Song 13

  1. Scale-tone 7th Chord Progression
  2. Hope
  3. Triplet Crotchets
  4. Keyboard Chord Voicings
  5. Phrasing - Guide tones
  6. Practice : Scale-tone 7th Arpeggios
  7. Session Materials


Song | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | ?? |

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S 13.1 : Scale-tone 7th Chord Progression

We introduced the scale-tone 7th chords of the major scale in Lesson 12.

Each of these chords is formed from scale-tones of the major scale only. Each of these chords represents therefore one of the musical colours which make up the tonality of the major scale.

Audio 13.1

Arranging the Scale-tone 7th chords in the order the major scale tones occur on the Circle of 5ths produces :

Audio 13.2
(Starts on Fmaj7 and follows the arrows to end on Cmaj7, the Tonic chord of the scale.)

This is the scale-tone 7th chord progression of the major scale.

IVmaj7 --> VIIø --> IIIm7 --> VIm7 --> IIm7 --> V7 --> Imaj7

in C : Fmaj7 - Bø - Em7 - Am7 - Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7

in F : Bbmaj7 - Eø - Am7 - Dm7 - Gm7 - C7 - Fmaj7

It is the most important chord progression in Western music, and many of the harmonies in Western music of the past 300 years (from about J.S.Bach onwards) have been derived from it.

Audio 13.2

The chord progression can start at any point.
But as the tonic I chord (Cmaj7) is usually the final target, the first logical choice is the IV chord (Fmaj7), then across the Circle to the VII chord (B ø), followed by the other chords along the Circle of 5ths to the final destination : Cmaj7.

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S 13.2 - Hope

Hope is the very first song I wrote in the new millennium.
I woke up on the morning of 1 January, 2000, went straight to the piano in my studio and wrote the whole song in about 10 minutes. I played it, looked again at the score and new instantly that this song had to be called Hope. Hope that the new millennium would herald in a new and better era than the gruesome, terribly cruel and highly selfish and materialistic Century we just left behind.

Hope is a 32 bar ballad. The melody reflects an ABAC format.
The chord progression of the song is in ABAA format and is almost identical to the chord progression of Fools Rush In (by Rube Bloom and Johnny Mercer). Only bars 23 to 26 are different.

Like Fools Rush In, Hope features the scale- tone 7th chord progression of the C major scale.
The progression starts with the IVmaj7 chord (Fmaj7) and ends on the tonic chord (Cmaj7).


For improvisation you can use the C major scale throughout the song except over the :

  • A7 chord - where you use the A Mixolydian mode : A B C# D E F# G A, and over the

  • D7 chord - where you use the D Mixolydian mode : D E F# G A B C D.

Famous songs that feature the scale-tone chord progression of a major scale include :

Fools Rush Inby Rube Bloom and Johnny Mercer
Fly Me to the Moonby Bart Howard
All the Things You Are by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein
Autumn Leavesby Johnny Mercer

Other songs I wrote using the scale-tone chord progressions are :

Friends Foreverin the Jazz Theory Course on CD-ROM
No Worries at Allin Chords Book 1
Street Dancein the Improvisation Email Course

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S 13.3 - Triplet Crotchets

The main rhythmic feature of Hope are the triplet crotchets which occur throughout the melody.
Triplet crotchets are three crotchets (quarter notes) equally spaced within the time span of two beats (in 4/4 time).

Unlike triplet quavers (3 eighth notes spaced over 1 beat) which are quite easy to play, most students and many experienced players have great trouble in playing crotchet triplets correctly.
I could never play them correctly myself, until one of my teachers put me on the following routine which I urge you to follow too.

This exercises is practised away from the instrument. I used to do it while cooking my evening meal, or when walking on the beach.

Audio 13.3

Follow these three steps, starting slowly and deliberately, as you may need to think each action through at first until you get into a groove.

  1. Tap your foot on each beat

  2. Subdivide each beat in threes in your mind, counting 1 2 3 , 4 5 6

  3. Clap your hands on on the subdivisions 1, 3 and 5

Audio 13.3

Think through the action on each beat subdivision as follows :

  1. Tap foot + Clap hands

  2. no action

  3. Clap hands

  4. Tap foot

  5. Clap hands

  6. no action

When walking you can subdivide each step in threes (step 2 3 , step 5 6) and clap your hands on 1 (with step), 3 and 5.
Within a week of practice you will get control over this important rhythmic feature.
Gradually you will be able to increase the tempo of the beats. When solid you can replace the clapping with a single note on your instrument (still tapping the beat and counting the subdivisions in your mind).

