Minor 6 Arpeggios over Dominant Chords

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by | Nov 22, 2022

Arpeggios are a fundamental part of Gypsy Jazz guitar playing. Still, some players don’t understand that most arpeggios can be used over more than one chord. That’s the case with Minor 6 Arpeggios and Dominant Chords.

Minor 6 arpeggios are a fantastic tool for any Jazz guitarist. They can be used over dominant chords to create a sense of “tension and release” and a soloing device.

This article will explore three distinct Minor 6 Arpeggios (over a D7 chord) essential for any Gypsy Jazz guitarist. These arpeggios will provide what you need to add color to your improvisation over dominant chords.

Let’s begin.

Resolving a Dominant Chord: The “V-I” Progression

Before we start our exploration of minor 6 arpeggios over dominant chords, I thought it would be a good idea to understand a little bit more about dominant chords and why it is so important to add color to them.

It is common to talk about Gypsy Jazz improvisation in terms of tension and release. Tension is created when musical elements are unstable or unresolved, while release occurs when they become stable or resolved. A perfect example of this concept is the evergreen V-I progression.

The V-I progression consists of a dominant chord (V) resolving to a tonic chord (I). The dominant chord creates tension, and the tonic chord resolves it.

The V chord can be more or less tense, depending on how dissonant it sounds. The more dissonance there is in the tension phase, the more satisfying the release will be.

So, how do we add more tension to our dominant chords?

A simple way to create tension and release in music is through the use of “superimposed” arpeggios over the V chord.

By using arpeggios derived from other chords, we create a sense of instability that is only resolved when the V chord resolves to the more stable I chord. This technique can be used in many different styles of music, but it’s particularly relevant in Jazz improvisation.

In our case, all of the material in this article is meant to enhance the V-I progression in the key of G: D7 (V) to G (I).

Why Does This Work?

An arpeggio is a group of notes played in succession, up or down in pitch. A Minor 6 Arpeggio is a Minor Triad with the added 6th note of the scale. So, for example, in the key of A Minor, an A Minor 6 Arpeggio would be made up of the notes A-C-E-F#.

What happens when we take this A Minor 6 Arpeggio and play it over a D7 chord?

Well, we’ll soon realize how well it sounds. But why?

Let’s compare the notes of D7 with the notes of our A Minor 6 Arpeggio.

D7 (D – F# – A – C) A Minor 6 (A – C – E – F#)

Do you see the resemblance? Three out of four notes are the same. Besides the E (in A Minor 6)or D (in D7), everything else matches perfectly.

When we take an A Minor 6 arpeggio and play it over a D7 chord, we create a unique sound that can add great interest to our playing. By superimposing the Am6 sound on top of a D7 chord, we are “turning” the D7 into a D9 (because of the added E note).

Let’s analyze how it looks on paper.

Am6 arpeggio over D7 chord

Adding this note into our playing gives us more of a Gypsy Jazz feel right away.

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The Diminished (or Minor 3rds) Rule

So, we looked at why the Am6 works so well over D7. Now, let’s make things more interesting. How can we extend this idea? Are there any more Minor 6 Arpeggios we can play over D7? Of course.

If we take our Am6 arpeggio and remove the E note, we’re left dealing with these three notes: A C F#.

What if I told you that A, C, and F# are also notes of the A Diminished Seventh Chord? Well, that’s precisely the case.

A Diminished Seventh chord is a peculiar kind of dominant seventh chord, made up of only minor 3rds intervals. That means that the distance between each note in a Diminished 7th chord is the same.

What does that mean for us? If the entire chord is made up only of minor 3rds, we can move the whole chord up (or down) a minor 3rd without altering its nature. That’s great!

So, let’s go back to our D7 chord.

We already covered Am6 over D7. If we go a minor 3rd up from A, we get to Cm6. What does that sound like over D7?

Cm6 arpeggio over D7

To understand what sound we’ll get when playing the C Minor 6 arpeggio over a D7 chord, we have to compare their notes to see how they relate.

D7 (D – F# – A – C) Cm6 (C – Eb – G – A)

So, right away, we can see that some notes are the same while others differ. Still, the notes of Cm6 are different from D7.

In relation to the D7 chord: C is the minor 7th, Eb is the flat 9th, G is the eleventh, and A is theperfect 5th. Therefore, when we impose the Cm6 sound over D7, we are “turning” the D7 into a D7sus4 with a Flat 9th. That’s the Django sound!

Here’s how that looks.

Cm6 arpeggio over D7 chord

This arpeggio will create much more tension than Am6 over D7 because of the flat 9th (Eb).

Adding the flat 9th to a dominant chord creates a dissonant yet traditional sound. It’s a great way to add tension and interest to your playing. Improvising musicians have been doing that since the very early days of Jazz, and Gypsy Jazz guitar players are no exception.

Anyway, I advise you to be careful about one thing: don’t emphasize the G note.

As I said before, G is the eleventh (or fourth) of D7. If you spend too much time on this note, you will have a “clashing” sound with the note F#: the Major 3rd of D7.

This problem happens because G and F# are only one semitone apart. Still, if you don’t overplay the G note, you can create a very peculiar sound for the same reason.

Now, what would happen if we took one step further? What is a minor 3rd up from C?

Ebm6 arpeggio over D7

Let’s compare the notes of the Eb Minor 6 Arpeggio with the notes of our D7 chord.

D7 (D – F# – A – C) Ebm6 (Eb – Gb or F# – Bb – C)

As a result of imposing Ebm6 over D7, we get a stunning D7 chord with a Flat 9th and a Flat 13th. We’re getting into some proper “outside” playing territory here.

Anyway, don’t be fooled by the scary-long chord name: flat 9s and flat 13s have been around for a while, resulting in quite a classic sound. The cool thing is that if you play this Ebm6 arpeggio, you get these sounds without thinking about altered scales and much more complicated stuff.

Let’s check out how this looks.

Ebm6 arpeggio over D7 chord

Once again, a very usable sound for your Gypsy Jazz improvisation repertoire.

Conclusion

Well, we reached the end of our journey. I hope you now have a better understanding of how to impose Minor 6 Arpeggios over Dominant Chords.

You can absolutely benefit from learning and applying the concepts discussed in this article.

Minor 6 arpeggios can be an excellent tool for developing your improvisational skills as a Gypsy Jazz guitar player. They can create exciting solos and fill up space in a chord progression without sounding redundant.

By learning to play Minor 6 Arpeggios over Dominant Chords, you will better understand the traditional sound of Gypsy Jazz, allowing you to create unique-sounding phrases in your improvisations.

With a little practice, you’ll be able to add these arpeggios to your repertoire. Have fun!

Join us for a complimentary 14-day journey to take your Gypsy jazz guitar skills to the next level:

Below you can see Filippo Dall'Asta showing you how to play Minor 6 arpeggios over dominant chords

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