Watch the Carpe Diem Progression online guitar lesson by Andy Timmons from Electric Expression
In this performance section we're jammin' on the verse, I'm calling it a verse, the verse chord changes to Carpe Diem, another old tune of mine from the Ear X-tacy CD. This is a lot of fun, because it's a simple two chord progression, but it dramatically shifts key centers. The two chords are B minor to B flat major. I consider that B flat major seventh, and with a plus eleven sound is a really pretty harmonic shift. And so, B minor we've got the basic B minor pentatonic to draw from. It's up for grabs modally what's actually happening. I think I consider it more aeolian. If I were to play the sixth, I tend to avoid the sixth on this chord as well, but I think I would consider it aeolian, which means it's from D major. That's the best and first obvious chord choice. Over that B flat major 7, I consider that lydian, which comes from F major. So the two dominating key centers overall are D major to F major. It's a minor third shift, even though it's B minor. I'm thinking B minor pentatonic, which is the same as D major pentatonic. Over that B flat major 7 plus 11 the nice pentatonic is D minor. Again, because they come from F major, the relative minor. You can really hear that chord change happening as you can just shift that minor pentatonic if you want to. That's actually B natural. But again, you can also experiment with the two. I just went up the F major scale there. Again, not to get too bogged down with modal and mode ideas, but that is part of what I consider in these chord changes.
Let's go through and talk about some of the things I actually did in the performance. I started off very simply in scalar, just to try to show you what my ear considers appropriate note choices. I think I was avoiding the sixth scale degree on the B minor. There's that sixth note, scale. The pentatonic plus one with a ninth. And that to me is the point where when it goes to that B flat major 7. The notes F and E are the natural fifth in that sharp 11, and it's a really beautiful sound when it changes. It goes from D major to D minor, and that's a neat sound. So, I just started simply. There I'm on that next chord. So it'd be handy to learn the notes of that scale. If you start from the A you can consider it phrygian, if you're into the mode thing. But I just consider it all the notes of F major. And back to the B minor. Now I played some more in B minor. And then I did something that is very common for me to do, and that's just when it goes to the next chord change I'll just play an arpeggio of that chord. And this is just an upper octave B flat major 7 arpeggio, and I'm sliding. This is a shape I use all the time, and I'll explain other ways that I use it here in a second. But I'm just sliding from the A to the B flat. Here's the chord. It's just your natural seven to root, third, fifth, and seventh, but the way I played it rolls. It's a slide, that particular chord shape is that B flat. But also the parent key is that F major, so you can also play the F major 7. And here I'm just outlining that F major 7 chord from the E natural. That's a cool sound over that. But you can also use the B flat major 7 over G minor, if that's in a chord progression. So what does the B flat major 7 do, it produces the third, fifth, seventh, and ninth. So it's just another B flat major 7 chord shape. That's kind of a neat going from the major seventh to that sharp 11. It might not work with a lot of distortion, but just giving you some ideas of what I'm thinking of scale wise and note choice wise.
After I alluded to those arpeggios I played some more double stop ideas. Because of the melodic key shift that happens from the B to the B flat, I'll play it simply here. Again, this is just taking it from that chord shape, the B and the the D. Now that the harmony's changed to that B flat you've got the B flat and D diad, which is the root third. Give that tension with that sharp 11 and the C, then when you get to the F and the D, that's the third and fifth again. There I went into that D minor pentatonic shape that we worked on earlier. Which again, that's the pentatonic that's going to sound the best over that B flat major 7 with plus 11. C major would also work beause that contains that sharp 11. The D minor sounds great. So I went from that double stop - used that as an exciting builder into the solo. Then when I got up to that next B minor, one of my favorite chromatic licks appeared. And again, I play it a little differently each time, so I'll try to replicate what I did. And this is all outlining target tones, chord tones of that B minor. So chromatically from the flat 7 down to the fifth, or I might've gone to the tonic first. I play the third, eleven, bending up, and then chromatically just from the fourth. And then down the pentatonic. I wrapped it up with a wide bend from the flat seventh to the ninth. A little chromaticism spices things up a little bit. At some point I was doing a unison bend, and of course that means bending one note to another but holding that high note.
Sometimes I'll just grab one specific note choice, do a unison bend on that note just to create some tension and excitement. You can change it to the next closest note when it comes to the chord change. That's a cool exercise too. Because here we are in that key of B minor, let's say we land on the F#. Then you've got to think of what is the next chord tone that would be nearest to that F# when the chord changes. And below it is the F, so that's a cool note to go to, or above it G would be proper. But I think the A would be nice, because that's in the chord. Then I was using the arpeggios from the scale. And that just means three note groupings that harmonize each scale tone, so I used it when it was down on the B flat major. I just went down the key of F major with the triads because that's the related key to that chord. And I think I was just playing that simple triplet grouping. So you've got the F major triad, that E diminished, D minor, C major, B flat major, A minor, G minor and F major again. So it really went down this scale. So the B flat is just a nice device for creating some energy and maybe getting to a different part of the neck for your next melodic phrase. A lot of different ideas flowing. I could play for hours on that chord progression. It's a lot fun. This is a good exercise for you to start improvising when it goes to two different keys, which may be new to some of you. But a great exercise, and it gets you on your path, or maybe getting into more difficult chord progressions that may be in the jazz world, which is something that I've learned a lot from. So hopefully you'll take these ideas and explore them. Play for hours on the backing tracks, because that's the best thing you can do using these new ideas in your own musical context, so take that and run with that.