5 Must Know Ways To Build A Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo

For anyone that’s learning how to play jazz guitar, you will have heard of, practiced or even performed a tune based on the chords to George Gershwin’s classic standard “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and have no doubt noticed the Dominant Cycle that we face when building a rhythm changes bridge solo.

The chord changes to this tune have served as the basis for many of the classic jazz heads that we still play to this day, including “Oleo,” “Anthropology” and “Rhythm-a-Ning.”

Used so often by jazz musicians over the years, these chords are now often referred to as simply “Rhythm Changes,” and are most often played in the keys of Bb and F, though some tunes do venture outside these two tonal centers.

When learning to solo over Rhythm Changes, one of the toughest obstacles that many jazz guitarists face is how to approach the Dominant Cycle, D7-G7-C7-F7 in Bb for example, which make up the chords to the B section of the tune.

In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking at 5 different approaches that you can apply to your soloing over the bridge to Rhythm Changes, ranging from diatonic scales and arpeggios to tritone subs and tritone ii-V subs.

Check these ideas out in the practice room and see how quickly they can take your Rhythm Changes solos to the next level of interest and engagement as you continue your exploration of these important chords and this important jazz standard.

 

Do you have a question or comment about this article? Visit the How to Build a Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo Thread at the MWG Forum.

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo – Dominant Bebop Scales

 

The first approach that we will look at is playing the related Dominant Bebop Scale over each of the chords in the bridge to a Rhythm Changes in the key of Bb, D7-G7-C7-F7.

To build a Dominant Bebop Scale, you simply take the Mixolydian Mode, the scale most often associated with 7th chords, and you add in a major 7th to make it an 8-note scale.

Here is how the two scales compare from an intervallic standpoint.

 

  • Mixolydian Mode – R 2 3 4 5 6 b7 R
  • Dominant Bebop Scale – R 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7 R

 

So you can see that both scales are essentially the same, BUT, the Bebop Scale has that extra chromatic note added that gives it that “tension-release” sound that is essential to bringing a Bebop flavor into your lines.

In the exercise below, I’ve used the Dominant Bebop Scale over each chord, pairing it up with an ascending arpeggio for each change in the progression.

Playing an arpeggios up and the Bebop Scale down is a technique used by many great Bebop influenced players such as Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery and of course Charlie Parker.

Try working this exercise with a metronome as written, and then take the arpeggio up and scale down approach to different fingerings and areas of the next for each arpeggio and Dominant Bebop Scale in the progression.

Then put on a backing track of the bridge to rhythm changes and improvise over those chords using only the ascending arpeggio and descending Bebop Scale to see how these ideas sound in a practical, musical situation.

 

Further Reading

 

Click to hear audio for this example.

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo

 

 

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo – ii V Arps and Scales

 

The second approach to the bridge of Rhythm Changes that we’ll be exploring is taking each 7th chord in this section of the tune and turning it into a ii-V chord progression.

Whenever you have a single 7th chord, as an improviser you can outline the related iim7 chord along with that V7 chord.

To figure out which iim7 chord you will be using just following these easy steps, written out using the D7 chord in bars 1 and 2 of the bridge to Rhythm Changes.

 

  • Grab the root of the chord you are using on the 5th string, so for D7 it would be on the 5th fret of the 5th string.
  • Then, stay on that fret but go one string lower, to the 5th fret of the 6th string, and that is your related iim7 chord, Am7 in this case.

 

Continue this formula for all of the chords in the bridge to Rhythm Changes and you now have each iim7 chord paired up with each V7 chord, as you can see in the example below where the first bar of each chord is the iim7 and the second bar of each chord is the V7.

To continue our study of ascending arpeggio and descending Bebop Scales, I’ve written out the iim7 arpeggio ascending over the first bar of each chord in the bridge, followed by the descending Dominant Bebop Scale in the second bar of the bridge.

To accommodate the iim7 arpeggio, I have started the Dominant Bebop Scale on the root of the iim7 chord and descended from there.

So, for the D7 chord at the start of this example, you can see the Am7 arpeggio ascending in bar 1, followed by the D Bebop Scale descending from the note A, the root of the iim7 chord, in bar 2.

Not only will this give you an exercise to practice playing iim7-V7 outlines over the bridge to Rhythm Changes, but you are getting away from starting your Bebop Scale on the root all the time, which can become a bad habit for many of us as we fall back to the root for the start of all our scale lines when improvising.

As always, work on this exercise with a metronome as written, and then take it to different fingerings and different areas of the neck.

When you are comfortable with these arps and scales, put on a backing track and use them as the basis for your lines and phrases over the bridge to Rhythm Changes.

Notice how the iim7 chord brings a new sonic texture to your ideas, but isn’t “outside” the chord changes, just a different shade of the underlying progression.

 

Further Reading

 

Click to hear audio for this example.

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo 2

 

 

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo – Minor Conversion

 

The third approach to soloing over the bridge to Rhythm Changes is something that I took from jazz legend Pat Marino, what he calls the Minor Conversion Method.

