Em9 – A13 Jazzy Jam

This track is a funky, jazzy, two-chord vamp with lots of time on each chord. The progression switches back and forth between Em9 and A13. The key is E minor and there are a lot of fun soloing and improvisational avenues to try. There is a lot of atmosphere in the track so be sure and leave lots of space in your soloing. Remember, nobody likes the person that talks too much.

What relates to all:

As soon as the key of E minor is established we know we can utilize E minor pentatonic & blues over both chords as it “relates to all”:

E Minor Pentatonic & Blues – E, G, A, Bb, B, D

We also know that when in minor key we can usually utilize Aeolian or Dorian over all the chords.

Remember our key point for minor key soloing – when playing over all the chords in minor key, what “relates to all”, you can always use Natural Minor Scales, (Aeolian Mode), UNLESS there is a major IV chord or a minor ii chord, in those cases use the Dorian Mode. For more on that read the “Minor Key Soloing” written lessons in the written lessons section of this series.

As we analyze the chords in this minor key jam we see a major IV chord, A13. That points us to utilize E Dorian over all the chords. Dorian is considered a minor mode and is always the 2nd mode in any major key. Dorian produces a mystical, minor sound that is a bit sweeter than Aeolian. There is only one note difference between Dorian and Aeolian – the 6th note:

Dorian Mode = 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7

Aeolian Mode = 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7

Remember that Dorian is the second mode in any major key. So to play E Dorian in this jam we have to ask what major scales 2nd note is an E note. The answer is D. D major has the same notes as E Dorian:

E Dorian = E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D

D Major = D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#

(Same notes – just emphasize the root of the mode, E.)

So to rock out in the jam utilizing E Dorian just play D major scales but focus and emphasize the E notes. Keep going back to those E notes and resolve licks to them. This exudes the mood for the Dorian Mode.

Try mixing E Minor Pentatonic and E Dorian together for some killer head turning licks. Going between the five note Pentatonic scale and then switching to the seven note Dorian scale creates some awesome sounds. Explore with both and have fun!

You can also use three Minor Pentatonic keys when you know that Dorian works in a minor key jam. This is a real fun technique to try and it always works when you know that Dorian works. You can use the Minor Pentatonic scale off the root, in this case E Minor Pentatonic. Also utilize the Minor Pentatonic scale up a 2nd, which would be F# Minor Pentatonic, (E to F#, is up a second). Also utilize the Minor Pentatonic Scale up a 5th, which would be B Minor Pentatonic, (E to B is up a fifth). All three of those pentatonics produce the Dorian sound as they add those two extra notes to the minor pentatonic scale making it Dorian. Try all three pentatonics over both chords and see which sound best to your ears:

E Minor Pentatonic = E, G, A, B, D

F# Minor Pentatonic = F#, A, B, C#, E

B Minor Pentatonic = B, D, E, F#, A

E Dorian = E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D

(All the notes in the above three Pentatonics are in the Dorian Mode – NICE!)

Treat each chord as a separate event:

  • Over the Em9 chord try E Minor Pentatonic & Blues, E Natural Minor, and E Dorian. Remember that Aeolian and Dorian sound great over minor chords.
  • Over the A13 chord try A Major Pentatonic, A Mixolydian, and A dominant type arpeggios. Remember that Mixolydian sounds great over dominant chords.
  • Also try some arpeggios over each chord. Mix E minor, B minor, F# minor, as well as D and A major.


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