Dodecaphonics part 2 - Playing over Maj7 (tonic chords)

Many people have said to me, "Fine, this is a cool way to approach dominant 7 chords but what do I do over the (I) chord (i.e. the tonic)

You can use the same techniques over the tonic chord. You can start off by playing dom7 chords in minor 3rds against the tonic. 


Over CMaj7, you wouldn't use C7, Eb7, Gb7, A7.

Instead you would use B7, D7, F7, Ab7.

You can then apply the same techniques from the original Dodecaphonics article.

The ½ whole diminished scale works beautifully over these dom7 chords as does 7th or 5th mode of melodic minor (i.e. F# or C melodic minor.

Check out this video in which I demonstrate these techniques over an AMaj7 chord.

I also wanted to add some additional discussion since a couple guitar forums really objected to this way of thinking….

It's totally functional harmony. The Adim chord over AMaj7 is simply a suspended chord which temporarily modulates to the IV chord and the sound dates back to late '40s bebop. Charlie Parker and Art Tatum were doing this.

A very common substitution.

If you take Rhythm changes, | AMaj7 | Bm7 E7 | AMaj7 | Bm7 E7 | Em7 A7 | DMaj D#dim | AMaj7 | Bm7 E7 |

It's common to sub an Ebm7 Ab7 in bar 2. This works because the Ab7 strongly leads back to either the Amaj7 or the C#m7 (which is an inversion of AMaj9) where Ab7 is the V of III and/or D7 which is the bII of III.

And people have been doing *THAT* for 75 years.

think of playing a A blues scale (A C D D# E G) over a AMaj7 chord. I think we can all agree it's one of the most common sounds in jazz. Everyone from Charlie Parker to Kenny G to SRV did that. The blues scale with it's b7, b3 and b5 is essentially outlining the IV chord with a b9 (the D# natural in the A blues scale is the b9 of the IV) chord (DMaj) and the G in the A blues scale is the b7.

Here is a video demonstrating this concept:

Another interesting way to use Dominant 7th chords over Maj7 chords is to use the V chord. So over CMaj7, you'd use

G7, Bb7, Db7, E7. This is based off of Abdim, Bdim, Ddim, FDim

When you do this, you are creating the tension of the V chord as a suspension of the Maj7 chord. 

Here is a video demonstrating this concept: