The bridge of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” is a chain of dominant chords that moves around the circle of fifths:
Notice that the thirds and sevenths of the chords (guide tones) connect in descending half steps. These connections are important for connecting melodies and building chord voicings:
• Play the previous example on the piano and continue the pattern all the way around the circle of
fifths. The right-hand voicing is the interval of a tritone, and it moves down in half steps.
Measures fifteen through nineteen of Thelonious Monk’s “Skippy” feature a chain of dominant seventh chords that moves all the way around the circle of fifths:
The A7 chord in the fifth measure breaks the circle of fifths pattern. This chord is a tritone substitution for E7. We’ll discuss these in future articles and tritone substitutions covered in “Chapter Nine: Tonal Harmony Continued” of The Living Jazz Tradition.
• Practice playing melodies in twelve keys around the circle of fifths (counterclockwise—so you move down in perfect fifths/up in perfect fourths)
Here are a few fragments that link together to form smooth sequences. Use these and make up your own as you improvise around the circle of fifths. Make octave adjustments where necessary:
Next in the series: “Playing Changes Part 10: Blues Harmony”