Adding color to Dom7 and Min7 solos

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by funkmeister79, May 22, 2015.

  1. funkmeister79

    funkmeister79 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    92
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2013
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
    Hi folks:

    I play in a funk/jazz/soul group and most of my solos are over Dom7 or Min7 chords.

    I'm looking for suggestions to add color to my solos, as I've fallen into a rut.

    How about a Dim7 scale over a Dom7 chord? Which Dim7 scale would work?

    Thanks all!
     
  2. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

    Messages:
    17,310
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2009
    Do you ever listen to jazz? I like the way Bruce Conte brings some jazz lines to the funk.
     
  3. JonR

    JonR Member

    Messages:
    12,173
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Location:
    London
    HW dim. It contains all the notes of the dom7, plus b9, #9, #11, 13.
    Or you can think of it as a half step below the 3-5-7, plus a half-step above the root.
    Dim scales contain plenty of arpeggio options too, which are more interesting than scale runs.

    Normally, this is for V7 chords - ie, dom7s that resolve up a half-step. But it also works for dom7s that resolve down a half-step (tritone subs), or up a whole step (backdoor progression).
    A tip is that the dim scale should not contain the root of the chord its resolving to.

    For dom7s used as blues tonics, it's not so good, except when the I7 is changing to IV. But it will also work on the IV7 as it goes back to I. This is a different kind of resolution to the V7-sub move - one in which the dim scale (and chord) does contain the root of the following chord; this is known as "common-tone diminished".

    For dom7s used as mixolydian grooves, I'd go instinctively for blues scale as an easy variant, but chromatics of all kinds can also play their part. (You asked about "colour"; "chromatic" comes from the Greek for "colour" ;).)

    For min7s, dorian is usually the safest mode, because min7s are normally either ii chords in major keys, or modal vamps (which they often are in funk/jazz/soul). Dorian is great because it has no "avoid notes" - you can hold or stress any note against the chord and it won't sound "off" - but there are still some great colour notes (6th and 9th in particular).
    On a ii chord (heading for V), there's not really any good alternative scale options, IMO. It's all about chromatics: chromatic passing notes to the V7: b5 or maj3; or chromatic approaches to the min7 chord tones, and chromatic passing notes in the dorian mode.
    You can turn the chord into a dom7 I guess (by raising the 3rd) and from there apply a suitable altered dom7 scale, or dim scale - but it's obviously turning the min7 into something else (not always appropriate).

    For a min7 doing any other job (aeolian or dorian vamp), same applies as for mixolydian grooves. Blues, or chromatics.

    In my experience, it works much better to not think about scales at all, but to think about chord tones (arpeggios) with various passing notes between.
    Those passing notes can be diatonic (whatever the local scale is), or chromatic - it makes little difference; chromatics just sound a little edgier.
    The best chromatics are usually a half-step above or below a chord tone -that's partly why the HW dim scale works so well on dom7s, but you can get the same effect just using chromatic approaches. (You should work from the chord tones to start with anyway.)
    In addition - most importantly - you think about where the chord is going. If you increase the tension with an outside scale of some kind, either that has to resolve back to the chord itself, or it has to resolve on to the next chord.
    Choices that resolve to the next chord tend to sound more or less "inside" on the current chord - at least the scale will contain the important chord tones (the various jazz choices for dom7s all obey this rule: they contain 1-3-7, plus various other notes designed to resolve to the next chord).
    Choices that resolve back to the current chord can be totally outside that chord; but must resolve before the chord changes. That gives you more freedom - eg on a lengthy vamp - because any chromaticism can be employed, moving out from where you are and back in.
    IOW, you can think about the chord tones (1-3-5-7) and employ all the other 8 notes as contrast - the entire chromatic scale, if you want to name it ;).
    If you want something more organised, then using the V7 (altered or not) of the current chord works as a contrasting outside sound to come back from. So if you have a vamp on Dm7, you can impose an A7b9 (or C#dim7) arp or scale, or Eb7 (tritone sub of A7) - but it needs to return the Dm7 chord tones.
     
    james russell likes this.
  4. funkmeister79

    funkmeister79 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    92
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2013
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
    Wow, lots to work with here! Thanks a lot.

    I meant to add, our songs are not terribly complicated - a lot of the soloing is over a single chord!
     
