Playing the Changes (Part 2)

Friday, April 1, 2011


Here's another simple approach to improvising over jazz changes without using scales. In Part 1, I demonstrated how targeting the root, third, and fifth of each chord in a progression can make playing over changes easier. However, you can make your lines sound more sophisticated by superimposing minor triads in your solos. The figure below demonstrates how I would improvise over the same chord progression from Part 1 by primarily using minor triads, and is followed by a quick analysis of what I was thinking over each bar.
Bar 1: Over a minor 7 chord, play a minor triad a whole step above the root. (Eg. Fmin over Ebm7).

Bar 2:. Over an altered dominant 7 chord, play a minor triad one and a half steps above the root. (Eg. Ebmin over C7#9).

Bar 3: Over a maj7, play a minor triad a whole step above the root. (Eg. C#min over Bmaj7).

Bar 4: Over a ii-V, play a minor triad a whole step above the root of the V chord. (Eg. Cmin over Fm7-Bb7).

Notice that with this approach, you can play over all the changes by using the same minor triad shape built across 3 strings. Thinking of just minor triads instead of scales makes improvising a lot easier, especially at faster tempos or when you encounter quick ii-V changes as in bar 4. Furthermore, these simple triads introduce some interesting note choices to your lines. As a theory exercise, think about why these superimpositions work. What intervals or extensions do they create over each chord? Have fun practicing this approach and tune in to Part 3 for more simplified strategies for playing over changes! Do you want a song or solo transcribed / tabbed out for you? Contact me at for info - rates are competitive and delivery is quick!