learning Jazz piano book 4
Here is an excerpt from learning jazz Piano book 4, in my series Learn Jazz Piano.
Click here to get Learn Jazz Piano eBooks Chapter 1: The trouble with 7 chords.
Because this learning jazz piano book is primarily concerned with soloing over chords, I’ll start with the chord that seems to be everywhere: the seventh. I suggest that it is often written and used incorrectly. This is of great importance to you when you’re playing from a chord chart or lead sheet. A jazz lead sheet seems to be littered with 7 chords: major 7, minor 7, dominant 7, diminished 7. In most cases it is there for a good reason, with each note serving a harmonic purpose. But there are times when naming a chord as a seventh is misleading. The problem arises when we consider the most important harmony notes within a chord: the two notes that identify it. These two notes, sometimes described as guide tones, are usually 3 and 7, because in most instances they serve a vital harmonic function. 3 tells us whether the chord is major or minor, then 7 completes the picture. Example C + E + G + Bb Note E is a major 3rd. Note Bb is a minor 7. Therefore the chord is C7 (i.e. C dominant 7). 5 is of much less harmonic importance. If it were omitted in the above example, the chord would still clearly be a dominant 7. Here is a VI – II – V – I sequence. Each chord has just three voices. Notice that the first three chords, although described as 7, don’t require 5 to establish their identity. What they do require are 3s and 7s. Notice how each 3 becomes a 7 without needing to move, while each 7 becomes a 3 by moving down a half step. Fig 1
Now look closely at the final, tonic chord and how it is approached by its dominant 7. The 3 of G7 moves up a half step, but to the 1 of the C triad. This final tonic chord does not require a 7 in order to establish its harmony. And here lies the problem. Perhaps out of habit, perhaps out of laziness, this chord is often still written as a major 7. Fig 2 This final chord could be Cmaj7, but it can equally be C6 or just a C triad. Don’t assume that you are obliged to play a 7 just because the lead sheet states maj7. The scale of C major will work over all these variations, because the chord is essentially a major triad. So play the chord that suits your purposes. Another scale that will work here is the Lydian Dominant, but I’ll examine this in chapter 3.
Learning Jazz piano book 4 is now available.
Click here to get Learn Jazz Piano eBooks