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All of Me – Chord and Single Note Soloing

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 05:43

Jazz Standard Study Guides Volume 2

There’s something sophisticated and cool about jazz guitarists that solo and comp for themselves over a tune. Players such as Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Lenny Breau, and others have made this type of soloing, mixed chords and single notes, a stable of their jazz guitar voice.

While you may love those players, and mixed chords-notes soloing, you might not know where to start.

In this lesson, you learn about exercises you can work on to develop this side of your jazz guitar improvisational approach.

As well, there’s a study over All of Me that you can learn to bring a practical, musical example of this approach into your studies.

Soloing and Comping Exercise

Before you learn the study below, you can work on creating your own mixed single note and comping solo over this, or any, jazz standard.

To work on this concept in your own playing, use the following outline as a progressive way to work the exercise.

When soloing, you can use any device you’re studying, such as scales, arpeggios, and licks.

As well, you can use any chord voicing that you know or are studying, such as drop 2, drop 3, or 4th chords.

Here’s the breakdown for working soloing and comping over any jazz standard in your guitar solos.

  • Solo for 8 bars – Comp for 8 bars
  • Solo for 4 bars – Comp for 4 bars
  • Solo for 2 bars – Comp for 2 bars
  • Solo for 1 bar – Comp for 1 bar
  • Solo and comp at will


After you work on the study below, or even before if you feel ready, give these exercises a try over All of Me.

Then, take these exercises to any jazz standard you know or are studying to take these concepts further in your practice routine.

Soloing and Comping Study

Now that you know how to practice adding comping to your solos, you can learn a study that mixes single notes and chords over All of Me.

In this study, you solo for two bars and then comp for two bars, running the form with that formula for a whole chorus.

Notice that the single lines start at least an 8th note after the last chord, and end about an 8th note or more before the next chord. This allows you to switch from comping to soloing and back again without tripping up on a fast change. Keep this in mind when working on your own mixed single note and comping solos.

Once you have this study under your fingers, you can expand upon this exercise to use it as a stepping-stone in your own playing.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Play the chords as written but you make up the single notes.
  • Change the rhythms for the chords but keep notes same.
  • Keep the single notes as written but make up your own chords.
  • Make up your own single notes and chords throughout.


Lastly, because it’s a long solo, 32 bars, start learning it one 4-bar phrase at a time. Learn bars 1-4, then when that’s comfortable, learn bars 5-8. Then, mix bars 1-4 and 5-8 together as you build an 8-bar phrase.

Continue through the study this way to make it more manageable to learn and not overwhelming in the practice room.

Now that you know how to practice this study, have fun learning it!


Backing Track


Play Along





Check out our Jazz Standard Study Guides, 10 eBooks that teach you how to play the chords and solo over 10 classic jazz standards:

Jazz Standard Study Guides Volume 1: All of Me, Autumn Leaves, Corcovado, In a Sentimental Mood, Summertime
Jazz Standard Study Guides Volume 2: Blue Bossa, Four on Six, Misty, Take Five, There Will Never Be Another You

Click here to get a discount and buy the Jazz Standard Study Guides Volume 1 & 2 Bundle


Jazz Standard Study Guides Volume 2

The post All of Me – Chord and Single Note Soloing appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

String Skipping – Chops Builder and Soloing

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 07:02

Jazz Guitar Monster Chops

Working on guitar technique can often seem as separate from your soloing workout. You learn technique, put that away, then work on soloing concepts, keeping both separate in the woodshed. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. When you choose the right exercises, you can build your chops and increase your soloing vocabulary at the same time.

One of these exercises is string skipping.

String skipping builds coordination, dexterity, and fluidness in both your fretting and picking hands from a chops perspective. It also helps you break out of running up and down scales in your solos, something that handcuffs many jazz guitarists when soloing.

Use the material in this lesson to build your technique, then take string-skipping to your solos as you add this technique to your soloing ideas as well.

String Skipping – The Major Scale

The first string-skipping exercise runs that concept through a major scale shape.

The pattern is built by playing every second string (6-4-5-3-4-2-3-1), skipping a string in the process.

Go slow with this first exercise, especially if this is your first run at string skipping. Start without tempo, then when you get the hang of the exercise, put on a metronome and work slowly in time on this pattern.

From there, increase the tempo to challenge yourself further, and take it to other keys when ready. If you know other major scale fingerings, you can take this pattern to any major scale shape you know.


Audio Example 1


technique 1


String Skipping – The Melodic Minor Scale

Moving on, here’s the same string-skipping concept applied to a melodic minor scale shape.

Run this exercise slowly with a metronome in the given key to get started. When that’s comfortable, slowly raise the metronome to increase the speed and difficulty of the exercise.

Lastly take it to other keys as you move this shape around the fretboard, build your chops, and increase your soloing vocabulary at the same time.


Audio Example 2



Going Further

Now that you worked two different scales with the string-skipping technique, you can take that concept further. To get you started, here are two scale shapes to learn and apply the string skipping technique to. Memorize these scales and then put on a metronome and run string skipping through these shapes.

Speed up the metronome over time, and when ready, take these shapes to other keys in your studies.

Lastly, after you work these two fingerings, take the string-skipping concept to any and all scales you know or are working on.


C Mixolydian Scale


Guitar technique C Mixolydian scale


G# Altered Scale

Guitar technique G# Altered scale

String Skipping Blues Solo

Now that you’ve learned how to use string skipping to build technique when working scales, you take that technique to a blues solo. This 12-bar solo uses mostly string skips, with a few non-skips thrown in here and there for variety.

