Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

How to Play Over Rhythm Changes Part 2: Outlining The Changes

How to Play Over Rhythm Changes Part 2: Outlining The Changes

In the first of instalment of the 3 Step Guide to Soloing Over Rhythm Changes we looked at how to play over rhythm changes by using  two different approaches to playing over the progression.

Missed the first lesson and want to catch up? You can view the full article here

In today’s follow up lesson I will be showing you a variety of common ways used to outline the changes of the A section.

You can also use this free backing track to practice the examples from this lesson over


Using Roots To Outline The Harmony


The first example that we are going to be looking at using to outline the changes is roots. It can sometimes be a ‘jazz myth’ that roots don’t sound hip, which is of course not true at all. Any note can sound effective when played with the right feel and rhythm.

In this example the dominant chords are being treated as dominant 7b9 or diminished chord to create a chromatic root movement.

This concept is explored more further on in this lesson.


The next example shows how you can add some rhythm to spice up these movements and get the sound of the changes into your ears. Try to add other interesting rhythms to these notes and experiment to see what kind of ideas that you can come up with.


Root based lines sound particularly effective over the rhythm changes when combined with triads. The next example shows a Joe Pass lick that combines diatonic and diminished triads to create effective voice leading.


The next line uses the same kind of idea but with some of the rhythmic ideas discussed earlier.


These kind of exercises and lines are essential in training your ear to the sound of the harmony for the A sections of the rhythm changes.



Using The Diminished Scale Over Dominant 7th Chords


As seen in the previous example, diminished triads can be used as substitutions for dominant 7th chords usually on beats 3 and 4 in bars 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8.

Of course we can take that further by using full diminished scales and arpeggios in place of the triads.

By using diminished scales and arpeggios instead or as well of diatonic dominant 7th sounds you gain the crunchy b9 sound which can be used to make smooth transitions throughout the A section.

Notice how this is particularly effective in the following example when changing from the Bbmaj7 to the G7b9 by dropping down a semi-tone from ‘A’ on the second 8th note of beat 2.


The same type of voice leading has being used in a very similar way in the next bar to smoothly connect the C-7 and the F7.

You can take this idea another step further by using 3-9 arpeggios instead of the diatonic arpeggios like in the first example.

Again notice the use of the diminished arpeggio for each of the dominant chords and the smoothness it adds to the line.

The next lick works well over bars 3-4 of a rhythm changes, but it will also work great over the first two bars.


To finish I thought I’d share a cool RC pattern lick – example 7  that shows the dominant 7th being outlined by using more conventional dominant 7th type sounds to contrast the diminished arpeggios in the earlier examples.


Other Recommended RC Practice Ideas


  • Consistent 8th Notes — most exercises in these articles have been rhythmically straight eight notes and while you may not play like this at a gig, it’s extremely useful to have this flow in your lines, so that they can be as long or as short as you hear them
  • Rhythm Changes Heads — Most bop themes are pieced together solo’s so they all contain great lines that you can use in your playing.
  • Chords — Although we have discussed a variety of single line devices, busy progressions like the rhythm changes make great potential for chord solos, and we must practice playing the chords to get the sound of the progression in our ears.
  • Write Down Your Own Licks — Playing through etudes, transcriptions and studies is great but try and write down some of your lines. Not only is this great for analyzing what’s happening harmonically, being able to creating your own lines will ensure you have learnt why the lines you have learnt from others work so well.

I hope this article has brought some light on ways that you can tackle this tricky progression. Practice nailing these changes for next week, because I will be showing you how you can apply some cool sounding scales and patterns to the A section as well looking at some ways to play over the B section.

Do you have a favorite way to practice the rhythm changes? Share your thoughts in the comment section below

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Hi Jamie,
In the first section, how is the F7 substituted with C#dim? Shouldn't it be a C dim, as F7b9 is F# A C Eb, which is the same as F#dim or Cdim.

Kindly clarify, if I am missing some information.

Jamie Holroyd

That is a really good question. The C#dim7 isn't connected to the F7 in any way at all that I can see. It is simply functioning as an A7b9 which is also working as a V-I cadence in D minor. Regards.

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