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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: