~ minor key blues chord progressions ~

~ arpeggios win the day ~

~ ideas for practice ~

In a nutshell. The following ideas create a gradually 'increasing in complexity' succession of choruses of the 12 bar blues in 'C' minor. We're just building a jazzy solo really, correlating 'advancing complexity' with 'building up excitement.' The first few are common enough, but as the harmony becomes more involved through chord substitution, creating blues lines 'through' the changes becomes the challenge. So, more of a jazzers approach than the more 'muddy' orientated cats. Luckily, anything can be anywhere yes? So find what you dig and put it where you want it :) Four / Four, 4/4 time throughout, think 'big 4' all along in 'C' minor.

Play the bass line. In all of these choruses that follow, consider playing just the roots of the suggested chords to get a sense of the bass story line that evolves in each successive chorus. This bass story line lives in all of our musics, and is a historical connector, a central thread of our Americana story line weaves.

Arpeggios win the day, everyday :) In the following choruses of 12 bar blues, there's some rather involved harmony and motions. The interval motions between the roots of the chords are mostly a perfect 4th leap, or chromatically, so by half step. In figuring out a way to create melody lines, simply spell out the pitches of the chord on your instrument as a place to start.

These 'spelled out' chords are their arpeggios. Arpeggios will always tell us what chord is in play, win the day, at any given moment, everyday. Cool with spelling out the letter name pitches that create our chords? Total game changer once this ability is solid. Total game changer. These spelled out pitches in themselves are and can be creative melody lines, just add some fancy rhythm, swing, 'even 1/8'ths', sequences and permutations. All good :)

So ... any chord at anytime, can be presented anywhere, in any style, by correctly sounding out the pitches of its arpeggio? Yep. :)

The modern pentatonic option :) As all part of our Americana evolutions, we get to cycle on back to the start and paint the pentatonic colors over the changes. This gives us the two basic options. We can 'parent' scale any blues with the blue notes. And a blues scale octave to octave is often a pentatonic minor with an octave 'splitter' tritone. Second we can apply a pentatonic group to every chord. And while this might sound crazy, especially when there's like 23 different chords in one 12 bar chorus, it is a 'modern' way to improvise over changes in the Americana way and has been for near 60 years now, and now with a couple of generations of variations of course. Thinking 'C' minor blues ... ahh shucks ... here we go :)

First chorus. Starting out right at the core of it all, your basic 1, 4, 5 / 12 bar minor blues In 'C' minor blues. Wow, look familiar? Cool. No? Just review the 12 bar blues form or learn it right now for it's right here.

C min 7 C min 7 C min 7 C min 7
F min 7 F min 7 C min 7 C min 7
G min 7 F min 7 C min 7 G min 7

Second chorus. Extending the tonic color to include the ninth. Substituting the Four chord, so a fast Four, for One in bar 2. Using the altered dominant to close the chorus and set up the next.

C min 9 F min 7 C min 9 C min 9
F min 7 F min 7 C min 9 C min 9
G min 7 F min 7 C min 7 G 7# 5

Third chorus. Subbing in the diatonic Two minor seventh flat five / chord to begin the third, four bar phrase.

3 x 4 = 12 bars

C min 7 F min 7 C min 7 C min 7
F min 7 F min 7 C min 7 C min 7
D min 7b5 G 7b9 C min 7 G 7#9

Fourth chorus. Creating a Two / Five in bar 38. Using the constant structure / half step lead in for the motion to Four in bar 40. Subbing out for the tonic in bar 44 with a dominant chord built on the Six, setting up the motion to the Two chord by perfect 4th in bar 45. Using the augmented fifth color in the turnaround, flat Six then flat Seven before the dominant seventh flat nine color built on Five setting up the next chorus.

C min 9 F min 9 / Bb 13 C min 9 Gb min 7
F min 9 F min 9 C min 9 A 7+5
D min 7b5 G 7b9 Ab 13b5 Bb 13b5 / G 7b9

Fifth chorus. Note new abbreviated chord symbol to designate minor chord, 'min' becomes 'm.' Using the suspended fourth color and ...

... 'moving stepwise, up ascending then down descending through the pitches of 'C' minor.'

~ C D Eb F Eb D C ~

Although this realization looks pretty thick, although the root of the chord changes, the voicing is the same to protect the, i.e., one voicing is moved as a constant structure to achieve this magical effect. Also referred to as plane-ing. A more modern sound really, and with the 'sus', lending some '80's' 'fusion' to the mix.

Cm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Fm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Cm 7sus4 / C 7#9
Fm 7sus4 / Gm 7sus4 Am 7sus4 / G 7+5 Cm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Fm 7sus4
Fm 7sus4 / Gm 7sus4 Am 7sus4 / G 7+5 Cm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Fm 7sus4

Sixth chorus. Evolving stepwise to chromatic, we sub out for the sus 4 color to the minor ninth. Five of Five in bar 9, which moves by half step downward towards the tonic in bar 10. The flat Two major nine in bar 12 is not common and cool color to set up the next chorus in minor. Many love this flat Two motion, it adds a glimmer of brighter light in the minor shading, and makes for a solid vamp in all sorts of grooves.

