Soloing with Block Chords Part 6: Major

Antonio Carlos Jobim: Wave

Antonio Carlos Jobim: Wave

Good music should reflect life! Life has it’s ups and downs, happy and sad, rain and sunshine, winter and summer …tension and release. The beauty of anything is so much more vivid when seen in contrast to ugly. If I knock over a glass of water it causes tension as it falls then a release after it smashes and spills. Life and music are all about tension and release. In life you often can’t control this, but, when you improvise, play music, and compose, it is arguably your greatest tool. When I hear music that has only tension and little release, I feel unsettled afterward. Perhaps this is the desired effect of the composer / musicians. When I hear music that is only happy I want to vomit, again, perhaps this is the desired effect.
In this mini-series about block chords, I have waited as long as possible to talk about resolution (or release). I feel that covering the tensions available is where the meat of a line comes from and decided to give it priority for a while. Well, the time has come the walrus said … to talk of many resolutions.

The Raw Material

Let’s first have a look at the inversions of a FMajor7 chord (ex.1). I often change the root inversion and the 2nd inversion to F69 chords(ex.2). I find them a little easier to grab and I think they sound more modern due to their stacked 4th structure.

F Major Inversions

F Major Inversions

Now, let’s add some tensions to the inversions. I often use these next voicings when I want a resolution with a 9, #11 or 13 in the melody of the chord. Note that the 11 or 4 has been replaced with a #11. The 4 is often called the avoid note. It sounds odd in a major 7 chord. There may be times when you would use it, but for landing a line on some type of resolution, we will just raise it a half step to the #11.

F Major Scale Harmonized

F Major Scale Harmonized

The last bit of raw material is what I like to call the Wes Montgomery thing. We have seen it in previous posts. This technique involves harmonizing chord tones with inversions of a FMajor7 or FMajor6, and harmonizing non chord-tones (tensions) with a diminished chord that implies a C7b9. This gives us a 5 to 1 resolution built into scale harmonization of a Major be-bop scale (1,2,3,4,5,#5,6,7). The major be-bop scale will land the 1,3,5 and 6 on strong beats (if we choose and if played correctly). Also note we are using the natural 11 in this example. The natural 11 sounds like the b7 of the C7b9 chord we are using to harmonize it with.

FMajor7 Scale Harmonized with passing diminished

FMajor7 Scale Harmonized with passing diminished

FMajor7 Scale with passing dim. middle strings

FMajor7 Scale with passing dim. middle strings

FMajor7 Scale with passing dim. low strings

FMajor7 Scale with passing dim. low strings

Some Musical Examples

Here are a couple of licks I threw together. I suggest you look over my previous posts about block chords and see the 2 5 1 resolutions I used.(I you want some more examples). Also do some listening to Wes Montgomery. Pick out lines,licks and chords you like and make them a part of your playing. Be sure to attach new information to material you already know how to play. This will help you remember and integrate it into your playing.

Lick 1 over C Major 7

Lick 1 over C Major 7

Lick 2 over F Major 7

Lick 2 over F Major 7

Lick 3 over Bb Major 7

Lick 3 over Bb Major 7

Essential Wes Montgomery Listening

Learn More about Wes Montgomery’s style

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2 Responses to Soloing with Block Chords Part 6: Major

  1. mark says:

    Is the 3rd example (w/ passing diminished chords) similar to the Barry Harris system of harmony? 6/diminished scales & chords? I haven’t been able to get my hands on it because I’m in India, but there is supposed to be a great book by Alan Kingstone on this subject.
    Please let me know if you can shed some more light on this.
    And also, I love your site. Please keep the posts coming.

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