Playing through Changes with Digital Patterns

At the last All 12 Notes Swing Jam, the topic of Digital Patterns came up as technique for navigating chord changes. Digital patterns are easy to implement and are great for getting the sound of individual chords and chord progressions in your ear. They're also good technical studies.

What's a Digital Pattern?

Simply put, a digital pattern is a specific sequence of notes. The major scale could be considered a digital pattern: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Here's the first digital pattern I was introduced to as I began my journey into jazz improvisation: 1, 2, 3, 5. This four note sequence is created by taking the 1, 2, 3, and 5th notes of the major scale.


If I were in the key of C the notes of the 1, 2, 3, 5 pattern would be C, D, E, and G-notice the pattern has a C triad in it. It can be applied to the major family of chords, for example: C, C6, C7, Cmaj7.

What if I'm confronted with chords of the minor family? To adjust the pattern to fit the minor chord I would flat the 3rd in the sequence. The pattern becomes 1, 2, b3, 5. Remember the difference between a major chord and a minor chord is the 3rd is lowered by a 1/2 step in a minor chord.

Exercise 1 applies the pattern to 2 minor 7th chords (D-7 and E-7) and 2 dominant 7th chords (G7 and A7). Remember, over the minor 7th chord you'll play 1, 2, b3, 5 and over the dominant 7th you'll play the 1, 2, 3, 5.

Click for Exercise 1

Here's a play-along you can use to work on Exercise 1.

Good luck with it and let me know how it treats you.


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