C min 9 Db min 9 D min 9 Eb - 9 / E - 9
F - 9 / E - 9 Eb - 9 / D - 9 C min 9 C min 9
D 7b5 Db 7b5 C min 9 Db maj 9

Seventh chorus. Subbing out with dominant chords and going the other direction from last chorus in this first phrase. This descending motion continues through the second phrase, we also sub out for the minor color to dominant seventh. In the third phrase, the bass line changes direction and moves upward by whole steps, as the augmented color sets up the return to the tonic in bar 11. The major nine color is replaced by the dominant V9 color in bar 12, setting up the return to the top.

C min 7 Bb 13 sus 4 Ab maj 9 Gb 13
F - 9 / Eb 13sus4 D 7b5sus4 / Db 13 C - 7 / Bb 7 Ab 7 / Gb 7
F 7+5 / G 7+5 A 7+5 / B 7+5 C min 7 Db 9

Eighth chorus. Using the motion of the passing seventh on the tonic and Four chord for the first two phrases. Flat Six then replaces Four in bar 9 for the turnaround, while chromatic motion of all dominant type chords upward from flat seven replaces the flat Two, setting up the next chorus.

C - / C - / maj 7 C - 7 / C - 6 C - / C -/ maj 7 C - 7 / C -/ maj 7
F - / F - / maj 7 F - 7 / F - 6 C - / C - / maj 7 C - 7 / C - 6
Ab 7b5 G 7b9 Ab 9 Bb 9 / B 9

Ninth chorus. Climaxing the solo. To bring this solo to an apex, we go back to the 'sus' chords, "suspending the minor 3rd upward up by whole step, thus the chord symbol designation of "sus 4." The roots of the chords are back to their '1 4 5' blues basic. The last phrase reverts to a more traditional blues cadencing although the return to the tonic is delayed. The last chord in bar 108 is truly blues colored which breaks the suspended feel and sets up a more traditional blues return to the top for the next chorus.

C 9sus4 C 9sus4 C 9sus4 C 9sus4
F 9sus4 F 9sus4 C 9sus4 C 9sus4
G 9sus4 F 9sus4 G 9sus4 G 9sus4 / G 7#9#5

Tenth chorus. Here we shift back towards our more traditional minor blues start point, now by including the minor third back into the One and Four triad / chord voicings. The interesting twist here is the motion after the minor Four chord in bar 5, where the # Four diminished chord used is generally more associated with the major blues tonality. So trending towards major? Yep. The major V7 tonic in bar 7 sums it up. And something a bit different. The last chord color in bar 12 sets up a super solid return to the minor tonality for the last chorus.

C min 9 F min 9 C min 9 C 7b 9
F min 9 F# dim 7 C 13 C# dim 7
D - 7 / E - 7 F 9 / F# dim 7 G 9 G 7#9#5

Eleventh chorus. Back to where we started, nearly the original set of changes for the restatement of the head. Using more of the diatonic minor nine color on One and Four this time around.

C min 9 F min 7 C min 9 C min 9
F min 7 F min 7 C min 9 C min 9
G min 7 F min 7 C min 7 G 7#9

Last bar, tag. Ending on the tonic minor nine. This minor 9 color ... pretty poignant huh ?

C min 9

Review. Well, took a dozen choruses to get all those changes squeezed in there somehow somewhere ! See any new ones to add into your faves of today ? Once past the basics, it's jazz leaning so be careful :) When rock and blues players get one diminished chord in a song ... lookout. So rare a chance is just not to be missed, ever, as in every chorus through, but at volume 11 ... yikes ... it'll unbalance the vibe toot sweet each time. And if it's in every chorus ... ? Super look out !

Luckily a lot of this chord substitution is jazz leaning. So with jazz styles, tempos tend to pick up and these chords go by faster, even sometimes in a blur. So a passing diminished chord say on # Four is just fun and a nice challenge too. Slower tempos are more revealing in lot of ways, so we take more care in presenting the colors. Nice when the tempo is slow enough to make every pitch count.

The coolness is that after doing this a while, stronger players can superimpose anything on anything, whether the bass goes there, or there's a chord. Often these are some sort of sequence. Which on its own has momentum to move it forward, create the sense of future resolution of pitch in time. Theorist's can always 'armchair' a substitution to some organic source or another. And by looking ahead in time within a chorus, and pointing our musical lines to close on the downbeats of each new four bar phrase, we now have the best of both. Pitches moving through metered time.

Ideas for practicing. Work with your metronome and play through the root pitches of the chords your working on. Then arpeggiate each chord through its triad and 7th. How's your chord spelling ability these days? Learn to here if need be, it's easy. Find one cool substitution ya dig and try to fit it in. When you can hear the change in the melody line, ya got it. For we know that 'right pitched' arpeggios will always tell the chord / harmonic tale at any given moment in the music :) Then branch out from there ... easy :) Doing the math / chemistry, there's really only a couple of thousand chords.

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wiki ~ Charlie Chaplin

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

References academia Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's own and finest resident maestros !

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