How To Solo Over Rhythm Changes Using Pentatonics | Part 1

by | Jazz Pentatonics, Jazz Standards

Do you know what chord progression, aside from the blues, is most often played at a jazz jam session?

If you answered “Rhythm Changes” to the above, you are absolutely correct! Nonetheless, do you know the reason why?

Rhythm Changes contains various harmonic cadences that form the basis to countless jazz standards. Of all these, the II-VI-II-V, of course stands out. Consequently it has become a great “harmonic vehicle” with which to develop your improvisational skills in preparation to solo over numerous standards.

The challenge with 9 out of 10 guitarists who are starting out with jazz is that this progression contains a wide variety of unfamiliar chord scales which need to be thoroughly mastered in order to improvise over the changes. This of course, is not going to happen overnight. As a result many students, most of whom are transitioning to jazz from a blues or rock background, inquire if there is anything jazzy that they can immediately play with their existing knowledge. So, for some instant fun before the long process of learning all these new scales, I teach them how to play “I Got Rhythm” using only the pentatonics they are familiar with.

If you fit the profile I just described, this new lesson should be lots of fun. On the other hand, even if you are a more seasoned jazz guitarist, you might pick up some handy tips to add a touch of fusion, as well as make your Rhythm Changes solos bluesier!

In Part 1 of “How to solo over Rhythm Changes using Pentatonics”, I teach and demonstrate how to get around this entire 32 measure progression employing only minor and major pentatonics. Please watch the video for a demonstration of the pentatonics and corresponding fingerings I use over each section of the progression.

Below you can download a PDF with the chord changes to “Bb Rhythm Changes”. I suggest that as you watch the video with guitar in hand, you make notes over the chord changes detailing the pentatonic fingerings you might employ over the different sections. Have fun!!

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How to Solo over Rhythm Changes using Pentatonics -Part 2


  1. Thierry Harvey

    thx for this lesson ..mixing maj and min
    from paris

  2. Matti Jäntti

    OK, thanks. The other thing: it’s quite difficult to see in video, where you change the pentatonics Bb minor and Bb major. Is it possible that you could write the pentatonics in the chord chart? Also the frets where the scales you use?
    Regards Matti

  3. Trevor french

    Great lesson. Love the C section joke.
    Is Bb the most common key centre for rythm changes. I want to jam over various versions on youtube for practice.

    thanks Trev

    • Richie Zellon

      Bb is the key most of the time!

  4. Matti Jäntti

    Do you have different chords in video and the pdf-files?
    In video is f.e Edim, but not in pdf?
    Regards Matti

    • Richie Zellon

      Yes, you are correct. There are a myriad of alternative changes to play over Rhythm Changes. Sometimes I forget what I played. Either way the pentatonic scales I used work over most of these. I just updated the pdf to closer reflect what I played on the video in order to avoid confusion. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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