, what they don’t tell you is that you need to use what you transcribe to inspire your own creativity.

Last week we talked about running from your own creativity, and today we’re going to show you how to combine your own creativity with what you’re transcribing to create your very own jazz exercises.

Why create your own exercises?

When I was 16, I had the privilege of meeting and talking to saxophonist Sam Rivers. You likely don’t know who he was, but he was pretty awesome and had a very unique way of playing and composing.

I’ll never forget what he told me about his own musical journey. He said:

“Eventually I realized I had to make my own exercise book.”

Say what? Your own exercise book? Yes. Your own exercise book. Hearing this was a huge revelation. Not one I fully understood until over a decade later. And, not one that I’ve implemented even half as well as I should have, but nonetheless, this concept is a big deal.

By creating your own exercises, you apply your own creativity, you cultivate what is yours, you develop things in your own way, you move closer toward your … Read More

5 Skills You Won’t Learn in School, Skill Two: How to Turn Music Theory into Music

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Turn Music Theory Into Music

Have you ever thrown your hands up in frustration trying to understand music theory?

Have you ever found yourself lost and panicking in a solo as you search for the right scale or chord to play?

Many frustrated musicians run into this wall every time they try to take a solo.

From the outside improvising looks easy. You just pick up an instrument, call a tune, and play the music you’re hearing in your head…

However, the moment you try to create a solo yourself or improvise in a difficult key you quickly realize it’s a little more complicated.

So you look in text books, you take lessons, and you sign up for classes. Before you know it your head is overflowing with music theory information, but for some annoying reason it’s not coming out in your solos.

So let’s stop and think about all of this in more practical terms…

How exactly do you turn that music theory in your mind into music on your instrument?

Learning practical music theory

There are two sides to music theory.

On one side is the music theory you learn about in books and school. The construction and building blocks of music, the theory behind scales, chords and tunes, and the flood of musical terminology.

And then there’s the theory that you actually use when you’re performing. The tools you have for navigating chords and progressions, the artistic tools you have for sharing a musical message with the listener.

Music theory information is

Read More
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