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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all! My query related to playing over minor 251s, and what scale and chord choices are available.

If we are trying to improvise over a 251 minor (say, in "Softly as a Morning Sunrise") what are the best choices? The chord sequence for alto runs Bdim7/E7b9/Amin7. One great idea is to use the A diminished scale over the I minor chord. I wonder whether it could also be used across the 2 and 5? Maybe we should use the B dim scale and E dim scale over 2 and 5?

Otherwise, I guess we cab draw on melodic minor (MM) scales, using D MM over Bdim7, F MM over E7b9, and A MM over A min7. A third option (which doesn't seem right) would be to use the AMM over the 251.

Thoughts anyone? Thanks, Mike
 

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The melodic minor scales are the go-to scales. You can use diatonic/harmonic minor scales too if you want that sound. Another little "trick" that I've heard is that you can use a minor scale a half step up from the root over the V chord. On the V another common scale is the half-whole diminished. I'm sure there are more options out there but these are a few solid ones in my book.
 

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A third option (which doesn't seem right) would be to use the AMM over the 251.

Thoughts anyone? Thanks, Mike
The fourth option is probably best, A harmonic minor over the who's thing and base it around the chord tones as appropriate

Although I think you meant to say B half dim 7 not B diminished 7
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well first of all it would have been helpful if I had got the name correct!!

I should have written Randy Hunter, here is a link to his lesson page:

http://www.beginningsax.com/Jazz%20Improv%20Lessons.htm

Apologies for my error.
Randy Hunter; thanks for that. Could I annoy you a little by asking which lesson this was; the one of Softly (which is full of minor 251s) seems interesting but is not free. Any advice welcomed. Mike
 

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Well, think of relative minors. I typically use one of two sets of notes over a half diminished: a) the notes of the harmonic minor of the i minor (in this case, it would be A harmonic minor). This gives you the F and the G# of the B half dim chord. b) the notes of the relative major of the i minor (or, for that matter the natural minor of the i minor, in this case the A natural minor. You still get the A of the B half dim 7th; the G natural rather than G# is a lower tension sound; you still get the F natural of the B half dim 7th.

I don't think of using "such-and-such scale" over a chord, but rather I think of "using the notes of such-and-such scale". You may think it's a trivial distinction, but I find it helps me to break away from landing on the root of the scale whose notes I'm using and rather think more of how I can draw from that set of notes to create a melody that works well with the harmony of the moment.

I have experimented with using the notes of the melodic minor scale over the half dim chord but I never felt they slotted in like the two sets of notes I mentioned above.

At any rate, one of the whole points of practicing ii-V7-I or iim7b5-V7-i patterns is that the same set of notes can be used over the group of three chords. So using a different set of notes over each chord, as you propose above, defeats that purpose, and it might (emphasis might as I have never heard you play) sound more choppy and broken up. Which can sometimes be what you want. But if you use one of the two sets of notes I have described over all three of the chords in the iim7b5-V7-i pattern, you will find that the notes and the harmony slot in well together.

Then you have to make something beautiful out of it ----
 

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The fourth option is probably best, A harmonic minor over the who's thing and base it around the chord tones as appropriate

Although I think you meant to say B half dim 7 not B diminished 7
I agree with Pete here although his thought can be expanded to some cool options too if you care to take it that far ... The Harmonic minor gives you the F natural which is a leading tone in this case. Here are some expansions:

1) Use the A Harmonic minor scale with an added F# also ... so you get an 8 note scale ... A,B,C,D,E,F,F#,G#,A ... this creates a symmetrical scale that when played gives you two chords (A,C,E,F# = Amin6 and B,D,F,G# = E7b9 without the E) If you play this scale you will begin to create linear harmony and can create some great ideas.

2) Use E7 Bebop Scale with a b6 and b9 ... This scale would be E,F,G#,A,B,C,D,D#,E ... You can use this over the minor ii V and it works incredibly well, but it will also work well over the A minor chord. Technically you should start this scale on E,G#,B, or D for it to work the way most guys use it. The scale outlined in example one can be a little more liberally used although to be idiomatically correct, you should start on A,C,E or F# when playing over the A minor chord and B,D,F or G# when playing over the minor ii V. Both of these rules can be broken when you figure out what you are doing of course ... as with most things in music:)

Notice that both of these options are variations of the Harmonic minor scale that Pete suggested ... I agree that most Jazz guys prior to 1970 would use either the Harmonic minor scale or one of the 2 scales that I have out lined for you ... BUT the important thing to remember is that they would use these scales to outline and embellish CHORD TONES, which is the best way to solo IMO ... If you can't create a great melodic solo using the chord tones / 4 notes, then what are you doing trying to use 7 or 8 notes!! That statement is directed at everyone including myself, not you personally:)
 

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Another little "trick" that I've heard is that you can use a minor scale a half step up from the root over the V chord. On the V another common scale is the half-whole diminished.
Are those two ideas not the same set of notes (also called the altered scale)?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Randy Hunter; thanks for that. Could I annoy you a little by asking which lesson this was; the one of Softly (which is full of minor 251s) seems interesting but is not free. Any advice welcomed. Mike
I have acquired the Randy Hunter lesson on "Softly" and will report on it shortly. Thanks, Mike
 

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In addition to all of the above, consider the diminished chord that is 'contained' in the V7b9 chord; if you spell that chord from the 3rd (leave out the root), you have a diminished chord:

E7b9 = E G# B D F

G# B D F = G# diminished chord (also B, D, F diminished).

Playing that diminished arpeggio outlines the sound of the V7b9 chord very nicely, esp when you resolve the F down a half step to the E (in the case of an E7b9 chord).
 

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This video I made might be helpful, I talk about playing bebop scales and specifically bebop scales on half diminished chords which can be your iib5 in a iib5-V7b9
Hope this helps
 
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