More on the V Chord
Last month we dealt with the the II, V progression, and some basic ideas as to how to handle it as an improviser. We also introduced some alternate ideas for improvising over the V chord. This month, we will start by reviewing these ideas, and then go beyond them to give you even more options to work with in your solos.
To review the two options from last month for improvising over the V chord, we first mentioned that it is common with Dominant Seventh chords to play alterations over them when improvising. Our first example was to use the Harmonic Minor starting on the same root as the Major key you are in. This will give you the sound of a Dominant Seventh chord with a sharped fifth and flatted ninth. Try using a C Harmonic Minor scale over a G7 chord to get the idea.
You can go even farther with this and try using the Harmonic Minor built on the fifth of the chord. We will use D7 as our chord this time, and play the A Harmonic minor over it, and see what happens. Take a look at the notes of the scale, and see how they relate to the D7 chord. You have A, which is the fifth, B, which is the 13, C, your flatted seventh, D, the root, E, the ninth, F, the sharped ninth, and G#, the augmented eleventh. Try this out and listen to how it sounds as opposed to the last example. See if you can find other Harmonic minor scales that may work using this same idea.
The second, more "outside" example, was to use a Melodic Minor scale whose root is a half step above the root of the Dominant Seventh chord that you are improvising over. For example, try using an Ab Melodic Minor scale over the G Dominant Seventh chord. The result is that you will have both the sharped and flatted fifth, and the sharped and flatted ninth of the chord in your improvised line. As we said last month, you will need to work the line into this kind of outside playing in order for it to sound right, but you need to experiment with both inside and outside playing to grow as an improviser.
Yet another example is to use the Pentatonic scale over the V chord. First try the Pentatonic scale of the same name. Using a G7 chord as our example, the notes of the G Pentatonic scale are, G, the root, A, the ninth, B, the third, D, the fifth, and E the thirteenth. No problems there. Now try Bb Pentatonic. We have Bb, the flatted ninth, C the Eleventh, D the fifth, F the Seventh, and G, the root. Not bad either. You should recognize this rock / blues sound. Next try F Pentatonic. You start with F, the flatted seventh, G, the root, A, the ninth, C, the eleventh, and D, the fifth. By now you should get the idea. These are the most inside, but you can try others for a more out side sound.
Other scales to try are the Whole Tone scale, Diminished scale, or chromatic scale,all of which we will cover in future articles. You should be getting the idea by now that you can play just about anything over the Dominant Seventh, (V chord), taste of course always being your guide. You can stay inside, or using the above ideas, take your ideas as far outside as you like. Play all of the above examples and listen to how they sound over the chord to get an idea of the types of color that these will give you in your solo lines. With experience, and as you ear develops, you will find many ways to use this type of playing, and greatly develop as an improviser.
My best wishes to you all in the New Year, and I hope that this past year of articles has aided you in your ability to understand and play what you hear. With your continued diligent practice, it will surely happen for you. Thank you all for following this column.