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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Rhythm changes refer to the chord sequence which underlies George Gershwin’s tune “I Got Rhythm.” I must have played rhythm changes hundreds of times with different musicians over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever played, “I Got Rhythm.” The point is there’s lots of other tunes that musicians have written that fit over the chord sequence. So, we’ll play, “I Got Rhythm” – for the first time for me – and then we’ll discuss how we improvise other rhythm changes, which is what’s important. So, I’m going to play it in root position. I must just warn you again, if you look up various resources they wouldn’t agree on the tune.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds I mean, presumably, there was a definitive version when George Gershwin wrote it, but my guess is the chords have changed with continuous use by jazz musicians. The tune – this version of it – it’s pretty syncopated. I’ve seen non-syncopated versions of it where there’s sort of minims for the tune.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds I’m going to play it in root position, but as I say, I’m not really very interested in what I’m doing there. Let’s try it. 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4.

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 seconds OK, not played expertly, but I am interested in the chords. And, in many ways, we met this before because I think you’ll find that the chords of the A section, this again is a 32-bar sequence, AABA. The chords of the A section is, I think, the same as “Blue Room,” except “Blue Room” is in F. This is in B flat. So, the first two bars are what we call a turn around. So we know we just improvise on B flat major. Next two bars, three and four, exactly the same.

Skip to 2 minutes and 51 seconds Next two bars.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds Oops, sorry.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 seconds So the first one and a half bars, I interpret as a II-V-I to E flat major. Remember, major sevenths are very strong, they suggest at least a temporary modulation – a change of key. Then I put the next chord A flat 7 in parentheses as I did in “Blue Room” because we’re not going to discuss the function of that chord for a while. But then in the next two bars, bars seven and eight, it’s just simply a II-V-I. So we’ve met that chord sequence before. Let’s have a look at the middle eight. Now the middle eight just consists of a bunch of sevenths, D7 to G7 to C7 to F7, and then eventually back to B flat.

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 seconds So, it’s all that kind of V-I that we’ve discussed before. Because there’s two bars of one chord, we can improvise over the scale that goes with that chord. So, in the case of D7, with that voicing, then we use the seventh scale, that is D major with a flattened seventh, or, if you wish, G major –

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds – rooted on D. It’s exactly the same for the other chords, G7 is – all the white notes. C7 is

Skip to 4 minutes and 22 seconds – F major rooted on C. Finally F7 is B flat major

Skip to 4 minutes and 31 seconds – rooted on F. And then we come back to our A section - the final A section – the same as the first A section. So in terms of scales which we improvise over, well, for the first four bars, B flat major, the next bar and a half, E flat major. For the A flat seven, if you want to do it, then A flat 7 is the seventh scale, which is A flat major with the flattened seventh, or if you wish, D flat major rooted on A flat. And then II-V-I with B flat major. Then in the middle, D7. If you want to think of it in terms of major scales, we use G. G7 we use C.

Skip to 5 minutes and 20 seconds C7 we use F. F7 we use B flat. OK. So, let’s now try this with the playalong.

I Got Rhythm

We discuss the important jazz standard “I Got Rhythm” and the related chord changes known as “rhythm changes”.

Advice on downloadable charts in this course

Throughout the course, you will often see a musical “chart” appear in the whiteboard in the upper-right corner of the video. By musical “charts”, I mean the music of jazz tunes which usually consists of top lines and chords. You need them to play and improvise on, and it is important to have them available so that you can review them outside of the videos. This chart will be available for you to download at the bottom of the step, and you are strongly advised to do so. To download the chart on a computer right click on the file and then download it with a file name.

Remember that you have subtitles and transcripts available of all the videos. You can also vary the speed of the video and, in particular, slow it down by a half if you want to see more clearly what I am playing.

You can download the “I Got Rhythm” chart in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards

Goldsmiths, University of London