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How To Use Tenth Intervals To Enhance Your Solo Guitar Playing

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In ‘Part One’ of the lesson, guitarist Ed Acquesta explains how to use tenth intervals to create fluid guitar solos, regardless of style.

Master Guitarist, George Van Epps wrote, “the 10th interval is one of the mainstays of harmony, a virtual backbone. It’s an interesting and satisfying interval. When two notes are sounded together, the result is a meaty, rich duet of tones.” There is no stronger endorsement for the use of 10ths than this! Tenth intervals will enhance your solo guitar playing beyond static block chords. They are the key to fluid solo guitar, regardless of style.

 The objectives of this lesson are to: 

  • Introduce the concept of 10th intervals.
  • Explain how 10ths are easily derived Drop 2 chord voicings.
  • Introduce the multiuse concept of major and minor 10ths.

A Word About Picking Technique

Solo jazz guitar may be performed with different picking styles, so a word on picking technique is necessary. I have heard many beautiful solo jazz guitar arrangements utilizing only the flat pick. Flat pick block chord arrangements certainly can be effective but the flat pick alone will not work easily with10th intervals. Most players using 10th’s effectively, play with just their fingers or a hybrid picking style of flat pick and fingers (which I use). If you have studied classical guitar, ragtime, country blues, or Chet Akins, you might prefer to use just fingers or fingers with a thumb pick. Find the approach best suited for you.

What Are 10ths?

So, what are 10th’s? The 10th interval is simply the distance between two notes equaling ten scale degrees from the root forming a compound major or minor third interval. Remember there are only seven degrees in a diatonic scale so the tenth degree is the same as a third an octave higher (7+3=10).

Drop 2 chord voicings naturally contain the 10th interval so they are a good place for guitarists to start.

Part I – 10th’s Derived from Drop 2 Bottom String Set

Let’s begin by examining Drop 2 voicings on the bottom string set (6th string to 3rd string). Below in Exhibit #1, in the first staff are the first four chords of the G Major harmonized scale. Directly below the chords, notated in the second staff, are the 10th intervals derived from the four note chords.

The I and IV chords, GMaj7 and CMaj7, generate major 10th’s. The ii and iii chords, A-7 and B-7, generate minor 10th intervals. Now play the full chords, followed by playing just the 10th’s. Your ears should still hear the major and minor sounds when just 10ths are played alone.

Exhibit #1

I have purposely left out fingerings because developing lines around 10th’s requires all possible variations of the four fretting fingers. You will need to develop the technique to do this.

Now, let’s examine the remaining V, vi, and vii chords of the harmonized G Major scale in Exhibit #2 below. Notice the V (D7), contains a major 10th interval while the vi (E-7) and the vii (F#-7b5) contain minor tenths.

Exhibit #2

But things are not always as they seem. 10th intervals are multifaceted and may represent different chords. Let me explain. In the G Major harmonized scale shown in Exhibits #1 & #2, the bass note is always the root of the chord. But remember, there are three other inversions of each four-note chord. The First Inversion has the 3rd in the bass, the Second Inversion, the 5th in the bass and the Third Inversion, the 7th in the bass. For the purpose of our discussion, we will concentrate, for now, on the root voicing and the 1st and 2nd inversions.

Let’s examine what happens when we isolate the tenths in the I chord (GMaj7) for the Root, 1st and 2nd inversions in Exhibit #3 below.

When GMaj7 has the root in the bass, the major 10th interval may function either as a G Major sound or a G Dominate 7th sound since the root (G) and the 3rd (B) are the same in each chord. When we build lines around the major 10th intervals, inclusion of a 7th, 6thor flat 7th will determine the function of the 10th. In some cases, the major 7th (acting as passing tone), the 6th (acting as a 13th) and the flat 7th can all be used to create dominate 7th lines.

Exhibit #3

Look at the second measure in Exhibit #3 highlighting the first inversion of GMaj7 with the 3rd (B) in the bass and the 5th (D) in the top note. This creates a minor 10th interval but the -10th still functions as a Major sound. Or does it? The same minor 10th (B & D) could also function as a B-7. Remember that the iii chord, in this case, the B-7 can also be substituted for the I chord creating a Major 9th chord.

Now let’s look at the second inversion (5th in bass) of GMaj7 in the third measure of Exhibit 3 above. Notice the Major 10th (D & F#) is the 5th and 7th of G Major 7th. If theline created around this 10th included the major 3rd (B), a G Major sound would be created.

However, this major 10th interval, (D & F#) also creates a D major or a D Dominate 7th (V) sound, D being the root and F# the major third of each chord. By now, you have probably surmised 10th intervals are very, very flexible and useful harmonic devices.

Stay tuned – there’s more! Part 2 of the lesson to come soon…

And you can always visit Ed atwww.edacquesta.com for more information.


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