Song 20

  1. The Im - ImM7 - Im7 Progression
  2. Coming Home
  3. Phrasing : Timing - Technique
  4. Phrasing : Timing - Ear training
  5. Practice : Melodic minor scale
  6. Session Materials


Song | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | ?? |

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S 20.1 : The Im - ImM7 - Im7 Progression

The minor Major 7th chord is an interesting chord.
Its main function in Jazz and popular music is as a passing chord between a minor triad and a minor 7th chord.

Cm -----> CmM7 -----> Cm7

C Eb G C - C Eb G B - C Eb G Bb

In this sequence the top note descends in semitone steps from one chord to the next.
This step wise motion can be further extended by additional chords to form a continuous line of semitone steps from the I chord's root to the 5th.

Audio 20.1

Instead of the VIø chord (Aø) the VIo (Ao) or the Im6 chord (Cm6) is sometimes used. (Cm6 is of course just an inversion of the Aø chord).
Instead of the bVImaj7 (Abmaj7) the bVI major triad (Ab) or the IVm7 (Fm7) can also be used.

This chord sequence is used in a great number of ballads, such as :

My Funny Valentine(by Lorenz Hart & Richard Rodgers)
In a Sentimental Mood(by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Manny Kurtz)
Feelings(by Morris Albert)
This Masquerade(by Leon Russell)
It Don't Mean a Thing(by Irving Mills & Duke Ellington)
What are You doing the Rest of Your Life ?(by Michel Legrand)

Keyboard chord voicings
Place the step wise moving notes either at the top of the chord voicings, or use them as sustained bass notes in a stride bass style like this :

Audio 20.2

Bass players should also be aware of this moving chord tone line and use it in their accompaniment.

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S 20.2 - Coming Home

Coming Home is a 32 bar ballad in C minor. The format is A A B A.
The A section uses the Im - ImM7 - Im7 - VIø - VImaj7 - V7 chord progression.

The main feature of the A section is a simple one bar rhythmic motif repeated a number of times. Melodic interest is created by variation of the pitch of the long notes (Eb, D, G, C, Eb, B, G, etc.) within this simple motif.


Use the various C minor scales for improvisation over the A sections.

Audio 20.3
(Natural minor - Dorian mode - Harmonic minor - Melodic minor)


Vary the 6th and 7th notes of the scale to accommodate the chord tones of each chord.
For example :

  • For Cm use : C D Eb G A Bb C

  • For CmM7 use : C D Eb G Ab B C

  • For Cm7 use : C D Eb G A Bb C

  • For Aø use : C D Eb G A Bb C

  • For Abmaj7 use : C D Eb G Ab Bb C

  • For G7 use : C D Eb G Ab B

You need not be too dogmatic about this, simply use what sounds good.

The Bridge of Coming Home uses two IIm7 - V7 - Imaj7 chord progressions, one in the key of Eb major the other in Db major.
This time the whole rhythm pattern of the first 4 bars is repeated in the second 4 bars. The melody also is simply shifted a tone down in the new key.

Audio 20.4

For improvisation use the appropriate modes as shown below.

Audio 20.5

Included in this session two tracks swapping fours on the
Coming Home chord progression.

  • On Coming Home 1 - I play the first 4 bar phrase, you play the next 4 bars, I play the following 4 bars, you again the next 4 bars, and so on.

  • On Coming Home 2 - You play the first 4 bar phrase, I play the next 4 bars, You play the following 4 bars, I again the next 4, and so on.

  • On Coming Home 3 - you can listen to the combined result, where I play the entire solo.

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S 20.3 : Phrasing - Timing (Technique)

Precise timing of the notes is one of the essential characteristics of all really good players. Without precise timing the music becomes blurred and mediocre, lacking energy and interest.
Good timing takes years to develop, and you really need to work at it to make it happen.

Good timing skill is developed on two fronts :

  1. developing the correct instrumental technique,

  2. developing a good timing sensitivity of the ear.

Below some comments on relevant instrumental technique.

The essential point on the keyboard is to focus on the point of sound.
The time of the note placement jf2009.gif

  1. is not the point when the finger starts to move down towards the keys
  2. it is not when the finger first touches the key surface
  3. it is not when the key is struck to the bottom of the keyboard.

It is somewhere between the points 2 and 3 above, the so-called point of sound.
On acoustic pianos and top quality electronic keyboards this point of sound is consistent for all keys.
On cheaper electronic keyboards the point of sound may vary somewhat from one key to the next. Be aware of this.

Saxophone and Clarinet
Many sax and clarinet players breath and tongue the following note more or less at the same time. This produces very sloppy timing (always late) and a poor quality tone.

Good tongue articulation requires the smooth integration of four steps.
Bring the instrument to the mouth and assume the correct embouchure position.
Then :

  1. inhale (by dropping the jaw)

  2. press the tongue against the tip of the reed

  3. bring air pressure into the mouth and to the point of the reed

  4. release the tongue from the reed

All following notes are articulated by tongue action alone (steps 2 and 4), while maintaining continued and constant air pressure in the mouth.
The air pressure in the mouth is maintained throughout until the next breath is required. Then steps 1 to 4 are executed again.

