A Simplified Approach To Soloing On 7b9

In my last post (You Can Constructively Ignore Harmony) I talked about simplifying harmony by removing unnecessary chords.

Often people use pentatonic scales to reduce the complexity of a scale. The removal of notes from a scale makes a stronger, more defined sound.

In this post I’ll talk about simplifying approaches to dominant chords by thinking about a major triad plus a b9. You could call this a tetratonic scale. This idea was taught by Phil Peskett on a weekend course that I attended maybe 25 years ago, and I’m still thinking about it.

You may know that C7b9 chord can be thought of as Db°/C, and that Db°, E°, G° and Bb° all contain the same notes. You may know that, in a diminished chord, the interval between each note and the next is a minor third. You may also know that the Db diminished scale fits over C7b9. You may have no idea how to use this knowledge.

I’ve always found it difficult to translate this knowledge directly into things to do on the instrument because there’s too much going on. The triad plus b9 pattern takes away half the notes but leaves the essential feeling in place. And it’s way simpler.

A C triad (C E G) plus Db can suggest C7b9. Try learning some patterns using just these notes over a C7 chord.

Then, without delving into the theory, you can use your ears to experiment with what happens when you transpose the idea up a minor third (Eb triad plus E), and again (Gb triad plus G), and again (A triad plus Bb), all the time thinking of a C root. The roots form a diminished chord, the patterns are the sounds of diminished scale harmony.

[For the dedicated theory delvers out there, these are respectively C7#9, C7b9#11 and C7b9♮13 and are all voicings from the Db diminished scale. You really don’t need to know this right now, but it could be useful understand if you ever happen to see one of those chords specified.]

Once again using the reduced chords of I Thought About You:

| F△ | ./. | G7 | ./. |
| Gm7 | A7 | Dm7 | F7 |
(Bb△)

for the A7 chord in bar 6, you could play, for example:

The notes in bar 6 consist of an A triad plus Bb, which is repeated up a minor third (C triad plus Db).

That’s it. That’s the basic tip.

Learning to use the idea is a big project. I’m still working on it.