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Trick #4: Use chromatic approach chords
The concept behind this technique is quite simple: Approach any chord from a half-step below or above. In Fig. 5, I’ve approached all the dominant 7 chords from a half-step above. Instead of F-D7-Gm-C7-Am-D7-Gm-C7, I now have F6/9-Eb13b9-D7b9-Gm11-Dbmaj7-C-Am11-Eb13-D9-Gm7-Db7#9b13-C9. Most of my approach chords are dominant, but I do use a Dbmaj7 chord going to C major, it all depends on the melody and, ultimately, your ear.
Trick #5: Arpeggiate the chords
In this example, I use the same chords as in Fig. 5. The big difference here is that I play through every chord one note at a time. Arpeggiating chords is a great way to change up the feel of a chord solo. I picked eighth-note triplets for the rhythm because of the tempo and the way they fit the feel of the melody. Again, my choices are ultimately based on what I think sounds good.
Notice how in Fig. 6 I’ve inserted a couple of intervals into the arpeggiated melody. I like the way they sound and how they break up the constant stream of single notes.
Trick #6: Reharmonize
This one is the easiest to explain and the hardest to do. In this example, we’ll keep our melody and throw out the chord changes. In Fig. 7, you’ll see I’ve abandoned our original changes. I decided to start on a Bbmaj7 chord and I just went from there. But these aren’t a random set of changes—all the chords I picked have the melody notes in them.
I also tried to connect my chords as musically as possible. The only rule is that the melody notes must be in the chords you pick. This technique is fun because you can throw a lot of the harmonic rules right out the window and just go for it!
Take these “tricks" and start applying them to your favorite jazz standards. With a little practice and patience you’ll be happy with the results.