Making Transitions over the Blues Pt I

Making transitions over the blues is one of the elements that separates a beginning sounding improviser with someone more sophisticated. The good news is that this is a relatively easy concept to add to your improvisation that will have implications in many other contexts.

This is the first post in a series of four. Over the course of this and the remaining four posts in this series we are focused on developing jazz language over the fourth measure of the blues. This measure can serve as a transition from the Bb7 harmony of the first phrase to the Eb7 harmony which begins the second phrase.

ii-7, V7, I licks are the foundation for our language as improvisers. I like to categorize ideas over ii-7, V7 I's as "regular" ii-V-I's (or 4 measure) and "Short" (or 2 measure) ii-V-I's. While the "regular ii-7, V7, I idea will include a full measure for the ii- chord, a full measure for the V7 chord and 2 full measures for the I chord, the short version of this concept cuts ll of the chord durations in half. The first measure includes 2 beats of the ii-7 chord, and 2 beats of the V7 chord before resolving to I in the second measure.

Within the context of the blues, we can substitute a short ii-7, V, I on the fourth measure of the blues leading to the concert Eb Chord. This will be an F-7, Bb7 in measure four, leading to the Eb7. It is important to note that it is fine for the improviser to outline this harmony without the rhythm section comping these chords. The whole point is to develop transitional material that leads into the second phrase of the blues.

The idea that this post outlines is mostly just an arpeggio of the ii-7 and V chords. I have outlined a process for developing this kind of line in concert key of Eb followed by the finished idea transposed for Bb, Eb, and Concert pitch instruments. Subsequent blog posts will focus on how to take this general idea and flex it into several different variations.

1. Step One is to play the 7th chords for the ii-7, V7 and I(7) in the concert key of Eb using quarter notes. Take time to internalize the chord tones and sing these pitches in a addition to playing them on your instruction.

2. The next step in the process is to begin the V7 chord on the 3rd scale degree, rather than the root. This starts to create a smoother line from the ii chord. The new shape over the V chord is 3,5,7,9. Resolve this line by playing 5,3 on the I chord.

3. The last step is to compress the rhythm from quarter-notes to eighth-notes.

Below is the full idea transposed for each instrument:

Bb Instruments:

For trumpets who need to adjust for range, try this:

Eb Instruments:

Concert Instruments:

Bass Clef Instruments:

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