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My Shining Hour

My Shining Hour is a popular standard written by Harold Arlen, words by Johnny Mercer. It was originally written for the 1943 film “The Skies the Limit”.  This tune is most commonly played in the keys of Eb major and C major.

It Could Happen to You

This is likely my favorite jazz standard of all time. It’s got a great melody, and I love blowing over the changes! It was written for the musical comedy “And the Angels Sing” by lyricist Johnny Burke and composer Jimmy Van Heusen. Released as a song by Jo Stafford, the tune also reached #10 on the Billboard chart one week in 1944.

We used the Miles Davis changes (although they play slight variations throughout, as is true for many jazz recordings) in the .pdf chart and the play along.

St. Thomas for Guitar-Chords

In my teaching, I sometimes feel the need to make a chord chart for a particular song to help guitarists comp through a tune. This isn’t intended to be what Joe Pass would do, but it’s a few jazz voicings to get you started comping over St. Thomas. Elizabeth, this is for you (and I’m sure others will benefit also).

Click on the link below to learn the voicings.

St. Thomas Chords

G Rhythm Changes

This is G Rhythm Changes. G is not a common key for Rhythm Changes, however it is common in jazz repertoire. Practicing Rhythm Changes in this key will help open up the key of G for your improvising.

Practice another key

CAGED Scales for Guitar-C Major

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Have you ever wanted to improve your solo chops on the guitar?  Do you ever feel limited by your lack of fretboard knowledge, especially higher on the neck?  Have you ever wanted to connect the different positions on the guitar together in a cohesive way?  If so, then the CAGED system may be a great way for you to expand your ability to solo on the guitar.

Why CAGED?

In a nutshell, CAGED Scales are one way of exploring all the regions of the neck of the guitar.  The system breaks down each region of the neck into an easy-to-navigate scale in one position.  CAGED Scales are movable (by sliding the shape up or down frets), and can be used in any key.  While the positions change between different keys (i.e., where your hand starts, whether it be higher or lower on the neck), the shape of the scale does not change.   You can memorize 5 scale patterns that are each good in all 12 major keys.  Also the relationships between regions of the neck within each respective key do not change (C Form and A form start on the same note, but with a different finger, etc.)

Aren’t There Other Ways of Understanding the Neck?

CAGED Scales are not the only way to navigate the neck of the guitar, and not all guitarists use it.  However, it is certainly one viable option.  The CAGED system opens up many possibilities on the neck of the guitar.  It is the method I use to teach my guitar students when they are first learning to solo.  I’ll open up other possibilities for them later after they effectively use this method.  After a student learns one of the CAGED forms, I like to IMMEDIATELY have them start playing little melodies like Mary Had a Little Lamb using the scale forms.  This solidifies their knowledge of the scale and helps set up a foundation for using these scales to improvise.

What is CAGED?

The CAGED system of scales for the guitar is based around these 5 chords:

The theory is that each of these chords (C, A, G, E, D) has a scale position that naturally emerges from the chord.  Not all of the scales are actually playable in first position with open strings, as sometimes these scales involve notes on fret negative one or two (which don’t exist; you can’t play a note lower than an opening string without going to a lower pitched string).  However, from this theory emerges a system that really helps us understand the neck of the guitar.

Here is a diagram which details how we derive a scale from each of these 5 chords (some of the scales are unusable, as I have said):

How Do I Practice CAGED Scales?

Now you know that CAGED scales are derived from first position chords with open strings.  Let’s start applying the theory.   Here is the CAGED system as applied to C Major:

To practice these scales (once they get out of first position and become a REAL, usable, movable scale rather than a theory), start on the triangle note (the root), climb up in pitch all the way, go in reverse ALL the way down past your starting note as far as you can go, then climb back up to your starting note (root).

The nice thing about these CAGED Scales as I have written them is that none of these forms shift out of  position.  However, several of these CAGED forms have a finger stretch with finger 1 (index finger) or finger 4 (ring finger) of the left hand.  This is NOT the same as a position shift; on the guitar, each position is measured by a four-fret region, which the first finger on the fret marking the position.  For example, if you’re in 5th position, your first finger will be responsible for the 5th fret, your second has the 6th fret, your third finger has the 7th fret, and your fourth finger has the 8th fret.   Fingers 1 and 4 can stretch one fret each.  Because of this, each position can actually cover 6 frets, even though you only have 4 fingers to use. In the 5th position example, finger 1 can stretch from from 5 to fret 4, and finger 4 can stretch from fret 8 to fret 9.  As long as fingers 2 and 3 stay over fret 6 and 7, you would still be in 5th position.

The Beauty of CAGED Scales-C Form is Always Next to A Form, etc.