Learn this solo to bring string skipping to a musical situation. When ready, put on the backing track and jam along to the G blues progression below, creating your own string-skipping lines along the way.


Backing Track


Audio Track




Jazz Guitar Monster Chops

The post String Skipping – Chops Builder and Soloing appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

Guitar Arpeggios For Beginners

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 05:42

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Arpeggios


In this lesson you’ll learn how to play guitar arpeggios, how to use arpeggios to improvise over chord changes and jazz standards, as well as the music theory involved. Just like scales, arpeggios are an essential building block of the jazz player’s vocabulary and give your solos that instant “jazzy” flavor (if done right). That’s why understanding, practicing and mastering arpeggios is a necessity for all jazz guitarists.


What Are Guitar Arpeggios and How Do They Work?

Here is the definition of the word arpeggio:

An arpeggio is a broken chord, where the notes of the chord are played in succession instead of simultaneously.

Arpeggios are used in all genres of music, such as jazz, blues, rock, metal, classical music, pop, etc. In jazz (and metal) arpeggios are used differently compared to other genres of music.

In pop music for example, an arpeggio on guitar is usually used for accompaniment. Instead of playing or strumming the notes of a chord simultaneously, the individual notes of the chord are played in succession by applying a finger picking pattern, usually on acoustic guitar.

Here’s an example of how an Am arpeggio can be used in pop music. The base of this arpeggio is a basic Am chord shape and the notes of the chord are not muted after they are played, but ring together.


Am arpeggio


In jazz (and blues, metal, etc), arpeggios are used for soloing instead of accompaniment. In contrast to arpeggios used in other genres of music, the notes of a jazz guitar arpeggio are usually played with a plectrum (unless you play fingerstyle) and muted after they are played, so they don’t ring together. Another contrast is that these arpeggios are not based on a chord shape.

Here’s an example of how an Am arpeggio would be played in jazz:


Am7 arpeggio


In this tutorial we will be focusing on the jazz-type of arpeggios.

What Are Arpeggios Used For?

Why learn guitar and practice guitar arpeggios? Because arpeggios are a great tool to improvise over chord progressions and jazz standards:

  • Playing arpeggios in your guitar solo will outline the harmony of the tune (contrary to scales). This gives your improvisation a sense of direction, making it more interesting to listen to.
  • Arpeggios make it easier to improvise a nice voice leading, making your solos more melodic.
  • You can use arpeggios to add color and complexity to your solos by using substitutions.

How To Start Using Arpeggios

Now, which arpeggios should you learn?

Every jazz guitarists needs to know how to play the arpeggios of all chord types in all positions of the guitar neck.

This may not seem a simple task, but with a good practice routine, you will be able to play all arpeggios without thinking in a relative short period of time.

So, before learning how to use arpeggios in guitar solos, let’s get started by learning the basic positions.

Basic Arpeggio Shapes: Minor, Dominant and Major

We’re going to learn the basic arpeggio shapes (aka grips) by looking at the most common chord progression in jazz, the 2 5 1 (II V I).

In this example we’ll be working with a 2 5 1 progression in the key of G major:

Am7 D7 Gmaj7 %
ii V I


To play over this kind of chord progression, you need 3 types of arpeggios: minor, dominant and major.


The Minor Arpeggio

Here are the arpeggio notes of the Am7 chord:

Am7 Arpeggio A C E G
1 b3 5 b7


And here is the guitar arpeggio shape for the Am7 chord:

Guitar root note red dots represent the root or 1 of the guitar chord.

Guitar noteblack dots represent the other chord notes. The letters are the note names.


Minor arpeggio diagram


Here is the same arpeggio in relation to its scale (A Dorian) and chord (Am7):

 Am7 arpeggio vs A Dorian scale                                       Am7 arpeggio vs Am7 chord

Am7 arpeggio, scale and chord


Am7 Arpeggio Exercise #1: practice the A minor arpeggio as notated on the tabs below (until it flows naturally):

Listen & Play:


Minor arpeggio tabs


Am7 Arpeggio Exercise #2: you can also practice by playing the chord before the arpeggio, a good exercise for your ears.

Listen & Play:


Minor arpeggio tab


Arpeggio Patterns

Here are 2 arpeggio patterns that are a little more technically advanced, practicing these is optional, but a good exercise to get the arpeggio shapes under your fingers. I’ve written out these patterns for Am7 only, but you can use the same pattern on all arpeggios, including the dominant and major arpeggios that follow.


Am7 Arpeggio Pattern #1: This first pattern plays the arpeggio in 5th and 4th intervals, achieved by skipping notes:

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio pattern 1


Am7 Arpeggio Pattern #2: this pattern divides the arpeggio in groups of 3 notes:

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio pattern 2




The Dominant Arpeggio

We go on to the notes and formula of the D7 chord:

D7 Arpeggio D F# A C
1 3 5 b7


Dominant guitar arpeggio diagram


Here is the same arpeggio in relation to its scale (D Mixolydian) and chord (D7):

 D7 arpeggio vs D Mixolydian scale                                    D7 arpeggio vs D7 chord

D7 arpeggio, chord and scale


D7 Arpeggio Exercise #1: Get this dominant arpeggio in your fingers by practicing like you did for the Am7 chord:

Listen & Play:


