mynstrol:

if you are in a funk band, minor "jams" are usually either based on minor pentatonics, or modal grooves/vamps.  if it's just a funk e minor groove, you can always stab harmonic combinations of tones from the e minor pentatonic scale, but there are other options:

1. in a funky "e dorian" groove, one common mannerism is to play an em7 chord, followed by f#m7/e, and back again.  you'll recognize this sound if you try it.

2. you've already noticed that you can incorporate upper structure triads.  the good news is that if it's a dorian jam, you can freely move around all the diatonic triads of the key, without much risk of "wrong" notes, since the ii position has no avoid tones.  keep an e pedal tone (or e minor pentatonic ostinato in the bass), and climb up and down the triads of d major in your right hand.

3. in any minor groove (whether it's dorian, phrygian, or aeolian), you can use the quartal technique i posted in the "quartals" room.  see that posting for more.

4. related to #3 above, you can use inversions of the left-hand quartal structures in the right hand instead.  this works out to be sus2 chords which are cycled according to the parallel minor pentatonic of the mode you're in.  in e dorian, for example, your right hand can play esus2, gsus2, asus2, bsus2, and dsus2.

5. related to #4 above, you can also use right hand sus2 chords, voicing down from the pentatonic melodic tones.  in this case, you'd use the a minor pentatonic scale to cycle the sus2 chords, as in asus2, csus2, dsus2, esus2, and gsus2.  notice that the uppermost tones in this arrangement form an e minor pentatonic scale.
6. altered dominants: work them into the groove you're playing.  in particular, b7alt or b7(b9) would make for a splendid way to reset the progression to loop back onto itself for each vamp.  during those chords, the melody would need to adjust accordingly.  in funk, altered dominants usually receive the "phrygian major" scale, which is the 5th mode of harmonic minor.  in the case of your e minor jam, it would be b phrygian major (which is b-c[natural]-d#-e-f#-g-a) over a b7alt or b7(b9) chord.

try these out, and see what you think.

-ben blau
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