A few paths around Summertime


Hiya, hope you’re well. This week we’re going to look at something a little seasonal and trace 3 few different approaches through the first half of the Gershwin standard “Summertime”. For the first 8 bars, the chords are pretty much 2 to a bar, though I don’t necessarily play each chord for the duration of a minim, for this discussion’s sake, I’ll be talking about the tune in 2 bar chunks.


We’re going to take it in the key of G, this is a fairly common key for it to be played in, though I’ve not used too many open strings so transposing it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.


The first 3 bars are a harmonic progression between G minor and C 7,In the first take I add a bit of a melody to the top part of the chords, the second take has all the movement happening in the middle of the chords. The third take has a ii V embellishment to help underpin the G minor vamp, whenever you have any kind of expended vamp a well placed ii V will not only help alleviate the monotony, but also act as a signpost back to the I chord. (It’s also worth noting that in the 3rd take I’ve named the C7 chord as G minor 6, to my ears the G minor to C7 can sound like an elaborate G minor vamp, the important movement between those 2 chords is the F ( G minor’s 7th)  to E (C7’s third).


The next bar is G minor to G7, which in turn sets up a string of dominant chords. I’ve kept the voicings fairly straightforward in take  one, take two has chromatically descending 9ths (this sets up the next chord C minor 11 quite nicely). In take three, I’ve added a little more tension with the inclusion of a #5, when a V chord is about to resolve to a minor chord, it’s possible to add a little more tension.


The next few bars is pretty much a succession of dominant chords, take 1 is a set of fairly standard voicings, the only thing really of note is the inversion on Eb7, which has a G in the lowest voice, this was used to smoothly lead up to the A minor 7b5 chord. In take 2 I’ve started on a C minor 11 chord which voice leads nicely into an F 7b9 chord, I then use tritone substitution, substituting an E 7#9b5 chord for a Bb7 chord, this chord then slips down a semitone to complete the third line. In take 3, I again use tritone substitution, though this time I substitute the B 7#11 chord for the F7. When these tritone substitutions are used, notice the chromatic progression from chord to chord.


The last 2 bars are a progression between A minor 7 b5 and D7, in take 1 I use some fairly straight forward voicings, but note the A minor 7 b5 with an Eb in the lowest voice as a way to get to D7b9. In take 2, I ascend in the top voice of the chord then move on to movement in the middle of the chord for a little variety and to set up the G minor chord with tension from the D 13b9. Take 3 starts with an A minor 7b5 with an Eb in the lowest voice as something of a voice led idea from the previous chord, this is then taken to then next inversion higher and the following chords work their way back down the neck to set up for the G minor chord on the repeat.


Now, I’m suggesting that these are the definitive way of playing through these changes, what I wanted to do was to put a few substitution ideas and a few different voicings in the context of a tune so you could see there are plenty of ways of approaching a chord chart…and with a bit of creativity, you’ll see that there’s pretty much an infinite amount of ways of interpreting any given chord chart.



Enjoy, and come up with more!! Ta!!