Dominant arpeggio tabs


D7 Arpeggio Exercise #2: Similar to the minor arpeggio examples, you can also play the chord before the arpeggio:

Listen & Play:


Dominant arpeggio tab


The Major Arpeggio

And then we arrive at the last chord of the chord progression, the Gmaj7 chord:

Gmaj7 Arpeggio G B D F#
1 3 5 7


Major arpeggio diagram


Here is the same arpeggio in relation to its scale (G Major aka G Ionian Scale) and chord (Gmaj7):

Gmaj7 arpeggio vs G major scale                                       Gmaj7 arpeggio vs Gmaj7 chord

Gmaj7 arpeggio, chord and scale


Gmaj7 Arpeggio Exercise #1: Practice this major arpeggio the way we did for the minor and dominant arpeggio:

Listen & Play:


Major arpeggio tabs


Gmaj7 Arpeggio Exercise #2: And with the Gmaj7 chord in front of the arpeggio:

Listen & Play:



Movable Shapes

One thing you need to know: all arpeggio shapes are movable. If you know the arpeggio for Am7 you can use that same ‘shape’ to find the arpeggios for other minor chords.

For example: let’s say you want to find the arpeggio for Gm7. All we have to do is slide the Am7 arpeggio shape 2 frets down. Instead of starting on the 5th fret (in case of Am7), we start on the 3rd fret for Gm7. You move the root of the arpeggio and play the shape from there, like this:


Movable arpeggio shapes


Combining The 3 Basic Arpeggio Shapes

We know the basic positions for the arpeggios, now we’re going to combine them so the arpeggios follow the 251 chord progression.


Exercise #1 – Ascending
The first thing we’ll practice is playing the arpeggios ascending, starting from the root. This exercise is not very musical and you will never use them like this for improvisation, but it’s a necessary step in learning how to play arpeggios.

Listen & Play:


ii V I arpeggios ascending


Exercise #2 – Descending
Next, we’ll play the arpeggios descending:

Listen & Play:


ii V I Arpeggios descending


Exercise #3 – Alternating
The next step is alternating the arpeggios. We do this by playing the first arpeggio (Am7) for 1 bar and then switch to the nearest note of the second arpeggio (D7) in the second bar. The same happens when we switch to the third arpeggio (Gmaj7).

Listen & Play:


ii V I guitar arpeggio example


Exercise #4 – Alternating Variation

Let’s have a look at another alternating example, starting from a different location of the guitar neck. Instead of starting the Am7 arpeggio on the low E-string, we will start it on the high E-string:

Listen & Play:


ii V I arpeggio example


When you’ve got these basic arpeggio shapes under your fingers, the following (important) step is to start improvising using these shapes. Practicing arpeggios starting from the root in streams of 1/8 notes is an important step in the learning process, but not very musical. Once you got this step under your fingers, it’s important to get creative so you don’t end up sounding like a robot on stage…

Arpeggios can be started on any note and played in any order. You can mix notes, skip notes and use any rhythm you can think of. Be creative!


Arpeggio Lick #1
Here’s a more musical example, using the same arpeggio shapes over the same 251 chord progression, but with a variety in rhythm and note order:

Listen & Play:


ii V I arpeggio combination tabs


Now start to improvise yourself, using only the basic shapes you learned so far. Use the backing track to make sure you make the arpeggio change at the right time.

Arpeggio Charts

So far in this tutorial we worked with arpeggio shapes that have their root on the E-string (Am7 and Gmaj7) or on the A-string (D7). There are of course a lot of other positions these arpeggios can be played.

The following charts in the list below are an overview of arpeggio positions for the most common chord types. The big diagram shows all the notes of the arpeggio over the entire neck, the smaller diagrams beneath it show the individual arpeggio grips.

All 22 grips below need to be memorized and practiced so you can play them fluently and without hesitation…


Major Arpeggios (Gmaj7)


Major guitar arpeggio chart



Those of you familiar with the CAGED system, will recognize that the 5 Gmaj7 arpeggio shapes above correspond with the 5 basic chord shapes (C A G E D):

Guitar arpeggios caged system



Minor Arpeggios (Am7)


Minor guitar arpeggio chart


Dominant Arpeggios (D7)


Dominant guitar arpeggio chart


Half-Diminished Arpeggios (Bm7b5)


Half diminished guitar arpeggio chart


Diminished Arpeggios (B°7 = D°7 = F°7 = Ab°7)

Only 2 grips for diminished chords because diminished chords are symmetrical (learn more about diminished chords here).


Diminished guitar arpeggio chart

Arpeggios of the C Major Scale

A good exercise to practice the arpeggio shapes above is to play the arpeggios of the chords of the C major scale in 1 position.

Here are the diatonic chords in the key of C (if you’re not sure where these chords come from, have a look at our Chord Tutorial):

Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bm7b5


C Major Scale Arpeggios Exercise #1
In this exercise we play every chord arpeggio for the length of 1 bar, while staying in the 7th position (more about guitar positions).

Listen & Play:


C major scale arpeggios exercise


C Major Scale Arpeggios Exercise #2
This is the same exercise as above, but this time starting in 2nd position:

Listen & Play:


C major scale arpeggios exercise


Practice this exercise in all positions of the guitar neck.

Spicing It Up – Approach Notes

Arpeggios relate directly to the chord you’re soloing over, but they can sound a bit plain, as they offer nothing new to that chord. To help you avoid this in your solos, you’ll have a look at some common chromatic techniques over arpeggios.

