Minor 7 chord improvisation with scale substitution

FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites A practical theory lesson on how i approach improvising over a static m7 chord groove. In jazz, funk and rock, if a solo section consists of a static m7 chord, most often the Dorian minor scale is used (1, 2, b3, 4 , 5, 6, b7). The dorian minor scale is built on the 2nd step of the Major scale. In this example the D dorian minor scale is 2nd step (or mode) of the C Major scale - or in other words it IS a C major scale just starting on the 2nd step/degree. So on any given minor7 chord we can improvise a Major scale a whole step below. ie if we play over a Em7 chord , we can play a D Major scale
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bass1962 said,

August 16, 2010 @ 4:36 am

Thanks Marlow for opening up my ears and eyes

MarloweDK said,

May 7, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

Basically yes, but i avoid using the 6th mode on a static minor7 chord – im not playing Dm aolian over a Dm7 chord groove if the band is playing the bluesy kind of groove – because its common to play the major 6 scale interval and not the more “gloomy” minor 6 which is in the aolian scale.
And if you play the Bb major scale over Dm7, you will get a minor 2nd and minor 6th – ouch.
Remember we are only talking about playing over a static Dm7 in a blues, jazz rock setting.
If you played with a neo metal band you would maybe favor the aolian or phrygian modes – it also a question of music style.
And more rules apply if we are playing over a chord progression in a minor KEY – this is just a static chord groove
But back to yuor question and…
What i would rather do – is playing some of the modes of the C major scale on the Dm7 chord groove:
C major ionian and/or C major pentatonic
Dm dorian and/or D minor pentatonic (of course)
Em phrygian and/or E minor pentatonic
F major lydian and/or F major pentatonic
G mixolydian and/or G major pentatonic
Am aolian and/or A minor pentatonic
Bm locrian

These all contain the same notes, but you target the notes differently by “cheating” the brain to see new patterns
I plan do more videos on the subject:-)

Funkyjack said,

May 7, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

This is usefull!
Let’s see if I get this all right.

The chord is (D)m7 and is the only chord in this “song” right? So you can play a (C, root) major scale.

But, m7 is also used in the third and the sixt mode.
So you can “choose” which mode/scale?

On this lesson you can play (over Dm7):
C major scale, Dm7 is Dorian (Second mode).
Bb major scale, Dm7 is Phrygian (Third mode).
F Major scale, Dm7 is Aeolian (Sixt mode).

Is this right?

Do you want to explain and show this in a video? Do you know which scales are also playable over a m7, or is this it (+pentatonic&blues)?


Littleboots said,

May 7, 2010 @ 8:54 am

Marlow, you’re the best. I can’t tell you how awesome this site is. This site is by far one of the best examples of what the internet should be used for.

I’m broke right now but as soon as I get some monies you’ll have some donations coming your way. 😉

buju said,

May 7, 2010 @ 4:22 am

thanks you so much Marlow your lessons are the best.

matt said,

May 5, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

Great lesson! First one for me that has really cleared up the thinking behind modes and subs.

Thank you.


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