On the LJS Blog we are primarily interested in nurturing our jazz community by not only giving out information you can take away, but giving you things to practice and explore.

Today I want to give you 6 licks to play over minor 7 chords. These are short musical ideas that you can play with and use as inspiration to create your own jazz language. These phrases are mostly to be perceived in a modal sense, meaning there are no other chords associated with the context of the chord. For licks over chord progressions, you can check out some minor ii-V-i licks, major ii-V-I licks, or I-VI-ii-V-I licks.

I’ll give you a little bit of theoretical context when necessary, but at the end of the day, the goal is to get to know these different sounds and create music, not over analyze. I have them notated in treble clef and bass clef. If any of them don’t quite fit the range of your instrument, feel free to adjust. Here we go!

1. Enclosure lick

This lick uses a common technique in jazz called enclosure. Notice the chromatic approach notes.

Lick 1

2. Blues lick #1

We all know that the blues is a key component in jazz language. Here is a bluesy idea you can work on over a minor 7 chord. Notice the ascending notes in bars 1 and 2 (F-G-Ab-A). Also notice in bar 1 and the first beat of bar 2 that the D natural serves as a return note.

Lick 2

3. Dorian lick #1

In this lick we are borrowing from the Dorian mode. In case you aren’t familiar, Dorian is the second mode of the major scale. The borrowed note in this case is the B natural. Essentially we are thinking about the C major scale in the context of D minor.

Lick 3

4. Blues lick #2

Here’s another bluesy idea to play. Notice the eighth note anticipations going into bar 2 and again on bar 3.

Lick 4

5. Dorian lick #2

Here’s another Dorian idea.

Lick 5

6. Relative major lick

In this lick we are for the most part outlining an Fmaj7 arpeggio. Why? F major is the relative major key to D minor, and vice-versa. If you take a look, the Fmaj7 arpeggio is hitting a lot of the extensions in D min. For example, G is the 11th. E is the 9th. C is the b7.

Lick 6

Go ahead and practice these licks in different keys, and feel free to use them to create your own ideas. Happy practicing!

By the way, if you want to check out some more examples of jazz language you can work on, check out our eBook 15 Essential Jazz Etudes, available in versions for C Instruments, Bass, and with Guitar TABS.

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Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for learnjazzstandards.com which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publications “500 Jazz Licks” and “Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar.” To learn more, visit www.brentvaartstra.com.

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