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Bebop figure 1

This figure is a descending sequence that works over major 7th, minor 7th, dominant 7th and Phrygian chords.

Bebop figure 2

The exact notes played here are just by way of example: this is a pattern that can be applied in any harmonic context. As long as the notes mostly fit with the underlying harmony — or don’t, if that’s the effect you’re going for — it’ll work.

Variation 1 permalink

The same pattern but starting on the first beat of the bar. These particular notes work over minor sixth and half diminished chords.

Bebop figure 2a

Variation 2 permalink

The first example, but starting with a couple of descending minor thirds.

Bebop figure 2b

As an exercise, alter the figure by combining it with other melodic fragments as I’ve done in this example.

Over diminished 7th chords permalink

Here’s a variation that works over diminished 7th chords.

Because diminished 7th chords comprise four notes each a minor 3rd apart (and there are twelve notes in an equal-tempered octave) there are only really three of them. Therefore each line above sounds good against the relevant four named chords.

As ever, though, the theory is secondary to what sounds good to your ears.

Exercise: putting it into practice (rhythm changes) permalink

Let’s see if we can make this figure work within the context of an actual tune. Rhythm changes is a common chord sequence in straight-ahead jazz, so how about we compose a solo on the A1 section…

Notes permalink

  • ‘Composing’ a solo can be a useful exercise, especially at first, as we have time to really think about what we’re doing, which isn’t the case when we’re improvising in real time
  • Here I’m thinking in terms of a straight-ahead bebop idiom, with the left hand following the Bud Powell model of having the root in the bass and the 3rd, 6th or 7th above it.
  • I was able to fit in a few instances of the lick. The one highlighted in blue appeared accidentally, in a different part of the beat following the enclosure it overlaps, so I don’t think it counts
  • I use part of the earlier diminished 7th variation verbatim in bar 6. The first group of notes (starting on the C) works for the E flat 6 and E diminished 7th chords, as they share three of the four notes (the C, B flat and G).

See also permalink

A variation of this lick is used in ‘Example 3: straight-ahead bebop’ in the post ‘Playing outside the changes’, over a rhythm changes B section.