The first arpeggio concept is called approach notes, where you approach any note in an arpeggio by one fret below. When doing so, you create a tension and release sound in your lines.

The only rule is that you can’t resolve to the chromatic notes. So, if you play an approach note, you then have to play a chord tone afterwards.


Here’s an example of this technique in action, as you approach each note in an Am7 arpeggio from a fret below. The approach notes are in blue so you can easily see them on the fretboard. After you’ve worked this exercise over Am7, take it to other keys and arpeggio types in your solos:

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio approach notes 1


Here’s the reverse of the previous exercise as you now descend an Am7 arpeggio with approach notes.

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio approach notes 2


Here’s a lick that uses arpeggios and approach notes as you bring this concept to a musical situation. Learn this lick in the given key, then take it to other keys if you can. From there, write out a few licks of your own over this progression.

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio approach notes 3

Spicing It Up: Enclosures

The next bebop technique uses two chromatic notes for each arpeggio note, as you encircle chord tones in your lines.

When playing enclosures, you play one fret above, then one fret below, then the chord tone.

There are a number of enclosures that you can use in your solos, but this is the best one to start with as it’s the most commonly used.


Here’s an example of an enclosure as applied at an Am7 arpeggio, ascending a two-octave version of that arpeggio. Work this exercise with a metronome in as many keys as you can, and then take it to other arpeggio shapes.

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio enclosures 1


The next exercise reverses the previous one, as you now descend an Am7 arpeggio with enclosures.

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio enclosures 2


Here’s a lick that uses arpeggio enclosures over a ii V I vi progression in G major. After you learn this lick, write out 2-3 of your own that use arpeggios and enclosures in its construction.

Listen & Play:


Arpeggio enclosures 3

Autumn Leaves Arpeggio Study

To complete our arpeggio tutorial, we will learn how to use arpeggios in a song. To get you started applying arpeggios over chord changes, here is a solo over Autumn Leaves that uses arpeggios and concepts from this section.

Work the solo one phrase at a time until you can put everything together to form the solo as a whole. From there, you can play it along with the audio example, as well as solo over the backing track as you create your own arpeggio solos over this tune.


Listen & Play:


Autumn Leaves arpeggio study page 1


Autumn Leaves arpeggio study page 2


This lesson is available as a printable PDF (a part of our Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Guitar) for our newsletter subscribers. If you are not subscribed to our free newsletter, fill out the form below and download your PDF:

PDF download


Now you have learned the basics of arpeggios. If you want to progress and learn more about how to use arpeggios in your soloing, check out our step-by-step eBook, The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Arpeggios


The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Arpeggios

The post Guitar Arpeggios For Beginners appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

Introduction to Gypsy Jazz Blues Guitar

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 10:55

Gypsy jazz blues guitar video course


The first thing I learned to play on guitar was the blues, and I guess that’s the case for the majority of guitar players. Blues has it all, it has a very expressive form and sound and is the best place to master the core elements of jazz playing, such as keeping the form, giving each chord its own sound and the use of substitutes.

One of the difficulties I had during my early years of guitar playing was transitioning from playing the minor pentatonic scale over the entire blues form to giving each chord its own sound and making the blues sound jazzy.

In this free lesson I’ll show you how I started this transition from playing a “bluesy” blues to a more “jazzy” blues.

Here’s what you will learn in this lesson:

  • WHY blues is your ticket to jazz.
  • HOW to make the transition from playing blues with one pentatonic scale to playing jazz, giving each chord its own sound.
  • WHAT the best sounding substitutes for the I-VI-II-V progression of the turnaround are.

Introduction to Gypsy Jazz Blues Guitar Video


Gypsy Jazz Blues Soloing [Starting at 1:49 in the video]

Here’s the basic blues chord progression (in the key of G), together with the chord voicings and scales we are going to use:


Gypsy jazz blues chord progression and scales


To give each chord its own sound, we’ll start with 2 scales, the G major blues scale (to play over the G13) and the G minor blues scale (to play over C9 and D9).


The G Major Blues Scale [3:56 in the video]

The G major blues scale has the same notes as the G major pentatonic scale, but with an added blue note. This blue note is the b3 of the scale (Bb in G):


G Major Blues Scale G A Bb B D E
1 2 b3 3 5 6


Here’s the scale diagram of the G major blues scale with the root on the 6th string:


G major blues scale diagram


The G Minor Blues Scale

The G minor blues scale has the same notes as the G minor pentatonic scale, but with an added blue note. The blue note for the minor scale is different compared to the major scale blue note, it is the b5 of the scale (Db in G):


G Minor Blues Scale G Bb C Db D F
1 b3 4 b5 5 b7


Here’s the scale diagram for the G minor blues scale with the root on the 6th string:


G minor blues scale diagram

The Gypsy Blues Progression [Starting at 8:08 in the video]

Next, we’ll move away from the basic blues progression and add some variation. This is the blues chord progression that is commonly used in gypsy jazz (in the key of C):


Gypsy jazz blues chord progression in C

The Turnaround (I-vi-ii-V) and Its Substitutes [Starting at 10:19 in the video]

You might have noticed that the turnaround chord progression (the last 4 bars of the previous blues progression) doesn’t sound very bluesy. To remedy that, we’ll have a look at some common chord substitutions for the I-vi-ii-V turnaround progression.


