Practical Theory: Improvising over a Minor 7 Chord

Today, I’m kicking off a new Practical Theory lesson series, starting with an approach to improvising over a minor 7 chord. In the video below, I demonstrate a solo groove before describing the approach.

In jazz, funk, and rock, if a solo section consists of a static minor 7 chord, most often the Dorian minor scale is used. The Dorian scale is 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6 and ?7. In this demonstration, I’m playing over a D minor.

As bass players, we often look for the root and move from there when soloing. But, I like to look at this in a different way, to break out by substituting the scale.

The D Dorian scale is simply the 2nd step (mode) of the C Major scale. Simply put, this means we play the C Major scale, but we start on the 2nd step (mode), which is D.

When I stop focusing on the root (D) and go for the Major chord (C), it becomes much more interesting, even if I’m just running the scale or arpeggio as you’ll see in the videos below.

I cover some of the other modes to help demonstrate this a little more completely.

Let me know what you think – post your comments below!

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Share your thoughts

  1. Jason Kopischke

    This is great! Thanks so much for all your videos. Your explanations are very helpful.

  2. John Nichols

    this pretty much nails it. so does Miles Davis on So What. Classic. Great lesson.

  3. Eran Fuld

    One of the most practical yet informative Bass Soloing tutorials I’ve ever encountered. Much respect for MarloweDK and AllBassNoTreble for constantly trying to educate Bass Players :-)

  4. Shane Dimok

    nice fresh ideas on the mode’s.

  5. Kevin Alexander Baez

    Wow 12 minutes has revolutionized my approach to soloing and improvising on the bass. Can’t wait to apply this to my practice in the AM. Thank you so much Marlowe.

  6. Soleil Man

    Thanks a lot, progression in persective… ;-)

  7. Thanks, trying to expand my solo repetoire to include jazz/bebop phrasing. Great start. Just for clarity. Is DK saying that you can play the C Major scale (starting on the 2nd step) to solo over a static Dmi7 chord? Also, would this same approach work over a static dominant 7th chord?