Tune Up – Chord Melody and Analysis

by | Chord Melody

Transcribed from video:

Today I bring you the 4th in a series of video tutorials titled “Standards for Jazz Guitar” in which I first teach you the single note melody and then show you how I harmonize each note and come up with a chord melody arrangement for a given standard.  For this 4th installment I am returning to a shorter 16 measure format versus the 32 measures which make up most standards.

I started this series with “Solar” by Miles Davis and now I want to show you another Miles composition from that same period which is also only 16 measures long. I am referring to “Tune Up” which if you aren’t already aware of, is a great harmonic vehicle to practice both improvising and comping over major II-V-I cadences. And let me add that in the analysis I will also show you some of the cool re-harmonizations that Wes Montgomery employed when he recorded this piece.

So stick with me because next you are going to hear me play the arrangement and improvise over the changes. Right after that I will analyze the tune for you and show you how to harmonize the melody, as well as how I improvise over it.

( “Tune Up” chord melody and solo in video)

“Tune Up” Melody Chords & Harmonic Analysis

So let’s begin by analyzing the harmony to “Tune Up” in 4 measure segments as I initially teach you the melody. After each segment, I will show you how to place a chord underneath each melody note. (please see video and PDF download for chord melody portions)

Before we begin the analysis, let me say that this tune is in the key of D. Some claim that it consists of several II-V-Is that temporarily modulate to several keys, but I see it as Modal Interchange as I will explain throughout.


Tune Up_meas 1-4

The initial 3 measures are simply the II-V-I of the key. If we stay entirely diatonic, we employ dorian for the Emin7, mixolydian for the A7 and ionian for the Dmaj7.  However, we’ll notice that initially the A7 has a b9 and #11 which could be implying the super locrian, also known as the altered scale. In fact, you can also employ the phrygian dominant here or even a symmetrical diminished half -whole step scale. But to keep it simple during the solos, you can just use a garden variety A7 with the more common mixolydian.

In the 4th measure we have no melody and the original version plays another measure of Dmaj7. Nonetheless, I am taking this opportunity to show you the changes Wes used here. It’s actually a substitute II-V resolving to the IV. Unlike secondary dominants which resolve a perfect 5th down, substitute dominants resolve a half step down to their target’s root. So Ab7 resolves a half step down to G which is the IV in the key of D. Capish? If we glance over at measure 6 we will see the G there. The Dmin is just an added chord delaying its resolution.

In terms of scales, if you were to improvise over the Ebm7 and Ab7 you would use a dorian and a lydian dominant respectively. We always use the lydian dominant for substitute dominants. Otherwise you can keep the original Dmaj7 for 2 measures and simply use a Dmajor scale.


Tune Up measures 5-8

Measures 5 through 8 are basically the same thing we did over the first 4 measures, only that transposed a whole step down. Some look at this as a temporary modulation to the key of C. I view it from a different school of thought and understand it as modal interchange which is the practice of borrowing chords from a parallel modal tonality. In this case the Cmaj7 is the bVIImaj7 borrowed from the parallel D mixolydian mode. Therefore the Dm7 and G7 are acting as the II-V of the bVIImaj7. We have the same choice of scales here as we used in measures 1 through 3. However, if we want to retain the original color of the Cmaj7 in this context, we should use the lydian mode here.

Measure 8 again has the optional substitute II-V employed by Wes. This time it is resolving by half step down to the F7 which is in measure 10. This may create some confusion initially because it is written enharmonically as Dbm7 and Gb7. Diatonically speaking though, in the key of D it would be C#m7 and F#7 which would function as the secondary II-V of the Bm (the VI chord). Nonetheless, we can see that by its half step resolution down to the F7, it is a tritone substitution of Gm7 and C7 which would normally resolve to F. Confused? Don’t worry about it…it’s just theory. The important thing is to play music and make sure it sounds good.


Tune Up measures 9-12

Measures 9 through 11 have a II-V resolving to another modal interchange chord. It’s the bVImaj7 borrowed from the parallel natural minor key of D. Here we use dorian and mixolydian for the II-V and lydian for the Bbmaj7. Immediately after, on measure 12, we have an Ebmaj7 which again uses a lydian scale. This is also modal interchange, and as I’ve pointed out in the past, a bIImaj7 can be obtained by simply lowering the root on the II-7b5 from the natural minor. However, another way to look at it which is probably the most correct, is to see it as modal interchange from the parallel phrygian mode. Ebmaj7 is the bIImaj7 from D phrygian. For yet another interpretation, those who subscribe to the modulation theory would state that we are temporarily in the key of Bbmajor and that Ebmajor7 is its IV chord. So there you have 3 views! Now, what was Miles thinking when he wrote it? I have no clue. Take your pick…

1st Ending (Measures 13-16 )

Tune Up 1st Ending

The first ending starts out with the IIm7 chord, so no mystery here. Interestingly enough in the following measure instead of going to the expected A7 or V7 chord, it instead goes to an F dominant which in turn resolves down to Bbmaj7 again. This IIm7, followed by a dominant a half step up, really must have struck a note with John Coltrane who played this tune with Miles. And I say this because Coltrane later used this to re-write his own take on the Tune Up progression as Countdown. This harmonic fragment played a very important part. And for those who are still with me, don’t miss my upcoming video on how Coltrane re-harmonized Tune Up because it is a master class in harmony.

2nd Ending (Measures 13-16 )

Tune Up 2nd Ending

These days, the 2nd ending is sometimes not used until the very ending of the tune.


The Tune Up Files can be downloaded for $7.50 or consider the Elite Membership and gain monthly access to ALL existing & upcoming downloads! Your contribution is much appreciated, as it helps support the site and allows me to keep investing the long hours required to produce these lessons. The download includes:  2 PDFs (leadsheet and chord melody) with both regular notation and TAB, an MP3 of the arrangement and a backing track, a Band in a Box File and access to view the entire 20 min instructional video.

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