Substitute #1 – The Secondary Dominant [11:10 in the video]

The secondary dominant is a dominant chord that leads into any chord in the song other than the 1st degree.

The primary dominant of a blues in C is G7, which you’ll find in bars 10 and 12. The secondary dominant is a dominant chord that leads to any other degree in the scale. You will always find the secondary dominant on the 5th degree of the chord you want to lead to.

In the following example we replace:

  1. Am7 with A7: A7 is a secondary dominant chord that will lead to the target chord Dm7 (A is the 5th degree of D).
  2. Dm7 with D7: D7 is the secondary dominant chord of G7 (D is the 5th degree of G).


Blues secondary dominant chords

If you’re not familiar with the roman notation of chords, check out our chord analysis tutorial, it’s an essential skill if you’re serious about playing jazz.


Substitute #2 – Tritone Substitution [12:54 in the video]

Tritone substitution (aka sub 5 or substitute dominant) is replacing a dominant chord with another dominant chord a tritone (three whole steps) away from the original dominant chord.

That means we can replace any dom7 chord with another dom7 chord, a tritone above or below it.

In roman numerals, tritone substitutions can either be notated as bII7 or as subV.

In the following example we:

  1. First replace the A7 chord with its sub5 Eb7.
  2. In the second step we replace G7 with its sub5 Db7


Tritone substitution


In the next example with create a descending chromatic chord progression:

  1. We replace the D7 with its sub5 Ab7.
  2. Then we replace C7 with the secondary dominant E7 of target chord A7.
  3. Which in the next step will be replaced with its sub5 Bb7


Blues chord substitution


Learn everything you need to know about blues and jazz-blues playing and check out Yaakov Hoter’s new comprehensive video course called Blues- The Ticket to Jazz. Learn to play the blues as it is played today by Gypsy and jazz guitarists, with a consistent, methodical and enjoyable learning process…


Gypsy jazz blues guitar video course

The post Introduction to Gypsy Jazz Blues Guitar appeared first on Jazz Guitar Online | Free Jazz Guitar Lessons, Licks, Tips & Tricks..

The Beginner’s Guide to Guitar Modes and Scales

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 07:14

Understanding guitar modes isn’t as hard as many people believe it to be. The theory can be a bit confusing, but once you get a hold of the basic concepts, it’s actually quite easy to use modes on the guitar. In this lesson you’ll learn what the modes are, how they look on the guitar and how you can use modes in your solos and improvisation.

What Are Guitar Modes?

Scale Modes are nothing new, the modes as we use them today were formalized around 1675. Modes are not limited to jazz, but used in a wide variety of genres. They are not limited to guitar either, but used on most melodic instruments.


Modes are scales derived from a parent scale. All 7 modes have the same notes as the parent scale, but start on a different note, which defines the tonal center.

What is the difference between a scale and a mode? While the words mode and scale are used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. Modes are inversions of a scale. For example, the 7 modes on this page are inversions of the major scale. Every mode is a scale, but not every scale is a mode (the melodic minor scale or the blues scale for example are not modes).

Why should you learn and use guitar modes?  Being able to play and use guitar modes is an important skill for any guitarist to have because each mode has a unique feel and sound that you can use to make your improvisation more colorful and interesting. Studying modes helps you to navigate the guitar neck and helps you to understand the relationship between scales and chords.

In this lesson we’ll concentrate on the modes of the major scale (the major scale being the parent scale in this case). There are other parent scales as well, such as the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale.

Guitar Modes Chart

Here’s a chart containing the 7 modes of the C major scale. It shows the most common position for each mode, but each mode can be played over the entire guitar neck and should be practiced that way.

Make sure to read on and play the exercises below the chart to understand how these modes work on the guitar.


Guitar modes chart

Guitar Modes Explained – Music Theory

The first step in understanding guitar modes is defining the parent scale.

You probably have played modes on the guitar before, probably without realizing you were playing them. Can you play a C major scale? Then you know the first mode (out of 7), the Ionian mode…

In the following examples, the C major scale is the parent scale. The C major scale runs from C to C and has no sharps or flats. The C major scale is also our first mode, the Ionian mode.

Here’s a list of all 7 modes of the C major scale in order:

  1. C Ionian mode
  2. D Dorian mode
  3. E Phrygian mode
  4. F Lydian mode
  5. G Mixolydian mode
  6. A Aeolian mode
  7. B Locrian mode


Let’s go back to our parent scale, the C major scale (aka C Ionian mode). In music theory, we number each note of the scale, going from 1 to 7. This is called the scale formula.


C Major Scale (= C Ionian Mode) C D E F G A B
 Formula 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Let’s play the C major scale starting from the second note (D). This is the second mode, called the Dorian mode. The 3rd and 7th note are a half step lower compared to the Ionian mode, that’s why we put a ‘b’ before 3 and 7. Here are the notes of the D Dorian mode:


D Dorian Mode D E F G A B C
 Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7


Now let’s play the C major scale starting from the third note (E). This is the third mode, the Phrygian mode. The 2nd, 3rd and 7th note are a half step lower compared to the Ionian mode. Here are the notes of the E Phrygian mode:


E Phrygian Mode E F G A B C D
 Formula 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7


We can continue this for the other notes of the major scale, but I guess you get the picture by now. If you scroll down a bit you’ll find a list with all 7 modes.