Notice that the positions for CAGED in C gradually move up the neck, and are ordered AGEDC (which is CAGED starting in a different place).  Assuming there is enough room on the fretboard (without running into open strings or running out of frets on the high end), C Form is always close to A Form, which is close to G form, which is close to E form, which is close to D form, which is close to C form…irrespective of what key you happen to be in.  This is part of the beauty of the CAGED system!  If you slide forward or backward a position or two, you’ll be in the next scale form forward or backward a letter in the word CAGED!  This is represented by the following diagram:

This relationship applies to any key, not just C Major.  Another way of stating the previous paragraph is that A Form won’t always be the lowest  form  on the neck without open strings, as it is in the key of C.  However, in another key G Form will still be in between A and E forms, A form will be in between C and G forms, etc.  CAGED is not just a good word with the correct letters for all of those chords; CAGED represents the order of which scale shapes (Forms) are adjacent to other scale shapes, regardless of the key.

Good luck practicing CAGED.  Remember, to fully learn this system, you must practice playing melodies and improvising within each scale form!  This will ultimately free you up to use much more of the neck.  Eventually, you will learn to connect the scales freely.

Melodic Minor Soloing Over Minor ii-V-i

Soloing over a minor iim7b5-V7-i progression is often played with either melodic minor harmony or harmonic minor harmony. Some musicians prefer the melodic minor sound, while others prefer using the harmonic minor sound. I will demonstrate both sounds over this next two-post series.

Jazz melodic minor soloing is a very hip sound.  Over a minor ii-V-i, the melodic minor sound is used thus:

  • Over the iim7(b5) chord, use a melodic minor scale up a minor third from the root.  Ex.  Em7(b5)=G melodic minor
  • Over the V7 chord, use a melodic minor scale up a half-step from the root.  Ex.  A7=Bb melodic minor
  • Over the imin69, use the melodic minor scale based on the root.  Ex. Dmin69=D melodic minor

This is a cool concept, but unless you have some examples, you may not quite know how to apply the concept adeptly.  We want to sound like we are playing JAZZ, not playing scales.  Here are 8 licks to help you understand how you might use melodic minor over a ii-7(b5)-V7-imin69 progression.  All of the licks are in D minor, and thus use:

  • Em7(b5)=G melodic minor G A Bb C D E F# G
  • A7=Bb melodic minor Bb C Db Eb F G A Bb
  • Dmin=D melodic minor D E F G A B C# D

Some example tunes you can use to practice this sound:

Alone Together.  (first four chords are a minor ii-V-i, and it soon moves to a minor ii-V-i based on the four chord)

Whisper Not (various minor ii-V-i progressions in different keys)

Softly As in a Morning Sunrise

Solar

Stella by Starlight (click to view my post on melodic minor harmony in this song!)

Enjoy practicing this sound, transposing it to other 11 other keys, and incorporating this concept into your playing!

8 Melodic Minor Licks Over ii-V-i in D Minor pdf

Melodic Minor Soloing pdf

Autumn Leaves E minor

Autumn Leaves is played often in two different keys, G minor and E minor. However, when I was researching this tune we found very few recordings in E minor. The recordings we checked out were in all kinds of different keys. Nevertheless, G minor and E minor are considered the standard keys for this tune.

Also worthy of note, this standard was first written in 1945 in France under the name “Les Feuilles Mortes,” which is translated “the dead leaves” or “fallen leaves.” Though not technically a part of the Great American Songbook due to the nationality of the tune’s composer, the tune eventually came to have all of the characteristics of other songs in that category after Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947, save for the fact that it was not composed by an American.
This tune is difficult to categorize, and we recognize that the Great American Songbook isn’t a perfect category for the tune. However, the tune fits even less neatly into all of our other categories. It is by default that we put put the tune into the Great American Songbook category because it shares so many characteristics with the other songs in that category, such as frequent ii-V-Is, traditional harmony, lyrics, and a singable melody.

A Rhythm Changes

This is A Rhythm Changes, an uncommon key to play, but a great exercise for improvisation.

Practice another key

Great Resource for Guitar Technique and Sight Reading

I saw a post by Vic Juris on the All About Jazz Forum recommending the Kreutzer Violin Studies as a way of improving your guitar technique.  If it’s good enough for Vic Juris, I’m definitely using it.  The Study  seems like a pretty good resource for some guitar sight reading as well, although the primary purpose seems to be technical. It was adapted for the guitar by Allen Hanlon, and it is now out of print. Scott Abene of Guitarheads.org put the book on his website. I’m definitely going to be using this in my teaching and in my own practice.  Guitarists enjoy!  If you play another instrument, you may still get some sight reading use out of the free resource.

Yardbird Suite

Yardbird Suite was composed by Charlie Parker in 1946. The title refers to Parker’s nickname known amongst his colleagues: Yardbird, or Bird. This is a great bebop standard to know! It is most commonly played in the key of C major.