3-note Jazz Chords -This is Why and How To Use Them

When you think about Jazz Chords then you are probably thinking about rich chords with a lot of beautiful extensions, and of course, the rich colors of Jazz are about having chords that are embellished like this. At the same time when you are playing Jazz and when you are comping then you also want to have flexible chords so that you can move from one to the next, create small melodies and 3-note chords are fantastic for this.

In this video, I will show you 6 types of 3-note chords and show you some of the great sounds you can easily make with them.

1 Triads

I will start with triads because they are important and then go over some other great voicing types that are more advanced but really useful and colorful.

Let’s start with some really basic chords:

and as I have shown you in other videos, if you take away the root here you get:

which are triads, namely F, Fdim and Em so you can also use their inversions and get these chords:

I have other videos where I explore triads in much more detail than what I do here, like this one:

Triads – How To Use This Powerful Tool In Your Jazz Solos

2 Open Triads

Another thing that you can do is to use the open version of the triads so here we take the middle voice and move it down an octave.

These open voicings sound really beautiful and the having the voices separated you can easily make a lot more voice-movement, both in the melody and in the inner-voices as you can see in this example:

3 Closed 3-note voicings

In the first example, the core of the chord is found on the 3rd and 4th string and we have an extra chord tone or color tone above on the B string.

If you play the 3rd and 7th with a string apart, so on the D and B strings you get this type of voicing. And here you can add a note in between the two creating a close voicing with an extension, and these sound really great.

These can also be taken through a II V I like this:

Where there is still room for some movement in the voices with 7 going to 6 on the Maj7 etc.

Less specific voicings and more possibilities

These first examples were using chord voicings where the complete chord was there, so everything had a 3rd and a 7th. The next 3 types of voicings don’t always have that but are still very useful and great to also mix with the more complete triad based chords.

That’s also why I will approach them a little different.

4 3-part Quartal Voicings

With Quartal chords, you need to know what notes are in the chords and then you can sometimes use the same voicings for Dm7 and Cmaj7. The context is important, and with voicings like these you also very often play several voicings for each chord and move in stepwise motion through the scale.

First check out the two sets of quartal voicings that we need Diatonic quartal chords in C major and Ab melodic minor, which is G altered.

And if you use this on a II V I then you get:

Notice how you can really use step-wise motion and how the voicings don’t all have to be complete for the chord, it is about the entire picture.

As you see with these and also with the next two types of voicings it is really important that you have an idea about what notes are in the voicings and that you can relate that to the chord you have to play.

5 Shell-voicings

For the shell-voicings, you can use this as upper-structures so not in the way you normally use shell-voicings where they are the foundation of the chord, similar to how you might comp in 4 in a big band.

This means that they are also as several voicings and not complete chords.

The basic material would be:

With the shell voicings, it makes much more sense to look at them as chords with names, simply because that is already how we are used to thinking of them. With the Quartal voicings that is much less the case.

6 Shell voicing based – Interval-structure

I am showing you these voicings on the top string set, mostly because that is where I use them and you can use them as high voicings with a lot of color in your comping. They are also in some cases a little difficult to play on the middle string set.

Again it is useful to know the diatonic chords for both a major scale and for a melodic minor scale:

Applying 3-note chords to a Standard

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