Basically, with this approach you are going to ignore the V7 chords that are going by during the bridge, and only solo using the iim7 chords that we explored in the previous section.

By using a minor sound, the iim7 chord and scale, over a dominant sound, the V7 chords, you are “converting” the V7 to a iim7 sound, hence the name of the approach.

You can see an example of this written out below, where I play an ascending iim7 arpeggio in the first bar of each chord, followed by the descending Minor Bebop Scale that goes with that iim7 chord in bar 2 of each change.

Playing a iim7 chord and ignoring the underlying chord is a bit of chord superimposition that takes some time to get used to, it’s not easy to see one chord on the page and play another altogether.

But, with some practice you can bring this sound into your playing and really spice up your dominant cycles, or any dominant 7th chord without really playing outside the key or given changes, just using another diatonic chord over the given chord in the chart.

Try running these ideas with a backing track as much as possible, as your ears will need time to get used to hearing one chord in the harmony, D7 for example, and one chord on the guitar, Am7 over D7 for example.

When you’ve worked the following example as written with a metronome, and taken it to different scale and arpeggio fingerings around the neck, try improvising using this approach over the bridge of Rhythm Changes to hear how it sounds in a practical, musical situation.

 

Further Reading

 

Click to hear audio for this example.

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo 3

 

 

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo – Tritone Dominant Chords

 

The fourth approach that we’ll look at over the bridge to Rhythm Changes features a tritone substitution for the second and fourth chords of the progression.

Here, instead of playing D7-G7 in the first four bars of the bridge, you can replace the G7 with its tritone sub, Db7, to create a descending dominant progression that runs from D7-Db7-C7.

Then again in the last two bars of the bridge you can sub out the F7 with its related tritone dominant chord, B7, to complete the chromatic run from D7-Db7-C7-B7, which then resolves to a Bbmaj7 chord on the downbeat of the next A section in the tune.

In the written example, I have played an ascending arpeggio in the first bar of each chord followed by a descending Dominant Bebop Scale in the second bar of each chord.

Try running these arps and scales with a backing track so that you can begin to hear how the tension created by the tritone subs is later resolved when you get to the next chord in the progression.

Whenever you are exploring any substitution you will be creating tension in your lines that will then need to be resolved.

So, when you think about building lines using the tritone sub technique, think about playing lines that begin before each sub, so start your line in bar 2 of the bridge for example, lead the listener into the sub in bars 3 and 4, then continue the line into bar 5 when you resolve it over the C7 chord.

By leading the listener into your tritone subs, and then resolving them out of the tension created in these bars, you are creating a line that can be followed by the ear and that makes sense to the ear, rather than just creating tension over the subbed bars without ever resolving it, which can often sound like you’ve made a mistake rather than used a cool harmonic sub.

 

Further Reading

 

Click to hear audio for this example.

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo 4

 

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo – Tritone ii V Chords

 

The last approach that we’ll look at when soloing over the bridge to Rhythm Changes, is to add in the iim7 chord in the first bar of each chord change, while sticking to using the tritone subs over the second and fourth chords in the bridge.

Again, I’ve written out the ascending iim7 arpeggio in the first bar of each chord, followed by the Dominant Bebop Scale for each related V7 chord in the second bar of each chord change. As we saw earlier, I started the V7 Bebop Scale on the root of the iim7 chord for each occurrence in the bridge progression.

Practice running these scales and arps, as well as improvising with these melodic devices, over a backing track in order to get the sounds of the tritone iim7-V7 chords in bars 3, 4, 7 and 8 into your ears as you get these melodic shapes under your fingers.

Click to hear audio for this example.

 

Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo 5

 

 

Further Reading

 

 

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways that you can approach the Dominant 7th chords that make up the bridge to any Rhythm Changes tune.

Check these ideas out in the practice room, see which ones work for you and that you want to keep in your repertoire and which ones you’ll come back to later on as they don’t jive with your ears/tastes at this moment in your development.

 

If you liked this lesson, have a question regarding any of these concepts or just want to connect with other jazz guitarists on the web, head on over to the Matt Warnock Guitar Facebook Page and share your thoughts and comments on this lesson on the wall.

6 Responses to "5 Must Know Ways To Build A Rhythm Changes Bridge Solo"

  1. Britt Reed says:

    Hi Matt, that was a fun way to start my morning…Thanks.

  2. Glenn says:

    Hi Matt,

    This is good stuff. I came across your lessons from Guitar World. You have a great way of explaining (teaching). I especially like that your lessons are more in depth and musical than the typical “play this scale over this chord” lesson that tells a guitar player nothing about improv.
    Thanks for your free lessons!
    -Glenn

    1. Matthew Warnock says:

      Thanks Glenn! Glad you liked the lesson. Appreciate the kinds words.

  3. Johanna says:

    Hi Matt!
    Thanks for sharing this lesson. I’m a saxophone player myself but I found this very helpful!

    -Johanna

  4. Ailton says:

    Give us the ways to play the Bb G7 Cm7 F7 too.

  5. Karan Khosla says:

    It’s amazing how you make plying guitar so much fun. Thank you .


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