Monday, April 2, 2012


Q: I've been working on "Footprints" lately. How can I solo over the changes? I sound pretty boring. Do you have any suggestions? I know it is just a minor blues for the most part but I sound lame.

A: "Footprints" is a great tune. It is actually one of the first standards that I played as well. It was written by Wayne Shorter and first appeared on his own record, "Adam's Apple" before being released on Miles Davis' "Miles Smiles" record in 1967. What a year, we get "Miles Smiles" and Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced" at the same time. Not to mention "Sgt. Peppers." I was three, so I don't remember any of this.

Some Jazz players will tell you that working on "Footprints" as one of your first standards is like putting the cart before the horse. The reason is because songs like "Footprints" were written to force the Bebop players to stop playing so many arpeggios. By the 50s all these fast Bop tunes were getting out of hand and the greats at the time wanted to find another method to express themselves. What was born is what we call modal music. With modal Jazz, we get less chords. Rather than two a measure, we get more like four bars of one chord. If you have to play over four bars of C-7, a C-7 arpeggio gets old quick. So you have to experiment with scales. That's why some Jazz musicians will tell you to work on "Autumn Leaves" or something like that before you start messing with the modal tunes. I say, who gives a crap? Do what you like. Guitarists are better at playing scales anyways. Do them both in any order you like. Anyways, back to the song.

As you mentioned it is mostly a minor blues. I first learned it from the "Real Book" which has the changes slightly wrong. Or maybe not, I'm not really sure but it looks like this in the book:

C-7  (four bars), F-7 (two bars), C-7 (two bars), D7, Db7, C-7 (two bars) and is played in 6.

I like these changes even though the two dominant chords are questionable. I've seen the chart with some different changes replacing the D7 and Db7 chords (F#-7(b5)-F7#11-E7(alt)-A7(alt) actually). I've been told that the "Adam's Apple" version has different changes than the "Miles Smiles" version. I just like the "Real Book" version better for some reason. Maybe because it's easier.

Anyways, you can play C dorian for the C-7 chord, F dorian for the F-7 chord, D lydian dominant for the D7 chord and Db lydian dominant for the Db7 chord.

Superimposing minor pentatonic scales: I like to superimpose minor pentatonic scales as well. Think: minor pentatonic scales on 1, 2 and 5 over min7 chords. Using these changes, we can play C, D and G minor pentatonic scales over the C-7 chord and F, G and C minor pentatonic scales over the F-7 chord. 

Melodic Minor on the "i" chord: It seems wrong but it works pretty well. As the min7 chord obviously has a b7, the major 7th in the melodic minor scale technically shouldn't work, but it is a great passing tone against a minor 7th chord if you get a handle on it. If I have any advice about using this scale against a min7 chord, it would be to simply be careful where you place the major 7th. It works best on the off beat. It takes a little time but has a great sound.

Setting up the "iv" chord: You can set up the iv chord by playing a C altered scales over the C-7 chord right before it goes to the F-7 chord. Most people comping will change the C-7 chord to a C7(alt) for the fourth bar anyways. Even if they don't you can sort of imply the change by simply playing altered here. If you want to stick with a pentatonic scale motif, you can play an Eb minor pentatonic scale in bar four as well. An Eb minor pentatonic scale looks and functions the same way an altered scales does in this situation. The rule to remember is: minor pentatonic scale on the b3 of a dominant chord = altered. 

Superimposing Minor Pentatonic Scales >>>


Anonymous said...

Really appreciated this clear and logical explanation with examples on possible choices scales of this great standard. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Really appreciated this clear and logical explanation with examples on possible choices scales of this great standard. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Really appreciated this clear and logical explanation with examples on possible choices scales of this great standard. Thank you :)

Noah Vale said...

You can say that again, Scrap. Oh... you did already. Never mind.

BTW: Why do you announce this as a Miles Davis tune by Wayne Shorter, when it's a Wayne Shorter tune? Doesn't Miles already get enough credit for tunes he didn't write.

-CJ said...

Yes, I know it is Wayne's tune. And I know that the D7 Db7 changes are different. I do these things totally spontaneously, so it is what it is. I do it for free by the way

-CJ said...

What I probably meant to say was that I'm going to teach you the version made famous by Miles