An effective way to get better at improvisation is to learn musical vocabulary and then make it your own. As improvisers, we need to learn how to navigate through different musical situations. For example, a common one is being able to play over dominant 7th chords.
In this post, we will go over different musical phrases, also known as licks, to get better at improvising over dominant 7th chords. The purpose of learning these licks is to expand your vocabulary, break down the information and use them as a guide to create your own lines.
There are different variations of dominant chords, but in this post, we will only look the dominant 7th chord in its most basic form, without any alterations. All the examples will be over a G 7 chord.
Although these licks are written with guitar tabs, they can be applied to other instruments as well. Let’s start learning these 7 jazz and blues licks over a dominant 7 chord.
For the first lick, we are mostly thinking of diatonic notes (notes in the scale). The only exception is the approach note which is a half step below the 3rd of the chord.
For lick 2, we are highlighting two 6th intervals (B to G and A to F). We approach and connect them using chromatic notes (consecutive half steps). This pattern creates a classic blues style lick.
Lick 3 incorporates a triplet on beat two and also uses chromatic notes. This phrase highlights many chord tones on the strong beats. For example, the 3rd on beat 2, the 7th on beat 3 and the 5th on beat 1 of measure 2.
Lick 4 imposes a minor blues scale over the dominant 7 chord. This is essentially a minor pentatonic scale with an added blues note, which in this case is C#.
This jazz lick uses the dominant bebop scale which adds a half step between the b7 and root note.
For lick 6, we use 7th arpeggios within the diatonic notes. For example, we have an F Major 7 chord arpeggio on the first five notes of the phrase and a B minor 7 b5 arpeggio on the first four notes of measure 2.
This jazz lick uses upper extension chord tones within the scale. For example, the first 6 notes spell out a D minor 7 chord with the 9th (E) and 11th (G). We finished the phrase in descending scale motion while mixing in some chromatic approach notes.
Learning these 7 jazz and blues style licks over a dominant chord will help you learn music vocabulary. They can help you understand how musical phrases are created by using chord tones, scale notes, arpeggios, chromatic, approach notes, etc…
Since we only focused on playing over one dominant chord, I recommend trying to transpose these melodies over different dominant chords. This will not only help you retain the sound of each phrase in your ears but also challenge you to find different ways of playing the notes on your instrument.
If you liked this material, you might also be interested in this post on 9 ways to make your melody lines sound jazzy.
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