Each mode has its own unique sound. This sound depends on how the intervals are mapped across the scale. Although the notes in both scales are exactly the same, the sound of the scale is completely different because the tonal center has changed. In the C Ionian mode, the tonal center is C. In the D Dorian mode, the tonal center is D.

Each mode has a related chord. We can find that chord by stacking thirds on the first note of the mode. We’ll only touch briefly on this subject here. If you’re not familiar with this essential part of music theory, head over to this lesson: Jazz Guitar Chord Theory.

Let’s do this for the C Ionian mode: C E G B. The result is a Cmaj7 chord:

1 3 5 7


If you build a chord on the first note of the D Dorian mode you get D F A C, a Dm7 chord:

1 b3 5 b7


Here’s an overview of the 7 modes of the C major scale, their formula and corresponding chord:

I C Ionian (Cmaj7) C D E F G A B
Ionian Scale Formula 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
II D Dorian (Dm7) D E F G A B C
Dorian Scale Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
III E Phrygian (Em7) E F G A B C D
Phrygian Scale Formula 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
IV F Lydian (Fmaj7) F G A B C D E
Lydian Scale Formula 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
V G Mixolydian (G7) G A B C D E F
Mixolydian Scale Formula 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
VI A Aeolian (Am7) A B C D E F G
Aeolian Scale Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
VII B Locrian (Bm7b5) B C D E F G A
Locrian Scale Formula 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7


How to memorize guitar modes?

You should memorize the names of the modes + the formula. Here’s a mnemonic trick to help you remember the names (the letters in bold correspondent to the first letters of the modes):

I Don’t Play Like My Aunt Lucy.

Which modes are major, which modes are minor? Here are the 7 modes grouped according to chord quality:

Chord Quality Mode
Major Ionian, Lydian
Minor Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian
Dominant Mixolydian
Half Diminished Locrian

How to Use Modes on the Guitar + Examples

Next, you’ll learn how modes are played on the guitar. We’ll also have a look at some typical examples (there is a sample lick included with each mode so you can hear how guitar modes are used).

Use all your senses when learning guitar scales: use your ears (most important), your eyes (recognize the pattern on the fret board), your brains (memorize the guitar scale formulas) and your fingers’ muscle memory.


 Root  represents the root or 1 of the guitar scale. The letter inside the box is the note name.

 Note  represents a guitar scale note.

The grey numbers below the music notation is the fingering (1=index finger, 2=middle finger, 3=ring finger, 4=pinky finger).



1. C Ionian Mode

The Ionian mode is also known as the major scale.

  • Formula: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  • Use: on major chords (Imaj7)
  • Related chord: Cmaj7
  • Characteristic notes: 3 (e) and 7 (b)
  • The 4 (f) is what is called an avoid note over major chords. For example, the f (4) played over a Cmaj7 chord will sound dissonant because it’s a half step higher than the chord note e (3), creating a b9 interval. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use the f in your lines. You can play the f (like I do in the example lick below), but I wouldn’t keep it hanging for too long, unless you really like that sound.


Listen & Play:


C Ionian mode diagram


Ionian mode guitar fingering


The following example lick only uses notes of the C Ionian scale. It starts with an 1235 pattern on the 5th, followed by an enclosure of the 3rd and finishes with a descending scale run.

There is also a longer Ionian scale study more below in this lesson.

Backing Track


Listen & Play:


Ionian mode guitar lick


2. D Dorian Mode

The Dorian mode is almost identical to the Aeolian mode (or natural minor scale), except for the 6th note.

  • Formula: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
  • Use: on minor chords (the ii of a ii V I), on minor modal tunes such as So What.
  • Related chord: Dm7
  • Characteristic notes: 6 and 9


Listen & Play:


D Dorian mode diagram


Dorian mode guitar fingering


The following lick only uses notes of the D Dorian scale and puts emphasis on the 6 and the 9, 2 characteristic notes of the Dorian mode.

There is a longer Dorian scale study more below in this lesson.

Backing Track


Listen & Play:


Dorian mode guitar lick


3. E Phrygian Mode

  • Formula: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
  • Use: on minor chords (iiim7). Played on a Im7, the Phrygian mode has a Spanish flavor (one of the guitar scales frequently used in flamenco).
  • Related chord: Em7
  • Characteristic notes: b9 and b6


Listen & Play:


E Phrygian mode diagram


Phrygian mode guitar fingering


The following example only uses notes of the E Phrygian scale, and puts emphasis on the b9 and b13, two characteristic notes of the Phrygian mode.

Backing Track


Listen & Play



Phrygian mode guitar lick


4. F Lydian Mode

The Lydian mode is almost identical to the major scale, except for the 4th note (#4).

  • Formula: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
  • Use: on major chords (IVmaj7)
  • Related chord: Fmaj7
  • Characteristic notes: 7 and #11


Listen & Play:


F Lydian mode diagram


Lydian mode guitar fingering


The following example only uses notes of the F Lydian scale, and puts emphasis on the 7 and #11, two characteristic notes of the Lydian mode.

Backing Track


Listen & Play:


Lydian mode guitar lick


5. G Mixolydian Mode

The Mixolydian mode is almost identical to the major scale (or Ionian mode), except for the last note (b7).

  • Formula: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
  • Use: on dominant chords (V7). The Mixolydian scale is often used in blues (on I7).
  • Related chord: G7
  • Characteristic notes: 6 and b7


Listen & Play:


G Mixolydian mode diagram


Mixolydian mode guitar fingering


This next lick is based on the G Mixolydian scale.

