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Lesson 11: Rhythm Changes

What Is Rhythm Changes?

"Rhythm changes" is an AABA form based on the changes of George Gershwin's I Got Rhythm. In its simplest form it goes something like this:

|Bb G7 |Cm7 F7|Dm7 G7|Cm7 F7|
|Bb Bb7|EbEdim|Bb G7 |Cm7 F7|

|Bb G7 |Cm7 F7|Dm7 G7|Cm7 F7|
|Bb Bb7|EbEdim|Bb F7 |Bb    |

|D7    |      |G7    |      |
|C7    |      |F7    |      |

|Bb G7 |Cm7 F7|Dm7 G7|Cm7 F7|
|Bb Bb7|EbEdim|Bb G7 |Cm7 F7|

Examples - Tunes Based on Rhythm Changes

Listen to the following tunes:

  • Duke by Ulf Wakenius
  • The Flintstones by Hoyt Curtin
  • K- Day by me
  • The Muppet Show Theme by Jim Henson and Sam Pottle
  • Oleo by Sonny Rollins
  • Suspone by Mike Stern
  • Tattoo by me
  • Unchanged Rhythm by Joe Diorio

Playing on Rhythm Changes

Rhythm changes tunes are generally played at medium-up to very fast tempos. This means that the changes fly by with what seems to be the speed of light and it is practically impossible to try to outline every single chord. You will need to make it easier for yourself. Common ways to make it easier are:

  • to use a vamp for the solo section
  • to play modally in Bb Ionian ( or Lydian)
  • to play over a pedal note - "Bb Open"

Rhythm Changes Vamps

The most commonly used rhythm changes vamps are:

  • Bb - Gm7 - Gb7 - F7sus4
  • Gm7 - Gb7 - F7sus4- Gb7
  • Bb6 - Gdim - Cm7 - Gdim

Etudes

Check out my etudes

Written solos

Check out my written example solos

2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.