Building chord voicings from 3rd and 7th

Constructing you own voicings from 3rd and 7th of the chord is a good way to take the core of the sound and add the colors or melodies on top that you want to hear. In this lesson I am going to go over how you can do this on a 4 bar progression and discuss how you practice and use it.

In jazz the core of the sound of a chord are determined by the 3rd and the 7th, so those two notes are a good place to start when building chord voicings. If you have this core and then start adding extensions you can really get into the sound of that extension over this chord.

If you reverse the way of thinking and start with a melody note and want to add a 3rd and 7th under it you have a great way to approach harmonizing melodies like standards.

The progression

I made a 4 bar progression in the key of F major it is essentially two versions of a turnaround and covers a big bart of the harmony you have in F, and also covers many of the chord types you come across.
Building chords from 3rd and 7th ex 1

To relate the chords to their root you can turn them into shell voicings like I talk about in (my first ever YouTube) lesson: Shell Voicings

Building chords from 3rd and 7th ex 2

As you can see I placed the 3rd and 7th pair on the middle set of strings, this is a very practical place to have them because they then will set in the lower middle of the register and leave room for extensions on the two top strings. You could check how many of the voicings you already use lready does this.

In example 3 I add a note on top of each chord on the B string which adds a melodic movement to the whole progression.

Building chords from 3rd and 7th ex 3

The voicings in example 3 are all triads and fairly familiar to most of you, but you could also choose to add the melody on the E string to get the voicings in example 4.

Building chords from 3rd and 7th ex 4

These are a lot less common, but if you look closely you can probably see that they are in fact open voiced triads.

Checking out all melodies

If you have a pair of 3rd and 7th and want to use that to construct chords you can try to make a small “scale” like I have done for all the chords in the progression in example 5.

The advantage to this approach is that you can think of a small chord and a few notes instead of 5 or more different voicings. Another advantage is that they are connected because it is only the melody that changes so it should immediately give you a bigger range of options while comping.

Building chords from 3rd and 7th ex 5

The melody is just using the scale that fits the chord in this key and then I left out avoid notes like the 4th on a major chord etc. I chose to have a C7(b9b14) and a C7(9,13) because I use both in the examples.

The scales that might need a bit of clarification

  • D7 – In F the scale that works with this is G harmonic minor
  • C7(b9b13) – Which is a dominant borrowed from F harmonic minor
  • Abdim which I play A harmonic minor over.

Putting it to use

In example 6 I made a moving melody over the progression using the melody notes from example 5. As you can see this approach makes it a lot easier to have a melody on top of the chords and you never lose the sound of the harmony.

Building chords from 3rd and 7th ex 6


I hope you can use the examples and ideas I went over here to build your own chord voicings and open up for making more melodic movement over the chords when you are comping or harmonizing a melody.

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here for later study you can do so here: Building chords from 3rd and 7th

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

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