How to Solo on Guitar Over Modal Interchange Chords

Improvisation over Modal Interchange chords.

This blog is a continuation of last week’s blog on the modal interchange.
Check that blog here if you need a review on modal interchange chords: Modal Interchange Chords in Major Keys.

This week I wanted to talk about the scales of choice for improvisation over modal interchange chords.

In recap, the modal interchange chords in major are:

  1. bIImaj7, bIIImaj7, bVImaj7, bVIImaj7
  2. Im7, IVm7, Vm7
  3. IV7, bVI7, bVII7
  4. IIm7b5, #IVm7b5
  5. IIm7b5 going to V7b9

Let’s have a look at the scales you would use for improvisation over these chords.
(All examples below are given in the key of C)

Over the maj7 chord options:

    • Use Lydian (Db Lydian, Eb Lydian, Ab Lydian, Bb Lydian) or,
    • The minor pentatonic scale a half step down from the chord.

      o Over Dbmaj7, use C minor pentatonic scale.
      o Over Ebmaj7, use D minor pentatonic scale.
      o Over Abmaj7, use G minor pentatonic scale.
      o Over Bbmaj7, use A minor pentatonic scale

Over the minor7 chord options:

    • Use Dorian (C Dorian, F Dorian, G Dorian) or,
    • The minor pentatonic scale up a whole step from the chord.

      o Over Cm7, use D minor pentatonic scale.
      o Over Fm7, use G minor pentatonic scale.
      o Over Gm7, use A minor pentatonic scale.

Over bVI7 and bVII7:

    • Use Lydian b7 (Ab Lydianb7, Bb Lydianb7). (This scale is the 4th mode of Melodic Minor.
    Fairly easy to configure: take a major scale, raise the 4th and lower the 7th in the scale. Hence Bb Lydianb7 = Bb C D E F G Ab Bb)
    • Use the minor pentatonic scale up a major 6th from the root (this is the only available minor pentatonic option).

      o Over Ab7, use F minor pentatonic scale.
      o Over Bb7, use G minor pentatonic scale.

Over II-7b5:

    • Locrian(natural)2 (D E F G Ab Bb C D)

Over IV7:

    • Use Mixolydian (F G A Bb C D Eb F)

Over #IV-7b5:

    • Use Locrian (F# G A B C D E F#)

Over II-7b5 – V7b9:

    • Locrian over II-7b5 (D Eb F G Ab Bb C D)
    • Mixolydianb9b13 over V7b9 (G Ab B C D Eb F G)

Now you know, for all the modal interchange chords, what the scales are, let’s have a look at how to apply this.

How To Practice This.

Make up a 4 bar progression in C with a modal interchange chord.

For example:

||: Cmaj7 | Dm7 | G7 | Abmaj7 :||

Scales of choice:
1) C major scale over the first 3 bars
2) Ab Lydian scale over Abmaj7

Pick a fret, let’s say the 3rd fret, and then figure out the fingerings for C major scale and Ab Lydian scale from that fret.
On the 3rd fret, this will be the G Mixolydian fingering (=C major scale) and the G Phrygian fingering (=Ab Lydian scale).

This is a great exercise to train your ability to change between scales without changing position.

Solo over the chord progression with these 2 fingerings.
After a couple of minutes, move on to the next position and figure out the 2 scale fingerings again for the new location.
This will be C major scale from A (A Aeolian fingering) and Ab Lydian from Ab (Ab Lydian fingering).
Improvise for a couple of minutes, then move on to the next notes: C major scale from B (B Locrian fingering) and Ab Lydian from Bb (Bb Mixo fingering).

Work your way through all 7 scale positions.

Important tips:

  1. Move in stepwise motion back and forth between the 2 scales.
    For example: if your last note in your solo at the end of the G7 bar is for example G, repeat the G note into the Ab bar or move to Ab or F in the next bar.
    this creates a smooth transition from scale to scale.

  2. Try to not stop in between the scale changes. Play a melodic phrase right before the scale change, that continues from 1 scale into the next scale.


This is going to keep you busy for a while. 🙂
You just learned a lot about improvisation and you discovered many new colors.
Now you only need to practice the info so you get better at applying it all.

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