Upper Extensions

"I realized by using the high notes of the chords as a melodic line, and by the right harmonic progression, I could play what I heard inside me. That's when I was born.”

-Charlie Parker

Jazz great, Charlie Parker, pioneered the use of upper extensions in chords. Parker realized that by using altered upper notes (such as the b9, #9, #11, b5, b13, etc. against a V7 chord) that he could create more harmonically complex lines and sounds over otherwise plain-sounding changes. This concept of using upper extensions revolutionized jazz. The sound of Bebop emanates from the use of these upper extensions.

The following examples, based on the changes to "Confirmation", show a line composed first without and then with upper-extensions:

click to enlarge

In the Half-Diminished Two Pack, Uncle Willie shows some easy ways to start implementing the sound of these upper extensions into your playing.