Louis Electric

December 2014
more... IntermediateLessonsSound SamplesRockChordsLead

Extend Yourself: Upper Extensions of 7th Chords

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Extend Yourself: Upper Extensions of 7th Chords
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This lesson, while a play on the title of a popular Madonna song (ripped off by Lady Gaga), has a topic that is a bit less sexy sounding: the upper extensions of 7th chords. These extensions have nothing to do with either pop singer’s outlandish brassiere, nor do they in any way refer to the numerous male enhancement products available on the internet. While upper extensions apply to all keys and several different chord types, today we’ll be looking at those of Gm7.

There are several reasons why we’re choosing to focus on the Gm7 chord. First, Gm7 provides a rare intersection between jazz and hard rock. Unlike some common jazz keys such as Bb major and Eb minor, the key of G minor is one that most hard rock guitarists have come across at some point (think Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” and Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”). It’s often used in jazz, both as the foundation of the key of G minor (vi of Bb major) or the ii of F major. Examples include the Wes Montgomery classic “Four On Six” (from The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery) and the Michael Brecker track with Pat Metheny on guitar “Nothing Personal” (from the album Michael Brecker). On my new trio album, Veritas, there is a tune which features an extended Gm7 jam and one of the examples (Fig. 11) is transcribed directly from that track. All the examples here can work well over the groove used on “The River Lethe.”

The concept of upper extensions is based on the idea that there are four primary chord tones: root, 3, 5, and 7. Beyond those lie the 9, 11, and 13 (in essence, this refers to the 2, 4, and 6 played in the next octave). The first example shown in Fig. 1 is an arpeggio consisting of the four primary chord tones of Gm7, the root, minor 3rd, 5 and minor 7th (G–Bb–D–F). Listen to how it sounds over a Gm7 chord—with only the basic chord tones, it blends in discreetly.

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Fig. 2 adds a little bit more color to the mix, leaving out the root, beginning on the third and extending to the 9: minor 3rd, 5, minor 7th, and 9 (Bb–D–F–A).

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The example shown in Fig. 3 starts on the next note (fifth) and extends to the 4 (also known as the 11): 5, minor 7th, 9, and 11.

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We continue with Fig. 4 by starting on the next note (minor 7th) and extends to the 13.

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Try playing each arpeggio from one into the next, ascending (Fig. 5) and descending (Fig. 6). Similarly all four can be played as sweep arpeggios.

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