Chord Tone Patterns

I continue giving my son occasional jazz exercises as an add-on to his regular trumpet lesson material. Building upon our previous exercise of arpeggiating the chords of a 12-bar blues, we are currently jumbling the order of the chord tones, to create a variety of patterns to play through the blues progression.

In the video below, we played a 3-5-1-7 pattern on the blues form, first in quarter notes, and then with swung eighth notes.

The last two measures of the blues’ harmonic progression are referred to as “the turnaround” by jazz musicians. In this spot, the chords change at a rate of every two beats, rather than every four beats (a half measure vs. a full measure). When playing the quarter note version of this exercise, we can only play the first two notes of the 4-note pattern here, as we are limited to two beats per chord.

Chord Tone Patterns


Once this was learned, we moved on to the following swung eighth-note rendition, which I jokingly call “the ba-ba-doo-dah version.” With eighth notes, one can now play all of the notes in the turnaround; however, I simplified it slightly, so he’s playing only 3, 5, 1. Here’s how it looks, notated:

Swing Eighth Note Patterns

I am quite certain Logan would lose interest if I started explaining the intricacies of chordal construction at this point, so I’ve been staying clear of the subject. For now I just want him getting the sound of the progression in his head, and to have some fun. He’s becoming familiarized with the 12-bar blues form and the notion of outlining chords. Deeper connections and a more thorough understanding may come later.

This exercise can be done will all the combinations of the 1-3-5-7 chord tones:

1357, 1375, 1537, 1573, 1735, 1753,
3157, 3175, 3517, 3571, 3715, 3751,
5137, 5173, 5317, 5371, 5713, 5731,
7135, 7153, 7315, 7351, 7531, 7513

Am I missing any?

Trust me; I have no plans to work through all of these combinations with Logan, but it’s worthwhile to do several, and then see all the possibilities.

Moving forward, I hope to get him actually improvising with chord tones. Perhaps I will add some rhythmic restrictions or other parameters so he doesn’t become overwhelmed with possibilities. I like thinking of these restrictions as rules in a game. I’ll keep you posted with how it goes.

Comments are closed.