Few things in the world sound as great as Jazz Chords, but learning a few grips doesn’t mean that you get them to sound right, so in this video, I will show you some very simple Jazz chords, and then show you how you make them sound great in actual songs because I have a few easy tricks to do that which are effective when it comes to the important things: rhythm, phrasing and sound.
The First Jazz Chords To Learn
With this simple Jazz chord type, you can do everything that you need to do with Jazz chords when it comes to spelling out the harmony, rhythm voice-leading, bass movement, and chromaticism.
I am of course talking about Shell-voicings. These 3- note chords:
A shell-voicing has a root which is usually on the 5th or 6th string
and then the 3rd and 7th of the chord on 3rd and 4th string.
You have a version with the root on the 5th string and one with the root on the 6th string.
So for each of these, you can play a basic II V I in two positions.
and higher on the neck:
As you probably noticed, this way of playing chords leaves out the 5th but that is something you can use, you’ll see that later.
Split Up The Chord!
What we as Jazz guitarists often forget is that you don’t have to play chords with all the notes at the same time.
Instead, you can use that shell-voicings naturally have two layers: Bass and chords.
You can play like this with a pick, but it is easier to get it to sound right if you play with your fingers.
This opens up for a lot of options in terms of rhythm, and later I’ll show you a great variation of this that goes even further, but first check out how great it sounds on Autumn Leaves:
More Bass Notes?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the video the shell-voicings leave out the 5th, but it is also an option to play the 5th instead of the root, and that can sound great, so for Dm7 you go from the basic version
And all that you do is just move a finger to another string.
This works great, especially for II Vs, even when I am only using one variation of them. Check out how it sounds on There Will Never Be Another You:
Playing the chords like this is a great way to start working towards walking bass lines, but I will get to that later. You probably noticed that I am only using this for the 5th string version, but you can do that for the 6th string bass note chords as well, it is just a bit more work so maybe you want to add those later:
Like this, you have a way to add rhythm to the chords, and voice-leading, and some bass movement is taken care of, and I’ll level that up the bass part in a bit. You can also add some great movement and surprising sounds with chromatic chords, which is surprisingly simple!
No-Theory Passing Chords
The chromatic part of Jazz is often hidden in a lot of music theory and with all sorts of explanations like secondary tritone substitutions, harmonized basslines, reharmonized dim chords, and stuff like that, but you don’t need to make it that complicated!
The point of the chromatic chords is just to create some tension that then resolves on the next chord,
and that just means that you can create a chromatic chord by moving a chord a half step up or down,
so for the first four bars of Sonny Rollins’ Pent Up House I could use this G#m7 to lead to Am7
and maybe Eb7 to resolve down to D7.
Of course, I am not really thinking about what chord it is as much as just shifting up or down a fret. Check out how great that sounds, also adding a bit of bass movement:
Let’s add a bit of walking bass as well.
Take A Walk!
Then you have two of the 4 notes you need per bar simply by using the root and the 5th. Now adding notes is just a matter of adding chord tones, scale notes, or leading notes, and here the emphasis is mostly on making it playable.
Adding Color and Extensions
As you can hear a lot is going on, but it is all pretty logical and follows the stuff I already covered. The type of things that I covered in this video, but I am not talking about how you also can add extensions and colors to the chords, turning them into melodies and even chord melody and chord solos. That is what I cover in this video following some solid advice from Joe Pass, so that is the next thing you want to check out.
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