When you can do all this you can regard yourself a member of the Michael Furstner Triplet Crotchets Club.
Soon you will be able to play this rhythm just by feeling alone, as long as you make sure that the first note of each group of three always falls on a downbeat.
Have fun !

Audio 13.4

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S 13.4 - Keyboard Chord Voicings

The chords in the scale-tone 7th chord progression of the major scale follow the Circle of Fifths. The normal guidelines for smooth chord voicings of all Circle of Fifths chord progressions therefore applies.

  • alternate chord voicings between root positions and 2nd inversions, or

  • alternate chord voicings between 1st inversions and 3rd inversions.

Appropriate chord voicings in a good pitch range for Hope are shown below. The chord voicings alternate between root positions (in blue) and 2nd inversions (in red).

Fmaj7 - - Em7 - Am7 - Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 - A7

The only exception is the A7 chord (at the turnarounds) which I have voiced as a 1st inversion.

Audio 13.5

A nice ballad style left hand is shown below, where the above chord voicings are played as arpeggios rather than solid chords.

Audio 13.6

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S 13.5 - Phrasing : Using guide tones

Jamey Aebersold states in one of his books (of his play-a-long CDs series) that good improvisation is governed
for 50% by the Mind + for 50% by Intuition

I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. Aspects of the mind include of course

  1. an intimate knowledge of chords, scales, chord progressions and chord / scale relationships.

  2. It includes an good understanding of musical phrases (as dealt with in this course).

  3. But it also includes exercising discipline.

There is nothing wrong with going all out and all over the place once you get on top of the other mind aspects of improvisation. In fact it is a good idea to experiment as much as you can.

But ultimately your best solos will be those where you apply a strict discipline to your creativity.

When you get onto an idea, try to develop it and "milk it" to get as much mileage out of it as you can. This way a solo can become a expression of great beauty and musical intelligence and comes across to the audience as truly "meaningful".

Guide tone lines are a useful tool in developing improvisation skills.
A guide tone line is a smooth line of single notes that reflect the chord progression of a tune. It functions as a skeleton outline for an improvisation. The guide tones are target notes to sit on, pass through, or return to.

A guide tone line provides both meaningful direction and a degree of discipline to a solo.

To construct a guide tone line :

  1. Select only one note per chord (neighbouring chords may share one tone)

  2. Move usually from one tone to the next by a whole or a half tone

  3. Move gradually up or down over one or more phrases.
    Keep the line simple, so that it is easy to remember.

  4. Select mostly strong chord tones, e.g. the 3rd or 7th of a chord.
    Other chord tones possible are roots, 5ths, 9ths and (altered) colour tones, but they may weaken the line.

Below four typical guide tone lines for the first 8 bars of
Audio 13.7 plays each example twice, first as a solid guide tone line, then incorporated in a very simple improvised solo.

Audio 13.7

Experiment with the above four examples and extend each line to cover the whole song. Then use them in your improvisation.

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S 13.6 - Practice : Scale-tone 7th Arpeggios

Practise the major scales in all 12 keys in scale-tone 7th chord patterns.
There are two different patterns you should work on. They are shown below. Try to play these from memory. If you find this difficult at first you can write out the patterns on manuscript paper, but avoid using this as soon as possible.
Also included two pages with scale-tone 7th chords in all keys for reference.

Pattern 1 : 1 3 5 7 - 2 4 6 8 - 3 5 7 9 - 4 6 8 10

Audio 13.8

Pattern 2 : 1 3 5 7 - 8 6 4 2 - 3 5 7 9 - 10 8 6 4

Audio 13.9

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S 13.7 - Session Materials

ItemMidi fileSheet music
HopeDemo P-a-L C instr. Bb instr. Eb instr.
Easy Key for Bb instr. (C)E-PalC instr.
Easy Key for Eb instr. (C)E-PalC instr.
Scale-tone 7th Chordsp.1p.2

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© 2003 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)