Learning to improvise over chord changes is a long process! It is very challenging and can be exceedingly frustrating. The basic understanding of how to improvise is hard enough, then when you through a shifting harmonic environment on top of that it can seem impossible.
Don’t fret! I’ve been wrestling with this problem for a long time, and I think I have created an effective lesson in order to address it. One of the challenges of learning to improvise over chord changes is finding an entry point. What I mean by that, is you can’t go from playing over a 12 bar blues (static harmony) to playing Giant Steps (shifting harmony). There are A LOT of steps in between, and I think it’s best to walk the steps very carefully, one by one.
So that’s why I created this backing track. I boiled down this idea into it’s most basic form. At least that was my aim. It boiled down to what I call Major-Minor interchange. The idea of Major-Minor interchange is this; if you have a chord progression that is freely taking from both the major chord scale & the minor chord scale of a single note, you can interchange between the major scale from that note, and the minor scale from the SAME note to effectively improvise over the progression.
You’ll need to pay careful attention to the junction points, or the points at which the harmony shifts from a major tonality to a minor tonality.
In order to give you some way to practice this, I created this backing track. I’m giving it away for free (see below). You can download it by clicking on the download link below the video. This backing track is a loop made up of 4 chords. Because of the chords used, it is necessary to change the notes you are playing to fit the chords. You can use the concept of Major-Minor interchange as I outline in the lesson for this week.
Click here to download the backing track video (>20mb)
When you are playing over a shifting harmonic environment, or “chord changes, it is necessary to change the notes you are playing in order to fit the chords.
Here’s a real world example for you:
Here is a great example of this type of harmony. In the song “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, there is an interlude after the chorus that goes to an A minor chord. If you are familiar with the song, you may know that it’s in E major. Why then this A minor chord? The fourth chord in E is an A major, so this is an example of borrowing a chord from the parallel minor. After the A minor chord it goes to a B7sus chord which is back in the key of E major.
So, if you were soloing over this part of the song, you could start by playing an E minor scale over the A minor chord, and then switch to E major on the B7sus chord. This is the exact idea that I’m presenting in today’s lesson.
Interested in other lessons focused on improvisation? Click here to check out all my improv focused lessons!
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