Last updated on April 4, 2023
Here are Rhythm Changes licks – patterns in all keys used in jazz improvisations. Practice those lines slowly with clear and exact articulation and gradually add some speed. Also check out these lines (Charlie Parker, Minor 7th and II-V-I Patterns).
Rhythm changes are a common 32-bar chord progression in jazz, originating as the chord progression for George Gershwin‘s “I Got Rhythm“. The progression is in AABA form, with each A section based on repetitions of the ubiquitous I–VI–II–V sequence (or variants such as III–VI–II–V), and the B section using a circle of fifths sequence based on III7–VI7–II7–V7, a progression which is sometimes given passing chords.
This pattern, “one of the most common vehicles for improvisation,” forms the basis of countless (usually uptempo) jazz compositions and was popular with swing – era and bebop musicians. For example, it is the basis of “Shoeshine Boy” (Lester Young‘s 1936 breakout recording with Count Basie) and Duke Ellington‘s “Cotton Tail” as well as Charlie Christian‘s “Seven Come Eleven,” Dizzy Gillespie‘s “Salt Peanuts“ and Thelonious Monk‘s “Rhythm-a-Ning“. The earliest known use of rhythm changes was by Sidney Bechet in his September 15, 1932 recording of “Shag” with his “New Orleans Feetwarmers” group.
This progression’s endurance in popularity is largely due to its extensive use by early bebop musicians. The chord changes began to be used in the 1930s, became common in the ’40s and ’50s, and are now ubiquitous. First, “I Got Rhythm” was by then already a popular jazz standard. Second, by listening to the song and writing a new melody over its chord changes, thereby creating a composition of a type known as a contrafact, a jazz musician could claim copyright to the new melody rather than acknowledge Gershwin’s inspiration and pay royalties to Gershwin’s estate. Third, using a stock, well-known progression for new melodies made it easier to perform a song at jam sessions, shows, and recordings because the bandleader could tell new musicians that the song uses rhythm changes and note any modifications and chord substitutions.
Rhythm Changes licks – patterns in all keys:
- Line on A section (Example 1)
- Line on A section (Example 2)
- Line on Bridge (Example 1)
- Line on Bridge (Example 2)
Keep practicing and have fun!