  5. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

    Messages:
    17,310
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2009
  6. fr8_trane

    fr8_trane Member

    Messages:
    6,252
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2005
    Location:
    New Brunswick, NJ
    Yes symmetrical scales will work but I personally find them kinda difficult to incorporate smoothly without sounding tacked on. i need to work on that.

    Try arpeggios that dont start on the root of the chord. If you play a Bm7b5 (B-D-F-A) arp over G7 you get a G9 tonality. If you play a Dmin7 arp (D-F-A-C) over G7 you get G11 tonality and so on. The same concept goes for the Minor 7 chord. Play any diatonic arp from the parent scale of the chord to introduce extensions.

    With the minor 7 chord you can play pentatonic scales up a step from the root of the chord and/or up a 5th. So a cool thing to do over Dmin7 is to take a lick in Dm pent then play the exact lick in Em and Am pent in quick succession. Or just noodle on the Em pent as it contains the 6th degree which makes it exclusively dorian.

    Over G7 you can play G blues, G mixolydian, Em pent (which is the same as G maj pent), Am pent and Dm pent. Basically you can play a minor pent on the 2nd , 3rd and 6th degree of the parent key and it will work over any diatonic chord. So since G7 and Dm7 are both from the key of C all the same scales and arps apply.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
    james russell likes this.
  7. JonR

    JonR Member

    Messages:
    12,173
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Location:
    London
    In that case, refer to the parts about vamps! ;)

    Essentially the choice is "inside" (chord tones and consonant extensions) and "outside" (anything else).
    In between, you have what you might call "sweet notes", which is what many of those extensions are.
    Eg, on a G7, you have 4 chord tones, G B D F - your base, home or foundation. The consonant extensions are 9th (A) and 13th (E) - sweet notes: They add expression, without being edgy or dissonant. So there's a 6-note scale there already: G A B D E F.
    Then there's the 6 remaining notes. A couple of these can be classed as "blue notes": Bb, C#/Db - familiar dissonances, which can be bent or slid up to B and D for a bluesy edge. (C# might also work as a lydian dominant #11, but that would be rare in a simple one-chord groove.)
    C natural is also part of C blues scale, of course, but can be a tricky note to handle on a G7. In any scale run it's fine, but it's dissonant against the B in the chord, to which it tends to resolve. You can, of course, bend it, blues style, to Db or D; and if the B in the chord is missing (or underemphasised in the harmony), it makes a consonant sus4. (Classically, suspensions are dissonant, but in your kind of music they don't have to be.) This is when Dm7 arps can work on G7, if the B in the chord is not too noticeable: it gives you a G9sus4 effect.
    That leaves the real chromaticisms, the true "outside" notes: G#/Ab, D#/Eb, F#. Accent any of these, they will sound dead wrong against G7. But they can still be freely used between notes in a scale run.

    For a Gm7, it's not actually that different. Just as you might start off with G mixolydian mode as your go-to scale for G7, so you might choose G dorian for Gm7 - and it's only one note different. The prime difference is the role of C natural - it's a consonant extension (11), a sweet note, on Gm7. B natural, on the other hand is one of the "outside" notes. (Generally, any note a half-step above a chord tone is probably "outside"; notes a half-step below may be outside too, but in a more familiar bluesy-jazzy way.)
    As with G7, A and E are sweet notes, each with its own distinctive character. And you have the b5 blue note, Db - although you wouldn't bend the b3, Bb, in this case, as it's a chord tone.
    As with G7 too, Ab, Eb and F# are fully outside. (If the mode was aeolian, then Eb would be diatonic; but still outside on the chord, because it's a half-step above D. If you wanted to express the aeolian nature of the mode, then you'd use it, but resolving to D, or in passing between D and F.)

    My point here is talk about each note as it actually works against the chord - because that's what it all comes down to, not scales. You can, of course, make scales out of selections from those notes, but it's beside the point. You just have to know how all those notes work together, like characters in a film or play - where the chord is the "theme". They support the chord, or they disrupt it; disruption can be good, for drama and conflict, to avoid too much blandness, but you have to make sense of it all in the end.

    Naturally, the other element here - at least in deciding which notes might be diatonic - is the melody of the song, including any riffs. They can be your springboard for any improvisation. The melody (and maybe the rhythm) will be what stops one G7 groove sounding like any other - you don't want to be playing the same solo on every song!
     
  8. zestystrat

    zestystrat Member

    Messages:
    2,489
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2006
    Location:
    Atlanta
    Great posts on this topic!
     

Share This Page