Backing Track


Listen & Play:


Mixolydian mode guitar lick


6. A Aeolian Mode

The Aeolian mode is the same scale as the natural minor scale.

  • Formula: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
  • Use: on minor chords (vim7)
  • Related chord: Am7
  • Characteristic note: b6


Listen & Play:


A Aeolian mode diagram


Aeolian mode guitar fingering


This lick is based on the A Aeolian scale and focuses on the characteristic note (b6) of the Aeolian mode. By emphasising this note, you outline the sound of the mode in your lines, differentiating it from other minor modes such as the Dorian mode, which has a major 6.

Backing Track


Listen & Play:


Aeolian Mode Guitar Lick


7. B Locrian Mode

  • Formula: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
  • Use: on half diminished chords (the iim7b5 on a minor ii V I)
  • Related chord: Bm7b5
  • Characteristic note: b5


Listen & Play:


B Locrian mode diagram


Locrian mode guitar fingering


The following example only uses notes of the B Locrian scale. I emphasize the 11 in this lick because it adds a nice color played over m7b5 chords.

Backing Track


Listen & Play:


Locrian mode guitar lick

Using Guitar Modes Over Modal Standards

What is modal music?

A modal standard is a standard that uses modes instead of chord progressions as its harmonic basis.

The most famous modal compositions are So What (Miles Davis) and Impressions (John Coltrane).

Both standards use the same AABA form:

  • A1: 8 bars of Dm7 (D Dorian scale)
  • A2: 8 bars of Dm7 (D Dorian scale)
  • B: 8 bars of Ebm7 (Eb Dorian scale)
  • A3: 8 bars of Dm7 (D Dorian scale)

In the following solo over So What (or Impressions) I play only notes of the D Dorian scale over the A sections, and the Eb Dorian scale over the B sections:

D Dorian Scale (A sections)

D Dorian Scale Diagram

Eb Dorian Scale (B section)

Eb Dorian Scale

In bar 26, you’ll notice I switch to another position on the guitar neck. On that part I play the A Aeolian scale shape, which might be confusing for those that just started studying modes. This is because a lot of guitarist think in shapes rather than in notes.

D Dorian has the same notes as A Aeolian (both come from the C major scale), they just start on a different note. Because the harmonic background of this tune is D minor, the A Aeolian shape will sound like D Dorian.

You can also play all the other mode shapes of the C major scale over So What (C Ionian, E Phrygian, etc). They will all sound like D Dorian because the tonal center of the tune is D.

The diagram below shows you a D Dorian scale that looks like the A Aeolian scale shape. Notice how the red root note is D, not A:

A Aeolian Scale

D Dorian = A Aeolian. Although it is ok to visualize scale shapes as you improvise, realize that they are just a set of 7 notes that depend on the tonal center of the tune you are playing. The A Aeolian shape played over D minor, will not sound Aeolian, but Dorian (confusing, I know).

Backing Track


Listen & Play


So What guitar solo page 1

So What guitar solo page 2

So What guitar solo page 3

Using Modes over Chord Progressions (Guitar Modes Made Easy)

Next, you’ll learn how to apply modes over chord progressions, a ii V I vi (C major) in this case.

Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 Am7
iim7 V7 Imaj7 vim7


Theoretically, you play a different scale over each chord:

  • Dm7 (ii): the D Dorian scale.
  • G7 (V): the G Mixolydian scale.
  • Cmaj7 (I): the C Ionian scale.
  • Am7 (vi): the A Aeolian scale.

In practice we don’t think like that because it’s too hard to switch scales on each chord.

If we have a look at the 4 modes of these chords, you’ll notice they all have the same notes:


D Dorian Scale D E F G A B C
1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
G Mixolydian Scale G A B C D E F
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
C Ionian Scale C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
A Aeolian Scale A B C D E F G
1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7


So, these 4 modes all have the same 7 notes: C D E F G A B

This means we can play one scale (the scale of the Imaj7 chord for example), and use that scale to play over all chords (as long as the chords don’t modulate).

  • The C Ionian scale played over the Dm7 chord will sound like the D Dorian scale.
  • The C Ionian scale played over the G7 chord will sound like the G Mixolydian scale.
  • The C Ionian scale played over the Am7 chord will sound like the A Aeolian scale.


In the following example I use the C Ionian scale over a ii V I vi chord progression:

Backing Track


Listen & Play


Guitar modes over a chord progression page 1


Guitar modes over a chord progression page 2


Here finishes our introduction to guitar modes. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comment section below.

What to learn after guitar modes? The best tool for improvisation are arpeggios.  Learn all about them in our Introduction to Guitar Arpeggios.


PDF DownloadThe Beginner’s Guide to Guitar Modes PDF


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How to Analyze a Jazz Standard Using Roman Numerals

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 10:37

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When studying jazz guitar, you quickly learn that analyzing chord progressions and transposing chords are two essential skills you need to have down. But, while you know that analyzing and transposing is important, you might not know the quickest and easiest way to accomplish these goals. This is where Roman numerals come into play.

Roman numerals are used in music to analyze diatonic and non-diatonic chords as well as make transposing any chord or progression much easier on the guitar.

In this lesson you learn what Roman numerals are, how they’re used in jazz analysis, and how to transpose chords with these numbers.

Diatonic Chords With Roman Numerals

To begin your study of Roman numerals and their use in analysis and transposition, we’ll look at diatonic chords with Roman numerals.

