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Jazz Guitar Lessons

How To Enhance Your Solo Guitar Playing, Part 4



In the final section of the four part series, guitarist Ed Acquesta continues to explain how to use tenth intervals to create fluid guitar solos, regardless of style. 

Part IV

Welcome back to Part IV of our exploration of 10ths for solo guitar! In Part III, we examined major and minor 10ths contained within root triads and their inversions. We then examined some multiuse harmonic functions. 

The learning objectives of Part IV are to: 

  • Use 10ths for the bottom and middle string sets in simple I, Vi7, ii, V progressions. 
  • Examine an improvisation using 10ths in a more complex standard chord progression with lines. 

Let’s begin! 

Using 10ths in I, Vi7, ii V Progressions 

Our goal is to use 10ths to develop a solo performance with moving chord progressions and lines simultaneously. Let’s start by examining one of the most common progressions in music, the I, vi, ii, V progression. To make things a little hipper, well alter the vi chord from a minor 7th to a dominate 7th. Let’s review the progression in the Key of F on the bottom string set first in Exhibit #1 below. 

Exhibit #1

The 10ths are shown directly below the triads in the exhibit. In the first measure, a F Major triad, with the root in the bass, is formed adding a C on the second string from the major 10th (F & A). Notice however, the D7 is formed with the 3rd in the bass (1st inversion) from a minor 10th interval (F# & A). When the C is added to the second string (already played in the preceding F Major triad), a rootless D7 is formed. 

Now, let’s examine the second measure in the progression. The G minor triad is formed from minor 10th below (G & Bb). When the D is added on the second string, a G minor triad is formed. On the third and fourth beat, a C7 is formed by adding an E (major 3rd) on the second string. Note that the C7 is a rootless voicing with the fifth (G) in the bass. 

Now practice the I Vi7 ii V progression using only the 10th’s. Now add notes to the 10th’s using the first, second and third strings while keeping the rhythm solid. 

Now we will review the same progression using the middle string set (fifth, second and first strings) in Exhibit #2 below. 

Exhibit #2

As before, practice the progression using just the 10th’s and then add third notes to create alternative voicings and eventually melodic lines. Always maintain a steady rhythm. 

Putting It All Together – “All the 10th’s There Are!” 

Now it is time to practice the 10th’s with lines. The following etude,” All the 10th’s There Are!” is based on the chord changes of a popular standard. Before you begin working on the etude, there are a few things to focus on: 

  • The bottom and middle string sets are frequently interchanged. For example, the string set order of the first four measures of the etude is middle, bottom, middle, bottom. You must be able to change string sets while simultaneously keeping a solid rhythm. 
  • Fingerings are not provided on purpose! Try alternative fingerings (including bars) until you find what best suits you. 
  • In many of the measures, two melodic voices are in play. Be sure to hold the each note for its proper duration. 
  • Analyze each measure and identify chord voicings in play. This will help you later with your own improvisations. 

Final Thoughts 

I hope these 10th introductory lessons help get you started on your own solo arrangements and improvisations. As you progress, keep in mind 10th intervals are also contained in the top Drop 2 string set (4,3,2,1 strings) voicings. You will find these most useful for solo material. 

For further study on 10th’s, I strongly recommend you obtain the three-volume masterpiece by George Van Eps entitled “Harmonic Mechanisms”. These methods contain a multitude of finger busting exercises on 10ths and much, much more. It is “hard plowing”, but daily practice will reap many rewards as you slowly build technique. 

Thanks again for checking out these introductory lessons and best of luck in all your future musical endeavors! 

And you can always visit Ed at for more information.

If you missed it, check out Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3 of the lesson series.

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