In this second lesson we are looking at the guitar-playing of Larry Coryell (1943-2017). In a book called Jazz Guitar he showed us how he approached the art of playing smooth jazz chord progressions on the guitar using a twelve-bar blues sequence like we looked at in Lesson one.
Remember that musicians do not use these chords in jazz alone. We use them in all styles of music even though we are basing today’s lesson around a jazz style. The second thing is that they do not belong to Larry Coryell or anyone. They evolved over a period of time so we can hear precedents in the European orchestral work of the Italian Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), French musician Erik Satie (1866-1925), George Gershwin (1898-1937) and Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and many others.
Still Coryell had his own way of doing things on the guitar and that is what we are looking at here.
Before we go into that though we should follow on from lesson one with something that every blues player either knows already or very quickly learns. You remember in lesson one how we played a twelve bar blues in C and used a C Minor Pentatonic scale to create melody with that? You can also use the minor Pentatonic that is three semitones below: that is A minor Pentatonic.
On the guitar that is: (TAB) 58 57 57 57 58 5. Often musicians use a variant of that scale the blues scale that just adds a few notes into that so: 58 567 57 578 58 5. So this scale works just fine as a basis for melody in the key of C and usually will sound fine in combination with exactly the same chords.
So to warm up play a twelve bar blues using the chord sequence from lesson one and combine it with notes from the Minor Pentatonic in A.
The second part of this lesson then is about chord substitution.
We often use four main techniques of what they call substitution. Instead of just staying on one chord for a whole bar we use other chords to add more movement to the musical texture, with the aim of creating a smooth or sometimes surprising transition from chord to chord. There are four well-known ways of doing chord substitution:
Moving by bass line,
Approaching chords by a semitone above or below, and
Chord extensions occur when you add extra notes, sometimes called higher harmonics onto the chords. So with a C7 chord with C E G Bb, we could add a third above D or the 9th note of the scale, and another third above the F the 11th. On the guitar that is often played x3x332 and if you look closely at that chord it is really Bb with a C in the bass. We use this chord very often in contemporary music. In this blues pattern we also use an F9 instead of F7. There are of course thousands of possible chord extensions way beyond what we are looking at in this lesson.
Substitution by bass line is a style we use the third of the chord or another note to effect a smooth transition to the next chord, for example C7 to C7/E, or using chromatic notes as in F7 to Gm7, we go through a diminished chord on F# to Gm7 A6 F#/A# G/B to C7. Hear the bass line G A Bb B C.
We could play our A minor pentatonic with this as well. Try it.
This lesson covered the use of the minor pentatonic three semitones below and a brief look at chord substitution. Please do more with this material than just copy it. Experiment with it and see how you can continue to find new ways to apply these techniques to make new sounds every time you play.
Remember music is best when we share it. Good luck. Stay in the groove and make it sound good.