One of the first progressions many guitarists tackle when learning to improvise in the jazz idiom is the ii-V-I. This common three-chord progression can be found in countless jazz tunes, and improvising over these chords in a convincing fashion is a must-know skill for any budding jazz guitarist to have under their fingers.
When first learning to solo over 7th chords, most guitarists will begin by checking out the pentatonic and blues scales we all know and love, followed by the Mixolydain mode, which completes the fundamental trifecta for blowing on unaltered dominant chords. But what about altered dominant chords? When adding in b9s, #9s, b5s and #5s, all the “altered” notes of a 7th chord, suddenly these three scales just don’t cut it on the bandstand.
Working on scales in the practice room can sometimes seem like a one-handed event. Sure, the picking hand is there, and it may even be focusing on alternate picking, sweep picking or other picking technique, but beyond that, how deep do we really go with our right hand when practicing scales?
Improvising with arpeggios is a great way to dig into chord changes, bringing out the exact sound of each chord in your lines. While scales and modes are great for outlining keys and creating modal colors, when you want to sound each chord in a progression, arpeggios are the way to go. While they are great for outlining chord changes, arpeggios can often become boring or predictable when you overuse them in a solo.