Here are the notes in the key of C major, written on a single string, with the number of each note below the staff.

Arabic numbers are used to identify single-notes in jazz, like scale and arpeggio notes, while Roman numerals identify chords and progression.

This makes it easier to understand a written analysis of any line or progression, as you won’t be confused if you see 1 vs. I in an analysis.


Roman Numerals 1


Now you add chords on top of each of those C major scale notes to form the chords in the key of C major.

Here are those chords with the Roman numerals written underneath each chord to see how they line up in the key.

Notice that the Roman numerals are the same as the Arabic numbers, 1 is I, 2 is ii, etc., as each scale note gets a chord in the key.


Roman Numerals 2


Once you know the notes in a key, and their related chords, you can use that to analyze chord progressions.

Here’s an example of a common jazz chord progression with Roman numerals below each chord, from the key of C major.

Minor chords are written in lowercase roman numerals, while major and dominant chords are written in uppercase roman numerals.


Roman Numerals 3


Now that you know how to use Roman numerals to identify chords in a key, open your Real Book and analyze diatonic chords in any song you flip to.

If you can’t identify a chord in the key, then leave it for now until you study non-diatonic chords in the next section.

Secondary Dominant Chords

As well as seeing diatonic chords when using Roman numerals for analysis, you’ll also see non-diatonic chords.

In this lesson we’ll look at two types of non-diatonic chords and how to analyze them with Roman numerals. These aren’t the only non-diatonic chords you’ll see when analyzing tunes, but they’re the most popular, so are essential to know.

The first non-diatonic chord is called a secondary dominant chord.

This is a V7 chord that isn’t the V7 of the key you’re in, such as V7 of V7, V7 of iim7, V7 of vim7, etc.

When writing secondary dominant chords, you can write them as V7/V7 or V7/iim7, if you like.

Or, you can use a shortcut such as II7 for V7/V7 or VI7 for V7/iim7, as both are commonly used in modern analysis.

I prefer to keep things close to the key, so I prefer II7 and VI7 for example, but try both and see which makes the most sense to you.

Here’s an example of a VI7 chord in the key of C major.


Roman Numerals 5


And here’s an example of a II7 chord in the key of C major.


Roman Numerals 6


Now that you know what secondary dominant chords are, grab a Real Book and identify secondary dominant chords in full tunes.

Secondary ii V Chords

As well as seeing secondary dominant chords, you also see secondary ii V chords in jazz progressions and tunes.

Secondary ii Vs function the same as secondary dominant chords, except you use a ii V leading to a diatonic chord rather than just a V7.

Here’s an example of a secondary ii V that leads to the iim7 in the key of C major, meaning Em7b5-A7b13 leading to Dm7.


Roman Numerals 7


Notice that the song doesn’t modulate to D minor, the secondary ii V is used to highlight the Dm7 chord, but not change to the full key of D minor.

Here’s another common example of a secondary ii V that Charlie Parker used a lot in his tunes.

In this example, the secondary ii V is used to highlight the vim7 chord (Am7), as well as acting as a transition bar between Imaj7 and vim7.


Roman Numerals 8


Now that you know what secondary ii V chords are, grab a fake book and identify secondary ii V chords in full tunes.

Take the A Train Analysis

Now that you know what Roman numerals are, and their common usage in jazz, you can look at them over an entire tune.

Here’s the chord progression to Take the A Train with Roman numerals below each chord in the tune.

Notice that I used the II7 rather than V7/V7 in bars 3 and 4 of the A section (D7). You can use either analysis, but I prefer to relate Roman numerals to the key if possible to make it easier to transpose later on if needed.

Check out these changes, it’s a very diatonic progression with the exception of the D7 (V7/V7 (II7)) and the Gm7-C7 (iim7/IV and V7/IV).


Roman Numerals 9

Summertime Analysis

You can also use Roman numerals in minor keys, such as when analyzing and learning a song like Summertime, which is in D minor.

When using Roman numerals in minor keys all the same rules apply that you learned in major keys, with one exception.

Normally minor chords are written with a lowercase Roman numeral (iim7 for example), but in minor keys the tonic chord uses a capital letter (Im7). This is to signify that the tonic chord is special, it’s the resolution chord of the key, and therefore we use a capital letter to reflect that.

Here’s the Roman numeral analysis of Summertime.

Notice that there are three main chords in the song, Im7 (Dm7), ivm7 (Gm7), and Fmaj7 (bIIImaj7).

The rest of the chords are just ii V’s that lead to those chords, so one diatonic ii V and two secondary ii V chords.


Roman Numerals 10

Transposing With Roman Numerals

Besides using Roman numerals to analyze and understand chord progressions, you also use them to make transposing easier on and off the guitar.

Here’s the chord progression for the first A section of Take the A Train, in the original key with Roman numerals underneath.


Roman Numerals 11


Now, to transpose this progression to another key, we’ll use F major as an example, you just need to know the Roman numerals and notes in the new key.

The notes in the key of F are F G A Bb C D E F, so all you do is move the Roman numerals from C to F and you have the same progression in a new key.

Here are the chords in F, notice that the Roman numerals remain the same, but you’ve changed the chord symbols to be in the new key of F.


Roman Numerals 12


After you look at this example, see if you can write out the chords to the first A section of Take the A Train in other keys using the same approach.

Transposing chords on guitar is an essential skill to have, and Roman numerals make this skill easier to learn and quicker to apply in your playing.


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