Steps 2, 3 and 4 should be in a fluent motion.
Practise them slowly at first. Eventually you will be able to do this in a fraction of a second. This will result in playing each note on time and with a good tone right from the start.

Other wind instruments
Other wind instruments like flute and brass players should follow a similar technique as above. The only difference is that this time the tongue is not touching a reed, but a mouthpiece or the roof of the mouth. The air pressure should be locked right behind the tongue before a note is played (by simply releasing the tongue).

Guitar, Bass
On the guitar and bass the point of sound occurs when the finger releases the string, not when it first touches the string.
Inexperienced bass players are invariably late with their playing of each note because they synchronise the point where their finger first touches the string with the timing of the beat.

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S 20.4 : Phrasing - Timing (Ear Training)

jf2010.gif As a College music student I always carried a small wind-up metronome in my saxophone case, which I used during practice.
My saxophone teacher used to get nervous each time I used it during a lesson. It was beating time irregularly he claimed. I could not hear or understand what he was talking about.

About 5 years later I found the device again in my studio, wound it up and listened to it. At once I could hear what my teacher had been talking about. The instrument's action was clearly uneven. It had taken years for my ear to develop to this "fine tuning" stage.

The average ear (for example like mine after listening to music for 30 years) has a rather crude sense of timing. Each downbeat is felt at an approximate area within a bar.
In reality each downbeat is a clearly defined instant which the practised ear will gradually start to pick up with ever increasing precision.


To develop your ear I recommend the following :

  1. When practising scales, arpeggios and technical studies use a metronome for half the time. The other half do these exercises without a metronome.

  2. Play slow ballads with a play-a-long track or a metronome, placing the melody notes as accurately (according to the notated music) as possible. Tape your effort from time to time and listen to it, but not too frequently (it is a humbling exercise I can assure you).

  3. Hand-clap the rhythms of the Rhythm Patterns provided using a metronome. You can also clap the rhythms of songs. Tape the results from time to time.

  4. Play-a-long with the midi files provided in this course. They are computer generated and all in perfect time. Use 'Band in a Box' (or a similar program) to generate play-a-long tracks.

  5. Be aware of your timing all the time and with everything you play.

  6. Listen to music with a special focus on timing of the various performers.

  7. Practise the Metronome Timing Exercises below.

Timing Exercises
Play each metronome track and clap your hands on the specified beat. Do not tap your foot or make any other rhythmic movement with your body. Sit still, keep your eyes closed and concentrate on the beats.

In each exercise the metronome beat starts like this :

1 - 3 - / 1 2 3 4 / 1 - - -

  1. Timing Exercise 1 - Clap your hands on beat 1 of each bar.

  2. Timing Exercise 2 - Clap your hands on beat 1 of every 2 bars.


James Morrison, a well known Jazz trumpet player in Australia, used to do the following exercises at the start of each rehearsal with his regular band.
All players sit in a circle with their eyes closed, perfectly silent. One player counts in the first chorus of a 12 bar blues : 1 - 3 - 1 2 3 4.
On the first beat of the second chorus (that is after 48 beats) all players clap their hands. Same again on each following chorus.

James claims that the joint timing of the band improved so much that they eventually could count 4 or 5 choruses and still be all together in time.

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S 20.5 : Practice - Melodic minor scale

Practise the melodic minor scale in all keys up to the 9th and back two or three times in each key.
Adjust the minor scales sheet music provided by raising the 6th and the 7th scale-tones a semitone (as shown below).

Audio 20.6

You can use the Play-a-Long tracks of 4 bars or 8 bars in each minor key provided below. The track starts on C minor, then follows the Circle of 5ths

Two modes of the melodic minor scale are very popular for improvisation over dominant 7th chords.
They are :

  1. Lydian Dominant scale - which starts on the 4th note of the melodic minor scale.
    Use the
    Lydian Dominant scale over any dominant 7th chord (F Lydian Dominant over F7 chord).

  2. Super Locrian scale - which starts on the 7th note of the melodic minor scale.
    Use the Super Locrian scale over altered dominant 7th chords (B Super Locrian over B7alt).

Audio 20.7
(C melodic minor - B Super Locrian - F Lydian Dominant)

It is a good idea to practise the melodic minor scale starting on its tonic note, starting on its 4th note, and starting on its 7th note.
Begin with the normal scale until you are familiar with it in all keys. Then start practising one of the modes.

jfmf.gif Well, that is it for this Course. I hope you have enjoyed all the songs.
You should now have plenty of useful ideas to work on for quite some time.

Remember that learning to play music in general and improvisation in particular are a lifelong journey. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to absorb all the aspects of good musicianship, and you will find great satisfaction every step of the way. And don't forget : if you have any questions ask me.


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S 20.6 - Session Materials

ItemMidi fileSheet music
Coming HomeDemo P-a-L C instr.Bb instr.Eb instr.
Easy Key for C instr. (Dm)E-PalBb instr.
Improvisation scales C instr.Bb instr.Eb instr.
Swapping foursComing Home 1
Coming Home 3
Coming Home 2
Minor scales in all keys4 bars per key8 bars per keyp.1p.2
Timing Exercises (90 bpm) Exercise 1Exercise 2

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© 2003 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)