Rhythm Changes – Part 1 – A Section

Hey Jazz Guy,

What kinds of things can I play over ‘rhythm changes’? –I Got Nothing in Naperville

Dear I Got Nothing,

Ahh, Gershwin’s little delight “I Got Rhythm” is one of the most important forms in the jazz idiom. This tune is a gateway drug to the great American songbook and understanding it well can dramatically improve your playing. These chord changes are typical of what you may come across in the A section of this AABA tune. It stays in Bb, with a few out of key moments (such as G7 in bar two and Ebm7 in bar six). The following examples split up the 8-bar phrase, to demonstrate some of the techniques we’ve looked at so far. In [Ex 1] we use a traditional bebop type line that features the guide tones and altered notes on F7. [Ex 2] features wide intervals and emphasizes the b9 on F7. The third example [Ex 3] highlights a chromatic line that includes some triplets. The final turnaround [Ex 4] uses upper structure triads, placing a C# minor and E major on top of Dm7. Lastly, we return to bebop for [Ex 5] with the 5th of F7 holding over to become the 9th of BbMaj7. The idea here is that any type of playing can work over the ‘Rhythm Changes’ progression. Using ‘Rhythm Changes’ as a base to practice any kind of vocabulary is a great way to expand your playing and achieve a greater understanding of the jazz standard repertoire. Who could ask for anything more? Next time we will take on the B section of this classic form.

Rhythm Changes In-Depth:

The interesting thing about Rhythm Changes, is that there has been so much evolution in jazz over time and you can hear it all on the various ways in which different artists play these changes. From Charlie Parker to Pat Martino, almost everyone plays them differently. Ultimately, the style question is up to you. What you must do however, is get a throughly deep understanding of the chord motion and bebop is a great place to start for that. Once you have that down, all other harmonic directions are open to you, as off-shoots of that. You can play the guide tones, or ignore them, play the upper structures, or play other chords on top of them.

This journey can be taken only with practice and careful self-critique. So shed hard, buckle up, and enjoy the trip.

Link to PDF Example: HJG – Rhythm Changes A Section

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Categories: Harmony, Specifically Soloing

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