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I'm coming here today, 'cause I need some help to improvise over a chords change that give me difficulties..

Here is the changes in question :

| Gm6 | A7 D7 | Gm6 | Eb7 D7 |

It's a blues / swing / rock song, with mid-tempo ; here is how I see the harmony for now :

We are in the key of Gm, D7 being the V7, A7 being a secondary dominant (replacing iim7) and Eb7 being a tritone substitution for again iim7

What do you think ?

Now, how can I improvise over this ? I have difficulties playing lines that "sounds right", I mean, bluesy on this ; I see also the kind of ii V I implied by "A7 D7 Gm6", but can't really play a jazzy line on this.. ?

Can you help me ? Which scales would you choose on that ? Do you have some records examples of songs with similar chords changes, where I could transcribe the chorus ? (any instrument would do the thing, I'm playing the accordion).

Thanks !

  • 1
    This could be a bit broad. I mean to say that the study of jazz improvisation is a big body of knowledge. Normally one would start by looking at the scales that match the chords with awareness of any melody that is present. The subject of how to know what scales go with what chords in jazz is sometimes the only real topic for an entire intro course in jazz improv, so that might be too big for a single SE question. I'm pretty sure there's a free jazz improv course on coursera.org from Berklee that would help with this. – Todd Wilcox Jan 16 '17 at 9:37
  • As Todd says, but a lot broad. Initially, I home in on an E note - fits with Gm6, A7 and works as a 9 over the D7. I'd even go to saying don't play over Eb, let it speak for itself, played by rhythm section, coming back in on the pickup D7. But there are thousands of different ways to go here! Comment rather than answer. – Tim Jan 16 '17 at 10:13
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You could get away with the G blues scale, and that's also what you should probably do for at least part of your solo in order to sound bluesy. But that's of course not the only thing you should try. Your analysis is OK, apart from the fact that Eb7 cannot be the tritone sub for ii m7 (because m7 chords have no tritone sub), but it is the tritone sub for II7 (A7), or actually V7/V (the fifth of the fifth, i.e., D7).

The Eb7 => D7 progression is a classic one in many minor blues pieces. The Eb7 chord has a Db (the 7th), which is the blue note in the G blues scale (flat 5), so make use of this to give your melodies a bluesy sound. Apart from that, the only specific thing is the A7 chord, a II7 (or V7/V), which you can emphasize by including a C# and a G in your melodies. These two notes should resolve down to a C and an F# (over D7), respectively.

Over the D7 chord, you can add some alterations, such as the b9, #9, and the b13. Over the Gm6 chord, the appropriate chord scale would be G melodic minor, once you get tired of the blues scale ...

Having said all of the above, don't get carried away changing (and thinking in) scales all of the time, because this will lead to incoherent little ideas that are not well connected. Work on long lines taken from the blues scale (because that's relatively easy for most of us), and then start adding a few extra chord tones at characteristic points of the progression (e.g., over the A7 and the Eb7 chords).

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