Here is the lick (3:38 - 3:39).

He is playing it over a F minor chord. The key of the song is Ab. It looks like he just playing extentions of the F minor chord. What is a better way to explain this?

  • 1
    It would be a tad easier if you transcribed the part in question Jan 20, 2021 at 1:52
  • sorry. the lick is Bb and Eb, C and F, Eb and Ab, F and Bb. Jan 20, 2021 at 1:55
  • Are you asking about the part at 3:38 - 3:39?
    – Aaron
    Jan 20, 2021 at 2:07
  • yes thats the part im talking about Jan 20, 2021 at 2:19

2 Answers 2


He's playing a pentatonic scale pattern, harmonized in fourths, which is a common device in jazz. Open fourths give an ambiguous sense of harmony even though, in this case, he never actually leaves the home key.

Ab Major = Ab Bb C Db Eb F G and an F minor chord, F Ab C, is the vi chord, consisting entirely of notes within the Ab Major scale.

The primary (upper) notes of the solo are Eb F Ab Bb C Eb F Ab, which is an F minor pentatonic (also Ab major pentatonic) scale, starting on Eb. By using the pentatonic scale, both E natural (the leading tone in F minor) and G natural (the leading tone in Ab major) are avoided, giving a sense of tonal ambiguity even though all of the pitches are within the key/scale. This is enhanced by starting on Eb rather than F or Ab.

Harmonizing the scale at the fourth below gives Bb C Eb F *Ab* Bb C Eb. Note that the pattern breaks at the Ab. This keeps the harmony within the pentatonic scale and avoids the G natural (Ab leading tone). This use of fourths also reinforces the tonal ambiguity while staying within the key.

This is a basic example of "quartal harmony".

The pianist McCoy Tyner, among others, is particularly well known for using quartal chord voicings. A clear example can be heard in the opening vamp on "My Favorite Things" from the album Coltrane: Live at the Half Note.


He plays the following notes (disregard the rhythm values):

X: 1  
K: C
L: 1/4   
[_B,_E] [CF] [_E_A] [F_B] [_Ac] | [_B_e] [cf] [_e_a] [f_b] |

It is an (almost) constant interval moving up over the notes of F minor pentatonic (F Ab Bb C Eb). However, in this context I wouldn't call it "extension", but rather a passage, transition.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.