Welcome to week #46! This week I wanted to talk about some ways you can play “outside” of the chord changes while still keeping your lines structured. A lot of younger students want to play out, but don’t know how to do it. I always tell them you need a good understanding of how to play inside before you can out because great improvisers can move their lines from outside to inside and vice versa.
We’ve talked in a lot of the past 45 weeks about what you can do over those chord changes. Now, let’s take a look at how we can alter those changes as a soloist (while the rhythm section continues to play the changes as written) and superimpose a new set of changes. One of the ways we can do this is by taking John Coltrane’s idea of a 3-tonic system (i.e. Giant Steps) and implying them over the original changes. I’m not going to go in-depth on Coltrane’s Giant Steps or how we can play over those changes, but I do want to show you how it’s structured so we can apply it to a set of chord changes as a means to play outside.
The 3-tonic system is taking an octave and splitting them into three equal parts (major third intervals). In the key of C that would be: Cmaj7, Abmaj7 and Emaj7 (you can make these different qualities, but for now we will keep them major). After you’ve found the three equal parts-you apply the V7 chord of each of those three equal parts: G7 to Cmaj7, Eb7 to Abmaj7 and B7 to Emaj7.
Let’s apply it to the iimin7-V7-Imaj7 in the key of C. We want to go from outside to inside. To do that, we want the last chord to be the Cmaj7 (since we’re doing the ii-V-I in the key of C). So we arrange the changes above to where they match the Cmaj7 at the end:
The final step is playing lines based on the super-imposed 3-tonic system changes over the original Dmin7-G7-Cmaj7. This gives you a structured way of playing outside that brings your line BACK inside:
Remember, it’s important to first learn how to play inside first before you start applying outside techniques. But, once you do-this week’s tip is a great way to apply some structure to your outside lines. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and that it adds value to your playing! Please feel free to share this tip (and the site) via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+ or any other site that you’re a contributor.