Learn to Outline the basic chord changes

Here a few ideas on how to get started when learning to play chord changes.  Remember, this is only a starting place.  There are an infinite number of ways to improvise.
Play the roots of the chords in time through the entire head.  (The root of the chord is the note that is stated in the name of the chord.  For example: the root of a C7 chord is “C.”)  Start by using whole notes, then play each root with varying rhythms.

  • Play the root and the third of the chord through the entire head with varying rhythm
  • Play 1 – 3 – 5 – 7 of each chord in time.  For example:  In a bar of C7 you would play C – E – G – Bb.  If there are two chord changes per measure, play each chord at twice the speed so that you can play both chord changes.
  • Play 7 – 5 – 3 – 1 – of each chord change.
  • Play only the 3 and 7 of each chord change making sure that as you change chords you choose the next chord tone that is closest to the note you just played.  For example:  Cmin7 – F7 If you started on Eb then to Bb, as you change to the F7 chord, your closest note would be the A (not the Eb) in the F7 chord.  Another example: Cmin7 – F7 If you started on the Bb then to Eb, as you change to the F7 chord, the closest note would be to stay on the Eb because Eb is the 7th of the F7 chord.  Then you could move to the A.
  • Play 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 of each chord in time.
  • Mix and match the different ways of outlining chord changes.