The most important parts of a phrase are the beginning and ending. The beginning is the launch pad that gets your phrase moving. If you’ve checked out the bebop dominant scales and dominant arpeggios posts, you already know how to begin a phrase. Use dominant buttons to end your phrases with conviction and authority.

Why endings matter

Crisp, intentional phrase endings are important for a lot of reasons. Strong phrase endings clearly delineate the spaces between phrases. They lock you into the groove and help maintain the pulse through the spaces. The spaces they open up are the springboards for your next idea.

What’s a button?

Strong phrase endings have rhythmic conviction and embody your intent to end or ‘button up’ the phrase. I refer to the most commonly used phrase endings as ‘buttons’. The last note of each button (at least initially) should be played short. This helps you keep it crisp, rhythmic and intentional.

There are four buttons commonly used on dominant 7th chords.  They are built from the root, 3rd, 5th and b7 of the dominant 7 chord. Note that each button ends with the same two notes…6, 5.  Think of the first 4 notes of each button as a path to the shared 6-5 figure at the end.

Bebop dominant + button

A common phrase shape consists of a descending bebop dominant scale followed by a button. You’ll notice that if you play a full 8 note descending scale, the button will begin on the same note as the scale.

Use your vocabulary

As with the other dominant vocabulary I’ve been posting about, start using these buttons intentionally when you improvise. You’ll find that using phrases that you know and have internalized, gives you more expressive capacity.  Remember…improvisation isn’t about making stuff up. It’s is about making choices from stuff you already know how to play. 

When you’re ready to begin practicing your buttons, check out the interactive lessons, Level 4 – Dominant Buttons (coming soon!).  These lessons will provide you with an organized, progressive framework for practicing and internalizing this essential vocabulary.