Fun blues substitutions

Sorry for the long delay, I’ve been on the road with the Max Allen Band for several days.  Today, we’ll look at a way to play Giant Steps changes over an F blues.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Giant Steps chords move in a sequence of up a minor third and then resolving to the new one chord (down a fifth).

The same thing can be done with a blues progression; we’ll use an F blues.  The first four bars of a 12 bar F blues are an F7 chord, which gives you a lot of time to play different substitutions.  Putting Giant Steps changes makes the first four bars look like: F7 Ab7 Db7 E7 A7 C7 F7 B7 then the four chord of Bb7.  Each chord lasts two beats until you get to Bb7.  Notice how the sequence works: F7 up a minor third to Ab7 then resolve down to Db7, then up a minor third to E7, then resolve to A7, then up a minor third to C7 then resolve to F7; at this point the sequence is done, but I put in the tritone substitution of B7 to keep the feeling of the chord changes moving two beats at a time.  The beauty of this is that the sequence is strong enough that it can all be played over an F7 chord.  If you’re playing with a piano or guitar player that can hear this substitution, even better.

The best way to approach these changes is to sequence your melody line too.  You can use John Coltrane’s lick: 1, 2, 3, 5 over each chord, which would be F G A C over F7, then Ab Bb C Eb over Ab7, then Db Eb F Ab over Db7, and so on.  What I found on the bass is that I have to have an ascending and descending lick to make it all fit comfortably; so I usually play F G A C over F7, then Ab Eb C Ab in a descending arpeggio, then Db Eb F Ab over Db7, then E B G# E descending over E7, and so on.

This is a really nice substitution, and actually fits a lot of places where you have a static dominant chord.  If you change the last chord, in this case the B7, you can basically make this resolve anywhere.  Enjoy!

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