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August Issue
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Extend Yourself: Upper Extensions of 7th Chords

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Extend Yourself: Upper Extensions of 7th Chords

My favorite way is to accent the highest note, both ascending (Fig. 7) and descending (Fig. 8).

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Next, lets take a look at each arpeggio combined with a few other notes to form a jazzy lick. Fig. 9 takes the basic Gm7 arpeggio from Fig. 1 and turns it into a two measure jazz phrase, inserting scale notes and chromaticism. Notice how the first note of the second measure (D) is approached from a half step below. We follow that note with two chromatic notes from above, often referred to as a “double-chromatic” approach.

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Fig. 10
utilizes the arpeggio from Fig. 2. Notice how the 9 is placed before the 3 in the beginning (a common way of starting a jazz phrase). Then the arpeggio is played verbatim, followed by the root, which is approached from a chromatic note below, then a scale tone (A), leading into a descending triad, ending on the 9 for color.

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Now let’s look at the lick mentioned earlier, Fig. 11 which occurs at 1:52 on the track “The River Lethe” (from Veritas). It utilizes the same position we used in Fig. 3 (the arpeggio that starts on the fifth and ends on the eleventh). Since this works over a funky, rock groove (inspired by Jeff Beck’s ’70s instrumental work), it consists of mostly sixteenth notes. It starts just like Fig. 7, with the arpeggio played as an ascending triplet. From there it inserts scale tones in its descent, before resolving on the root. This lick emphasizes the extensions brought out by the opening arpeggio, making it more colorful than a typical minor pentatonic rock lick.

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Lastly, we have a lick that incorporates the arpeggio extension from Fig. 4. Fig. 12 begins on a triplet like the previous example, only with an additional pick up note thrown in (the scale tone below the 7). This arpeggio then descends with a couple scale tones in the mix (D and G), a touch of chromaticism (A is approached with single chromatic notes from above then below), and finally, a rough outline of the previous two arpeggios now played in tenth position. The lick ends on a colorful note, E (13) causing a slight feeling of non-resolution.

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It’s understandable that this may be a lot to take in at once. For that reason, it’s important to go slowly. These licks should be played and absorbed without too much thought. If you get bogged down, just focus on playing the lick. You can always come back to the verbal descriptions later. Music is about sound–the descriptions are there for greater understanding, but not necessary for performance. Once you’ve absorbed these examples, try incorporating them into different keys and grooves. From there, experiment with other fret positions, string groups, and octaves. I want to encourage you to, for lack of a better word, extend into other variations. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.


Since joining Testament when he was sixteen, Alex Skolnick has been a leading voice on the heavy metal guitar scene. Skolnick’s ability to cover everything from speed metal to modern jazz has earned him worldwide acclaim. Currently, he splits his time between Testament and the Alex Skolnick Trio. For more information about his latest album, Veritas, visit alexskolnick.com
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