Basic Bebop Reharmonization

If you took a quick survey and asked a few people to describe the components of bebop, you might come up with some answers like: “fast tempos, lots of notes, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, b9’s, b5’s, altered dominants, diminished scales.”

While all of these are true of the music, one of the most overlooked, but surprisingly simple devices of bebop is that of super-imposing chords over existing changes.

Aside from the essential rhythmic and melodic characteristics of the music, the practice of reharmonizing common chord changes, whether implied melodically by the soloist or explicitly stated harmonically by the rhythm section, was crucial to the innovations of bebop.

Dizzy Gillespie talks about this concept in his book with Al Fraser, To Be, or Not…To Bop:

We found out what the composers were doing by analyzing these tunes, and then added substitute chords to songs like “Night and Day,” “How High the Moon,” “Lover,” “What is this Thing Called Love,” and “Whispering.” When we borrowed from a standard, we added and substituted so many chords that most people didn’t know what song we really were playing. “How High the Moon” became “Ornithology” and “What is this Thing Called Love” became “Hot House.” … That was our thing in bebop, putting in substitutions. (p.207)

Many of the reharmonization techniques of the musicians of the 1940’s centered around super-imposing or substituting progressions, most commonly through the use of ii-V7’s, over the existing progressions of traditional standards. These traditional pop-tunes were predominantly composed of basic harmonies: Major chords (triads), minor chords, & V7 chords, and contained simple chord progressions that had little harmonic motion.

The progression below is an example of a static V7 chord commonly found in these traditional tunes:

Hey, Sorry to interrupt...

I know you were really enjoying this article and super excited to learn something new, but we have to stop you right there because this is an article for premium members only.

(Already a premium member? Log in here)

You see, we write a ton of articles, some of which you probably know and love - articles that explore the intricacies of jazz improvisation in a way that you may have not thought about before, giving you the advice you need to break through your plateau...

Occasionally, we'll go into even more detail. But this extra special content is just for our premium members.

You can unlock access to all of this premium content, too. It takes less than a minute and it's only $5 a month.

When you sign up for premium, you'll get:

  • Unrestricted access to every article on the site
  • Embedded member-only article content
  • Ability to print out any article as a customizable PDF for your practice room
  • Good karma knowing you're keeping Jazzadvice alive!
  • And, a whole lot more to come...

And here's the truth…

We almost gave up multiple times. Closed shop. Took the site down and called it quits. We've been really close a few times. You have to make some difficult decisions when you're doing something you love.

But we pushed through and kept going. And now with your help, we're rising to the challenge to make Jazzadvice even better!

So if you've ever shared one of our articles, or if you've ever learned something new from us that inspired you, propelled your playing forward, saved you from quitting or throwing your instrument (or yourself) out the window, consider joining premium to say thanks.

It's just a few bucks to make Jazzadvice even better, so we can focus on creating the most awesome jazz improvisation material on the planet for you.

Here's how it works:

  1. The $5 a month is billed yearly using PayPal or credit card
  2. You'll create a new Jazzadvice account, or if you've purchased from us before, use your email and password you used previously
  3. That's it! Log in, and you'll have premium access

Click the lovely button below to sign up to premium

Get Premium Now

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What payment methods do you accept?

A: You can easily pay by credit card or Paypal.

Q: How do I access my Premium Membership?

A: Once you sign up to Premium, you simply log in to your account. Then, all of of your premium content will automatically be unlocked for you.

Q: Do the Fundamental Courses come with Premium?

A: No. The Fundamental Courses are standalone, completely separate from your premium membership.

Q: I'm not a jazz musician. Will I still benefit from Premium?

A: Yes! No matter what style of music you play, you will benefit from Premium.

Q: Is there a money back guarantee or a refund if I don't like Premium?

A: No. We do not give refunds or money back guarantees. We hope you like Premium and we're constantly improving it, but you can of course choose whether or not to renew your annual subscription.

Q: I'm a beginner. Should I sign up to Premium?

A: Yes. While some of the articles in Premium are super advanced, Premium gives you the extra guidance and in-depth details that are especially useful for a beginner.

Q: I'm an intermediate or advanced player. Will I benefit from Premium?

A: Absolutely! Premium was made for you - the musicians that want the extra tips and direction to get to the next level.

Q: What instrument(s) is Premium for?

A: All instruments can use Premium

We're here to help...

If you have any questions at all about Premium, we're more than happy to answer them.