In the previous lesson we studied how to use minor ii V arpeggios to outline the chord progression we were soloing over. Each time we began from the same pre-defined arpeggio tone on each chord, for example the 3rd of Em7b5, the 3rd of A7 and then the 3rd of Dm7. This is an extremely important skill to practice because it teaches us where the strong, resolved arpeggio tones are for each chord. Practicing in this way however does force us to jump about on the neck whenever the chord changes.
We will now study how to join minor ii V arpeggios together using the ‘closest available tone’ concept. Instead of jumping to a pre-defined note when the chord changes, we will now move to the closest note in the new arpeggio.
Minor ii V Arpeggios Example 3a:
This line begins by ascending the Em7b5 arpeggio from the root. When the chord changes to A7, instead of jumping to the root of A7, I move to the closest note of the A7 arpeggio – in this case, the 3rd (C#)
From there I continue the ascent and when it is time to change to Dm7, I again aim for the closest note in the Dm7 arpeggio, (F) which is located on the 6th fret, second string. To finish, I descend the Dm7 arpeggio.
This is just one of a multitude of permutations of minor ii V arpeggios we have available when changing chords. For example, when it is time to change to the A7 arpeggio, there is no need for me to continue ascending in pitch:
Minor ii V Arpeggios Example 3b:
In this example I begin the same way and change into the A7 arpeggio in the same place, however I then descend the A7 arpeggio creating a completely new bebop line. As the chord changes to Dm7, I move up from the 5th of the A7 chord into the b3rd of the Dm7 arpeggio. This semitone movement is extremely strong melodically. Try playing the previous two examples with and without a backing track. You should still be able to internally hear the chords change even when the backing track isn’t playing.
Of course, we can start from any point in the arpeggio. The next line starts from the b3rd of the Em7b5 chord.
Minor ii V Arpeggios Example 3c:
Do you notice how I can use a melodic sequence and still target the closest arpeggio tone as each chord changes with minor ii V arpeggios?
Here’s another line ascending from the same place:
Minor ii V Arpeggios Example 3d:
The above line ascends from the b3 of Em7b5 and targets the b7of A7 before resolving into the b3 of D minor.
Our lines can begin with descending ideas too as shown in example 3e:
Example 3e descends from the b5 of the Em7b5 chord, hits the 3rd of A7 and resolves upwards with a semitone step into the b3 of Dm7. When changing to Dm7, I could have landed on the root of the chord, however landing on the root on beat one of the final chord can be a bit of a brick wall when it comes to building momentum in your solo. It is often better to aim for a different arpeggio tone as it will give more forward energy to the melodic line.
Take a few days to let your fingers wander around the minor ii V arpeggios shapes, always looking for the closest melodic link into the next chord.
The most efficient and effective way to explore how notes alter over chord changes is to divide the guitar up into two-string groups, and practice soloing only using these groups. For example you can limit yourself to only using strings one and two, two and three, three and four, four and five or five and six.
Here are just a few permutations using only the first and second string:
Minor ii V Arpeggios Example 3f:
Minor ii V Arpeggios Example 3g:
Minor ii V Arpeggios Example 3h:
Keep exploring these limited range ideas until you feel you have exhausted all the possibilities. Try repeating individual notes or using melodic patterns and jumps. Only when you can’t think of anymore ways to move between the closest tones on the chord change, move on to the second and third string group.
Soon you will have every movement in this position memorised in your fingers and your ears.
As you gain more confidence through this procedure, practice with the three different tempo backing tracks. Also try the exercises with just a metronome to see if you can hear the chords change while only playing solo melody.
Notice that some of the minor ii V arpeggio tones are common to two adjacent chords. You may want to avoid repeating the same note over a chord change at first, but later you will find that common tones can become a very strong and useful melodic device.