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Altered Scale Licks

With some or all of these altered scale fingerings under your belt, you’re ready to move on
to studying common altered scale vocabulary, beginning with short phrases that are
played only over the 7alt chord itself. Start by learning these short phrases, and integrating
them into your soloing lines over backing tracks, before moving on to the longer ii-V-I
phrases in the next section of the lesson.

To begin, here is a classic lick that is found in the playing of Wes Montgomery, Pat
Martino, and other legendary players. Notice the use of the AbmMaj7 arpeggio (G-Eb-B-
Ab) in the second half of the phrase.

Here is a commonly used altered scale technique, where you use the major triads from the
b5 and b13 of the underlying scale (in this case Db and Eb over G7alt), to outline that 7alt
chord in your lines.

The final short altered phrase you’ll learn is called the “Cry Me a River Lick", as it comes
from a melody fragment found in this classic jazz standard.
When you have these three sample phrases under your fingers, try experimenting with the
Altered scale and coming up with three or more patterns of your own that you can use in
your jazz guitar soloing lines and phrases.

Altered Scale ii-V-I Licks


Here are three ii-V-I licks that use the altered scale over the V7 chord in each progression.
Try putting on a backing track, such as a minor blues or a tune like Solar, and practice
adding these licks into your soloing lines in a musical situation.

To begin, here is a short ii-V-I lick in the key of C minor that uses the G altered scale to
outline the V7 chord in the second half of bar one in the phrase.

We’ll now move on to using the G altered scale to outline the V7 chord in a longer ii-V-I
phrase in the key of C major.

This last lick uses the G altered scale over the V7 chord in a longer ii-V-I phase in the key
of C major.
The altered scale is a great device for creating tension over the V7 chord in a major key, but
just be careful that you resolve that tension either over the same V7 chord, or in the Imaj7
chord that follows so you don’t leave those tense notes hanging in your lines.

Altered Sample Solo


Now that you know how to play the Altered scale in four positions on the fretboard, as well
as have studied classic altered vocabulary, you can take those ideas to a sample solo.

Here is a 12-bar solo written out over a C minor blues progression, with the altered scale
being used to outline the chords in bars 4, 10, and 12.

Once you have learned this solo as written, try putting on a backing track and play this solo
once, followed by an improvised solo in the second chorus, alternating back and forth as
you begin to integrate these ideas into your improvisational repertoire.